» The Business Case for Being an Open Book

While it may seem prudent to hold all of your secrets close, there’s a certain level of respect that comes with a company that prides itself in transparency. However, being an open book isn’t as easy as simply blasting your latest company news on Facebook. Transparency is rooted in a deep regard for competitors and industry peers. The aim is to foster open communication.

 

So, what exactly does it mean to be an open book?

Be open with what’s going on in your company—both good or bad. In the past, I’ve earned business simply by letting people know we were low on bookings when other planners were already booked for their date. At the same time, it means being open with clients, competitors and the rest of your network about changes that may affect them, like the addition of a new staff member or a new product in stock.

 

What’s the ideal relationship with competitors?

It can be tough to open up to other companies that share your ideals and target the same prospective clients. However, with a positive attitude, two competing companies can work together to share best practices for their specialty. This can be mutually beneficial for everyone involved. Don’t worry about losing clients to a competitor. In fact, don’t even think about them as competitors. In the wedding industry, there will always be engaged couples looking to book. In our market, we have a group of planners that meet quarterly to discuss our goals, share resources and encouragement. We are always happy to celebrate someone else’s successes!

 

What should you keep to yourself?

Although it’s great to be transparent about company changes and major goals, there are some things you’ll want to keep to yourself. For example, if you’re having problems with an employee or another vendor, be cautious about sharing too many details. Keep people’s names and reputations out of it and, if you must ask for advice, do so anonymously.

When it comes down to it, it’s entirely up to you how transparent you are with your company. Just know that clients, creative partners, staff and everyone else will respect your commitment to openness and honesty.

 

This post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui. She is also the creator of The Taylor’d Plan, a self-administered class for wedding planners who are new to the industry and looking to grow and develop their skills.

» Mapping Out Your 2017 Business Goals

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Now that the year is coming to a close, think back to your 2016 business resolutions as you start to map out your 2017 business goals. How many did you stick to? How many were put on the backburner? If you’ve never been able to “cut out junk food” or “get to bed earlier,” chances are you didn’t have a system in place to keep you accountable. Forget about those resolutions – put those in the past and prepare yourself to set some realistic, achievable goals for the best year ahead of you.

The new year is the perfect time to evaluate what did and didn’t work in the past and work on actionable solutions to boost your business to the next level.

Hmapping-out-2017ere are some helpful ideas to get you started:

Perform a full 2016 review

Prior to setting your goals, it’s essential that you know what needs to be addressed in your business. There’s no point having a goal to boost your social media presence if you’re already posting regularly. Spend some time analyzing all aspects of your business – from marketing efforts to the sales process to client interaction to bookkeeping. Keep your eye out for weak spots that could use some help – these are the areas that you should set your goals.

Write out your goals

It’s fine to start out with basic ideas of what you want to improve in your company, but you will need to get specific and fully flesh out your thoughts. Do your best to quantify your goals, as it will make it easier to track your progress and determine success. For example, if you want to boost your bottom line, create a goal that reads, “To increase revenue by 10% by the end of the year.” You’ll also want to set a deadline – the end of 2017 is a great one. A lot can happen in 12 months!

Break it down, if necessary

You may need to break your goals down into smaller steps. In our example above, you may try increasing your revenue through different methods – perhaps you want to spend more time networking and building referral business, as well as put an ad in your local wedding magazine. These are smaller objectives that will help you reach your ultimate goal and, in turn, will make your endgame seem a lot more approachable.

Hold yourself accountable

Once you have all of your actionable goals and objectives in mind, set up a system that will keep you accountable. If you want to focus on your blogging in 2017, create a post calendar to help guide your writing. If you want to kick that nasty spending habit (even if they are ‘business expenses!’), set a to-do each week to review your expenditures. Make it so that you can’t simply ‘forget’ about your goals, since they are staring back at you each and every day.

If there’s one takeaway to keep in mind, it’s to stay committed. Commit to yourself and to your company that you will reach your goals. When you hit the end of 2017 and look back, you’ll be thrilled with the progress you made. What better excuse to throw an office party or treat yourself to a massage?

