Creating Cohesive Relationships with Your Coworkers

Today’s guest post is written by Amy Green & Melanie Marconi of ‘Where Will They Stay?. These ladies have some wonderful tips for how to keep things fun, supportive, and positive amongst team-members in your business.

Taking a company to the next level requires careful planning, informed decision-making, smart growth – and the ability to keep peace even under the extreme pressure of pursuing success. At our company, there are four partners, and a growing number of employees. Even after 10 years in business, creating cohesive relationships in the office is still a daily challenge. Of course, these relationships are further taxed by the necessity of conducting off-site client meetings, constant travel, and weekly hotel site visits. If it all sounds overwhelming, never fear. We have developed several strategies to help you create cohesive relationships in your office.

Creative Commons: flickr.com/photos/aroberts/

Creative Commons: flickr.com/photos/aroberts/

Weekly Staff Meetings

In the past, we used to cancel weekly staff and partner meetings when one or more of us were out of the office. However, a few years ago, we implemented a policy where weekly meetings happen no matter what. Hopefully, all of us can either be there in person, or call-in, but even when someone is absent, we don’t cancel the weekly check-ins, which are invaluable to keeping us moving forward.

Respect the Time of Others

Another way to endear yourself to your coworkers is to respect their time. In a burgeoning powerhouse of a company, no one can afford to waste time, or lose precious minutes to disorganization or off-task behavior. Start by ensuring that each of your scheduled meetings has a recognized purpose, then set agendas that are accurate when they are released. Announce your meetings in advance, be clear about your expectations, and use your meeting time very wisely. Everyone will leave your meetings feeling more accomplished and ready to work together to make a true difference.

Out of the Office Retreats

Nothing is better for bonding than taking a day or two for an internal retreat. Retreats allow employees time to bond away from the office, and learn more about each other as individuals, and as future leaders. If budgets are limited, do a 1-day staycation –inspired meeting, where a full day is spent off-site together brainstorming big picture planning. Check local hotels, country clubs, or even park recreation centers for some off-site meeting room inspiration. Take advantage of the time together to learn what makes each person tick.

Third Party Advisors  

When conflicts inevitably arise, or when the path forward isn’t clear, we have a trusted business coach to advise us. Small business coaches are trained to identify strengths and weaknesses, and to help move a group forward despite the odds. They may act, informally, as mediators when two partners argue, or they may encourage one to talk in order to resolve conflict.

You will find that creating cohesion among your coworkers is a rewarding way to let them know that you appreciate them, and that they are quite valuable. It also results in a harmonious work environment that requires very little care, but allows for so many milestones to be achieved. Make conscientious efforts to discover what makes each of your coworkers tick. This will pay off in love and support many times over.

AmyGreen&MelanieMarconiAmy Green and Melanie Marconi are the founders of BDI Events, a full-service event planning company based in Los Angeles, with offices in Portland. They recently launched Where Will They Stay?, a free service which offers custom room block procurement for event planners and event venues.

2015 Action Plan – Sage Wedding Pros’ Business Strategy for the Wedding Industry

Friends, it’s time!

It’s time to slow down a bit.

It’s time to reflect on 2014 and look forward to 2015.

It’s time for our annual (world famous!) 2015 Action Plan.

Ta-da….

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This is the 4th year of our action plan. We’ve made a few updates… but you’ll find that the majority of our action plan is the easy-peasy planning workbook that you’ve come to know and love.

THIS YEAR – we are introducing a word doc version to go along with the workbook. We know that some of you are ‘type-rs’… if you’re like me, you want to type out your action plan. Now, you can go through the exercises in a word doc. (We also have the pretty formatted version in PDF to guide you – and if you prefer to handwrite, this is all you will need.)

