Forte Events Tami Forero on 10 things she has learned in 10 years with her business
I can’t believe it! Forté Events turned 10 years old on March 19, 2016!
In celebration of this momentous occasion, I thought I would share the top 10 truths I’ve learned in the last 10 years of business. I hope this inspires you and I hope you can partake in our joy as we reminisce on social media all month too! #Fortéis10
Get your house in order. Understand financials and get help from people who know how to strengthen your bottom line. Stay out of debt personally and in business. Don’t let other’s tell you that you need things to be a “real” business if you don’t (offices, furniture, cars, staff, equipment, etc.). I know some types of businesses in our industry require more purchasing of things to survive and grow, but do it in such a way that your goal is to be debt-free. Commit to it and really do it.
When you don’t have the burden of debt hanging over you, you can be free to experiment and be creative. You can donate to your favorite causes and help others. You can be much more profitable, since your margins are yours and not going to pay off a bunch of debt.
As a creative person, I am not naturally great at bookkeeping/accounting--generally any kind of math--but once I learned how to read reports, project sales, and understand my numbers, I became immediately more successful and confident. Now, I enjoy the numbers and I’m not scared of the reports! Creating a sound financial plan and sticking to it will make your business and life so much more enjoyable.
Only work with "perfect” clients. We define what “perfect” clients are for us each year, and we only pursue and work with those who fit our criteria. Everyone else we say “no” to … even when we need work … even when it’s hard to say no. We do not budge on this.
Working with clients that are not a great fit make for a miserable experience for them and for us. The joy of having your own business is that you can say "no." Most of us don’t do this often enough and wonder why we are exhausted, unfulfilled, underpaid, under-appreciated and unhappy.
In fact, many companies cannot keep quality employees because they do not “protect” their teams from unfit clients. Morale suffers and the work is no longer fun. On the other hand, perfect clients refer other perfect clients and are fun to work with!
Surround yourself with great mentors. I work with a business consultant, an attorney, and a CPA. I have a network of event professionals I can contact for support whom I’ve befriended over years of conferences and networking. I am also an active member of several professional organizations. I turn to my husband and my parents for advice and support often.
I am painfully aware that I do not know everything. I need support to stay successful and I actively seek it out. This has made all the difference!
Delegate, delegate, delegate! Each of us at Forté Events only works the part of the project that we love and we are good at doing. If I had to do everything (sales, contract negotiations, customer service, logistics, billing, bookkeeping, vendor relations, communications, marketing, on-site event management, travel, networking, admin, speaking, consulting, etc.), I would be non-effective and stressed out! Instead, I delegate as much as I can to the team and I concentrate on only a few areas that I am good at and enjoy.
If you never learn to delegate, your company will never grow. Delegating--and I mean hands off once you pass the task on--has allowed each team member to grow in his or her own careers and for me to focus on the bigger picture. I highly recommend it!
Do not make fear-based decisions. I could write a whole book on just this one point. (Don’t worry; I won’t do that here). All fear-based decisions made in business will most likely result in failure.
Money is tight, so you decide to work with a client that is not a perfect fit for you
The schedule this month is so hectic, you decide to keep an employee who is not a fit for your team so they can help you finish the workload
You’re afraid an attorney will be expensive so you sign a contract without a professional opinion
You are unsure of the abilities of an industry partner but their price fits in the budget so you hire them despite your reservations.
Any of these sound familiar? Trust your gut. Take your time, research, think before you act and never make decisions out of fear.
Set personal goals vs. business goals. I know this flies in the face of all that is holy in the business world, but it has made all the difference in my life.
At Forté Events, we ask each person to set personal goals: How many hours per week do they want to work? How much money do they want to make this year? How many vacations do they want to take? Are they buying a house? Selling a house? Buying or selling a car? Moving? Having a baby? Pursuing a new hobby?
These are the goals we strive to achieve each year, and we set the business sales goals to meet these personal milestones. We are focused on our lives not just the business.
I set business goals only in 90-day increments. For me, I find 90-day goals more achievable than six months, one year, five years, etc. If I’m achieving everything in each 90-day increment, I’m doing well!
Be a relationship-builder. Although a lot of what I do is sales, I don’t like the slimy way some people go about it.
I honestly love people. I’m interested in who people are, what they do, what they think, what inspires them, what makes them passionate--what makes them, them. Sadly, I think a lot of people in business are less interested in who people are and are more interested in what they can get from someone else. They are takers and only give what is necessary to bring a desired result.
Don’t be like that. Build relationships with people, whether they can do anything for you or not. Especially in business, seek out relationships that feed your soul--not just your bank account. I believe we are here to find the people we are meant to know, who bring value to our lives. At the end of the day, this is something that matters. Invest in people always.
Be a giver. I speak about this a lot at conferences and classes, and I really mean it. I believe a lot of our success as a company is because we are all givers. We give money, time, talent--ourselves. I think many people today are afraid of giving. Afraid they will get nothing in return. Afraid to be vulnerable--especially in business where kindness can be seen as weakness.
I’m here to encourage you: That is rubbish. Give of yourself. Give everything expecting nothing in return. In the wise words of a great '80s band Missing Persons: “Give, when you have anything at all to give. You have everything to live for. After you’ve given all you can, give again, give again.”
You’ll have no choice but to be successful, and you’ll be a better person too.
Take business risks. I know this might sound redundant since most business owners are risk-takers by nature but sometimes it’s easy to fall into patterns and not break out into new opportunities.
Nine years ago when a client asked my to produce an event in another state, I said, “Yes!” even though I had never planned something remotely. I thought it must be the same as what we had done locally, so we stretched and grew. A year later when a client asked if we could produce events overseas, guess what my answer was? Yep … stretched and grew again.
Now we are experts in international event planning.
I try a lot of things. Some work and some don’t. It’s costly in time and money but if I don’t keep trying things, I might miss out on amazing opportunities for growth. And, let’s face it--after a while, business can become boring if you don’t try new and scary things. Take the risk.
I am not the business. I am a person who owns a business but I am not Forté Events.
The company is a tool by which I can work in an industry I love with people I respect and projects I enjoy. The company provides the income we all need to live and have a fun life. My identity is not wrapped up in this business. I love the business but it is not who I am--it’s what I do. Because I understand this, it is easier to separate my emotions from business decisions and others’ reactions to our policies, products, services and culture.
A business will come and go. Projects will come and go. Clients will come and go. What’s left? You, your relationships, the memories you’ve made and the wisdom you’ve gained. If the business succeeds, you’re still you. If the business fails, you’re still you.
I think a lot of business owners especially in the hospitality industry struggle with this separation. Repeat after me: “I am not the business. This business is what I do, not who I am.”
Tami Forero is a strategic event planner and CEO of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based company Forté Events. With 22 years of event planning experience, she helps clients meet goals using experiential events and is a sought-after speaker across the U.S. on the subjects of sales, work-life balance and profitability.