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You Can’t Have ALL the Trade Secrets

It’s a great time to be a creative entrepreneur. There are more and more people willing to share what they know. It wasn’t like this in 2004 when I launched my stationery business. Not only were people less willing to share, but also it was hard to get information. (You couldn’t google ‘how to price flowers’ and get too many valuable hits.)

coketradesecretI think people who’ve been in business a few years are usually happy to share what they can.  I share what I can about having had a stationery business so that others can succeed. It’s one of the reasons why I started this blog almost 5 years ago. Kelly is the same way. I’ve seen her give very detailed information about her business to help a new wedding planner. She sometimes goes as far as sharing internal documents with that new planner.

But – here’s something you need to know – you can’t have ALL the trade secrets.

First, you need to build trust and credibility. (If I share this with you, will you use it wisely?)

Become visible in the industry: attend networking events, ask to have a coffee, build a relationship. THEN, after all that, people will be more willing to share.

It’s possible that this wedding pro becomes a friend and/or mentor… take the time to build that relationship.

Here are 3 rules to follow when someone is willing to share their business with you:

  1. Allow the wedding pro to volunteer what they want to share. Don’t pry.
  2. Be respectful of their business and know that they won’t (and shouldn’t) reveal their trade secrets.
  3. Give thanks (lots and lots and lots of THANKS).

Never expect someone to give you the secret sauce. There are trade secrets that no one should share. (Doing so would be incredibly foolish.)

There are things that one might share with you that may not apply or you will not be able to apply to your business. For example: The price/cost/profit/expense mix is so different for each individual, one can’t merely apply a formula to their business and expect success. (I recently saw someone ask a wedding designer how she priced her services, what costs were involved, and what she earned at the end of the day. This wedding pro was happy to share her prices, but anything beyond that is ‘secret sauce’ in my opinion.)

Be respectful. Respect that it may have taken them YEARS for the elder wedding pro to learn everything they know. Never pry for information that isn’t yours to have. (I had a stationery designer once ask me for the names of my suppliers. I spent years building relationships with these suppliers and they were proprietary to my designs. I didn’t think this was an appropriate question. But – I was more than happy to share a few printing sources with her.)

Lastly, please take the time to THANK the person. (Speaking from personal experience, it’s not often that I’m thanked for ‘answering a quick question’ – even via email.) It takes time to provide this help… even a quick 5 minute email response is incredibly valuable. A quick thank you response is enough acknowledgement that you are appreciative of their insight.

What do you think, wedding pros? What have you been happy to share? What is your limit? And – what’s been helpful to you when you were getting started?

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February 11, 2014 - 1:57 pm

Adriaan - Thanks for sharing! :-)

I will add to not be afraid to ask. One will be surprise how much will be shared. I tend to ask sometimes inappropriate questions without my knowledge, but still learn a lot when they explain that the question was not appropriate and gave good reason for it.

February 11, 2014 - 4:03 pm

Kate - THANK YOU for writing this post… it is something that comes up often in conversations with other wedding professionals and 99.9% of the time it is helpful to both parties and fosters a really great working relationship. Unfortunately, I got burned once by another industry peer and it has really changed the way I choose to share my knowledge and information. It is truly unfortunate when someone thinks it is okay to use your generous sharing in a negative way. Thank you again for this post!

February 11, 2014 - 5:00 pm

Michelle Loretta - I agree… don’t be shy… be respectful, but don’t be shy!

February 11, 2014 - 5:01 pm

Michelle Loretta - I’m sorry you had a bad experience! I hope it hasn’t turned you off completely from sharing. (I bet you’re understandably guarded tho. I would be.)

March 21, 2014 - 10:17 am

Bernadette - Great article as always, I help planners all the time (as I’m a planner, 11 years and counting) but there has to be a line.

I won’t for example share my contracts, proposals, profit margins etc. But I will help with how to create formulas for creating price packages, marketing, PR.

I never class someone as a competitor, I class them as a fellow colleague and sometimes friend. Does that make me incredibly “soft” to use a UK expression, probably but I wouldn’t change that for the world!

Be Sage Conference – Tickets on Sale Today

We are thrilled to announce that ticket sales are open for Be Sage Conference.

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.)

This conference will answer the following questions and more:

  • how do I expand to another market?
  • how do I license a product or service?
  • is franchising something I should consider in my business?
  • how do I retire?
  • how do I transition from my day job to a full-time business?
  • will financial leverage benefit my business?
  • how do I evolve my branding to reflect the growth my business has made?
  • how do I capitalize on trends before the competition?
  • how do I get on Oprah?

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

BE SMART. BE BRIGHT. BE SAGE.

 

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The “What Can I Do For You?” Question

This month will mark 7 years since I left my corporate gig to take my planning business full-time.  Often people ask me what I did when I first started out to earn people’s trust, to get my name out there, etc.  I can honestly say there is ONE question that was and still is at the core of my business and my personal philosophy as an entrepreneur – the “What Can I Do For You?” question.