» Taking Full Advantage of the Off-Season

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

When it comes to planning ahead, there is no better time than the off-season to get organized and map out your next steps in business development. Whether it’s streamlining your client intake procedures or doing research on an idea you’d like to capitalize on, it’s best to make the most of the time during your off-season. If you can’t make time for it now, how do you plan to handle it when your days are filled with events?

off-season-blogHere are a few ways you can take advantage of your off-season and put your business in a better position for the year to come:

Jumpstart your social media

Has your social presence been lacking? Do you need a total overhaul on your accounts? Now is the time to map out your social media plans for the upcoming season. If posting to Facebook and Instagram is too time-consuming when you’re busy with other work, look into programs like Later and Schedugram that allow you to pre-schedule your social media posts. That way, you only have to set aside an hour or two of your time each month to plan out your posts.

Streamline your emails

Email drafts are a lifesaver – in addition to making your life easier, they also set a standard procedure for others as they send emails (or future employees if you’re not quite there yet). Although you’ll certainly want to tweak each email for its recipient so it stays genuine, creating drafts of your frequent emails will save you a lot of time in the future. Consider writing up drafts for initial responses to inquiries, follow ups, welcome emails and anything else that you find yourself sending out a lot.

Rebranding and Website Redesign

Rebranding is a major process and takes a lot of time and preparation – certainly not what you want consuming your time while you’re in the middle of peak season. If you’ve been thinking about changing your name, updating your logo or even doing a complete overhaul, start preparing as the off-season begins and aim for a launch date around the beginning of the next season. Even a simpler website redesign can take some time, so don’t wait to get started!

Planning a new project

If you’ve been thinking about launching a new service or building an extension of your company, the off-season is the ideal time to do your research and begin implementing the first steps of your plan. Give yourself enough time to map it out and understand that it is a work in process – it’s not something you can finish overnight!

» Becoming an Entrepreneur in Someone Else’s Business

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

So you love the wedding industry, but aren’t so keen on the responsibilities that come with owning your business…

While it may seem like everyone in the industry is starting their own business, remember that it’s entirely acceptable if that’s not in your sights. Every professional has a different path and, just because you’re not into the idea of running the show, that’s not to say you can’t be a valuable asset in the industry. If anything, many small business owners need support so there’s certainly a place for you to put your skills to good use.

Becoming an Entrepreneur in Someone Else’s BusinessOn the other hand, some future entrepreneurs are simply not quite ready to launch their business, whether for financial or experiential reasons. Either way, finding a workplace in the industry will help you develop your local network and provide you with the experience to really make a name for yourself.

If you’re new to the industry, look for a company that will push you to grow as a professional and are eager to help with your career path. While searching for the very best fit, don’t limit yourself to a specialty. Even if you want to focus on event planning eventually, getting some experience with a catering company or at an event venue will provide you with some down-and-dirty experience that will help to expand your skill set.

Be prepared to hear from other entrepreneurs that you should start your own business or that “you’d be so good at it!” Even though you would be great at it, that doesn’t mean it’s the right venture for your career. There are many reasons to avoid starting your own business, so don’t let peer pressure make you feel like you’re missing out.

When you do find the right place to nurture your skills, be sure to settle all of the nitty-gritty before hitting the ground running. You’ll want to determine whether you’re a payroll employee or an independent contractor – this affects your taxes significantly, so be sure to understand your role. In addition, you’ll need to know how you’ll get paid – are you making a percentage of your clients’ billables or are you paid hourly?

Once everything is sorted out, it’s time to start hustling – and hard! Just because you’re not the business owner doesn’t mean you won’t play a big role in the company, so be prepared to do everything you can to push the business to its full potential. You are an equal part of the company’s successes and failures – keep that in mind!

As you learn the ropes, don’t be afraid to ask about other aspects of the business that you may not be involved in like writing a business plan or handling all of the expenditures – this will help you understand the owner’s decisions and give you an opportunity to be more helpful along the way. It’s really the best way to become a valued member of the team, so don’t shy away from immersing yourself into the company’s culture.

Sure, getting a job is important, but getting the right job is even more important – for you and the company alike. Find a place that values your skills and will help you boost your reputation within the industry. If the first or second places aren’t ideal, keep looking!

» The Key to Staying Motivated as a Wedding Professional

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Working in the wedding industry can be a fun and exciting experience, especially if you are passionate about the work. However, as great as it can be to put together a couple’s dream celebration, that’s not to say the job doesn’t come with its stresses.

