Last week, I wrote about the concept of growth as a dirty word, and how that’s basically crap. Bad growth is expanding for the sake of expanding, with no consideration for your brand, your reputation, and your clients’ experience. Good growth — strategic growth — is expanding carefully, with checks and balances in place to preserve what you’ve worked hard to build. This kind of growth benefits your industry as a whole, because it delivers a quality service or product to more people and thus increases the demand for a similar level of quality. It also enables you to make a better living doing what you love, which is something for which I think most wedding business owners are striving.
In 10 years, my own company has grown from two people — myself and my husband Evan — to a current total of 15, and our revenue has skyrocketed. We’ve made a few mistakes along the way, and I believe we’ve learned from all of them. Every choice we’ve made in terms of expanding our business has been the result of a tremendous amount of thought and planning, and has been evaluated and re-evaluated every step of the way. Over time, we’ve identified two important keys to successful, and strategic, business growth. And they’re actually ridiculously simple.
1. Operate your business through a set of clearly-defined systems and processes. This is actually discussed in great detail in the fabulous business book The E-Myth Revisited, which I can’t recommend highly enough. By systematizing your operations, others within your company can replicate them, enabling your business to grow. My company has a very clearly-defined business and marketing plan, and clearly-defined systems for everything: email and phone communications, client meetings and customer service, outreach to other vendors, arrival times for events, equipment setup and maintenance, ongoing training and development, and a million other things. We’re able to continuously add to our team and teach our new people our systems, ensuring that all our clients have a consistently outstanding experience, year after year.
2. Hire good people to carry out those systems and processes. I can’t emphasize this enough. The quality of the people you hire to represent your brand can make or break your business. My own team is incredibly diverse, but I’ve made sure everyone who joins us meets a very specific set of criteria. Whenever I interview someone, whether it’s for a field position (like our DJs) or someone to work with me in the office or on a special project, I always ask myself these three questions:
- Is this someone our clients and other vendors would hire? In other words, does this person have a clear place within our target market? Some years, I might be looking for someone with a specialized skill (such as fluency in a foreign language or firsthand knowledge of a particular culture’s wedding traditions) and other years I might be looking for someone very broadly appealing. I’m always aware of my hiring objective, though, and am able to determine whether the person I’m interviewing fits the bill.
- Is this someone who’s going to be easy to manage? I’m really particular about this, because I’m personally very hands-on in managing our team. I don’t care how experienced someone is; I’m not going to take on egomaniacs, prima donnas, flakes, liars, procrastinators, or anyone else who’s going to make my life more difficult. No one person is worth that hassle.
- Is this a good person? This is a brand thing for me, really. I want to be able to say with a clear conscience that we only hire good people. Clearly, everyone has his or her own definition of “good,” but for me, it means being kind, honest, and hardworking. Anyone who works for me has to be able to fit that bill.
By identifying specifically what must be done to operate your business the way you want it to be operated, and then choosing good people to help you do that, you’re able to grow your business (and your income) without falling into the “big-box” trap of inconsistency.