Since resigning on August 3, 2012, from my position with one of the leading event production companies on the West Coast, I have missed some of my former co-workers and clients. In fact, I became close friends with many of my clients. So I still see my client-friends who live in Oregon and a couple in Seattle, Washington, on a regular basis.
One thing I’ve really missed is the thrill of a sale, landing that account no one else could. Another is keeping the client happy and CALM during the whole process — from negotiating the contract, to planning the event, producing it, and dismantling it after the client went home, relieved and pleased as what we’d accomplished. The sale might be from a client I’d had for years and done numerous events with, or from a new client referred to me by a past client or a friend or colleague of a past client, or from a client cold-calling me or my place of business for the first time.
My entire career, I’ve worked in sales. The last 16 years of my sales career were in event sales. I helped create all types of events — from corporate parties and promotional events, to weddings, fundraisers, celebrations of life, movie and television sets and premiers, golf tournaments, even the Olympics. I’ve done it all!
Some clients had a concept of what they wanted their event to look and feel like; some had no clue. We would meet and discuss ideas, look at colors and decorative options, create renderings, and eventually visit the site where the event would be held. Then, after everything was arranged and the date was set, sometimes a year in advance, my team and I would produce the event! Watching everything come to life was one of my favorite parts of the job, second only to seeing the happy clients and guests at the event.
In between the rush of making the sale and the rush of seeing the outcome is the most difficult part of the job for most event planners: collecting the money, the deposit and then the final payment. With all three companies I worked for during my 16 years as an event planner, I consistently was #1 in collecting money from clients. My receivables and delinquents were always the lowest.
What I enjoyed, and now miss, the most was getting to know the clients, developing a relationship with each one. Usually, after my initial meeting with the client, I knew about their family; where they lived and where they’d grown up; where they worked and had attended college; their favorite colors, foods, restaurants, sports teams. I often knew their greatest sorrows and dislikes, too. At that first meeting, which typically lasted a couple hours, we’d start with a handshake and end with a hug, and the client would almost always leave feeling like we were friends. So would I.
I never received a negative review of any event I planned and managed. My employers never received a single complaint from one of my clients. I earned what was considered a very good salary in the industry, and I worked long hours not only in my office but also at home. During the summer, I worked on my events from home almost every evening. My clients always knew they could reach me via cell phone, no matter what time of day or night.
Even while on vacation — and I mean every vacation over all those years — I answered my clients’ calls. Sometimes, if a client couldn’t reach me because I was on one of my two cell phones, they would call me on my husband’s cell and tell him they needed to talk to me right away. Ronnie would get upset, as we would be sitting on the beach in Maui, or beside a swimming pool in Arizona, or in our hotel room or a friends’ house in Chicago, trying to relax and enjoy ourselves, and I’d be talking to clients on the phone. I gave 100% plus at all times.
I also had very close relationships with the crews who set up my events. I never hobnobbed with the other sales people and executives. The support staff were the people who were most important to me: the catering manager; the guys setting up the massive tents, tables, and chairs; the decor crew; the warehouse managers, dispatchers, and behind-the-scenes crews. These are the people who actually made the magic happen. They ensured everything I needed was there to create each of the thousands of events I managed. They all worked tireless hours to make everything perfect. And that made me a Rock Star to my clients.
My crews always respected me and wanted to work on my events. When we would travel out of town to set up an event, sometimes for over a week at a time, we’d stay in hotels. I made sure my crews were well feed and had cold brews at night if they wished; often, I would treat, so the majority were able to keep their per diem. And I always thanked them and complimented them on their work. These people rarely received the acknowledgment they deserved, and I wanted them to know how much I appreciated all they did for me and our clients. In return, they worked their tails off, and my jobs were always perfect!
Many of my former crew members still call and check on me. This past summer, after I’d left the company, several of my former co-workers came over with their families to our house for a barbecue, swimming, and talking and laughing about how much fun we’d had over the years. We reminisced about all the crazy times we’d had, like racing to set a tent for 900 guests just a couple hours before the event after an unexpected storm rolled in bringing monsoon rains, thunder, and lightning. Stressful and exhausting as that was, we’d pulled it off without a hitch and created a great memory we could talk about for years to come.
Some of my former coworkers told me how much they appreciated all I’d done not only for them but also for their families over the years. A couple of the big strapping guys had tears in their eyes when they told me it wasn’t going to be the same without me, that they missed me and wanted me to come back, that I was the only salesperson who really cared about them. Their kind words touched my heart. But I assured them I would not be back.
Still, I get excited just thinking about the thrill of the sale and landing a plum account. At the risk of seeming arrogant, I know I’m a great salesperson — whether I’m selling fabulous events, vacation condos in Arizona, or Jelly Beans. I know my clients and crews respected and appreciated me, even with my demanding, straightforward, no-frills attitude. I felt loved. Like a cherished member of a loving family … the one I was missing as a child.
When Ronnie and I find our Peaceful Place, where ever that may be, I’m pretty sure I have another 10 good years as a salesperson left in me. Who knows what I’ll be selling and where I’ll be doing it? Maybe I’ll find an employer who values a great salesperson, and I’ll sell their wares, whatever they may be, and make another company millions of dollars. Or maybe I’ll just set up a booth at Saturday markets and peddle rugs, or jewelry, or sports memorabilia, or jelly beans, or my book. Whatever path I take next, I know that somewhere down the road, I’ll put on my salesperson hat again. I’ll do a great job, and my clients and co-workers will feel happy and cared for. And oh the wonderful client-friends I’ll make!
A Few of My Favorite Events