Category Archives: Business Consulting

Advice for the New or Prospective Real Estate Investor

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Financial Planning, Passive Income, Real Estate Investment, Revenue Streams | No Comments
I know this site is all about weddings – business stips for wedding pros, and planning tips for engaged couples.  But a big part of my life is being a “mini” real estate investor – one of those many landlords of one or two small pieces of property as a side source of revenue or retirement investment.  It served to offset taxes (somewhat) while I built my business, and also allowed me to miss a few years of retirement savings while I built my business (since you’re not exactly making a killing the first 2-4 years).  So, having my condo really helped provide stability during my business, and I thought this post would assist small business owners and also, for engaged couples planning their long term finances. THus 0 this post! I hope you enjoy it and please ask me any questions – dee@noworriesep.com

How I bought my first property

First of all, I’m only just now onto my SECOND piece of property – a house that we are moving into shortly, as a family.  In 2005, I bought a condo, lived in it until 2009, and since then have rented it and officially became a real estate investor. The housing market was insane at that time; cash investors were swooping in and multiple (like 10..15…20) offers were coming in on houses hot and heavy, as people were taking advantage of the downswing of the economy. Given I was pregnant and wanting to have the option to work part time, start a business (natch :) ) or stay home with the baby for about a year, we figured best to rent.  And that was a good call. (It’s not always a good time to buy – don’t be hard on yourself if you rent.  Buying and owning is expensive in many markets, like ours here in L.A.)
So, now that you know the backstory, my first purchase in 2005 was way too easy.  It was during the housing boom. My FICO score was very good, and I got a ‘stated income’ loan where I literally didn’t have to provide any proof of income. And I only had to put down a 3% deposit.  The condo was $240k for a grand total of 842 square feet.  (By the way, the value soared in 6 months to a peak of $300kI! Yeah, those were crazy days.) I wanted very badly to have real estate investment, and even considered buying cheaper property out of state to add to our portfolio, as a long term piece of side revenue and side hustle.

A Real Estate Investor for The Long Term

In this specific market – the housing bubble of 2004-2008 – you had to carefully play the market to flip a house for 6 figures overnight.  If you were an everyday “Jane” like me, you had to be patient, and make it a long game.  It wasn’t until recently that I could raise the rent to pay for the mortgage – I basically put the amount of a proper down payment into the condo after the fact, in small bits, month by month.  In this case, the cost was wildly overinflated, and at odds with the current low rent I could charge.
But, I refinanced 2 more times to a nice low interest rate, looked at increasing rent once the market increased, finally found a property manager, and now the condo will pay for itself.  Also, interest is a write off, as you probably already know (though beware of the new tax reform that has limited how much can be written off for some homeowners).

Passive Rental Income During Retirement

When it’s paid off, right before my husband and I retire, we will likely earn $30k-45k a year, depending on rents, how often it’s vacant, and maintenance. (Basically, our ‘backup fund’ in case our investments go haywire, have high medical copays, etc.  Of course we are diligently saving as much as we can to retirement and long term investment accounts. it isn’t always easy, but we do our best.  CVS Coupons add up, haha!) We strive to charge middle-market rent – we want to be fair, find responsible tenants, and have enhancements throughout – granite countertops, hardwood floors, neutral paint, and consistently updated appliances.

Advice for Working With Tenants

Before I bought the condo, I met with a real estate attorney, and it was the best thing I could have done.  Laws vary from state to state, and the attorney was able prepare me for the best and worst case scenarios.  This advice helped manage my expectations and allow me to make excellent decisions during tough situations.
Overall, I’m so glad I invested in the condo, and I recommend it for those with a strong stomach for calculated risk and mild stress (i.e., wedding planners!).  And again – any questions, shoot me a note anytime at dee@noworriesep.com!

