As event professionals, we aren’t always fortunate enough to have months of lead time to plan for an event. From funerals to luncheons and birthday parties to rehearsal dinners, we’re sometimes expected to throw together a successful event in a matter of weeks — or days, even.
With the right systems in place, you don’t need to turn away business simply because a prospect is requesting a short turnaround time.
Personally, there has never been a time frame that has caused me to say no. I will always do what I can — we’ve had people give us a day’s notice, and we’ll make it happen. I’ve even sourced 250 toads (yes, toads!) for a last-minute funeral request. Our clients have a vision, and we must achieve it the best we can, given our parameters.
However, there are some factors to consider when agreeing to an event with a short time frame. After all, you need to protect your business and your employees first.
1. Set limitations.
When there’s a tight turnaround for an event, there’s no doubt that we can make something happen. However, there are limits to our capabilities based on the time frame, and our clients must be aware of that.
For example, there are time constraints when it comes to sourcing seasonal flowers and rentals, so we generally have to get our products local. We may not be able to get those colorful tropical flowers by tomorrow, but we will do what we can with what we have to convey the same message. Likewise, the perfect farmhouse table from four states away may not be doable — but we’ll find the next best thing that’s in town.
2. Charge accordingly.
Rush events take time away from your other projects and can cause quite a bit of stress, so don’t be afraid to tack those impacts onto the bill. We always upcharge for last-minute requests because, at that point, we are working overtime to make something happen.
We go out of our way to source resources and hire additional staff in a short amount of time, so there needs to be some compensation. Communicate this extra cost upfront so your client understands the amount of effort that will go into their event. Then, track your hours and expenses and make sure that you are still making a profit at the end of the day.
3. Create a streamlined process.
You will be far more prepared for a last-minute request if you already have a system that runs like clockwork. Most importantly, you must have reliable vendors that you trust will follow through with every little request. Your team must be willing to work with you to achieve a client’s vision, no matter the time frame.
You also need to be sure that your company has the proper amount of resources to execute a rush event — that goes for equipment, assets, and human resources. As long as you have the necessities available, all you need to do is create streamlined processes to produce things like contracts, CAD files, and other documents. The whole idea is to simplify your workflow, so you don’t need to put extra thought and effort into the planning process.
4. Ensure your contract is ironclad.
You need a solid contract to protect you, your team, and your company. Whether a client is refusing to pay or demanding for a design overhaul on event day, your contract will be there to back you up. Before you begin any work, each client must sign off on your terms and agree to everything outlined in your contract.
If you haven’t already, take your contract to your lawyer or another trusted legal professional who can review and revise as needed. Let them know your concerns about specific situations (like last-minute requests, for example) and discuss how to best handle that from a legal perspective. A contract doesn’t mean you can’t bend when you want to — it just safeguards you when you cannot.
When it comes down to it, the key to successfully executing an event in a short time frame is preparation. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Don’t wait until the client is knocking on your door with a next-day birthday party. Have the plan in place so that you’re ready to hit the ground running when that does happen. Then, you’ll never have to turn away the last-minute business again.
Oleta Collins is the owner of Flourishing Art Design Studio, a premier florist and design studio in Bakersfield, California, that specializes in luxury weddings and events. She is also a Certified Floral Designer and an accredited member of the American Institute of Floral Designers.