Preparing a Wedding Venue for the Off-Season

By Heather Jones, Wente Vineyards

Peak wedding season can seem like a blur, no matter how well-organized and energetic you are. If you are managing a venue that is in a constant state of turnover between amazing events, you may have to put some important business functions on the back burner until things slow down and you can catch your breath. Your off-season is the perfect opportunity to catch up, work on necessary projects and get your property and your team ready for the next wedding season to come.

Keep a List Year-Round

Throughout the year, as issues are brought to your attention that need to be addressed, keep them on a list so you can prioritize them during your off-season. I have an erasable white board with all of the projects I want to work on and add items all year. This allows my team and I to keep an eye on the things that need to be done and address them as soon as we can. There is such satisfaction in crossing something off of that list!

Make Administrative Updates

Take a look at all of your materials and refresh them if necessary. Contact vendors and ensure that you have current contact information. Sit down with your legal team for an annual contract review and adjust any clauses that you may have noticed needed tweaking.

Schedule Repairs and Property Updates

No matter how well-planned, repairs and construction can be highly disruptive during wedding season. No couple wants to work around your repair schedule on their big day. If the repairs can reasonably wait, schedule them during the off-season when they will least impact your clients and your events.

Refresh Your Online and Social Media Presence

Review your website and make any necessary adjustments – you want prospective clients to find accurate information and your carefully constructed message when they click through. Check your profiles on wedding sites. Upload new photos and respond to reviews so your clients know you care. Correct inaccurate information and add anything new and exciting that you want to share with the world.

Hold Tastings

It can be very difficult to pay the kind of attention your clients deserve when you’re knee-deep in back-to-back weddings. If possible, schedule menu and beverage tastings during slower periods when you can focus entirely on future events, and when you have the bandwidth to devote your attention on the couple on hand.

Meet with Your Team

Whether you set aside some meeting time in your office or go for an all-out retreat, take the time to review your past season with your team. Did you make any changes? Were they effective, or do you need to try something new. Did you show progress in areas that you measured? Set new goals and discuss new ideas in preparation for the coming year.

You can get so much more done for your venue when you’re not buried deeply in wedding season. Take advantage of the relative lull of your off-season and prepare your venue before the next big wave of weddings starts again.

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Ways to Get Organized in the Off-Season

By Kim Sayatovic, Belladeux Event Design

When event pros are in the thick of wedding season, taking stock of organizational systems is not a top priority, most of us are just trying to survive our way through it. But with the 2017 season finally starting to wind down a bit, it may be time to pause and start thinking about getting yourself and your business organized once again in preparation for the year ahead. So how do you do it? Take a look below at some of my favorite tips.

You’ve Got Mail

How does your inbox look these days? It’s easy to lose track of emails and find yourself wading through messages looking for a specific phone number or meal request from a couple. Take the time this off-season to go through your emails with a fine tooth comb and really declutter everything by creating new labels and folders that make sense for your workflow. Get rid of the stuff you no longer need, and try to get your inbox as close to zero as possible. 

Look at Your Setup

Your office tends to reflect the inner workings of your mind. So if you’re in a state of chaos and running around from place to place, then chances are your office looks that way too. It should really be a space that you’re happy to be in and can come to and know exactly where everything is and how it works. This is certainly easier said than done, and if things have gotten a little messy, now is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Do you need another filing cabinet? New binders, dividers, folders, etc? Whatever work for you, go out and get it. Perhaps it’s more about the space itself, and you want to add new curtains to give it some personality, or a new comfy office chair. Anything that is going to create a more inviting environment for you.   

Don’t Forget About Current Clients

The wedding industry never truly sleeps, so while you may not be as busy during the winter months, don’t forget about the clients you do have. Create a more streamlined process that will help you get as ahead as you can with any upcoming events. Project management systems that with to-do lists and automatic reminders are great for this, as well as having an organized written schedule if you prefer pen and paper. 

Grade Your Client Experience

Sit down and ask yourself, what’s it like to be my client? Are you quick when responding to emails or phone calls? Do you have a good relationship still with past clients? Do you do anything unique or special for clients? These are important questions to ask yourself at any point during the year, but having the extra time to really take a reflective look when it comes to the client experience can be very beneficial for you and your business. Identify any weak points and address the problem before the off-season ends and business starts to pick back up. 

Use this down time to your advantage, and you’ll be reaping the benefits before you know it!

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3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t HATE Accounting

By Michelle Loretta, Sage Wedding Pros

When you think about doing your business accounting do you:

  1. Sweat profusely.
  2. Swear profusely.
  3. Cry profusely.
  4. All of the above.

If you fall into any of the above, I know you. I see your struggles and I want to tell you this…

You need to find peace with your accounting.

Let’s shift the focus a bit. What if – instead of HATING accounting – you actually loved it? (Is that even possible?)

