» Off-Season Tips for Solidifying Vendor Relationships

Photo by Anchor & Pine Collective

We’ll never stop saying it – your success in the events industry is grounded in the relationships you form and maintain. This is a people-centric business so developing ties to like-minded professionals is a critical pillar in the foundation of every strong event company.

During the busy season, the efforts that are necessary to finesse relationships are limited by your time and energy. However, the off-season provides not only opportunities to meet new people, but also an opportunity to circle back to those you’ve wanted to get to know better and find new ways to leverage your strongest ties; it is also the perfect time of year to put into place systems that will make it look like you’re the king or queen of networking the rest of the year!

Here are just a few ways you can solidify your vendor relationships during your off-season.

Maximize your attendance and participation in associations
It’s hard to participate and be present during peak season, because you simply can’t be in two (or three, or five) places at once. So during your next lull, double-down on your commitment to attending all available networking and educational events.

Look for opportunities to attend meetings, deliver professional development as a speaker to your peers, and contribute your time, product and services whenever the opportunity arises to the organizations you support with your membership. Make a big impression now to stay on your colleagues’ radar when you can’t actually attend.

The off-season is also a great time to vet new associations or positively respond to invitations to be a guest or guest speaker at new groups. You may or may not ultimately join, but your willingness to support other professionals will someday be returned in kind.

Be strategic
Think about the ways that you can be relevant to others when you can’t actually be face-to-face with them. Do you have a blog or active social media platforms? During the off-season, work with your colleagues to exchange content and pre-schedule posts that offer valuable information to each other’s audiences. You’ll each benefit from fresh and useful entries on your feeds, and will demonstrate to others how much faith you have in your business relationship.

I always advocate for generosity, believing that paying it forward is one of our strongest business-building policies. The off-season is a great time to look for creative ways to share referrals and help nudge the professionals you trust towards their own new successes. It’s also the right time to thank those businesses that have referred you during the year for their generosity. Send handwritten thank you notes, fun tokens of appreciation, and drop in for personal visits and expressions of gratitude.

Use technology to plan for the next busy season
There are apps for everything, and we strongly believe in using them to work smarter. A good to-do list or calendar app can help you create reminders of important dates like colleague birthdays, anniversaries or business milestones. Use a drop-ship service during the off-season to pre-schedule little tokens and gifts to arrive with personal notes of appreciation. In our fast-paced industry, thoughtfulness stands out more than any ad campaign or promotion.

Whether you’re at the top of your game, or just starting out, nothing is more integral to the success of your events business than your connections. Use the gift of the slow season to find new and innovative ways to extend your network and solidify your highly valuable vendor relationships.


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 Balance Work Personalities

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ

Maintaining a positive workplace is a key to success. After all, a business runs best when employees are engaged and focused on work instead of office politics.

A comfortable work environment starts at the hiring process — qualifying candidates based on your company’s core values will ensure that your employees will form a solid team. I look for someone who is energetic, confident, eager to learn, and interested in our company. In our situation, experience isn’t necessary as we are happy to train on site, but a keen interest and knowledge of our company shows passion to be a part of our team. At the end of the day, that speaks more than job experience.

Cultivating a positive work culture starts at the top — it’s up to a business owner to create an environment where work gets done and employees feel comfortable communicating with one another. At Fantasy Sound, we have daily “Sound Off” meetings that allow us to discuss our service standards for the day and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Employees feel engaged and empowered when they feel that their voices are heard, so listen up. It only takes 15 minutes of the day, but it keeps morale high and sets our company up to continue providing excellent service.

We also have weekly department meetings that help to keep us operating efficiently. Not only do these meetings hold everyone accountable, but I’ve noticed a rise in our team productivity as well since hot issues can be addressed all at once.

In addition to open communication, every business owner wants to instill a culture where employees look forward to going to work. How do you do that, you ask? Simple: plan fun teambuilding activities to get rid of the proverbial cobwebs. For example, we host birthday lunches for every employee which is always a nice time to look forward to. We’ve also recently started an ongoing Mario Kart tournament within the office for a taste of healthy and fun competition.

Even still, internal conflict is inevitable in any office and it’s up to business owners to navigate these waters with caution. I personally try to address conflicts as they happen, as opposed to seeing if they can work out on their own. Waiting too long can cause a minor disagreement to fester into something larger, which can be detrimental to your overall work culture.

With that said, I do recommend waiting a bit if the conflict is particularly emotional. Address it once the emotions pass and everyone involved can approach it with a cool head. Letting emotions mix into the discussion can cause the problem to get even worse. Sit down with each party individually before setting a time for a group meeting. That way, you can go into the discussion with the full picture and offer ideas for solutions. When counseling employees, avoid taking sides by sticking to your company values. Appeal to their commitment to the company and work together to find a solution that keeps everyone happy. Chances are that if you hired the right people from the get-go, any internal conflicts can be overcome with open and honest communication.

