By Daniel MacEachern
Alan Doyle works for nobody, and nobody works for Alan Doyle.
That was one of the Lessons Learned — the theme for a talk given by the Great Big Sea front man to the St. John’s Board of Trade luncheon on Friday afternoon at the Delta Hotel.
Doyle said early on in the band’s career, the father of band mate Sean McCann helped organize the band’s operations.
“We went and we sat in Ed McCann’s basement,” said Doyle, explaining that the elder McCann had advice on financial operations, and how to prepare for the eventuality of needing staff to carry gear and setting up sound and lights.
“I happened to say it will be cool when we have people who work for us,” Doyle told the audience of a couple hundred people. “He stopped me and said, ‘Stop right there. Nobody works for you. And you don’t work for anybody. You only work with people, that’s it.’ I’ve never forgotten it.”
Find another job if you’re employed by someone who thinks you work for him, advised Doyle, and, similarly, don’t hire anyone to work for you instead of with you. That mentality, said Doyle — working as a team, where everyone knows what everyone is supposed to do, and even the CEO pitches in to wash dishes if that’s what’s required at that moment — is what’s enabled the group to last for two decades and counting.
“My job description, for example, in Great Big Sea, changes about 14 times a day. Sometimes I’m the guy carrying a speaker,” he said. “And then four minutes after that, I’m the guy who’s helping the sound guy.
“Then I gotta go be on a magazine photo shoot,” Doyle said.
The outgoing singer/songwriter/actor sang songs, told jokes — noting his speech’s sponsor was Newfoundland Screech’s new variety, Screech Honey, which he said “sounds more like an instruction, from the Petty Harbour hockey dance in 1984” — and told stories from his two decades in Great Big Sea, as well from his acting credits, including a role in 2010’s “Robin Hood” film.
Recounting that he, on his own, elected to write songs for every scene he was in for “Robin Hood” — some of which wound up in the movie — Doyle also advised the crowd to “be ready.”
“Be ready, and you’ll be all right,” he said. “It’s one of the only things you control, as well. You can be ready. I don’t care what line of business you’re in; you know when someone’s ready. And if they’re on your team, there’s nothing better than standing next to somebody who’s ready, and there’s nothing scarier than looking across the table at someone who’s more ready than you.”