[Pictures from Megan's wedding a few weeks ago at the Metropolitan Building. We work on this with Melissa, our former intern - whose new business styled and organized the beautiful event.]
Eric has been working to get the studio back. He seems to like to do it alone, and I've left him to it. Honestly I've really enjoyed a break from physical work.
Really what I've had is a lot of nice time to work away at a very special soap project with my mother (remember we make soap?) that will hopefully help us raise some money to finish our big barn-studio project upstate.
We had our last event of the year, and we're past the planting date at the farm so I am happy to have a little breathing room. So do you want some reflection? Here are ten lessons I've thankfully learned that I would like to share with you:
1. When a client tells you there "will be really important people" at their event and that it will be "a great opportunity for you" I beg you to consider what sort of person actually says this. And then raise your fee to account for the greif you are sure to experience in dealing with such a client.
2. If a client tells you there are going to be important people at their event like Mayor Mike Bloomberg, insist that you be added to the guest list and high tail it to bergdorfs for a dress.
[am I making it sound like these things happen to me? I hope so. But full disclosure, I've never actually been inside Bergdorfs. Although Kat Flower has promised to take me one day]
3. More seriously, one thing that has always helped me is to consider the worst case scenario. For each event I try to think of the worst things that could happen (not including death, which is too final and no fun in this exercise). For example, one tough scenario is truck trouble. Imagine a 100 degree day in an un-refrigerated truck with a sudden flat tire in stop-and-go BQE traffic (enter your own favorite expressway here). Hit the chess timer, go!
What would you do?
4. Always insist on knowing every design detail in advance. The most obvious of these for us is linens, which most of you florists already know to ask about, or else you do them yourself. But what about the other things the wedding planner or bride might bring to the event? If there is a display of naturals at the escort card table being constructed out of moss, or pumpkins, or peacock feathers I certainly want to know about it. First, because likely I can help make it better - after all, naturals are what we do, and secondly because of the value of the photographs. We work to create a cohesive, seamlessly designed event and we want the images to reflect that. If someone thinks it would be a good idea to bring in an ice sculpture as the main event in cocktail hour, I'd like to know about it in advance so I can veto the shit out of that idea. Its taken me a while to realize that it's not us being arrogant, it's us DOING OUR JOBS to make every event look incredible. I hope our clients value that. And the ice sculpture is a bad example because I actually love ice sculpture and plan to bring it back - so watch out!
5. Follow up. I used to be shy about following up. I have no idea why...afraid to look desperate I guess. Now I realize how dumb this is. Personally when someone follows up with me I appreciate it. The only follow up I dislike is when it is someone is emailing cold. But any client you've met with - knows you, hopefully likes you and probably needs the reminder. So just do it and get on with it.
6. Don't lie. EVER. Lies find you, and they fuck you. I know that it would be so easy to lie sometimes, or embellish...You have to cancel a meeting? Just apologize and cancel, but don't make up a story because saying you are sick or stuck in traffic if you are not. It's risky business. Ever watch someone tell a little lie? It's incredibly unattractive. (Except when Agent Brody from Homeland does it.) Also I feel like dishonesty spreads in a business. The more clearly transparent and honest you work to make the client interface, the better.
7. Always hire more help, more freelancers than you think you'll need. This is one of the simplest lessons I've ever learned. You always will need it. I feel so strongly about this I don't even want to explain it. Just trust me on this one.
8. Ribbon bouquets on site. I love doing this because it means we can make big fluffy drippy bows without them getting wrinkled in a vase, and we can use really delicate silks without them getting ruined by sloshing bouquet-vase water. Just plan to have an hour at the wedding venue or hotel or wherever to calmly sit down with all necessary trimmings.
9. Don't do your own breakdown. I know that hiring a breakdown crew is expensive - but this is really important. You have to respect yourself, your talent and your body in this business. I have a really easy solution for covering the cost: pass it to the client. If it costs $250 for a freelancer to drive over and take it all away, explain that. No one has ever argued about a breakdown charge.
10. Be a YES person the day of the event. Things always go awry, someone is going to need an extra boutonniere, a remake of a destroyed flower crown, you might be asked to trim a large branch arrangement even though you like how wild it looks. In my experience it's always easier to yes people to death. And it feels good to say Yes! to people in stressful scenarios, when things are spiraling out of control right before an event goes off. You have your shit together and you just keep saying yes. (See where it would be helpful to have extra hands here?)
I asked Eric to help me think of some of my rules. He laughed at me and told me I should learn to follow my own rules. Like we always say in Flower School, rules are made to be broken. And so yes, sometimes I forget my own lessons. I don't know about you, but personally, I am very rarely completely happy with an event. I'm a perfectionist and always focus on what could have been better. This seems rather sad as I write it, but it's probably what keeps me in the business. If we got everything right all the time what fun would we have?
Nicolette and I are planning our Australia tour for January; if you live down under and are game for some lessons in person. There's an intensive Weddings 101 weekend long class geared toward florists in the business, and then a fun Arranging 101 class planned. And for those of you state side, more classes are coming for Spring 2013, I promise.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We're at the farm making dinner on the grill.