Not Everyone is Cut Out to Run a Business, and That's Okay.

Everyone wants to own a business these days, and I certainly understand the appeal - scheduling freedom, no bosses, the list goes on. We see this a lot in the wedding industry. Like, A LOT. But here's the thing: not everyone is cut out to run a business, and that's okay. 

This post today is geared towards those of you who might need to reconsider you choice or desire to own a business. I want you to know that it's perfectly okay to change your mind, to acknowledge that your skill set doesn't line up with being a business owner (especially in the wedding industry, which is incredibly demanding!), and then gracefully walk away. 

I see this a lot with wedding planners. Doesn't it sort of seem like every spring, a whole host of freshly graduated young women all realize their life long dream has been to become a wedding planner? The romance! The prettiness of it all! I, too, was one of these people. 

But then reality hits: you find yourself in a highly saturated luxury market and it seems like the only thing you can do to stand out is to slash your prices (that's a whole other topic, but let me just briefly say: there is a time for lower than industry average pricing when you're just starting to with minimal experience, but you need to gradually increase those prices with every wedding that you book. Slashing your prices only does major damage to your industry as a whole, plus, you deserve to be paid for your work!). And after slugging stuff around for like 15 hours straight, in a dress, with a smile on your face, and probably in the hot sun, you realize that the job of a wedding planner is actually not really about the pretty. And it's actually pretty stressful. And there are a lot more personalities that you have to manage than you ever expected. And on top of all that, you realize that you haven't responded to those incredibly time-sensitive emails in 3 days, you haven't been able to stay on top of your appointment calendar, and you still haven't booked a meeting with that bakery for that client you keep forgetting about and the stress is building and building.

The logistics of running a business aren't that easy, and everyone has a different skill set. For some of us, getting down and dirty in the sun is incredibly rewarding but we can't keep up with the emails and the phone calls and the scheduling. And for those of you who resonate with that, you might just not be cut out to run a business. 

While you could spend a serious amount of time and money trying to get yourself organized and learn how to run your business, you might be better suited to work for someone else. There is absolutely NO shame in learning that you work best without the pressure of keeping the ship upright. You'll likely find that you enjoy your work so much more when you don't have to worry about keeping the mother of the bride happy or when you don't have the stress of all of those time sensitive emails on your mind. 

Maybe all that you want is to be happy in your work. If that's true, then I'll tell you this, friends: you're most likely going to be a lot happier being able to just work than have to run everything. 

So, is this you? Maybe it's time for a change. No matter what area of the wedding industry you're in, you have options. Photographer? Join an established photographer as an associate. Wedding planner? Almost every established planner in your city needs an assistant who they can trust wedding days to. Makeup artist? So many makeup businesses (especially mobile ones!) have a desire to grow their team in order to service a larger number of clients. It's all about finding the right fit for you.

Why It's Important to Celebrate Our Successes

Celebrating our successes is a surprisingly challenging thing to do, but I'm learning more and more how important it is for everyone, but particularly, for creative entrepreneurs like you and I. I recently wrote about this on my instagram, after receiving an award at the 2018 Team Flower Conference:

"Proud moment here :) Last week at the #teamflowerconference, I took part in the Designer of the Year challenge and I was awarded winner of the Mastery of Communication category. There were several different tasks that we had to complete (including a timed boutonniere race...talk about stress, ha!), and those of those tasks were an interview and a mock proposal. I was selected for this award because of the way that I was able to understand my "client" and communicate my ideas to her, as well as communicate my thoughts and ideas well in the interview. 

This was such an affirming moment for me. I've often thought that I may not be the best designer, but I'm a REALLY good business owner. I take really good care of my clients, and I always want to create something unique for them, so I really need to listen to them and then dream for them. Knowing now that other people in my industry also feel that I do a good job of this was so reassuring and reminded me of where I'm taking Stone House Creative. So thank you, @teamflower for such a life-giving experience which has filled me so, so much joy! (PS I don't know about other adults out there, but I feel like it's really hard to accept being proud of yourself because it feels very selfish and almost conceited. I'm trying to learn that it's okay to be proud.)"

