My dear fishy friends;
Most adults who follow my escapades do so because they are either professional mermaids/mermen too, are interested in becoming one, or are interested in mermaids. Over the years I have endeavoured to provide resources to my fellow mers in hopes of raising the industry standard and helping our field be viewed as professional. When we are viewed as professional we can be paid better, and experience bigger and better opportunities.
In doing this I’ve covered a lot of ground (or ocean if you prefer) in the past few years. I’ve published two books, many online tutorials, this blog, speaking at conventions, running workshops online and I run a Youtube Vlog series that addresses things. It has always been my hope that in helping my peers more people will experience this mermaid world, and that we can all validate the work we do. That’s why I offer so many of my resources for free.
Raina's 10 Important Points When Hiring Other Mermaids
Disclaimers: Raina's Points do not replace legal advice
1.Types of Employees/Contractors
Mermaid companies are set up differently around the world, but many in my experience if not most take up the contractor method. There are different labour laws surrounding contracts so I encourage you to look them up for your country/state/province. But the jest of it is that contractors are not officially ‘employees’. You do not have any obligations to them for the most part, you can hire them as you see fit based on the bookings, you don’t deduct tax from their pay (they do it themselves at tax time) and they are typically a part of a roster. In this setting the business owner makes all the bookings, and delegates to their roster of contractors as they see fit.
A good example would be things like First Aid instructors! When I worked as one of those there was a team of 100 of us. We were never guaranteed any specific hours but the business owner would sign on a contract of X amount of classes and then delegate to us. He was under no obligation to choose any of us, just as we were under no obligation to be available all of the time. If one person couldn’t work, it was on to the next one.
Some mermaid companies hire based on the booking. If they land a month long booking where they work every day for the most part they may audition someone to be a mermaid with them for that month. They may also hire merwranglers, photographers, or people to run a stand for selling merch.
Some like ours, have a roster of people they pull from for different bookings or based on who is around to fill the slot. One person may be better suited to one type of booking while another is better suited to something else. So in my case I own the business; I sign the contracts, then I choose from my contracted mermaids based on who will fit the booking and who is available.
The benefit of a contractor is the flexibility for both things like this, but also if they don’t work out you are under no obligation to hire them again. Just like if you contracted a band or a wedding photographer for your wedding. You aren’t obligated to then hire them for every major event in your life. (though if they’re really good, you just might!)
If you’re deciding to work with other mermaids you will need to decide if you want to own your company together as Sean and I own ours together. (that comes with its own stipulations that are best discussed with an accountant and someone familiar with your local labour laws) Or you may want to go the employee route which has MANY stipulation (min hours, overtime, job titles, red tape!)
My suggestion is to go the contract route.
2. Get a mentor
Get a mentor, or if you can… many. People in the field or in the area of your field that you can ask specific questions like “gee should I make this person a co-business owner, or should they be a contractor?”. I have several mentors. One of my mentors serves on my board of directors (which I’ll talk about soon). He is an expert in entrepreneurialism. He’s got a long list of companies on his resume that he’s a hand in helping them get off the ground and achieve success. He’s in his 60s and has been around a long time and he’s seen it all. His mentorship for the business end of things along with his insight on managing a team of people has been so helpful to me.
I have a professional mermaid who has been around at least twice as long as I have and is someone who I consider a huge success. I don’t get to speak with her often but occasionally we’ll skype and throw her our scenarios and she has more specific mermaid based answers.
I have a couple that also own their own entertainment business and have paved the way In their respected field. They’ve taught me so much.
There is often free mentorship programs put on through universities, libraries, community colleges, and sometimes even your city. It’s good to utilize these types of services or if you’re really keen you can take some of the free business management courses!
3. Have a Board of Directors
If you’re expecting to have a rather large group, it’s good to have a board of directors. Your board can be made up of the business owners and some mentors, or really whoever you choose. Your board are people with the best interest in the company in mind, and you can come to them when you need insight, mentoring, or help in making big decisions. Our board came in handy when we won the $10,000 contest and needed help planning how to delegate the money.
4. Know Your Personality Type and What that Means As a Leader.
Some of us may be natural born leaders in life, independent, but have never formally been a boss or manager. That was the case for me. I always considered myself a good leader but when I became a boss of others I started doubting myself. Turns out our personality types play a HUGE role in the type of boss we are. My type (ENFP) tend to be more ‘big picture’ bosses and need help seeing the smaller steps and details. We tend to be too friendly with the people who work for us which can blur boundaries (boy did I learn that one the hard way). We clash with people who need order and structure. We’re also very easily manipulated by emotions and guilt. In learning about my personality type I was able to address specific issues of my managing style. This ended up helping everyone who worked for me. It doesn’t hurt to have your other mermaids do a personality test either to see what they are like as subordinates (which isn’t meant to be a negative term, just the term many of these tests use.) I like the test at: http://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test Once you know your personality test you can search the code and “manager style” or “in the work place” to see how your personality may relate.
