Episode 117: Show Notes
Today on the podcast we have Madison Sanders, of Madison Sanders Events. Madi has been a wedding planner and designer since 2014 (and also, it just so happens that she and Emylee went to high school together!). Madison has gone from working for other agencies to building her own business, to even growing her agency where she now has other planners working for her.
Inside today’s episode, we talk about how that entire process worked, what she invested in along the way and how she was able to utilize relationships with vendors to continue to grow her business. We discuss the ins and outs of wedding planning – from managing multiple marketing platforms, to how she gets her clients, communicating with employees and clients, asking for referrals and setting boundaries so that you can look after your own well-being. Even if you are not in the wedding industry, there are so many valuable nuggets in here, for any entrepreneur, in any industry. Take a listen!
How Madison Started Her Business
Madi was born and raised in the suburbs of Kansas City. She went on to study in Texas and during her time there, she interned with Dallas City wedding planners. This gave Madi a foot in the door and is when she decided that this was the industry she wanted to be in. Later, Madi moved back to Kansas City where she worked in corporate event planning and doing weddings on the side with another firm. She then had the opportunity to be the Lead Wedding Planner at that firm and began pursuing wedding planning full time. Over time she slowly began to build connections with vendors in Kansas City, who have worked as a huge referral system for her. A lot of Madi’s work in her industry relies heavily on word of mouth referral and the great relationships that are built with other partners. Madi always had entrepreneurial spirit and knew that at some point she’d be jumping off from the firm and starting her own business. Madi’s initial job at the firm set a good foundation for her own business and with a lot of family support and financial back-up, she was able to venture into her own startup.
What To Invest In When Starting A Business
The beginning stages of starting a business is really a lot of trial and error. Madi invested in a lot of software and gear that she believed she needed in the beginning stages of her business. Later, she had to go back and look at what was actually serving her and her clients well and eliminate what was not. But things that Madi did invest in for the long run were certain technologies such as a laptop and an iPhone, so that her business could be as efficient and on-the-go as possible. Outside of that, she invested in a workspace of her own outside of the home that was more central for clients and for herself. Having an online storefront was also a huge component of Madi’s business startup. This enabled her to showcase her work in photos, because brides are very visual! Madi invested a lot of time into the website to ensure that the written and visual language would attract the right client. In the beginning, she utilized Squarespace, and as the business upgraded moved to a Show It platform. She then invested in designers to help her better communicate what her brand is about because everything is so online-based these days. She knew that her brand had to be polished and beautiful from the start, so she invested in that right away.
Getting New Clients In The Door
For Madi, getting clients in isn’t strictly through word of mouth, but she believes that business largely does start there. From a referral, brides will usually do their own research and head straight for the website, portfolio or Instagram account. Madi found that being present and active in all of these different areas was vital to making impressions on clients visiting all those platforms. It’s about building up all of these platforms, so that clients can see that you are a legitimate business, that’s functioning, active, busy and doing the work. Being active on all platforms can reiterate the trust factor that so many people want. Your audience is coming from everywhere and it helps to ask clients specifically, where their referral came from. This enables you to have more control over your expenses and know where you can be spending more time, what is not serving your business and what elements you can scrap. You have to look at what platforms that are attracting your specific clients. An industry related platform that Madi uses and recommends is The Knot.
How Madi’s Agency Business Model Works
For the first year, Madi was a one-woman show. But in Madi’s case, you learn very quickly that you can’t continue to thrive and prosper as a one-woman show! After evaluating her business and finances, Madi decided to hire assistants to help in the day-to-day running of the business. She also has a team of women who are event producers and now take on their own clients, which is more of Madi’s part-time package. But for Madi, she is still taking on the full-time wedding planning packages. This “family tree” sort of business model that Madi has incorporated, gives her more time to handle the business related tasks – like bookkeeping and accounting and the other vital yet not-so-glamorous parts of the job. The event producers that Madi hires under the umbrella of her business go through an extensive training period and fall underneath a particular brand standard. The event producers will be linked with a client who has approached the brand. They will then be working independently with that client, the whole way through their wedding or event process. But Madi always has her finger on what is going on. The reason Madi decided to create this model was because she realized that Madison Sanders had to be bigger than her if she wanted it to grow to as big as she hoped it could be. Madi also realized that although she is proud of the work she has done, that she is not going to know how to do everything. This is what prompted her to build a team - so that she would be able to share her knowledge, learn from others and build a brand together. The aim is that Madi can grow this agency model so that at some point, she can let go of the reins a bit… and have her weekends back!
