Is it time to Hire a New Employee? (Part 1)

Posted by on Apr 10, 2015 in Business Advice | No Comments

I had a client a few years ago who we adored and was a total smarty pants and she told me about the concept of False Pattern Recognition. The idea that we think something is EVERYWHERE, but in reality we are just hyper-aware and are noticing that something more often. So, for me, the topic of HIRING and expanding your team has been everywhere for the last week. It seems everyone I’ve been talking to has either been debating about bringing someone new on, or been offering up really smart advice about how and when to do it.

Last week at the Business of Weddings, Angela Desveaux, the founder and editor of WedLuxe said something so painfully simple that it hurt my heart that it had taken Mayra and I so long to figure this out for ourselves: “The only way to grow your business is to hire great people.”

I know. The idea of bringing on “employees” can be scary. Either financially- because of the investment and the terrifying idea of cash flow and having someone else dependent on your management of that side of your business (which can be very scary, especially if your wedding business is seasonal in nature). OR it can be terrifying because you have done every job yourself since your company’s inception and done them all well, and you are afraid of sacrificing the quality that got you here in the first place with someone less invested or skilled or whatever… or you are control freak. All of which are reasons why it’s scary. But the next thing that Angela said in her awesome talk was this: If you don’t take a chance, you don’t stand a chance.
Anyway, I came back from Montreal and we are working with a Besties in Business client, and in looking at their barriers for growth, it became obvious that the biggest thing holding them back was their need to grow the staff. Like, the savings on one or two critical employees actually might be costing them money- because a few people holding muddled roles has been impacting management’s time to effectively manage clients and market and sell their product. When looking at it that way, the risk starts to lay in the NOT hiring someone…
So then fast forward to Wednesday when we post the Besties videos and while YES we were there when they were being taped, we tape a bunch on one day so it’s always a fun surprise to re-listen to the conversation. And this week we sat down with Gabriella Risatti of Gabriella Bridal and, don’t you know at around minute 10 she shares her only real regret: not hiring people sooner. And then she shared this gem:
Invest in Good PeopleInvest in good people and you will get it back in your bottom line. So, if you’ve been sitting on the fence about hiring someone… take this as the sign you needed and move forward.. or look at it as false pattern recognition :-) Perhaps it’s contract hires or part- time in the beginning, but if you THINK you could do more if you only had regular help in a designated role, then it’s probably definitely time. Oh, Gabriella’s full interview is below.. it’s like 15 minutes of B-school for anyone thinking about opening a Brick and Mortar retail business or starting a bridal salon. (btw, If you are enjoying these quotes, you’ll enjoy the conversations we’ve got going on at our @BestiesinBiz instagram)

Maintaining Healthy Client Relationships: Lessons from a PR Pro

Posted by on Apr 2, 2015 in Business Advice | No Comments

A great (but lightening fast) week here since I was up in Toronto to speak at the Business of Weddings on Monday and Tuesday with Todd Fiscus, Marcy Blum, the wonderful Rebecca Grinnals of Engaging Concepts and Engage! , Angela Desveaux of WedLuxe Magazine and the elegant Ines Di Santo. There was so much amazing content that Michael Coombs put together my head is still spinning, but I promise a recap of some of the highlights and lessons learned next week.

This week, I won’t call it laziness, though it is a little cross promotion, because I think it’s really worth watching our Besties in Business interview with Rachel Van Dolsen of RVD Communications, a boutique PR firm that works with small companies and brands, largely in the food and beverage and hospitality sectors. The video is 15 minutes, but I’m going to tell you about the highlights that YOU, wedding professional needs to hear, because in addition to what makes you NEWSWORTHY, she also has to a) decide which business is right for her and which isn’t b) find a niche c) maintain relationships with clients over a long term d) sell by promising totally intangible items over which she has no direct control. e) sell against lots of amateurs with business cards and a few contacts. Hmm… sound familiar?