 

I talked about this recently on the Team Flower blog, with the article below. I'm willing to bet that some of these thoughts resonate with you, not matter what segment of the wedding industry you work in.

 Super cute pic of me and my new flower friend,  Elizabeth,  at the Team Flower Conference. Photo by  Laura Foote Photography .

Super cute pic of me and my new flower friend, Elizabeth, at the Team Flower Conference. Photo by Laura Foote Photography.

Flower orders. Stem counts. Proposal writing. How much did I charge for that bridal bouquet again? Recipe writing. Figuring out how to make each wedding look different from the last one. How many stems of spray roses go into that arrangement? Delivery schedules. Taxes. Bridezillas. Momzillas. Right, I have to remember to update the website with that new offering. Oh, and call the wholesaler to see where that vase shipment is. Where did I leave my clippers?

The floral industry is so go-go-go (EDIT: THE WEDDING INDUSTRY IS SO GO-GO-GO, amiright??). I’ve never met a florist who hasn’t resisted the urge to laugh each time we are told, “it’s my dream to be a florist in retirement!” This comment usually comes right when we’re in the middle of sweeping floors, bleaching buckets, lifting heavy boxes of vases, and trying to get sap off our hands while at the same time nursing an aching back and hoping the phone doesn’t ring so we can finally finish just one task.

It’s really easy to get bogged down, and the result is that we forget to celebrate our successes. We’re always looking and thinking ahead to the next wedding, the next event, the next field to weed, the next prospective client meeting that we want to book, and the next accountant meeting. While I don’t think this is a bad thing, it means that we frequently forget to stop and smell the roses — literally!

One of the things that, as floral designers, we love the most about flowers is their fleeting beauty. Here today, gone tomorrow — literally. Their ephemeral nature is what makes flowers so, so special. Yet, we forget about this!

For example, when I started my business, I made a goal of booking 2 weddings for that year. I booked 30. How did I celebrate? Ummm. Maybe I bought a sandwich? Another example; at my largest wedding to date, I took a minute to look around when we were close to finishing setting up. I was really proud. It was my first booking with a floral budget over $10,000! There were some fun installations and a bride who trusted me to do whatever I wanted. It was the first wedding I needed to rent a big van for. It was a really big deal! However that moment of pride lasted for about 35 seconds. Why? I looked up at the wedding planner, expecting to receive some words of praise or gratitude, but instead saw only stress and frustration in her eyes. I’m sure it was not about the flowers — I’ll be honest, they were gorgeous — but rather about something else going on because it was a large wedding with a lot of vendors involved. However I let that wedding planner’s emotions affect the way I thought about the wedding, and pretty soon, I was down on myself. I didn’t celebrate that success for days.

So today, I’m spending some time thinking about my successes. For my business, 2017 saw 61 completed weddings (with only one complaint!). I hired my first freelance designer, worked on a chaotic but fun semi-destination wedding, and increased my average wedding budget by $1000, which is a huge deal in my small city! I played a major role in creating beautiful wedding days, saw many of my past couples give birth to their first children, and two who started their own businesses. About 90% of my clients let me have complete and total freedom on their flowers (aside from color palette, of course!) and all summer long, I worked in the fresh air with beautiful flowers and fun colors. You know what? I’m pretty proud of myself.

It’s a challenge to set time aside to celebrate yourself and the things you’ve done. That one complaint I got this year? I still think about it, and let it consume me. I’m constantly looking forward and thinking about how I’m going to reel in the next booking. Believe me; you’re not the only one who gets stuck!

With all that said; I want to hear your successes! Comment below and don’t be afraid to brag. After all of the hard, hard work that we do, we deserve to shout out about ourselves a bit. What are you proud of?

The Power of a Strong Referral Network

I initially wrote this post for Team Flower, an educational resource for floral designers around the world. It's obviously written from my perspective as a floral designer, but my belief in the power of a strong referral network is something that transcends industries. No matter what area of the wedding industry you reside in, you shouldn't be alone - no one is an island! It's time to find yourself some colleagues whose businesses and mindsets align with yours, so you can experience what I have.

