Episode #312: 9 Things I Learned from The Biggest Event of My Career
TAYLOR BRADFORD: You’re listening to episode number 312 of the Boss Girl Creative podcast. Today I’m talking about nine lessons that I learned from the biggest event of my life to date. On to the episode.
Hey, welcome to Episode 312. I’m your host, Taylor Bradford. Thank you so much for tuning in to today’s episode, which is all about the nine things that I learned from the biggest wedding event of my career to date. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about.
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So let’s dive into these nine things that I’ve learned that I actually learned from this past Friday. Actually, I take that back. This has been an ongoing learning episode. This has been an ongoing journey since being hired for this wedding reception, which I was hired back in February of 2020. And, of course, it’s a pandemic shutdown type of event reschedule. And we tried rescheduling in June, and that was before anybody knew the level of the pandemic. Like, the magnitude, I should say. And then we rescheduled to march and then ultimately landed on May 28, which just happened. May 28th, 2021. It was an epic party. I did receive really great feedback from my client. It was the party of her dreams. I don’t think you can get any better feedback than that. There was a lot that went into it that we kept from the client because she honestly didn’t need to know all the crazy that was going on behind the scenes. And I’m going to talk a little bit about that as part of the lessons that I learned from the biggest event of my career – of my life. And so, let’s dive into those things.
Number one is boundaries. And I’ve talked about this before. And all nine of these lessons, I either relearned them, or they just hadn’t surfaced in a while, or it’s something that I’m like, okay, step back, we have to make a change. I’m not allowing this to happen again. So number one was boundaries. And it’s not that I overstepped my boundaries or necessarily that any one person overstepped their boundaries with me, but let’s just be generic and saying boundaries are incredibly important in business. And they’re there for a reason. And sometimes we get pushed into a corner, and it’s last minute, and we just have to do the things that we just have to do. Like, it has to get done, somebody’s got to do it and might as well be you or might as well be me or whomever is up against the wall, because it’s the time factor. And none of us can control the time factor. So the time factor becomes an issue. And so, while you may have set out and said this is my role, there are times because of the time factor that we have to do other things outside of those boundaries, outside of what we’ve been asked to do or even hired to do. And sometimes that’s life. So it does bring it back around, though, after the event that I need to reformulate, how do I properly communicate these boundaries? How do I set my systems up so that I’m not in that position again? Maybe it’s somebody on my team that’s in that position, and I’m supporting them in that role, but I don’t want to be in that position again. That’s not what I was hired for, and so on and so forth. And it’s nothing crazy. I mean, the venue was crazy. Let’s just put that out there. I’m not going to tell you the actual venue, you’ll figure it out eventually, what if you follow my social media handles, but I’m not going to tell you the actual venue through the podcast. The venue was crazy. Every time I turned around, they were changing the scope of service, and which was a domino effect on my client and definitely a domino effect on her finances. And that is just not good business practice. But a lot of the boundaries were pushed by the venue and not necessarily my client. And then, because of those boundaries, being stepped on or just ignored altogether, I ended up doing things or having to do things that I didn’t sign up for. And nobody really did, so we just still had to take care of them. So number one that I learned – number one thing that I learned was having to make sure my boundaries stay in place.
Number two, oh, the contract changes that I will be making. And to be fair, the contract I used was pre-pandemic, and there wasn’t really a whole lot I could do about that. The pandemic happened. None of us saw that coming. No one had ever experienced a level of that kind of crazy before in business. And so I did during the pandemic, make some adjustments to my contract, but not that contract, because it was already signed. And I just didn’t feel like that was appropriate, etc., etc., but I learned so much about myself for the future in what needs to be in my contract. And like scope of changes, and what fees are attached to that. I mean, I basically had an indoor event turn into an outdoor event with a tent. And when I say a tent, I actually mean a structure. Like, this was a structure, think of like an outdoor atrium area. Like, maybe you feel like you’re in a garden but inside. That’s what this tent was. It was a structure. It was not a pole tent. And the size of it was major, like 26 feet tall. It was nearly the size of my warehouse building – the site -like, the height of it was crazy. And because a tent got involved three and a half weeks to the day of our event, that meant I was now designing from the ground up, including the walls, including the ceiling, bringing in the lighting, bringing in the power, bringing in the air conditioning. Like, all of that became something that fell into my lap, and nobody saw that coming. I for sure didn’t see that coming. So there are things that I’m going to have to go back into my contract and make adjustments to handle things like that in the future because I was only going to be coming in for the day before and the day of for setup. And then, because it became a tent, all of a sudden, I was starting to go in every day for a solid week to check on the production schedule. It’s a big thing to have a tent. You don’t just erect it, and then boom, everything’s together. Like, there are so many moving parts when a tent is involved. So that was lesson number two, lots of contract changes.
