Figuring Out Which Business Processes Work for You and Your Team

Owning a business can involve a bit of trial and error when it comes to implementing internal processes to keep everything running smoothly. Client communication, employee training, standard operating procedures (SOPs), you name it – none of these things would be possible without a strategy set in place. We asked a few industry pros what they’ve done to streamline (including how their business has changed since they first began).

Don’t leave your team in the dark

Since we were the first ones at the helm of our own growing companies, it can be tempting to want to shoulder all of the work and DIY your way towards success. However, your skills are often better suited by putting in valuable time with clients, and you’ll never see growth if you can’t trust your own employees to get the job done.

Shannon Tarrant of Wedding Venue Map says that her business began without systems entirely. “In the beginning, I was a solopreneur. Being the only person taking on everything, the systems didn't have to be documented. With growing my team, I've had to go through and document my standard operating procedures (SOPs). It took time, but it was so helpful in training my team.”

What to test and what to tweak

Existing structures you have in place may have been a great choice when you first started your business, but as you reach a certain client base and team capacity, they may start to seem rather outdated. You don’t necessarily have to throw out everything, but adjusting small things here and there such as introducing new technology to your staff and/or clients can make a world of a difference. Emily Sullivan, owner of Emily Sullivan Events says that this can come in the form of apps that offer online contract signing and invoices to keep everything efficient and automated. 

Keith Phillips of Classic Photographers agrees, noting, “Even when you think that you may not necessarily need to make any changes in your business, your clients and employees may feel differently. We personally look for trends in our external and internal feedback to decide what we want to improve on next.” 

Understand what’s not working (and how to fix it)

Knowing when it’s time for change is the first step, but sometimes it doesn’t always work how you’d like it to. Software that comes with a complicated learning curve sometimes isn’t worth the small bit of relief it provides. Being receptive to constructive criticism is often key to knowing where the issues are! If the adjustments you’ve made don’t seem to be working, it’s worth it to keep working toward a seamless automation.

Tarrant continues, “My customer on-boarding process was okay – not great, but better than most. I was busy and didn’t really have the time to make it a priority. In teaching my newest team member the process, she pointed out opportunities for improvement and made all the changes to the original process. Now, we get applauded by our customers for our on-boarding!”

From making your mobile website easier to navigate for clients to transitioning to a new software that makes your services overall more accessible, you’re responsible for how your services and processes are put in place. Growing within an evolving industry shows that you care about staying relevant and becoming a leader that other professionals look up to!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

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Pricing and Maximizing Profit in the Catering Space

Developing pricing for your product and services in such a way that it generates sustainable profit is a multi-layered process for industry professionals in the catering world. We have to think about labor that goes into crafting menus and dishes, the quality of ingredients, and market trends that dictate our offerings. So, how can we elevate profits to ensure that we’re getting the best ROI possible?

Consider markups

It’s no secret from market to market that business owners generally pay wholesale prices and then mark up their prices according to the value of the final product. However, there are correct and incorrect ways to do so when it comes to determining what will produce the largest profit. For example, if you go to a store and see that they’re selling a plain t-shirt for $15, but you know that wholesale prices (or even production costs to physically make the t-shirt) are as low as $1 for the same shirt, you might feel a little cheated out of the price.

Think about supply and demand, and even marketplace value as it relates to your product. Sure, you may have hand-picked your produce and ingredients for free or dirt-cheap (pun intended), but the popularity of your meals, the labor needed, and quality of service allows you to mark up the price to balance out the costs. Just be mindful that when doing so, you should make your prices sustainable and avoid taking advantage of customers that are willing to pay at higher markups. Otherwise, the higher the markup, the less you’ll likely sell, and the more you’ll be at risk of operating at a loss.

Make sure everyone is on board

Something you may not think of that can affect your profit is simple miscommunication between your employees. The sales team doesn’t necessarily know the time, effort, and costs that go into preparing the food that they are required to sell, so integrate some one-on-one time between them and the culinary team when possible.  

Doing so allows the sales people to see the reasoning behind pricing, and they’ll likely be more steadfast when questioned by clients. They’ll be able to answer from a behind-the-scenes perspective, and clients will respect the amount of work that produces the product and services that they are after for their event. Being uneducated and alienated from the backbone that is the culinary team can easily translate to a client and you could lose the sale.

