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Special Events

Bobbi Taylor Has the Last Word

In 1998, Bobbi Taylor, president of Indianapolis-based BT Event Productions, produced 125 events. In 1999, she produced only 25. Yet her revenue has doubled, and her personal income has quadrupled. What's her secret?

"I've learned how to say no to clients," says Taylor, who produces business incentive trips, product launches, themed celebrations, and large-scale corporate events including meetings and conferences.

"The more you try to be a boutique company, rather than a JCPenney, the more they want you," she explains. A two-time Gala Award winner, she stresses this strategy for anyone interested in the big time: "If an event doesn't meet your criteria-your goals, profitability, standards-don't do it," she cautions. "I have had clients come back to me and up their standards and budget because they wanted to work with me. If you do just the piddly stuff, you may not have time to do the big event when it comes along."

Like many event planners, Taylor started out in a different field. With a bachelor's degree in business administration and marketing, she sold office supplies in a corporate environment. However, she soon longed for independence. "I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn't know what I wanted to do."

When she and a co-worker went solo with their own office equipment company, she knew it was a step in the right direction. At the same time, Taylor was throwing lavish parties that were such a hit, friends encouraged her to make a living out of it.

"I laughed hysterically and said, 'No one can have this much fun andmake a living,'" she recalls. "Then I read a book called Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow and realized this is my dream. So I stepped off the edge and went for it. That was eight years ago."

The beginning was hard. "I had no money, no business plan, no clue-just passion and tenacity and perseverance," says Taylor. She also relied heavily on her marketing background to sell those first events. "It's wonderful to have great ideas, but if you don't know how to market them, nobody will care."

Passion aside, "partnering with other professionals is a big part of my success," says Taylor, who just received the 1999 Gala Award for Best Theme Decor, Budget Under $10,000. She partnered with Perfect Surroundings of Newport, R.I., for this event. "It's more fun to work with others, and you learn so much. Bring in the experts when the experts are needed." In fact, partnering enables her to keep her own staff down to one full-time person and five project managers, whom she calls on as needed.

With lean staffing comes flexibility, Taylor says. For example, she is now setting up a satellite office in St. Petersburg, Fla. "Indiana in the winter is not fun. I can do what I do from anywhere-as long as I deliver results, clients don't care where my office is."

Whether it's winter quarters in Florida or a recent three-week vacation in Africa, Taylor is looking out for her own well-being. She says she's not alone.

"As our industry grows up, you see more people fighting for balance in their lives," she notes. "When we were all young, we'd do so much, so quickly. But now we're asking ourselves, 'What am I giving back to the industry? What about myself-am I healthy? What about my family?'"

Taylor plans on giving back to the industry. She wants to write a book ("something along the lines of how to grow your own special event business-the industry is in need of more resources"), as well as teach and speak more. But, she insists, "I also want to take more time for fun, see the world-it's all part of balance."

BT EventProductions 1106 E. 56th St., Indianapolis, IN 46220 317/253-4288; e-mail: [email protected]

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