While going over event details with a client from my home office last night, my husband overheard me suggest hiring an outside bartender and security for an upcoming prom themed birthday party for 110-120 guests in November. My husband was getting a martini at the bar in my office. Occasionally when dealing with other vendors, I need a drink myself which is why I chose one of our three dens with an adjoining bar as my home office. True story.
Many vendors will chase a dollar to make a dime. They lose businesses everyday over their inability to retain and keep clients. But, I don’t have the time to buy a venue and am therefore cautious with clients needing one. I ask the questions because I need the answers. My role as a planner is to make Events as affordable as possible. Budgeting is key. There are no friends in the events industry that can gain my client based on our relationship of friendship. Here’s how they can though- by offering the best value for my client. Sounds simple but, believe me it isn’t. Brand loyalty is built.
Years ago, my husband bought not one but two Cadillac’s from me before getting the courage to ask me out to dinner. I also had advised him of ways to cut the costs of buying a luxury vehicle. I’m honest. My clients wouldn’t buy from anyone else at Cadillac, GMC or Hummer. Why? I earned their trust and whenever possible I also found and made the best car deal for them.
My husband and I met while I was going through a divorce. It was a war. My ex had taken the car I believed he had bought in my name back and effectively left me without a vehicle. I had a son to get to school. I had to get to work. I also had to pay my lecherous attorneys. The solution? Visiting the dealership that serviced my vehicle. You know the one that I thought I owned and didn’t. I pitched myself as a salesperson. I also obtained a position within an industry that I had never worked in before. I had sold furs, jewelry, filmed commercials with Mel Tillis and worked as a high end print and commercial model for over twenty years at the time I married.
But, I needed a car. Luxury car dealerships provided demos. I needed one. I also needed insurance and an income. Cadillac gave me all three. Building a client base required thinking outside the box. The old dogs on the sales floor had established clients. I needed my own. To overcome this obstacle, I hired my former photographer and ran my own print ads. Not just anywhere though. I ran these ads in area country clubs. Targeting consumers who could afford luxury cars.
The same people at country clubs just like my rich and soon to be ex husband who played golf at, had drinks in the Men’s Only club at and dined at while I was effectively chasing a dime to make a dollar.
The first ad at Ridglea Country Club shocked him. “Working as a car salesmen? What are my friends going to think? Come home and stop this. We can work it out. I will give you your Deville back. I don’t like everyone at the club seeing my wife in an evening dress pitching cars!” Hmm, I didn’t care. After all, my ex took the car he claimed to have bought me in my name back leaving me afoot with a son. He did this to force me into crawling back. Instead, I crawled away.
That first ad sold 11 Cadillac’s, 2 Hummers and 3 GMC SUVs. I was smiling all the way to the bank. My ads brought clients in. My honesty sold them. My reputation earned me award after award. I was sought after. When people walked into the dealership holding a flyer from Ridglea, Colonial, Shady Oaks or Rivercrest Country Club they weren’t looking for my competitors on the sales floor, they were looking for me. If they didn’t have an appointment, they waited on me to be available too.
I had also done something in the car industry no one had ever done before and I could support myself in style because of it. I didn’t need my Deville back. I needed an income, a vehicle, insurance and independence. Cadillac and my ability to think outside the box gave me all of the things I needed. My history surprises people. I’ve never been lucky. I’ve always been resilient. Did I expect to find a husband at Cadillac? No. I wasn’t looking. It was the first time in my entire life that I wasn’t worried about my future. I didn’t date. I wore my wedding ring to work and even had a photo of my ex in my office. I was all business all the time.
My current husband had bought an SRX from me a year before walking into the dealership to tell me he hated it. I had another client in my office and asked him to wait in the lobby. I was concerned about him being upside down in the SRX and trying to find a way to save him money while closing a sale on an XLR. My solution? A demo. They are thousands less than new cars and carry a warranty.
