The top 5 professional suggestions on running your event business

This is a collective effort of the Linkedin community to help you in setting up your own event management business. We have a 1200+ Event Planning & Management Group there which I invite you to join. The community has so far answered on what makes an event outstanding and on the top 5 qualities of the successful event manager, I invite you to have a look.

You may want to participate and answer to the next question here.

Here is the question:

The top 5 things I need to consider before running my own event management agency? A lot of readers want to know how to run their own business. In times of recession this need is even stronger. What are the top 5 things one should consider?

Useless to say how relevant is for you to look through all the great answers provided.

The best answer (the first you’ll see below) was selected, as always, according to my own preference. You can use comments to vote yours.

Kevin R. Johnston – CEO, Advantage Event Group says:

Having done this twice, I have learned that there are many more than five, many of which have been eloquently stated previously. But, in an effort to share experiences, here are my top five:

1) Toughen up! – rejection is a given. Not all prospects will say yes, clients will not live up to expectations and most of the time…it’s not personal. But other times it is. get over it! Move on.

2) NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. My best clients have come from being introduced by a friend, business associate or peer at an event or small gathering. If you like to fly a desk, don’t get into this business. Selling your talents is your primary business, logistics, planning and the remaining skills are secondary.

3) Plan your work and work your plan. You need a good business plan. $99 will get you the software you need to start building the foundation of your business. The plan will not create wealth or make you a success. it will make you focus on issues that you won’t focus on without it. This is not a weekend project. It may be months, then take that plan to someone that can pick it apart and tell you where you need to go back, and re-adjust. When you can go to a potential investor and they ask tough questions and you have sound answers, you are on the right track.

4) Be honest with yourself and your clients. I recently interviewed a freelance event specialist with many years of experience. I asked her what she dis. She started running a list from site selection to information management. I sat back and smiled, the said, ” Ok, now…what is the one thing you do better than al the others?” She didn’t hesitate, she said, registration and information…I”I am the best!” If you say you can do it all, you’ll be one of the rest. Anyone can be a Jack/Jill of all trades. It takes confidence to say, ‘This is what I/We do best.” Don’t be afraid to engage others that have supporting talents as needed, but choose them wisely and very strategically. I spend much time looking for talent. It’s all we have to sell.

5) Be Passionate! You have to LOVE THIS BUSINESS. No, really. LOVE, like a teenager at a HS Prom. You have to yearn for the thrill of a great event. You have to tear up when an event is over, you have to smile when you talk about your work, you have to want to do this more than another job that will pay twice as much. Money can’t buy happiness. If you are miserable making $50k, you be as unhappy making $150. After 9/11 i closed my first business. I sold the building I had, gave away the desks, loaded the computer equipment/phone systems and other non-essentials into a storage unit and sold mortgages. I still kept a couple of clients (just couldn’t cut the cord), but thought the money would be cure. I was so wrong, and it took one night on the couch with the remote in my hand watching the first season of the Apprentice to realize that I had NO passion for my new career. DT – “If you don’t have passion, get out…you’ll fail eventually!” he was right. And failure can be measured in many ways. Not just monetarily.

There are more, but you may already be asleep. In closing, I still keep in touch with a mentor/boss I had in the early 80’s. He was a bit quirky, but it wasn’t until I was older that I really appreciated his wisdom. Last week I received a CD from him. Three audio tracks narrated by Earl Nightengale entitled – The Common Denominators of Success. Less than 8 minutes of very scratchy audio. The bottom line message – ‘Successful people form the habits that failures never do.”

– Liz Franklin – Owner, LizOnBiz since 1979 says:

1. What is my market? Who are they, what do they want vs. what do they need, what do they NOT want, where are they, how do they spend, what publications do they read, where do they hang out, what are their pet peeves, what have they seen and heard too much of? What exhausts them, what turns them off?

2. What do I have that they want/can’t live without? Products? Services? How do I know they want it? How many want it? How long will they want it (how long can I make income from this?) Will this product/service be the first one cut from the budget in tough economic times?

3. How can I position my products and/or services so they are irresistible to my select group of buyers? Why are my products/servcies better than my competition’s, given all of the above (have I researched the competition?) What is unique about what I’m offering? Have I tested it to make sure people actually buy it?

