Tips to Make Business Forecasting Less Overwhelming

By Kevin Dennis, WeddingIQ

As the owner or manager of a growing business, you shoulder the responsibility not just of current day-to-day operations, but what will happen in the future as well. While a crystal ball would be super helpful, magic is not an option. You need to apply your expertise and your past experience to looking ahead and anticipating what is likely to come next so you can be totally prepared for the next opportunities and challenges. You need to learn to forecast like a pro.

Business forecasting, or looking into the future to predict what is to come, doesn’t have to be a daunting, overwhelming task, however. If you approach it wisely, it can easily become a routine – one with the power to help you navigate towards future success.

Forecasting Tools

One of our most valuable forecasting tools is our CRM software. It enables us to create a comprehensive database of our leads and our active and past clients. Part of knowing what to expect in the future is having an extremely clear view of what occurred in the past. Our database helps us see the areas and circumstances under which we were most successful, and to take note of the situations that were challenges.

What to Include

Set tangible goals or benchmarks in your forecast, like a monetary goal you hope to reach in the future, or a number of events you want to book in a given time period. You could also include the amount of money you anticipate your couples will spend per event. Figuring out where you want to go, then comparing it with the reality of your known and anticipated expenses and obstacles can help you create a plan that will help you overcome challenges and take advantage of opportunities.

When forecasting, it is important that your predictions be realistic. Don’t just anticipate the good times. Build in padding for the more difficult times as well. Being conservative with your income estimates and a little guarded about prospective success will ultimately help you find balance.

The Biggest Mistake

The single biggest mistake that most businesses make is not forecasting at all. Maybe it’s easier not to think about the future, or maybe you’re afraid you won’t like what you find. The only path forward, though, is one that acknowledges the successes and failures of the past, and attempts to prepare for them in the future.

Are you ready to guide your company through its next phases of growth? Start forecasting today!

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Reflecting and Planning for the Year Ahead

By Emily Sullivan, Emily Sullivan Events

This year is coming to a close, which means it’s time to put plans in place for the year ahead. As a wedding planner, this delights me to no end, but it’s not lost on me that for most business owners, it is a dreaded task.

To make things more manageable, I am going to walk you through my tried and true processes of analyzing 2017 and preparing for 2018.

Money, Money, Money

Finances are crucial to the success or failure of your business, but you shouldn't just be looking at the money as a whole. Instead, you need to break it down to find out when bookings are usually slower or what was your best time of year. When you look at these, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you discover. More importantly if you can thoroughly understand your earning cycle, then you can set realistic goals and plan for the slower time periods.

Marketing

Marketing normally makes up a significant portion of one’s business, so it deserves a proper review at least annually. Carve out time to take a look back at the number of leads you received from each promotional strategy, and then see how many of those actually turn into clients.

You’ll need to have an honest talk with yourself and decide whether you truly took advantage of the tools and perks that come with your advertising packages. Did you maintain your respective online profiles? Follow up with their leads lists?

This type of analysis will allow you to make better informed decisions about what investments make the most sense to continue in the coming year.

Team Members

Do not forget about the key players in your company. When I took a good hard look at my team, I realized that one of my members was exceptional at social media, blogging and search engine optimization. It is where she wanted to focus her attention, so we made the switch and it has equally benefitted my business as well as her own professional experience.

Also, get their opinions on how they feel execution of an event or daily processes can be simplified or delegated. Have them look at their productivity and schedule, and see how they think it can be improved. Take yourself and your team off-site to a retreat or lunch. Sometimes getting outside of your typical work environment will allow you to dive deeper and think clearer yielding exceptional results for a fruitful year!

Calendar

Before the start of the year, I always like to look at the calendar year ahead and see how it is shaping up. This will allow you to plan out a better work-life balance of knowing what months you are already overextended so you can plan around it. You can also see if you need to hire part-time employees to execute everything without sacrificing quality of work.

If you are looking to make the process even easier for 2018, I suggest breaking it down throughout the year. My team and I meet seasonally to discuss how we can improve and to reevaluate procedures. The worst thing is when you go an entire year struggling, when little things can be tweaked and changed to make it a more prosperous year for you.

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Handling Travel Expenses

By Kevin Dennis, WeddingIQ

Being able to travel for work is something that always sounds really fun and glamorous to people, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is. However, there is a lot of back-end work that goes into it. From scheduling to booking and of course, managing expenses. Your trip can quickly go from exciting to stressful, but with a few simple tips you’ll have no problem handling your travel expenses.

Get Organized

Good organization is the secret weapon for most seasoned travelers. For your hotels and airfare, using an app that stores everything in one place for quick and easy access is key. I use TripIt, which has been a huge time saver. As for other expenses while on the trip, be sure you’re keeping all of your receipts. I found that having a designated folder in my suitcase makes it easy for me to empty out my wallet at the end of each night. That way, I know everything is there and I can refer back to it when I’m home in the office.

