Last Updated on October 7, 2021
So you want to start an event management firm, do you? That’s an admirable undertaking, for sure – but also an incredibly difficult one. You’re combining the difficulties commonly associated with event planning with the challenge of starting your own business venture.
What that means is that if you don’t go in prepared, you could very easily find yourself completely overwhelmed.
Don’t worry. As an event management professional, you’re actually uniquely equipped to be a business owner. You’ve already got all the people skills you’ll need to manage a team; all you need now is a bit of knowledge to get the ball rolling. That’s where we come in.
Today, we’re going to go over exactly what’s involved in starting your own event management firm, and in seeing it through to success.
Make Sure You Have A Deep Understanding Of Event Management
The first piece of advice I’ll give you is this – don’t bother starting your own firm if you don’t have experience. Unless you’ve already got a solid grounding in event management, you’re essentially going to be setting yourself up to fail. Running a business is challenging enough without having to learn a whole profession on top of that.
Enthusiasm can only go so far.
Ideally, I’d advise getting at least five years of experience in the field in which you tend to work, if not a bit more than that. There are two primary reasons for this advice. The first is that the experience you gain will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive as an event management professional.
The second is that you’ll meet people within your industry. By establishing yourself in your field before you set out on your own, you’ll be able to set up a network of event planners, business contacts, vendors, venue owners and event partners. Never underestimate how valuable knowing the right people can be to a burgeoning event management firm.
Not only could they give your business a leg up in a competitive market, your contacts could also be drawn on to populate your firm with staff. A lot of the people you meet while working as an event planner could become future employees or co-founders of your new firm. It’s therefore important that you put every ounce of charisma you’ve got to work establishing and maintaining positive relationships with everyone you work with.
Thankfully, there are plenty of different routes you can take if you want to gain experience.
“Many people enter the industry with an unrelated degree, whilst others move from PR or marketing,” writes Justine East. “Whatever route people choose, they should be prepared to start at the bottom and remember that any relevant experience is worthwhile, even bar work or waiting on tables.”
Which industry you’re working in has an impact as well, of course. A wedding planner might set off to work as an independent professional or join an established planning agency, while a corporate meeting planner might seek work with a financial firm or tech organization.
Draft Up A Solid Business Plan Before You Proceed
Once you’ve some solid experience under your belt – in essence, once you can safely consider yourself to be an event planning veteran – your next step is to put together a business plan for your firm. By far, this is the most important step, as your business plan will inform every other aspect of how your organization operates. If you don’t put in the necessary effort here, your efforts elsewhere are going to suffer (plus, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to secure investors in the event that you seek funding).
- A mission statement/vision statement articulating what sort of business you want to create.
- A description of your firm and the product/service it offers (in this case, the industry in which you’ll work and what type of events you’ll run).
- A market analysis of the market you’re trying to enter, who your competitors are, where you fit in that market, and what type of market share you believe your organization can secure.
- A description of your management team – including the experience of the team members and where they’ve succeeded in the past.
- How you’re going to market your firm.
- A full SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) which details all the strong points, challenges, and shortcomings of your firm.
- A cash flow statement that determines your needs, both now and in the future.
- A summary/conclusion that wraps everything together; or an executive summary at the beginning of the plan.
Another important component of any good business plan is an exit strategy. What will you do if your firm fails, is acquired by another business, or loses one of its founding members? It’s vital that you know before the fact – otherwise, you’re going to find yourself running into no small degree of trouble down the line.
Figure Out How You’re Going To Fund Your Firm
Once you’ve figured out a business plan and exit strategy, your next step is to figure out how you’re going to gather the necessary capital to get it off the ground. There are a few routes you could go in this regard – you could either seek funding from investors, or you could bootstrap it. Either method is entirely valid; you should choose according to your business needs.
Now, it’s worth mentioning at this point that event management works a little differently from most businesses. Ideally, you’re not actually going to need as much funding to start your firm up as you might for a restaurant or hotel. While you’re going to need to cover organizational expenses like an office, event management tools, website development, marketing, and staff salaries, most of the money you actually use to run your events is going to be provided by your clients – meaning event management firms are actually pretty light as far as startups are concerned.
That doesn’t mean they won’t still cost you a fair bit of money, mind you. You’re still going to have stuff you need to spend money on as well as a bit of extra cash in the event that you enter into a slow period. Ideally, you’re going to want to have enough money to afford the following (via Entrepreneur):
- An office where you can work and meet with clients.
- Equipment for said office; includes smartphones, tablets, computers, office supplies, etc.
- Licensing and Taxes. You aren’t going to be able to operate without a business license, like it or not – you’ll need to buy one. Usually, the government website for your particular city/region has information on how you can do this.
