» Are Your Business Goals Right for You?

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

I love speaking with wedding pros about their businesses, because the business of weddings and events is what my business is all about. Each wedding pro should have their own goals and it’s perfectly acceptable to have different goals at different stages of business — as a matter of fact, your goals should evolve with your business.

How do you measure your business?

New businesses are often just trying to survive, while well-established businesses may be trying to stay current and relevant. What are the benchmarks you’re using to see how you’re doing? Is it the number of weddings and events you do each year? Or is it the total revenue (top-line)? Or maybe it’s the bottom line (net profit). Each of you has to decide what’s important, and then decide how you’re going to achieve that target. Just make sure it’s the right target.

What’s in a number?

I was consulting with an entertainment company who told me that he wanted to do 250 weddings the next year. When I asked him why, he said that he felt he would be seen as a major player in his market. I asked why that was important to him and he replied that he felt it would solidify his standing, and how he was viewed by the other wedding pros. When we looked at how he was planning to get there, it was to go after lower-dollar weddings that he wasn’t getting now. He was currently more of a boutique business, towards the higher end of his market. As I went through with him how to get to the 250, it occurred to me that he wasn’t going to be making much profit on those additional weddings. Once we considered the additional costs: DJs, equipment, insurance, marketing/advertising, admin, etc., most of the money was going to others, not to him. In my words, he was trying to feed his ego, when I prefer that he was trying to feed his family.

Biggest or most profitable?

Another client of mine, a rental company, told me that their goal was to be the biggest rental company in their market. I suggested that a goal of being the most profitable rental company in their market was a better plan. It’s often easier to grow your top-line than your bottom line. You can sell more weddings and more services, at or close to your cost, and increase your total sales. Figuring out how to sell more profitable services, or raising your rates and increasing your average sale, is a better plan. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder” and in my opinion, that’s a better way to go. When you figure out how to make more profit per wedding, you’re on your way to working smarter.

Which comes first – more weddings or more profit?

If you have the choice to either do more weddings, or increase your average profit per wedding, I’d focus on the latter. When you start making more per wedding, then you can decide if you want to do more events per year, or just make more from doing the same number of events. Many of the wedding pros I meet, and consult with each year, aren’t trying to do more weddings. Many have already maxed out the number of events, so the only way to increase their sales, and profit, is to increase their average sale. It’s the same for my business. In the early days I was all about increasing my total sales. And while I achieved that, I also realized that I wasn’t profiting enough for the amount of sales I was bringing in.

Diversify, or double-down?

As you look for ways to increase your profits, one possible way is to diversify, and offer new services, or go into new geographic markets. You may see a competitor doing some of these things and decide to follow along. Just make sure that you know why you’re doing it, because it’s likely you don’t know why your competitor is. If you don’t know if they’re profiting from that expansion, you might be chasing a losing proposition. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin, too fast, so think before you follow.

Is smaller better?

In the lifecycle of many of my clients, they start small, get big (sometimes slowly, sometimes fast) and then, many of them decide to scale back and get smaller again. Maybe it’s a venue owner who goes from one, to three, to six venues, and then decides to focus on one or two of the most profitable ones. Or it could be a DJ, photographer or officiant, who goes from being a single-op (just her or him) to multi-op (many employees/contractors, and possibly many services) back to being just her or him and fewer services.

There’s no one answer as to which is better. It’s about which is better for you, at this time. One thing is for certain, you need to decide how you’re measuring your success, right now, and then work to achieve that. Don’t follow someone else’s idea of success, or you’re likely to be like the dog chasing a car. If the dog actually gets to catch the car, then what will it do? If you achieve someone else’s idea of success, will you be satisfied? I suggest you choose your own destination, chart your own course, and then enjoy your success when you get there.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» How to Run Your Business While You’re Away

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Travel, whether for business or pleasure, can take you away from the office. As a business owner, handling your absence well can easily make or break your company. So, how can you stay on top of the many facets of business management when you’re away?

Use apps

Productivity apps let you take your office on the road, and are designed to help you manage business affairs from afar. They allow you to easily delegate tasks to your team, and monitor their completion so you always know the status of your accounts and events.

Stay accessible

When I am away, I always let my staff know that they can reach me any time and that they should never hesitate to contact me with a question. We use texting and iMessages for immediate needs because they can be used during a meeting, even if wi-fi isn’t available. We save calls for emergencies only – if I see a call come through while I’m in a meeting, I know I need to excuse myself and take it because phone calls are our code for an emergency situation.

Keep up with email

It’s also important to stay on top of your emails. If you don’t set aside some time each day to address and prioritize your email, you’ll never catch up when you get back to the office. Set aside 30 – 40 minutes per day to sort through new emails and to delegate any necessary tasks that result. If you are traveling somewhere that doesn’t have reliable wi-fi, you should schedule this at times you know with certainty that you’ll have internet access.