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 Hire the Right People for Your Team

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

Assembling the right team is essential to the success of a company, especially one that is growing and evolving in a field as service-oriented as the wedding industry. The wrong employee will set you back in terms of time, resources and more than a little sanity. Before you hire someone new, prepare yourself for the task and avoid mistakes before they cost you any of the above.

The posting

Even if you have hired for the position before, it never hurts to revisit your job description. You want your new hire to fit into your overall brand, so be meticulous with how you advertise yourself as an employer.

Revisit the little details – do all of the job responsibilities still make sense? Are there things from your plate you’d like to move over to the new employee? Is your compensation in line with area standards and is it competitive? Consider connecting with your team and soliciting their thoughts on the qualities and skills needed.

Promoting your job opening

When it is time to promote your open position, start with your blog, social media and newsletter. Reach out to trusted colleagues and ask them to keep an ear open for highly qualified candidates looking to change positions. Your best matches often come to you as warm leads.

Great employer seeks perfect candidate

Once you begin interviewing, know the signs of a great match. Look for somebody who is fun, energetic, personable and willing to learn. Your clients want to connect with someone who has a positive attitude and who upholds your corporate culture.

On the flip side, be aware of red flags. Showing up late for an interview, not following instructions included in a job listing, not being properly dressed for the interview, and not knowing anything about the company or the position they are applying for are all signs that a candidate is less than ideal.

The double-edged sword of previous experience

While past experience can be desirable, it also can mean that a candidate has developed bad habits, or is unwilling to adapt. Be open to looking beyond experience. Focus on potential.

Questions to ask

Your questions can encompass basic information like “What do you know about our company?” and “How do you define good customer service?” Don’t be afraid to get (professionally) creative, though. We like to ask something like, “If you were going to be working on a movie, what part would you want to play: actor, producer or director?’ to get a feel for applicants’ motivations and personalities.

Involve the team

Consider a trial run for a set period of time to allow you to determine if your new hire is compatible with your current team. You’re about to spend a lot of time with him or her, so it’s worth the extra effort for all involved to make sure you have found a good fit.

Few business decisions are as critical as hiring the right talent. Invest your time and effort in the process. You will not be sorry.

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 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.

» Best Apps to Reduce Stress During Busy Season

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

A career in the wedding industry has to be one of the most rewarding and simultaneously most stressful jobs around. While rarely (at least not on a good day) do wedding professionals have to save lives or put theirs in peril, they are responsible for a very important day that doesn’t come with any do-overs. Top that off with intense event logistics and the need to make it all look effortless, and you have a solid recipe for stress.

Finding ways to alleviate that stress yet still deliver incredible weddings should be a top priority to any wedding professional. One way to curb the nail-biting moments is to incorporate technology into your workday that takes some of the burden off of you.

Here are some of our favorite apps for streamlining your work:

Zipwhip for Client Comms

We use Zipwhip for all of our client texting. The beauty of this program is that you can have personalized conversations with customers through one number on your computer. You can skip the hassle of sharing personal mobile numbers and still be just as available.

Canva for Content Creation

Nothing beats the expertise of a professional designer but when you’re in a pinch, Canva is a great, free design program that allows you to create branded content for your wedding business. They have thousands of templates for nearly every need you can imagine- from Facebook covers and Instagram-friendly graphics to presentation slides.

Schedugram for Social Media

One of the best things about Facebook has been the ability to pre-schedule your posts. Unfortunately, Instagram has not had the same option but now there are third party apps like Schedugram that allow you to do just that. Schedule your posts as well as the first comment (aka #hashtagcity).

Zoom for Client Meetings

Zoom is a great high-quality option for video streaming, ideal for client meetings and group conference calls. If you use Google Calendar, you can add a Chrome extension that allows you to create a new Zoom meeting within the calendar entry. Those who offer webinars will find that it doubles as great educational software.

Dropbox for File Management

Sharing files can sometimes be a challenge if they are large and take a long time to download. Dropbox is cloud storage that allows you to upload files like documents or images from your phone, device or computer to folders that you can then easily share with your team or send to a client.

Basecamp for Projects

Project management involves a lot of moving parts, but you don’t have to get buried by the details when you use Basecamp. Quickly and easily assign tasks, monitor projects, track down overdue items and know in a glance what the status of even your most complicated endeavor is.

These are my go-to apps and programs to help relieve stress and I hope they can alleviate some for you too!

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.