Before we dive in, I wanted to share a few thoughts from Kelly at Team Flower: 

"When Lauren reached out with her proposal for this post, I knew it would be good. Lauren was the first person ever to register for a Team Flower Workshop. I could tell when I met her that she would be a leader in Canada, bringing life and renewal to the flower industry in a way that was yet to be seen. She is! So, when Lauren wrote to tell me she wants to encourage fellow florists to be kind and genuine with the florists in their local markets my heart naturally filled up and popped all over the kitchen table.

See, kindness is something you remember. It’s a beautiful circular process that is just good for the world. You are kind, it values another human life, then a natural by-product is being unforgettable! This “unforgettable” quality about you is good for business, bringing more opportunities to be kind and the cycle continues. Having a kind relationship with the florists in your market is powerful, and I’ll let Lauren tell you why…"

The Power for a Strong Referral Network - Stone House Consulting

As floral designers, we are blessed to see much beauty around us, every day. Yet, for days filled with pretty things, our industry can be downright nasty sometimes, can’t it? There seems to be a constant battle between retail florists and studio designers, a tug-of-war between long-established shops and young companies. I’ve been lucky to experience only a little bit of this negativity since launching Stone House Creative 4 years ago. However in that time, I’ve also experienced an incredible amount of positivity, support, and encouragement. All this is not just from wedding vendor friends, but a group of wonderful floral designers and business owners who I lovingly refer to as my “Flower Friends." These women are my COMPETITION, but who have created a real COMMUNITY that I’m honored to be a part of.

The week I started my business, I received a text from a gal who owns a similarly structured business — home studio, florals specifically for weddings, and who had been in business for 5 or 6 years already. I hadn’t known her well at all previous to this text, so what did she want? To ask if it was okay for her to refer brides to me when she was already booked up. UMMM yes. It didn't take me long to know that I was lucky to have had this message from her, as the referrals starting pouring in. I can’t tell you how grateful I was for this simple message and the brides that she started sending my way. These referrals allowed my business to grow exponentially in my first year of business. I had a goal of booking two weddings that year, and I ended up with 30!

These referrals weren't only beneficial to me. The brides who came to me were so incredibly appreciative that she helped to connect them with another designer with a similar aesthetic. Many of them were excited to hear that I was a small, woman-owned business as well! She continues to refer brides to me, and over the last four years, we’ve developed a group of Flower Friends who all refer to each other when we’re booked up.

Our group of Flower Friends likes to get together as we can. Each summer, we visit the flower farm that one of us owns, and spend the day cutting flowers in the sun and chatting. A few winters ago (when these photos were taken), I had the idea to try something a little different — a design day with surprise flowers. We decided on a loose color palette, then sent that along with a total budget to our wholesaler (who chipped in some extra flowers that he wanted to test!). That day we had the opportunity to get creative together, enjoying each other’s company while doing something relaxing for each of us — design! We talked shop, talked about exciting projects we had coming up, got in each other’s way and just had a lot of fun.

In my Flower Friends group, we have two studio designers, one flower farmer with an at-home shop, and one retail shop owner. We rent containers to each other, we all buy flowers from the flower farmer and share sources for unique items. We hear each other’s complaints, share tips, and get together for lunch every few months. Sometimes we quote on the same weddings, but in the end, the fact that we’re all technically competition doesn’t matter to any of us because of the community that we’ve developed. The support that we’ve been able to give each other has caused each of our businesses to grow and has given us a network of comfort that we know we can rely on in a pinch. 

So, here’s your challenge: consider what community over competition would look like in your local industry. Get together for coffee with a couple of your local peers, and just have fun together!

Florists: 
Lauren Wiebe of Stone House Creative
Britney Fache of Fache Floral Designs
Kelly Tellier of Lily Stone Gardens
Tatiana Penner of Oak & Lily

Photos by Victoria Anne Photography

You Need To Price What You're Worth

When we dream about our businesses and how they fund our futures, we tend to think big: take that amazing trip, build the dream house, buy the expensive car. That all sounds pretty good, but when it comes down to it, you'll never get there if you don't price what you're worth.

