New Idea Ladies: Work Like a Man

Posted by on Feb 5, 2016 in Blog, Business Advice | One Comment

Around this time last year I read an article about why women in Tech tend to get less funding than men do when they go out to pitch investors, and was astonished and appalled when I read that women tend to be extremely prepared, which comes across as “rehearsed”, while men tend to “wing-it” which somehow gets interpreted as being more able to “roll with the punches” and “confident”.

I found this so interesting that I started reading more about it and found that this same “winging-it” approach that a lot of male executives have is responsible for them speaking up more in meetings, getting more promotions, and making stronger professional networks for themselves. One study written about in The Atlantic found that women only apply for jobs when they feel 100% qualified, while men do so when they are only 50% qualified assuming they will learn on the job.   In an effort to do everything perfectly, it seems a lot of us women have potentially been shortchanging ourselves: of time, money, and even opportunity.

So I decided going into 2015 that I was going to work like a man for the year and see what happened.  What did this mean?  Well, I did a lot more reading on what men and women do differently at work and distilled it to one main thing that I would try: consciously being less prepared.  I starting prepping things about 20% less than I used to- presentations, meetings, pitches, etc.  This was so against my nature that I actually would just force myself to do work in certain time periods so that I wouldn’t be able to micro-focus on things.     Then I decided to not feel guilty about what thing I was neglecting/delegating/not doing to perfection.

Professionally speaking, it was a remarkable year for me.  First, I was amazed at how much more receptive people were to my broad strokes presentations and how much credit for being creative I got with my “off the cuff” ideas.  I discovered that even if I didn’t think I had “figured something out” before I meeting, I actually almost always knew what I was talking about… something that as I moved through the course of the year reinforced my confidence in a way that I believe led us (in part) to ask for more money for our work.

Further, this approach relived a lot of my anxiety about releasing the proposal/presentation to the world, or going to meetings. But more of all, this approach freed up a ton of my time to expand and build on my professional network, volunteer more and enjoy my personal time more.

However, the biggest change was the decision to not feel guilty about not putting in the extra 20% effort…It took a bit of time, but when I realized that my 80% was still pretty awesome and effective, that quickly went away.

Many of us take pride in our perfectionism, so it’s bizarre to think that preparedness doesn’t always work to our advantage… and yet, a look at our Presidential race this year and pin the tail on the candidates people ding for seeming “rehearsed” and “stiff” because they know their policy and those who have gained fans by being “off the cuff”.

Inspiration of the Week: Ghetto Tarot, a project from award-winning documentary photographer Alice Smeets and a group of Haitian artists known as Atis Rezistans.  They recreated Tarot Cards from the Rider Waite deck in Haiti and the results are just amazing.

"Ghetto Tarot Series" The Ghetto Tarot Photo SeriesSix of swords from the Ghetto Tarot series

A Year in Review: Some Small Biz Evaluation

Posted by on Dec 8, 2015 in Blog | 2 Comments

At this time of year, we always have a bit of breathing room to do some self reflection, as I’m sure most of us do, on what we did really well, what we didn’t do so well, what we want to do better in the next year and of course, the age old question of “what direction we want to put energy into”… (which is different than what we can do better.)  Over the years, we’ve found that this tends to be a good and simple set of questions to take stock of things and not to get too myopic.

What We Did Well:

  1. We Produced Great Work, Consistently on a Very High Level.  We produced work that was both very good looking and that functioned really well, all throughout the year.  This was partially the result of three business factors that have nothing to do with our unique design talents:  We charged what we needed to make and didn’t try and make projects work that wanted to undercut our fees; We better compartmentalized individual roles in our team from relationship to design to installation and event management; We refined and organized how we present our ideas to clients and to our team. These changes this year helped the wheels to not fall off when life got crazy, but also gave us a glimpse into how much better and tighter a ship we could be sailing. The Knot Gala by AaB Creates
  2. We Got Great Media.  A goal is to always get your work published, but we definitely went into this year wanting to garner some more non-bridal press and were very happy with the results.  We were in GQ rather prominently, did TV for Univision and TLC and were able to parlay a lot of that into other media like .   This was a mix of receiving the benefits of a decades worth of networking and relative brand consistency, as well as going out there to get it… but more than anything, it was a positive example of knowing both how to pitch and how to adapt your pitch when approached, and I think we’re walking into the new year feeling good about that.
  3. We Began to Take on More Corporate Projects.  Which in turn opened up a new stream of business that is both creatively satisfying and profitable.  In taking more of these projects we’ve learned to get better at bidding on them to, so that was a win.

