John Daly isn’t comfortable talking about his accomplishments as the “Guru of Event Design.” Daly would rather talk about how we can all help other people. And, he hasn’t just had an impact on the world of events. He’s been “paying it forward” in special ways since landing in Santa Barbara. First, as a mentor, and now sharing his knowledge in a unique way.
“The students loved this class and learned very valuable lessons that will help them with employment and life. John made this experience fun, and we had great attendance due to his warm personality and real world experience. More students need this opportunity.” — Debra Teton, La Cuesta Continuation School counselor
Turning a Hobby into Expertise
Daly’s journey to change the lives of others began some 18 years ago. He was still traveling the world producing events for celebrities and the top Fortune 100 companies. And he had added another element to his many talents. From the time he was a young adult, he was fascinated with the protocol and etiquette of countries around the world and how they affected the events he was producing. This led to his researching etiquette in both the United States and other countries to which he traveled. He wanted to know why business people followed specific social behaviors and credits his later business success working with international governments and corporations to his research.
His hobby of learning about the proper rules of etiquette led to him advising his clients on both a domestic and international basis. It didn’t involve just which fork to use at an important dinner but how to dress, greet foreign dignitaries and carry on polite business conversations. And, the more he traveled, the more he honed his skills, evolving his hobby into an expertise.
How the Three Josés Led the Way
At about the same time, Daly began to formally mentor a boy through the Fighting Back Mentor Program with the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse. Prior to that, Daly had been mentoring a young man named José on a personal basis for a few years before starting the formal program. As a result, José joined Daly’s business team as a prop and warehouse manager. Not speaking English well, José learned with a tutor who arrived at the John Daly International office at 7 a.m. two mornings a week. Daly and Jose’s strong bond remains to this day.
Soon, the mentoring increased, and Daly became an important part of several boys’ lives, acting as the male figure in their growth. Today, there are three Josés — José 33, José 19 and José 17 — who have all been nicknamed by their ages to keep them straight! When they are all together, which happens often, they just go by the number!
“Many people claim to have a way with teenagers,” but I seldom see someone as skilled as John Daly in this field.” — Robert Foster, Santa Barbara County Probation Department
Three years ago, mentoring took another turn, and Daly became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Foster Youth.
Throughout all his mentoring years, Daly began to notice that his students didn’t have an understanding of proper table manners, how to carry on a conversation with others or even the first thing about going about getting a job. As a result, he decided to use his outstanding teaching abilities and began to put together a curriculum to instruct students on how to do the things that are expected in everyday life. The first class, "How to Shake the Hand that Feeds You," literally teaches students how to introduce themselves and properly shake hands with another person — something none of them know how to do.
The second class is held at Macy’s in Paseo Nuevo, where Daly prepares students to dress and behave properly for interviews. The third class focuses on completing resumes and cover letters, as well as how to fill out an application. The final class is a primer on restaurant behavior. A table is set in semi-formal style, and the students learn everything from proper seating for ladies to ordering food from the wait person. After the orders are placed, mock food is served with instructions on how to eat it.
More than just social behavior, the course teaches the necessary interviewing tools to successfully secure a job or college entrance. Regardless of the type or level of job being pursued, the same techniques apply in the interview process. The program gives students the tools to enter worlds that might not otherwise be achievable.
John Daly’s The Key Class program was launched by partnering with the Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse’s Teen Court in Santa Barbara. This amazing program allows youth who have committed a first-time misdemeanor offense to avoid a criminal record and a chance to re-evaluate where their lives are headed while still being held accountable for their actions.
Past Key Class programs that ran through Teen Court, according to program director Ed Cué saw an impressive turnaround.
"Strategies like the Key Class are the backbone to a 92 percent completion rate and a recidivism rate of 12 percent,” Cué said.
Expanding His Reach
From there, it was just a matter of time before Daly expanded to high school students as well as working with at-risk teens. Collaborating with Santa Barbara Partners in Education, Daly has taken The Key Class into the Santa Barbara County school system. Last year the class was taught at La Cuesta, El Puente, Dos Pueblos, Rincon High School in Carpinteria, San Marcos High in the AVID (advanced) Program, Anacapa School in Santa Barbara, as well as continuing with CADA through Teen Court. This year, additional schools are being added.
“I hope your etiquette teaching rubs off on my soul ... in return for your passionate willingness for us to succeed in the job world, I will be successful.” — Richard Palafox, Key Class student
Why is it so successful with students? Because when most people think etiquette, they visualize “stuffy, rigid rules.” Daly is about as far away as possible from the image that Emily Post conjures. Full of a quick sense of humor and easy-going, Daly speaks to students on their level. It makes a difference.
In discussions with several colleges and veterans organizations interested in adding The Key Class to their course offerings, Daly hopes to expand The Key Class, not just in Santa Barbara, but across the country.
Will he eventually be dubbed as the Guru of Business Etiquette? Only time will tell.
See Part 3 in this series to discover how technology has become the grand disconnect and how John Daly is reconnecting us.
— Maria Long represents The Key Class.