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  • David Doxtater

How To Grow an Event Planning Business Without Destroying Your Identity / Knowing When To Say NO

Most event planning businesses focus the energy of initial event successes on growing their business. This can lead to taking on bigger, more complex events, or, simply (not so simply) taking on MORE events. Each requires hiring more team members, building stronger networks of vendor and service partners, and generally doing more with less time. As exciting as growth is, there are risks in growth. Growing to fast too soon can compromise the very things that made those first events amazing. How do you successfully grow your business without sacrificing your identity, passion, or drive? Is it possible that you might have to say no to growth in favor of preserving the practices and beliefs that you feel most strongly about?

This three part blog series will explore the paradox of growing a small business while maintaining the core values that inform The Workshop’s identity as a leader in the event industry.

Part One: An Old Warehouse Filled With Artifacts

Various cycles of growth over years at The Workshop have taught me that focussing on the core values that inspired me to create this business are foundational to its ongoing success.

I don't have a warehouse anymore, but when I did, I would keep all my old project pieces there. I'd regularly walk through and reminisce about our past events. There were complex pieces that took months to build, huge custom-made backdrops with attention-grabbing graphics, life-size murals of Seattle Seahawks players, Yeti costumes, elaborate sculptures, and more. Regardless of age and layers of dust, each old prop represented something spectacular our team had accomplished, each were artifacts of our experience.

I think about growth the same way. We don't just grow on our past successes. We grow on the accumulation of our experience. In event planning, growth is often synonymous with developing a specific process that is repeatable. We learn how to do a specific event, such as a gala, and we run the gambit over and over. That type of growth is legitimate, but it doesn't jive with The Workshop's culture. At The Workshop, we specialize in complex, one-off events that require significant amounts of off-the-cuff ingenuity. We don't reuse our props because, to me, that doesn't feel right. It feels a little like cheating.

For me, growth can only be dynamic, not static and repeatable. Our event planning doesn't get easier. If I felt like my job was getting easier, I'd know something was wrong. For The Workshop, greater complexity and scale are indicators that the business is growing in the right direction. That said, growing has the potential to get out of control. If we grow too big, too quickly, then I find our ability to focus attention on any one project becomes diluted. I may miss out on something, and our team may lose the edge that made us successful in the first place.

Learning to choose projects that align with our core values, express creativity, while also exacting our team’s skills at new scales help us stay sharp. In the next post I will look at how The Workshop has developed our discernment of potential projects and the different forms growth can take within a business.

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