Throughout this month, we've written about all kinds of things related to being more productive and effective in your wedding business, from creating systems and workflows to taking baby steps toward outsourcing.
If you truly want your business to be successful, however, there's something important you need to do that doesn't involve taking more on or getting more done. Rather, it's a major mindset shift that absolutely has to take place if you want to grow and thrive. It involves letting go.
(Disclaimer: I'll acknowledge up front that accomplishing this is way easier said than done. As I've said many times before, entrepreneurs of any type, but especially wedding pros, are incredibly focused, dedicated and hard-working. Asking them to do less, and to be okay with it, isn't a small thing. But I truly believe it's 100% essential to succeeding in business and to saving your own sanity, which is why I'm writing about it here.)
Here are three things you need to let go of if you want to take your wedding business to the next level.
Sweating the Small Stuff
You may have read one of Richard Carlson's Don't Sweat the Small Stuff books (if not, check them out, as they're full of super-simple yet totally powerful advice on choosing what's important and ignoring the rest). Perhaps in no area of life is "small stuff" as prevalent as in running a business. Yet, as business owners, we tend to obsess over it all - every detail, however minor.
True confession: for the first several years of running my primary business, I was a complete control freak. I read through my team members' outgoing business emails, paranoid about how a grammar mistake or an incorrectly stated policy might reflect on my company. I tracked website traffic down to every last statistic. I obsessively followed what my competitors were doing and how we could do it better. I made myself available to clients, colleagues and assorted random people around the clock.
And I can say now: what an incredible, exhausting, complete waste of time that was.
It wasn't necessary. And just as importantly, it wasn't sustainable, not if I wanted to be able to pour my energy into actually leading and growing and improving my business in a meaningful way. What I can see now that I couldn't see then was that I had - and continue to have - good people on my team, who are more than capable of communicating on my brand's behalf (and who are allowed some mistakes, as all humans should be). I had a good website analytics program that can deliver traffic stats to me on demand, meaning that I don't need to demand those stats day after day. I had a strong foothold in the market, and can seek out information for comparison purposes anytime I have a valid, research-based reason to do so. And I don't owe anyone my constant attention and availability; setting a boundary will not cause my business to fail. (More on that later.)
I'd feel a little silly for having behaved this way, except for the fact that plenty of wedding professionals are still doing it. I had a wonderful colleague approach me at this past February's WeddingWire World conference, who told me she desperately wanted to grow her team and get out of the day-to-day administrative tasks that went with running her company, yet she was afraid to let go. She was afraid to stop micromanaging the people who worked for her, to put her name and reputation on the line, and to trust that her business would continue to flourish.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I don't take business lightly. However, I feel safe in saying that this is absolutely one of those "jump and the net will appear" situations. Sure, you have to hire the right people and train them thoroughly. You have to teach them what your brand stands for, and how to represent it accordingly. You have to cultivate their loyalty.
And then you need to empower them to do their job, and trust that they'll be fine at doing it. You'll be so much more free to accomplish great things as a result.
I mentioned in the last section (as well as in a previous post about how we undervalue our time) how I used to make myself available to everyone, all the time. This was truly a huge source of pride for me; at the time, I thought it was awesome, and now, I realize it's because not everyone else was a sucker enough to do it.
I kid, I kid. Because plenty of wedding business owners are still completely attached to their mobile devices (okay, I am too, but usually it's because I'm addicted to social media). They're fearful that if they're too slow to respond to a client inquiry, they'll lose the sale. They're scared to let down a booked client and find a negative comment about their responsiveness in a future review. They're sure their strong bonds with wedding planners and other referral sources are mostly based on how lightning-fast they reply to requests.
The truth is, there is validity in all of those beliefs. My pals over at WeddingWire say that responding to a new lead within 5 minutes, rather than 30, makes you 100 times more likely to actually make contact. Also on WeddingWire, couples are specifically asked to rate their vendors based on responsiveness. And, of course, the value of communication and accessibilty can't be denied.
Still, as with all things in business, you have to identify a system that meets your own standards and allows you to avoid burnout. Remember that emails beget emails; every message you send is likely to generate another email right back in your inbox. Remember that we train other people on what to expect from us. If we become known for having our phone glued to our ear, or for treating non-urgent email as urgently as many of us treated instant-messenger chats with our pals back in our teenage years, we'll never have time to get anywhere in our business.
Consider also that very few decisions that are made from a mentality of scarcity or fear are decisions that will actually serve us in the long run. Rather than scrambling to please anyone and everyone, we're much better off building intentional, sustainable businesses that will more than satisfy the kinds of people we want to work with, and who will appreciate us as human beings with actual lives.
Decide when you truly need to be available to clients and colleagues, and what kind of response time fits not only your brand, but your life. Then embrace that, enthusiastically and unapologetically. Your work, and your mindset, will be better as a result.
The Disease of Perfectionism
I don't know many wedding industry entrepreneurs who aren't perfectionists, in some sense of the word. Sometimes, it's born of their passion for their craft: they're determined to be the most creative photographer, the most trendsetting caterer or the most entertaining performer. Sometimes, striving for perfection is just an extension of the kind of determined, go-getter personality that led them to want to start a business in the first place.
And yet, I truly believe, perfection kills.
Ever heard the phrase "how you do anything is how you do everything?" It sounds great in theory, and from a business perspective, it's certainly relevant when it comes to things like brand integrity and quality of service. Yet it also suggests we should idealize the kind of perfectionism that can ultimately destroy not only our work, but our happiness.
Letting go of perfectionism means accepting that you will inevitably make mistakes. You inevitably will fail in some way. You'll screw up at an event, or piss off a client, or make a major hiring mistake, or get involved with the wrong network of people. You'll lose money. You'll put a ding in your reputation. You'll get a bad review. Something, sometime, will go wrong, and you'll feel crummy about it.
And then, you'll go on. Stronger, and smarter, and less fearful of future missteps. As I've said before on this blog. your missteps don't define you.
Rather, releasing your need to do everything perfectly, to be perfect in your business, will actually lead you toward being bold and brave, and taking the good kinds of risks. The kinds of risks that lead to masterpieces of creativity, or innovations in how you serve your clients, or real transformations within our industry. None of that is possible when you obsess over perfection.
...In my own experience, running a wedding business is a very long journey, and we have to correct our course constantly along the way. By letting go of the beliefs and practices that hold us back, we'll be more productive, more fulfilled and more successful.