Any significant business change comes with obstacles, especially if you are changing your special event company’s name or branding. After all, your brand is how people recognize you and your business; when you change it, you risk losing the groundwork you have laid to build recognition and make a name for your company. Thus, when you are making changes in your business, you need to have a strategic plan in place that will see you through the internal and external communications necessary to keep your network in the loop.
Let me start with a bit of background: I started a floral design studio years ago and named it Flourishing Art. For a while, we strictly produced floral arrangements, but eventually expanded our services to include full event design and production, which we saw as a need in our market. As we evolved, we created another company name--Grandeur Productions--under the same corporation to keep them separate for insurance purposes.
[Note: This is not legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor or do your own research about filing a DBA, or “doing business as,” for more information about this process.]
Once we did this, our floral studio became a vendor for our production company, so they always worked in tandem with each other. In terms of external branding, we have since merged everything under the name, Flourishing Art, to make it easier for our clients to understand.
There were a lot of factors that went into this decision, but it was basically a monetary decision for us. Event insurance can get tricky with multiple services within the same business, and the rates vary based on the service provided. For what it's worth, florists have one of the highest workers compensation rates in California, because we work with knives and other tools.
Throughout this process, we faced some challenges and learned a lot along the way. Here are some of those valuable lessons we would have loved to know beforehand:
- Start by telling your industry peers.
You work within your network regularly, so they should be the first to know about your big news. Most of our vendors understood the business aspect behind our choice, and it did not take long for them to get behind us. They recognized that it was still the same faces behind the brand; we are still the same creative and dependable company.
- Prepare a promotion strategy.
The larger your company and follower base are, the more effort you will have to put into promoting your news. You do not want to lose people because you changed your Instagram handle without notice, and so suddenly nobody knows who you are. It takes time (and sometimes money) to get the word out, so consider your most effective outreach platforms and then map out a game plan. You will want to include it in your newsletter, share it to social media, refresh your website, and update your creative partners accordingly. It may also be worth purchasing ad space to push the message out far and wide.
- Plan for FAQs.
While your vendor partners may be quick to understand your change and back you up, clients might be more confused about what the growth could mean for their event. You need to plan in advance how to answer the common questions that will arise. Work with your team and collective practice responses.
For example, you will likely need to assure many clients that nothing will change on their side of the table; if anything, they might benefit from the change if you are indeed adding services to your company. If you come prepared with prepared responses, you will be much more confident in your approach and more effective in easing clients’ concerns.
- Keep your documents separated.
In terms of taxes and insurance purposes, keeping your paperwork separate is key to remain organized. This could be as simple as having two file cabinets and putting away documentation accordingly. We have always kept every invoice and payable separate; this ensures that everything ends up where it belongs when we have to file our taxes or pull up paperwork for insurance requests down the line.
When you are making a big shift in your business, such as merging services, changing names or rebranding, do not feel as though you need to weather it alone. Lean on your support system, whether that is a team of employees or a handful of contractors. A legal advisor is essential for anything that requires legal documentation (seriously, it’s not worth the risk!). In addition, a business coach and a graphic designer can be of great help in making the process as seamless as possible.
Once you're on the other side, it will be well worth the effort, and your clients will be thrilled to know they can look to you for multiple services.
Oleta Collins is the owner of Flourishing Art Design Studio, a premier florist and design studio in Bakersfield, Calif., that specializes in luxury weddings and events. She is also a Certified Floral Designer and an accredited member of the American Institute of Floral Designers.