Entrepreneurship

Episode 11: Tricks to Grow Your Events

Interested in growing your events? On today’s episode Amy Zaroff shares her experiences in the events industry and the core values of her business! Today is all about creating your business’ culture through core values to grow events. Check out Amy Zaroff at www.amyzaroff.com

How did you get going, what’s your story?
 
I always wanted to be in broadcasting and since 7th grade Ted Koppel from Nightline was my idol.  I thought some day I’m going to go to DC and I’m going to work on Nightline. I never worked for Ted Koppel but I did go to Washington DC.  I went to American University,  became a broadcast journalism major, and I worked for all the different television stations in DC and Minneapolis as well.  Back when I was a high school senior there was a show called Good Company which is now Twin Cities Live. Steve Edelman and Sharon Anderson were the co hosts and Steve was my mentor back when he gave me an internship. When I moved back to Minneapolis I started working for Hubbard Broadcasting and I loved production.
Production in any form is telling a story there’s a distinct beginning, middle, and end. And just like when you’re putting on a great show you have to carry the viewer, the attendee, the listener through the story. So there I was getting really excited.
Then my husband decided when we were twenty-five to open an authentic New York Style Deli restaurant. We had it for seven and a half years and that’s where I got the love of hospitality.  The combination of hospitality and production were what fueled me to get into event production. In 2004 we closed our restaurant and just prior to closing a woman who owned a thirty-two year invitation stationary and gift shop called Give My Regards To, contacted me. She said, are you interested in buying my business. I had no clue how to sell paper or gifts or have a retail space but I knew her customer base was an upper to mid-high clientele and I wanted that clientele. So what I did, I bought the business. I turned it into event planning and design because if they were already coming to buy the invitations I was going to convince them I could throw them a great party. That’s how I got my start.
What are you doing today?
Over the years I started with social events, weddings, bar mitzvahs, general celebrations and as the economy changed, close to 2008, people weren’t buying invitations and stationary as much as they used to, most of it was going online. I’ve always enjoyed being ahead of the trend or whats next. When you’re an entrepreneur you can feel change coming. I decided I was going to bring graphic design in-house, I was going to move away from retail space.  I was going to move into an office and industrial space where events came first, retail was second. In 2008 we made that change and moved to a spot in Edina. In 2010 we were getting ready to change the name of our company so people didn’t think of us as an invitation store.  So I paid someone a lot of money to tell me to change the name of my store to my name. In 2010 Target called and that was a game changer for me. They said, do you do cooperate events and do you do national events. And I had done national weddings and bar mitzvahs but the only corporate  I had done was local.  I said yes. They gave me incredible opportunities all over the country. Once you have Target as brand profitability that’s a good thing. I live by the mantra “all you have is your name”. I would say and they would say we stand behind everything we do.
Is it just you, you do have employees?
I do, I have a great team.  I have a team of 4 full-time employees. At some points its been more sometimes its been less. Right now we have a real sweet spot. We believe fake it till you make it doesn’t cut it. We surround ourselves with wonderful creative partners and our team grows as it has to.
You have a lot of experience, for our listeners out there, what are the things they can do to make their business a better business?
We created a core values document for our company. Our EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) facilitator, Sue Hawks, she encouraged us to put together our core values document and to hire, fire, reward, and review by it. That’s fine and well I know my team prescribes by these values. I have found it much more helpful to share with our creative partners and our up and coming event professionals so they can really understand what it means.
I said earlier all you have is your name, so understanding the value of reputation is one of our key values. Wherever we are in the community, you’re an extension of your brand. You can be in the grocery store and someone may come up to you who recognizes you and may ask, hey did the invitations go out for our event and even if you’re in your sweats on a Sunday in your baseball cap, you have to be on in that moment because you are representing your company.  You are only as good as your last event so that means not only should it look great and be photo worthy but you have to understand what it means to work with your creative partners effectively, respectfully, with integrity all those things.  There have been times where I have lost my temper and I needed my teams and my creative partners to teach me we are all in this together but there’s a better way you can say that! I’ve learned from that.