Look at your ‘evergreen’ food staples

There are different areas that we all specialize in, but we each have our specific items that never go out of style. Lately, we’ve especially noticed a spike in locally-grown and/or organic products that our clients request. Because we want to cater to their wants (another pun), it can seem like an easy choice to purchase products like organic salad dressings to keep that business coming in.

But when you look at the content of your dishes, the focal point isn’t necessarily on the condiments or even the garnishes – it’s generally regarding the integrity of the entrée, like whether or not the beef is grass-fed. So, the effort you put into an expensive syrup, honey, salad dressing or otherwise is probably being overlooked, and you really aren’t taking away from the client experience by substituting a cheaper alternative. Think about what the star of the dish is, and prioritize from there. Doing so over a business year or even a quarter can accumulate real savings and thus – more money in your pocket.

Sometimes the answer to a larger profit isn’t simply raising prices. So many more factors come into play, and raising prices isn’t sustainable in the long run. Think about realistic changes you can make, and be sure that those are in line with the ethics in which you run your business! 

Clint Elkins is the VP of Sales of SB Value, a group purchasing program designed toreduce catering, kitchen and food-service costs by leveraging the collective buying power of thousands of companies.

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Selling Your Venue to Millennials

The wedding industry as we know it today has transformed in leaps and bounds within the past several decades. From traditionalist details to one-of-a-kind designs, the shift between Generations X and Y (and soon Z) has played a major role in the changes that we continue to see in the market. 

 When planning events, millennials don’t want the same styles that they see at their friends’ celebrations; instead, they are looking for innovation and forward-thinking ideas. They not only want the latest and greatest, though — they want it now. The digital age has instilled a need for instant gratification that can make or break a client experience, depending on a company’s priorities. If a venue wants to sell to more millennials, they must be aware of how today’s client thinks and operates. 

 Here are some considerations when working with millennials and sharing your venue’s vision for their event. 

Collaborative planning tools 

Now more than ever, clients want to have a significant hand in planning their event. They may not be too concerned with the logistics but do have their own design ideas; alternately, they may be comfortable leaving the design in someone else’s hands so they can manage the timeline and technical details. Regardless, it’s essential for venues (and other vendors, for that matter) to be prepared to work collaboratively with all clients. There are countless online tools and platforms available to make the client experience as seamless as possible. 

Social media sharing 

It’s 2019 and the world seemingly revolves around likes, hashtags, and stories. People are engaging with brands on social media more than ever before, and that is especially true in the events industry. We work in such a visual field, which makes social media sharing that much easier (and more effective). It’s critical for venues to be visible online to showcase their latest innovations and events, while also being reachable for inquiries. Most millennials prefer to stick to emails, texts, or social media messages for initial contact, so save the in-person appointment for later. 

User-friendly websites 

A venue’s website is a key component of selling today and generally serves as the ‘first impression’ to most prospective clients. In addition to having live chat support with clear contact information and social media links, a venue should offer transparent pricing and recent event images. It’s also recommended to include an interactive widget to showcase your venue’s floorplan – a 360 tour of the event space is invaluable and brings in a tremendous ROI. This kind of feature helps to sell your space directly from your website and, for millennials who would much rather check it out during their lunch break first, you’re providing a time-saving and efficient solution. Paired with a Skype session, phone call or even virtual reality headset, they can get the whole virtual walkthrough from the comfort of their home or office. 

Millennials tend to be careful decision-makers, considering many factors when making a choice. When it comes to hosting a celebration, be it a wedding, birthday party, corporate event, or anniversary, they come into the process knowing what they want — it’s then up to you to showcase how your company can fulfill those needs. 

With over 20 years of experience in the international events industry, Sandy Hammer is the co-founder and CMO of AllSeated, a collaborative network for planning events that offers tools including floorplans, 3D view, Guest List, RSVP, Seating, Timelines, Mobile Check-In and more. 

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4 Strategies to Upsell Effectively

Upselling is an art that marries psychology with sales strategies in order to elevate your client experience and boost your bottom line. By communicating the competitive uniqueness and value that you bring to the table, you can guide clients in the direction of adding on services and products that will take their celebration to the next level.

In fact, upselling boosts sales by 20 to 42 percent on average and all it takes is some simple coaching and careful positioning.

Sound like it’s worth a try? Try out some of these techniques to improve sales of add-on services and products.