Debrief

Another key to successful management from a distance is to meet with your staff when you return from a trip to review what happened while you were gone and get everyone on the same page again.

Manage your time wisely

Travel involves a lot of time challenges that can create unique situations. One is a matter of time zones – when possible, you should try to continue working in the same time zone as your home office so you can remain aligned with your team. This will make it easier for them to get in touch with you, and will provide a consistent experience for your clients.

The other is having time for yourself. You must learn when to say yes and when to say no. Days are long when you’re traveling and trying to operate your business. Know your limits and schedule things like interviews and networking events wisely. Make sure that every activity has potential for payoff. The time you spend doing anything needs to be worth the time you are sacrificing that would normally go towards managing your business affairs.

Travel can be both life and business-enriching, and it doesn’t have to stop you from doing a great job managing your event company. Use these tips to help streamline your efforts and you will ensure that your even in your absences, your business will stay strong!

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

» How to Build Your Network and Collect More Content

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

This article was written by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

I remember the first time I went to a wedding convention. It seemed like everyone knew everyone else; but the only person I knew was the bathroom attendant because my naturally introverted self would frequently hide there. I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to empathize with DJ Tanner from Full House, eating alone in the bathroom on her first day of high school. For the record, no, I didn’t eat in the bathroom – ew.

If you’re a budding industry professional, you may notice that a large part of the industry is who you know. Now, that’s not to say our livelihood is superficial in any way. It’s to draw attention to just how powerful networking is in our line of work. We’re a large industry, but a small community.

Networking may seem daunting, but building relationships within the wedding world is crucial not just to the success of your business, but to your enjoyment of it as well. After all, don’t you want to work with your friends every weekend? Here are 4 tips to up your networking game.

Read up on it

If you’re not a natural go-getter or social butterfly, it’s ok! Heck, I was homeschooled for 9 years of my life. Social graces were not on my side for most of my life. I had to learn them the good old-fashioned way: reading a book. Ok fine… listening to one on audible.

I do recommend Carnegie’s book, but another favorite of mine is Never Eat Alone. As an Italian, this is pretty much a rule for me anyway, but bringing it to business takes it to a whole new level. Read it and you’ll have breakfast, lunch and dinner dates at the next WeddingWire World no problem.

Use social

In what other century have you had direct access to someone’s personal line, without needing to get through their secretary? None. Thanks to social media, you have that power right at your fingertips.

Don’t underestimate what you can use social media for. I recently covered a HUGE part of this on a recent WeddingWire webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. You should be using social media to connect with as many other wedding professionals as you can. Here’s an even bigger tip – connect with professionals before an upcoming conference by searching the conference’s hashtag. Bingo! You’ve made friends before you even stepped off the plane.

Stop reaching for the stars

Now I know your mom told you otherwise, but I’m here to bring you down to earth. As fabulous as it would be to take my advice from the previous tip and contact David Tutera and Silvia Weinstock and become besties immediately, it’s probably not going to happen. Why? Not only is everyone already barking up that tree, but they’ve been in the business for a while and already have their circle of tight friends.

Instead, make your own referral network. Befriend the next Marcy Blum or Fred Marcus (sorry to keep using NYC Wedding Vendors… it’s just where I’m from) by reaching out to people on your level of experience and clientele. Build each other up to be the next big thing.

Find photographers

It’s always funny to me when I hear that other wedding professionals have a hard time getting photos from photographers. You might not know this, but wedding planners, caterers, florists, bands, dj’s and venues are like the holy grail to us wedding photographers. To me, you’re the key to clients, and usually luxury clients that’ll spend more money on photography.

However, I know that it can be hard to get photos, so inside this last tip, I’ve got a few more for you that’ll help you get more photos of your work that you can use on social media to show off your services and connect with other vendors.

Offer Something, Anything

Now, I do not charge most vendors to use my photos on social media from weddings that I’ve worked. A lot of photographers feel the same way and are happy for the cross-promotion. However, contacting a photographer and expecting them to give you photos for free isn’t going to fly. It’s only polite to offer something in return, even if it’s not monetary.

Help Submit Weddings

You wouldn’t believe how much work is involved for a photographer after a wedding. Usually it’s where your wedding headaches end, and ours begin. Often when we’re being asked for photos, it’s another thing on our long to-do list.

However, if we give you photos, you can help us by submitting the wedding photos to popular magazines and blogs. If you have connections to some – even better! Obviously, make sure this is ok with the photographer first. But typically we’d be thrilled to have this taken off our plate and it’s a win-win when the photos get published.