Exhibiting confidence and expertise in all that we do.  We can’t fake it till we make it.  If you really don’t know something as a company it’s ok to say it.  As long as you say I’m not sure but I will find out for you. It’s fun when you are in a creative business to learn together. You can throw big ideas out there and see what sticks, and when you throw the big ideas out there, you can figure out how to make it work if you have the right people.
Tell us more on exhibit confidence and expertise.
When you feel like you look good, you exude confidence. There’s another thing about being confident and being an expert in something: if I tell you Sheila has the best cupcakes I’ve ever had or heard about, if I only heard about them and never met her, I’m not an expert. I’m giving you hearsay. There are many people that say I hear you’re great or I hear he is great you should use him, the only way we can know that is if we work together, then we become an expert. That’s really important too.
Hirees and partners should have the similar values as you…
Absolutely.  You have to have had the conversation. Networking can seem like a chore and cold calling people to get coffee, but it’s all about the first impression.  I’m a big believer, especially with people who want an informational interview, I’m going to pay more attention to you if you call me over an anonymous email.
You’ll never replace an in person interview.
Absolutely because you feed off their energy, we right here have had so much fun!
Let’s talk about no dropping the ball.
I love no dropping the ball.  Here’s the deal, if I tell you I’m going to get a proposal to you by Wednesday by 3:00, if I get it to you by Wednesday at 2:30 I have exceeded your expectations.  If I get it to you by Wednesday at 3:00 I have met your expectations and if I get it to you by 3:10 I have not done a great job.  I don’t want you to over promise and under deliver as an employee or as a creative partner. When I am on a timeline you are on a timeline as a creative partner.  We have to work together to understand whats up.
When I have the relationship, over the years, there’s an unspoken understanding between me and the vendor, we know how each other works.  When I have a new employee or training somebody they may not know.  I encourage my team to go meet with as many people from that organization as possible so they can have their own shorthand. I don’t want them to go on the merits of the brand but because they have the relationship. So that’s on no dropping the ball and finish what you start.  Fully deliver what you say you are going to deliver.  You will be trusted more in the industry when you do what say you are going to do and you have the integrity and you care. For me this business isn’t just about making money, it’s about creating life’s most memorable experiences.  We really need to think what that means on a much deeper level.
Keep going…
Willing to go the extra mile. I’m a real proponent of being proactive versus reactive and doing something before it’s asked.  That’s not just for my team there’s been so many times where a creative partner has just thrown something in, going the extra mile makes such a difference! If you’re loyal to others they will be loyal to you, because we’re all in this together.
I have been plenty reactive in my career over the years. Where I learned to be proactive, in the restaurant business when you are a server or a host and you see someone’s eyes come up from the table or from whom they are speaking with you know that even if they don’t raise their hand to say excuse me, they must be needing something or they’re about to ask for something. That’s when you take that proactive mentality and go and say “is there something I can help you with.”  I think that’s important.  This is a really easy skill, you have to pay attention.
I want to talk about being truthful, accountable, and no blame, if you do something wrong or you made a mistake just own it.  I’m the biggest proponent of this because I make a ton of mistakes and I have to own them. I have to apologize when I should and learn from it and move on. There are so many people from my business who have left the company and started their own business’. I do not see that as a problem I see it as a wonderful success story.  Many are female entrepreneurs so I’m excited about that. It’s exciting to teach someone and watch them go.
The last two points are be able to handle the intensity of all situations.  Sometimes with intense type A personalities passion can come across as disrespect. That is not to sugarcoat that if you’re being a jerk you’re being a jerk.  If you really are feeling it, it’s not only you feeling it, but your team too. If you can’t handle the intensity of all situations the event industry may not be for you.
And lastly for our company, we live by insanely high standards.  If there is a seam in a back drop we are using that’s not going to photograph well and we can’t have the seam. The fabricator may say you have to have a seam, well guess what we are going to seal the seam, make it look good, no one is going to know the seam ever existed. Those details matter, we are in the business of details. If you expect great things, great things should and can happen.