Get to the point

One of the easiest and most effective upselling strategies is to simply plug in upgraded options on your proposal. Prospects are already interested in what you have to offer, so all it takes is a few sentences at the end about how you can go above and beyond their expectations. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; in fact, it can even be as simple as showing signature drink options or an upgraded hors d’oeuvres menu. On average, one out of every four clients will jump on the offer, so it’s well worth the minimal effort of adding to your proposal.

Let your environment do the work

If your client meetings usually take place in your office, take some time to strategically place some samples of upgraded products throughout the space. Give them a tour of your place and let them discover the pieces that speak to them the most — something will likely catch their eye and pique their interest.

Likewise, displaying good quality photos that show off your upgraded services and products in action is another useful strategy. Put an iPad on loop, leave out a photo album, or hang up some framed photos behind your desk to add a discreet plug to every meeting.

Share similar client stories

Take a page out of Amazon’s book and share your own version of “customers who bought this also bought this.” Previous event experiences speak volumes and can present new ideas for clients. Start by having a few anonymous proposals on hand that shows off a full event’s order. Include some photos for an extra punch and you’ll surely see a significant rise in sales.

Show off the latest styles

As you’re browsing the latest trends and shopping for new products, don’t be afraid to shoot some ideas over to your clients and let them you know thought of them first. Not only will it show that their event is always on your mind, but they will likely be open to the suggestion of something unique and different from what’s been done in the past.   

Upselling can be mutually beneficial for both you and the client, but it’s important to tread carefully and avoid coming across as insincere. Keep your offers simple to prevent overwhelming decisions, and always know when a client really means no. The goal is to meet the client’s needs and highlight choices that will escalate their event, not to sell more stuff and make more money. Your sales efforts have to be in the genuine interest of your clients or else you risk losing your client’s respect and damaging the experience.

With nearly 30 years in the special event and catering industry, Meryl Snow is the co-founder of Feastivities Events and the creator of The Triangle Method.  As a Senior Consultant for Certified Catering Consultants, Meryl travels throughout North America training clients in the areas of sales, marketing, design and branding to help businesses get on their own path to success.

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Auditing Your Business Travel Finances

One of the best parts of my job is being able to travel to new and exciting places for speaking engagements, conferences, and more. I’m grateful to have met so many faces in the industry and I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world, but admittedly, traveling often can really pile on the expenses. Think about it – between the flights, meals, hotels, and other things that pop up, it can add up to be a pretty penny. So in an industry that demands some travel, how can we financially stay afloat and eliminate as much stress as possible? 

Determine the ROI of your travel

Before you make any commitment to traveling for work, sit down and really look at the numbers and compare them to what benefits you could potentially reap from making the trip or conference. It can be a little difficult to predict given that there are no quick results, but if you find that you’re attracting new business from conferences or even continuing your education on how to make your business more lucrative, then the trip may be worth it.

If you would ultimately be losing money or if the crowd isn’t a great fit for you and your brand, then you may want to sit it out and save up for a conference that may better suit you in the future.

Stay organized

Any well-seasoned traveler knows that staying organized is a great way to keep a record of what you’re spending on your trip. I personally use TripIt to track my flight, my dinner reservations, and more so that I’m well-aware of my expenses. Having everything in one place is also an amazing time-saver, that way you aren’t fumbling with tickets at the airport. I also keep a separate folder in my suitcase for all of my receipts to document later.

Set a budget

Think about what you’re comfortable spending on your trip beforehand and make an itemized list of things you’ll be purchasing to set a realistic budget. Include additional transportation, buying meals, and emergency funds for a hotel in the event that your flight is canceled. Remember that you’re traveling for work, and not strictly for fun. I’ve seen many people take time away from the conferences and classes to go explore the sights, meaning that they’re spending money rather than learning how to elevate their business and make more money.

You’ll want to also take into consideration the additional expenses of bringing along employees. Doing so isn’t always necessary, but it can be a great way to put in face time with your clients and they’ll have an opportunity to further their education as well. Make sure they’re being reimbursed for everything they spend, and that you’re allotting extra money in the budget for their meals and travel as well.

Carefully auditing your travel expenses is a great way to ensure that you’re not overspending on your travel. You wouldn’t want to be in debt or causing a financial misstep due to unnecessary purchases, so make sure you’re maximizing your experience and continuing your education rather than blowing your money away!

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and current national president for WIPA.

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