s2I recently ​returned​ from an amazing trip to​ Virginia Beach and the ISES Hampton Roads​ chapter​. ​They are​ a fantastic group of people who work​ ​together and remind me of our ​awesome ​event industry ​family ​in​​ Colorado. While I was there I taught ​a​ 4-hour intensive and then spoke at their monthly ISES meeting. As usual​,​ I ​spoke​ a lot about pricing, profitability and delegat​ing​. The one issue that became an overall theme at both ​sessions​ was the lack of work-life balance. Many attendees could see their family life suffering but didn’t know how to change it. (Tears were shed.) As we all shared stories​,​ it became very obvious to me the root of the problem with this ​”​balance in the events industry​” idea​ is letting fear rule decision making. ​Many people believe ​If you don’t work crazy long hours or ​cut your ​price​s and increase​ your service​ offerings, you won’t get the business​.​ ​ Some think ​if you’re not available to the client ​24 hours/day​ you’ll lose the business. In my experience, these concerns are​ not​ true. And if ​a client acts that way​, t​hey are not​ the right fit for you and not worth your time ​and​ energy. My advice to everyone in the event industry: separate the fear from the truth; have faith in yourself and your services.

Remember it’s great having nice clients, but they are not the #1 relationship in your life. Clients come and go, but your work team and family​ and friends​ will always be there. You should concentrate the majority of your energy on those relationships for long term growth.​ You are not your business or your job. I am not my business. I work at Forté Events where I help clients solve problems using events but I am a wife, a friend, a daughter, and many other things. My company is the tool by which I earn a living and create opportunities for myself and others but it is not who I am.​​​ You have to separate the two. It’s great to love your job…just don’t let it define your entire life. That’s how we lose balance.​

​One way to do this is to set clear expectations and boundaries at ​the ​beginning of any client relationship. ​Explain​ exactly what they ​should expect from you, ​ how many hours ​of your time​ the fee include​s and​ the number of meetings if applicable. Needless to say you’ll have many clients that you’ll have to remind of this; but remember you’re not giving away your time and energy for free.

Special warning to those in the wedding industry​:​ It’s especially hard to not form a false emotional bond with your brides. You work so closely with them​ in an emotionally charged environment​ ​ that’s easy to get caught up in​. This can cause you to invest energy and sometimes do things for them that you’re not getting paid for​ and cut in to your family time​. Don’t get me wrong, we’re in the hospitality ​industry ​and are supposed to give great service to our clients, just keep in mind that you’re still a professional and you may need to disconnect emotionally with certain clients​ and draw boundaries and stick to them​.

​I know from experience…​I spent years doing all the wrong things myself and working insane hours​ for people I thought truly valued my contribution…and many did but they were not my long term relationships​. The event industry tells us ​this is normal..expected…​we have to do this! I say make your own path within the industry and find the work/life balance that’s right for you!
-Tami Forero

 

 

 

 

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Dom Perignon White Wine Mission hosted by Serge And Tatiana Sorokko with Menu by Richard GeoffroyAs many of you know, Forté Events plans Celebrations of Life for clients who want to honor a loved one who has passed away.

Recently, a client asked if we would plan a celebration for her husband.  I asked her the list of questions I usually ask clients including “do you want alcohol at the event?”  She said she would like to toast her Husband with champagne because while he was alive, he enjoyed a champagne toast for New Year’s Eve, birthdays, and special occasions. He always wanted to buy Dom Perignon and in her words, she would “reign him in” because of the cost and they would get cheaper champagne.  He never had a glass of Dom Perignon.

Today she regrets that decision.  She said “why didn’t I just let him buy the Dom?”

Needless to say, we will be toasting him at his Celebration of Life this summer with the best “Dom” we can find.

This experience reminds me that life is short and we should all take the time and money to enjoy life while we can.

What is your “Dom Perignon”?  It’s time to go get it and enjoy!

-Tami

This article by Stephanie Earls was recently published in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Ruth Solazzi was born June 15, 1920. She was a dedicated teacher and opera singer who earned a master’s degree in music in the early 1940s, at a time when only about 6 percent of females pursued higher education. She raised four children, was grandmother to nine and took pride in the lush garden she kept at her Colorado Springs home after the family moved from Montana in 1978.

Snip20150126_20“She was very much a perfectionist. When she felt her voice was not at peak, she wouldn’t sing, and she stopped performing very early in life,” said her daughter Ann Baldrica, who lives in the Springs. “She was very much involved with her family. She took a lot of pleasure watching people have a good time in her surroundings.”

Solazzi was – like all of us – much more than the sum of her accomplishments, the highlight reel traditionally covered in official eulogies and obituaries. When she died in July 2010, the family chose to celebrate her life in a way befitting her lifestyle.