Here are reasons why you need to find love for the numbers of your business:

1. You don’t need to be an expert in accounting.

Part of the intimidation with accounting is the overwhelming thought of needing to know ALL THE THINGS. You don’t need a degree in accounting. (You have enough to do.) STOP trying to achieve perfection in this area.

You DO, however, need to understand how your numbers work. You need to have basic accounting knowledge so that you can be proactive about the financial decisions in your business.

2. Knowing your numbers helps you sell better.

There is something magical that happens when I watch a wedding professional begin to learn how accounting works… they SELL better. This business owner doesn’t cave when facing price pushback. They better understand why things are priced how they are – and they are better at explaining and educating potential clients.

There is a HUGE confidence that comes with understanding how cash flows in and out of your business. When you know what your dollars are doing, you’re not afraid to ask for the sale.

3. It’s NOT about the bookkeeping. It’s about measuring financial metrics!

Newsflash: bookkeeping is BORING. The benefit of bookkeeping doesn’t come from the tedious task of putting your expenses and sales into a spreadsheet or Quickbooks. 

“Data entry is so fun!” – said no one ever.

You do the data entry (the bookkeeping) to get ALL the FINANCIAL INFORMATION (eg: metrics). It’s this information – aka financial reports – that tell you how your business is doing. This is the only REAL way to measure whether your business is barely surviving or truly thriving. 

Numbers don’t lie.

What do you think? Starting to love accounting just a tad more? 

Join the finance love fest with me! Download the Sage Wedding Pros Monthly Accounting Checklist for easy-peasy ways to get your dollars in order.

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The Keys to a Successful E-Commerce Business

By Audrey Isaac, 100 Candles

Whether your business is exclusively web-based, or you are incorporating online sales as one aspect of your wedding business, there are several factors that are key to a successful e-commerce business. The more effort you put into building a solid, functional and customer-friendly business, the more profitable you will be.

Start with Excellent Customer Service

It really doesn’t matter what you sell, how you sell it, or who you sell it to – the key to true success is giving your customers superior service. Keep this in mind as you build your e-commerce site. Focus on what consumers need to get to know your business, trust your products and services, and ultimately choose to pay you to enhance their weddings. 

Offer information that helps lead your prospects to the purchases that will best fit their needs. That could be a strong FAQ page, or rollover text that better explains features of a product. Make sure your navigation is intuitive and accurate so visitors find what they need. And always remember to seek and be responsive to feedback before and after you make a sale. 

Balance Visual Appeal and Function

Developing a pretty website that attracts a prospective customer’s attention is only half the battle. You do need to capture attention with a professional look, and a style that reflects your branding. But you also need to help your visitors have a smooth and enjoyable shopping experience. 

Include features like “breadcrumb navigation” that track where your customers have been on your site periodically to ensure they never have to start all over again in frustration. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly as an ever-growing number of consumers shop primarily on devices like cell phones and tablets. 

Also make sure that your site works! Links should lead where they are supposed to and load times need to be reasonable to live up to the Millennial demand for instant gratification. Shopping online is so common now that couples have high expectations for ease of use. Make sure your site delivers on those expectations, and exceeds them when possible. 

Monitor Your Performance

Install and use a program like Google Analytics to help determine how many visitors your e-commerce site attracts, where on your site they visit, how long they stay, and who they are demographically. If any of the measurements fails to line up with your expectations, the results should allow you to tweak your site so you can perform better. By regularly monitoring your site performance, you’ll be able to make educated decisions before making major changes to your site.

There are many factors that contribute to a successful e-commerce business, but all of them are within your reach! Start today with these tips and you’ll soon see a reward for all of your hard work.

Audrey Isaac is the spokesperson of 100 Candles, a wholesale market for candles and lights. Since 2002, thousands of wedding and event professionals have entrusted 100 Candles with their wholesale candle accounts. For more information, please visit https://www.100candles.com/.

 

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Price is Not a Dirty Word

By Gwen Helbush, Where to Start Event Management

If there is one unwritten rule everyone in our wedding community adheres to that rule is no one talks about price.  Why?  My guess fear. They are afraid if they tell you their prices or how they derived them; you will judge or use the information against them.

It is not an entirely unwarranted fear, knowing what others charge can be a competitive advantage, it can also be a disaster.  If you base your price on that of others rather than on your own business, you may put yourself out of business.

You need to establish your prices on YOUR business.  What others charge is not relevant, unless you can guarantee their prices are made up of the same components as yours.  Which is only possible if you know every expense, every cost they incurred for a client and everything about their business.  Do you know that?  Are they likely to tell you?  Safe to say the answer to both questions is NO.

Fear is no way to run a business, talking about prices should not be taboo.  I don’t see the point of avoiding speaking about something we all struggle with daily! The one thing every business in our wedding community and any other industry has in common, we all have to charge clients to make a living.