Managing Expectations, Communication And Demands
Madi likes to set out job descriptions with her events team from the beginning and keep communication lines open. No one is perfect and there will always come a time when colleagues and bosses will drive each other crazy. But for Madi, what is more important is how they push through those times as individuals and as a team. There is a book that Madi read at the start of her entrepreneurial journey called The E-myth. The book really helped her and if you wanted to grow your business to that scale, the book breaks down the steps as to how to do that and how to be forward thinking in the beginning. But then also, allowing yourself grace and some leeway as you go. We all have initial expectations but we have to remember that we are humans and allow some things just to happen as they do! Things change throughout our working journey and we have to be flexible. There are new demands on the business every week, new needs that arise and so we have to communicate from the start and allow ourselves some grace because things change! Another thing is to humble yourself, by asking for advice, asking for help and being open to that experience.
What Sets Madison Sanders Events Apart?
When Madi started Madison Sanders Events she wanted to be very clear as to what her mission was and why she was doing this. What sets her business apart is that Madi is committed to making sure that the day is perfect, that the details are beautiful and that there’s nothing that is left untouched. However, if they lose sight of the “why?”, of the reasoning behind why they are putting this all together – then all of the work is for nothing. So with her clients, Madi is very intentional about sharing that with them in the beginning. She is there to take away the logistical burdens and help free up some time for the engaged couple, yes. But every wedding planner is going to tell you that they are super organized, will help alleviate stress and create designs that are stylish, savvy and fun. That’s great. “But why do we want clients coming in the door? And why are clients coming in the door?” These are the questions Madi always asks herself and her clients and hopes to never lose sight of the intention behind her business. Opening up this conversation with clients is key to Madi’s unique approach.
Managing The Aftermath Of A Wedding
The relationship between client and wedding planner, doesn’t stop after the “big day.” Madi believes that the best part of her job is the relationship that she is building with her clients. Madi keeps in touch with her clients on social media and has also just implemented a new gifting strategy for her clients. So after their wedding they are gifted with something to say, “Thank you for trusting us with something so huge.” Usually after a wedding, couples head off straight for a honeymoon. Madi wants them to enjoy that experience fully, so only after they return will they tend to the housekeeping items that have cropped up. So she will have a housekeeping email that she sends to the brides or to their mothers or fathers, or to whoever was taking the reins. Madi also likes to request a review of their services and make it as easy as possible for her clients to do that. But there is a follow-up with clients after the wedding day, and that is intentional, because you don’t want a client to feel like, “Oh as soon as this was over she just forgot about me and moved onto the next couple.” Because that’s just not very heartwarming.
Lessons Madi Has Learned And Advice For Other Planners
Madi knew that when she took on this business, she wanted to be responsible for every success and every failure, because she knew that these were opportunities for growth. Madi doesn’t regret anything but there are some things she wishes she’d known from the beginning, like the importance for setting boundaries and setting expectations. In the first year, Madi catered to every need and wish of her clients. So much so that her own family, friends and personal life started taking a major hit. So setting office hours in the beginning can help establish more efficiency within the business and allow for more productivity within those office hours. Because at the end of the day, Madi, or any wedding planner (if married), needs to work on their own marriage for the benefit of their own clients! You want to be living the values you have about love, marriage, family and life – so taking the time to do that is necessary for you and for your business to be authentic.
How Madison laid the foundation to start her business and step out on her own. [0:04:00.1]
What to invest in when starting a business, including technology, websites and workspace. [0:08:15.1]
Getting new clients in the door through social media, word of mouth and feedback. [0:12:05.1]
Madi’s agency business model and how she gets assistance in such a detail-driven business. [0:18:15.1]
Managing expectations, communication and demands in a changing business. [0:27:40.1]
The “why” that sets Madison Sanders Events apart from other businesses. [0:33:10.1]
The aftermath of a wedding and what happens and is expected after the big day. [0:38:20.1]
Lessons Madi has learned being in the wedding industry and advice for other planners. [0:41:30.1]
- Shift Your Mindset To Business.
- Focus On Profitability.
- Outline Your Own Processes.