If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I was fortunate enough to attend the Engage!10 luxury wedding business summit at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman last week. Created and produced by Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce of Engaging Concepts, the event was a chance to connect with many amazing friends, both old and new, in the wedding industry.
I posted a recap with some beautiful images of the conference and the Cayman Islands over on Elizabeth Anne Designs, but here on Edit and Post I wanted to delve into just a few of the recurring themes from the conference and my insights and takeaways based on the panel discussions and conversations with other attendees.
On the very first day in the very first panel discussion, Harmony Walton posed a question to a small group of us: “Where do you want to be in 10 years?” I sat there, relatively clueless, awaiting my turn to answer and wondering what the hell I’d say.
Because the truth is, I HAVE NO IDEA.
And you know what? I am OK with that.
During the past ten years my life has changed in ways that were both completely expected and incredibly surprising. I love the thrill of the unexpected. I thrive on change, constant revision, and self-examination. I came away from Engage! with several budding ideas of ways to change my business, and if I had a “goal” that I was single-mindedly set towards, I may not have been open-minded to these new strategies.
Know that the wedding industry is changing faster than we can even realize. Are you ready to change with it?
So many of the conversations that I participated in throughout the conference centered around growing your business when you provide a personal service. One conversation went like this:
Her: “I went back to work 5 days after having my baby because my clients needed me.”
Me: “Don’t you have a team working with you on the client’s wedding?”
Her: “Yes, but they only wanted me.”
Me: “Then you’re doing something wrong.”
So I tend to make blunt statements and brash generalizations, but here is my point (which I clarified to her during this conversation). There is only so much of you to go around. If you are giving a little piece of yourself to each and every client, soon you won’t have anything left. This is when burnout occurs. This is why businesses become stagnant.
I’m guilty of this – we are all guilty in one way or another – but it’s so important to keep perspective in an entrepreneurial business. In order to grow, you must find, train, and give creative control to your team. You must trust them. If you don’t trust them, how will your client trust them? And if your client doesn’t trust them, how will you be able to let go and focus on growing your business?
Are you giving a little piece of yourself to each of your clients? How many pieces do you have left?
One of my personal action plans from the conference is to put a great deal of thought into diversifying my business from the rest of my industry. Perhaps because it was so applicable to me, this subtle thought stood out to me as a conference “theme”, if there is such a thing at Engage!.
What am I doing to differentiate my business?
In the first moment of interacting with my business, do you see what I want you to see?
How do I stand out from the crowd?
If you are in the wedding industry and are considering attending an Engage! event, I would definitely recommend it. Engage! is not a “how to” or “what to” conference. Rather, it is a thought-provoking environment that allows you to connect with like-minded industry professionals and gives the opportunity for reflection on your business.
As small business owners, even if you aren’t going to handle your own accounting, it’s important to understand the basics of your finances so that you can determine how your business is performing. Let’s start with some accounting language and terminology.
Your accounting records are kept in what is called the general ledger. The general ledger is made up of several ledger accounts (also known as accounts or G/L accounts). Each ledger account is populated by journal entries. Each journal entry must balance to zero.
A journal entry is created for every transaction in your business, and each account is either debited (abbr: DR) or credited (abbr: CR).
Each ledger account is classified into one of five account types: Assets, Liabilities, Equities, Revenues, or Expenses. These account types all have natural balances that are debits or credits. The total of all of your G/L accounts must balance to zero.
The natural balances of each account type are:
Don’t think of debits and credits as additions and subtractions. Simply think of debits and credits as increases and decreases to the natural balance of an account.
A debit will always be a positive number. A credit will always be a negative number. The total of the debits and credits in a journal entry will always balance to zero. This insures that you have recorded all aspects of the transaction appropriately.
Confused yet? Let’s do some examples from our everyday lives.
You go to Whole Foods and spend entirely too much money on baked goods (oh wait, is that just me?!). You pay cash.
Grocery expenses are increasing, because a debit increases the natural balance of an expense account, and cash is decreasing, because a credit decreases the natural balance of an asset account.
You find your dream home and go to the bank for a loan. The home costs $150,000 and you pay a $20,000 cash downpayment.
|Credit||Payable to Bank||-130,000|
You are increasing an asset, your real estate account, by $150,000. But you now have a liability to the bank for $130,000 (remember, credits increase liabilities) and your cash balance decreased by $20,000.
You sold someone a book for $20, they paid with cash.
Assets, with a natural debit balance, and revenues, with a natural credit balance, are both increasing in this transaction.
So what do you think – are debits and credits starting to make sense? Next up in this series, we’re going to chat about financial statements (excited yet?).
I spent five days in Las Vegas last week for the fabulous WPPI conference. Five days in the land of smoke and slot machines is a bit too long, but I digress… Las Vegas is one of those interesting places, economically. Hotels are luxurious and relatively inexpensive, yet restaurants and shows are exhorbitant. The casinos will give you free drinks, even at the penny slots, but a cab down the road is $20. So what can we learn from Las Vegas about how to run our business?
Whatever it is that you’d like people to consume, you want to find a hook – something that keeps them coming back for more. Is it your amazing photography? The unique and creative product that you are selling? Your sparkling wit and dazzling intelligence?