To paraphrase Star Trek, “I will boldly go where no has gone before.”  I’m going to talk about how I price my services.  Yes, that's right I said it- I'm going to tell you how I price my services!

I’m a wedding planner I have been in business for almost 27 years, not surprisingly my pricing structure has changed over the years.  What and how I charge my clients has been a work in progress for every one of those 27 years.  I’m going to talk about, my business specifically but the principles with some minor alterations can apply to any of your businesses.  Now I’m not going to share actual dollar figures with you just the equations I use to get to the price.  I like you, but I’m giving up all my secrets.

I charge a flat fee; my couples know up front what they are going to pay.  I see what I'm going to make; we are all aware what they get for that price and what it will cost if they change the scope.  I prefer a flat fee because I don’t have to spend non-billable hours creating reports and invoicing constantly.  I’m not crazy; I know the services a couple starts out wanting are seldom what they end up needing I include a factor for that in the calculation.  The following are the components I use to calculate my price.

What I collect from the client:

Wedding Date/Times

Location(s) 

  • Getting Ready
  • Ceremony
  • Reception
  • Any after events

 Head Counts

  • Guests
  • Bridal party

Type of service they think they want

  • Full wedding planning or some portion

 Their expectations

  • Dreams
  • Themes
  • Reality

Copies of any contracts for creative partners booked

  • This tells me how much time I need to add or subtract based on who they have in place

Anything they will provide themselves

  • Mom is making cupcakes, did they check if the caterer can allow outside food?
  • Will my team need set up the cupcakes
  • They want to make the escort cards, but they don't know how so I may need to help  
  • Will my team need to sort and display

My evaluation of the client

  • Will they be needy or business-like or some combination

The couple's "not to exceed" dollar amount

  • Not what they want to spend (their budget) the actual amount they have to spend 
  • It takes a little work, but you can get it if you ask the right questions!  

What I need to know about my business:

What will it cost to provide what the couple is asking us to do?

  • My time

My costs of doing business (overhead) 

  • Cost of my office, utilities, mileage on my car, gas, computers, office supplies, etc.

How much staff will I need to provide the quality of service?

  • What the couple is asking us to do?
  • Staff time

You should have numbers for your business if you don’t, get busy!  I can’t tell you what your numbers will be as they differ for every business; some people are very good at keeping their overhead lean others not so much. But you will need to know all of that to ensure you're charging the right amount.

If you have been in business for a while, you have the data needed to find these figures.  Hopefully in an accounting system like (QuickBooks or something like it) or maybe you use a shoe box however you collect expense data that is what you need to calculate overhead costs.  Once you have your overhead estimate, then you need the number of projects you want to do in a year or if you have the data the average number you did over the past three years, then divide your overhead costs by that figure.  You now have the overhead number for your calculation.  Because overhead costs can and often do change, I suggest revisiting this number at least once a year to confirm it is accurate.

Alright, we have the prospective client data, we have the cost of providing services, we know how much staff time we need, and the cost of staff and we have calculated how many planners billable hours are necessary to provide the service the couple has requested, now add it up.

Price Equation: 

Part One: Planner Time + Staff Time + Overhead = Base price

Part Two: Base price + specific client needs (i.e., travel, parking, etc. anything unique to them not in your overhead) = Price

That’s it. Nothing very complicated, just a little basic math!  I’ve helped many other planners over the years calculate their price- they all either skip or under estimate their overhead and staff costs.  Not properly calculating overhead costs is the reason most are not making as much money as they think they should!

Far too many in our wedding community use “interns/apprentices/volunteers,” i.e., family and friends rather than paid staff, this in my humble opinion is a rookie move.  If people are working for you (whether they want to accept payment or not), they should be paid.  The cost of staff must have a place in your fee; you are not doing yourself or our wedding community any favors by not charging for all the labor required to produce a wedding.  You can include staff in your overhead costs or as a line item in your equation. Either way, the cost of staff MUST be included.

I don’t show the equations that make up the price to my couples they get a scope of work and the price. I’m not hiding anything from them; I am an independent contractor they are paying me to do a project, HOW I do that project is not their concern.  I’m not obligated to tell them how many assistants I’ll have on wedding day or what each will do, what I pay them or how I write my timelines.  If I did, I stop being an independent contractor and start being an employee and nobody wants that.  

Over the years I have found if you itemize or share too much, you end up wasting time negotiated how you run your business and jeopardize the quality of the work you do.  I’m very clear about what they can expect for what they pay.  That is after all, what a scope of work is.  How I accomplish that scope of work is solely up to me. 

I hope this helps anyone struggling with pricing; I also hope you will join me in having a meaningful conversation about price rather than avoiding it as if it's a dirty word!

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