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BHS Announces Staff Reductions in Face of Ongoing Pandemic

BHS Announces Staff Reductions in Face of Ongoing Pandemic

February 17, 2021

Faced with the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, the Barbershop Harmony Society today announced reductions in its staffing levels.

“This has been a difficult, sad day,” CEO Marty Monson said. “Our team is filled with talented individuals, all passionate about barbershop. We’ve weathered nearly a year of pandemic upheaval, and it’s clear those impacts will continue throughout 2021."

“Today we announced position eliminations and furloughs, something we all had worked to avoid. As tough as this is for each of us, today’s action to streamline the organization will keep the Society on a sustainable, effective path toward 2022,” he said.

Six positions will be eliminated and another seven team members will go on furlough. These reductions involve multiple departments and levels. Job functions and responsibilities will be realigned among the remaining 31 staff in order to continue serving BHS members, deliver on priorities and shape the Society for success post-pandemic.

“There’s no question, especially as vaccine delivery continues, that barbershoppers will gather again,” Monson said. “We will continue to educate and engage our singing communities and together prepare a future that expands barbershop on the bold trajectory we still envision.”

Priorities include:

  • BHS will provide direct support and services for our members, singing communities and the larger barbershop ecosphere. This includes nearly 60,000 people and thousands of singing communities that engaged with the Society over the past year, even during a pandemic. Customer service, insurance, copyright and clearance services, The Harmonizer magazine, and music and merchandise sales will continue.
  • BHS will continue many programs that premiered in 2020, such as Virtual Harmony University and Barbershop Live @ Home. Society staff also will continue to support and engage music educators and youth.
  • In collaboration with district leaders, BHS will engage new and existing volunteer leaders (chapter, club, quartet, etc.) to ensure they have the tools and skills to return to a “better normal'' of gathering.
  • BHS will work with singing community leaders, especially district and chapter officers, to make the Member Center a lively, easy-to-use hub for barbershop — a place to share ideas, create community and advance the local business of barbershop.
  • We will continue working on plans for summer and fall events, which are fluid works in progress. At the same time, we are preparing for barbershoppers’ first post-COVID, fully in-person, international event next January — the 2022 Midwinter Convention in Pasadena.

“There’s much to be done, and the BHS team will rally,” Monson said. “This pandemic will steal nearly two years from us and change the composition of our team, yet we will honor our teammates by building on their work, laser-focused on goals and priorities for 2021, 2022 and beyond.”

The Society sharply curtailed its expenses last year, maintaining fiscal stability through measures such as the elimination of travel expenses and staff compensation reductions that ranged from 11 percent for most staff to 29 percent for executive team members.

While the costs of last month’s Virtual Midwinter Convention were less than an in-person event, and while its more than 1,000 participants have been effusive about its success, such a format simply did not match the revenue generation of a larger, in-person event, Monson said.

Monson noted the ongoing lawsuit involving Harmony Foundation International is not causing today’s action. The suit is being managed by the Society Board with minimal reliance on Society staff and is not funded by member dues or revenue from virtual events, services, fundraising efforts, etc. In contrast, this suit — to solidify HFI’s historical relationship with the Society as its fundraising arm and to protect the donations barbershoppers have intended for BHS and its members — has been funded by a reserve investment account. This account was created nearly 20 years ago and was last tapped in 2015 to pay off $745,000 in Harmony Foundation debt.

More about the Society’s deliverables this year will be announced in the coming weeks. Questions may be emailed to the Society at info@barbershop.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Society eliminating positions and doing furloughs now? Why not earlier?

The Barbershop Harmony Society — in fact, the world — has weathered a year of pandemic and the related upheaval. It’s clear the ramifications and impact of COVID-19 will continue throughout this year.

BHS took measures in 2020 such as eliminating travel expenses and taking compensation reductions that ranged from 11 percent for most staff members to 29 percent for executive team members. These efforts allowed us to meet the Society Board’s budget as adopted last May.

Now, in order to keep BHS on a financially sound footing, we made the difficult decision to eliminate positions and place some team members on furlough. We are in the process of resetting priorities and realigning remaining team members to continue to serve our singing communities well, while shaping the Society for maximum efficiency and impact in the future.

What impact will this have on Society members and all the others who benefit from its services, products and leadership in the barbershop world?

Members will continue to feel supported and engaged by the Society. Remaining BHS team members will rally, prioritize and innovate as we work to serve the barbershop ecosphere, including chapters and districts. We will work to create a “better norm” in fact, as the world returns to a time when singing and gathering together once again becomes possible.

While today’s actions are incredibly difficult, the commitment to and passion for barbershop — and barbershoppers — remains as strong as ever.

Our members, partners and constituents can expect to see updates on our priorities, our efforts and our collaborations throughout the year. We will listen, engage and continue to evolve to help our singing communities flourish — especially as the world moves beyond the pandemic.

Why spend money on the lawsuit involving Harmony Foundation International or on services such as the new Member Center?

The lawsuit is needed to resolve an impasse that’s been building for several years. The suit seeks to cement the path forward, align priorities and protect the donations of members who intended to support the Society and its members. The suit is being managed by the Society Board, requiring minimal staff resources and funded by a reserve investment account created nearly 20 years ago. It was last tapped in 2015 to pay off $745,000 in Harmony Foundation debt.

Other initiatives, such as the new Member Center, are designed to benefit barbershoppers. While some are still learning to master the center, the new system has far greater capabilities. No longer will it be a web page just to pay dues. Now, it will be a place to connect, find information easily, share ideas and build community. In the modern world of self service and 24/7 accessibility, the center will give members more and better service, faster — at a lower cost over time and with greater efficiency for the BHS team.

We must continue to invest in our singing communities — including every chorus, club and quartet, chapter and district. Rather than letting the pandemic stop barbershop, we must use its challenges to learn, prioritize and shape a future that’s as bold as we can envision.