What do you tell someone who’s listening who’s thinking I don’t like intense situations, any tips?
It’s important to note it’s never personal. It’s not a personal attack on you the person, it’s the concern about the event in the moment. If you can understand that you are part of a larger mechanism to make something great for someone else and that you’re part of building an experience then you’ll go about it as exciting work. It’s not that I would say don’t join the business if you can’t handle intensity but it is a million miles a minute. There is an innate characteristic of someone in the event industry.  They don’t care about being on their feet 16 hours at a time, they don’t care they may miss breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have to go through the Burger King drive-thru at midnight.  There’s a whole bunch of things.  It’s not a sexy business.
How do people develop core values for their own business?
Every organization has either a mission statement or a value system which is why you’ve been attracted to work for that company. As a leader, a planner, or a designer or anything what matters to you and what value can you add to the company. What can you bring to the table, what can others bring to the table, and where do you see common ground.  Start with 3-5 things, what makes you tick in your business, share that, you’ll find it will resonate with the rest of the team and spark conversation.
How do I deal with team members that don’t line with the core values?
That’s a great question the book you mentioned by Gino Wickman called Traction, talks about there being a visionary in an organization, an integrator, and the leadership. One of the tools he puts forth is putting the right person in the right seat. If you don’t align with the majority of the core values and you’ve been reviewed by your leaders on whether or not you align you may be the wrong person.
It’s important to show these in the interview process.  That will allow the person being interviewed to say do I fit?
What about someone on your team not adopting the core values?
As far as buying in, you lead by example. If the culture is such that everyone is following these values it’s going to just be.  If you don’t subscribe to them you’re going to feel like an outsider. The mechanism that’s in place through the EOS, with this people analyzer it’s part of the review process.  If you follow along with EOS and do what you’re supposed to do it does work. If you’re hiring, firing, reviewing, and rewarding by the document it will work.  You have to be sure every 90 days, if you tend to have new hires, that you are referring back to it. And I would ask the question to that person, how do you feel about how these core values are resonating with you after being here 90 days?
What about making sure your customers are a good fit?
It’s on my website. These core values are on the website for a reason. I want people to know.  If you read this you know there’s no BS, she really means this. Showing who you are and what you stand for speaks for itself, there are times you aren’t the right fit.  Sometimes you have to divorce yourself of a client or the client of you. Fortunately that hasn’t happened in a long, long, long time.  It did happen in the beginning of my career on both sides. I was just learning what I was doing, I was getting my feet wet. I owned an invitation store that happened to do parties, that was over a decade ago. When it does happen, be honest and say we may not be the best fit for you and suggest someone who may be.  That doesn’t mean you think less of the person you’re referring it means you know their core capabilities and they really would be a good fit.  That’s trust.
What other pieces of advice for the early on entrepreneurs?
Education, our community has many great organizations that people can be apart of.  They can be apart of ILEA (International Live Events Association) the wedding community, the audio-visual community. Getting your face out there and meeting as many people as you can, informationally interviewing with people as much as possible.  I see a ton of young women in the wedding space popping up because they’ve either attended an event, helped their sister plan her wedding, or really feel like they are very organized and can handle multiple tasks simultaneously. That does not make a great event planner.  What makes a great event planner is the knowledge of function and form coming together seamlessly and if you don’t truly know what that means get out there and start asking people.
I love meeting with the newbies.  I do not want to do wedding planning.  I will tell you all the tricks I know to make you a great wedding planner, I’ll happily tell you.  Go out meeting, learning, getting educated, follow people on social media. You have to get out there see and be seen in the early days especially.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t later in your career as well, you have to stay relevant.
You can reach Amy Zaroff on social media as @amyzaroff
Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 6: Producing Work with a Purpose