Managing Expectations with Wedding Planning Clients

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Contract Verbiage for Wedding Planners, Contracts for Wedding Planners, Manage Expectations, Profitable Wedding Planning Business, Stress Relief, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner | No Comments

One of my favorite sayings is, “You can’t please everyone.”  So true. And yet, as event planners, we want to so badly.  Or, we are tired of having these expectations thrust upon us but wearily try to do so anyways; regardless, what needs to be done in these situations is to manage expectations with wedding planning clients. And that means from the very beginning.

Have a rock solid contract to help manage expectations from the start

I know it’s pricey to hire a lawyer to write your contract, but DO IT!  A solid contract will protect you from litigious people who may overreact and point their finger at you if a mishap occurs, even if it’s not your fault.  Not only does it manage expectations, it can save you from negative reviews and even foolhardy attempts at litigation. And compare notes with other planners and wedding vendors, too!  Be sure you know what pitfalls you need to pre-empt, what verbiage is appropriate, and what lingo is required in your state.  (And while I’ll give some contractual advice here in the blog, always run everything past a legal expert first!)

Manage expectations with wedding planning clients memeEnsure your duties are listed clearly and discuss them with wedding planning clients

In your proposal, enumerate EXACTLY what you do.  For example, a moderately priced full wedding planner should not be going to every single wedding dress shopping trip – that could take days!  I noted on my proposal that I attended one FITTING to learn how to bustle the dress.  Be as crisp as possible, and discuss with your prospective clients so you can get off on the right foot from before they even book you.

Often, clients are so overwhelmed with paperwork and contracts from vendors, they don’t read everything.  So be sure to discuss with them first, at the proposal phase; again, at your first meeting; and remind them along the way – in an emotionally intelligent fashion – what you do and don’t do.  At your final meeting, it’s really smart to ask them to send someone to you at the wedding to discuss anything they want fixed or addressed at the wedding.  Tell them that you need to be empowered with knowledge at the event to do your job to its best – you are not a mind reader.  (This allows you to avoid the passive-aggressive list of complaints on the following Tuesday. I got one of those once – with ridiculous ‘issues’ that had nothing to do with me – and vowed, never again!)

How do I keep Pinterest from warping my client’s expectations?

Don’t let Pinterest highjack your work!  In person, discuss with wedding planning clients how fantastical and ornate design vignettes they see on Pinterest can take hours to setup.  In your contract, you’ll have verbiage that states you handle standard set up only – and list them: “escort cards, ceremony programs, and guest book” – finite, crisp, clear.  Do they have a few family photos they want set out? Fine.  What about menus at each table setting?  Maybe – possibly the caterer can do it, one way or another, you can figure that out.  But set up multiple levels, platters, and 5 different desserts? Nope!  In your contract (I’ve done this – but again, check with your lawyer), you can alert the couple that you reserve the right to elect to bring on board another assistant or designer to implement their setup if you decide it’s beyond your contracted duties.

Remember, you’re not all things to all people…You’re providing ONE service and can’t stretch like Elastigirl to do the jobs of many!  Having crisp paperwork to set the tone will easily manage expectations.

Need a sounding board?  Have a difficult situation on your hands? Struggling with cash flow? I can help with all these issues and more and provide a complementary 20-minute intake call.  Contact me anytime at dee@noworriesep.com!

The Low Wedding Budget: Just Say No

By | Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, Business Consulting, Business Development, Wedding Budget, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Cost, Wedding Decor | No Comments

I’m sure this title is controversial – and I’m sure it’ll anger some brides and grooms reading this. And trust me, I get very miffed when I see just how much it costs to have a wedding. But I also know how much it costs to run a business, pay for labor, and provide goods and services (at least, in dense, pricey cities like my home of L.A.).  Couples see a lot of DIY blogs online and think they can beat the system – and sometimes, a lower wedding budget can work, if thoughtful, methodical choices are made (I.e. food truck instead of 4 course dinner; rent a city park versus a luxury hotel). But I have ran into potential clients that want to pay an unrealistically low amount for a super lavish wedding; and the dots just don’t connect.

And when you as a wedding vendor sit down with a potential client and they want to have a bargain basement budget, it’s best to politely decline if the following occur:

An avoidance of reality: “I can make my wedding budget work – even if you say I can’t!”

