Focusing On The Bigger Picture (An #Engage15 Recap)

Friday, December 04, 2015

The Engage Summits logo, designed by Trisha Hay, on the gala dance floor  //  Photo via @tanbailleres
A few weeks ago I spoke at the Engage Summits — a semi-annual business-to-business conference for companies working in the luxury segment of the wedding industry. The Engage Summits launched in 2008, and there have been 16 so far (the bling on the name tags indicates how many Engages you've attended — yep, that's fourteen on mine. I leave this event with new ideas every time and it's well worth it).

Laser-engraved and etched custom acrylic name tags with mica chips by Two Paper Dolls  //  Photo via @thinksplendid
This year's event was held at the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World, which means the magic of Engage was stepped up, Disney-style. In order to keep things fresh, speakers were asked to create brand new presentations with content they hadn't shared at other industry events. As I thought through what I would talk about this year, I kept thinking about conversations I've had with my wedding business consulting clients over the past eighteen months.

One consistent pattern I’ve noticed with my clients is that the issue they come to me with is usually a symptom, not the root cause. This has been the case since day one. Over the past year and a half however, the root issue has largely been one of hazy priorities, lack of margin, or trying to do something that isn’t fully aligned with the bigger picture they set for themselves. This happens to everybody at one point or another, but it seems to be especially prevalent recently.

Because I study mindset and how that plays out practically, for this Engage I decided to speak on something that impacts our personal mindset, rather than talk about the mindset of brides and grooms or our employees. Ultimately, if we don’t get our own mindset right, then how our clients make decisions doesn’t matter.

Cocktail napkin design by Gifts for the Good Life for the Alice in Wonderland welcome party  //  Photo via @goodlifegabsue
At this Engage, I spoke on neuroplasticity and its scientific role in helping us be intentional in creating margin. Not financial margin — though that’s important — but margin in our schedules, businesses, relationships as well as margin both physically and mentally. I fully believe that work-life balance is a myth, but that margin is possible when balance is not. Margin allows us to roll with both the highs and lows that life sends our way. Margin requires that we get our priorities straight and it acknowledges and honors the fact that your priorities may not be my priorities and vice versa. Margin allows space for each of us to do our own thing, in the manner that’s best for each of us.

Maybe it’s because I was already tuned into to this for my talk, but I noticed the topic of getting your head and priorities aligned with the bigger picture emerge as a theme in several of the presentations over the course of the three day event. Just a note for clarification: while Rebecca and Kathryn — the co-founders and hosts of Engage — give speakers guidance on their presentations, very rarely do they ask everyone to touch on a certain issue. The emergence of these unofficial themes is usually a good indicator of where the larger industry is at, and one of the reasons I love Engage so much — a theme always emerges, planned or not. (You can read about themes that emerged at Engage!11, Engage!12 at the Mandarin Oriental as well as Engage!12 at The Breakers, Engage!13, Engage!14 in Beaver Creek and Engage!14 in Grand Cayman.)

Carley Roney, co-founder of XO Group  //  Photo via @carleyroney
Carley Roney — co-founder of XO Group and its companies The Knot, The Nest, The Bump — had perhaps the best advice on family priorities: “Don’t check social media until after your kids have gone to school.” This is a small, doable (though maybe not the easiest) change that anyone can make and comes with both immediate and long-term positive results in your mindset as well as your relationships.

Event planner Mindy Weiss shared that she is taking on fewer events this coming year (half to be exact) so that she has more time to be physically present in her granddaughter’s life.

Other speakers talked about shifting their business models so that others on their team can take on roles they’ve traditionally done so that they can focus on other areas that are just as intellectually demanding but not as physically demanding.

All of the points above require setting aside ego and choosing what’s best according to your bigger picture. If you’re not on social media before your kids are off to school, people may think you’re not a hard worker. If you’re taking fewer events, people may think your business is struggling. If you’re still working at 100 miles an hour but not logging the same amount of air miles, people may think you’ve gotten sick, burnt out, or worse — have become lazy. These are all ludicrous, of course, and have nothing to do with reality, but they are still common concerns that the ego serves up.

Peacock painting featured in the lobby of the Four Seasons  //  Photo via @thehoneymoonist
Ego is the number one thief of margin and the top destroyer of healthy priorities. If you’re starting to feel burnt out or that you’re lacking joy in a job you once loved, take an honest ego check. It may not solve everything, but once that’s out of the way, you’ll have new clarity on other areas that may need your attention.

Luxury event planner Sarah Haywood  //  Photo via @SarahHaywoodWeddings
Sometimes the ego that needs to be silenced isn't your own. Sarah Haywood, the top wedding planner in Britain, talked about dreaming big, and then setting specific boundaries that keep those dreams from turning into nightmares. In a talk entitled, "Be Careful What You Ask For," she shared the importance of not allowing a client’s ego to dictate how you run your business or who you employ.

Rishi Patel, president of HMR Designs  //  photo via @riship18
Rishi Patel, from HMR Designs, an event design company in Chicago, gave a talk on growth: the good, the bad, and the unexpected. His was my favorite presentation of this entire Engage, and maybe my favorite of any over the years. If you want to grow in a sustainable way, you have to create a process that’s in the best interest of the company and your employees (including a bonus structure that is fair and incentivizes). This means creating an infrastructure that requires and rewards everyone on the team setting aside their ego.

Final night turndown gift. Everything that exists started as an idea.  //  Photo via @engagesummits
When I spoke at the inaugural Engage in June 2008, I knew that I had encountered something special — so much so that I registered to attend the second Engage that October. Ideas I brought home — and implemented — from the first Engage changed my business in a way that could be measured on a balance sheet. More than that, though, I knew I was with a group of people who had been in the industry for a long time and still had a positive outlook on it. This mattered to me. In an industry where people spend a lot of money on one day and many businesses seem to be run unprofessionally, it’s easy to become cynical and jaded, if not about weddings themselves, then about the competition.

Everyone has areas in their business and life where they struggle with ego — absolutely no one is perfect on this. Finding people who are willing to admit that and who are willing to do the work to keep their ego in check are the type of people I find most beneficial to be around. The Engage Summits are the only business events I've found that consistently offer that in both the speakers and attendees. Twice a year I get to see people who have become some of my closest friends and business sounding boards — some of whom are technically competitors. This group helps keeps me focused on both my personal bigger picture and the bigger picture of the industry and helps me create the margin I need to run a business and life I love.

Disney or not, Engage has a special magic. And that magic is always the people who attend.

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