I am always harping on about how great insurance is. It makes things safer and more accountable for the mer-community at large. It helps us get better bookings, bigger venues, and be seen as professionals. There are multiple ways to insure your contractors and it is best to address that with an insurance agent. For our company we can insure a max amount of mermaids and tails. Should I decide to add more and go beyond that number, I am reassessed. (which has honestly only ever barely put my rates up so it is worth it).
7. Various Contracts and Legal Documents
There are a variety of documents you may wish to put in place to protect your interests. While there are many tutorials and templates online, this is one of those areas where it’s best to go with a lawyer as the sanctions and clauses allowed can vary from place to place. Some you may want to consider specifically when hiring other people are:
Non-Disclosure Agreements: The people who work for you agree to not divulge any secrets about your company; especially with the intent of aiding your competition or causing the company harm. They also agree to keep company information confidential. This helps with protecting communications form clients and their information. You can also have a confidentiality agreement on its own too.
Non-Compete: It is standard in competitive or specialized fields for people to sign non-competes. They also vary depending on where you are. It boils down to the people working for you can’t just learn all they can from you (including trade secrets) and run off and decide to make their own company, or join your competitor. Non-competes typically expire anywhere between 6 months to 2 years. The severity of the coverage also depends on the percentage of income the job provides to a person.
Employee Guide/Etiquette: Typically a rule book that the mermaid signs that they’ll agree to follow. Could be anything to how they care for tails, to what they do when clients are rude, the costumes they should wear, or how to act professionally.
Photo Release Forms: allow you to take photos of them and use them for company purposes.
Costume Rental: the mermaid agrees to act responsibly with the tail/costume you rent them and to return it within a reasonable amount of time. You can build this (and some of these others) as a clause into a contract.
Social Media Policies: How the mermaid can act on fan pages representing the company.
These are just SOME of the contracts you may want to use. They are standard in the entertainment industry and many others. They will protect your company. You can hire someone and think they’re amazing but months later realize they aren’t fit for the job and you don’t want them to leave disgruntled and be able to ruin your business.
8. Maintaining Professional Boundaries
This was a hard one for me, and I suspect it’ll be a hard one for many. The mermaid community is tight knit. Everyone wants to be friends with everyone. Being friendly creates a great environment, but it can also encourage certain types of people to take advantage of you, act unprofessionally, or cross boundaries.
For many of us we start out making these companies with friends. I’ve known mermaid Mimi for as long as I’ve been a mermaid almost. I am lucky that Mimi respects me and our relationship. We are able to both be friends, and she isn’t intimidated when I need to put on the boss hat. Granted, I do my best to be inclusive of everyone, transparent, and make sure we have amazing opportunities.
Some mermaids are like Mimi and totally capable of being like this. But some aren’t. Some will blur the lines between friendship and employment. If you don’t give them what they want in the professional setting you are suddenly a ‘bad friend’ and this can lead to all sorts of manipulation.
Some people simply won’t respect boundaries. No matter how carefully, respectfully, or professionally you’ve put them down. Don’t be like me and give them a million chances. For the most part when a person crosses your clear boundary it is intentional. If they do it once; they will do it again and again. Do yourself a favour and don’t hire people like that again.
A contractor, who is disrespectful to you in your personal life, is just as likely to be that way to you in your professional life. Tread carefully.
Remember. If you’ve chosen contractors you do not need to keep hiring them. If someone sets off your alarms, raises red flags, or doesn’t fit with your company vision… you do NOT have to include them. This is where the mer-community can muddle things. We often pressure companies to include everyone without knowing much about the type of contractor the mermaid was.
I have always been too friendly a boss. Some of my girls are totally fine with that and respect my boundaries, but in the past I’ve had people who have worked for me and taken advantage of that.
Sometimes a person simply doesn’t fit with your vision. If you’re a company that works with kids and the mermaid hates kids… it’s setting you both up for failure.
In that same vein you aren’t a care giver to these mermaids. It is OK to help people, be kind and courteous and a cool boss. But at the end of the day some people will try to bring you their emotional baggage, their issues, and cast you in a role that isn’t you. I’m not saying don’t help people, but you need to be careful with intimate close workings like these types of jobs. You need to be guarded and not allow yourself to be too vulnerable or your mermaids either. If it wouldn’t be appropriate in a specific way for another field of work; it’s likely not for yours either. (e.g. in an office setting yes it would be appropriate to let your boss know your mother is in the hospital and it’s stressing you out. It wouldn’t be ok to call your boss up and all your co workers at home and talk to them for hours and constantly use it as an excuse for poor choices)
9. Everyone Wants to be a Professional Mermaid… not Everyone Should
Does that point contradict me? I am usually so pro about people becoming mermaids! Heck I published two books about people becoming professional mermaids. I am always the one to say, everyone is free to try! So what the heck do I mean by that?
Some people will do whatever it takes to be a mermaid. For some people; that means working hard, saving all their money, training their craft, and honing their skills no matter the cost. But for some people that means being cut throat, manipulating and exploiting others, and generally just being awful in order to achieve what they want.