So, at 3:47 we chat about saying NO to clients who don’t fit and WHY you need to do it to achieve true success. At 5:44 we talk about the key to selling something you can’t really guarantee… and keeping clients happy along the way (there is a trick to this). At 6:45 we talk about teaching people to love what you offer even if they’ve been burned by someone less experienced. 7:30 we chat about if you are ready for to hire outside PR and what a publicist needs to do a good job. Finally at 10:00 we hit how to assess if you are, as they say, ready for Prime Time and Newsworthy… Unfortunately sometimes we have a hard time facing the hard truth that we aren’t there yet. So without further ado, the video!

Drafting a Strong Destination Wedding Contract

Posted by on Mar 24, 2015 in Blog, Business Advice | 2 Comments

Hmmm. At the tender age of 22, I somehow found myself as the Director of Special Events at the Clio Awards. My charmingly cantankerous former boss made a big show of presenting me with a present (wrapped as such) that turned out to be a giant, spiral bound tomb with the un-sexy title of “The Essential Guide to Hotel and Venue Contract Negotiations”. I remember being so disappointed, having hoped it was a real “gift”, and instead it being a B2B textbook with one of the least sexy titles ever read. 5 years later it was the most used thing on my desk, so highlighted and dog-eared and post-it-ed (is that a phrase?) that it barely resembled it’s former self. I not only loved this book, I cherished it.

So, while Drafting a Strong Destination Wedding Contract may not sound like a sexy blog post, I’m hoping this will prove as lovingly utilitarian for you, fellow wedding vendor! As destination weddings become increasingly more popular (and with good reason, 5 days of gorgeous events can cost as much as 1 night of festivities in some of the more expensive US markets!) more of us planners, florists, photogs, even bands are getting called upon to “do destination”. Since, in my experience, the strongest contracts are written by a hundred unfortunate stories, I’m compiling here some points to be sure to include in your Destination Wedding Contract… derived over the years from our own experience, passed on to us by generous colleagues and some learned just this past weekend while we were out of the country working on a wedding. PLEASE, please, if you have any great tips or pointers to add to this, please add below!

1. Be VERY specific as to HOW you will travel. Coach? Business? Direct? How many lay-overs are you OK with? We learned this the hard way when stuck in Boston on a lay-over in the middle of the night.

2. Either book your travel yourself or REQUIRE APPROVAL RIGHTS before client books your travel. Clients often want the best talent to work at their weddings regardless of where the talent is and where the wedding is, but often they start to get squirmish at the cost of transporting said talent. So, while I don’t begrudge people using points or miles to book vendor travel, I do have preferences for airports and times etc, as you probably do as well, and you should retain your right to approve when and how you and your team move.

3. For Planners/Photographers, Express Your Desire to Stay at the Headquarters Property. For planners, there are early mornings and late nights, for photographers, it’s less about the late nights than it is about capturing the vibe around the key events. Both require access and staying anywhere but your main property (unless it’s a private home) is less than ideal and overall not worth the savings to your client as it compromises your ability to perform your job to the maximum of your ability.

4. Include a Per Diem. A lot of people may feel “Well, I’m eating where ever I am and I don’t want to seem nit picky.” But if you are on a resort (and especially a Luxury property) you might not have chosen to have 5 star dining for every meal had you been at home, so you should include a per diem based on the cost of the food at whatever location you will be required to spend most of your time in based on the job.

5. Specify how many people can stay in a room with you… and who. A photographer friend once told us a story of being put up for the night in a room with 4 bridesmaids and having to sleep on a sofa. No Bueno. For some clients this clause might seem obvious, but for others you are saving yourself from an awkward nightmare later on.

6. Buffer in time before and after for you to do your best job! While it might seem that you are attempting to squeeze in free R & R, we all know how much work is needed (depending on our specific job function) to properly do your job both in the advance and the wrap up. So the client might want to cheap out on room nights, but it’s important to hold your ground and get there in the time in advance and stay for the time afterwards that enables you to do best what you were paid to do.