And that didn’t just happen over the last three and a half weeks. Lots of contract changes happened over the course of this entire journey, from being hired in February of 2020. And it’s just a business lesson that I learned. And even during the pandemic, I learned some things about myself and about running a design business and the wedding industry and things that I wish I could have gone back and already had implemented into my contract and into my services. But again, because I already had a contract with my client, that was not something that I could just be like, “Oh, hey, just kidding. That contract’s void. Here’s the new one.” I mean, I guess you could, but that would be really poor business. Like, anyways, suck it up and move on. So number two is contract changes. Things that are coming to my new contract for an event at that level, specifically for my design clients. Design and styling clients.
All right, number three expectations. I think this was the most challenging part – actually, probably not, but it ranks up there – expectations of what it is that I plan on doing or will be doing or was hired to do and the expectations of what everyone else is doing and how that communication flow is supposed to happen. So post-event, we had an issue with the draping. My client was supposed to receive the draping, and there were some instructions sent via text message from me to the vendor. And they were not received. They actually did not physically get them. I’ve seen screenshots. I sent my screenshot showing that I did, in fact, send instruction. And so when I did follow up to find out what happened, that’s when we learned there was a breakdown in communication. And I should have responded faster to find out that information, but you know, again, things you learn. Things you will do better next time. But setting the expectations, especially setting them with a client, and what it is that you are hired to do, what that includes, what that does not include, etc., etc. Making sure to always set clear expectations each time a new vendor becomes involved in the process, whether or not that is a supporting role or non-supporting role etc., etc. Always, always make an important so that everyone is on the same page, that the expectations are extremely clear.
Number four, money talk. Having the money talk. And this was an issue from the very beginning, not being able to get the investment level from my client. And I was not the planner. And Sugar Creek was not the planner on the event. And the planner even had trouble with having the money talk. And most people do not understand what things cost in the event industry until they see a proposal from a particular vendor. And I had several of those moments where because I didn’t know the investment level or the comfortability level of the spending, I was shooting for the moon and hoping to land within the stars. And there were moments leading up to the event where we were having to make some really quick decisions because, again, scope changes by the venue that was going to be costing my client more money and if – that is super high stress. Super high stress to be able to say, “Here is a rather large invoice for this service that has to happen. Are you willing to pay it?” Money talks are really hard, and they have to start from the very beginning. And that’s where we had a big breakdown was not being able to have those money talks in the beginning or to get the client to, I don’t even want to say like set in stone because sometimes budgets are fluid. Sometimes investment levels are fluid based on wow factors and what’s super important to the client. But having a base level would have been so incredibly helpful for my own stress level and how I approached my client with some rather large bills. So number four lesson money talk. It has to be done upfront, no ifs, ands, or buts. No work performed until you know the investment level, period. Period, period, period.
Number five, no assumptions. No assumptions that that person got that message. No assumptions that that person got that email. No assumptions that that driver was told when to be somewhere and where. When and where. No assumptions that your staff that you hired for a job would actually stay to complete the job. Yes, that happened. I hired a staffing company to work load-in and load-out, and I got royally screwed over because there was a lack in communication, where I assumed I was being charged for the job, and I was actually being charged by time. And again, we can’t control time, but not being communicated about only being charged for time and not for the job set me up for a major fail at load-out, at what we call ‘strike’ in the wedding industry. And I had to lean on another team that was already in there striking their items, and they stayed and helped me. Thankfully. They saved my gravy. I sent them all big tips for saving my gravy because of that. So no assumptions. Do not assume that person knows what is in your head. Do not assume that that vendor knows when they’re supposed to show up. Getting on the same page with everybody, going back to setting those expectations, and I realized there was a disconnect in hiring the staffing company that just didn’t understand what rentals means when loading in and loading out And I thought I did a fairly decent job at explaining what was going to happen, but, again, the staffing owner made a decision without informing me of that decision. And I – it set me up to fail, which was not fun at all. Number five, no assumptions.
Number six, teamwork. Teamwork is the dream work. Working with vendors that have your back no matter what. That is why I do what I do. I love working with people that I get to work with frequently because we’re all professional, and we will pitch in in a heartbeat if something goes wrong. Case in point, I got set up to fail, and the floral team was still on-site breaking down all of their items, and they stayed to help me load out of that event. I was going to have to move 160 wooden cross-back chairs by myself because my staffing company had ended. Like, their time ended that I had paid for. That I unknowingly paid for only an hour of their time. So teamwork. Stepping in and going the extra mile so that the entire event is successful and someone doesn’t fail. That is so incredibly important in business in life.
