A compilation post collected by WPIC co-founder, Tracey Manailescu.
I asked some of our influential WPIC alumni from all over the world for their top tips for success, and what they would do differently if they could go back in time to when they started out. Everyone has different challenges, strengths and weaknesses in their business, and it was really refreshing to see the honesty and integrity in the responses that I received. The answers were surprising and quite eye-opening.
My top tip is to just go for it!
Events and weddings are all about experience. Volunteer for a planner, friend or event to see if it is for you. Get your feet wet to see if you enjoy the event planning process. Do whatever you can to get some work under your belt to build the portfolio.
If I could go back in time, I might have started planning weddings earlier. I wasn’t sure if the market could sustain wedding planning as a full time career, and, now that I have made the jump, I know that it can be done with the right amount of marketing, promotion, and plain old hard work.
~Rebecca Chan of Rebecca Chan Weddings & Events
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I am often asked about how I found success in the business of events. My answer has always been: consistency. Being consistent in my business strategy, remaining consistent with my brand and our client service offering, and always striving for consistency in an ever changing event landscape that requires you to remain ever evolving.
I have always said that this business requires five years of consistent hard work and effort to see high impact results. Whatever your business and personal goals, commit to them 200% and you will experience success.
I don’t have a formal business education. My entire business has grown out of ‘trial and error’ and somewhat ‘expensive mistakes’. As a business owner, I have learned that there are many key factors that determine success. These include: a strong operational plan (staffing, production schedules, packing lists, defined design process, warehousing/inventory), understanding the pulse of your business (revenue streams, balance sheet, overheads, break even point), a strong brand strategy (marketing, social media content, website design, marketing return on investment), and establishing your signature in a crowded marketplace (defining who you are and what you stand for as a business owner and individual, managing client expectations, personal design aesthetic/planning philosophy).
These four success factors have helped me to become a smart business owner, a responsible business owner, and a business owner with a sustainable business outlook. Whatever success means to you and no matter how you measure it, surround your self with people who love and support you. Those who will applaud as you build your empire but also remind you when you need some tough love. I will continue my own journey of personal and professional development to remain the best ambassador to my business that I can be. After fifteen years, I am excited to see where the future of my business will take me next.
~Paras Mehta of Paras Events
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Always be yourself. You’re selling yourself after all so if you pretend to be another planner, take their systems, their methods, people will always be disappointed when they don’t get what they thought they hired. You’re your best asset so walk in confidence.
Build your company the way you want it to be. Not everyone will have the same business model and that’s ok, even great. Build and structure it the way you want and make sure you scale it to the market and it’s needs (e.g. You might not need that office or full time staff for a few years).
Always keep learning. Whether it’s books, SEO training, learning about trends, how to manage a business/be a boss, social media strategies – always keep learning.
I’m always trying to get myself to sit in my successes longer. It’s so easy to just keep reaching for the next thing. I’m constantly reminding myself that the present is yesterday’s dream. I need to dwell in it longer. To remember when I was dreaming about having staff, my own office, awards, 30 weddings a year, etc. It’s so easy to worry about other things, or want for more and, not cheer myself and my team on and sit in the thankfulness for a good amount of time. It’s been something I’ve been trying to do from the beginning and I’ve always wished I would have done it better. Something to keep doing and keep being thankful for.
Also, I’d tell myself how much patience the job takes and that no matter how long you’ve been doing it you’ll always need to be patient for people to book, with wedding parties, vendors, during the off seasons, etc. In a lot of ways this doesn’t become any easier; it’s just part of being an entrepreneur and Event Planner.~Amanda Douglas of Amanda Douglas EventsWinnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
In my years of being in this business I have been faced with many challenges and overcame numerous obstacles in bringing every couples’ dream into reality. As such, I’d like to share some wisdom with you in hopes that it will encourage you to continue working hard to achieve your dreams and garner success.
Love what you do. When you have a love and passion for your work then it’s not just work. It’s an extension of yourself and your desire to create something amazing for your clients. Once you truly love what you do, It will not only show in your work but in your attitude.
Set Goals and Timelines Set Goals. Not just saying “I’m going to open my business”. That’s just not enough. It’s time to set goals with finite deadlines. This is what successful people do. Do you want to own a business? Set a goal of owning your own business in five years. Successful goals always have timelines.
