A Boy Named Sue: A Guide To Producer Training


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A successful producer training program creates a powerful competitive advantage.

Many readers are probably familiar with Johnny Cash’s hit, A “Boy Named Sue.” The song tells the story of a father who named his son Sue before abandoning him. The father believed that the stigma of the name would make the boy tough enough to survive without a father. In other words, instead of having a father to care of him, the son would get an immediate, ever-lasting, and tough course on taking care of himself.


This theory reminds me of how many agencies train — or rather, don’t train — their producers: They abandon them shortly after hiring them. Very few agencies have formal mentoring programs, regular, systematic sales training, or formal and thorough sales management. At the very least, these agencies could give their producers a fighting chance by nicknaming them (if they’re male) "Sue."


Most agency owners rationalize their position by saying, “I didn’t need any type of training or management, so my producers don’t either.” Others just say, “Hang in there. Be tough!” In reality, many owners could have benefited greatly by taking sales training themselves and could still do so. Even the best owner-producers who take sales training continually outperform most of those who don’t. Many owners could also benefit by using a more structured approach to sales management. In a few cases, a producer will have incredible talents, much like great musicians who can’t hear (Beethoven) or read music (Stevie Ray Vaughan). These are rare people. No one in their right mind would tell a young musician whose talents aren’t yet known,” Don’t study or learn to read music because Stevie Ray didn’t, and look how good he was.”

Some agencies, especially smaller ones don’t offer adequate training because the owners don’t have the time and/or the resources to do it themselves. This is similar to the situation of Sue’s dad. He didn’t have the time or money to raise his son right, so he named him Sue. If a father doesn’t have the time or resources to raise his son, should he abandon him? Should an agency owner hire a producer without providing adequate training for them?


Successfully training new producers creates a powerful competitive advantage. Agencies that don’t train are likely to fail. If you still aren’t convinced that training is essential, then nickname your male producers Sue and your female producers Rufus. At least give them a fighting chance.

Chris Burand can be reached at Burand & Associates, LLC, PMB 345, 1829 S. Pueblo Blvd., Pueblo, CO 81005, (719) 485-3868, fax (719) 485-3895, e-mail [email protected], or Web site www.burand-associates.com.
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