Here is the easy-peasy workbook + word doc supplement ($20):

 Add to Cart

And, here is the easy-peasy workbook + word doc supplement + spreadsheets, templates, downloads ($45):

 Add to Cart

ABOUT THE 2015 ACTION PLAN WORKBOOK…

The 2015 Action Plan is a 34-page book that will help you chart out the upcoming year.  (When you click to purchase, you’ll receive a file emailed to you with the workbook, etc.)  It includes everything to review 2014 and plan for 2015 in a tight little workbook:

  • SOUL-SEARCHING
  • GOAL-SETTING
  • MARKETING REVIEW
  • SALES REVIEW
  • OPERATIONS REVIEW
  • FINANCIAL REVIEW
  • MARKETING PLAN
  • OPERATIONS PLAN
  • FINANCIAL PLAN
  • Identifying Accomplishments

The workbook with downloads includes the workbook PLUS all templates and spreadsheets you need to work thru the plan if you don’t care to put together some of the spreadsheets yourself.  (They are sold separately in our Toolbox for a value of $57, but we are offering the bundle for $45.)

The downloads include:

  • Sage Wedding Pros – Tracking the ROI on your Ads and Other Promotional Activities ($10)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Financial Review – Excel Spreadsheet – $5 (Profit & Loss Report SPREADSHEET)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Pricing TEST & Sales Plan (how many weddings to make as a sales quota) ($10)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Promotional Plan & Goal Sheet – $10
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Accounting 101 ($2)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Expense Budget
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Expense Budget for start-ups (if applicable)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Cash Flow Plan ($5)

Have a fantastic holiday season and a prosperous and healthy 2015!

PS – are you thinking of hiring employees in 2015? Make sure to check out The People Plan.

PPS – are you in need of a new business plan or business plan revamp? Make sure to join us at The Simple Plan.

 

Revolutionary Business Model – Menguin Tuxedos

menguin

Recently I had the opportunity to meet the owners of Menguin, a tuxedo rental business that eliminates the retail storefront.  Yes, everything is done online – guys, this probably sounds like a dream come true…no need to go into a retail store as the tuxes are shipped to you in the comfort of your home.  The more I got to know the savvy business owners behind Menguin, the more intrigued I became with their business model (not to mention, Mark Cuban is one of their investors so you know they’re up to something brilliant).  Talk about a huge niche in the wedding industry that they are filling, and they have done so in a very short period of time.  Their mission is to be game changers in the tux rental industry.  And, they save penguins (no joke – read about that here).

I had the chance to ask Justin Delaney, Menguin CEO, to explain how Menguin has differentiated themselves in the market, how they’ve scaled their business so quickly, and what they want to be known for.  Here’s Justin, your average dude who is trying to help other dudes by taking some of the pain out of the tux rental process. :)

Justin - CEO

1. Tell us about Menguin – what product(s)/services do you offer, and what sets you apart from your competition?

Menguin is a tuxedo rental brand that is changing the way the game is played for tuxedo rental.  We allow customers to get fitted online using our fitting algorithm, or fitgorithm as our CMO Nathan likes to say. We ship all of our products to our customer’s front door in prepaid, easy to return boxes. And afterwards we save penguins. Menguin innovates. The customer wins. And penguins rejoice.

We also offer a promise that everything will always fit. How we do this is by sending all of our suits and tuxedos out well in advance of the wedding. If there is any problem with fit, then we overnight a replacement. It is literally as simple as it sounds. We run the phones 24/7 to always be there for our customer.

As for our products, we offer literally every color of vest and tie and currently have 9 different suits and tuxedos with about 3 more on the way. Most of our tuxedos come in a slim fit, and we offer every size from little kids (3) to the occasional 6′ 11″ professional basketball player sized human.

Our model is totally different from our competition. The average wedding tuxedo rental takes about 3 hours of driving back and forth from Men’s Wearhouse or the local tux rental shop or Jos A Bank. These shops have an old model for a different century, and we are going to relentlessly give the customer what they want, which is not consistent with what they offer. Our model takes about 5-10 minutes to rent. Our customer service is better. Our product is more hip and stylish.

Of course, many customers have a concern that renting a tuxedo online for what is possibly the most important day of their life like a wedding is a little too risky, and this might be the one instance where I am comfortable saying the customer is totally wrong.