- Communications Costs such as Internet/Mobile fees.
- Legal/Accounting Fees.
- Business Insurance. It’s vital that you look into this – do not neglect getting your business insured.
- Miscellaneous expenses – anything that’s either unexpected or doesn’t fit into one of the above categories.
There’s one more thing I’d add to the above list – marketing. This includes advertisements in local newspapers, on billboards, and online; as well as development of your website if you hire someone to create it for you.
Find Your Team
Although finding a team is undeniably an ongoing process (and you’re likely going to draw heavily on volunteers for many of your events), it’s still important that you bring on a few strong individuals to help you get your event planning firm off its feet. Making the wrong hire can destroy your firm before it even launches; issues with one’s team is one of the primary reasons for a startup to fail.
Again, this is one of the reasons I’ve stressed that you need to spend at least half a decade or more gaining experience in event management. It’ll help you better understand the requirements of the job, and what’s necessary to succeed in the field. Since you’re going to be managing people quite a bit as part of your day-to-day work, it’ll also give you a good sense for who does have the right stuff and who doesn’t. You’ll be drawing heavily on those instincts during the hiring process, no matter who you bring on board.
Your firm will likely hire the following employees (again, credit goes to Entrepreneur):
- Temporary/Contract staff to do clerical work and event preparation.
- A part-time bookkeeper/accountant.
- A part-time legal professional to help you draft your event contracts and manage liability.
- Additional planners to help you balance the workload of larger events.
- A developer to design your website.
- An outsourced marketing firm to get the word out about your business. Larger firms might even hire their own internal marketing professionals.
As an event management professional, you should be able to nail down a fairly effective hiring process – after all, people management is a big portion of what you do. Use the instincts you’ve developed over the course of your career to make decisions on who you hire.
If your gut tells you someone might not be a good fit for your organization, then it doesn’t really matter how good they look on paper, you probably shouldn’t hire them.
Get The Word Out About Your Business
Once you’ve drafted up a general business plan, found your management team, and worked out where the money for your business is coming from, your next job is to start marketing your firm. You need to design a professional-looking site for your organization.
Think of your website as a sort of resume for prospective clients, or an online portfolio – if they like what they see, they’ll hire you. If they don’t, they’ll simply hire someone else. It’s therefore important that your website make as good a first impression as possible – the URL needs to be short and catchy, it needs to be optimized for local search, and it needs to be easily navigable with all relevant information accessible to clients.
That information includes contact information, photos from and information about past events, industries you work in, testimonials from satisfied clients, and details about your firm’s staff and founders.
I’d also advise that you create a Facebook page and Twitter account. These will allow you to connect with both attendees and clients, posting updates about your events, photos of your successes and general information about your business. If you need a bit of extra information about marketing yourself on the social web, Entrepreneur has a pretty fantastic article I suggest you read. Most of the information is actually fairly common-sense once you get into it, but it’s still handy to know.
Last, but certainly not least, you need to consider alternative marketing avenues – print media, email campaigns, etc. Again, you’ve probably had at least a bit of experience in marketing as an event planner, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to grasp this part. After all, marketing a firm is only marginally different from marketing an event – you just need to plan more for the long-term.
In all of the above cases, it’s important that you know your demographic. What clients do you primarily serve? A firm that’s geared towards weddings for young couples is going to have a website and social media presence vastly different from one that primarily handles corporate meetups. It’s your job to do a bit of market research and determine what resonates with your target clients – then to create a marketing campaign that catches their attention.
A Few Final Tips
So, there you have it. A brief overview of what’s involved in setting up your very own event management company. Before we wrap things up for the day, I’ve a few final tips for you that might help you get your business on its feet. Take from them what you will:
Consider acquiring an event planning certification or degree. Certain clients might be unwilling to work with your firm if you aren’t certified as an event planner.
Always be as positive as you can when meeting new faces. You never know who might prove a valuable contact or brand advocate in the future.
If you’re already exhausted by the energy required to be an event planner, don’t start a business – managing a startup is one of the most tiring jobs in the world, and adding that atop a career that’s already got you on the edge will probably lead to burnout.
Research everything extensively, and never stop learning. Treat every single source of information as a potential fount of knowledge with which you can advance your career.
Running an event planning service can be one of the most rewarding pursuits you’ll ever engage in – especially if you end up rising to the top of your industry. This is only the case, however, if you go in prepared. If you don’t make sure you’re ready for the job ahead of time, then you’re very likely going to end up watching in desperation as everything crashes and burns around you.
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If you’re looking to spice up your events, why not consider hosting it internationally? The thing about major, well-established markets is that everyone tends to flock to them.