Talonya Geary is part of the Tony Robbins organization, an author, and an entrepreneur! She is talking all about what it means and looks life to live on purpose, her new book, and what question you need to be asking yourself.

 

TELL US ABOUT THE THINGS YOU’VE LEARNED ABOUT HOW TO LIVE ON PURPOSE  AND HOW DO YOU DO THAT EVERY DAY?

I love that you are asking that question! It is so important. When I first started speaking in 2012, I spoke about hard skills with a soft skill twist, like negotiating tactics and communication, but over the last 5 years I’ve gone through my own transformation and realized those things are great but I was looking for something with meaning. I wanted to know the “why.” I think people are asking that question now more than ever. I don’t think they were asking it to the degree and frequency we are asking it now, but now if you aren’t asking “why am I doing ______,” you are kind of asleep at the wheel! Some people don’t even know they are asleep so hopefully this wakes them up!

HOW DO YOU WAKE UP EVERYDAY AND FIND PURPOSE IN WHAT YOU ARE DOING?

The distinction to make here is that it is a daily practice. My analogy is this, and maybe it’s just me, but I thought living on purpose meant you get hit by some meteor and the meteor gives you your purpose. I feel like people are waiting to get hit by that meteor! If you know what your purpose is and your waking up everyday and chasing that, then some people are like, “where’s my meteor? It hasn’t hit me yet.” Instead of realizing that you have to make the choice every single day to live on purpose. I’ll give you an example of someone that lives physically on purpose. So you have someone that has a really good body and is really healthy. Well that person has to choose every day, several times throughout a day, to live with a body on purpose. Meaning, drinking water over soda, working out instead of sleeping in, etc. They have to make that choice at every crossroad. Same thing goes for living on purpose. I wake up every day and I write in my notebook. I have 6 principles I answer every day. Those 6 principles can be found in my book. I make the choice every day to live by those 6 principles and rewrite them every day. Or if I find one that doesn’t serve me anymore, I update it and I check in with it. For me, living on purpose is a choice. It is something you do everyday and it is something that is within everyones reach.

SO YOU ARE WAKING UP EVERY DAY AND DOING MENTAL EXERCISES, IN A WAY, RIGHT?

Yeah I do a spiritual exercise too, but I have done this for so long that I think this way. People ask me what my secret is and the secret is that I wake up everyday and I go do. Consistency. Every single day. And because of that there are some days that I have less time, say 3-5 minutes, to do this practice but I’ve conditioned myself, this is my life style, so I think this way.

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT CAREER? SOMETIMES WHEN YOU ARE NEW IN YOUR CAREER YOU STOP AND WONDER IF YOU ARE DOING WHAT YOU ARE CALLED TO DO, HOW ARE THEY TO KNOW? ANY GOOD INSIGHT ON THAT?

For me, the end game is “how quickly do I get to serving others?” I think the end game should always be “what is it going to take for you to get to where you’re living a life of contribution?” And if you are working and your life is all about you and how much money you are making, you are going to be addicted to yourself and that is a quick road to disappointment.

To me, I share this in my book, living on purpose meant starting to change the question to, “how can I serve somebody else, a community, an industry?” And there were days I had nothing to give and I still asked that question. By nothing to give I mean I had nothing. I was a mess. I still forced myself to ask that question. How can I stop obsessing over myself and instead serve and give to something other than myself. At one of my businesses we do corporate talent development and I always tell people, “you have to focus on getting to where you’re living life at a level of mastery” and I learned that from Tony. Then, they always ask me what that means because it seems so out of reach, but when you are living at a level of mastery it means your cup is running over. You now have enough that you can pass onto others. I guarantee everyone has reached a level of mastery somewhere in their life.

LET’S TALK ABOUT PEOPLE THAT KNOW THEY ARE DOING WHAT THE LOVE, BUT THEY DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION. HOW DO YOU KNOW IF THE ORGANIZATION OR COMPANY YOU WORK FOR IS REALLY DOING THAT FOR OTHERS AND THAT YOU CAN GET BEHIND THEIR MISSION?

