To grow your wedding venue business, you can’t do it alone. As I’ve mentioned before, even if you don’t want to be a large wedding business, you’ll still want to systemize your operations into a well-oiled machine if you ever want to have any freedom (or quite honestly joy in your life). Here’s the truth nobody is going to tell you. When you first start out in the wedding industry, you are going to be very excited about the thought of booking “a few weddings a year” to make a full time living. I promise you that you are going to believe the lie that we all believed. You will think that you can make a full-time wage, working part-time.
The sad truth though is that running a wedding venue involves so much more than just showing up and setting up decor etc. You will not find freedom in this industry in between marketing, sales, meetings, planning the work, executing the work, following up, etc. In fact, you might be working more than ever if you aren’t careful.
The good news though is that there is a way out of this mess. It took me almost 10 years to learn with my DJ business, but eventually I figured it out. Your goal is to create a system that can scale. I’ve talked about this before because I am deeply passionate about helping entrepreneurs like you to systemize your business. The reason I care about it so much is that nobody ever seems to talk about it and yet we all experience the pain. If you are your business, then your business is your new master and you are it’s slave. You will never be free. You’ll be living the entrepreneurial equivalent of pay cheque to pay cheque except it will be wedding to wedding. You’ll be slightly more free than if you worked 9-5, but the stress you were hoping to leave behind when you started all of this will never leave unless you get some help.
A wise man once told me that the key to success was P.O.D. You want to Prioritize, Organize and Delegate. So step one is to realize that someday, at some point you are going to need help with a few things in order to truly be free in your business. It’s also worth noting that if you ever get sick, want to go on extended vacation, want to take a break or even want to sell your business, then you need to systemize your business or everything will stop working the second you do. So let’s start with the first principle of POD, prioritizing!
POD – Prioritize
I’ve heard that they say in AA the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Well, the same thing is true in business. The first step for me was making the cold realization that I would be utterly screwed if I didn’t get help for some parts of my business. I know what you are thinking… you think you can’t afford help, but you can. Just check out this article here for help on that. Ok, so now that you know you need help and understand the various ways that you can pay for help, I suggest you prioritize who to hire. The best way to do that is with an organizational flow chart. I’ve outlined the one I use for Airwaves, my DJ company below.
Ok, you are probably thinking “WHOAAAA, what is all this?!?!”. It’s an organizational flow chart outlining the key roles in my company and the tools each of those people need access to in order to do their job.
The roles are the plain squares. They are:
1. Operations Manager
2. Event Management
The Operations Manager runs ads for, hires and trains the Event Management team and the Sales team. They also work with the outsourcers including the accountant, the marketing agency, the web developer and our collections department (used only very rarely I hope!). If we ever need to hire a new Event Manager or a new Sales Rep, or find a new marketing agency, or have a phone call with the account, the Operations Manager does that. There is also an arrow pointing toward the specific apps the Operations Manager needs to do their job.
The Sales team books all the gigs and handles all the inquiries using www.eventtemple.com (which makes their job much easier by following up automatically). They get the deposit paid and the contract signed and assign a performer to the client. Once that is done, they introduce the client to the Event Manager.
The Event Manager ensures that clients fill out their forms, performers confirm they are ready for their events and handles any customer questions via email and phone leading up to the event. Their main job is to make sure our customers and performers are comfortable, prepared and happy! They make sure everything is organized and no details are missed every step of the way from the time the event is booked until after the event has been executed.
The Performers in our case are DJs, bands and musicians. Our performers’ main jobs are to prepare for their event, communicate with the customers and the Event Manager, arrive at their event early, follow the instructions on our forms, show our customers a great time and assist other vendors with anything they need at the event. They are the face of our company so great customer service is our goal.
We then utilize our outsources and apps/software to do the rest. With all of these things combined we have a well oiled machine that can run completely without me if a reliable Operations Manager is in place. Notice too that no matter how big my company gets, I still really only need these 4 positions. I just need more of them. I’ll probably only need one Operations Manager unless we get gigantic, but I can add on more Sales people, more Event Managers and more performers. My outsourcers can scale as we grow too. Once the system is in place, your main job is simply to ensure you have the right people in the right seats who are doing a great job and are happy to be there. Ideally, as the owner, you only have to ensure you have a great Operations Manager because they will assist you in finding and finding other great team members.