4. What is my “hook?” What is my theme? Colors, logo, brand, etc. must all be based on answers to all of the above, not divert from them.

5. How will I get the message to the buyers without breaking the bank? What clever, cheap, or free ways do I know to get PR that’s effective? How will I test my message/advertising and hone it? How will my website carry my message forward?

Recommended reading: “The Irresistible Offer” by Mark Joyner

– Harry Hallman – Principal at Octane Interactive, LLC says:

Well, first, it helps to have a lot of experience. And you should have a client or 2 lined up. If it starts to grow, be sure you have the fortitude to work very long hours, deal with very nervous clients and creative employees.

The event business is one of the hardest business in the creative/marketing area, so be prepared. On the plus side it is a business that provides you with instant highs as the audience reacts to the event you created. I sent 25 years in the event biz and I miss that instant gratification that comes when people clap or yell approval of something you did.

That rarely happens in the marketing or interactive biz (my current work) since most of time these are projects that go on over time and there is no explosive end, like in an event

– R. Scott Frothingham – Partner at Key Search Marketing says:

Here are a couple to add to the mix:

1. do I mind working weekends?
2. do I mind working evenings?

– Mike Calimbas – Director of Human Resources & Training says:

Certainly not original but here is some good advice….

1. When you make a mistake of adding the date to the right side of the accounting statement, you must add it to the left side too.

2. A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.

3. If you break 100, watch your golf. If you break 80, watch your business.

4. A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history – with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.

5. By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.

6. My son is now an “entrepreneur.” That’s what you’re called when you don’t have a job.

7. What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising? Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public.

8.A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.

9. In modern business it is not the crook who is to be feared most, it is the honest man who doesn’t know what he is doing.

10. Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.

– Kim Novick – Experience Marketing Consultant says:

1]. Clearly articulate your foundation story + brand positioning: the unique value proposition that differentiates you from the competition; what the client gets; why you.

2]. Events come in many shapes and sizes from social [banquets, parties, galas, networking, etc.], to business [meetings, product launches, trade shows, etc.], to entertainment, sports, education, webinars and much more. Each requires a specific skill set and level of tolerance when it comes to execution. Make sure you have a firm grasp of your capabilities and where they stack up to industry standards [sic].

3]. Events are not stand-alone media tactics, but rather pieces of an overall marketing strategy [unless they are of course purely social, like a wedding, bar mitzvah, etc.]. Be clear if you will be an individual contributor [such as a caterer, decorator, entertainment provider, transportation coordinator, etc.], if you will act as a general contractor responsible for everything soup to nuts, or somewhere in between. Identify your core strengths; do a thorough audit of your firm’s intellectual capital assets. Identify partners you can rely on to compliment your offering.

4]. Create a profile of your target customer and vet it to ensure it is aligned with your value proposition and offering. Identify who will pay you the most for what you do and how you do it.

5]. Do a pro-forma projection to analyze your cash-flow needs. Structure payment terms accordingly to fit your situation.

– Brian Meyer – President at Meeting Expectations says:

I’ve seen a lot of great insight so far. Some of this may be repetitive, but here goes:

1) Is this something that you are passionate about and that you truly enjoy? Starting a small business takes a lot of time, energy, and effort and it’s important, regardless of the endeavor, that you spend your time on something you enjoy.

2) Do you have a sound business plan that includes a mission, marketing, finance/accounting, execution, technology and operations? The event field is very broad. Is there a specific segment of event management field that you would specialize in? One of the many keys to success for a small business is to find ways to differentiate yourself from potentially larger and more established organizations. Your unique experience, positioned correctly, can be a key selling point.

3) Is you business properly funded? There is a reason a high percentage of new businesses fail. In many cases, not enough capital was available to see the business through to success.

4) Get a mentor who is willing to give you advice as your business grows. Don’t pretend to know everything.

5) Make your customers feel special. Provide them with an experience that they simply cannot get anywhere else. (and if there was a #6, I’d say to have fun and enjoy yourself!)

– Suzanne Levison – Owner, SLS Creative and Staffing and Recruiting Consultant says:

Julius, the answers so far are right on, in my opinion. Just know you must do everything yourself. From sales/marketing to sweeping the floor. Mistakes, you have to just take in stride and not give up.