I brought him in and explained why I thought it was in his best interest to flip out of the SRX and into the Cadillac Escalade demo that I had been driving. “I’m not concerned about the cost. The SRX reminds me of my ex wife. Your husband must adore you and be so proud of you. I saw your billboard on the highway. You’re smart, successful, honest and upfront. He is a lucky man.”
Snap. My faux personal life of being happily married was crushed and exposed. I started crying in my office on the salesfloor in front of all the salesmen. Damnit. My acting skills and my life were off fleek. Caught with my guard down. I had successfully created a faux personal life away from work that was so believable that I nearly believed it myself after years of faking it through my divorce. I’m a helluva actress but, Matthew broke my charade.
I looked up and explained. “I’m not married. I’m divorced. I pretend to be married because I’m here to sell cars not find a date. It’s easier to pretend to be married.” This was how I met my husband. Shocking but true. I retired from Cadillac a year later. I didn’t need Cadillac anymore and started my own business instead.
My new husband wanted me off the sales floor 50-60 hours a week and enjoying life with him, my son, my twin sister and new twin grandnieces.
A few folks in the DFW area may remember my twin ad for Escalade “Got a big family? Get an Escalade.” Yes, even my family members were in my print ads. THAT ad sold the heck out of Escalades for me. Two sets of twins is a big family. My son and his equipment for sports was also used in another ad showing how much room for friends, kids and equipment the SRX had while being a crossover vehicle.
My entire family became “models” during my years at Cadillac but, the twin ads and ads featuring me were my best car selling advertising.
No one had ever been as creative at marketing as I was. But, poverty can define you or empower you. It empowered me. I was a survivor. I walked away from two marriages in twenty years with no money. I walked away with no vehicle both times. I would never do it again. All of my vehicles are paid for in cash and in my name. Although I can trust my current husband, I’ve learned to be independent and will never be dependent on anyone again as long as I live. My husband knows where I’ve been and understands that I refuse to be controlled. In fact, my agreement to marry years ago included a few rules. What were they? 1. I would own my own vehicle outright. 2. I would keep my own checking account and credit cards. 3. I would leave if infidelity ever occurred. 4. I would leave if violence ever entered our marriage. I wasn’t going back to where I had been and was very clear about the terms of committing myself to another husband.
I don’t think like other people because I’ve also been a buyer. What would sell me? What would create brand loyalty? I’ve been a brand spokesperson for twenty years. I’ve pitched furs, jewelry, couture clothing and even Whatsburger. Building value in the product is essential to building a brand though and it’s difficult to create a great salesperson. Exceptional salespeople are born to sell. Although I’ve been in sales my entire life, I’ve never oversold a client. I’ve always tried to save money or offer discounts whenever possible because I’ve been on the other side as a buyer myself. What makes your product valuable? What makes buyers inclined to buy from you? Honor, integrity and treating my clients like family is why and how I outsold my coworkers in ANY industry I have ever worked in. They treated clients like numbers. I treated clients like family. I’m different. I care. If you’ve ever bought from me, you realize this. Previous clients buy and book with me over and over again. They also refer their friends and family to me. I’ve never advertised after leaving Cadillac and starting my own business. I’ve never had to.
Kelley (a venue owner) had sent me a DM regarding renting her venue. The catch? Kelley REQUIRED using her own bartender and security. This would significantly “up the cost” to my client. Why? Because I have friends that work as bar tenders as well as retired military and police officers that work as security. Negotiating the additional cost to use Kelley’s security and bartender might or might not be a deal breaker but, due to the distance from the city to her venue, she would certainly need to be open to negotiating her “in season” fee.
A lot of people fail to realize that there is an “off season” in the Events business but there is. Half of the year leaves venues like an abandoned motel, deserted and lonely. An experienced planner uses this knowledge to her clients benefit and, I often do. August is often too hot for anyone to book a venue with an outdoor area. October and November can be “iffy” too vecause Texas weather is unpredictable.
Kelley was attempting to pad the bill by adding requirements to rent the venue. I knew it and she knew it too. Chasing a dime to make a dollar. This up charging was why I continued to get other bids from other venues. Kelley’s venue is remote. At least thirty minutes from Fort Worth and an hour from Dallas.