Of course, I love my business, so I have decided to be the Operations Manager for the time being. If I ever do decide I’d like some help though, I have everything ready. I just need to run the job ad and start interviewing and that’s the beauty of having a system like this setup.
So I’ve prioritized now by identifying who I will hire and what each of them will do. I simply need to decide who I want to hire first. I usually do that by hiring someone to do the tasks I am worst at/love the least first. One of the most important business lessons I ever learned was that just because you don’t love something, that doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t. I have met people who love sales, marketing, SEO, data entry, accounting, all kinds of things. Stick to your strengths and hire for your weaknesses first was some of the best advice I’ve ever received so I am happy to pass that onto you in this blog.
Since you know now who you want to hire and in what order, you are ready for the next step!
POD – Organize
Now that I know the 4 key roles in my company, it’s time to organize them. To do that, I just need to create the following:
• A job description for each role (just a 1 page pdf will do)
• Write a quick job advertisement for each role
• Where I want to run my job ads (I suggest places like instagram, ILEA, facebook groups, craigslist, linkedin, indeed and other places local vendors in your area may find it). I also send my job ads to my friends in the industry and ask them to post/share them. I keep a google drive document of where I want to run my job ads so I don’t have to remember when the time comes. I just go to the google drive document and post the jobs where it tells me to.
• I then create an onboarding checklist for each role. This is basically a checklist of things I need to do to get each person ready for the job. Usually it involves things like which passwords to share with them (I use lastpass.com for sharing passwords, it’s only $12 a year), and access to their manual, training videos and all the tools and training they will need to do their job. I also send them a video on our values, how the company works, and the basic flow of Airwaves.
• I also list who will train each role. If it’s the Operations Manager, then I, the owner must train them. This is the hardest role to hire for because you need a high level of trust and low turnover. However, it can be done if you heavily incentivize the Operations Manager by treating them with respect, giving them great training and incentivizing them with a generous profit sharing bonus. In my company, the owner trains the Operations Manager. The Operations Manager trains the Event Planner and Sales Team. The Event Planner trains the Performers with the help of the Operations Manager.
POD – Delegate
Now that you know who to hire, which order you want to hire them in, how you will pay them and have setup their training, job ads, onboarding, etc. you are ready to make your first hire. To do that you will need to interview them. There is a fantastic book all about interviewing and hiring that I highly recommend. It’s very short and it changed my life. The book is called Topgrading. I also personally really enjoy watching Steve Wynn of Wynn Hotels talk about customer service on youtube and he’s also my go to guy on how to create a culture. He’s not perfect I’m sure but I always learn a lot from watching him.
Once you’ve interviewed and hired someone, you need to delegate the role. Interviewing them, onboarding them and training them isn’t enough.
To truly delegate the role you’ll need the following:
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators): Basically you need 3 numbers every week that everyone in your company must submit. I use a google form connected to a google drive spreadsheet for this. I have every member of my team check in on Mondays and Fridays and submit their numbers. For sales, my rep has to tell me how many leads we got, how many sales they got and what the sales amounted to as well as the closing rate (how many leads we got vs sales closed). He also can use a simple report in Event Temple to generate this quickly. The Event Manager has to submit how many events we have the next 2 weeks, how many payments are still outstanding, how many forms are still outstanding, how many performers haven’t checked in and any red-flag dates (high risk dates with lots of gigs going on where we need to be extra prepared). The Operations Manager has to submit how much money is outstanding, the sales number, the marketing numbers, how many backups we have on standby for each key role and a profit and loss report.
Success/Failure/ Promotion/Termination: This took me a long time to get right but I feel like I finally have it as of the last 6 months. To be a successful delegator, you need to set clear accountabilities for each role on what success and failure look like. You also need to tell each person on the team how to get promoted/move ahead and what they need to do to get there. You also need to give each member of your team a list of rules to follow and consequences for breaking those rules. You also must tell them when and how they will be terminated, under what circumstances and what warnings they will get. If you don’t give them this, you aren’t being fair to them as a business owner. The good news is, it just takes a little bit of thought to get this right. Then, once you know what success and failure mean to you, simply put it on a one page PDF and also make an unlisted youtube video that you provide to each team member when they are hired. I also keep a spreadsheet where I enter any complaint or issue that arises with the team member. I also write notes on every team member when they do something great. I also make sure to share stories of greatness with our entire private team Facebook group and encourage the rest of our admin team to do the same.
