How Self-Care Can Improve Your Productivity

Now that busy season is coming to a close (and we can finally take a breath before fall event season), the common feeling among us event pros is that we should be keeping up the momentum and tackle our to-do lists like there’s no tomorrow. In reality, this is the best time to push the reset button and practice the self-care you’ve been putting off. Even the smallest of steps you take toward relaxation and clearing your mind can have significant long-term effects on your productivity!

The benefits of setting boundaries

I talk about this a lot, but it’s truly my secret to staying sane and self-disciplined. As business owners, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to keep up with our emails and client communication, at all hours of the day and night. It takes some time to realize this, but it’s just not realistic. Don’t punish yourself from stepping away from the office!

Set a firm schedule and stick to it – whether that’s 9-5, or being strict with not working on Sundays if you’re the type that can’t turn down checking your email during your Saturday morning coffee. Communicate this with your clients and your staff as well, that way you won’t feel burnt out when Monday rolls around. 

Schedule time with yourself

As someone that frequently travels for work and has racked up quite the number of miles to prove it, it’s not only hard to be away from your family, but it’s sometimes equally challenging to enjoy a work trip. 

It’s crucial to stay on track with your schedule, but remember to enjoy yourself while you’re traveling. For me, this is usually tracking down a Rangers game or scouting out a fun restaurant to let loose. I’m much better for it if I can unwind after a long conference or if I’m gearing up for packed schedule the next day.

Take a break from your desk

It’s no secret that some of our worst low-energy days stem from being cooped up in a stuffy office. Staring at your computer screen isn’t going to help with your lack of motivation, so let yourself take a break. Get up, go for a walk if you need to, work remotely from a coffee shop for a few hours, or go out for lunch! 

If you can’t spare the time, make sure that you’re staying active through the day by walking around the office or doing a few stretches. 

You’ll be surprised at how energized you feel by incorporating these self-care measures into your routine. You’ll be able to get back to work with a fresh mind.

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

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3 Questions to Ask Yourself to Audit Your Website

When’s the last time you gave your website a really critical look? And when I say critical, I don’t mean ‘is it pretty enough?’ Because, while a beautiful website is important, if other things aren’t attended to, it can drive away potential clients.

Your website is likely your biggest online sales tool to help wedding couples to see how awesome you are at what you do.

Is your website designed to help encourage your ideal client to reach out for more information about your services?  

3 Key Website Questions Wedding Professionals Should Ask

Performing a mini audit will allow you to look at your website with a critical eye to make sure it’s the business driver you want it to be. You don’t need to be a website professional to be able to do this audit. You just have to have to know your business and your goals for your website.

No one knows your business better than you do!  

#1 – Is my website driving business?

The first thing you want to do is to identify (or revisit) what you actually want your site to do for you.

Ask yourself:

•  Is my website still doing its job? Does it still have all the functionality I need it to have now or will need it to have in the near future?

•  Do I have future plans that my website will need to expand to allow for?

•  Is it generating enough business for me?

•  What do I want people to do when they come to my website?

•  What would a successful website look like for me? 

#2 – Is my website attracting the right client?

Once you know what you want your website to do, you need to think of who you want it to attract. Maybe you originally wanted to appeal to smaller budget wedding couples and you are now poised to take on a more luxury clientele.

Make sure you’re VERY clear on who your ideal client is and that your website speaks directly to them.

#3 – Is my website meeting potential clients’ needs?

This is why you take steps to get into your ideal client's head and walk their walk so you can speak their language.

Ask yourself, is your site easy to:

•  Navigate and find information about services, pricing and answers to any questions/obstacles that my ideal client would have?

•  Find out who you are, what makes you different, and how you’ll meet their needs?

•  Know what to do next and how to contact you to take next steps?

One of the best ways to know if your site is meeting your visitors’ needs is to see where they are going and what they are doing on your site. Using tools like Google Analytics and heat maps (e.g. CrazyEgg, or Hotjar) will help show you what parts of your website are getting the most eyes so you can know what’s working.

Conducting this mini audit on a regular basis won’t take a lot of time, but it will help you to improve the chances of your website bringing you in more of your ideal clients.

Brenda Cadman is the founder and CEO of Bon Accord Creative, a company that specializes in offering website solutions and development to creative professionals.

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Producing with Short Turnaround Times

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.


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Why You Should Endorse Your Creative Partners

In the wedding industry, we face the unique obstacle of serving one-time clients. Return business is uncommon, as weddings are (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime celebration for each couple. It can be challenging to build a business around a client base that changes from year to year, so it’s important to lean on your creative partners.  

While clients may come and go, your industry peers are here to stay for the most part. A strong network can continue fueling your business with referrals, which is more efficient than spending all of your valuable hours marketing to new clients each and every year.

