Your event business can only be as good as the people running it – your team. They interact with your clients and colleagues, execute your carefully crafted plans, and set the mood in your everyday work environment. You answer for their performance, good or bad, and as a small business, that can make or break your reputation.
Building an amazing team is a long process that takes hard work, intuition, and skill. It all starts with cultivating good employees.
Step 1: Look for specific features.
When selecting candidates for your next position, focus on personality rather than skills. You can train the right people, as long as they have the right attitude and approach to life. Look for positivity and motivation. Candidates who are willing to step out of their comfort zone are great, especially if they’re not looking to start their own competing business.
If you can find people who want to grow with you, who understand that small businesses are unique, and who appreciate being part of a team, grab them quickly and stick with them for good! Those with previous small business experience are usually very good candidates.
Step 2: Offer a trial period.
Once you’ve narrowed down your candidate list to your best candidates, find out what they would think of a trial period. Unlike a large company that can afford to train and develop new employees who may or may not work, a smaller company typically has fewer resources to spare, so finding the best match the first time is essential.
A trial period is mutually beneficial. Your new hire gets paid and learns the ropes while you two decide if committing to each other for the long haul will work well for both sides. Other members of your team also have the opportunity to influence the decision, which promotes a healthier work environment. In general, a three-month trial is enough to solve problems and sufficiently examine a new situation. [Editor’s note: Wage and hour laws vary widely; check with counsel regarding probationary periods for new hires.]
Step 3: Treat them properly.
There are several things you need to do to ensure you have happy and healthy employees on your team.
First of all, never wait to respond to a problem. Have a meeting. For example, I noticed that one of my employees, whom I really liked, didn’t like her role in planning, so we changed her responsibilities to manage social media. This area benefited from her skills, was a need for us, and she loved it and flourished in it. You shouldn’t hang on to the wrong person if it doesn’t work out, because it won’t serve you, your company, or the new hire. Be ready to have the conversation and don’t wait to do it.
Also, recognize that working for a small business, especially in an event setting, can be challenging and emphasize the benefits. Respect your employees’ personal time. Encourage them not to let their work spill over into their lives. Share some of the fun parts of the business – let them attend industry meetings or accompany you on trips. This company has a high burnout rate, but you can avoid turnover by staying connected and encouraging communication.
Finally, make sure your employees feel personal pride and a sense of belonging to your company. Hosting a retreat at least once a year where you can get away together and focus on your success, areas of growth, and goals together is a very effective way to build a team.
Encourage team check-ins on a regular basis. It’s not just about having an open door – it’s about actively seeking feedback from your team members and honoring their value to your success. Don’t be automatically reactive – sometimes just hearing a concern is enough to satisfy someone. Be responsive. If you receive comments that you can act on, do so.
Nothing is more important to your business than the people who represent it. Make hiring and training your team one of your top priorities.
Emily Sullivan is the owner of Emily Sullivan Events, a full-service wedding planning company based in New Orleans and serving couples around the world.