Most people outside of the industry assume that our professions involve setting up a lot of pretty details and taking gorgeous shots of a couple – and it does! But it also involves client meetings, venue walkthroughs, contract negotiations and tons of paperwork that can get tedious pretty quickly.

The Key to Staying Motivated as a Wedding ProfessionalAs weary as it may be to keep up with the behind-the-scenes side of things, it’s essential to stay motivated throughout the wedding season to ensure that you’re on your game to provide clients with their dream wedding. Easier said than done, right? Let’s look at a few ways to stay motivated when everything seems to be piling up around you.

Just get it done

Ah, the old-fashioned approach. There is really nothing more motivating than checking something off of your to-do list. Start by knocking out a few smaller to-dos to get yourself going in the right direction. The feeling of accomplishment will push you to tackle some of the bigger tasks and you’ll be well on your way to a completed checklist!

Take a break

Sometimes, sitting at your desk and staring at your computer or piles of paperwork is the least motivating thing you can do. If you find yourself wasting time in the office because the inspiration just isn’t there, it’s time to unplug and take a break. It could mean walking around the block, reading a chapter of your current book or heading over to catch the afternoon yoga class – find something that helps your mind unwind and use it to your advantage. Once you get back with a clear head, the work will seem much less daunting than it did just an hour before.

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» Starting Your Morning Off on the Right Foot

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but the way you begin your day has a huge effect on the rest of your waking hours, so it only makes sense to start your morning off on the right foot.

As you enter the day, be sure to make some time for yourself to be present and focus on taking care of yourself before diving into anything work-related.

Starting Your Morning Off on the Right FootWith that said, I understand more than most people how difficult it can be to really step away from work even if just for a hearty breakfast and a cup of coffee. I’m the type to check social media right when I wake up only to continue on to my email. Sometimes completing small productive tasks in the morning can help with motivation for the rest of the day.

However, my rule is that I can clean up the emails I don’t need since I know a smaller inbox will help me have a clear mind, but then I move right on to writing in my gratitude journal. Once I get to the office, I’m able to quickly sort through the leftover emails and respond to the ones that I need to.

What works for me is to assign a topic to each day of the week so I can focus my efforts on one thing, but still accomplish all of my work for the week. For example, my Mondays are dedicated to business development, while Tuesdays are for client work. When I get into the office, I already know what I’m working on so it takes only five to ten minutes to plan out my top priorities.

To-do lists are considered morning musts in my office because it helps keep us on-track with all of the things that need to be completed. They aren’t always work tasks, but it’s so helpful to be able to see all of the top priorities written out in front of you. We also make an effort to double check on to-dos for the following day so we’re not going in blindly the next morning. With due dates set, it forces you to do all of the assigned tasks instead of picking and choosing what you want to do.

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» Risk Management: Identifying Significant Risks

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Nobody wants to face a crisis during an event – that’s a fact. However, that’s all the more reason to prepare in advance and develop a risk management plan. That way, if things go awry, you’ll be ready to mitigate the repercussions and bounce back.

Risk Management: Identifying Significant RisksThe key to a solid risk management plan is open communication between all parties involved. This includes the clients, their parents, the venue coordinator, and all of the wedding professionals on the event team.

Each event is unique, so it may make sense to develop a standard crisis plan that can be tailored to the situation at hand. For example, uncooperative weather is a common worry for outdoor events, so a rain plan is something that can be planned in advance. However, for each event, you’ll need to be familiar with the venue so that you can tweak the rain plan if necessary.

The same goes for other potential risks – use your foresight to think about what could possibly go wrong and find a solution before it does. Worried about an elaborate cake surviving the summer heat? Ensure that there is a nice and cool place for it to stay safe and sound. Concerned by a vendor’s lack of communication? Draw up a phone tree with everyone’s day-of phone numbers so each person can be reached.

Once there is a plan in place, send it along to the rest of the event team to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Communicate your expectations and what you define as a successful. Be sure that everyone understands what kind of constraints they are operating under, as it may have an effect on the level of damage control necessary. An event is truly a team effort, so include all involved parties in the crisis plan so that each has their own role that will contribute to a successful event, no matter what happens.

It will help to schedule a monthly call with the rest of the event team just to check in on everyone’s progress and ensure that everyone has what he or she needs. This is a great way to not only keep everyone accountable and avoid risk, but also to build a better camaraderie between members.

