Playing Well With Others: Your Growing Team's Guide to Cultivating Great Vendor Relationships

WeddingIQ Blog - Playing Well With Others: Your Growing Team's Guide to Cultivating Great Vendor Relationships

(Editor's Note: Here's part two of our three-part training series on event day management topics! Check back next Monday for the final installment!)

As I'm working with my business coaching clients on strategically growing their teams, one of the most common concerns I hear is that business owners are afraid of sacrificing their professional reputation - specifically, that the larger their team grows, the weaker their relationships with other vendors will become.

It's not an unfounded fear. After all, plenty of bridges have been burned by a boneheaded contractor flagrantly violating a venue's regulations or acting like a jerk to the rest of the vendor team. Fortunately, though, this kind of issue is entirely avoidable through good training. With a little effort and communication, you can grow your team as large as you want it, without giving up that solid "friendor" foundation you worked so hard to build.

Here are five steps to training your team on good vendor relations.

Set a Standard

Or, as the case may be, set a set of standards. Identify what specific protocols you expect your team to follow when it comes to preparing for and executing an event (including their interactions with with other vendors while doing so), and put them in writing. Your standards will vary, of course, but here are a few things you may want to cover:

What experience your company and its team creates for your clients and your colleagues - what do you want your brand to be known for, and what does each team member need to do to carry that out?

When, if ever, you want the person to proactively contact other vendors on the team - should they be emailing them prior to an event to say hello and confirm details? How and when should they introduce themselves at the actual event? (Yes, people need to be told - see Kyle's earlier post on how many vendors skip this important courtesy!)

How to dress, when to arrive, and how to perform any load-in and setup duties without being disruptive - never leave this solely to a team member's judgment when you can train them in advance!

What to do when the vendor team has received different paperwork or timelines, and how to address discrepancies with finesse - this happens all the time, so be sure your team knows how to handle it well!

Get Your Team to Buy In

Few people are automatons, ready to blindly accept and enact whatever they're told. If you want your team members to embody your brand standards, by all means you should communicate them! This goes well beyond just handing them a list of "rules." Instead, explain to them - with heart - why good vendor relationships matter, and what they do for your business and everyone in it.

When your team members believe in your mission of cultivating good relationships, they're much more likely to do their part to maintain them. They'll also see the benefits of the effort they're putting in, which will help them keep their motivation going.

Embrace Empowerment

Everyone who works for you should know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how to perform their job and how to deal with all the little challenges that come up along the way - from difficult guests to timeline hiccups to equipment failures. By training them with everything they need, you're building their confidence and allowing them to represent your brand more effectively to the rest of the vendor team.

Of course, empowering them with training is only one part of the equation. The other is empowering them with sensitive information that may help them not only to work better with other pros at the event, but also to communicate with them more intelligently. For example, if you know your team member is going to work with a vendor who's one of your top referral sources, by all means tell that person so they can treat the referrer with extra TLC! On the flip side, if your company has a colorful history with a particular vendor, I believe you should arm your team member with that information, too. That way, they can either steer clear of unnecessary interaction or kill them with kindness, depending on the circumstances.

No one likes flying blind - ensuring your team members know what they're doing, and the scoop on whom they'll be working with, can help them be even better ambassadors for your business.

Emphasize Respect Above All

This may be the most important item on this list, yet can sometimes be the most frequently overlooked among wedding professionals in general. It's so important to remember that weddings are always a team effort. If you want your staff to help you sustain your strong vendor relationships, you need to teach them to be respectful of other vendors, above all.

What does this mean? Well, for starters, it means respecting the venue where the event is taking place. Ensure your team members know the load-in requirements for the venue, and that they are trained to follow the rules - whether they be not rolling carts across (or placing tape upon) delicate floors, not standing on furniture, or not entering restricted areas.

Of course, the concept of respect extends to the rest of the vendor team, too. We all have jobs to do, but in the grand scheme of things, rarely is hogging loading dock space or taking a meal meant for someone else worth the effect on your business.

What's more, by training your team members to work with - not against - the event planner, and checking in with the rest of the vendor team before proceeding with formalities and other major parts of the events, you'll automatically be head and shoulders above many of your competitors. (I credit my DJ company's success largely to the fact that our performers never announce an event without ensuring all vendors are ready and present - sounds like a little thing, but trust me, it's not.)

Celebrate the Individuals as Well as the Business

I'll confess: in the early days of my DJ business, I was afraid to have our disc jockeys get too involved with the other vendors. I guess I wanted all the vendors' good feelings to be directed toward the business, as I felt that was for the greater good. (As many of you can attest, when a company has multiple people working for it, vendors often tend to find their "favorites" and it becomes hard to fulfill their requests to work with those favorites. Over time, you find yourself losing business, even though your whole team has been trained the same way.)

Here on WeddingIQ, I'm always quick to use my own mistakes to try to help others run their own businesses better - and this is no exception. I can honestly say that I dropped this aversion to promoting individual team members several years ago, and I haven't regretted it. Most of my DJs now have their own Facebook pages for interacting with other vendors, and they handle virtually all of their own communications without my (or the company's) involvement. I'm also happy to have them promote their activities outside of my company, as I believe it makes them more well-rounded performers. As a result, they're enjoying better relationships within the industry, and the whole company is benefiting from increased referrals.

So, I say this: Give everyone who works for you (at least those who are on-site at events) their own business cards. Give them a company email address and encourage them to use it. Showcase them by name on social media, and infuse your business with all the unique personalities that make it up. That's what I've done, and it was one of the best choices I could have made.

Again, we'll be featuring the final part of this training series on Monday, when I share how to train your team members to handle event-day emergencies without losing their heads!


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