Additional Employees

If you have additional employees joining you, you’re going to want to have some way for them easily get around, buy meals, etc. Issuing a company credit card has worked well for me. They are given a strict spending limit and are required to complete an expense report immediately following the trip. If you aren’t comfortable with that, the next best option is to simply reimburse them. Be sure they are keeping their receipts and have them fill out an expense report for everything they put on their card.

Set a Budget

Set a budget before your trip of what you’d be comfortable spending and stick to it. Remember that you’re there for work and not fun. I’ve seen a lot of people blow off conference classes to go out and see the sights, which means they’re spending money instead of learning how to make money. You paid to be there, so it’s your responsibility to get the most out of it.

Determine ROI

After the conference/trip, sit down and look at how much you spent and determine if the ROI is worth it. It’s going to be hard to evaluate, because results may take some time, but taking a close look at your finances can show you some changes you can make on another trip.

The only question left now is, where are you headed to next?

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Why Forecasting Should be a Priority in Your Business

By Audrey Isaac, 100 Candles

As wedding professionals, we know to start checking our weather apps weeks in advance for upcoming events. We plan rain and/or snow backups plans, because we see the issue coming and want to make sure it’s been taken care of beforehand. But are you doing the same thing for your business? Forecasting is critical to the success of a small business, and for those who don’t have a plan can find themselves in a place that they cannot recover from.   

Meeting Goals

Not meeting sales goals? It might be because you aren’t setting them effectively for yourself and your team. Look back on where you were the same time last year and you will probably find that you were having the exact same issue. It isn’t because your business is failing, it is because you are not properly setting it up for success. You need to communicate with your team exactly what goals they need to meet, but then also give them the tools and the knowledge to reach and exceed them. The only way to foreshadow and think through these issues is to evaluate what happened the year prior. Then you can share them with the team with a clear focus instead of “just increase sales.”       

 Challenges and Pitfalls

Forecasting can be a great way to alleviate some of your stress. You can effectively see where your company might encounter an obstacle by taking a look backwards at previous years. Look into things like, what time of year you normally see a dip in inquires or revenue, and create a plan ahead of time for a push on marketing and advertising to combat the problem. This will help minimize any future damage or setbacks. The next year you can look back and see what solutions worked and which ones didn’t, that way you are improving year after year.

 Stay on Track

Creating and implementing your plan for upward growth is necessary, but are you sharing that information with your employees? Do they know what your five or even 10-year plan looks like? This is extremely important so that they know what they are working towards with you, and can visualize the growth and know what role they play now and what role they can see themselves in in the future. Sometimes business owners and employees alike get too focused on the day-to-day tasks, and it can get mundane and even a little boring. But they need to see what track you’re on and where you’re headed so that they remain passionate, creative and striving for success.

Forecasting should not be saved for just at the end of the year. You should implement it as a practice each and every month to look back and assess your successes and failures. If you always wait until the end of the year, you are so far removed that you will forget. So add forecasting to your ‘to do’ list, you will be happy you did.

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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Why Your 2017 Goal Should Be to Stay On-Trend

(Editor's Note: We're thrilled to welcome a new contributor to WeddingIQ: Kim Sayatovic of Belladeux Event Design! Learn more about her and her company at the end of the post!)

As the year winds down, we’re all looking at how we can improve for the next season and, of course, everybody will set unique goals based on their different business needs. However, I’m here to tell you about a goal we should all have for the year to come. Whether you’re a wedding planner, a photographer, a florist, a designer or a caterer, YOU need to stay on top of industry trends in 2017.

Why, you ask?

Trends come and go. When they’re ‘here,’ however, they are extremely popular and you can bet you’ll be getting straight-from-Pinterest requests left and right. Regardless of how tired you’ve grown of chalkboard signage or mason jars or literally anything, it’s important to remember that your couples are going through the wedding planning process for the first time. Everything is new to them and they’re excited! Even if they have the most stereotypically on-trend wedding, it’s up to you to give them their dream wedding and make them the happiest couple in the world for a day.

Now, much of your ‘trend research’ may come from simply working on your weddings. Sure, you may throw some casual Pinterest browsing in the mix, but most of us think that we’re well-versed on what’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’ in the industry. Right?

Wrong.

While it may be easy to pull a bunch of current trends from the top of your head, what if I were to ask you to forecast future styles that will grow in popularity? Having the knowledge to foresee trends in advance can push you to the top of your market, as you’ll be prepared to meet clients’ needs before they even know what they want.

So, how do I do that?

Easy – look at what’s fashionable in other industries. For example, more often than not, the bridal gown trends that we’re seeing hit the fashion runway in seasons prior. Same goes for home design and architecture – a lot of the vibes and details that we’re seeing have their roots within another trade. If you needed an excuse to browse your favorite home décor store, here it is – look out for unique tablescapes, popular furniture designs and color palettes that pop out to you.

2017 isn’t here just yet, but make it a point to stay one step ahead of your clients. No matter what your other goals are, this will ensure that your clients are satisfied and you’ll be hip to everything that’s coming your way.

Kim Sayatovic is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Belladeux Event Design, a full service wedding and event design firm based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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