This week on Planner’s Lounge, we will share the stories of how four different wedding planners changed the course of their business and careers to better fit their lifestyles and passion. I’m continually fascinated and excited when I hear about event professionals making positive changes to be happier, more successful and less stressed.
My inspiration for this series came from my friend Alicia who co-authors the Flirty Fleurs blog for floral designers. In November, she shared stories from floral designers who made big changes to their business and careers.You can read the first post from her series to get an idea of what was written when they asked floral designers about the same topic. I think many of their stories will resonate with event planners.
Today, I am sharing my story of the changes I have made in the past few years at my planning company, Save the Date Events. In the next few days, I will share stories from other event planners who merged businesses, closed their business (and re-opened) and moved into a corporate event planning job.
I specifically remember sitting at my desk at midnight in July about 3 years ago. I had five big weddings in one month. I had to take a certain number of weddings because I needed to make a specific amount of money. I had an infant daughter, wasn’t getting much sleep and spent all my free time working. It was the first time in my business that I questioned why I was a wedding planner. The fact that such a question would even cross my mind was enough to give me an anxiety attack. After all the hard work I put in to changing careers and starting my planning business, was I really questioning my career choice? I finished working a few minutes later, got some sleep and didn’t think much about it for the next few months. I made it through the rest of wedding season before the thought crossed my mind again. When it did, I knew I had to listen and make some changes.
In the following six months, I raised my prices and brought on more associate planners. At the time, my dream was to have a large event planning business with many associate planners and an office manager. I made it through the next wedding season, made more money but still had a nagging feeling that my business wasn’t making me as happy as it use to. I did some soul searching, read the 4 Hour Work Week along with a few other business books and realized that my dream had changed. I still liked being a planner but my initial goal of having a large business no longer applied. I wanted a successful small business with a few wonderful planners who fit the personality and caring nature of my planning business. I realized that I like to lead and teach but wasn’t very good at managing people. I also craved more free time in the summer to relax, travel and enjoy my family. I hired a studio manager, let a few of the other staff go at my planning company and restructured. The wedding season that followed was much better and I still have the same three lovely planners who were working with me at that time.
Just over a year ago, Sean Low came to Denver for a full day seminar. That seminar and a few follow up sessions literally changed my life. Sean helped me get clear on the big disconnect between what I wanted, what I was good at, what I was marketing and what I was charging. I stopped offering wedding day coordination services, started custom quoting events and focused on our design skills. It was a big leap of faith and pretty damn scary to put a starting price on our website (that same price was previously our maximum price) and not have the security of how we had sold weddings for the previous 5 years. However, we made the leap and it made a huge difference in the types of weddings and clients we had. 2011 was our best year financially and we planned the largest and most detailed events we had ever done. By taking on less clients at a higher rate, I finally found a better work-life balance and didn’t spend nearly as many evenings and weekends working. I also have a rule that no one at my company works more than three weekends in a row during wedding season. Wedding burn-out is not something I want to experience again.
Even though 2011 was a very successful year for my business, it was my most challenging year from a personal perspective. I was starting to feel less excited about planning events and more excited about growing my business and studio. Planning events felt more like real work instead of fun. I also had a strong desire to start something new. I had always liked the idea of teaching and also love blogging and writing. After some soul searching (again), I decided to start Planner’s Lounge and teach my first class in 2011. Both Planner’s Lounge and my classes are very exciting for me and have helped renew my passion for the events industry. They have also allowed me to explore and expand my passion for business and education. Now I can’t wait to start work again on Monday mornings…a feeling that is very important to me. Instead of planning 20 weddings myself each year, I am much happier planning five weddings, planning a few parties, writing for Planner’s Lounge, growing StudioWed and leading my small team of planners. For the weddings and events I do plan, I’m excited about them and have the mental capacity to really focus and do a great job for my clients.
I don’t think I will ever “sit still” in any of my businesses. I crave new knowledge and sometimes that means I end up taking a new direction than what I planned. The biggest lesson I have learned is to enjoy the journey and not worry about the destination.