» 4 Steps to Manage Your Time More Effectively

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

Time is one of the most valuable assets any business can possibly have – time to build infrastructure, attract new clients, serve current clients and stay in touch with past clients. Time is a limited resource, however, and way too often we waste it when we could be maximizing it and experiencing growth.

Understanding the impact that wasting time and properly managing it can have on your business is critical to your success. Achieving maximum success requires maximum time efficiency. So how do you manage it?

Make a to-do list

We might think we’re the ultimate multitaskers, but our brains can really only focus on one thing at a time. Making a to-do list allows you to prioritize tasks that need to be done and keep track of how much you’ve accomplished and how much is left. It is a simple way to make your use of time more efficient. If you don’t like paper lists, try going high-tech and keeping yours on your phone or tablet.

Recognize common time traps

In order to fix a problem, you need to clearly define what the problem is, right? Time issues tend to sneak up on people because we think we’re working hard. Email is a prime example. Checking it all day and at home simply diverts you from doing actual work. Busy is not the same thing as productive. What other functions take too long and drain the life from your business?

Eliminate email waste

First, leave your email for the office. Use your time at home to take care of yourself, your health, your family and those non-work affairs that need addressing so you can be your best self at work. Turn off your notifications so incoming mail does not interrupt your workflow. Set aside 15-minute periods to address what needs to be done in your inbox, generally not more than three times each day, unless your email volume requires additional time. Maximize the efficiency of your email management by setting reminders to act on waiting emails, using templates for responses to frequently asked questions and inquiries and using software or an app that allows you to schedule emails in advance.

Use apps to help manage time

Instead of trying to keep up on your own, leverage technology and research and select apps that take over the functions you’re currently trying to manage by hand. There are social media apps that you can use to pre-schedule content and monitor your presence. Financial apps that can help with payroll, accept payments from your customers and assist in preparing your taxes each year. Event software apps take all of the work out of seating arrangements for your clients and creating all important timelines. You can win back so much time you are currently wasting in your business by simply identifying helpful apps.

Good time management essentially boils down to identifying areas of weakness and addressing them with best practices and great technology. You can take your wedding business to a whole new level by taking control of your time management. Don’t wait – start today!

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 current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and National Vice President for WIPA.

» How to Solidify Your Vendor Relationships in the Off-Season

Photo by Patrick Nied Photography

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

Having strong vendor relationships will help build your business; this is something we all know to be true. From networking events to associations to mastermind groups, there are lots of ways you can start getting to know your peers and establishing relationships that are going to lead to the all-important vendor referral.

So, how do you get there? See some of my top tips below:

Make the time

During the off-season many event professionals take the extra time they have and use it to network and get their face back out there. You should be doing the same thing. Yes, you may be understandably using that time to go on vacation and get organized for the upcoming year, but don’t disappear from your community. The last thing you want is for a competitor to sweep in and start using your absence to their advantage.

Always respond

Working in the events industry means you know that being unresponsive can cost you clients and money. The same can be said for your relationships. If you’re ignoring or putting off emails from your creative partners, even if it’s just a quick hello, they may forget to reply back to you when you need them in the future. Be sure that if you aren’t in the office, you’ve got a clear out-of-office email letting them know when you will be back to respond.

Share the wealth

When vendors start referring business your way, be sure to return the favor- when it’s appropriate. There is no better way of saying thank you or showing that you value their work than by sending one of your clients to them. If you have a preferred vendor list that you give to couples, consider adding them to it. The gesture will no doubt come back to you tenfold.

Make the extra effort

Sending your creative partners a symbol of appreciation is a great way to cement your relationship. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or cost a lot of money, but it should be something meaningful and from the heart. For example, in the middle of summer, we send popsicles to our friends in the community as a reminder to stay cool down and take a break. We’ve received Starbucks gift cards from fellow event professionals that know how much we love caffeine.

Use part of your off-season to plan how you’re going to strengthen your existing relationships and establish new ones. We promise that dedicating some of your off-season time to this will ultimately be a long-term investment in your own business.

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 current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and National Vice President for WIPA.

» Should You Rethink Your Sales Strategy in 2018?

Photo by Lacy Ferrell Photography

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

As business owners, one of the biggest parts of our job is selling to prospective clients. We know it doesn’t always come easy, but by creating and implementing an effective sales strategy you’ll see major differences in what your clients are booking, and in turn, your business.

So how do you go from selling the basics to selling the big dream? We’ve got some of our best techniques below.

Give lots of options

When first sitting down with a prospective client, the best strategy to take is giving them lots of options. It helps to open up their minds and get the creative juices flowing, allowing them to visualize the big picture and overall vision for their wedding. Chances are, they’re going to fall in love and want to spend more money. If your business has more than one service, this is also the perfect opportunity to upsell them on those as well.

