Career 02 January 2017
Believe it or not, for me partying is a way of life. As the director of special events at Hollywood POP Gallery, one of New York's most iconic event planning, design and name talent booking agencies, I have called on my innate entrepreneurial skills to create what I describe as an ever evolving dream career. Whether at the helm of the year’s most buzzed about celebrity wedding, planning a Destination celebration featuring Tony Bennett , David Blaine or Seal or milestone celebration with Susie Essman, Smash mouth, or Jennifer Hudson, or designing an event featuring Barack Obama or negotiating a contract with Katy Perry, I'm always focused on the ultimate best results.
"I exist in a world that many people would find hard to believe, but that wasn't always the case. I consider my success self made - in no small part thanks the the amazing people I work with."
Although I have worked very hard to get here, I live by the philosophy that if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life and I’m fortunate to get to do what I love the most. As an event designer and wish maker for some of the most powerful and affluent people in the world, I believe I have gained a unique insight into making your dreams a reality and hope to inspire others who have their own dreams & aspirations.
The world of luxury event planning has left few stones unturned. In the many years that I've been with HPG, I've had some crazy business meetings, including everything from stark naked clients in their penthouse apartments to chats with movie icons, CEOs, and rock stars at 30,000ft. on private jets. I've been sent on site visits to exotic destinations and also carried costumes on subway trains to get them to parties on time.
Hollywood Pop Gallery works with billionaires with budgets and middle class moms who want to celebrate a special moment in a way that suits their lifestyle. Each event is equally as important; from a small dinner party to a large celebration, with every detail prepared to reflect their client’s personality and taste. Our job is to make our client’s dream a reality. If it's important to our client, it becomes equally important to us. Our role as memory makers is a very humbling experience because you only get one chance to make a client’s event what they’ve always dreamed of. Every party has to POP!
So, future event planners, design stylists, name talent booking agents and super-creatives from all walks of life, I'm here to tell you that whatever your dream career may be, please realize opportunities abound!
The trick is in recognizing if these opportunities will fit your overall business and life goals. Here, my three main recommendations to help all entrepreneurs find their dream.
THOSE WHO CAN, DO. THOSE WHO CAN'T, LEARN!
With every job you take on, make it a point to step out of your comfort zone.
There will be many pivotal challenges you face that place you in situations you haven’t experienced before. For me it was managing and booking touring and recording artists; booking name talent and handling their production, rider, staging, lighting and sound; and essentially functioning as a travel agent by planning a weekend destination celebration event in an exotic local.
Although each of those skills was initially outside of Hollywood Pop Gallery’s area of expertise, they are now part of their core services. I believe that change in an industry happens from within.
When clients request specific services that may seem outlandish the instinct may be to resist, but instead, research these items if they seem important to the client and especially if they come up more than once. Chances are these items are actually representative of important elements to the future of your industry.
'No’ is not generally an acceptable answer from the client's perspective and saying 'yes' when you don't have a blazed trail yet forces you to grow. At the same time, knowing when to say 'no' also keeps you creatively finding ways to satisfy demands that make sense for all involved.
PARTY PLANNER OR FAMILY THERAPIST?
Earn the trust of clients and figure out quickly how to relate to them- what their style is, what makes them tick, how to best lead them through the process of planning. This is true with most client relationships in many industries, but party planning gets far more personal than most. More often than not, planners are in the homes of their clients, looking through family photo albums, talking about their children's aspirations or their personal struggles.
Find ways to acquire a plethora of material to work with when looking for the perfect strings to pull.
Take the small anecdotes and make them major points. In my case, when someone mentions in passing that their triplets enjoy playing tennis, we make their party their own personalized Wimbledon with tennis pros and a mini tennis stadium in the center of the party.
RIDE THE WAVE OF INNOVATION OR BE LEFT IN THE WAKE
Part of staying in-demand in the event world is to consistently bring what is new and "cutting edge" to your clients. Just as no one wants to wear the same outfit as someone else at the same party, no one wants to see the same entertainment or decor that they've seen at several other events. Get out there and experience what is being done and what has yet to be created so you can share what you know and your ideas with clientele. Especially within the realm of HPG's client base, new perspectives and innovation keeps you afloat.
HPG is Creative Director to the longest running Off-Broadway variety show in NYC and that keeps our roster of international entertainment always growing.
Finally, is always helps to connect with other experts in your industry. We all need the support of one another and the opportunity to learn from each other. Since there are so many options in so many industries these days, it’s through building strong relationships with others in similar businesses that we all can learn and grow.
It's not always glitz and glam and Dubai and Michelin star chef tastings. My team and I work hard to absorb the ugly side of the process so the allure and wonder of it all stays intact. Think of party planning like Disney World - guests never see big garbage trucks or tired princes and princesses sweating and hurrying to their posts. It just doesn't fit their narrative of what you are meant to experience. A party planner's job is to create a flawless wonderland, making sure each moment is perfectly executed. The experiences and amazing opportunities that come along with repeat clients that trust you more and more with different projects make it all worthwhile.
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.