Referral business doesn’t just happen out of the blue, though. Instead, it’s the result of committed relationship building with those in your market. If you want to start earning new clients from your creative partners, you need to make your value clear — and continue nurturing those relationships beyond event days.

Make it a two-way street.

Sending business to creative partners is an excellent way to form a mutually beneficial referral system with your friend-ors. Don’t expect a lot of work to come your way if you’re not willing to return the favor.

With that said, it’s important to only refer other professionals if you truly believe in their value. Your endorsements impact your reputation, so only send clients to those who you’re confident will measure up to their expectations.

Practice patience.

Don’t expect to earn a coveted spot on a vendor list from day one. For the same reason you won’t endorse everyone you know, you need to prove yourself to other professionals and venues before they’ll start referring your business. Their reputation is on the line, so it’s your responsibility to show that your quality of work will meet (and surpass) their clients’ standards.

Grow these relationships further by attending networking events and connecting with them organically on social media. If you’re already confident in their company, feel free to start off the referral relationship by sending a client to them.

Employ social media.

Most wedding companies are on social media nowadays, so take advantage of the tools at your disposal. Share photos from events and tag your creative partners with a note about how they always exceed expectations. Better yet, go out of your way to spotlight other businesses in your region. This is a great way to endorse industry peers even if you aren’t yet ready or able to send clients over directly.

Keep up the good work.

When the referrals start flowing in, there’s no reason to stop your efforts. In addition to providing top-tier services and meeting clients’ needs, continue networking and promoting other businesses in your market.

Make it a point to take professional relationships beyond the inbox and start connecting offline. Grab coffee with a peer or host an industry-wide event. Form friendships that will pay back in referral business, with the added bonus of having real and authentic industry relationships to lean on.

Endorsing creative partners often comes back to you tenfold, so don’t feel like you need to wait for others to notice you. Make a strong impression through your quality of work and your level of professionalism — rest assured that your efforts will get your company seen.

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

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Top 3 Financial Mistakes You’re Making in Your Wedding Business

Accounting is one of those tasks that many business owners leave on the backburner. I know it's not the most fun area to work on, but your financial strategy will dictate your ability to be in business or out of business.

If you aren't on top of your business finances, you are doing it wrong. Your numbers are the only quantifiable metric for whether it is thriving, or merely surviving. Passion may drive you, but the numbers are what keep your business alive (or not).

Here are three areas that wedding professionals are missing the mark: 

1.) Your prices are TOO low. 

If a wedding business isn't earning enough, it's usually because their services are priced too low. Pricing (and the related profit margin) are the most significant contributors to financial sustainability in the wedding industry. This can be a challenge to newly started businesses who are merely trying to create a portfolio and have some clients on the books. However, every little bump you can make to your pricing can go a long way. Even a small boost of 10% can lead to big results. When I test things financially – it's always pricing that is the culprit for a business's small profits.

Now, keep in mind: pricing is a marketing decision. Your price needs to match your market strategy, target market, niche, and your level of service. 

2.) You're making investments based on ego. 

Here is my rule of thumb with investments in your business: ONLY do it if you can afford it. Don't go into debt for your wedding business. I can share from personal experience – and from working with hundreds of wedding professionals over the years – business debt is SO DIFFICULT to overcome if you have a service-based business.  

So – you know that print ad you can't quite afford but really want to do because it'll make you look good? You know that office space you don't need but feel like you have to do because everyone is doing it? There are so many decisions we make based on ego – or the desire to elevate ourselves and our image. This is what I like to call 'keeping up with the Jones' wedding-industry-style. Please don't do it unless you can legitimately afford it.

3.) You aren't tracking your sales and expenses.

Tracking your sales and expense transactions is called bookkeeping, and it is the most boring thing you'll do in your business. I'm not here to sugar coat. However, the power of bookkeeping is not in the data entry but in the information it gives you. Over time you'll be able to see patterns in your business. So it's in these patterns that you can start to make intentional decisions with your dollars. 

Need to get started becoming more financially savvy? Here are 3 action items I want you to do now: 

•    Create an "Accounting Day" one day a month to track and analyze your finances.

•    Examine your pricing. Can you make a 10-20% bump?

•    Examine the investments you are making based on ego and cut them out.  

With these things in mind and if you put the steps in place you will be in business for years to come!  

Michelle Loretta is a business consultant and financial strategist for wedding and event professionals. As founder of Sage Wedding Pros she blends her past as an accountant for Deloitte, a sales and marketing manager for DDLA, a merchandiser for Coach, and a stationery entrepreneur to strengthen wedding businesses worldwide. Sage Wedding Pros is best known for Be Sage Conference, a summit for master-level wedding professionals. Michelle has been asked to speak at a number of industry conferences, including NACE Experience, Biz Bash Live, and The Special Event.

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