Are You Failing Your Business

What J fails to recognize are her two fatal errors and these errors are common to so many small businesses in so many fields.
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"I used to be one of the top three wedding music providers in __ metropolitan area. The economy has devastated my business. In past years I might book 40 weddings a year, now a handful. I had a connection with ___ University that was very helpful, but that all changed with the new string department." -- J, Orchestra Leader

Recently at GigMasters we conducted a survey of over 1,000 engaged couples and wedding professionals. The goal was to discover which of the "wedding trends" touted by wedding bloggers were happening at real life weddings, and which trends are wishful thinking on the part of those bloggers.

As I read through the responses from wedding professionals the above quote caught my eye. I wanted to learn more about this orchestra leader and what was going on with her business. Although I kept her anonymous, I isolated her responses and what I discovered was something much different than what J believes is happening.

In response after response, J revealed herself to be uninterested and unaware of how the wedding world, her business, has changed. When asked about specific trends and themes she responded that she had "never heard of" even the most common trends of the past few years. When asked what themes she saw most at weddings she replied that she "does not recognize themes."

When asked whether she reads articles to keep up with wedding trends she replied, "I don't have much time to read anything. I am too busy deleting junk e-mails and trying to respond to the important e-mails. There are only so many quality minutes in the day for Internet time."

J was also completely unaware that today's couples are using social media to help plan their wedding. According to the client's survey, almost 100 percent of engaged couples reported using social media in their planning. J considers social media time waster.

J is partially right about her declining business. The economy obviously plays a part. Many other vendors reported that their wedding revenue dropped in 2008/2009 and has never fully recovered. But, most vendors have adjusted to a "new normal" that is still proving profitable for them.

What J fails to recognize are her two fatal errors and these errors are common to so many small businesses in so many fields.

1. She only had one main source of gigs (the University connection she mentions). The source did not just fail her because her connection there changed, but also because as she herself notes in a later comment, the demographics of couples changed.

"What weddings? These 20-somethings are waiting until they are 30 to get married."

How many other small businesses fail to diversify their client base and then wonder why things take a sudden dip?

2. More importantly, J failed to keep up with the changing trends and expectations in wedding planning.

J is most likely a very talented musician, but by not keeping current, by not being aware of what today's couples need and require from their wedding vendors, J has significantly reduced her business.

The anger and sadness she feels at this change is palpable in all of her responses and is most likely being communicated to potential clients as well. It made me sad, too. J has the resources to change her business. There are many businesses that have been made obsolete by changing demographics, technology, and the economy, but wedding entertainment isn't one of them.

Small business owners often look outside for ideas and help. It's important to remember that sometimes we have the answers inside ourselves.