Now this may sound very strange given I run one of the most successful wedding planning businesses in Spain, but it was never my intention to be a wedding planner, it came by default!!
With a background in interior design and being a creative soul I started my business as a wedding decoration and styling business. I loved and still love nothing more than creating stylish decor, great tablescapes and give me details any day from florals to placecards!
But herein lies a story as to how my business changed. It was quite a few years ago when I was happily creating gorgeous wedding decor when out of the blue a popular wedding venue closed its doors. I had, I recall, about 7 weddings there and all the lovely clients came rushing to me for help to move their weddings.
At the same time a girl who had been working at the hotel but had left the year before was teaching at a local hospitality school so I contacted her and asked her if she could help me as I had no idea how to manage this or indeed the time. She agreed and that summer we moved and managed 7 weddings successfully.
Now I had built up what I thought was a good relationship with this girl and she had assisted me in helping me launch my business whilst working at this hotel so it was a win situation. She was an awkward character though, so not relaxed so it was kind of hard to gel but I persisted as she had been so helpful.
Shortly after this summer we met for a lunch and she was crying her heart out telling me she hated her job, she wanted to be a wedding planner and asked if I could change my business so she could fulfill her dream to be a wedding planner, so I agreed. I was actually quite taken back that such a non emotional character to date was displaying such distress. After a good chat, we worked out we would need around 20 weddings each year and she could leave her job. She never left it actually but worked part time eventually to keep her social security going. So we agreed she would run the planning side of my business and get 75% of that income. I would retain 25% for marketing, the business running costs, etc.
There was no contract in place, it was based on trust and a relationship we had built over the years, so I thought. I then found having launched this part of my business I lost work as some planners then felt threatened and decided to stop using me for decor. One who actually left the year after was physically threatening me, it was not a great time.
Everything plodded along and was fine for a few years, I trusted her completely, she got on with her side of the business, at no point did she ask to be a partner or have shares nor with hindsight share any of her wedding planning work with me.
After 4 years I was alerted to the fact she was taking weddings from the company and planning them without my knowledge, The first ´stolen´ wedding I was alerted to was by a supplier who had recommended my company to her husband´s work colleagues. She was working on this wedding and emailed me for some details and needless to say was shocked I knew nothing about this clients wedding, I had no deposit, no contract, didn´t even know their names and yet my business was supposedly planning their wedding?!
I organised a lunch to confront her and when I asked her about this wedding she said she had driven to Gibraltar that morning to pick up the deposit which I knew was a complete lie, they had been booked for 4 months. They had booked in the October and this was February.
I explained we had to part company and she should finish the weddings for that year and then we could go our separate ways, there was no point trying to patch up a lack of trust when someone was doing this to my business. She agreed to continue to plan the weddings for that year as she was so deeply involved and leave when that year was finished. It was the longest year of my life looking back. I did wonder if something had happened to her how many weddings would pop up as Reviva Weddings weddings with me knowing nothing about them or were in the system. It was a scary and stressful time for me.
I also lost my father that year and to say it was tough was an understatement, the shock of the betrayal having been so fair and trusting plus a massive bereavement took its toll. I was rocked I would say for around 2 years as I tried to take control of a business I knew nothing about and deal with the grief of losing my father. There were no nice handovers, I was cut short and sure she wished me every bad thing ever, to this day I don´t know why yet she says she worked for me on her Linked in page. She did nothing to make a handover easy, I didn´t even have a wedding budget sheet or timings sheet template.
So my planning came by default, I learnt every system under the sun and it was tough, I hated spreadsheets but learnt to love them, I am a natural people sales person so for me this was easy and gradually I developed systems I love now and share with others. I have niched and learnt to attract my ideal clients, I know how to get them on board and have managed to haul my business and emotional health back to sparkling with many lessons learnt! The most massive lesson learnt was not to trust anyone and to keep a close eye on my business.
I have since learnt I was not the only victim of this ´wedding planner, there were two more companies that suffered the same fate of trying to steal clients whilst she was ´freelancing´ for them.
My motto for this story is don´t trust people, no matter how well you think you know them if you are running a business and they want to jump on board or be employed by you then make sure you have contracts in place. Whether it be relatives, friends, etc make sure you do everything to protect you business, you never know what is around the corner.
It is your baby and you must look after it and fight for it. Never let a ´friend´ get involved unless you have total control.