I always believe people should be given a chance because this mermaid thing can be so empowering. But when it comes to your business, not everyone needs to be a mermaid for you. You don’t need to hire a mermaid just because they’re there and there aren’t many to choose from. You can even train someone up and then realize they aren’t the right fit. For me with my company I need people who can keep their cool and be OK around kids. It’s not always glamorous. I have wonderful friends who make great mermaids, but should never be a mermaid for ME. (or at the very least in that capacity). I’ve also hired people who started out seemingly really into my vision (learning through play) but it turned out to be an act to get in a mermaid tail and get attention.
It is OK to say no to people.
10. Document Everything and Don’t Be Afraid of Lawyers
Anything that is officially ‘business’ related should be documented. Whether it is archiving emails, having copies of contracts, texts, or written agreements. It helps keep everyone accountable, lets everyone knows the expectation, and helps you out should you ever need to seek legal action.
It also helps with clients who might get confused, or dealing with other serious issues. It seems like such a no-brainer. But it can really make a difference.
Don’t be afraid to ask a lawyer for help. Seriously. They might just save you a huge amount of trouble. Once you start a business I suggest putting a little bit of money aside for a legal fund. You’ll feel better knowing you have all your ducks in a row so to speak, and if you ever do need the Lawyer, you’ll be glad you did it.
So those are my 10 important points. There are many positive ones I can say too. Like, support your team! Encourage them! Empower them! Provide cool opportunities and professional development. The Halifax Mermaids have done SO Much because I have worked my butt off to be sure they’re all included. Whether it’s winning that big grant, swimming in an aquarium, being on TV or in the news, or even just making our team calendar.
There’s a lot of things I do for my team that I am hesitant to recommend. They are positive things, but they only work for people who are genuine. An example; I try to give thank you gifts occasionally to show the mers they’re appreciated. I would also spend my own money to rent pools so we could have our own pool parties, buy food, or just try to do something special so they’d know we are thankful for them. For some mers who worked for me this was a two way street! I’ll never forget the time Mimi showed up on Thanksgiving when my accidentally got cancelled; with a whole meal for me to cheer me up. But some people, the ones who don’t respect boundaries, or the ones who take advantage… you can give them everything they want, do everything to show them they’re appreciated, and they will still accuse you of being selfish.
This is why I say you need to use your discretion. These innocent things we do out of the kindness of our hearts, trying to be good co workers or good bosses, can sometimes backfire with the wrong personality type.
I’ve dealt with some really serious issues since starting my business. I always wanted to write about them in the books but I was afraid. So I want to list a few here. I am not naming names. I point these out because I want you to realize that even with the best intentions, even when you work hard, even when you vet people, even when you’re kind… sometimes it just isn’t enough and it doesn’t work.
I’ve had a mermaid show up stoned to a booking. I’ve had a mermaid curse multiple times in front of kids. I have had a mermaid complain loudly in front of clients about their venue or event. I have had a mermaid bring a person to tears while in costume (and that person cried 8 hours later when they saw the mermaid again). I’ve had mermaids who have lied. I have had mermaids who have tried to turn business contacts against us out of spite. I’ve had mermaids who have stolen money from the company, and money from us. I’ve had mermaids take my personal mermaid gear and never give it back (often without asking). I’ve had mermaids steal mermaid gear. I’ve had mermaids physically and verbally threaten myself, Sean, or other mermaids on the team and I have had mermaids on my team feel bullied. I’ve had my birthday (separate years) ruined twice by mermaids being incredibly inappropriate and unprofessional. I’ve had mermaids send me hateful messages at night and then work a gig with me the next morning.
These are all things that even though the mermaids in question were doing them, it has ultimately been my failure as a boss for allowing it. Sometimes the situations were things where we felt unable to act (in case you wonder why people weren’t just booted out the door the first time!) for various reasons. And these moments have been how I have come to learn these ten points I’ve shared with you.
It’s not all glamorous. I’ve seen a therapist to help me manage the anxiety dealing with difficult mermaids has caused me. At one point I also felt suicidal and took anti-depressants when I felt a mermaid was negatively controlling my business and I didn’t know how to stand up for myself, or the business. We all hear about things like this and think “I’ll never be like that, I’d never let someone do that” but when you’re a new business owner, you don’t have the background, you don’t know what to look for… that’s how it gets the better of you.
I am hoping in sharing my ten tips some of you who are joining forces might have a fin up and avoid some of the issues I’ve had. These things have happened to me over the course of the entire time I have been running a mermaid company.
But it’s not all bad. I currently have an amazing team despite recently dismissing someone. My current team are all talented women. Strong. Empathetic. They believe In my vision and they build me up and give me the chances I need to grow as a leader so I can build them up. They trust in me, and do so many kind and thoughtful things for me. A friend told me that sometimes when someone burns you the fire can be cleansing and now I am sure of that.
I’ve learned a lot from my bad boss experiences. Sometimes you can do all these things and someone will still screw you over, but that is life. I have come out stronger and better for it, and I hope my stories and ideas will help you.
The Halifax Mermaid
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