Gain knowledge in your field. You never stop learning. It’s true what they say…you learn something new everyday. Continue to push yourself and gain inspiration from everywhere. Research like crazy, we have access to so much information. Make use of it. This inspires your creativity. Another key to gaining knowledge in our field is to always sharpen your skill. For example, in 2016 I took a leap to become WPIC Certified. My clients now experiences a service that ensures that there event is stress free.
Market your product with confidence. This is really important…if you don’t have confidence in your own work then no one else will. Be proud of what you do and what you’ve accomplished. Ignore the critics there will be many.
Learn from your mistakes. Believe me.. no one is perfect. Embrace your failures. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. I’ve made countless mistakes but this has never stopped me. Everything is a learning process and we learn by doing. One thing is for certain that I won’t make those same mistakes again.
Be your own competition. The only person you should be trying to be better than is you. Challenge yourself. There is always room for improvement. I always say “My clients deserve a better me than who I was yesterday”.
Surround yourself with successful/positive people. Success isn’t something you can obtain on your own. While you ultimately define your own path, you’re greatly influenced by the people around you. So choose who you associate with wisely.
The one thing I would change if I could go back in time would definitely be the people I surrounded myself with. We are all human. Not everyone has good intentions and want the best for you. Words and actions are two completely different things. So I would have chosen my friends better and be more appreciative of all those who were actually there for me and those who actually wanted us to succeed. If I’d done this then maybe our business would have been in a much better position but like I’ve said, you learn from your mistakes.
I really hope that what I’ve said really inspires and motivates you to be the best you there is, even in difficult times. We all have them and we all have to face them. Overcoming it makes you better and I’d like to wish you all the success there is in all that you do. Good luck and God Bless.
~Anastacia Hackshaw of A’s Creation Events Decor
Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies
What would I have done differently?
If I could go back in time and change anything my advice would be to ensure you clearly outline your scope of work so that nothing is left to assumption. A detailed contract is essential to your success and to ensure that you & your clients are on the same page. I think I would learn to say “no” more often and ensure the client was a good fit. In the beginning of my wedding planning career, I found that I would take on anyone that wanted to hire me, and I definitely provided more services and work than originally agreed upon. It’s a “live and learn” lesson, however those same experiences and lessons shaped how I run my business more efficiently today.
Tips for Success:
My tips for success are to constantly network. Network locally and internationally. Putting yourself “out there” to meet industry and non-industry contacts really propelled my success amd my business as a full time destination wedding planner. It’s important to constantly challenge yourself and set achievable goals. I had a lot of challenges when I first started out in destination weddings; primarily in building my vendor database in the various countries I chose to specialize in. I would attend international conferences and FAM trips (familiarization tours) to expand my network of contacts. When the group I was travelling with would be winding down & going to bed for the night after a long day of tours, site visits and meetings, I would be out setting up meetings with local vendors & creating new contacts in every country I visited.but it was fun! I never felt like it was tiring work. I would hire cab drivers to explore and search for unique wedding venues so that i could also build a venue database in addition to my vendor database. As with local weddings, it was just as important to me to meet every vendor I wanted to work with face to face and build a professional rapport. It all comes down to how successful you want to be…. as you will only be as successful as the effort you put forth. Its important to constantly challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone.
Keep moving towards your goal.
Sometimes as a wedding planner we can find that we get “stagnant”- when things get challenging; you have to commit to moving forward, regardless of your discomfort and fear of the next steps. Moving forward is the only way you will eventually meet your success.
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Don’t waste your time trying to create new systems, new programs- someone has already done that. You can simply purchase and install one, saving your time.
Keep your sense of humor.
When you make a silly mistake, laugh at yourself. Laughing helps with stress and it makes you feel good – you don’t have to take it so seriously. Strengthen your emotional and mental well-being, keep other people from getting under your skin and keep you cool. Then turn it around and kick some ass.If I could go back in time, If I could change one thing, I probably would have added a different language. Learning Hindi would have helped me contribute even more to my business, I could have added that extra “family” feeling to non-English speaking family members of my couples.
~Suzzette Patten of Exquisite Ocassions
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Focus on your business and not what your competitors are doing. Always analyse what is working and not working for your business and be ready to make changes. Listen to your clients wants and needs. They may or may not share your opinions on everything. Learn something new(take a course, read a book etc). Meet new people(different people always have different ideas so expose yourself to others-especially ones doing better than you in any business sector). Surround yourself with the people who are doing amazing things as well as people outside of your industry.