Esther Funk Photography

I know the phrase "you need to price what you're worth" is a major buzzword in the creative industry, and that it encompasses a lot of different topics. Today, I'm writing to those of you who are too afraid to charge enough/more, and in doing so, aren't growing your businesses. And if this is you, you're certainly not taking care of future you.

Are you undercutting your competition to make the sale? Are you afraid to raise your prices in case the inquiries dry up? There are negative consequences to this, and it goes beyond just having a small paycheque. Listen up: I've got something to say to you.

You're hurting the rest of the industry and you might not have thought of it that way before. If you're a side hustle, or part time, or trying to launch your business, or just too afraid to raise your prices, you could be seriously damaging the wedding industry by undercutting your competition. Undervaluing your worth and your services means that any couples who meet with you are going to then undervalue the worth of that service as a whole - not just your particular service.

You might be a wedding planner who is just launching your business, so you're not comfortable charging what you're worth yet. Or you might be a florist who just really wants to book a wedding and so you undercut the quote of another florist. Whatever your situation might be, what you're really doing is damaging the public perception of value to your industry as a whole. After meeting with you, couples are going to sub-consciously evaluate the value of what your entire industry does. Suddenly, wedding planners aren't able to make as much money. Florists lose their bottom line even more than they already do. 

So, how do you go about raising your prices? 

1) Seriously consider a few aspects of pricing:
a) What you need to make in order to "make it." This number is going to be different for everyone - it might mean a $40K income or a $140K income. How many weddings at what average price point do you need to take on to meet your goal? 
b) What is the perceived value of your specific services? Based on your skillset, your individual services might be more valuable than that of your competition. That's okay (in fact, that's great). There aren't that many people out there who can provide a classical string quartet. Your services could be in higher demand, meaning that the value of what you provide is automatically higher. 
c) You need to KNOW YOUR COSTS. This isn't a fun thing to figure out (trust me, I've tried several times and also given up several times!), but it's so important to know what our costs are in order to understand how much we need to charge our clients. It's not fair to you to be running a failing business simply because you don't know your costs!

2) If you're just starting out, or if you're trying to raise your prices, gradual increases are a great way to go. With each new client who books, raise your price by $100 or $200. Little by little, you'll get to that pricing sweet spot. You may want to add a clause to your contract that tells clients they're not allowed to divulge their specific price. It doesn't make sense for a new service provider to be charging as much as established businesses, and you can certainly feel free to mention to your clients that they are getting x pricing because your business is young. It's all about the way that you say it. And then, those gradual increases with each booked client will bring you to where you need to be!

3) If you decide that you want to lower your prices, do it for a specific reason and make sure your clients know. Maybe it's that dream wedding or the dream vendor team that you really want to work with. It's okay to offer a price break to get in the door once in a while, but make sure that your client or vendor partners know that you are doing something special for them.

The bottom line is that every event or client that you take on should be profitable. Each area of the wedding industry has different pricing standards and profit margins. If you don't know what those standards are for your area of expertise, then do some research, talk to other people, seek out some experts and ASK. 

You deserve to get paid!


I recently talked about a few other areas about pricing that you might be interested in:

We Need to Educate Our Clients. Here's Why.

I may or may not recently have gone a bit of a rant on the whole "reasonable pricing" thing. If you want to know why that's a curse word to my ears, you can read that here. But out of all the requests we get from prospective clients to be "affordable" or "fair" in our prices, there's one clear path, as far as I'm concerned: 

Education. 

Educate your clients on your pricing.

Your clients are fixated on the end product or service, and rightfully so. Unless they've worked in your industry, they can't possibly understand what goes into making that product or service a reality. So it's up to us to make sure they understand the VALUE which they will be receiving.