Some clients listen, and agree that they need to re-calibrate their budgets. Others refuse to listen to reality. “But my cousin can provide the tequila and our best friend can bartend!” If there’s an insistence a first class wedding can happen on a bargain basement budget, you will never be able to convince them otherwise, and there will be too much time taken out of your schedule to try to convince them.

Smogshoppe wedding decor flamingo decor runners table wedding budget

Choosing a venue that has a unique look, like SmogShoppe here, can reduce the need for significant amount of decor. Photo by Jenna Rose Photography.

Cutting YOUR corners.

“You can use our extra speakers!” No, a DJ should use his/her own. “My housekeeper can wash your dishes!” No, a caterer should bring enough staff to do EVERYTHING.  “Our groomsmen can set up the decor for you!” No, a planner should always have their own staff.  A client that wants you to understaff or under-prepare beyond best and standard practices, so they can cut their budget, is penny wise, pound foolish.  Just say no.

In summary…

Being honest and kind in your discussion with couples is valuable in that you can bow out gracefully, and also help guide them to a successful event, regardless if you are involved.  Just remember that when you cut corners just to book that next job, it may cost you more mentally, and even financially, than it’s worth.

Questions? Email me anytime at dee@noworriesep.com, and meantime, happy planning!

Profit First | Tips for a Profitable Wedding Planning Business

By | Blush and Pink Wedding, Blush Wedding, Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Profitable Wedding Planning Business | No Comments

It can be tricky to build a profitable wedding planning business. Too often, I find wedding planners focusing on volume.  The more events they book a year, the better.  While you do need to market yourself in such a way that once you fill your calendar comfortable, you are turning down potential new business, what’s more important is what you’re profiting per event –  not how many events.

Also, there are a lot of hidden costs to running an event planning business – the last minute additional staffing needs when a wedding becomes a bit more complex than originally planned, or your bookkeeper needs to untangle a few unique expenses and bill you more money.

Here are two tips to built a profitable wedding planning business:

Strategize the Right Mix of Events

Loading up on coordination jobs makes you less money than booking a few less in number of full planning, for example.  Look ahead and decide how many coordination, partial planning, and full you want to book in the coming year, and then develop marketing strategies to do just that. Write the goals down and check in weekly.

White Lilac large wedding Persian wedding blush Terranea wedding Large ballroom profitable wedding planning business

Large weddings like this one at Terranea, featuring over 500 guests, require lots of staffing; I factored this into my proposal from the beginning. Photo by John Solano, design and florals by White Lilac.

Protect Against Last Minute Costs

Client needs you to pick up their alcohol at the last minute – 1 hour from your office?  Oops! Cousin Freddy invited his 50 friends, and the guest count shot up?  Then the client has to pay more money in your direction.  Have ‘change in scope’ and ‘additional services and fee menu’ sections in your contract.  Mileage and staffing are hard costs and must be covered; also, your time is potentially a soft cost, but VALUABLE.  These ‘little’ fees add up hugely, and can kill your profit or keep you from building a profitable wedding planning business till it’s too late.

I’m here to help you build a profitable wedding planning business!

Don’t hesitate to email me to share your thoughts, or pick my brain – I mean it! I offer a 20 minute consultation “discovery” call with anyone needing some insight or curious about consultation services – or just to chat!  Absolutely no obligation. I’ve learned things the hard way and eager to share my hard knocks to help other entrepreneurs succeed.

Best wishes for a profitable enterprise.   Happy planning!

Bookkeeping for Event Planners: 3 Tips

By | Bookkeeping for Event Planners, Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Consulting for Creatives, Business Development, How do I hire a Bookkeeper | No Comments

We all know as business owners that keeping track of expenses, saving for taxes, and making sure your books are balanced is so important.  But bookkeeping for event planners is not an easy thing at first, because of the unpredictable schedule of being a planner – working in the service industry means a lot of time on the road, in the field, and away from your administrative, desk-based tasks.  Here’s how I tackled tightening up my bookkeeping processes.

