I started my business like most of you— on my living room couch, in between family guy and and two and a half men, on the drive to “work” at my corporate job, and during every waking hour on the weekends and weeknights. It started off as a one employee business: me. Yep, little ole me as the head of operations, “president,” book keeper, business manager, event planner, designer, brand creator, website developer, IT guy, blogger, head of marketing, secretary/receptionist— AKA Person-In-Charge. Those were glorious days filled with new ideas, expansion, growth, and excitement.
Once we started to book events, I enlisted the trusted help of family and friends. People I could really count on. They all had experience in the service / hospitality industry, so, for “day of” help they were wonderful! Plus, they had my back (one of them was my mom!) and my best interest in mind. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been able to pull together those first seasons.
Then, my business grew to the point where yours might be now— I needed people. Lots of people. As the weddings get more elaborate, expensive, and detailed— so do the number of hands. It was a scary moment for me as a business owner when I realized I needed to start hiring people. Hiring people? What, I can’t do this all alone? I’m not sure why it didn’t dawn on me before, after all, I must receive 5-10 inquiries a week for an internship, job opportunity, or the ever exciting “can I pick your brain for an hour or so about the industry? I want to be a planner!” I did save them all, as I had been taught to in my corporate HR job.
My first experience with hiring netted in the ever amazing Diana Chouinard, so one could say that I have been not only lucky, but blessed. My first round of intern interviews was held in October of 2009 and I met with a lot of smart, interesting people. I posted about our internship online (google: internship postings for a list of sites students cruise for opportunities) and made note of it on twitter, facebook, and our blog. I also saved all the inquiries that we’d received up until that date and contacted the people who had a good resume and pitch. I looked for prospective interns who had: design / art backgrounds, event planning backgrounds, were involved in a lot of college activities, worked in the service industry, and who had taken the time to research my company. I also took note of small things: spelling, grammar, email addresses, and their facebook profile picture. All important items of consideration when you meet with someone for perspective employment.
My round of intern interviews went exceptionally well, and it was a difficult decision. Some wore passion on their sleeve, others were clearly on the fence. I trusted my gut, sat with their resumes, and reached out to the women I thought would be the best fit. I turned out to be lucky, but I believe I set the stakes and standards high. I don’t have tolerance for lateness, looking sloppy, and not being a team player. Anyone who showed up to their interview a moment late didn’t get considered— in this business, you have to be reliable and dependable. I also found responsible and dedicated people who wanted to work— whether it was at an event or doing all the leg work beforehand. They really wanted to learn.
Our interns had a good solid 5 months before the first wedding of the year— so we got to know each other, worked together, and I was able to teach them a thing or two in the meantime. It made our first event together easy and exceptional. I believe that to be key: you can’t hire someone and expect them to do a job without any standards, discussion or training. If you are lazy about the way you hire and manage staff, they in turn will be lazy about the job they do.
I also pay my interns and you should too. Why? Because the law in your state might require you to do so, and because people work harder when they get paid. It couldn’t be more simple! You know you work harder when you get paid — so why wouldn’t your interns?
Utilizing your interns and teaching them can be a challenge— you have to do what works best for your company. My interns would come in during wedding week and help out with all the preparation of items, details, and itineraries and were of course there on the day of the event. Spending time in the office is a valuable teaching tool and they should come in to coexist in your day to day operations. I often give out projects that have to do with business, which is equally as important as the job you do within it. Marketing, social networking, PR– all great jobs for your eager interns!
Last night I asked on twitter what you’d like to hear me talk about on this blog. I could write about a lot of things— but I really want to talk about things that are important to you! I received such great feedback with a lot of thoughtful questions and ideas for discussion. I plan on addressing them all! You can email— tweet— text— or call me with any ideas that you have on topics you’d like to hear explored here. Thanks for the enthusiasm!