If you have a venue in the country, lower your prices. Convenience is worth the upcharge to my clients and their guests. Seriously. I know a Burleson venue owner as well as an Azle venue owner that constantly call me to send them business. If your venue business is in the boonies though, attempting to charge the same rental rates as city venues is why you aren’t booking events.
The client I’m planning the October/November event for has a son in the military. He’s coming home from Germany in late October to early November. She wants to celebrate his birthday and since he missed the prom years ago, incorporate the theme. She also wants a bar with beer and wine. She knows a friend with a barbecue restaurant that can handle catering. We need a building. Decorations. Bartender and security. Photography. DJ. We also have a budget and I always stay within my clients budgets. I will locate a building for her and it will be a building that is within her budget.
Today after Estes Unit, I’m going to 3 venues. I’m also using this “venue hopping” to price out an anniversary party for August 31st for 70 guests with no bar and a budget remarkably close to the prom themed event. Meaning, the Vow Renewal with far fewer guests and no alcohol will be far easier to come in under budget on. An open bar can easily add $2k and up to the overall budget. Catering can run $12-25 per person and the Vow Renewal client is by far well within the budget he’s given. It’s going to be a stretch with the Prom Themed Birthday Party with an Open Bar and up to 120 guests. A tight stretch. A make every penny count stretch. If the client can secure catering outside of the budget she’s given me, it will be far easier to pull this off but, if she can’t, Wendy and Cindy will be shopping venues first and shopping everything else second since the largest expense is the venue rental.
Both clients need a venue first. The venue being the most expensive investment. One of these days when I have time, Cindy and I will buy our own venue to alleviate the need to find one for clients but it won’t be this year. We are overwhelmed.
A few years ago, Kelley called me to send her clients. I thought this was funny. Why? Because Kelley has never referred our services that’s why. It’s always ironic to me that folks who never throw you a bone want you to throw them a steak.
Luckily though, I don’t need referrals from venue owners. I’m on staff at Belltower Chapel and have been for years. I limit my affiliation with other venues. Why? Because Belltower supports ACH and foster children. I donate 70% of my fee to ACH.
Other venues outside of Belltower are all about the money. That’s okay. It’s business.
But- my clients ARE MY BUSINESS and therefore, building value for their buck is why I don’t pitch them a venue just because I know the owner. Instead, I shop them.
Last year, another venue owner called me. “We are going to go out of business. We doubled our prices and can’t get any bookings.” I sat my coffee down to rerun what I just heard.
If common sense was spare change, a few folks couldn’t afford a coffee. “Perhaps you should lower your prices. If a product doesn’t sell, you discount it.” The venue owner wasn’t interested in solving her own problems. “Amazingly, you have never advertised and have grown year after year. Send me your clients. We will even take on LBGT couples. We need what you have.” What the? “Take on LBGT clients?” I was offended.
My affiliation within the LBGT community was EARNED. Also, I don’t pass around my clients like peanuts at a bar. Humph. How to be politically correct in an obviously incorrect conversation? I went to my office bar and poured myself a chocolate martini.
This was going to be a LENGTHY CONVERSATION. “Our clients are loyal to us because we are loyal to them. Inflating your costs is why you are losing clients. This should be common sense. You cannot squeeze everything WITHIN THEIR BUDGETS OUT of them. Venue rentals are a buyers market. As a seller, you need to be affordable and when building your brand, you need to be open to other events and clients outside of solely weddings. Weddings have a season. Off season though, you can promote corporate events, family reunions, birthday parties, Christmas parties and other bookings to sustain you through the off season.”
Of course, this “intelligent and knowledgeable advice” fell on deaf ears. As a businessperson, if you are a business owner, wake up. I can’t wake you up. I can however shop your venue in my clients best interests and budget. “Don’t ask me for an apple and expect me to bake you a pie.”