Hire a bookkeeper!

Hire a pro! They do not need to be full time.  I hired a bookkeeper for an initial analysis and software recommendations; quarterly checkins; and end of year profit-and-loss and tax prep.  It did not cost a fortune and truly worth every penny.

Bookkeeping for event planners calclutor accounting for creatives

Invoice online.

If you can’t afford taking credit cards – and if your revenue is unsteady or you are in the first 2-3 years of your business, that’s a smart call – see if there are any cloud-based, bookkeeping and invoicing systems that use ACH deposits to take from your clients.  Try to find something that schedules invoicing so you don’t have to think about it – clients get regular invoices on time, so that they are well aware of when their next payment is due.  Then as the cash comes in, the software keeps track of it, and balancing the books just got a lot easier.

Automate your tax savings.

This can be a super tough aspect of bookkeeping for event planners (I speak from experience!). What helped me was having my CPA give me tax projections in Q1 of every year.  Then, I could set aside – or at least manage expectations – of what my taxes would be. I got quite accurate at planning ahead and it saved me a lot of stress and sleepless nights.  Schedule quarterly or monthly allocations to a separate bank account for taxes, and plot reminders in your calendar throughout the year to send your payments to the IRS.  Or you can also ask your bookkeeper consultant to do this, and they can remind you.

***

Don’t be afraid to hire a pro to help you manage this process – a little professional guidance means big time savings in stress, and possibly business fees and tax penalties.  Being organized = peak efficiency in all levels of your business!  And, I can’t recommend enough this book: Accounting for the Numberphobic.  It has outstanding small business advice and is actually pretty fun to read, too. Find it here – and happy planning!

Setting your Employees Up for Success

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Employee, Employee Tips for Event Planners, Independent Contractors | No Comments

I have had the experience of not only overseeing my own employees, but being a new employee at a couple different corporate settings in the past year or so.  I’ve learned a lot from both sides (the corporate on-boarding experience has certainly changed a lot, I’ll say that).  A bad start can have ripple affects that can hurt your business.  These key tips will make your new contractor or employee feel secure, so they can start kicking butt for you – and have fun doing it!

Give your employees the basics.

At a 5-star hotel I worked at recently, I was personally introduced to the entire corporate staff and as much of the banquet staff as possible. It was incredible – sure, I couldn’t recommend everyone’s name right away, but it gave me a solid sense of how the company worked, and also made me feel less shy when I saw new people in the hallways.  I was also shown every single common area, bathroom, and other important spaces.  No wonder people stay at that property for years!  The culture left a lasting impression on me.

Don’t feel you are pandering to someone or wasting time by methodically showing them around to all relevant colleagues in your organization, and showing them every nook and cranny of the space that they will be using.  They will feel like a stranger in a strange land, otherwise, and struggle to interact with people at first. It also makes them feel ignored or cast aside. Not a good start.

Ritz Carlton Ocean View wedding OrangeCounty Dana Point Employee

Photo by Studio Purdy.  I was based in L.A.; this event in Dana Point required me to work with Orange-County based contractors that I found via my network of high quality fellow event planners.  Making sure I sent these new contractors my manual ensured consistent service to my clients, despite the fact I hadn’t worked with them frequently before.

Have collaborative docs ready to go.

Be sure to do your homework and set up collaborative docs and systems before they arrive (google docs, Aisle Planner, etc).  It takes some time to delegate – if it’s your first-ever associate, you need to do the hard work of which assignments to give them, and how you two will use your shared systems.  But it only takes a couple days to get someone indoctrinated into most online project managers and documents – once you’re in, it’ll flow. But you absolutely have to do the carving up of assignments and adjustments of your systems before they arrive – otherwise, they may not have enough to do at first, and start off with confusion. This could lead to mistakes and wasted time – things no business can afford.

Write an employee manual.

