My husband (and partner in our business), Evan, was engaged in a Facebook discussion recently that veered in the direction of pricing and the lengths that some wedding business owners will go to to make a buck, even when their tactics are damaging to the industry as a whole. I won’t excerpt the discussion here since it was in a private Facebook thread, but one thing a planner said — “stay in your lane” — really jumped out at me. What a great, succinct way to point out what’s been going on in our industry.
As I see it, there are two kinds of expansion: that which makes sense (even if I wouldn’t make the same choice), and that which dilutes your brand and diminishes the quality of your core service. Decor companies offering lighting makes sense to me. Florists offering candy buffets, venues offering invitations, and DJs offering photobooths, not so much.
(I’ve actually thought about which makes less sense — a vendor offering two completely different services, or those huge clearinghouse companies that practically offer a “wedding in a box.” That’s probably a subject for another post, though.)
I’m not totally against expansion. As an entrepreneur at heart, I’m actually all about business ventures that are smart, logical, and executable. What I am against, though, is business owners who, rather than closely examining the deficiencies in their primary service, choose to try to move in on someone else’s. (On a side note: I hope that the businesses who keep expanding their reach are at least considering the effect of lost referrals when they turn their business allies into competitors.)
Focusing inward is hard. It’s especially hard when you’re working harder than you want to be and making less money than you need. Harder yet is when you feel like you’ve honestly been doing your best and you’re still not as successful as you’d hoped. I think it’s probably natural to choose instead to chase that new-venture exhilaration and keep adding on services and products in hopes that they will be the silver bullet your business needs. When, in reality, that’s more often the last thing you should be doing. If you aren’t effectively managing your core service well, that’s probably a good predictor of how well your “add-ons” will go.
There are lots of great resources for directing your focus back to your main business and identifying its strengths and weaknesses before wildly grasping at new services. One site I’ve used for this purpose is Sage Wedding Pros; they have a bunch of downloads, many free, that are beyond helpful. Figuring out why you aren’t making money, why your image is stale, why your employees/contractors aren’t meeting your expectations, or whatever else is holding you back — well before you embark on a new venture — is absolutely key.
So, yeah, I do believe that most of the time it’s wise to stay in your lane. And if you’re intent on making the switch, at least check your mirrors and know the direction you’re headed (and why you want to go there) first.