Huntsville Pony TOO GM Dane Hansen was a founding father of the PANDA DJ association and an uber-successful DJ for 26 years — 14 of those at high-volume Las Vegas and South Florida clubs. Hansen won ED’s 2018 Employee of the Year Award and has been nominated for numerous other awards.
ED Magazine’s Larry Kaplan spoke with Hansen about his years in the industry and why he became a GM and now considers the Pony Nation home.
ED: What led you to leave a thriving DJ career to become a GM and ultimately a Pony club GM in Alabama?
HANSEN: The DJ thing takes a toll. After 26 years, I felt much of my input wasn’t being heard, and it was time to leave the industry or reinvent myself into another job.
ED: How do Pony clubs different from your previous employers?
HANSEN: It’s truly a family. That sounds like a cliché, but Jerry genuinely cares about his people, and it shows. He meets everybody, knows everybody’s name, and shakes everybody’s hand. Take care of your people, and they’ll take care of you. Jerry goes above and beyond to show he cares about and is accessible to everyone in the club, from top to bottom. And that goes a long way to me. I’ve never in my life worked for anybody like him.
It’s not just with Jerry; Pony club managers know each other, and we all talk and network. We’re becoming friends; we look out for each other and send each other girls. It’s a growing family. And with every club Jerry buys, it just gets bigger and bigger.
The Pony clubs are the opposite of Vegas, where you’re just hustled through the process. For example, in my 13 years at one Vegas club, the owner and GM rarely called me by my name; it was “Hey DJ” or similar. They didn’t want to be friends or even get to know you.
ED: How has all your time as a club DJ helped you to better understand and interact with entertainers?
HANSEN: I think each club employee should briefly do every job in the club to appreciate the other aspects. I’ve also been a floor host and a bartender. I’ve seen so many different angles from the DJ booth — the best vantage point in most clubs. You see what everybody’s doing, but nobody’s noticing you because you’re supposed to watch the crowd.
With the girls, you’re their therapist. You hear about their families, kids, stories, everything good and bad. It’s softened me and enabled more appreciation and patience with them than if I’d just transitioned from being a restaurant manager and was trying to manage them.
There are so many different personalities, then add alcohol and the constant rejection they get; seven to eight out of ten times, they’ll hear “No”; it’s a hard job. The most successful girls have tough skins.
“Jerry goes above and beyond to show he cares about and is accessible to everyone in the club, from top to bottom. and that goes a long way to me. I’ve never in my life worked for anyone like him.” — Dane Hansen
ED: How much autonomy do you have with Pony compared to other previous owners?
HANSEN: It’s day and night. Jerry allows me to run with his club like it’s mine. I can call him any time with issues or take ideas to him. He’s willing to try new things and gives me enough opportunity to succeed or fail. He doesn’t micromanage, but he always knows what’s happening.
ED: How do the Pony clubs differ from the higher-end clubs where you previously worked?
HANSEN: They’re more inclusive, more like local bars. People are comfortable because they don’t feel they’ll get ripped off when they walk in. Vegas was a whole different dynamic with people only being there two or three days, People go there with a set amount to spend, and you wanted them to spend all of that in your club. Here it’s different; you can’t drain their wallets because you want them back every day. You need more hospitality in these clubs. The way girls are with their regulars and customers is a whole different teaching aspect as far as how to sell.
With a less transient customer base, you can do daily promotions that work if you continue them over time. It becomes a habit people start looking forward to, and it’s more fun and more challenging to come up with new ideas to get people in.
Take care of your people, and don’t stop learning. Choose your battles wisely; not everything is worth arguing about. — Dane Hansen
ED: Tell me about PANDA and what it’s done for DJs and the industry.
HANSEN: Instantly, it’s a connection. It’s given a bunch of like-minded DJs a place to go and talk about things that others couldn’t relate to. It’s a big group now, with this EXPO marking PANDA’s 10th anniversary. It’s quite an accomplishment for everybody involved, and I’m delighted DJs have a place to go. I think it’s given a lot of people some hope. When you explain what you do for a living, it’s not so embarrassing anymore because lots of us have become relatively successful doing this, and it can be a career if you do it correctly. I think it’s proven that DJs are essential to the industry.
ED: What’s one aspect of your job as a GM that’s an unexpected obligation or responsibility you wouldn’t have fathomed before becoming a GM?
HANSEN: Oh, man, being a father figure to so many. Because it seems like I have a bunch of kids now, I’m very protective of my flock. And I don’t think that’s an obligation, but it feels like a responsibility to me. These girls are the only reason we have jobs. So I try to go out of my way to ensure that we take care of them.
ED: If you had other clubs’ GMs in a room and could share some advice, what would you like to tell them?
HANSEN: Take care of your people, and don’t stop learning. Choose your battles wisely; not everything is worth arguing about.
Larry Kaplan has for 21 years been the Legal Correspondent for ED Publications. In addition, Mr. Kaplan is a business broker in the sale and purchase of adult nightclubs and adult retail stores and the Executive Director of the ACE of Michigan adult nightclub state trade association. Contact Larry Kaplan at 313-815-3311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.