If you work with ICs, this can be a contractor manual. Your payroll company or lawyer can advise on exactly how to work on this – but it’s super important for all employees to read and sign off on this. For event planners in particular, you need to lay down some ground rules, such as: No chewing gum, no social media sharing of events during event (or after, if client does not give permission), dress code, etc.

About to hire your first employee or contractor?  Need advice?  I’m here to help! Email me at dee@noworriesep.com!

 

Should you add new services to your business?

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Consultant, Corporate Event Coordinator, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Coordinator | No Comments
A few years ago, I realized that clients constantly needed basic tabletop offerings – candle votives, lanterns, and the like. Due to the expense of sourcing and storing these items, not all florists had robust quantities of them.  I sourced a few different types of votives and frequently rented them out to clients, making some additional pocket change and saving them time, and over-investing in these items.  What would be hard about adding new services to my boutique event planning business?

I thought, maybe something’s there.  I could start a table top rental business! It fills a need, I had storage in my garage, and I had plenty of contacts in the event world.

Then I started thinking:  How would I deliver these items to everyone, along with my day to day business, which if I wasn’t careful, could be all consuming? Wouldn’t delivery cost as much as the item rental fees, due to labor costs?  Also, what if they came back broken? What inventory tracker should I use?

Lanterns add new services to your business bud vases floral linen wedding long table reception decor event design

Photo by Jillian Rose Photography

I realized, it just wasn’t worth doing – better to stay with what I was doing, continue to refine my event planning business, and coast along with that.

It’s so easy to be distracted, to see another opportunity and try to strike out in a new direction. Before you do, check in with yourself:

Run Scenarios.

Think through a typical transaction of your new business. How much time and money would it cost you?  Would you be able to charge enough to cover your cost?

Evaluate your resources – do you have enough to add a new service?

Do you need additional capital?  How much would it cost to source raw materials (if any)?

Does someone else already do it well?

When photobooths were the new thing, there were just a handful or competitors for each region. Now, there are so many!  Is it worth entering a saturated market?

Take time to review all your options and the ripple effects to your business.  If you think it’s a good idea, go for it! Otherwise, nothing wrong with regrouping and making your current business even stronger.

Charging Enough? Wedding Planner Pricing

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Wedding Planner Price, Wedding Planner Pricing | No Comments

I stopped actively planning weddings a few months ago (Bad knees + missing family time on weekends made the decision for me), and I now consult with other industry-related businesses. As a wedding planner pricing was key to the success as of my business;  recently, as part of my work, I happened upon a planner’s website with startlingly low prices.  These were prices I charged about 6-7 years ago.

Charging too little is a high stakes decision that drastically affects your well-being, your ability to provide for you and your family, and your long term earnings.  You will create a referral base that’s lower budget and never break through to a high-earning, high quality book of business.  When I amped up my pricing to truly reflect my workload and expertise, I had a lull in bookings for 2-3 months, but then I recouped any missing revenue and had much better long term earnings. It was a game changer.

Ceremony Under Chuppah Calamigos Ranch

Photo by True Photography; venue, Calamigos Ranch; Florals, McCann Florist

Wedding Planner Pricing Tips

1. Set limits on your services. I capped my ‘day of’ coordination to 40 hours total, and partial planning meetings were capped at 90 minutes long, for example.  Sometimes we give an inch, and our clients (usually without any ill will), take a mile, but it eats up your profit and earnings per hour.

2.  Ask around.  Find your tribe of honest and supportive wedding and event planners in your community and share your pricing models.  Become referral partners. If your pricing is apples to apples to each other (at least approximately), you build a web of high quality, well-priced services that will gain ground with potential clients and set a standard of pricing.

3. Consider hourly pricing. I’ve been a big proponent of this lately, and if I were to continue my business, I’d revert to this model.

Part of my consulting services is to help planners formulate concise, data-supported pricing models for optimal profit.  I offer a 20-minute no-obligation call to anyone interested in my services, which is a great way to have a professional, safe space to vent, discuss pressing issues, and gain insight on thriving in the challenging business of event planning. To learn more, click here, email me at dee@noworriesep.com, or call  310-562-3306. Happy planning!