Here’s how it works:  When I meet with other wedding pros, whether it’s a colleague who has been in business for 20 years or 1 month, this is my main question for them.  I don’t want to bombard them with information about myself or my business, shove business cards in their face and ask them to promote me…instead, I want to know what I can do for them.  This is a fascinating question if you’re on the receiving end because likely, not a lot of people ask this of you.  It’s typically not in our human nature to want to first ask what you can do for someone else – it’s usually the “What’s In It For Me?” question that is often at the top of one’s mind instead. (Isn’t that the worst when you’re in a meeting and the other person is only talking about themselves/their business and doesn’t ask you a single question?)  So, when you ask someone what you can do for them (no strings attached), you will be a breath of fresh air.  You’ll stand out against your competitors.  You’ll be genuine in your approach.

When you ask people the “What Can I Do For You?” question, a lot of times they may respond, “Gosh, I have no idea…that’s so nice of you to offer – just spread the word about me, I guess.”  Here’s where you can shine even more – instead of just saying, “Oh, ok sounds good.” – how about instead offering suggestions…”How about I write a blog post about you and feature that new incredible product you just told me about?” – OR – “Do you need updated headshots? I’d love to offer that to you as a way for you to get to know my style and personality so you can vouch for me to potential clients”.  These are just a few of a million ways you can offer to help another colleague.

What goes around comes around.  This business is all about building relationships and trust.  And, if you start using this tactic hopefully the people you’re meeting with will pick up on it too – and it will be a contagious attitude that will spread and only help the industry as a whole.

What can I do for you today, Sage readers?:)

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February 6, 2014 - 1:37 pm

Adriaan Putter - Great advice Kelly. I always remember something what Donald Trump also said that you must create a win win situation, that way that vendor will always return for more business.

February 20, 2014 - 5:20 pm

Lavana Deal - Hey Kelly, just curious! If someone asks you what can they do for you, what would you tell them?

Alt Summit 2014 Recap

Last week Michelle and I had the privilege of attending Alt Summit in Salt Lake City. What an energetic, passionate, and amazingly talented community that we were in the presence of.  It was possibly the most collaborative, un-intimidating, “hungry to learn”, generous group of people at a conference that I have ever seen.

Michelle also had a table called “Ask the Accountant” where participants could ask their Accounting/Finance related questions. It was fantastic meeting so many creative people and learning their business strategies and challenges!

It was fascinating to learn more about the blogging industry.  Wedding and event professionals can learn so much from other industries – especially this one, because it’s in the creative field and runs parallel to ours in so many ways.  While there are so many similarities, there are also so many differences.  Expanding your horizon and learning from other people who are smarter than you is critical (see my post last week on this).

For example, we learned about creating a scalable company from Christiane Lemieux, Founder of DwellStudio.  Talk about a SMART woman.  What started out primarily as a bedding line has now grown into various lines like furniture, baby, children, décor, rugs, and tabletop.  DwellStudio was recently acquired by Wayfair and that move will now give them a competitive advantage in the online home retailing world.  Plus, Christiane also mentioned she strongly believes in business plans and the importance of understanding your finances (and hiring someone to help)…music to our ears!:)

Another amazing speaker to learn from was Ben Silbermann, founder and CEO of Pinterest. It was fascinating to learn about his start-up journey: the struggles, the growing pains, the challenges. And, it was inspiring to hear him talk about the future of this tool that so many of us know and love.

What a fantastic week of learning! (And super fun too!)

 

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Surrounding Yourself with Smart People

SMARTOne thing I’ve learned about being in the business world and event industry is that I’m never too old or experienced to learn something new.  Yes, I have years of experience and have expertise in Human Resources, Wedding Planning, etc…but I certainly don’t claim to know everything.  This is the year I’m going to strategically surround myself with people who are smarter than me.  I want to learn from leaders in other industries.  I want to hire people who are smarter than I am.  I want to be smarter, work smarter, live smarter.

Think about the people currently in your circle of influence – the colleagues you’re spending time with, the team you have in place, the networking groups you’re attending…are you learning from other people, and seeking out people who are smarter than you?  I know I personally get comfortable with where I’m at, who I’m spending time with…but it’s so important that we challenge ourselves to reach out to find mentors who have different perspective, experience, and wisdom.

This week Michelle and I have been attending Alt Summit, and WOW – we are learning so much about the blogging world, and have loved surrounding ourselves with people who have some serious business and life wisdom to share.  Next week I’ll be sharing a re-cap of our experience so be sure to check back to hear all about it!

In the meantime…identify 2-3 people, associations, networking groups, conferences, etc. you can reach out to in an effort to surround yourself with smarter and wiser people.  We all have something to learn from one another!

 

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