DO NOT copy, be inspired and think of how to make a twist on any trends or ideas.
Never put anyone down (especially on social media) to get a sale. You might get the sale but your reputation in the industry will be tarnished and it reflects poorly on the entire industry. Evolve the business with the current trends, technology and any “needs” or “wants” arising in the industry.
Do not be the jack of all trades and master of none. I have seen the downfall of many of my colleagues because they try and jump on the bandwagon of every idea and trend.
Help your peers/competition. Send a referral, talk positively about them, hire them. I am a perfect example of this. I was a Wedding Planner and have now opened a wedding venue so my competition is now my biggest supporters. My past relationships/reputation with Wedding Planners have now propelled my new business.
Cut out the negative in your life. Whether it’s a person, place or thing, get it out as soon as possible 😊
Go above and beyond for your clients. Not potential clients, your clients who have booked. Spend less time trying to book new clients and more time making your current clients happy.
Stay organized. This is something I am very good at when it comes to Wedding Planning but terrible at when it comes to accounting and the tedious things that are required to run a business (hire a book keeper!)
What I Would Have Done Differently (if I could go back in time)
What I am doing differently this year is I am not being afraid to remove part of my business that I don’t enjoy. If someone can do it better than me, then I am hiring them, if I don’t enjoy it then I cut the service out as it will free me up to do what I love! Something else is that I am cutting out the excessive time wasting of price shoppers and potential clients who will likely not book. Clients are the priority and need to get all of my working time. Only clients who have paid for the Wedding Planning service can receive tips, help, after hours calls/messages. And I am taking a vacation away from being available 24/7 as this can cause major burn out and is not necessary for a Wedding Planning business.
~Jennifer Borgh of Borghinvilla
St. Ann Parish, Jamaica
My top tip for success is consistency. Whether you are a singe planner or part of a team, consistency across the board is critical. This means that the client experience should be defined and the same each time (or better as you progress). Your branding should be clear on each platform that you present your company, and you should consistently post to social media and your blog. If you are sporadic with any of these items, your brand will suffer and potential clients will be unclear about your commitment to your business (and to them).
If I could go back in time, I would have started creating a process for how I manage each aspect of wedding planning tasks under each package that Whim offers. Each year we get better at our tasks and it would be much easier to update processes if they had been created earlier! It also makes training new team members easier, too!
~Alisha Chadee of Whim Event Planning & Design
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
My first tip in regards to the wedding planning industry, is to be true to yourself as a creative individual. As a wedding planner, since 2009, I believe success has come from remaining true to my personal goals and values. I understand why I am doing the work I do, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and where Story Weddings & Events will be 5 years from now.
My second tip is to ensure you are very well suited for your clients, and they are a good match for you. This is extremely important, as wedding planning requires a healthy, compatible partnership.
It is perfectly okay to decline opportunities that are not the right fit.
I am quite fortunate that my past clients have been really wonderful to work with, and I love them all dearly, but I have heard some horror stories from other wedding planners.
The screening process is key!
~Hevin Anne Mueller of Story Weddings & Events
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Stay relevant! Educate. Educate. Educate. When in doubt educate some more. Keeping up to date on the latest trends and techniques in your industry niche will keep you on top of your game!
Stay Social! Apart from the well-known benefits of social media and having a consistent presence don’t forget to be Social! Networking with industry professionals is a must for creating a great pool of professionals to work with.
Stay Sweet! All the skills and thrills that you offer will all be in vain if your Customer Service is not on point. Clients need to feel appreciated. Remember the famous Maya Angelo quote “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but, they will never forget how you made them feel”
Stay True! There will never be another you. Stay true to who you are and what your brand represents. Don’t try to be anything you are not. How would you like to be remembered? Keep that in mind and you’ll be off to a fantastic 2018!
What would I have done differently if I could go back in time?
I would have joined groups on social media a lot earlier. The whole community over competition movement is an awesome networking opportunity. It provides a wealth of resources, information and best of all the camaraderie is second to none!