Offer Future Collaboration

Us photographers need (and should want) to build relationships too. When you’re asking for photos, find ways to work with us again. Maybe you’re a makeup artist and you can offer to do hair and makeup for the photographer’s next headshot (we all need updated ones!). Or perhaps you’re an officiant that can provide some ceremony text that’ll make for a great blog post on the photographer’s blog. You could even suggest doing a styled shoot and get a whole group of vendors involved. The possibilities are endless, but if you start your intentions with serving other people, it’s amazing how much more you’ll get in return than you originally hoped for.

Use the Photos

Once you’ve snagged some photos and hopefully started a wonderful new work friendship, don’t hesitate to use the photos for LOTS of things! The more times you use them, the more the photographer will benefit from the cross-promotion. Make videos (super amazing for social posts) like these marketing and communication videos I’ve made right here. Use the photos alone in tons of social media posts like the ones I suggest here.

The Wedding Industry may ebb and flow but it’s always built on relationships. Spend time cultivating new ones and nurturing the ones you have and you’ll never be without work.

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World, and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching. Check out more of her resources at www.BreatheYourPassion.com

» Why Failure IS an Option

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

Whether it’s playing it safe, or being an overprotective parent, it’s often tempting to try to reduce the chance for failure. After all, isn’t failure bad? Actually, all failure isn’t bad, because failure meant you tried something, and just didn’t get the results you wanted. A speaker friend, Bruce Hale, once told me that “failure is just an unintended consequence.” He then went on to say that “success is often an unintended consequence as well,” because we often get a successful result, just not the one that we had originally intended. You can’t succeed, or fail, unless you try something new.

What’s the worst that can happen?

A few years back, when my friends and I went skydiving, we all got t-shirts after the jump that say: “Skydiving – what’s the worst that can happen?” Now, with skydiving, there is a pretty bad possible outcome. Sure, it’s not the one that we want, or expect to have, but it is possible. Yet we went anyway. Why? I can’t speak for my friends, but for me, that possible outcome wasn’t even on my radar. I was thinking about the exhilaration, the rush and the views. There are many more people who will never go skydiving because of the possible outcome of failure – admittedly, a bad outcome.

So, are you motivated by the possibility of success, or debilitated by the fear of failure? Are you visualizing what it means to get the positive outcome you desire? Or, are you not even getting started because of the possibility that it won’t work, and you won’t end up where you want to go? What you should be asking yourself is: “What’s the worst that can happen?” I once heard (or possibly read) that you should not only ask yourself what the worst possible outcome could be, you should also visualize that outcome. Is it really that scary? Would you be able to get through that challenge? Would you and your business, or family, be able to recover from that failure?

You get what you focus on

Knowing and visualizing the worst-case scenario is not the same as focusing on it. You can’t motivate yourself by avoiding negative outcomes. Imagine a catcher in a baseball game telling his or her pitcher: “Whatever you do, don’t pitch this next batter low and inside. Got it? Not low and inside or he’ll hit it.” Where do you think that next pitch is going? Right, low and inside. A better approach would have been to say: “For this next batter, pitch it high and outside. That’s a good pitch for him/her, high and outside.” Where do you think that pitch is going? More likely than not… high and outside, away from that batter’s sweet spot.

Where’s your focus?

Are you focusing on the positive outcomes, trying new things, and acting upon your ideas? Or, are you not getting started because you can’t stop seeing the worst-case scenarios? It’s OK to know what that worst-case scenario is, just don’t let it consume all of your attention. If he had focused on the failures, Thomas Edison wouldn’t have tried 10,000 different ways to make a light bulb. If they had focused on the failure, 3M Corporation would never have created Post-It Notes. The adhesive they used for it was originally developed for another purpose, but it was a failure. Someone over there had the foresight to see another use for it, and viola, we have Post-It Notes.

Lemons into lemonade

You may have heard how some people can take a bad situation, and see the good, and they call it turning lemons into lemonade. The thing is, you have to be willing to get lemons in the first place. It’s both our actions, and our inaction, that deliver the lemons to us. We may have been aiming for oranges, or apples, but instead we got lemons.

When I wrote my first book, the original title was going to be, “Insite”. I thought it was clever and that I could do a series, adding “Hindsite” and “Foresite” to it. Well, in my testing of the cover samples, the title fell like a lead balloon. It was either no reaction, or a negative one. However, I had also written on the cover, in small print: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” It was almost an afterthought, and I don’t even remember how it ended up on the cover. When people looked at the cover samples, the title didn’t move them, but that line did. So, even though I was told, by many people, that titles should be short and catchy, I went with: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” To this day, in its second edition, people still smile when they read or hear that title. That success was an unintended consequence.