I used to do consulting for companies in helping them design their strategic plans. It was interesting that all these entrepreneurs and great businesses had no strategic plan. To them a strategic plan, especially entrepreneurs, think a strategic plan is for a Fortune 500 company. It’s not. It’s a set of guiding principles that guides that organization every single day to reach goals that then get replaced by new goals. For those that have completed a strategic plan, the second phase (or third depending on what model you follow) is always about values and beliefs. What do we value and believe as an organization, as an industry, and as a culture? A lot of people aren’t fulfilled because their values and beliefs individually are in complete conflict with their organization or industry.

HOW DO YOU MAKE AN EVENT THAT SERVES OTHER PEOPLE? AT YOUR TONY ROBBINS EVENTS, HOW DO YOU DO IT WHERE YOU ARE SERVING OTHER PEOPLE AND THEY ARE THE ONES WALKING AWAY WITH THE WIN?

Well if you’ve ever been to a Tony Robbins event you will hear this question, “How do I add more value to them than anyone else?” Tony’s guiding principle is 100% about serving. I know Tony on stage and behind stage and his guiding question is the same. He is all about adding value to every body at every time no matter what.

HOW DO YOU CRAFT AN EVENT THAT SERVES THE AUDIENCE WELL BEYOND THE VALUE THEY PAY FOR?

We are asking that question, first of all. We ask that question when marketing, when selecting music, etc. I always relate it to: integrity. How do I infuse so much integrity into this experience that it leaves everyone shocked. We don’t skimp on anything. We want every person to feel the integrity, from the moment they open an email to the moment they leave the door.

SO IT SOUNDS LIKE COST IS KIND OF AN AFTER THOUGHT? IT’S MORE ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE.

It’s about the why. If you’ve heard Tony speak at some past staff events he talks about how he used to have 12 day events where he was basically paying for people to go through transformation. But those years after years of him paying to keep integrity is the reason why this man makes millions of dollars.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR BOOK. WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

The book for me is 100$ my purpose right now. It is called “#goDo: How to Live on Purpose” The title comes from a song called “Go Do” by an Icelandic artist, Jónsi. The book is in three parts. One-third my personal story and how I’ve overcome horrible tragedy, like my brother’s suicide. It’s also what I’ve learned in the past 10 years and how you can implement that. Basically, it’s a 6 step daily goal setting exercise. The third part of the book is the data and research behind the 6 steps. I didn’t set out to write a book, I set out to get my life together. Like I said earlier, 5 years ago I was egocentric, now as I wrap up the book I am proud of it because it finally has a real person behind it. At the end of the day, the book is not about me, it is about contributing and serving others.

WHEN IS IT AVAILABLE?

Great question! You can preorder the book now. Go to talonyageary.com/preorder and you will get an autographed copy shipped right to you. It hits the streets, bookstores, and Amazon on August 23rd! If you want a sample of it, text Go Do to 345345 and that’ll send a preface of the book, a bit about me, some testimonials from some very influential people, etc.

Look up Unleash the Power Within for everything with Tony Robbins! To talk to Talonya, email her at talonya@talonyageary.com!

 

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 5: Making Events that Matter

Cole Hatter is a world-renowned speaker, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. In 2015, he started the event Thrive, a conference for entrepreneurs focused on not only making money, but Making Money Matter. In this quick, 30 minute episode, Cole shares with us his inside tips and tricks.

HOW DO YOU GET SUCH AMAZING SPEAKERS? Like Grant Cardone, Les Brown, Gary Vaynerchuk, Robert Herjavec, Jack Canfield, Kevin Harrington, Eric ThomasEd Mylett, Tai Lopez, Naveen Jain, and Jesse Itzler.

We get 600 speaker requests a year and many are doing well financially, but you also have to be a pretty rad person to be speak at THRIVE. We have to be selective.

HOW DO YOU TAILOR YOUR CONTENT AROUND SUCH A MEANINGFUL MESSAGE?

The theme of Thrive is Make Money Matter. Make Money Matter is about making an impact. For example, TOMS shoes. We weave that into the event iN two ways: some speakers are just there to teach on how to make money. It is extremely tactical, not just some cool morning routine. We see Thrive as 70% How-To and 30% about what a difference your money can make. And other speakers are speaking to the heart issue of the entrepreneurs. By Sunday, you will have cried, laugh, and have several pages of notes about what you are actually going to do to start making money immediately.