7. Specify the hours (in advance) that you are “on duty” and “off duty”. I sometimes think this is most important for photographers because people can often impose and say “please just stay a little longer to get more images…” but you need rest too, and you can’t be seen as being on call 24/7 (unless you charged for that) so be sure to establish your schedule and availability in advance.

OK! Please, please add more tips that you’ve learned to be good clauses for destination weddings! So appreciate and I’ll add some into a revised version of this post with your social handle! THANKS (oh and here is a pic from this weekend’s event!)
AAB Creates Destination Wedding In Mexico

Why Required Vendors Are Bad Busines

Posted by on Mar 20, 2015 in Strategy & Advice | One Comment

About a decade ago, it was fairly common for venues to have a list of “Required Vendors”, often this was specific to lighting companies, but sometimes could go as far as required caterers, florists and more.

This was smart business for the old model of wedding planning. First of all, brides and their mothers (who were the main people who were planning weddings a decade ago) appreciated the ease of having a list of proven vendors to create yet another beautiful wedding similar to the others that had been held at your property. Next, there was the quality control factor: you could somewhat maintain your venue’s reputation as producing “elegant” or “flawless” or “luxury” or insert adjective here, weddings, because you could entrust that these vendors counted on your location as a constant stream of busines and would always perform well. Then there was ease for staff: put together the same team weekend after weekend and it is easier. Finally, the BIG ONE: financially, the commission fee that these vendors are paying you is bankable… and if you weren’t taking fees from these vendors, no one believes you aren’t, so you might as well have been.

Today, this goes completely counter to how contemporary wedding planning works and while having “required” vendors MIGHT be working now, it is a business model in it’s twilight, so keep reading and share with a venue manager you love.

First: Couples are now planning their weddings together- brides and grooms, brides and brides, grooms and grooms. The planning of the wedding is a process that the couple not only doesn’t want to just “get it over with” but they look forward to it being a unique expression of themselves. So, assembling a team to give them more of the same of what’s already happened at your property isn’t a selling point for them. Nor is the ease. The process of finding vendors that uniquely “speak” to the story they want to tell is important to them.

Second: The couple is savvy and does a lot of research and has a sense of who is out there that’s a hot “florist” or Music company, etc. In cases where they have formed attachements, your list will turn them off.

Third: This savvy-ness can also translate to mis-trust of things that don’t seem transparent. It feels “fishy” to couples today to have their options limited and you will come across as “shady” or worse, trying to “swindle them” into spending more (this applies to even the Luxury segment). Your assertions of quality control to two self defined savvy individuals aren’t as welcome as they once were, because the contemporary to-be-weds often feel that they are competent enough to assess people’s professionalism on their own.

Fourth: You are limiting your appeal to a set number of couples who only like the style of the weddings that your required vendor team can produce AND you are also limiting the appeal of your venue to couples who might have different priorities financially than those who have booked before. For instance, your “great caterer” that you require might not be as high end as what a potential couple is actually looking for, but they might rather go elsewhere than do a buyout.

Listen, no one will blink at a “Recommended Vendor” list that provides them with options or even a diversified Required List with 3-4 choices in each area of varying styles, but you better have that buy out fee be reasonable… because even in a tight market like New York, I’ve seen Required Vendors Lists leave a bad taste in many a couples’ mouth and they will go elsewhere.
There is always another option.

Trendsetter: Floral Genius Sarah Ryhanen at Saipua

Posted by on Mar 13, 2015 in Florists, Trendsetters | One Comment

I got excited about the re-launch of the blog because the wedding industry focus allows us to resurrect an old wedding industry concept that Modern Bride used to do which was profiling “Trendsetters”… I never knew if brides actually gave a crap about that distinction, but I knew that I certainly did and dreamed of one day possibly being a trendsetter… and then the magazine folded. So, this new direction for the blog gives us the space to recognize trendsetters of all kinds in our industry! Being New York based, I am sadly worried about New York bias, so please send me any trendsetters that I should know about in YOUR area…