We offer 24/7 service and will literally do whatever it takes to make our customers happy. No one else does that. My first job was at Neiman Marcus, and I learned from the best in the retail and “customer” business – the late and great Stanley Marcus. What I learned was to take care of customers at all costs, and we embody that ethos at Menguin. Every time a customer calls, it rings on every person’s phone in the company because we are in the customer service business first and foremost. Every person under our roof is taught from day one to take care of customers. That is our culture.

2. You have grown the business extremely quickly – what do you feel has been your secret to success?

There is no secret to building a business. I truly believe that. There is an equation though. Businesses need passion and resources  to thrive. The right idea at the right time also helps – that is sort of the “luck” component. Add in the right people and the right goals and you will probably end up heading in the right direction.

This industry has typically tried to fit the customer into its way of doing things. We are created a new way that suits the customer.

 3. Your company has operations in all time zones.  How did you scale the business to be able to achieve that goal?

This is all about partnerships. We have taken our structure very seriously from day one and chosen to be very open to others. We decided to build a structure that utilizes existing capacity and partners rather than try to own the entire chain. We quality test everything to make sure that our partnerships provide consistency.

We have dedicated a lot of resources into hitting 100% of the US in a day or two via FedEx and UPS – this is not something a start-up can usually do without significant financial resources or clever partnerships.  We are a big proponent of creating the right relationships, rather than spending money creating new resources.

4. What have been some of the growing pains as you experienced all of this growth?

Technology changes very fast and is occasionally a few years ahead of the mainstream or just altogether anathema to the customer. We started out with this incredible technology that measured customers via their webcam. It was accurate, investors loved it, but no one really wanted to use it.

What we found was that 95% of our customers were just entering in their sizes instead of using our tech, and many  incorrectly entered their sizes. We take customer service very seriously and will spend to make something right. At all costs. Our replacement cost was expensive as fedex overnights are not cheap. We had invested in a technology that was supposed to keep our orders accurate, but it was not doing this because no one really used it.

We spoke to one of our investors, Mark Cuban, and he recommended a firm he invested in that does fit algorithms. This way, the customer puts in sizes that they know, and we fill in the blanks using databases of sizing information. After that, we check against our own fit profiles and fitgorithm to double check. Now, we are better about nailing the size on the first try. This goes back to following customer behavior and moving with their preference to be as accommodating as possible to the way they want to do things. Customers more or less know their sizes, so we changed our solution from asking them to do something differently to making them comfortable and building accuracy into it from our end.

5. Tell us about your customer service strategy. Ordering tuxes online is a revolutionary experience, so how do you ensure customer satisfaction is achieved and that you meet and exceed their expectations?

I have spoke to this a little over the course of this interview. But basically, we give the customer what they want. We base our entire model of giving the best customer experience in the industry. From the top down, all of us are in the customer service business first.

We are 24/7 and will do whatever it takes for our customers. It is our culture.

We have open communication with our customers.

6. What do you want your company to be known for at the end of the day? 

We want to own everything on the grooms side of the equation for weddings. We think our model and customer first policy is well suited for the wedding industry, and that is what we are going to own. Take care of customers, make them look great and feel smart. That and saving penguins.

Onboarding Plan for New Hires

One of the best things you can do as you’re bringing on a new employee, contractor, or intern is to provide them with an “Onboarding Plan”.  This is simply a step-by-step plan for how you’re going to set them up for success with your company.  So often we just throw people into their position, on-the-job training is the only form of learning they receive, and it’s a fly-by-night experience.  Instead of offering that type of experience to your new hire, why not prepare for them to join your team, and provide them with a little structure and plan so that they feel welcomed, excited about their new position, and that you’ve taken more than 5 minutes to think about their role.

Screenshot_2_28_14_8_09_PMWe’ve tried to make it EASY PEASY for you to create an Onboarding Plan for your new hire – check out this new download that’s available to you to edit and use for your own company.

ONBOARDING PLAN for NEW HIRE – $5
Add to Cart

Of course this is just a template so you’ll have a lot you can customize, but at least it will give you a start of things you should be thinking about, and a great format to use!  This example is specific to Wedding Planning, but super easy for you to tweak for your segment in the industry.

