As most of us are finally finding our balance as 2020 comes to a close, it's hard to remember exactly what business ownership was like pre-COVID. Company policies and procedures have never held so much weight. Virtual client communication is now a lifeline rather than a preference, and the word 'postpone' has become almost synonymous with weddings and events.
With that in mind, it’s important to take into account what we’ve learned from the pandemic, and credit ourselves regarding the quick transitions we’ve made to stay afloat.
Lessons in Business Ownership
As prepared as you may be with contingency plans for worst-case scenarios, no one can really ever tell you what to expect when it comes to a global pandemic. It seemed that damage control lasted for months, and it was made clear immediately that we were all in the same boat with no prior experience. It forced us to take a good look at our businesses and re-evaluate our priorities.
For Shannon Tarrant of WeddingVenueMap.com, that meant giving her the push she needed to pivot and grow. “When your entire schedule clears for eight weeks, it's amazing how quickly I took advantage of the time. I reviewed everything our team was doing, created standard operating procedures for the processes that were going well, and made changes to the areas that needed attention. Next, I dove into our analytics to see which of our marketing strategies needed tweaking.”
“Having good relationships with vendors, clients, and business associates is the most important thing during difficult times. Favors and trust have been very useful,” adds Jennifer Borgh of Borghinvilla Wedding Venue.
Regarding income, there’s no question that COVID did not discriminate–every business owner seemed to be pulling their purse strings particularly tight. Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services says, “I’ve learned that diversifying your revenue streams is key! With the pause in events and weddings, it was an unpredictable time for many (and still is for some). There’s nothing that can prepare you for a global pandemic, but having other sources of income prepared will truly give you the upper hand in seeing your business through to the other side.”
'Pivoting' seems to have been the theme of the last seven months, where industry pros learned very quickly that to see it through to 2021, adapting was the answer.
Gretchen Culver of Rocket Science Events shares, “The biggest change has been the launch of our sister brand, Minne Weddings, to address the small wedding market. It was like starting a whole new business from ground zero, but because we moved quickly after identifying the need for a small wedding provider, we were able to capture our market. This sister brand has allowed us to stay in the black as we watch our big weddings and corporate events disappear."
According to Clint Elkins of SB Value: “Ultimately, our focus has been shifted toward keeping our productivity and morale up while working from home. Putting ourselves in the right mindset has helped us continue to spread knowledge about business solutions for caterers. We’ve put a lot of energy into encouraging others to join GPOs in order to save money on food costs, especially now that many people aren’t seeing the cash flow that they were previously used to.”
“Communication should be a priority no matter what, but when it comes to our clients postponing their events and continuing the planning process, it’s never been more necessary,” notes Dixie Bagley of The Farm, Rome GA. “So many clients have come to me and expressed concern about some of their vendors being completely unresponsive, and it adds so much additional stress on top of an already stressful situation. We’ve increased our transparency with other vendors that we’re collaborating with on events, and we’ve put in even more effort to keep everyone in the loop.”
Let's not forget that many of us have taken on our children's teacher's role as well, adding another 9 to 5 into the mix. "The biggest change has been in how I manage my work schedule. I've got kids at home doing virtual learning, and I shifted my hours so that I would be more available to them in the morning when they need me to get up and going [for] their Zooms. This means I typically work later. In the spring, this was very overwhelming. But, now I think we really have a rhythm down,” says Michelle Loretta of Be Sage Consulting (formerly Sage Wedding Pros).
If you had polled some industry pros back in February on where they thought the industry's state would be in October, the answers would be admittedly much different. However, there’s no denying that we’ve collectively become more resilient and hard-working as a result, and these trying times make for stronger business owners.