After the past several years, event professionals have learned to be resilient. They’ve experienced a booming economy falling into a pandemic, then scrambled to meet high demand with a lack of staff, supplies, and products, and now are facing a recession. Sure, conflict builds character, but we’ve had enough character-building for a while. So, while you feel that you've faced all of the challenges that could possibly be thrown at you, there is that lingering fear of “what’s next?” No one really wants to play that game. But deep down, event pros are wondering what the next big disruptor will be and how they will face it.
Well, I wish I could tell you the future so you have adequate time to prepare. But, since my premonition powers are not polished, that will remain a mystery. As a former event rental company owner who weathered the pandemic, among other challenges, I have 4 tips to share that helped me get through the toughest times.
As I mentioned, the business climate has been pretty temperamental. One minute you have more wedding business than you can handle, and the next you’re setting up tents for auxiliary hospital sites or sewing masks instead of tablecloths.
The event professionals who made it through the pandemic, and will make it through the recession, know how to adapt to their current situation. These folks are some of the most innovative out there and use their creativity to help them pivot. Here are some ways you can make the most of what you have to offer:
- Expand your market – If you primarily do corporate events and those are a bust, then look into your options to provide products and services for social gatherings.
- Explore new uses for your equipment – Like using your delivery trucks to help people move.
- Evaluate service offerings – When in-person events shut down, planners shifted to managing remote events and dj’s offered online dance parties.
- Uncover new opportunities with your products – Balloon arches at parties turned into outdoor backdrops for drive-by birthday celebrations.
We’ve learned that just because things are changing, it doesn’t mean it’s forever, and it also doesn’t mean it’s bad. On one hand, seeing micro-weddings rise in popularity can be nerve-wracking for event professionals. But, on the other hand, we all witnessed the turmoil of a world without events.
If that’s not job security, I don’t know what is. We saw more than ever how people crave to connect.
While events decreased in size, budgets didn’t adjust to the same degree. It can be easier, and more rewarding, to be a part of those more intimate celebrations. Even if large events were your bread and butter, money can still be made by embracing events of all sizes.
When times are tough, be ready to make adjustments to your products and services so you will be dancing on the other side of these hurdles.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to anticipate all of the possible outcomes of a situation. Set aside time to think about the potential obstacles you might face. Identify which ones you can control, and which ones you can’t.
You may not know the exact situation you’ll face, but you already have an idea of the type of problems that could arise like staffing, access to finances, shortages of supplies…Wondering where to start?
- Keep a file of contacts you could rely on for help when short-staffed
- Compile options for renting vehicles if you have limited trucks and/or capital
- Create a list of vendor resources
- Who can fill in for you in case of emergencies?
- Who has similar products that you can reach out to if you have a problem with your inventory?
- Seek advice from business mentors
- Reach out to SCORE (They offer free business mentoring!)
- Check with local associations or your Chamber of Commerce
- Contact your state’s economic development administration
- Stay on top of ways to access capital (like the Stripe Capital Loans we offer to our users)
- Have a legal team that you can go to for advice
- Specify cost-saving measures that could be taken in lean times. Are there any services you can cancel or reduce?
Prepare actionable plans so you can feel more confident that you’re ready for any situation. It’s a lot easier to do this ahead of time so you don’t make rushed decisions when under pressure.
Running a business can oftentimes feel isolating. No one else around you understands the demands of the job, and you’re carrying the weight of the team.
Developing relationships with other people in the industry, whether they're competitors, clients, or friends, will provide you with a strong network of people who you can rely on for support and understanding.
Don’t know where to start?
- Join industry associations (ILEA, NACE, ARA, MPI, MATRA, IFAI/ATA…)
- Attend industry events (local and national/international like TSE/Catersource, The Rental Show, WeddingMBA, IMEX America, Connect...)
- Invite local event pros to meet for coffee to connect
- Join industry Facebook groups
- Comment on other industry professionals’ social media posts or send them direct messages with support and encouragement
Your shipment of chairs was delayed for your upcoming event? Maintaining healthy “friendor” relationships will give you comfort when you need to call them for the assist. All of your hydrangeas wilted overnight? Knowing who to contact in an emergency floral situation helps you react quickly and helps you sleep a little better at night. Make sure to let others know that you’re there for them as well.
It could be that you just need to talk through the emotional toll the job is taking and meeting a colleague for coffee or a cocktail could be just the boost that you need to take on the next day headfirst.
While this industry is large, it can also be a tight-knit community. Everyone working together elevates the group as a whole and brings about more success for all.
Stay the Course
Like the words of the Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler” – “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em.” There will be times when you’re unsure if your business will make it. Owning a business doesn’t happen without doubt ever creeping in.
If you have some minor setbacks, don’t let them deter you. It goes back to creating a solid plan. Is money tight? Do you have a plan to get back on track? Are your problems temporary? If you’re unsure, consult with your advisors. Seek counsel from those who don’t share your emotional attachment to the business and whether it succeeds or fails. This list would include business mentors, your accountant, and your lawyer.
However, if you decide that your goals have shifted, or you’ve exhausted all of your options and determined that it’s time to move on, that’s ok. Being a business owner can become your identity, your sense of self. Trying on a different hat doesn’t mean you’ve failed. True success is staying your course, whatever you determine that to be. It means heading in the direction you want to go in.
No one knows what’s around the bend. Unpredictability is tough for a business owner. Maintain your focus, prepare yourself to adapt to changing conditions, keep a strong network of friends by your side, and walk the path you want to be on. That way, you can be confident that you can face your fears and tackle any obstacles that come your way.