My friend and colleague, Sean Low, has a saying, "Some people want the rockstar vendors, most people just want vendors who are solid as a rock."
What does it mean to be solid as a rock? Here's my interpretation of Sean's insight:
You know who you are, and more importantly, you know who and what you are not.
I am an idea girl and I am gifted at strategy. I love helping other people figure out how to do what they do well, in a better way. Currently, this means helping people better communicate their story in order to improve their business.
In contrast, I have wanted to sing on Broadway since I was very young. It has been a lifelong dream. It is never going to happen, for the singular fact that I cannot carry a tune. My love for singing and my ability do not and have never matched up. Believe me when I say there is not enough vodka in Russia to get me to sing karaoke. It is that bad.
Just because something makes you happy (singing), does not mean you should make a career out of it. The sweet spot comes in finding what makes you happy AND what you do well.
You can sleep at night knowing you offer a high-quality product and service.
If you are charging for a service, you should be able to back it up with the knowledge and skill to match. Learning your industry's buzzwords so you can sound knowledgeable on your subject may fool the star-struck for a while, but it won't fool anyone else.
Last night I was working on a project and emailed two graphic designers I work with, Trisha Hay and Kelly Ashworth, to ask them to identify a font for me. They both responded right away with the exact font name. What I had spent an hour and a half trying to figure out prior to asking for their help, they could tell within seconds from just a glance, and on a small-screened iPad, no less. I told them they were amazing and Trisha replied, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, "I paid for all those type classes in college, I better be." Trisha and Kelly's abilities don't just come from being gifted in design (though they are) but from putting in the hours of the tedious work that makes them good at their craft.
If you want to be rock solid, Twitter less and pick up your camera and shoot non-assignments, take an interior design class, learn your region's fire marshal laws for venue capacity and tenting, memorize the Crane's Blue Book of Stationery Etiquette (I had to do this when I ran an invitation shop - annoying at the time, but still invaluable today), study the rules of typography, etc.
You may do 50 weddings per year, but your clients are aiming to have just one wedding over the next 50 years. It is a huge emotional investment on their part, and it needs to be one on yours as well. Respect your clients by truly knowing your craft.
Your identity is made up of more than your career.
If you claim to eat, sleep and breathe weddings, first, change your marketing, and second, get a life. Yes, you should love what you do. You should also love other things as well. Family, friends, sports, knitting groups, book clubs, gardening, cooking . . . having varied interests outside your career allows you to unplug and recharge, which makes you better focused when you return to your work. For a stronger foundation, choose to be a lifeaholic rather than a workaholic.
I am sure I have more opinions on this topic, but that's it for now. What are your thoughts? What do you think makes someone rock solid?
Originally published August 2010.