You got this

What have you tried, that didn’t get you the outcome you originally wanted, but you made lemons out of? What was your mindset that allowed you to see the success through the failure? And how can you channel that feeling, while understanding the risks, understanding the worst-case scenarios, and still take the actions necessary to succeed? You’ve already done it, probably countless times in your life. You took the chance, took the leap of faith, or simply didn’t even consider the worst-case scenario at all. Don’t sabotage your success with the fear of failure. Instead, nourish your success with the seeds of failure, so you can reap the rewards of success.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» How to Make the Most out of Conferences (and Better Your “Today” List)

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

I love going to conferences. There are so many opportunities for learning, not just in the sessions, but also in the hallways and at the social events. Ideas come at you from all directions, it’s often like drinking from a firehose. If you’re like me, you come away with more ideas than you can possibly use. That’s good. You just need to learn to prioritize (more on that later). The problem I see, all too often, is when we come away from a conference, with more ideas than we can use, we end up not using any of them. Those pages and pages of notes, whether on paper or digital, end up on a shelf, never to see the light of day again. So, how do you change your conference habits (and general to-do list management) from overwhelming “shelf-help” that gets lost in the mix to truly productive “self-help”?

Why do we do it?

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure there’s a really good reason why we don’t take action on those pages of notes and new ideas. All I know is that I’m just as guilty of it as you are. Or, at least I used to be. I take less notes than I used to, partly because I know that the more I take, the less I’m likely to look at them. It’s more intimidating to see that I have 20 pages of notes, than 3. So, I’m more selective and try to focus my notes to my needs.

Putting it into perspective

Another reason I think we don’t take action is because we get distracted. Buzzwords are flying around, shiny products are on display and other attendees are regaling us with their stories of success. The challenge there is separating the fiction from the non-fiction. Let’s just say that some people tend to exaggerate, or selectively leave out the challenges they’re facing. It’s not unlike how on social media we tend to only see the great successes, without the struggles or investments, in money and time, that led to that success. You can’t reap the rewards unless you’re willing to make the investment (or sacrifice).

How do you measure success?

The next challenge in evaluating opportunities and new ideas is that each of us defines our success in our own way. Our needs are different. Our expenses are different. Our goals are different. Just because someone else is seeing their version of success with a new idea, doesn’t mean that will work for you. Use your own compass and plot your own course. Don’t use someone else’s map to find your path.

But, we can’t do them all!

Exactly! You can’t do them all, no one can. That’s why you need to learn to prioritize your ideas and limited time. I learned to do this over 10 years ago, at my first National Speakers Association conference. We had three very full days of meetings. On the last day, at the last session, the association national president addressed the group. He told us to make a list of all of the ideas we had heard. Then, told us we should prioritize the list, in the order of how they would most benefit our businesses. And then, and here’s the hard part, to keep the top 3 things and then physically get rid of the rest of the list. You can’t focus on 20 or 30 things. You’ll just end up diluting your time between too many things, getting nothing done. When you focus your time on only 3 things, you’ll get way more accomplished. After you complete those items, make a new list. If some of the things from your original list are still important, they’ll show up again. I can tell you, from personal experience, that they rarely do. Once you have finished the things on your list, your business, and you personally, are in a different place. Things that were important before, just aren’t important now.

“To-Do List” vs. “Today List”

I’ve been living my life that way since that conference. It was hard, at first, to erase my dry-erase board, with its myriad of ideas and projects. Sure, I took a picture of it, before erasing it, but I haven’t looked at that photo… ever. And yet, I’ve accomplished more than I ever had. The things on my short list are not my daily tasks. Replying to email, marketing and writing content are a different list. I like to refer to them as my “Today List”. The big picture items are my “To-Do List”. Writing a new book is usually on my to-do list. When I finish one, I start writing the next one. Learning a new language made it onto my new list. Then presenting in that language. Next, for me, is doing the audio version of one of my books, in Spanish. A lofty goal? Sure. But what good are goals you can easily hit? Actually, my uncle once told me never to use the word “goals, ” because it’s self-limiting. Think bigger, and you can achieve more. Don’t try to just reach a goal, try to do the best you can, every day.

So, what does your shelf look like?

Have you filed away years-worth of conference or webinar ideas, without ever acting on them? How many notebooks, filled with notes, are on your shelf, or filed away? How many things are on your big-picture, to-do list? Do you really need them all? Or, can you keep the first 2 or 3, and focus all of your energy on those? It takes a little faith and a little courage to shorten your list. If you’re like me, you’ll find it liberating, like a huge weight has been lifted. And then, when you start to get more done, you’ll be encouraged to keep making short lists. Here’s to helping yourself (and not your shelf)!

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.