(Editor's note: today's post is a collaboration between WeddingIQ's founder, Jennifer Reitmeyer, and co-editor Kyle Bergner. Our initials appear beside our respective contributions.)
The topics of vendor behavior and vendor relationships are big ones here at WeddingIQ. A major part of our mission with this blog is to raise the bar for professional standards within the industry, and obviously, how we as wedding business owners conduct ourselves, and interact with one another, is where professional standards are formed.
We've written at length about being a good citizen; not relying on other vendors to help you do your job; working well with photographers (and vice versa); how to demonstrate respect other vendors; the golden rule for wedding vendors; being someone you would want to do business with; #weddingphotogate and more. We've published goo-gobs of anonymous rants, most of which were from vendors taking issue with the conduct and business practices of other vendors.
And yet, it would seem that the well of questionable vendor behavior is one that will never run dry.
A conversation between the two of us on how some of our colleagues' choices are hurting their businesses, their working relationships and the industry itself inspired today's post. Trust us, it wasn't hard coming up with examples.
So here are 10 ways we've noticed wedding vendors doing damage not only to themselves, but to one another, too - the observer's initials are after each point.
1. Attempting to regulate referrals. Over the course of my career,I've seen many wedding professionals attempt to form referral groups - some required dues, others required labor in-kind, and all of them shared the goal of creating "trusted" networks of vendors, with the understanding (stated or implied) that the members would exclusively refer one another. Let me skip to the ending: not one of these groups ever succeeded - and by succeeded, I mean none of them ever lasted more than a year, maybe two. The problem is that no referral group that's small enough to allow meaningful involvement (and that is based on the merits of the vendors involved) can ever sustain a small business. We all need more referrals than one planner, one florist, one caterer, etc. can give. That necessitates forming tons of separate connections with vendors far outside any one group. In a similar vein, no small, tight-knit group of vendors could ever meet the needs of every couple out there, whether because of lack of availability or suitability. I have no doubt that the organizers had good intentions; it's just a flawed model. - JR
2. Badmouthing other vendors. Perhaps you’re friends with several people in the industry and you’re all at a bar talking about work. It’s fine to complain in a close (and I mean close) circle of friends. We all have to get things off our chest now and again, but be wary of speaking out of turn in mixed company or with vendors you don’t know that well. You don’t know who you will have to work with in the future, who is friends with the very vendor your're speaking of or whether or not you will one day be in the same situation. It’s easy to be self-righteous when your business is successful, but you may need support when you’re struggling, and it behooves you to not burn bridges.- KB
3. Mistaking proximity for loyalty. Let's face it, getting sucked into gossip-fests is human nature.It happens to even the kindest of us. And when we connect with another person in the vast sea of wedding vendors, someone who seems to see things as we do (and who rolls their eyes at the same kinds of people and situations), it's especially easy to board the trash-talking train. Similarly, it's tempting to reveal all our struggles, including way too much detail about our business' operations and our personal lives. It pains me a little to say this, but there's no more inherent integrity among wedding vendors than the general population. And friendships - or "friendor-ships" don't last forever - whether it's due to a disagreement or the distance that comes with just the passing of time, you may find yourself regretting all the times you made fun of colleagues or bemoaned the sad state of your business finances with someone who is now not much more than a stranger. - JR
4. Being too candid on social media. Social media is a great way for colleagues and clients to get to know the real you; however, too much sharing can hurt your reputation. It’s great to show your human side, to admit you have emotions or to share your successes and celebrations. Having a bad day or a beer with friends is perfectly acceptable. Expressing opinions on politics, religion or social issues is welcome, too, as it highlights what’s important to you. On the other hand, an overabundance of negativity, detailed descriptions of intimately personal events in your life or photos of out-of-control behavior might be interpreted by others as a red flag and could affect your business. - KB