    An event we did for #microsoftwedding (that actually, our friend Shannon helped connect us with)

    An event we did for #microsoftwedding (that actually, our friend Shannon helped connect us with)

  4. We Grew JAM…sort of.  We saw some great growth for Just About Married at the beginning of the year that was really strong- both in our social media, our press AND, most importantly in bookings.  We even got a strong start in assembling our new teams for JAM’s Los Angeles expansion.

What we DIDN’T Do So Well (And Why):

  1. We then DIDN’T Grow JAM.  While this seems obvious, to grow a company requires a lot of time and shepherding, and when our internal eco-system (which was much more delicate than we had realized) was fully functioning, we had more than enough time and energy to focus on this.  But as soon as distractions emerged and things went haywire, JAM was left a bit flailing, and we saw that the ratio of thought and time spent on it directly impacted it’s growth… something that’s important to us.
  2. We Worked Much Too Hard.  While I attributed number 1 of what we did well to compartmentalizing roles, we realize by December that last time this year we had only scratched the surface of that.  We were loose goosey in who did what and who didn’t do what, and as such, when life shook the eco-system, we weren’t fully prepared with a plan of how to plug that up.  We also realized that we had no good systems for internal communication that didn’t rely on a ton of built up institutional knowledge, so when pushed or in a time crunch, it made it that much harder to effectively plug in new people because it seemed too hard to “explain things”.  That also revealed an even bigger problem, which is that we realized that we sometimes have been too impatient and our desire to “get things done” has short-changed us in a long term growth strategy.  Complete and  utter exhaustion has shown us the value of re-thinking these ways.

What We Did OK. 

  1. We Had to Put a Great Project on Hiatus.  In a rare moment of forgiveness, we had to put pause on Besties in Business- which we do plan on resuming in the New Year- but it was a) hard for us to admit that we had to take something off our plate, even if temporarily b) was actually building up some momentum as a Consulting business, but we couldn’t put energy into something brand new when our core business needed us and our second business did too.   I put this in what we did OK, because we are over-achievers and this rare moment of “you know what, we can’t do everything” probably was a saving grace.

    us on "The Insider" this past summer

    us on “The Insider” this past summer

What We Want to Do Better In the Next Year: 

  1. Obviously, Internal Systems.  We had always been so organic, but seeing just the mere possibility of what more and better structures and roles can do for us internally is so exciting, I suspect that next year on the outside we will look like a very similar business, but inside it will feel a whole lot different.
  2. Not Shy Away From Discomfort of Change.   Growth means a lot of change and that can make people uncomfortable- both internally as you expand your team or change peoples roles slightly- and externally, as sometimes vendor partners themselves can bristle at dealing with someone new on your team.  We’ve sometimes let this halt or slow us down and I think we are in a new place where the goal is to grow revenue and scale our capabilities, and that requires change in how we do things.
  3. Charge in a New and Better Way.   I’ll elaborate on this more in the new year, but we are looking at how and how much we charge and re-calibrating that against how much work everyone on our team actually does to not only make things more profitable but also more transparent to clients.

What “Direction” We Want to Put Energy Into:

  1. For us, working on more Marketing and Brand related events in the New Year is definitely a priority.  It’s been exciting helping to message brand identities through various projects and it’s kind of fun to think about actively pursuing that business for the first time and what that might mean for us.

    Capital Fundraising campaign kickoff for Brown.

    Capital Fundraising campaign kickoff for Brown.

  2. Putting Energy Into Our Team.  Clarifying Roles, bringing on and training new people, improving how we communicate within and without..   It’s actually exciting stuff.
  3. Putting Energy Into Ourselves.  Because, of course.

Would love to hear your goals for the new year and what you’ve learned in 2015!

TLC’s Extreme I Do’s and AaB Creates

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 in Blog | One Comment

Don’t forget to set your DVR as we are getting ready to take over your TV (or you DVR) at 10PM this Thursday (July 30th) when Mayra and I appear on Extreme I Do’s!  The 1 hour special follows three couples and their wedding planners trying to have the most extreme destination weddings they can imagine all across american. From a mountain top to an Alaska Glacier to, you guessed it, a Hawaiian volcano, check out our adventure this Thursday.  Preview below!