Setting Boundaries with Wedding Clients

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Difficult Clients and Vendors, Event Planner, Event Planning Business Advice, Event Planning Education, Event Planning Workshops, Malibu Rocky Oaks Wedding | No Comments

An unexpected thing happened when I started wedding planning:  People lower their guard with wedding planners, and suddenly you’re treated like a therapist – or punching bag.  Some of the sharply worded, irritable, or just plain mean treatment totally blew me away, or highly reactive behavior – like the bride who called me at 11pm on a Saturday night to tell me the photo of the prototype of her bouquet made her cry (after she tried to tell the florist the exact recipe to use, which of course wouldn’t look right because the bride wasn’t a florist!).  Clearly, I needed to set boundaries with some brides, grooms, and family members and friends. Here’s how I did it.

Smogshoppe Wedding Boundaries clients

Photo by Marble Rye Photography

Set Boundaries from the Beginning

The best way to do this is to set expectations and boundaries from the beginning – I mean from before the clients even hire you.  You must set a sense of authority and expertise, and be clear that there are ground rules for communication, including office hours and a general good attitude when talking.  I was a bride and I know how stressful it can be – but we’re not saving lives here: There’s no need to have an anxiety attack over whether or not the quartet can learn the exact arrangement of the pop song you want playing as you walk down the aisle.

Peony Boutonnierre Peony Boutonierre  Boundaries wedding clients Mulberry Row florist Malibu Rocky Oaks wedding peonies

Photo by Iris and Light

Pick the Right Clients.

If potential clients don’t like your no-nonsense (but kind) attitude, they aren’t a good fit. You’re not a non-stop ‘yes man,’ you’re a voice of reason. If they want an enabler, they can go somewhere else.

Make it Legal!

Then, be sure your contract supports your boundaries, and lays in place parameters for how you communicate.

Once you start establishing your authority, your life will change, and your work will be more joyous, and your clients will be grateful for your support.  To learn more about boundaries, email me at dee@noworriesep.com.  Happy planning!

Wedding MBA 2017 Recap

By | Business Builders, Business Consulting, Business Development, Destination Wedding, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding MBA, Wedding MBA 2017, Wedding Planner | No Comments

For the third year in a row, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Wedding MBA conference, this time for two sessions – in addition to discussing destination weddings, I also spoke about appearing on television and managing on-camera opportunities.  The best benefit about attending the conference is seeing my colleagues, meeting new ones, and enjoying the city of Las Vegas.

When I woke up that morning, I had an iPhone news alert about the tragic shooting in Las Vegas the day prior – a stunning development that shocked us all.  The conference was still going to move forward – as it should – and my friend Summer Newman of Summer Newman Events, who traveled with me, wanted to help as best we could.  When we tried to donate blood, the drive that was taking place across the street from our hotel had already closed down because so many people showed up. By a day or two after the event, the local blood supply was sufficient for at least a few days. However, it reminded me how important it is to give blood and I’m now going to donate once a year.  Meantime, I donated to the Go Fund Me page to help support the victims and their families.

Wedding Display Wedding MBA Wedding Balloon Vendors

This balloon display as soon as attendees entered the conference space was a hit.

With the Wedding MBA well underway upon our arrival, I carefully chose the sessions I wanted to attend.  I had a massive head cold by the time we arrived, so I couldn’t hit as many as I wanted, so I specifically chose sessions that relate to my newer role as a freelance marketing and event consultant.  It’s so important to understand how the Internet, Google, Facebook, and SEO and SEM in general can enhance a business’ marketing.  I carefully chose two sessions about these topics, and they were extremely helpful.  The speakers were very generous with their knowledge and one even sent slides to us, Mark Chapman of Everett Andrew Marketing.

I also met some vendors on the convention floor, exploring new ideas in lighting, stationary, photo booths, and others.  Overall, it was a productive trip and it was fantastic to see the conference get bigger every year – it’s a fantastic opportunity for wedding vendors to help each other grow stronger, together.  Hope to see you there next year!