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE EVENT GOING IN THE FUTURE?

The vision is to fill stadiums! Which is why we keep Thrive affordable. If you compare Thrive to similar events, they are usually 3x or more, more than that. Which can sometimes create confusion, like there must be something wrong with our event because we charge so little, but we want to get this message to the masses. Thrive gives its profits to a charity each year. Last year it was Claire’s Place Foundation and we gave $178,000. This year we’re partnering with Water.org, which is about providing clean water to people in third world countries.

WHAR WERE SOME OF YOUR CHALLENGES DURING THE FIRST YEAR?

Events suck, period. It was incredibly challenging and ,ore emotionally taxing than any other business I’ve ever had. Mostly, because there are so many variables and I have less control. I have 26 speakers that all have lives and every year there is one or two that have an emergency and have to cancel, etc. Also, hotels. They are such a rip off. Marketing is also very difficult due to all the free content online. What sets us apart is that all of our speakers bring NEW content. Plus, the networking and experience is unbeatable. You can’t network on a podcast. Despite the challenges, we keep doing it because we get to meet amazing people and for the stories of success we’ve heard come out of it. But, don’t be a seminar junkie! When are you taking the time to implement what you are learning? I would suggest going to one event a quarter and listen to podcasts always. Learning how to do push ups is one thing, but actually doing them is another. Get information and then implement.

HOW DO YOU CRAFT YOUR ROSTER TO MEET THE MISSION OF YOUR EVENT? BECAUSE EVERY EVENT HAS A MISSION AND A GOAL.

I like how you prefaced that. Our mission: teaching entrepreneurs how to start for-purpose organizations or convert their current organizations to be for-purpose. It is a combination of finding speakers that are just going to teach tactics, as well as some that have lived out the for-purpose aspect. Our goal is to have butts in chairs and to make it a huge success. So another consideration is finding people who have audiences. You need to have influencers on the roster.

HOW DID YOU CHOOSE LAS VEGAS FOR YOUR EVENT?

Thrive was created as a result of losing two close friends that died when I was on my way to Las Vegas. So I did this event to honor them. The next year we did it in San Diego and it was great, but the Manchester hotel was not available for Thrive 3 on the dates we needed. So we went back to Las Vegas last year and were at the Hard Rock. This will probably be the last year in Vegas because we are about to outgrow it. So it started in Vegas out of sentiment, and it’s now in Vegas strictly for production and it is a destination area. It’s easier to get some to go to Vegas than say, Minneapolis. Vegas is more touristy and fun.

ANY LAST THOUGHTS FOR ANYONE WHO ORGANIZES CONFERENCES OR TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE A REALLY GOOD, MEANINGFUL CONFERENCE?

Conferences are becoming extremely popular. You have to figure out a message or narrative, like Make Money Matter, and you need to have a massive following so people want to show up just to see you! When I first started Thrive I had no following and no email list, but I said screw it and did it. The reason it worked is because of the heart of the mission. No one there knew me or cared about me, but I did have big name speakers draw a crowd like Gary Vaynerchuk, Keith Ferrazzi, and Robert Herjavec. And a unique, special mission. There are probably more events now than ever, so if you want one that draws a crowd it has to be something people cant get somewhere else. If you come to Thrive, it feels like nothing else. We work so hard to make that happen, from the color of the lighting to having Bulletproof coffee in the lobby, etc. Put thought into the ambiance.

HOW DO WE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THRIVE?

It is this September, the 14, 15, and 16. The website is attendthrive.com. Use promo code: MMM to receive 20% off!

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom

The Journey Begins

Since 2003, I have been in the events business. I started EideCom inc. to change the way audiences were impacted at events. We started down the road of podcasting to bring more content and value to the events business and the professionals that make it all happen. In this podcast we cover everything related to events. Being that I own an event production company, I don’t know all the answers in the other areas of the events world. Come on this journey with me as I bring some of the worlds smartest meeting and event professionals from all over the world, into your ears every week.