Musician (and now entrepreneur) Alison Avron knew Sydney desperately needed more live venues when she couldn’t find a suitable space for the local leg of her album tour. In recent years hundreds of venues closed, making it difficult for independent artists to reach their Sydney audiences.
So Alison rented an old Newsagency in Marrickville and set up the front room as a BYO venue inspired by New York’s underground music scene. Soon she was hosting gigs four-to-five nights a week.
“At the time, The Newsagency was a 40 capacity room and that was very manageable for independent upcoming artists,” she remembers.
In 2016 she was awarded an AMP Tomorrow Fund grant to help her upgrade the venue, and moved to a warehouse in Annandale. That space is quadruple the size of the original Newsagency and now fully licensed to host 100 people.
“Two years ago when I came to Annandale there weren’t any small bars and I’m officially the first small venue in the precinct, which is a pretty cool accolade,” Alison says proudly. “Here’s a business that started as a hole in the wall that I’ve kept running while getting all the council approvals and we’ve grown from two staff to 25 employees on our books.”
Alison’s casual employees don’t work traditional 9 to 5 hours at The Newsagency and need flexibility for their variable hours.
But that left Alison consumed with tedious admin to organise individual schedules for each employee. She was spending nearly two days’ work just on rostering.
“Rostering was a painful process for me, usually about 12 hours working things out on paper and chasing people each week,” she admits. “And then sometimes at the last minute people couldn’t do their shifts so I’d spend a few more hours organising replacements, or when we had a full house I’d have to extend shifts and book extra staff on, also at the last minute.”
After a busy week of trying to book casual staff, Alison told her accountant scheduling felt like herding cats — constantly wrangling people and trying to keep track of who was working and when.
“My accountant told me I should look at getting a rostering app that could do that work for me and take some of the hassle out of running a small business.”
All shifts at The Newsagency are now run via the Deputy app, which allows all staff to see who is working which gig, what their roles are, and tracks their working hours.
Alison says organizing rosters is much quicker and easier with Deputy. The integrated systems let her make updates on any device and from wherever is most convenient for her — at home, in bed or while relaxing at her local pub.
Plus, Deputy’s Open Shift feature lets Alison create an open shift, which lets her employees claim it on their own if they want to work the gig, saving Alison from having to fill the slot herself.
“To create an open shift on Deputy all I have to do is open up the date, create the time it is, and then publish it so my staff can claim it,” explains Alison.
And her employees love the feature just as much as Alison. When they want to pick up extra shifts, they have an easy way to claim that shifts that fit with their lives.
“Deputy is good for casual work, because I have uni and other jobs,” says one employee who works front of house and on the bar at The Newsagency. “I can pick up shifts that are open when I want them.”
Deputy also lets Alison tag employees with skills and experience. When she needs someone for a specialist role, such as a sound technician for a band, she can search for available staff with those skills and send them a notification that they’ve been assigned a new shift.
Timesheets from Deputy make accounting for the cost of each shift so much easier for Alison. She used to spend up to four hours each week verifying hours worked and adding up costs — now Deputy automatically reports both, cutting her accounting time by 75%. And when calculated alongside door and bar earnings, lets her see the cost-versus-profit per gig.
“Deputy allows me to fine tune my operational costs and saves me time and admin, so I’ve got more time to focus on the bigger picture,” reports Alison. “More gigs, more artists, more time spent on making Sydney’s live music scene great. It means more community. It means more cool stuff for us all to enjoy.”
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