Most wedding businesses begin with just the owner doing all the work. I actually think that's something that makes our industry special - the fact it was built on the foundation of a bunch of individuals' dreams and ambition, and the staggering number of hours they were willing to put in.
Still, for many of of us, growing our team quickly becomes a necessity, either to carry out the jobs for which we're contracted, or to increase our moneymaking potential. If only finding great people were easy! Unfortunately, though, recruiting, training and keeping quality employees or contractors is one of the biggest obstacles faced by any kind of businesses, wedding businesses included.
Chin up, though - it's totally doable! One of my companies, MyDeejay, started adding to our team about 11 years ago, and since about 2007, we've had between 10-18 people on our roster. (Not a huge number by some standards, but for a DJ company, that's not bad at all.) The best part is that most of the people who have worked for me have stuck around for a number of years, and are generally fantastic ambassadors for my brand.
Here are a few lessons I've learned along the way when it comes to building - and holding onto - a great team:
Be realistic in your expectations. You might find the most dedicated folks on earth (and if you do, consider yourself extraordinarily lucky!), but even they won't be as invested as you are. It's important to keep in mind that you are always going to be willing to work harder on, and will ultimately benefit more from, your business than your team. Knowing this up front will save you from a lot of frustration later, and can help you to structure your employees' or contractors' job duties appropriately.
Transparency builds trust. No, you don't need to share every single detail about your business with every single person on your team. In my experience, though, being upfront about how you operate the company, why you do things the way you do, and how the company is doing (in terms of revenue and reputation) is an integral part of building a team that's loyal and takes their work seriously.
Create opportunities for your super-achievers, but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, either. When you run a sizable team, you'll find that some of your people are way more motivated, organized, and dependable. They may aspire to a leadership position within your company, or just happen to love the work that much. For those types, I recommend creating new opportunities for them to shine. Consider allowing them to train others, or to represent your company at wedding shows and networking events. Use them as a positive example for the rest of your team. However, keep in mind my first point above, and don't let a few super-achievers sour you on the rest of your (otherwise entirely decent) team. Some of your employees and contractors may not be constantly striving to go "above and beyond," but they may be good enough for the positions for which they were hired. Unless they're letting you down in a big way, don't be so quick to overlook them as valuable parts of your organization.
Be the best company to work for if you want to keep the best staff. Face it - if you operate a business in an oversaturated market (and if you're located where I am, you definitely do), there's not only a lot of competition for clients, there's competition for talent as well. I know that, in my area, there are dozens of multi-operator DJ agencies for which my people could go and work. If I've put the effort into recruiting and training them (including teaching them everything I know about selling events and providing the most impeccable customer service possible), then I need to keep them on my team.I try to accomplish this in several ways: by compensating my people fairly, acknowledging their successes, providing support and additional training when they need it, and working my tail off to market this company to bring in as much potential income for my team as I can. (I also try to be a fun, awesome-to-work-for boss, but that's another article.) They say that keeping the people you have is always easier and cheaper than bringing in new people, so do everything you can to earn their loyalty.
Don't ignore your intuition. I'm not going to lie; I've had to let go of several DJs over the years. Some had their contracts terminated for cause; others were cut from our apprenticeship program because they clearly weren't the right fit. After running this company for so many years, I can look back at the team members who didn't work out and can see that, in every case, there were red flags I ignored along the way. Maybe I did that because I was eager to grow our team (and our revenue); maybe I did it because I want to believe the best about people and tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, even when they don't deserve it. Still, I can say with confidence now that you need to trust your gut when it comes to your business, and that includes evaluating your employees and contractors as objectively as possible. If you're finding someone increasingly off-putting, and they interact with your clients, I guarantee your clients probably feel the same way. If someone's done something dishonest (but minor) early on, they'll most likely do the same or worse in the future. Don't make the mistake of overlooking early signs of incompatibility - or a lack of integrity - because, trust me, letting someone go later on is always harder.
We'd love to hear from wedding business owners about what's worked (and what hasn't worked) for you when it comes to finding and keeping the best people for your team. Feel free to discuss in the comments below, or find us on Facebook to share your thoughts!