Last night I went to see our friend Marcy Blum speak at a panel/symposium the Event Leadership Institute put together. She, Colin Cowie, Ceci Johnson and Tara Guerard all spoke about various aspects of being in this business at the luxury level. It was all interesting and entertaining, but one thing that came up in Colin’s interview was something that we’ve spoken about with Marcy, amongst ourselves and that I’ve spent many a run working through in our mind. Here was his simple statement: “We all know that a great event doesn’t necessarily mean a happy client.” The moderator took that to mean that, yes, a client can be unhappy with the process leading up to the event and have a bad taste in their mouth regardless of the final outcome… which is true. But, I understood another, implied meaning: there are simply some clients that are NOT happy: With their lives, with themselves, with their parents or their children… and no amount of fabulous thrown on a tabletop is going to change their life outlook.
One of the dangers of working in this industry is that it inherently draws individuals/ business owners who find satisfaction in a job well done, AND part of the job is satisfying your client. That isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself, but it can be personally destructive when you allow 100% of your sense of satisfaction to lay in your clients’ post event sense of happiness with you or gratitude to you. Sure, it’s great when you get taken for a tasting dinner at Del Posto and given a pair a fabulous shoes (this has happened to us), but it’s horrible when you actually never see, hear or even get an email from a client again even after everything was perfect and the wedding was published in several magazines (this has ALSO happened to us.) One could drive oneself mad (and I have) playing the day over and over in ones mind wondering “Did I do something?” And yes… this does feel like a bad relationship.
It’s easy to get myopic about a giant wedding or event, and stress the importance of your role in the day (and it IS important) BUT, you must remember that there is so much about the day and how it’s interpreted as a “success” or not that has nothing to do with you. Add to this the fact that your client isn’t necessarily just the bride, or the groom, but several sets of parents and step parents and you now have too many factors to control. Here are a few factors that effect peoples “sense” of a “perfect day” in no particular order: they spent more than they wanted to and now have to deal with the bills, the new stepmother looked better than the mother, the mother resents that they hired you, the sister resents that they hired you, the mother looked better than the stepmother, the father didn’t show up and the bride is sad, the father DID show up and the bride is sad, the parents don’t care for the new spouse, the spouse doesn’t care for the new spouse, they have a nasty relative that keeps complaining about nothing, their sister keeps complaining about nothing, someone keeps complaining about nothing (possibly because they themselves are jealous/angry/ unhappy). You get my point.
So, am I saying to not care about the client? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, I am saying that it’s important to find satisfaction and contentment in your work based on standards that aren’t SOLELY reliant on your clients’ responses. You can’t put all your happiness eggs in the fragile basket of several highly emotional parties. People bristle at the words “emotional detachment” because it’s misinterpreted as “cold” or “uncaring”, so I’m going to introduce you to a sanskrit word called “Vairagya”… I learned it in yoga class. It basically means not being emotionally hostage to the result of things. Theoretically, it goes that if you practice good karma, you should be calm and content with the results and not anxious. Put in work terms: If you have a high set of standards for your work, and you and the client have clearly delineated your goals for the wedding or celebration AND you did your very best at each step along the way and on the day… then, when it’s all over and you are breaking down the tent, you can feel satisfied and confident that you met (and exceeded) your marks. Your clients emotional response to your work can then be ONE factor in how you assess if it was a job well done instead of THE factor.
And, frankly, I have to say that in some ways, Vairagya at work can result in even more satisfied clients… because it inherently brings a more professional, goal oriented nature to the relationship versus a more confusing, people pleasing, emotionally reactive relationship. Lest word get out on the streets that AAB doesn’t care about their clients being happy, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m truly joyful when they are joyful – but in those weird, infrequent, occasions when we maybe never hear from them again and we never get the proverbial pat on the back despite everything being on the mark, this attitude allows us to more calmly accept that, well, maybe it wasn’t about us.