Always be honest

You want to be sure that you are striking the right balance with clients, between getting the highest price point you can without going so far out of their range that they feel intimidated or turned off. The best way to do this is with honesty. You want to make sure that their expectations are at the right level from the get-go. For my business, we are always mindful of explaining the value of what they’re getting. Clients don’t always understand that at the beginning, so seeing just numbers alone can quickly turn them off. Once we’ve walked them through the process and explained our services and products more thoroughly, it helps them to see exactly what they’re getting.

Listen to the client

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen salespeople make, is trying to sell their own vision of what the wedding should be without hearing what the client wants. You really have to listen to them and make sure that the products and/or services you put in front of them is in line with what they’re looking for. They are much more likely to spend money if their vision is being met and they’re comfortable with the end result.

You should never walk into a sales meeting without having knowledge on what you’re selling. You need to know all about the venue you’re working at, all of the variables involved in the event, logistics, and the client’s budget. It’s easier to sell a client if you already know the ins and outs of their wedding. It gives them a feeling of comfort and gives you a great jumping off point for upselling.

So what are you waiting for? Make a new sales plan for 2018 that will have you booking more clients at a higher level than you could have imagined.

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

» How to Get On Preferred Vendor Lists (and Stay on Them)

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

The illustrious preferred vendor list is something that, as business owners, we all strive to be on. The exclusivity and third party validation is very appealing, not to mention the leg up it can give you against competition. So the question is, how do you get on it and stay on it? I’m sharing some of my best practices when it comes to approaching the subject.

Never ask immediately

Asking a fellow creative partner if you can get on their preferred list right out of the gate is probably the biggest mistake you can make. Would you want someone you just met five minutes ago asking you for a favor? No, probably not.

As I like to tell people- it’s not that far off from dating. You need to go in with the mindset that things take time. So how do you develop a relationship over time?

  • Attend industry events. Take the time to revisit what options you have in the area- be it WIPA, NACE, ILEA or organizations. Mark your calendar accordingly and make note of who attends. Better yet- if one of your targets is hosting or sponsoring a meeting make it a priority to be there.
  • With the above in mind, consider leadership and volunteer roles within the organizations. It’s one thing to attend and network, but the ROI will be far more considerable if you carve out time to give back and get to know your industry peers in more intimate settings.
  • Include them on your mailing list. We love celebrating obscure holidays with our clients and creative partners so add them to your mailing list for the next time National Scallop Day rolls around.

Once you have gotten to know them more on a professional (or even personal) level, bring the subject up in a more general way. For example, ask them how they choose who to put on their list, or how often they refresh it. That way you are getting the intel you want without directly asking them to consider you.  

Be open to feedback

I’ll never forget when I met one of the top caterers in town for the first time. I was new to the industry and didn’t know what I was doing at networking events- and it showed! I approached my newfound colleague and she was quick to give me a laundry list of things I needed to work on- all the way down to the baseball cap I needed to stop wearing to events.

She was well intentioned so I took her advice to heart and over the next year, I implemented many of her thoughts. Over time, we built a strong partnership and that very caterer has since become one of my top referrals.  

Get to know the other creative partners

Sit down and take a look at the list(s) you want to be a part of, and take note of the other creative partners on it that you may already know or would like to get to know. The local events community is a small one, and your relationships with people can make all the difference. If you’re close to someone that is well connected, and they respect your reputation, they may recommend you the next time a vacancy on a preferred list comes up. This has been my secret weapon for years.

One of the best ways to stay connected is online, especially as wedding season ramps up. We make a point to highlight our colleagues in an ongoing feature on our blog, in which we interview creative partners from around the region. We make it easy by creating a simple form, and the response has been positive.

Remember the key time to shine

It’s easy to forget in the middle of the hustle and bustle of an event that how you interact with other creative partners is key. Treat it like a job interview. Above all, be a team player and don’t be demanding. Help out where you can and be a problem solver. Follow up after the event and ask for feedback. Ultimately, it comes down to being the type of wedding professional that people want to recommend.

Don’t take it for granted

If and when you are added to the preferred list, don’t get too comfortable. Several places will update theirs at least once a year, and if they barely remember who you are or have been in close contact with someone else, you can easily be replaced. Small gestures can be a fun and creative way to keep your business at the top of their minds.

We love to implement the surprise and delight strategy by sending funny notes and trinkets to our creative partner friends that will put a smile on their face. Last summer, during a particular hot spell, we even traveled around delivering popsicles to many of our colleagues.

Don’t let the idea of trying to get on a preferred vendor list scare you. With the right approach businesses will be adding you in no time.  

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