For example, the cost of greenery garlands running down the centre of tables. In the last few years, garlands have become one of those huge Pinterest trends and somehow couples got the impression that because they were "just greenery," that they were cheap. So whenever I'm asked about garlands and I know it won't fit into a client's budget, I explain it to them: Garlands require both a lot of product (and although greenery is not typically as expensive as flowers, it still has a cost!) and take a lot of time to produce. Once I let them know that there's a ton of work involved, they typically start to understand. 

Another example is when clients come to you with an overall budget but haven't stopped to think about how many times that number needs to be divided by. Maybe they're renting chairs from you and come to you with a budget of $400. $400 might seem like a lot to that client, but when you divide it by 200 people, that only comes out to $2/chair, and of course, the chair the client is looking at is pretty much guaranteed to be at least $8 each. Or maybe they have a catering budget of $3000. Again, it might sound like a lot of money but divided by 200 people, that only comes out to $15/person. Take a few bucks off for place setting rentals and staffing, and that client is trying to get a fully plated, 3 course dinner for about $7/person. 

These things seem pretty obvious to us, but a lot of the time, we just need to kindly educate our clients, breaking these things down so they can process. Rather than turning a prospective client away, do them (and your colleagues!) a favour by gently explaining what a more realistic budget is and a few of the whys behind it.

Educate your clients on your processes.

Over the last 4 years of owning my own wedding industry business, I've occasionally had a client who didn't seem to understand that I actually know what I'm doing. These are the people who attempt to run the consultation, or tell me how much my products and services should cost, or decide to send me an invoice for their own wedding flowers to which they've thoughtfully applied the incorrect taxes :)  Now, I don't give off a vibe of incompetence at pretty much anything other than golf or house painting and I've basically made myself the boss of every room I've ever been in, so I'm not sure why any of these people felt the need to take charge (maybe it's simply because they also like being the boss). 

I'm not saying that you need to teach your clients the ins and outs of every single one of your internal processes (and I'd really rather you NOT do that, because they don't need to know everything). What I'm suggesting here is that we need to lay out the steps for them - such as what they need to know, what they need to do and at what times, what I'll be doing in the meantime, and even better, what they DON'T need to do.

This is a benefit for a few reasons: it calms the clients, while streamlining your work and communication with them.

Earlier this year, I worked with a fantastic local graphic designer, Kyla of Keeks Paper Co to create a "wedding guide" - basically, it's a pretty pdf that outlines how things work with me. I send it to my clients as soon as they've booked with me, and it outlines some practical info like when payments are due, when I need updates and confirmations from them, when my office hours are, how to hold a bridal bouquet, along with some fun, lighthearted things like a studio tour and my favourite date-nights.  It's an awesome way for me to communicate with them at the same time as adding value.

Here's a couple of screenshots to give you an idea:

How to Educate Wedding Clients - Stone House Consulting
How to Build a Better Wedding Business - Educate Your Wedding Clients

What should you be doing differently?

Every business has an area or two that they can tweak in order to streamline processes! For me, that education process starts from the first inquiry email (FYI email templates are your friend!). I outline what will happen in the first meeting, how they need to prepare, and in cases where I can tell that the client doesn't have a realistic budget set up, I'll send them links where they read more about what their wedding will really cost. During our appointment, I set very clear expectations as to when they can expect to receive their proposal, and how it will be laid out. They leave knowing that I've got them really well taken care of, and they can leave it in my hands. Their contract clearly outlines how payments are to be received, how changes to their order are handled, and how best to take care of their wedding flowers on the day of their wedding. Sometimes people still ask me questions, but everything else has been so streamlined!

So here's your challenge for the week: identify if there are any pain points in your client processes where it seems like you might be losing control or when you're constantly hearing, "that's out of my budget." Grab a sheet of paper and a pencil (I always get the best ideas when I write by hand) and brainstorm some ways that you can educate your clients in a positive, value-add sort of way. Plan it out so that next time you get asked those questions, you've got an answer locked and loaded. 


If you need help, I'm always available for a Power Session! I'd love to help you dig into your business and make it as strong as possible.