Today's post is about a subject I've been doing a lot of pondering, studying, and reading about. It's the difference between hiring a Professional Wedding Planner (or other industry vendor-feel free to fill in the blanks) and the Blatantly Not Professional wedding planner. Now before I keep going I want to note that this post is not meant to be one of ego or of boasting-those who know and work with me know that I go out of my way to NOT work with anyone that has an ego about an event; more about that later in the post-but instead is meant as a way to make you aware of your choices, and to become, overall, a most discerning bride/customer/vendor. I'll be talking in terms of Wedding Planners and Consultants, as that is the part of the industry that I'm in, but I really think this could go for any type of vendor or company in the service industry.
So, let's start with the question: what makes a Professional Wedding Planner? There are SO many girls and blushing brides that have immediately started their businesses right after planning their own weddings. Now, those of you who know me might argue the fact that I, too, started my company after planning my own wedding. But what most don't know is that I prepared. I didn't run out, print business cards, and called myself a Weddin' Planner. First of all, I went into planning my wedding, knowing already, that becoming an event planner was the career path I wanted to persue. I volunteered at friends events, planned family baby showers, and throughout my planning process I also took the time to study from a vendor's perspective-the market, trends, and the like. After my wedding was finished, I still waited to give my company a name- instead I scraped up all the money I had and put myself through a home study course designed for wedding planning professionals. Even after completing the course and becoming a member of the Association, that first year my business was "officially" open, I didn't run out and get business. I planned weddings for free. I pounded the pavement, so to speak, to meet with as many vendors as I possibly could; I studied my local market, and noted the trends of the national market. I wanted to be different. And to raise the bar for standards.
I by no means mean to offend any of my vendor peers- because there are exceptions to this; there are planners that have started their businesses right out of their weddings and have become very successful. But unfortunately this scenario is scarce.
A Professional Wedding Planner knows that in order to stay on top of her game, she must always be learning. Studying her craft, her customers, her business. The market and the world is always changing. How can one call themselves an expert if they're only knowledgeable in one area of their business? I, for one, am not a person that would easily be classified as a "natural" wedding or event planner. I've had to learn it along the way-through hands-on experience, of course- but also by way of books, mentors, and even blogs. I've fallen, have been accosted by The Ego (yes, this is what I call a person with a big ego-read on), and have been doubted. But I've always picked myself up, moved on, and kept on learning-and my clients are always getting the best from me because of it. Now when I say reading materials, I mean more than your typical bridal magazine (though I have too many of these to count), or your wedding planning book. I'm talking real-world books- and a variety of them- to help round out the Professional. While I do have a copy of Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette, it's not something that sits on my nightstand, rather you'll most likely see books about design, or dealing with customers, or business in general.
A Professional Wedding Planner also knows that this business is not about her. It is about her clients and the event(s) she is working on. This brings me to the promised subject about Ego. So many "professionals" consider themselves almost a higher power when they have more knowledge than some one else. Sure, perhaps their reputation has been built by having the knowledge and experience, but now they've succombed to The Ego. A little something about the way I work- my vendor referral list is always changing. Sometimes to my happiness, and sometimes to my dismay. A phrase I always use is "Check your ego at the door". Even if I have worked with a certain vendor many times and have always been satisfied with the level of service provided, if they show up at an event with their ego (Read= they are more concerned with themselves than the client or the event itself), they are off my list. That fast. Sound harsh? It really shouldn't. All I expect out of the vendors I work with is for them to be Professional. To have the same core values that my company has. To genuinely care about the client. We are working with people, and we are in the service industry, after all.
So, the Professional Wedding Planner knows this, and thus knows that it's less about the reputation, and more about the intangibles. If you value the intangibles first, the reputation will naturally come. My entire business is built on the intangible. I offer experience, knowledge, and time. Not really things a person can hold. So, to survive, I must nurture all of the intangibles surrounding my business- experience, knowledge, customer care, my network of other professionals, and my ethics. A book I'm currently reading, called Love is the Killer App, by Tim Sanders, sends this message more eloquently than I ever could. You all know that I admire Liene over at Blue Orchid Designs (http://www.blueorchidweddings.com/) and have so much respect for this woman- it was through her blog that I discovered this book. It came highly recommended, and after reading it, I highly recommend it to any business professional.
So now you know what, in my opinion, makes a Professional Wedding Planner. As I said before this post was meant to encourage you, as a client to make educated decisions about who you hire for your wedding, and for vendors to continue to raise the bar for Professionalism.