Other vendors ARE NOT MY CLIENTS OR MY PROBLEM. MY CLIENTS ARE MY PRIORITY. If you haven’t figured this out yet, I can’t help you. Loyalty is always directed at my clients not people AKA vendors who are crazily expecting me to BUILD THEIR BUSINESS.
This morning while organizing my floral arrangements for Michael and Coffield Units Tuesday, I took a call for Salano State Prison in California.
Our existing bookings in California are stacked meaning finding time to travel to a Unit 6 hours from LA, San Diego, Santa Barbara or even Lompoc (all cities Cindy and I will be at during our trip to meet clients, film commitments and family) is tricky. I ran the distance several times from several cities.
This Unit is at least five hours from any city that Cindy and I will be at in August. Normally, this could be factored in to an off day during our travels but we have two destination event bookings as well as a family reunion and meeting our sister at Magic Mountain on one day as well as filming a sizzle reel on another in LA. I.E. this is another jam packed trip for the Texas Twins. If I can get to the Unit and find time though, I will.
Leigh Ann is taking over California Prison Weddings however, she will be based in San Diego August and September while her husband, Alex is in training at the Naval Base before moving to base housing at Point Mugu.
California like Texas is a big state. Because of this, my stepsister, Tammy is also going to be handling Prison Weddings.
Due to Cindy and my schedule while in California on this trip, trying to judge distance from cities on our itinerary to the location of the prison may or may not work out for me to personally officiate your Prison Wedding. However, if I can’t, Leigh Ann or Tammy can. I’m moving my bookings to predominantly Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri as the majority of my bookings are in Texas.
Because of the burgeoning schedules of Cindy and I, my son and his wife are also coming on board to address Oklahoma and Arkansas bookings as well as county jail requests in Texas.
I’m going to go over stacking because it’s essential if you are stacked at a Unit that you are on time. Tuesday, I have two clients at Michael and two at Coffield. These two Units are within 7-9 minutes of one another. Because of this, I frequently move from Michael to Coffield or Coffield to Michael.
However, if you are running late on wedding day, other clients at the same Unit or the Unit I’m moving to are going to be inconvenienced due to your tardiness. Please be considerate of other clients and arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled wedding time.
UPDATE ON MICHAEL UNIT CLOTHING- Dresses are now allowed but you cannot wear solid white. Why? Inmates wear white. Please incorporate color or patterns to white. Please keep hemlines not shorter than 2 inches above the knee. Please wear a cami of your dress reveals any cleavage. Please wear a slip if your clothing is sheer.
I’m off to shop venues, meet clients and looking forward to meeting all of our new clients soon at your Prison Weddings and especially excited to see our former clients at your Vow Renewal Ceremonies with Cindy and our Team in the coming months.
As always, we appreciate your trust and your loyalty. We are thankful for the opportunity to meet amazing people from all walks of life and to have the ability to finally spend time together that my career in sales as well as Cindy’s career took from us both for over twenty years. Texas Twins Events gave us the opportunity to give the gift of Dream Events one family at a time while subsequently giving us time to spend with each other.
For all of the clients that the twins or Maddy jumping into your photos laughed with us, God Bless You. Our grandkids always thought a camera was meant for them. Maddy still does.
When I look back over the hundreds of families and good times we’ve shared with ya all over the years on location for your bridal photos with my grandnieces hugging your leg or holding your bouquet, I’m reminded what amazing people you are. The love and kindness you’ve brought to Cindy and I as well as our children and grandchildren is a gift. Creating Texas Twins Events was a partnership. Cindy and I knew affordable options didn’t exist. Cindy was also taking on the responsibility of raising her twin grand daughters. Cindy had given up her income as a salesperson to raise her grandchildren. My twin sister is selfless. She is hilarious and she’s never met a stranger. She is also my best friend. Texas Twins Events gave us the opportunity to load up our kids and grandkids and go off to meet wonderful people who wanted a Dream Event. Amazing people who welcomed not only my Team but our entire family. People who became far more than clients. People who became the fabric of our lives. We love ya all…