~Sandra Sardinha of Daisy’s Flower Shop
Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies
My secret to success is two-fold: Creating partnerships and learning from others’ experiences and mentorship. I would not be where I am today (and continuously growing) had it not been for joining forces with colleagues and vendors to ensure mutual quality for our clients. For example when I coordinate the travel for a destination wedding, I do not also do the planning and vice versa. I spent way to much time being a Jill-of-all-trades instead of focusing on what would a: benefit the client the most & b: focusing on one job to ensure a quality experience for the client. I did gain a ton of wisdom from it for sure, but I could’ve learned faster if I took the advice of those more experienced than me at face value. Currently, I work with amazing planner partners when I’m hired in a travel agent role and likewise great vendors when planning, to fulfill our mutual clients’ wishes smoothly and coherently.
Listen more to other entrepreneurs (regardless of the type of business) and pay attention to what works and more importantly what doesn’t work for them. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. The beauty is that they have gone through it and are sharing with you so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
~Denise Georgiou-Newell of WeDDings & Travel Jubilee
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
If I could go back in time I don’t think there is much I would have done differently. It is due to my experiences, both good and bad, that I am who I am today. Here are my five top tips for success:
1. Be Fearless – Don’t let your insecurities hold you back. We can often be our worst enemies. In order to be successful you have to be willing to put yourself out there and be audacious as a mofo.
2. Fail – Obviously we all have our wins and losses but I believe it’s those who dust themselves off and learn from their mistakes that have what it takes to be successful.
3. Define What “YOUR” Success Is – Because everyone defines it differently. It’s also important to re-evaluate what success means to you each year as it does change with life experience. Everytime my definition of success changes it usually also means a shift in my business.
4. Work Smart – Try to avoid making obvious mistakes that could be easily avoided by a small amount of research. Whether it’s adding a new product or service, hiring someone, getting an office, or getting a line of credit to grow your business, make sure you aren’t making decisions about your business motivated by your ego.
5. Be Innovative – This I think is one of the most important things. Whether it’s your approach or philosophy or a product or service that sets you apart, being innovative in your field and how you approach your business is a recipe for success.
~Arthur Kerekes of Fusion Events
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
For me, the biggest key to success as a wedding vendor is to focus on what you really love doing most and go all in.
When I started out, I had a very general idea of which types of weddings we wanted to do. I was thrilled booking all types of destination weddings with foreign clients, regardless of size, venue and style. After a few years working with a very broad target market, I started looking back to see which events we were most excited about to see where we wanted to take our business.
- What types of weddings do we love doing? Which ones not so much?
- Which services are our specialities?
- Which venues do we most enjoy working at? Why?
- Who are the event planning and vendor teams we are excited to work with?
- How do we want to be perceived in our field? What do we want to be known for?
Focusing our energy on what we are awesome at and what we love doing has been the most important element in the success of our business today. It has changed every decision we make, from how we customize our services for our target market, to our company branding, to how we market our company on social media, which sites we choose to advertise on and which fellow event professionals we team up with. (to name a few!)
I no longer feel that I have to book every inquiry that comes our way, but focus on those that I know we would be a good fit for. Turning down an opportunity or not getting booked for an event doesn’t worry me because I understand and accept which events we would be perfect for and when there might be another vendor who would be a better match for what the clients are looking for.
What I would do differently if I could go back in time.
If I could go back to when I was starting, I would advise myself to focus 100% on what we want to accomplish with our business and not waste time worrying about what anyone else is doing. It can be hard sometimes not to get sidetracked comparing yourself with other vendors, or worrying about doing things differently from what has become expected in your area. Since we have identified which kinds of events are our style, I understand that we are not in competition with anyone else. We just need to focus on what we do best and rock it.
Not every couple that contacts you is meant to be your client. The right ones will find you, you just have to believe 1000% in the service you are providing. Know that you do it like no one else does, and genuinely love what you do. The rest will fall into place.
Katherine Neumann of PLUG IN AUDIOVISUAL
Riviera Maya, México
Seize the moment and Act on it:
Given how busy most of us are, and how we juggling everything at once. It is important we have our sixth sense on so we do not miss any opportunities that come along. Act on them it may be the way to your ultimate goals. My motto is if I want to achieve my goal it means grabbing it by the horns and going with it. I would be more upset if I let it slip through my fingers. Seizing the moments, is deciding when and where you will take each action you need/want to take.
~Daniela Caputo of Montreal Event Planner
Montreal, Quebec, Canada