– Bill Hartnett – Creating Memorable, Results-Driven Events says:

Here are the top 5 things I wish I had considered before starting our event management business.

1) Who is my Target Ideal Client. I wish I had defined this much earlier than I did. It would have helped me focus my marketing and sales efforts directly at that target, and I would have been able to profile what personality types I needed to hire as associates in my business.

2) Dedicate myself to diversifying my client base. Like many of my colleagues who started small, we had one gigantic client who consumed much of my time. I wish I had started hunting another “whale” client much sooner than I did. We had many clients early on, but they were dwarfed by one. We are now much more balanced.

3) Build a deep and broad network of trusted suppliers. Deep by having several in each the categories of services you need to service your clients and broad in that you can cover far reaching areas from coast to coast with people you trust.

4) Have a very good accountant and attorney who you trust with your most valued possessions. If your going after corporate publicly held companies as clients, procurement offices are demanding precise and vast accounting disclosure. Also, you want someone who will be able to advise you on cash flow and tax implications. You will also want expert legal council to advise you on your contracts, liability, insurance, indemnity, cancellation clauses, etc.

5) Lastly, decide early if you want this to be a “Lifestyle” company or an independent business. If your goal is to have a lifestyle company, your focus is towards how it supports your personal lifestyle on an ongoing basis. If it’s an independent business, your mind set and strategies are more focused on building a business that runs without your involvement someday. This leads to the ability to sell it and realize the value you’ve built.

There are about 20 other things to consider and many of them have been stated here by others. These are the top 5 that I wish I had considered sooner.

– Jonathan Lange – Managing Director at NYC Advertising Agency says:

There is a tremendous difference between “event management” and “running an event management agency.” If you’re gonna hang up your own shingle, you better be confident you can run a business on your own and in your spare time actually do a bit of event management. Best of luck.

– Rich Kuslan – Principal, Law Office of Richard Kuslan LLC says:

This isn’t an academic subject. For those who wish to start any company, practically speaking, there is only one item of importance to consider:

Get clients.

– Juice Studios – Owner, The Juice Studios says:

1- Have the ability to find and keep clients
2- Be prepared for a roller coaster ride as the market is seasonal.
3- Have a great list of suppliers who you can trust. You can not do it alone.
4- Have the support of your family, as you will be away from home a lot.
5- Never let a client see you sweat. What I mean about this is it is your job to take the heat and insulate them from problems. Therefore, you have to be able to keep your cool when there are problems and there are always problems. You just have to solve them.

– Phyllis Shelton – Public Relations & Event Management Consultant says:

1. Stay Focused – Gain Skill/Knowledge
2. Be Creative & Organized
3. Have Exceptional Interpersonal Skills
4. Develop & Maintain Valued Business Relationships
5. Network – Build & Maintain Contacts
6. Have a plan-of-action (Business Plan) and a back-up plan

Remember: “You will never succeed – if you never try”

– Jonathan Marx – Jonathan Marx Consulting says:

Having developed, designed and executed many events for both the public and professionals, here is my list of the top 5 things to consider before beginning an event management agency:

1. Do you have enough working capital to sustain a business start-up period of 18 months? Most event planners are at least that far out and already have a vendor. You have to grab market share.

2. Do you have THE list of your target industry’s most influential movers and shakers who would endorse you, be a speaker, or be involved in some way to get you business? You need industry leaders to get you business.

3. Do you know HOW you will make profit? Your three primary revenue streams are sponsors, attendees, and venue/food and beverage mark-ups? You have to have a bullet-proof plan for getting to break-even so you can produce the conference, and then make profit on the rest of the revenue.

4. Do you have THE BEST event management software in place? There are many great vendors out there, and they will assist greatly with your organization and fulfillment. Don’t do events without software.

5. Is your event as BIG as it can be? Sponsors want to come to big events and be seen by lots of attendees, so that their return on investment is worth their time, resources, and promotion. Sponsors are under financial pressures too, so it’s best to be their partners in success.

– Okolo Thomas-Toure – Development Officer, Student says:

1. Specialization…be great at something.
2. Experience pays and saves time. Get lots of it.
3. Collaborate. With Vendors and complementary Event companies
4. Manage your eating/sleeping habits… Events are a 24 hr business.
5. Incorporate and get an accountant right away.

