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Damon Holditch

As You Start Your Event Career: Letter to a Departing Employee

Damon HolditchDamon Holditch, founder of Marquee Event Group in Austin, Texas, shared this letter, which he just wrote to a departing employee who is going out on her own as an event planner. We liked it so much that we want to share it with the readers of Special Events. It's great advice for both business newbies and oldbies:

Farewell to a Departing Employee:

It has been a pleasure to work with you at Marquee Event Group in Austin. I have been impressed with your willingness to take on new assignments, tasks and any job that needed to be completed. You have an eye for design and a sense of organization that will be beneficial to you in your professional and personal life. Plus marrying a Fighting Texas Aggie was a big step in the right direction. I wish you well in your new career as an event planner. What you learned at Marquee will be of great value to you as a planner.

I would like to tell you some observations I have made over the 30-plus years in the event industry.

1. You are now in business for yourself. You must make a profit on each event are you will not be in business for long.

2. Set your prices high and ask for your fees upfront.

3. Your client is hiring you for a special event in their life. They are hiring you for your vision, your talent, your organizational skills, your trustworthiness, your reputation, and because they feel comfortable with you to plan and produce this special event.

4. Your client has complete confidence in you.

5. You must have complete confidence in yourself, your abilities and you must charge for your services and all you bring to the event market.

6. Set your fees high and you will attract the client with money. This is the client you want. By setting a high engagement fee, you will weed out the clients that are trying to use you but do not want to pay what you are worth.

7. By weeding out these clients without money, you will have weekends and event slots available for the clients that do have money.

8. Develop several packages with a set number of consultations, a set number of site visits, a set number of days devoted to the event and how your expenses will be reimbursed by your client.

9. Develop three tiers: A: Your bottom tier. B: Your medium tier (you will sell this one the most) C: Your top tier (The one for the Princess Bride whose Daddy wants to impress his friends)

10. Your fees should be your engagement fee plus 20 percent on top of all items you handle. The catering, the flowers, the rentals, the transportation, the cake, the bar, hair and makeup for the wedding party and any other items, Plus reimbursement for any and all expenses you accrue due to this event. Mileage, meals, lattes, hotels, tips, Uber and any other expenses you incur in the service of your client.

11. Remember, "Shameless Self Promotion" works. Have photos taken of all your events. Enter as many awards programs as you can. This is an important part of your marketing budget. Join and attend your professional organizations. Take a leadership position and become an example and an asset to your peers.

12. Take time for yourself and your Aggie Husband. By setting you fees high, you will have a personal life. You want only top-tier clients. They will find you

13. Mentor others and share your knowledge. You can give your business plan to others but they will not be able to reproduce your results.

14. Hire a bookkeeper or accountant. Monitor your expenses and income. Believe your income and balance sheet. You must make a profit to stay in business. A bookkeeper is part of your cost of doing business. Listen to your bookkeeper.

15. Do not be afraid to fire a client. Some clients are so difficult and demanding that no fee will cover the cost of this client. You will be able to tell quickly if you can satisfy this client. It is best for your client and you to step away from an impossible client.

16. Have fun and enjoy what you do. Always be honest and act with upmost integrity. Your reputation is an important asset for you.

17. Always listen to your client. They will tell you what they want and how much they can pay. If the client really wants something, they will find the money to pay for it.

18. Remember, you cannot make a profit by beating up in your vendors. You need to build a vendor team you can depend on. Your vendors have a right to make a profit. Your vendors must be profitable to be able to be there for you in the future.

19. Your vendor profit margin is about the same as yours: 10 percent to 15 percent. Ask for the best deal and take what is offered. As long as your vendor fulfills their contract with you, you are getting your money's worth. With vendor partners you will receive many extra services you would not expect from a onetime vendor.

20. The secret to making money as an event coordinator is not to seek the lowest price from your vendors. It is to produce events that "wow" your clients and result in future events. With an established vendor team you can produce events within your clients' budgets, resulting in many future events. The secret is repeat events with your clients and their friends.

21. Be loyal to your vendors and they will be loyal to you.

22. Do not be afraid to ask for help. None of us know all the answers. We must all collaborate to find the answer and produce the event.

23. No matter how great we think we are, "We are only as good as our last event!"

Best of luck to you as you begin the next phase of your life. Remember, "Aggies do not lie, cheat or steal and do not tolerate those who do."

I offer these simple guidelines as you begin a wonderful career in the special events industry!

Damon W. Holditch, CSEP, CERP, graduated from Texas A&M University with a BS and MS in electrical engineering. He purchased a United Rent-All Store in March of 1985, which has evolved into Austin, Texas-based Marquee Event Group, included on the Special Events "30 Top Rental Companies."

He is the past president of ILEA Austin and the Texas Rental Association. Damon earned his CSEP and his CERP and is a Registered Professional Engineer in Texas. Marquee has won three Special Events Gala Awards, three ISES Esprit Awards and numerous event industry awards. He says he is an example of not letting your education hold you back.

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