When is the right time to start your wedding planning business? How do you know when you’re ready to expand? And how do you manage a team of event planners while staying true to your vision?
For some, their business is a creative endeavor. For others, event planning is an organizational challenge. But it’s also a business, and that’s an aspect you can ignore or embrace.
I spoke to Claudia Rollin of Harlow & Dahlia Events. While we discussed a broad range of ideas, one of the most exciting things we talked about was growing a wedding planning business, and knowing when it’s time to build a team.
Who Is Claudia Rollin?
Claudia is the founder of Harlow & Dahlia Events, a wedding and event planning design firm specializing in events in Vermont, New England, and New York City. “A one-woman show that has been growing into an event planning company with more hands-on board ready to make your event or wedding just shine!”
I asked her how she got into event planning.
Initially, Claudia worked in the corporate world as a marketing manager and director for bids. She explains, “the different marketing components, one of which was corporate event planning. So through that, and through everything else that I was doing, what sparked my interest, what I enjoyed doing the most, was the event planning piece of things. I like to organize things.”
But it was about both organization and creativity. “I like to see things go from A through Z,” Claudia told me, “And come to completion. And there’s a lot of creativity in event planning. So I was able to utilize and come up with ideas for different events.”
But even with that, Claudia still grew into the wedding planning business naturally. In addition to corporate planning, she was working on friends’ weddings, helping out as a planner.
“I always knew that I wanted to start my own business. I just didn’t know when or what. And then everything kind of clicked. The timing happened, and I decided to start this journey and create an event-planning business.”
“So I started small, just taking out a few weddings per year, and then that became very successful. So I decided to actually brand the business and truly become a full-functioning business.”
How To Structure A Wedding Planning Business As A Team
Claudia structures her business a little differently to many planners I’ve spoken to. I asked her to get into the details.
“Yeah, so we’re figuring it out with us, we speak every single year, because every year, the business evolves a little bit more. So we have to constantly readjust to fit those needs.”
“As of today,” Claudia said, “I am the principal planner and the owner. And then I have two other event planners that focus on services like day-of coordination or partial planning services. And then, in addition to that, we have a full-time intern. She does a lot of our admin, but eventually, she’ll join us as a coordinator in the next few years.”
The one thing that struck me was the definition around roles. It feels like a structure in which each individual grows into new positions.
When Is The Right Time To Grow The Team?
With so many wedding planners starting as a single person business, I asked Claudia how she knew it was the right time to expand. With a larger team comes more complexity, responsibility, and risk.
Well, it all comes down to productivity and doing right by both clients and the business. Every business, event planning or otherwise, needs to juggle admin, marketing, and clients. It’s tricky, but when the balance becomes impossible, it might be time to grow. “I knew it was time to grow the team because I wanted to be able to really work on the business side of things, administration side, for my business.”
“There was one season where I found that I was working so many weekends that I’m like, “Well, this is not productive,” Claudia told me. “I knew that I wanted to expand. And I knew that if I’m doing all the work on-site, it also takes away from time that I should be marketing or I should be doing some of the bigger-picture business planning.”
“We see a need in the market for the services that we offer. Vermont, where we’re based, there are a lot of weddings. I think we’re probably number three or four in the United States for the volume of weddings that Vermont sees, for states.”
“But I recognize that for us to provide an excellent service, it can’t just be me. I do need to have other staff. So that’s when I recognized that need, and we adjusted how many weddings per year the business could take on. And I brought on more event planners to help fill that need.”
But even so, Claudia is growing the team gradually.
“So with that in mind, I brought on one event planner as a contractor and helped out seasonally. And now there’s a second event planner, who also started part-timing seasonally. So right now, there are two event planners. They don’t work with me full time, but they work with me for a good amount of time. And eventually, we were thinking next season, they will be full time.”
Managing An Event Planning Team
Now, personally speaking, I’ve worked plenty of events myself, but never as a planner. I spent years as front-of-house at venues, as well as a wedding musician. One thing that always struck me about event planners is that they’re, well, go-getters. Planners are creative and organized. It’s a role that requires opinions and confidence, and I wondered if this ever led to clashes within Claudia’s team.
I asked Claudia how she manages her team of planners and aligns everyone behind the overall vision. Claudia opened up about her process, and it begins with people who are a great fit already. And yes, she uses event planning software too.
Claudia, despite the pressures of a growing wedding planning business, took time to find the right people. Building a great team actually begins before bringing anyone on.
“It actually took me some time to find the perfect people. I was very picky in the sense that I wanted to make sure, number one, that I knew that they were very hard workers. “So actually for, I think, eight months, I was just searching. I had a few leads that weren’t right. But I knew the type of person that I want working for me and was fortunate that I just happened to find those people because I have a vision, and I’m very headstrong with that vision.”
“I know what the vision is. But I’m also incredibly receptive and flexible.”
A Mission Aligns The Team
It turns out that the company mission naturally aligns team, but it’s all about the client.
Claudia explains that even if she thinks a wedding style should be blues and whites if the client loves yellow, she’ll make it happen. “So I’m receptive and flexible to that because it is their wedding. “
“And that’s one Harlow & Dahlia’s main missions. Every wedding has to be a true reflection of the client and unique. So if they tell me they love the color yellow, I’m like, “That’s amazing. Let’s figure this out. Let’s make this work.”
“So, with that in mind, when I hired my planners, I wanted the same type of personality. They have the ideas, they have the management, but they’re flexible and listen to our clients.”
But it’s also about skill. Claudia empowers her planners to let their own personalities shine. “It’s their own personal skills that make them successful.”
“I don’t believe in micromanaging. Because I feel like if I brought these planners onto my team, it’s for a reason. I trust them. We always talk, so whatever, any projects they’re working on, I know what’s happening at all times. But at the same time, I trust them to be able to communicate with the clients and manage portfolios.
A Wedding Planning Business Requires Vision And Trust
Up next, we’ll discuss how Claudia’s mission both aligns her team and guides the event design process. We’ll also cover Claudia’s views on marketing, vendor relations, and client service. Stay tuned!