You may not even need to use your risk management plans – that’s the good news! However, if something does happen, you’ll be confident in knowing that you’re fully prepared to handle the crisis and lessen the damage that can come from it.

» Ready, Set, Startup: Considerations When Starting Your Wedding Business

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Let me start with a disclaimer: I will not be telling you how to create, plan, or market your business since that process is different for everyone, depending on what kind of business you want to start and your goals. Instead, I’ll point you in the right direction of finding those answers and getting everything settled.

No matter the idea, I am here to tell you that it can be done – I promise!

Ready, Set, Startup: Considerations When Starting Your Wedding BusinessWhat’s In a Name?

At this point, you should already have a good understanding of what you want to do and who your target audience is. With that in mind, think about what kind of name best suits your company. While it may seem natural to use your name, consider whether you’ll want to grow or sell your business one day. If so, stay away from using your name as it may equate with a personal brand, rather than something that can be transferred to other team members or potential buyers.

Your business name also defines what you do. If you’re interested in planning all types of events, don’t pigeonhole yourself by including the word ‘weddings’ in your name because it may deter corporate or social prospects. I also advise to stay away from words like “perfect,” “greatest,” and the like – you don’t want to have that one customer tell you that their day was not perfect.

Once you have a list of potential names, test them out with friends and family to see which ones stick. Run searches on Google, social media, and your state’s business registration page to ensure that it isn’t already in use. While you’re at it, check in on the requirements that you’ll need when registering your own business.

The More, The Merrier

Once you have a good idea of your name, brand, and services, it’s time to bring in your business development team. If you don’t have an accountant already, find one that works specifically with small businesses so he or she will have a good idea of how to structure your business. This will most likely be about the time that you’re ready to register your company with the state, in which case, congratulations! You’re a business owner! But you’re not done yet… Continue reading

» How to Find (and Reach!) Your Target Audience

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Looking to book more clients? Then it’s essential to start at the beginning with fine tuning your target audience to determine the very best client for your wedding business. While it may seem like quite the undertaking, a bit of strategic thinking can save you from exhausting your energy and resources before seeing results.

How to Find (and Reach!) Your Target AudienceIt’s safe to say that the best plan of attack is just that – a plan! First and foremost, you’ll need to define your target audience. What age range do they fall in? What social media networks are they hooked on? Do your homework and research your target demographic so you get to know their lifestyles and interests. Do they frequent coffee shops and juice bars? Are they taking Pilates or barre classes at the gym or a private studio? Whatever it is, see if there’s a way for you to join them in their element and connect with them. While an email or Facebook message may seem nice, there’s nothing quite as genuine as connecting with a prospective client because your yoga mats are next to each other or you were waiting in line together.

Another great way to reach your target audience is to network among other local wedding professionals. Talk to some of your favorite venues in the area and start to nurture your relationship with them. Take them out for coffee or send them a small gift – anything to let them know who you are and that you appreciate them. Oftentimes, venues have a list of preferred vendors to share with their clients and there’s nothing better than having your name on there!

More than likely, you’ll have an idea of which of your industry peers serve your target clientele. If you’re not already friends with them, it’s time to get networking! Referrals are extremely valuable, as couples are more willing to trust a vendor that they’ve already hired so it’s certainly worth it to get in with the people who share your ideals. Find a networking group that best suits you—keeping in mind you can attend both event industry networking as well as general business networking—and get to building relationships. Remember – it’s not a race to hand out as many business cards as you can. Look for the professionals with values that align with your own and start chatting. Follow up with them afterwards to continue the conversation – it could develop into a mutually beneficial relationship of referrals.

While there are two distinct ways of reaching your target audience—through them directly and through other event professionals—it’s prudent to find a good mix of the two methods in order to maximize your outreach to its full potential. Plus, you’ll feel covered on all sides so you won’t be pressured when you can’t attend a networking event or you missed a day of Pilates. It’s all about balance!

» Training Staff to Align with Your Brand

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Last month, we discussed the importance of having policies and procedures set in place to help streamline your business processes and guarantee that all team members are on the same page. Having a strong foundation is key to building a well-trained staff, which can be invaluable when looking to expand your company.

Training Staff to Align with Your BrandNot only does a well-trained staff bring a consistently positive client experience, but they’ll also be privy to the company’s roadmap for the future. Although wedding planning involves a number of moving pieces, laying out expectations in advance can provide a structure to support the ever-changing atmosphere of the industry.