Drafting a Strong Destination Wedding Contract

Posted by on Mar 24, 2015 in Blog, Business Advice | 3 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

WPW: What we can all learn from the Kardashians

Posted by on Jul 17, 2013 in Blog, Business Advice | One Comment

Anyone who knows us knows about our obsession with the Kardashians. I must admit that I was the one that dragged Xochitl into this guilty pleasure. They were just too fabulous for me to watch alone! I think I have always been obsessed with them because in so many ways they are just like my family…only with a whole lot more money! They are obsessed with each other, masterfully use guilt as an emotional tool, and are always bickering….yet still always on top of each other.

The other reason that I am obsessed is because I respect their business hustle. Say what you will, they have turned a leaked “home video” into an empire. They may seem ditzy on camera, but these women have business smarts that we can all learn from. Don’t believe me?

1. Look for the Silver Lining- Who would have ever thought that a personal home video with Brandy’s brother would turn her into a household name. Rather than hide under a rock like most people would have, she and her mother parlayed that into a TV show. Sleazy? Maybe, but she could have also gone down as someone in a sex tape, PERIOD. We can all relate to this. I mean, not the video part of this (or maybe you can, to each their own!) but which of us hasn’t been in a bad place? We should always look to turn our negatives into a positive. I guarantee you that your negative is not quite as bad as having the world watch you in such an intimate setting.   Kardashian Lesson: If she can move on, so can you!

2. Know your strengths AND your weaknesses-  Now technically, this should have only been about Kim. However, if you watch the show you know that what makes her compelling is her dynamic with her family. As insane as her body is, and as amazing as those extensions and her make-up artists make her look, she is at her best when surrounded by her sisters. It is their bond that makes her America relate. Momager Kris Jenner is no fool, and I believe that she knew that as far as Kim could get alone, she would go further with her sisters along for the ride. Yet, that couldn’t have been easy on Kim’s ego. She has had to share the limelight, despite having been the one to suffer the humiliation of the tape that got them there in the first place. Yet sometimes it is important to put our ego away for the potential growth of your brand.  Kardashian Lesson: Be honest about your best path to success and put your ego away in order to follow that path.

3. There isn’t a Success Pie- The best thing about this family is that they really do try to bring everyone around for the ride. Every person in their immediate family has benefitted from Kim’s success. Kendell, who is even more stunning than Kim has used the show to launch a modeling career. Also, together with Kylie they have served as brand ambassadors for Seventeen Magazine and have an exclusive clothing collection with PacSun, which is perfect for their age demo. Not to mention Kris Jenner, who this week premiered her talk show Kris which is off to a solid start according to the Hollywood Reporter. Kardashian Lesson: The success of others doesn’t take away from your shine! Help others if you can.

4. You aren’t always a Magician- Try as they might, these ladies just can’t seem to rub their magic off on the men in their lives. It doesn’t matter how many times they try, Scott and Rob just can’t make anything stick. Every season we are tortured as they dabble from one business venture into another. Now, don’t get me wrong! I think Scott has talent, he is by far the best “actor” on this series.  Xochitl and I always shout “For your consideration, Scott Disiac” when we enters the scene. He makes everything better and is also the most likely to go off script, so he always makes things interesting. Yet, it seems that every season has him pursuing a new dream; Scott the restauranteur, the fashion designer, the race car driver. Not to mention Rob. I mean, I can’t even get started here. Yet the ladies seem to, for the most part, have a great attitude about it. They help, but other than help them with social media and encouragement they seem to stay out of the mix.  Kardashian Lesson: Everyone needs to play a role in their own success. Learn that your help with only do exactly that, help. Don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t maximize your help. They just may know how to do so. You did your part!

5. Not everything is a hit- Do you remember the Kardashian Kard? What about the Kardashian collaboration with Bebe? Ever purchase any jewelry from their Armenian inspired Virgin, Saint’s, & Angels collection? Nope? Yeah, you’re not alone. All of these three ventures (and frankly so many others I just don’t have the time to mention) were busts. On their road to their multi-million dollar brand in several niche markets, not every move has been a good fit. However, they are not afraid to throw themselves into new arenas and take their chances with products. I know that sometimes it is hard to stay positive when you feel that you are failing as often as you are succeeding, but it is important to know that the failures will only make you stronger and smarter. Something doesn’t work? You’ll know how to make it better the next time. The most important part is to never stop trying!  Kardashian Lesson: Don’t let a failure get in your way! We all win some and lose some. Just focus on getting back up and playing your best for the next W!