5. Judging too quickly. Those of us who've been in the business a long time (18 years for me, and I'm still a noob compared to many!) have seen a lot of people come and go from the wedding world. New planners, photographers, DJs and more are constantly popping up, and shuttering their businesses just a few short months or years later. It's easy to blow off newcomers, or to avoid interacting with them until they've paid some kind of "dues" (defined by whom, exactly?). Still, be cautious of acting too elitist, as there are a lot of benefits - besides just basic human decency - to welcoming newcomers. In my experience, new vendors are often more motivated than anyone to forge connections and build their networks (I know when I was a fresh-out-of-college, 21-year-old hotel wedding coordinator, I was thrilled to toss out my predecessor's vendor list and create my own. Some of the people who were kind to me at the beginning are people whom I still refer - and who refer my DJ business - to this day.) Sometimes, too, you'll end up surprised at which of today's newbies are tomorrow's industry superstars - the unlikeliest people often have real staying power, and referring power. - JR
6. Isolating yourself from vendors. It would be wonderful if I waltzed into the wedding like a celebrity with an entourage. My only job: to photograph the events of the day with nary a concern for anyone else while my team waited on me hand and foot. I could shoot from whatever vantage point I wanted, take three hours to explore the property doing portraits and duck out early if no one was dancing at the reception. This probably would result in blocking guest's view of events, setting the reception schedule back several hours and lessening everyone’s enjoyment of the day not to mention I would never work again. Like it or not, you’re part of a team the day of the wedding, and making an effort to get to know your fellow vendors will ensure the day runs smoothly and everyone gets a chance to shine. Vendors are my greatest source of referrals, so naturally, building relationships helps my business grow. - KB
7. Counting on your vendor relationships to last. Going back to my anecdote in #5 above, I actually feel kind of badly about having discarded an old vendor list that probably included companies who had worked hard to court the wedding coordinator who had my job before I did. (Don't think I'm losing sleep, though; it's not like they were beating down my office door to welcome me!) A common mistake among wedding vendors is getting too comfortable in their position on the "preferred list," or assuming being in someone's good graces in the past guarantees that status going forward. Remember there's always something - or someone - new and shiny out there, waiting to attract attention and referrals. Maintaining relationships takes effort and consistency. - JR
8. Passing up networking opportunities. Working from home can be very lonely and counterproductive to a successful business. If no one knows who you are, then no one can refer you. Your clients may love you and refer you often to friends and family but think about how many engaged couples each client encounters versus the amount of engaged couples each wedding vendor encounters. The numbers don’t lie, my friend. You might have a great online presence and your reputation might precede you, but nothing compares to meeting people face-to-face. If a fellow vendor connects with you and feels you fit their brand, you’ve just created a sales force that is unstoppable. - KB
9. Taking too much pleasure in the failure of others. This relates back to the subject of gossiping (and like gossip, it's crazy natural and crazy tempting), but we can find ourselves reveling in others' mistakes without ever opening our mouths to someone else. This is a mindset thing. With wedding businesses going under right and left, with normal (and unfortunate) human error causing vendors to be late, experiences glitches in their service, and generally fail to meet expectations, there's certainly a lot that someone could gloat about. But that's not only lacking in compassion; it's also distracting. It's unproductive in that it takes time away from our own businesses, but the amount of energy invested in what others are doing wrong steals our attention from what others are doing right - something that could be inspiring our creativity, our passion and our service, rather than just our sense of superiority. - JR
10. Ignoring basic courtesy. A lot has already been written on this site about specific shady tactics and behaviors perpetrated by other vendors. In this post, though, I'm speaking of the nasty habit some folks have of just forgetting their manners. Not treating others as they'd like to be treated. Wearing blinders when it comes to the basic human needs and rights of others.Vendors,let's all just agree that, at our next wedding, we're going to all just not be jerks. Don't monopolize the parking area or the loading docks. Don't do things that actively disrupt the work of others - this means don't physically get in others' way, don't fuss with the cake or the flowers or the favors or the signage, don't make a mess of a beautifully set room. Don't stand by and watch someone struggle to open a door when their arms are full of stuff. Don't stand back and gloat as other vendors race the clock to be set on time, while you're all set to go. Don't take items that belong to others. Don't do other people's jobs. Just be decent. - JR
Anything we've missed? We'd love to see your comments below, or receive an anonymous rant if you'd rather keep your thoughts separate from your name...