Welcome to the next installment of “Lessons Learned”, a new blog series all about what REALLY happens behind the scenes of event planning.
This week it’s all about our clients, the whole reason we get up in the morning. The folks that offer us the incredible opportunities to create memorable experiences….usually.
As with most service providers, event professionals are in the business of people pleasing. The goals, objectives and overall happiness of our clients is our top priority and we work tirelessly to turn their vision into jaw dropping reality. However, when I first started in this business, it never occurred to me that this ability to please is significantly more complicated that it seems – and can sometimes be near impossible to accomplish.
Experience has taught me a valuable lesson, contracting for hire is a two way street and sometimes no amount of knowledge, skill or creativity will produce an event your client is happy with. It’s times like these where cutting ties may be the best solution for everyone.
Here are a few examples of times when breaking up with a client the best decision you can ever make.
When Being Undervalued
For years I worked with a committee on a large, successful multi-day event. However, after new management made the decision to cut my fees by a whopping 50% in favour of using inexperienced volunteers, I knew it was time to assess my true value.
Event management requires skills and experience just like any other field. If a client is asking you to work for less than your worth then it really is time to move on and focus your efforts on those to appreciate the talent required to manage complex projects.
When the Client was Impossible to Please
It’s always important to manage expectations. My general rule of thumb is to under promise and over deliver but we’ve all met the occasional client that has expectations that are just impossible to meet – the budget is too high, the design is never quite right, the food, no matter how good, is just never good enough. Yup. I’ve been there.
Knowing that you’re delivering your very best, and offering your client the greatest value possible makes working in these situation easier, but, like all things, knowing where to draw the line is essential in any relationship. I love working with clients who want to shoot for the stars but those who lack realistic expectations to go along with that vision just aren’t worth the agony.
When being Micromanaged
Having someone constantly looking over your shoulder is fun for no one. Dealing with micromanagers is particularly hard for me but I find regular check-ins and over communicating plans and timelines can often appease these personalities and allow the project to continue to progress smoothly. Sometimes it just comes down to different working styles but if you’re client just can’t trust you to do what you’ve been hired for, it’s hard to stay enthusiastic and eventually the whole event will break down into one big pile of resentment. Move on.
When Dealing with Toxic Behaviour
Any behavior that degrades, devalues or discredits you or your abilities is never worth sticking around for. As much as we know not to take these situations personally, It’s often hard to manage and can easily make your job impossible. This one’s a break-up that is always warranted.
While we never want to be in a position where we’re forced to question our professional relationships, the harsh truth is, not every client is going to be amazing. If I could give advice to my younger self, I’d say two things: It’s ok to say no if a client just isn’t the right fit and there is always another opportunity waiting down the road.
Be patient. Be kind and choose your clients carefully.