Number seven, I am a badass. I am good at what I do, and the end result always shows that to me. I never doubt myself – and I’m not talking with a big head by any means- but if you do not have confidence in your abilities, you will allow people to walk over you. And there were moments where I was like, “Ugh, okay, that that didn’t really work.” But at the end of the day, when I get to see my work come to life and my clients enjoying themselves and having the party of their dreams. I am a badass at what I do. Having the confidence in your skillset is what will set you apart. And that is important to remember. You are a badass at what you do. Never forget that.
Number eight, I need a hell of a lot more support staff. A hell of a lot more. And I thought it did a good job in prepping for that, but I will prep for more in the future, especially on a design of that caliber. I thought I had enough, but I needed more hands-on-deck, especially when I had the epic fail at the night – at the end of the night.
And number nine, put yourself and your business first. Always. Yes, teamwork is super important, and it’s better that you go help the ball that’s being dropped and being a part of the solution that fixes that so the client never knows. But at the end of the day, it’s your business, and it’s you. And you have to show up and support yourself and roll out your own red carpet because nobody else is going to do that for you. You have to take ownership of the things that you do, the things that you’re a badass at, and you have to put yourself first. Your business comes first. Yes, you need to help other people. Not saying that. I would have been totally there until 11 in the morning, loading my furniture back into my trailer by myself, had there not been teamwork. Had there not been people that are like, ‘no man left behind’ because that’s not how this works. But still, at the end of the day, you have to keep your focus on yourself and your business because nobody else will do that for you. And that’s important to remember as well.
So some key moments from this event. Around three o’clock in the afternoon on event day, we get told that we were supposed to supply power for their catering kitchen and the comfort stations, which is a fancy word for porta-potties. And they are much fancier than a porta-potty. They have AC and heat and all of that, and they’re they smell nice and you there’s an actual stall and an actual sink and etc., etc. Nobody had ever told us leading up to that that we were supposed to supply their power. But we got that figured out, and we got that taken care of.
Second key moment, there was a man who was kind of the rep for the venue, and at one moment I was passing by him, and he said to me, “You look like a deer in headlights. Is everything okay?” And sometimes I am known to have a blank look on my face, but it’s because my brain is going 90 to nothing and I’m, like, tediously checking off lists in my head of what I’ve done and what’s left to do and where my focus needs to go next. And sometimes, that can look like a deer in headlights, but let me say this, I am never a deer in headlights when it comes to events. I am never a deer in headlights. It might look like it, but you got to trust me. I am not experiencing that at all in my brain. I’m not. I am literally checking off what I’ve done, what I need to do, what’s next, where my focus needs to go, what’s priority, what’s not priority, who can I put a task on, etc., etc., etc. And to be told I look like a deer in headlights, I was like, “Yeah, no, I’m sorry that you think that, but no, absolutely. I’m not a deer in headlights. I know what I’m doing. You may not know what you’re doing, but I know what I’m doing. And I know what task is next, etc.” I thought it was very interesting that it looked like I was a deer in headlights. I am never a deer in headlights, especially when it comes to events. Never.
Another key moment – again, going back to ‘I need more staff on event days specifically for my design and styling clients’ – I also need a video team dedicated to me. And I had made this a priority for myself because I knew this was going to be a next-level type of an event, and I started reaching out to some of my favorite videographers. And there happened to be a video and photography team – photo and video team – hired by my client. And it was kind of presented to me that hey, let’s maybe see if you can make it work with them. And so I kind of went down that road, and ultimately, in the last like 48 hours, maybe 72 hours, it was decided that that – it really wasn’t going to work out for a myriad of reasons. And I need to go back and make it a priority that video is important to me. I will bring my own team next time. I had that intention, and it got derailed a little bit, and now looking back, I should have stayed with that intention and found the person that I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve worked with several videographers, but I should have made that a solid priority, and I’m sad that I didn’t. So now I have to depend on what footage was captured in that event to show off my skill sets. To show off my work. And I know they were killing it, but their focus was the client and not me, as it should have been. So yep, key moment right there.
And then, my final key moment from this experience was needing someone specifically on-site to handle my own social media because I fail at that. You should see the three or four photos that I took the entire day of this event. And this event was next level. I cannot wait to show everyone. I cannot wait to put it out on my YouTube. It was next level. And yeah, I’m gonna have to hire somebody specifically to be with me handling my social media on event days. That has to be a priority. So priority one, video team dedicated to my behind-the-scenes and priority to someone specifically handling my phone and doing my social media on event day because I fail at that every single time. Every single time. And you would think I would learn by now, but I haven’t, so now this is one of my lessons learned from the biggest event of my career to date.
So, that is that. I hope that you got some nuggets of wisdom from that. And to repeat myself from the very very beginning, if you would like to get yourself on the waitlist for the Inner Circle membership, which will reopen its doors in early August, go to bossgirlcreative.com/InnerCircle to add your name to the waitlist. I would love to have you in there. And until next week. I hope you have a great rest of this one.