Have A Resource Library: I also have a resource library in Google Drive which includes the following:
- A list of FAQs for the admin team
- Links to all the tools we use
- Our team contact list (including all of our team members, performers, outsources, our business card printing company, our SEO company, rental partners, basically anyone that we ever talk to as a business.
- Links to all of our training manuals
- Links to all of our training videos
- Links to all of our job descriptions, job ads, and resources where we place job ads
- Links to How-To documents, recordings and videos for how to do everything at Airwaves (whenever we do something, we just record a screencast, or write a quick document on how to do it and upload it to our manual in google drive)
- List of all of our KPIs
- List of success/failure/promotion/termination for every job
- A link to our performer review system
KISS – Keep It Super Simple
Though it may seem like a giant contradiction to write to “keep it simple” after a giant blog post like this, it’s very important to remember. Just give your team members a 1 page job description, 1 page of interview questions, 3 or 4 main metrics a week, and links to the rest. They should have access to dive deep into all of the complexities of the business to find answers and training to anything they need to know, but on the surface level, there should only be a few things they MUST know to do every day and week. Their job should be simple, but they should be rich with resources.
I also don’t give everything to everyone. Performers for example have access to their own manual, training, login and tools, but that’s it. The Operations Manager has access to everything. The Sales Team and Event Manager have access to most things except a few key things that are private to the Operations Manager’s role. But in general, anyone on the admin team can figure out how to find, hire, onboard and train a new performer or how to quote, sell and invoice for a gig. Certain things I want everyone to be able to handle and so I keep that training universal to my admin team (performers are always considered separate from the admin team because I really want to make their life as easy as possible so they can just focus on providing a great guest experience, it’s our job to handle the rest).
“That seems like a lot, Bob”
I was once hired to be a consultant for a successful hair salon (you can read about it here). She was a member of my entrepreneur’s group (Entrepreneur’s Organization worldwide) and she noticed I had a passion for creating systems. She asked me to come into her salon for a week, take notes on their processes and procedures and help her systemize things. Her main goal was to turn her successful business into a business that also allowed her to be more free, so she could spend more time with her kids (the entrepreneurial “trap” exists in every industry). So, she paid me as a consultant and I came in for an entire week and took notes like a madman, trying to learn everything about her business and how it worked in a very short amount of time.
In the end, we applied what I wrote in this blog post, although I am even better at it now because I’ve had my own practice. She’s since applied many of the systems to her business and last time I checked in with her they were making a big difference and working well months after I’d left.
I know it’s a lot of work. A friend told me it takes 18 months from when you first think of systemizing your business to when it’s finally done. You have to spend an hour or so a day just thinking about it, remembering to write things down and being diligent about doing the work. The payoff though is huge. You have a business that can actually run without you. Even more interestingly, you learn which systems in your business are ineffective or inefficient because you spend so much time thinking about them. This in turn makes you a better business owner which makes you a better company to work for and helps you provide better service for your clients. It’s not just about you and your freedom, you help everyone your business comes into contact with by putting in the effort.
How my systems are working for me
I love systems if you can’t tell. But what’s really magical (and why this was such a long blog post), is that I’ve realized that just by spending the time thinking about these things and putting in the work, I’ve created a new kind of value for myself and others. Just look at how much I have to share with you! The end result has been a lot less stress in my life and a lot more freedom. I also feel like I’ve learned something worth so much more than money or even free time and that’s the ability to create a machine that others can gain success from being a part of. Airwaves could easily be franchised or sold now because everything is running smoothly. Now that we have the big parts running like a machine, we focus on little tweaks which make it even better over time. No business is perfect, but the more you write down what you are doing, write down your mistakes and learn from them, and then spend time writing down new solutions, you’ll move farther and farther ahead over time. So here’s to you and your freedom and I hope over time my blog provides you with more and more value on how to setup a system that brings freedom and success to your life.