Special Events

The Daly News: All That Glitters

PHENOMENON HAS HIT the special event industry recently - mergers and acquisitions. Hotels seem to be getting into the act.

For years it has been common for finer hotels to have a flower shop on the premises that has rented space from the hotel and provided not only for the hotel's needs but also for guests and the occasional party or wedding. These shops typically ran as separate businesses. The hotel property did not make money other than rent for the space and perhaps a discount for designs used in-house.

With the growing interest in the special event industry, the "share the wealth" mentality has mushroomed. Hotels have found there is money to be made in the business of special event decor, entertainment and related amenities. This is a very good thing and should be viewed as such. It adds validity to our cottage industry.

Although there is indeed a lot of good to this arrangement, I suggest it be approached with much caution from all parties.

From the standpoint of the hotel: Are you sure you want to enter into yet another business? Selling successful event decor, entertainment and invitations is an art, not a job. Here, a sale is not a sale and should not follow the same criteria as ballroom charges and food menus. The many steps that go into the event after the sale must be taken into account. They cannot necessarily be handed off to an amateur in event production. It takes a village to raise a child, so the saying goes, and I am here to say it takes a strong professional team to raise a flat-out-fabulous special event.

By the same token, you special event professionals are probably of the entrepreneur's spirit. Entrepreneurs need space and often run a business in a very different manner from corporate America. Can you bend to another set of rules?

The true test for both parties is the period of negotiation on contracts. Neither side can be blinded by dollar signs. It must be a win-win situation for all concerned, or it will not result in a long and happy marriage.

For the hotelier to succeed, it is most important that the special event business with which you partner is capable, flexible and professional. A talented designer might not have the business savvy to deal with your clients. All designers can promise the moon, but will they deliver the moon or green cheese? Check out the credentials to the max. How long has the business been in operation, and with what type of clientele has it dealt?

A hotel should not expect an unreasonable discount on house flowers as well as a commission on every job that is passed along unless the event specialist can still make the margin to keep the enterprise profitable. It is far more likely that you will lose money on large budgets than on smaller ones by thinking, "There is so much money here, we can spend a little more."

As the owner of a small business, it is most important for the event pro not to become intimidated by the big-business approach. Stand your ground on profits and expectations, or you might not end up with any ground under you a year from the signing date.

There is indeed a happy way to marry the entrepreneur with the corporate executive. It's called open and honest communication, with a desire to be flexible to each other's needs.

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