Why You May Not Need a Business Consultant

Nor these 9 other growth “must-haves”

Photo by    Nancy Ray

Photo by Nancy Ray

This is not one of those clickbait blog posts where I tell you that the top reasons not to hire a business coach are because “you hate making money” or “you love having too much on your plate” or anything ridiculous like that. We all know there are times when we legitimately need an outsider’s experienced perspective and help. This is about determining when that is – and when that isn’t.

The people who provide business-to-business (b2b) services have families to feed and bills to pay just like you do and their expertise is often valuable and worth the money. They deserve to be well-compensated for their work just like you do for yours. That doesn’t mean what they offer is relevant for you in every season of your business or life.

When it comes to buying new products or hiring people to help your business get unstuck, always consider who’s telling you what you "have to do" and ask yourself, "what are they really selling?"

Here are 10 things wedding pros and creative business owners often hear when it comes to improving their companies that aren’t always true:

1. “You have to work with a business consultant in order to get unstuck and grow."

Maybe you do. Maybe you don't. Sometimes the time isn’t right to bring on a consultant, no matter how good they are or how much extra cash you have on hand. And I say this as a business consultant who pays my bills by helping wedding industry leaders succeed.

I fully stand behind the insight, wisdom, experience, expertise, and results I bring to the table, but I am never going to sell you something you don’t need.

Sometimes you may just need a business-focused weekend retreat with a small group of smart colleagues you fully trust to call you out on your blind spots. Friends who truly want the best for you but aren’t attached to your business the way you are. 

2. “You need to be on most social media platforms to be relevant."

Does the person preaching this sell social media management services? Does it make sense for your business to be on Stories every day? For some companies it does, for others it doesn’t. This also depends not just on your target market age demographic but on geographic region as well. 

3. “You have to have a custom website to stand out."

Maybe you do, and for some people a fully custom website is the best option. You might also just need a well-branded Squarespace site.

If the person preaching “custom or bust” sells web design, they may genuinely believe this to be true – but they also sell custom web design and need to pay their bills.

4. “You need the latest software to maximize productivity and efficiency."

I love a good technology solution, and the latest and greatest may make your life more streamlined. It may also be a cost you don’t need to take on right now. You may just need a well-optimized Excel workbook. 

5. “You need ongoing SEO services."

You might, depending on the type of business you run. You may also just need to do the tedious, long-game work of writing a blog post several times a week so that your site has consistently new content and new keywords for Google to index. 

6. “You have to take this online course."

Maybe the course will be full of useful, specialized education and a timesaver, like the new Essential PR Field Guide course from Natalie at In Good Company PR.

Maybe you just need to download some free library books to your iPad or take a free EdX online class through MIT or Harvard.

7. “You have to rebrand every 2-3 years."

This may be the most ridiculous claim of them all, and legitimate branding experts will never pretend it is true. There may be times where you need to rebrand and refresh your identity, but that decision should be based on your company’s goals, not your graphic designer’s.

Hire an expert who understands how to design for business ROI and whose work can stand the test of time.

8. “You have to have an app for your company."

You probably don’t and, more importantly, you probably shouldn’t. An app that only regurgitates your social media feeds just eats up phone storage space and actively brands your company as one that will waste someone’s time and money. 

9. “You have to pay to join a mastermind in order to be fully emotionally invested."

Paid masterminds were the "it business" in the mid-90’s, then again in 2007, and now they're back once more. In the wedding industry, mastermind fees range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to six-figures.

There are times when a paid mastermind with strangers you’ve never met or acquaintances you barely know makes sense. That said, always consider who is telling you that a paid mastermind is the best way to get the most out of the group.

10. “You have to spend money to make money.”

This is true – to a point. Your finances are your own private business and whether or not you choose to take out a loan or charge something to a credit card is up to you.

As you’re considering your options, one major red flag is if the person selling you a b2b service or mastermind tells you that you should take on a large financial risk because you’re “betting on yourself” and “you’re worth it.”

You are worth betting on. You are also worth not allowing yourself to be emotionally manipulated into taking on unnecessary debt.

If you’re on the fence about a business purchase, get advice from people you trust who won’t benefit financially from your decision.

There are many paths you can take to make your business better, and there are times where making those investments make sense. As you evaluate opportunities though, always consider the source. It’s not a good deal if you don’t need it.

A version of this post was originally published in March 2017

Why Are You So Much More Expensive?