One of the very best ways to train your staff is to take them on as interns from the get-go, rather than hiring them on as employees right away. This allows each of you to go through a trial period – while you evaluate their performance and determine if they’re a fit for your brand, they also have the opportunity to decide if your company is best suited for them. View this as a teaching period – provide them with lessons and gauge how well they learn. Be sure to get feedback from clients during the event, as they may have the best idea of how helpful the interns were.

Once hired, it’s crucial to continue empowering your employees and providing them with an atmosphere that fosters their creativity and their independence. You should have systems in place that allows them to work on their own, but you’ll still want to check in consistently to ensure that they’re working and producing the best work possible. Give them the tools to succeed, but let your team evolve based upon their own planning preferences. Everybody operates differently, so it’s especially important to value each and every person for what they bring to the table.

We provide supplemental training guides in the way of onboarding handbooks and training sessions with ourselves and with our trusted vendors. This gives them a bit of hands-on experience before truly putting them to the test and they appreciate the chance to learn from those they will be working with later down the line.

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» Streamlining Your Business with Policies and Procedures

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Time is money – we know this to be true because it’s one of the worst things you can waste as event professionals. But, what happens when we’re the ones wasting our own time?

Streamlining Your Business with Policies and ProceduresFrom disorganized routines to missed appointments, we’ve all found ourselves wishing there were 25 hours in a day. Chances are, there are a few minutes here and there that you can shave off of your current schedule with simple procedures – and those minutes can certainly add up!

Not only do policies and procedures put time back into your pocket, but they also make things much easier for you and your team. Your day-to-day processes will not require lengthy explanations once clearly mapped out. It’s also a great way to ensure quality control of the client experience, keeping your team consistently on brand.

While putting policies and procedures in place can seem like an intimidating task, it’s certainly manageable if you begin with baby steps. Start as early in the process as when a prospect reaches out to you and look through the different touch points of working with a new client.

Email drafts are a great place to start and are a key time-saver – they’re easily customizable so they’re still genuine, but you won’t have to worry about writing each email from scratch. So what to tackle first? Consider some of the following:

  • Responses to initial inquiries
  • Follow ups with inquiries
  • “Best of luck” emails if they book with someone else
  • Email to let someone know you’re already booked for a date
  • Email to let someone know if you don’t offer a certain service
  • Welcome email after booking
  • Out-of-office response
  • Post-event wrap-up email
  • Post-event review request

While planning ahead, think about how the inquiry process would feel if you were the interested client. What does the flow look like? How can it be improved upon? There’s no better time to assess how you’re doing than the present.

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» How Setting Boundaries can Save Your Sanity (and Your Business)

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

As business owners, it can be difficult to maintain a happy work-life balance and we often find ourselves feeling stretched too thin (which is just a few steps away from burnout, if not managed properly).

setting-boundariesThe truth is that burnout is not only bad for your mental health, but it can damage your business if you’re not feeling motivated to keep up with everything. Saying ‘yes’ may get you a lot of places, but an occasional ‘no’ is necessary for happiness and stability. Setting firm boundaries is the key to finding meaning in life and rediscovering a healthy balance, but the eternal question is where to draw the line.

We’ve all experienced those clients who expect the world (and more!) from you – whether it’s a panicked 2 A.M. call or a last-minute “urgent” meeting, some people will expect you at their beck and call and just won’t understand that you have family, as well as other clients, to attend. This is why you must set limitations ahead of time for both your clients and yourself.

At Taylor’d Events, we’re clear with our clients from the beginning of our relationships that it’s their responsibility to schedule appointments with me in advance, as well as choose the meeting location. They understand that I’m responsible for being there on time, as well as attentive to the situation. Before we start working together, we also make sure that both parties are on the same page for coordinating the Big Day so there are no lingering expectations that go unmet because they weren’t initially set. For example, our team is responsible for ensuring that all guests make it onto the last shuttle, but it’s important that we’re not liable for those who wander away from the venue. When boundaries are established from the get-go, you’ll know how to exceed expectations while your clients will be realistic when it comes to your time and attention.

Now, my boundaries may be different from all of my industry peers’ boundaries and that’s entirely fine. The limitations that you set within your business (and your life) are based upon who you are as an individual, how your business is structured, and what you value in life.

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