When I sold my first business I swore I would never do it again, which is what most experienced entrepreneurs say right before we start our next venture.
So, I wrote a cookbook after my catering business was behind me and that spun off into Events by Bella. Initially planning events was just a way to create some income for our family and allow my husband and I to have flexibility traveling together. As it grew a little, I knew I was going to at least want an assistant but hadn’t taken any formal steps to hire anyone.
That’s when I accidentally hired my first employee.
When I say ‘accidentally’, I mean I wasn’t really looking or planning to bring anyone on at that time and then out of the blue, a woman relocating to my area reached out to me directly. She and I met for lunch and she was quite the saleswoman. She could sell herself or anything to anyone. After our lunch, I thought a lot about what I wanted and the big picture of the business started to form. I offered her a position which was basically a little of everything, but I wanted her to take the lead on planning events and I wanted to take a step back and begin forming a structured company.
The funny part of this story is that when I offered her the position she responded by saying she wanted to “partner”. Beware of this, she had no idea what partner meant. She did not understand tax write-offs, P&L, ROI, and had questionable customer service (I found out later). She was really just looking for someone to help her get her own business started, I made the mistake of opening my entire business up to her and even with an independent contractor agreement protecting me, she still stole strategy, ideas, and even the pictures from an event she did for me. It was disappointing and frustrating, but a lesson learned all the same. She stayed on for about 4 months, but it was enough time to build my team including my Senior Planner and an Intern who became my Director of Operations.
After a couple of mistakes and bad hires, I started to understand how I wanted to hire the team and who should fill those roles. I have lost a couple really quality employees along the way because I couldn’t pay them what they needed, but you have to have faith in your plan. You have to be prepared to fill in as your Senior Planner’s assistant and at the same time, you have to swallow your fear and take it to the next level.
My CEO title came into full force when I hired my first two Senior Planners and promoted my star intern to Operations Director. She gave me the ability to do things like write and network more because she took over so many of the things that took up half my day.
I am only planning now for one venue that I have a close relationship with. All my other clients are handled by other planners. I am now getting ready to hand off my exclusive venue clients as well.
My best piece of advice if you want to go from Planner to CEO (Chief Executive Officer) – You have to enjoy the process of running a business and not just the planner duties. There are a ton of books on this particular topic and the first one I read resonated with me deeply. You cannot work “in” your business and work “on” your business at the same time. You have to take a step back, learn when and what to delegate, understand the precise nature of your business, competition, and what you offer to clients that sets you apart.
As the Chief Executive Officer, you are the person who sets the strategic direction of the business. You are the one who has the vision from the beginning.
You will never become the number one planner in your region or the premier destination planner if you are consumed with vendor calls, bridezillas, and venue visits. Start off by defining your purpose, mission, vision, and values of the company as a whole, then implement that into your brand. It sounds more daunting than some of it really is. You are likely doing a lot of it now and don’t even realize it!
This is a guest post by Amanda DeVivo. Amanda is the owner of Events by Bella in Charlotte, NC. She has positioned herself as an industry expert over the past 12 years. After leaving her catering business, Amanda took time off to write and produce an Italian cookbook. That book along with her passion for entertaining, food, and wine inspired her to build a five-star event planning firm with an amazing group of professionals.
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