One bit of wisdom with new hires – plan on the first 90 days really being their “immersion” into your company.  So often we expect people will just jump right in and figure out what has taken you 5 years to learn…so just know that if you give them time and space to learn, that will help both of you be less frustrated and you’ll have better expectations of them.  Contrary to what most people believe, bringing on a new hire often won’t save you time initially, so you’ll need to plan for at least 2-4 hours/week to train them as you’re making an investment in them AND your business.

If you’re looking for more people related templates and forms to make your life easier when hiring, be sure to check out The People Plan that we have available to you as a resource as well – your small biz “HR in a Box”!

Happy hiring!

Be Sage Conference Speakers: Xochitl Gonzalez and Mayra Castillo, AaB Creates

We are thrilled to partner with a range of amazing speakers for our Be Sage Conference this August. When we sat down to set our curriculum for Be Sage, we asked ourselves: “What are the challenges that experienced business owners have in the wedding industry?” We came up with a list of questions and found the best people to speak on these topics.

QUESTIONS:
HOW DO I DIVERSIFY MY SERVICES?
HOW DO I ADD REVENUE STREAMS?
HOW DO INTRODUCE A SECOND BRAND TARGETED TO A DIFFERENT MARKET?

23866330_headshots02bwIntroducing: Xochitl Gonzalez and Mayra Castillo, Owners of AaB Creates

Xochitl Gonzalez and Mayra Castillo founded AaB Creates (formerly, Always a Bridesmaid) in 2003 after cutting their teeth producing the International Clio Awards. Using niche marketing, media savvy and social media they have grown into one of the country’s most sought after Design and Planning firms for clients seeking creative, out of the box wedding experiences with understated luxury. Their global client roster is a who’s who in the worlds of finance, film, tech and fashion.

In 2010, after watching the wedding landscape shift, the ladies formed a new company called Just About Married that offered one service only- “Day-of” coordination. Together the women launched their award winning blog AlwaysaBlogsmaid.com in 2006. Xochitl is one of the few in the wedding industry to sit on both sides of the editorial table: She is the newly minted Wedding Expert for About.com, and has served as a contributor to RealSimple.com and the Huffington Post. Simultaneously AaB’s “Real Weddings” and Expert Opinions have appeared in over 100 publications, both online and in print including The New York Times, WMagazine.com, Latina Magazine and Fox News. Their TV appearances have included MTV Europe, The Style network and ET’s The Insider.

5 How To’s you’ll gain from Xochitl and Mayra:

1) How you can grow your business by reducing your service offerings.
2) How to get your name Off the Door without damaging your reputation.
3) The benefits/drawbacks of operating two distinct brands in the wedding space.
4) The benefits/drawbacks of 1099 employees.
5) Using a business partnership to tactically play to personal strengths.

We feel pretty strongly about partnering with companies and individuals that mirror and augment our own core values. Here are 6 core values that are fundamental to Xochitl & Mayra and how they do business:

1) Understand our clients’ unique needs.
2) Committing to our clients’ goals for their celebration.
3) Use our expertise in the field to elevate our client’s celebrations.

These values are distinctly unique to AaB:

1) Commit to functional design that is as comfortable as it is stunning.
2) Creating solutions where none currently exist and presenting clients with creative, relevant ideas.
3) Working with Vendors of the same commitment level and integrity as ourselves.

We hope you’ll join us this August!

BE SMART. BE BRIGHT. BE SAGE.

Ticket sales are open for Be Sage Conference.

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Here’s a little refresher if you missed our post last month about our new conference:

We want you to have a deeper business strategy that will take your business to the next level. This isn’t a business theory conference. And, while you will certainly be inspired, we aim to prepare you with actual tools to use in your business (not just a hope and dream.)

We will continue to add conference details at: www.besageconference.com

Greenhouse Loft, Chicago | August 3-5, 2014
Tickets go on sale February 10th at 9am PST