Preparing for your least fave FAQ.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

“Engagement season” refers to the period of time each year when the most wedding proposals happen. In the United States, it runs from Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday of November) until Valentine’s Day. For many other locations, it starts just a few weeks later, going from around Christmas to Valentine’s Day.

The most popular days for engagements are currently Christmas day, Valentine’s day, New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s day – in that order.

Just like most good publicists will start prepping and pitching their clients’ Christmas campaigns in early Summer, wedding pros’ prep for engagement/proposal season should ideally already be underway. However, if you, like almost every wedding business owner, have been juggling a zillion things, the next best time to start is now.

For the month of October, I’m going to be mostly discussing the things you can do get your business ready so that yours can be the company they most love once the ring is on their finger.

When a potential client asks why you are priced so much higher (or less) than a competitor, the initial impulse is to compare everything you offer – line by line – to everything the competition offers.

While this may sometimes work, it is often a fool’s errand, as it immediately commoditizes the services you provide

The simple fact is that you most likely don’t know why your competitors are priced the way they are. 

  • Maybe they have a spouse providing for all of the family expenses, so they can afford to take a loss on projects as they build a brand name.

  • Maybe their only annual sales goal is to cover private school tuition for their kids.

  • Maybe they dropped out of law school and still have six-figures of student loan debt to repay.

  • Maybe they are motivated by the social signal of having the Louis Vuitton or Céline logo on their accessories.

  • Maybe they want to provide scholarships to Ivy League universities for foster kids.

  • Maybe they chose their price based on outdated advice given at an industry association meeting.

  • Maybe they are driven by ego, a need to be liked, or FOMO and will emotionally price projects at a lower rate in order to never lose a gig.

  • Maybe they don't understand luxury strategy and their price is only based on the equation of cost of goods + time.

  • Maybe they have higher overhead.

  • Maybe they have lower overhead.

  • Maybe they just picked their numbers out of the air.

You don’t know. So why not just say so?

Why are you $15,000 when Sally Anne Events is $5,000?
"I’m not involved in creating Sally’s business strategy, so I don’t know why she is priced the way she is. I am confident in what we offer and the experience and expertise we bring to the table and our pricing reflects that."

Maybe you expand on this explanation. Maybe you don’t.

Whatever you do, never knock the competition. The wedding industry may be large, but it is like a small town in that whatever you say will get back to them. It will always get back to them.

More importantly, you may need to collaborate with them in the future. If you’re competing on the level you want to be, then your competitors are most likely also good at what they do.

Stay up on what the industry and what your competitors are doing, but don’t allow it to change anything without deeply considering your own goals and strategies behind it. A knee-jerk reaction to a price difference doesn’t do you any favors in the long-term.

Originally published June 2016

How To Become More Influential

Reading between the lines.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

Influence doesn't primarily come from your ability to tell a story well. 

Influence primarily comes from your ability to interpret the stories other people tell themselves. 

Everyone's behavior is driven by the stories they internalize. Sometimes they're inherited stories — true, false, or exaggerated — shaped by previous generations and passed on. Sometimes they're stories we believe to be true simply because everyone else says they are, and we’ve never examined them beyond that. Sometimes they're stories we cling to because they're familiar, though at times toxic and harmful.

Examples of this include:

"I'm this, not that." 

"If I could only have X, I could achieve Y." 

"Their business is more successful because they are married/single/a parent/childless/have investors/have low overhead." 

"I can and should be doing everything. After all, "If you want a job done right, do it yourself."

"The way to land luxury clients is to wear more expensive clothes/change my entire lifestyle/have a pricey studio."

"If I close this part of my business or stop offering certain services in order to strategically focus, people will think it failed, so I need to keep it in order to maintain my reputation."

"I can't price that way until I've been in business for at least ten years. It wouldn't be fair to the industry veterans."

"My first marriage/career/business failed, so now everything I do needs to prove I'm not a failure."

"Having famous clients will make me more important and more accepted by others."

"If only the market here were like New York/Chicago/Los Angeles, I would really be able to thrive." 

"If I have that kind of wedding, my guests will think I'm showing off." 

"If I don't have this kind of wedding, my guests will think I'm not successful." 

Stories may help form a circle of "people who are like me," but the deeper stories that drive daily choices often go unspoken. As such, they make it hard to fit people in a box, a clean target market grouping on a business plan. 

Listening well — being focused more on being interested than interesting, reading between the lines — is perhaps one of the most crucial skills needed to grow as an entrepreneur and certainly the most necessary to growing in influence.

Originally published September 2013