How are you drawing people in to your blog or business website? What are you doing to keep them there? Are you:
- Putting out good products or information on a consistent basis?
- Creating “sticky” content? As people find your site, do you lead them through to other content by using related post functionality or backlinks to other content?
- Providing something that gives them immediate gratification? For example, if someone reaches your website through a google search for “Seattle wedding photography”, are Seattle weddings what they see when they get there?
- Showing them who you are, what you do, and how to get in touch with you through easy to find links?
Casinos have this one down, don’t they? Not only does the free liquor make people feel as if they are receiving some sort of value for their time and money, but it impairs their judgement. We’ll skip the fuzzy memories and the “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” attitude and focus on the giving piece of the equation.
Customers are more likely to buy your product if they have seen tangible proof that your work is fabulous.
People are more likely to pay for supplementary content if your free content rocks (think e-books, magazines, etc).
Give people something of value to them, whatever that something is (a discount, a sample pack, a great shopping bag — hello, lululemon!) and they are far more likely to purchase from you in the future.
Anyone who’s ever walked between casinos in Las Vegas knows this one. Hence all the tourists in fanny packs and sneakers.
If you’re like me, you tend to underestimate the time it will take to get something done. “Just 5 more minutes” turns into a half-hour of editing a blog post, or responding to emails. I also overestimate the energy that I will have to devote to projects on an ongoing basis.
Budget your time as well as you budget your money. Make sure that you accurately assess the effort it will take to reach your goals, or complete your daily tasks. Pushing to reach the finish line is a great thing, but not if you are exhausted and tapped out in the end. I’m not an advocate of “slow and steady wins the race”, more like “focused and controlled helps you reach your goals faster”.
You shouldn’t be gambling your life savings away. We’re not even talking huge leaps of faith here, although it could be.
It may be the daily risk of putting yourself out there on your blog. Or the risk of creating a new product line that stretches your business boundaries. Or even something as simple as taking a small capital risk by advertising on a new website or attending a conference.
- How are you taking risks in your business?
- What are you doing to invest in your success?
- Are you committed to your business strategy, even if there are obstacles?
What else can Las Vegas teach us about business?
We all work or blog in industries that require a unique perspective in order to succeed. We don’t produce commodity products, we work with clients who want a fresh and informed opinion or idea.
Due to the speed of information movement in today’s society and the low barriers to entry in many industries, competition is increasing at exponential rates. If you create a product, that product will be copied. If you have a wonderful blog that enjoys success, it will inspire others to blog and connect in that circle. If you are a graphic designer, individuals with access to the same tools and technology will use your ideas. What are you putting out there to make sure people choose you?
There’s an economic principle called competitive advantage, which says that firms that succeed have some form of advantage over their competition – an ability to add more value, therefore bringing in and retaining more customers (or more readers, if you are blogging). One of the keys to success in business is to find your competitive advantage early and exploit it.
You may have a faster product assembly or access to better materials. Or perhaps it’s more intangible than that – relationships that you have cultivated or a creative spin on an idea that you’re able to take to market with great speed.
What is your competitive advantage? How are you exploiting it for your business? Can it be replicated?
Let’s face it, a lot of us are fans of horrible reality TV, including The Bachelor. But we if dive in a little closer, we can see that we can actually learn something from Jake’s journey…
As the Bachelor, Jake had 25 amazing women to choose from. Of course, his connection was stronger with some than with others.
So how does this translate?
Not every client is your client.
Not every potential sponsor is right for you.
Not every guest blogger fits your aesthetic.
Not every blog/website/magazine/etc is a good fit for your advertising needs.
It took me a long time to come to terms with this. It’s hard to feel comfortable with saying no! But in the long run, it’s in your best interest to know your business or your blog well enough to make an informed decision about who you should work with and where best to spend your time and money.
Polls showed that most viewers wanted Jake to choose Tenley. But he followed his heart instead and proposed to Vienna.
There will inevitably be a time where you have to choose a path for your business. Perhaps it’s a price increase, a geographic move, or a new product you want to introduce. Your decisions won’t always be popular among the masses, and that’s OK. If you have evaluated and determined your course of action – stick to your gut and believe in yourself, because what’s right in everyone else’s eyes isn’t always the right choice for you.
Ali found this out the hard way when she had to make the decision whether to stay with Jake or go back to her job.
One of the most difficult problems faced in business is when to let go – of an idea, of an employee, of a product line, etc. There is no “right” answer, it’s of course different in each situation, but the key is learning to recognize when it’s time to cut the cord, and when you make the decision, confront the problem directly, make an action plan, and follow through.
On episode 1 of this season’s Bachelor, the all-important initial first-impression rose went to Tenley, who as we know, was one of the final two ladies.
We all know the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. It’s cliche, but it’s true. Most first impressions are now made online, when someone is researching service providers or reading past reviews of products. Potential customers or clients may find your Twitter feed, personal blog, Facebook page, and of course your website.
How do you present yourself online?
How does your website/blog reflect on your business?
Is the branding consistent with your intended message?
Is what they see representative of what they get?
Of course, there are many other life lessons we can learn from The Bachelor, most of which are quite obvious to non-reality-TV contestants. :) What did you learn from this season of The Bachelor?