One thing that we all have in common as creative entrepreneurs is that we crave inspiration. We can find it many places, but the best source we have is each other which is why meetings are so important as a place to reconnect and recharge.
This week’s weekend inspiration comes from my talk with a panel of successful event professionals. I was asked by ISES Ventura Santa Barbara chapter (led by Zohe Felici, Percy Sales and Cindy Celis) to moderate a panel of some of the top creative minds in the Los Angeles event industry. The storyteller in me loves to moderate panel discussions … they are like magazine articles come to life! But rather than talk about Pantone colors or whether bacon is still hot on event menus, we wanted to get into the hearts of minds of these professionals and what makes them successful.
We gathered at the gorgeous Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks with Edgar Zamora, Revelry Event Designers, Nikki Khan, Exquisite Events, David Merrell, AOO Events, Sarah Zahran, Luna Gardens and Veronica Puleo, The Replicas Music.
Taking a page (although not literally!) from Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” we began with that … what habits have they found are helpful to leading a successful life and business (often one in the same).
Top photo: Clockwise from top left: Dave Merrell, Nikki Khan, Edgar Zamora, Sarah Zahran, Liese Gardner Veronica Puleo
What habits have you formed that have helped your business grow?
Veronica: Staying consistent in our social media and vetting all our talent before putting them on stage.
Dave: A quote that I live by, “Be careful the toes you step on, they might be attached to the ass you have to kiss later.”
Edgar: One habit I have always had from my background in fashion design is to design a new collection every six months. The other is strive for excellence.
What advice would you like to give to your younger self?
Dave: Breathe and relax! Although change is constant, as long as you are on top of things, everything really does work out.
Edgar: I’d tell myself to delegate earlier. You never will get that time back.
Sarah: Not to be so naïve.
Veronica: Something that Carol Rosen once told me – “Always belong to an event industry organization, be involved, and keep showing up to their events.”
Luna Gardens Westlake Village and its 24-foot flower bar in action.
What are some of the recent innovations in your business?
Dave: I have been doing more meetings and find that they are evolving fast. In terms of technology, design and the guest experience, they are taking on more of the same attributes of events.
Nikki: Working globally now, we find that we have become all the more vigilant on communication between ourselves and with the client. So our innovation in business has been to create systems so that make us even more efficient and successful at what we do. And, having those in place, allows us to focus on what we love and the passion in our design.
Edgar: It’s about always pushing for excellence and creating the experience. For instance, we had the luxury of space when we bought a building next door and made it our warehouse. Our previous warehouse was then turned into a showroom with a “chair gallery.” Like a museum, it’s set up with one of each of our chairs on display and a space for setting up a mock table or look for our clients.
Veronica: Your business tells you what you need. As we were asked for more entertainment genres, we became an agency. The Replicas Music now brokers a variety of talent.
Sarah: When we opened Westlake Village Luna Gardens a year ago, we began to focus on creating an experience on different levels, not just with large events. We built a 24-foot flower bar where people can simply walk in and make their own floral arrangement. They can also buy a pre-made one, or purchase gifts or vases. We also have classes twice a month and special themes revolving around a holiday or season. And upstairs we have a conference area for event consultations.
The new Chair Gallery at Revelry Event Designers showroom
What is something that you find important enough to try and change in the industry and/or your business?
Veronica: To try and make sure that everyone reads the rider. The rider is the entertainment company’s list of needs for the event. It tells the planner how much power we need if they don’t want the band to be in the dark. We can’t share power with your espresso machine or popcorn maker!
Dave: To get people to tell us their budgets. I’ve never understood this and wish we could find some way for clients to trust that we are the professionals and that we can be trusted to find the best, most clever ways to use their budget to get them more for it.
Sarah: To get people understand the scope of what we offer. We can work with a client on creating something completely new, or we are happy to just create a look they have brought to us. But it’s hard to convey this to our colleagues. They worry that we want to take on the design, but we are happy to work as part of their team.
Thoughtful questions from the audience revealed interesting information about these speakers as well — whether they set goals for the year (half did, half didn’t), and if they have any regrets about a business decision they had made. They didn’t. From their vantage point now they all can clearly see that everything happens for a reason. The message — relax and breathe as we go through the necessary, yet not always comfortable, changes that come with growth.