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  • David Doxtater

How To Grow an Event Planning Business, Part 2... Creativity Keeps Us Sane; Growth Doesn't

We're picky about the projects we take on. In fact, we regularly turn down events. Don't get me wrong; I would love to do them all. But we can't. If we tried to do them all, we'd be sacrificing the creative edge that attracted companies to The Workshop in the first place.

Our Major League Baseball All-Stars Game event went spectacularly. I could have taken my experience from that particular event and gone to town with sports events. I could have traveled to other cities, other stadiums. I could have tried to make a name for myself in the MLB scene. I didn't do that, though. Instead, I moved on to other types of events. Hotel grand openings, campaign launches, music festivals, live shows, and much more. For me, growth means having the ability to choose how I'm going to spend my energy.

As a growing business, your company will go through extensive change. To manage this growth and these changes strategically, you'll want to make sure that your business stays focused on its goals, and grows with a sense of purpose and cohesion.

When The Workshop first started, we had mixed projects. We had some big, showy events and some low-key celebrations. At the time, that's how we survived, gained a reputation, and paid the bills. Our purpose was more about getting off the ground financially and making a name for ourselves.

Now, I have the freedom to choose projects with greater complexity and many moving parts over smaller highly repeatable projects. The type of events that bring me the most joy challenge my previous experiences of scale, intricacy and problem solving, and pushes my team to realize their skills at new levels. I love the initial spark of creativity that buzzes through The Workshop weekly staff meetings when we start a new project that excites us.

Staying focused on my goal of being deeply involved in the creative aspects of every event helps me decide which projects to take on and which to decline. Collaborating with my staff in the creative and production process builds unity and trust among the team. Major spectacles and large grand openings unite our team’s various skills and talents, blends them with our industry vendor partners, resulting in the iconic events we take pride in sharing with clients and the public.

Growth Comes in Many Forms

If you think that business growth means saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way, then I want to encourage you to think about growth in a different way. At The Workshop, we say no, and we say no often. You can too, and it won't harm your business. Let me share some business advice that I have gathered over the years.

If you stop thinking of growth as a singular, upward trend, you can get out of the ruts that are keeping you from succeeding on a large scale. Growth comes in many forms. It can be vertical, and it can be horizontal. It can also be a hybrid of the two.

Knowing more about your growth strategy will help keep your business alive. Statistics show that 45% of new businesses fail within the first five years. If you aren't growing in a way that fits your company, then you could easily become a failed business.

What is Vertical Growth?

A business that grows vertically is focusing on one area of expertise and getting better and better at it. In event planning terms, this could mean being the local expert on wedding receptions. Or ribbon-cutting events. Or fundraiser events. Perfect your approach, make it easy for customers to get what they want, and be the absolute best at what you do.

What is Horizontal Growth?

Growing horizontally means you are expanding your business in different areas. For example, The Workshop handles a multitude of different types of events, from holiday celebrations and social events to galas and fundraising parties. We put our heart and soul into each event, gain knowledge and experience, and then use our momentum to do something even better for the next event, even if it's totally different.

What Does a Hybrid Growth Strategy Look Like?

I'm not saying that your business needs to grow horizontally rather than vertically. However, I am saying that you need to be aware of how your business is growing and which way you want it to continue growing. Vertical growth used to be the traditional growth pattern for most businesses, but as the world moved into the digital age, and then the pandemic disrupted all normal growth patterns, horizontal growth has become more and more important for success.

To combine a vertical and horizontal growth approach, you could specialize in a certain type of event while building a team that can handle other types. You might find that planning a major New Year's Eve party one year gives you new inspiration to expand on your usual promotional events, adding new ideas that make them even better. A hybrid growth strategy is good for businesses that have a good reputation in one area of event planning, but also thrive on the creativity of doing a new type of project. It could mean going vertical 80% of the time and going horizontal 20% of the time. Over time, you may find your business growth strategy changing.

At The Workshop, we concentrate more on horizontal growth because taking on new complexities keeps us loving our jobs. Feeling passionate about what we do helps us do it well. The Workshop has mastered the art of complex projects. How did we master it? In part, by turning down projects that didn't make our creative wheels spin.

The final part in this series will look at several of The Workshop’s large-scale projects, highlighting the confluence of complexity and creativity on which our team thrives.

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