Advice: The best lessons come from mistakes. Learn how to do it gracefully. That is, accept responsibility and make it right as best you can.

If you’re doing special events. arrive early, introducing yourself to staff as they clock in, they’ll remember you in crowds and respond when you need them.

 

– Damaso V Santana – President & CEO Santana Broadcast & Marketing Group LLC says:

 

Know your area of expertise

Choose your clients

Choose your events

Enough Funding to keep you afloat.

 

– Catherine Clinch – Publisher/Media Expert says:

 

1. Do you love becoming intimately involved with strangers at the most stressful, chaotic and emotionally charged points in their life? And, are you able to bond with them quickly enough to become their new best friend – with the complete understanding that when the event is over you might never hear from them again?
2. Do you know enough celebrities (or even local celebreties) so that you can pepper their guest list with a level of cache your competitors might not be able to offer?
3. Do you love giving a party more than anything else in the world?
4. Do you have the kind of brain that can retain information like which flowers are in season and which caterers can be interesting with a Kosher menu?
5. Do you really care about what goes into a gift bag – and understand why even the richest recipients will complain about there not being enough free stuff in them?

 

– Alexi Lambrou – Marketing Manager at Marcus Evans says:

 

On the risk of oversimplifying:

1. Mindset: Big fish in a small pond or the other way around? A good starting point covering all manner of areas from how many tiers to your product, your internal structure and your external messages.

2. The Market: Who are your competition and what are you offering that they aren’t? If you offer the same – why is yours better?

3. Money: What will your cost to revenue ratio be – believe me when I say from experience you can run a profitable nightmare of an event or a smoother, fun event that cost you more – where do your loyalties rest at night? With the accountant or the ops people?

4. OCDs: If you or the person with their finger on the event button doesn’t have them – good luck – they help.

5. Personality: Good networking skills, personable nature and basically getting enjoyment out of meeting, talking and connecting with people is the biggest asset – make sure your people on the front line can do this.

 

– Shane Belceto – Visionary , Author, Speaker, and Disney Dad! says:

 

Well like said already there are more then 5 and each of my five like many said thus far are multi-part answers. Here you go though…

1. Determine your niche(Technology, Entertainment, MLM company’s, etc) Who will these events be set up for? Don’t just go for any group of people or all people in general. Best to pick one you have skills or passions about already.

2. Determine some of your first clients and contact them now to see what it is they want from an event. Thus assisting you in organizing the parts of your business in advance by knowing what the client wants.

3. Plan to be the first one there and the last to leave all events to insure your company leaves a good impression on all involved from the clients themselves, the location owner, people attending etc. Like said from sweeping the floor to manning the door know and be a part of all assets of the event and leave it better then you find it.

4. YES for sure do it all yourself and be present but do get the help and reliable help you need.

5. Maybe this should of been first but HAVE FUN there is no reason to get into this if you are just in it for the money. Enjoy it have fun with it and the work will definitely be a part of it but the people you meet the places you go and the fun you have will provide you so much more then the money you make.

 

– Philippe Méda – B2B Strategic Marketing in a Fast World says:

 

On top of all the reat advices you got here, let me add or emphasize two things (let’s assume you’ll be technically good at your business and have thought everything through):

STANDOUT

STANDOUT

STANDOUT

STANDOUT

STANDOUT

No really, find your identity. Get known by the fact that you’re the company organizing lunches in air balloon other the Mississipi, or the “guys in green”, or be ultracheap, or whatever legal specificity will float your boat. With event management you can probably be a little crazy and creative. Even if it’s strictly corporate events.

Find a great SPONSOR!

Get a prominent, visible customer on your market and over deliver on your first gig. Be thoughtful, come back to him later on to assess the quality of the event. Talk about what you did with him. Make him your best sponsor that will propagate the need of hiring you to over prospects in the market.

Enjoy your new venture !

 

– Saideh Browne – Owner, Platinum Speakers Bureau says:

 

You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going!

 

– Amy Vercruysse – Owner, Combo Platter says:

 

There is a lot of really great advice here. One thing that has been mentioned that I think needs to be really emphasized is the importance of (1) knowing what you’re doing (experience), and (2) having a strong, solid, varied network of others who are very good at what they do, because nobody can do it alone.

Without those two things, forget it.

About The Author
Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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