Wedding Industry Trendsetter : Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua

Wedding Industry Trendsetter : Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua

A quick tip on how I’m generating this “list”… if you’ve innovated something in business or stylistically… So who better to kick this off than Floral Genius Sarah Ryhanen at Saipua. It’s almost not proper to refer to her as a florist since I really think of her as an artist whose medium is flowers. I think about wedding aesthetic in two ways, BS and AS- before and after Saipua… their loose, wild style changed the whole landscape of weddings and launched thousands of copy cats and acolytes… but I can honestly still always tell a Saipua arrangement from any one elses… there is a signature uniqueness that simply stands out. Having worked with their team dozens of times, it’s not uncommon to watch Sarah and her team forrage in the forest for the right branch or drive for miles to the best Dahlia farm nearby. They are constantly innovating not just in their commitment to showcasing beautiful blooms, but to launching their own floral farm.

How many years have you been in business, and specifically weddings?
We started Saipua in 2006 and did our first wedding in 2007.

What, if anything, is your philosophy about flowers and how do you think that made you diffferent from the landscape when you launched?
I think being self taught was a big thing that set us apart from the rest at the time. I had no preconieved notions about how flowers were supposed to go together so I just did it free form the way I liked it. It made for a different look than the tight, round dome like arrangements that were still really popular at the time.

Do you remember your first wedding and what your budget was?
Absolutely I remember! It was a tiny little wedding at Ici in June. The budget was $700. I’m sure I spend double that on flowers, but the rest was history.
When you first started, the more natural wild style for wedding floral wasn’t really out there… how has it been watching some people do the “look for less” kind of thing and how do you get past it (mentally hang up kind of thing…)
It’s a question I get a lot – but the simplest answer is that “look for less” is actually going to be less. No getting around that. Our clients get folded into our world of flowers both in the city and now at our flower farm — they learn about flowers, visit the wholesale district with us, visit our farm to see their flowers growing in the field, plan their gardens with us…It’s a lot more than just ‘how much is your centerpiece.’
If we were still that, we’d be stuck in first gear. A lot of the new up and coming florists who undercharge serve the purpose of giving those brides on a budget great flowers. The process might be a little simpler, and the finished product a little less considered, but different people value different things. The bride who cares most about having a wedding with a rager of a dance party in the dark might not care as much about flowers and I get that.
Saipua Centerpieces at Virginia wedding

You recently wrote on your own blog that you’ve accepted that for Saipua to do what they do really well, you have accepted that you need a certain budget to do that. We kind of accepted the same thing here over the last couple of years at AaB… can you elaborate and do you feel that that “space” is what enables you to stay innovative/creatively motivated?

It’s really just about the logistics of running a business. The last 10 years of Saipua have been a serious crash course in business! Not my natural forte, but I’m learning slowly. The reality is that with a staff of 7 and a farm and a truck, etc, our overhead has really gotten sizeable. Our expenses are close to 50K a month. To reach that number (and then hopefully profit some) we’d have to do so many small weddings which actually can take a lot of time — sometimes a very small budget bride can consume lots of your time. It’s just a matter of growth — we don’t fit in that model anymore. When it was just myself and eric (my partner) and our pickup truck, those $1000 weddings at Frankies or Ici were great work.
Gruber Photographers, Wedding, Mitzvah, NYC, Event
What are you most excited about for Saipua in the next 5 years?
Any other advice/tips/ things you would share….

The first 10 years of Saipua was really about learning business, how we wanted to run ours. And of course learning about flowers and producing events. We’re really good at those things now. I have access to the best flowers in the world, and a staff who can build the most amazing compositions with those flowers. The next 10 years will be about developing Worlds End, our flower farm upstate. My vision for the farm is not only to grow some of my dream flowers — specimens I can’t get in our market or from other growers — but also to develop the farm as a center for floriculture; with artist residencies, performances, lectures, workshops, etc. We have so much work to do there but so many beautiful people on our side helping us!
Sarah with gorgeous dahlias