“We didn’t want to have a ‘traditional’ funeral. My mother had been a choir director and sang in choirs, but that was not her wish to involve a church or religious ceremony,” Baldrica said.

Instead of a funeral home, Baldrica turned to Forte Events, an international event planning company with which she’d worked both professionally and personally. Founded by Tami Forero in 2006, the Springs-based company coordinates “Celebrations of Life” for families seeking an alternative to traditional farewells.

“We have the luxury of spending a little more time with the family to get to know their loved one. It’s not just what their hobbies were, though that’s part. It’s about the feeling they want the family to have before and after the celebration,” said Forero, whose offices are based in her Rockrimmon home. “When someone calls us, we say, ‘What are your needs? How can we help your heart?’ We don’t even call it a service.”

An evolving trend

An alternative memorial or funeral no longer means having your ashes shot into space – though that remains an option. From funeral planning to service to disposition and beyond, more Americans are quietly going off-book for their final send-offs, at least in part.

“People today, particularly the younger generations, most of them don’t really like a traditional type service,” said Paul Wood, co-owner of The Springs Funeral Service. “They want the flexibility to include things that are very personalized and meaningful.”

The gradual shift in thinking can be seen in the terms used to describe the gatherings themselves, from “funeral” through the mid-20th century to “memorial service” by the 1980s, and now “celebrations of life,” said Paul Anderson, a retired U.S. Air Force chaplain who works with Forero.

Snip20150126_22“The culture is becoming less attached to religious services, more diverse, more pluralistic. People don’t know where to go when they lose a loved one,” said Anderson, director of Celebrations of Life by Forte Events. “That same loss is there, but they don’t have that traditional path to take or place to go.”

Though about 40 percent of Americans say they regularly attend church, head counts show actual turnout is closer to 20 percent. Surveys by the Pew Research Center found that, as of 2012, close to 20 percent of U.S. adults are agnostic, atheist or unaffiliated with any particular faith.

“We’re a nonreligious organization that’s sensitive to their loss and that wants to help them create a unique event that can help them grieve,” said Anderson, alluding to headlines made this month by a Denver-area church. An ongoing memorial service at New Hope Ministries in Lakewood was canceled after church officials refused to allow a video that included images of the woman kissing her female partner.

“The irony is that most of us (at Forte) happen to be people of faith,” Anderson said, “but we understand that, for all human beings, that need for acceptance and hope after a loss is great regardless.”

Healthy grieving

Between 1960 and 2012, U.S. cremation rates rose from just less than 4 percent to 43 percent, based on statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association. Colorado, at 65.5 percent, has the eighth highest rate.

“That (cremation) I think makes it easier because you have time to think about what you may want to do and you’re not rushed to get something done within three days,” said Baldrica, whose mother chose to be cremated.

If speed is needed, Forte can tap its network of planners and vendors to usher a celebration from concept to reality “within 24 hours, anywhere in the country,” Forero said.

“Do you want it indoors or outdoors, in a certain state, on a boat or a hot air balloon or a classic car museum? We can create an atmosphere that’s going to feel like that person,” said Forero, who first identified a need through her work coordinating a Miracle Party, the annual Denver charity gala for children battling cancer.

“I had a front-row seat to this, families not expecting their children to die, who weren’t prepared mentally or financially, and they’re trying to put something together in the worst moments of their life and they’re doing it alone,” Forero said. “I thought, with the network we have we could sweep in and be doing this in a few hours.”

That timing is crucial, Baldrica said.

Snip20150126_21“At that time point, when people are stressed out, to be able to turn all that over to someone else who can handle the details and make the concepts happen, it’s a huge relief,” she said. “You still need a funeral home that has to deal with the things such as the death certificate and the preparation of the body, but the rest of the pieces of the celebration can be done by someone other than a funeral director.”

Not that a funeral home couldn’t handle an elaborate customization.

“We’ve done services with motorcycles, with over 100 Corvettes. We had services in an outdoor arena, where the urn was brought in in saddle bags on the deceased’s horse,” Wood said. “The primary difference is we are full service and can take care of everything from the time of death. They focus on the services.”

Ultimately, it comes down to a family’s preference.

“Our whole position is that we want to do whatever we can to encourage families to have those services that are meaningful for remembering the person who died,” Wood said. “That is the key to a good grief process.”

Celebrating life

Since the company began offering alternative memorials in 2010, Forero, Anderson and Forte’s team of contractors have coordinated events across the nation, for gatherings of less than a dozen and those of several hundred. They chartered a three-story yacht in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., so the members of a large, extended family could all be present for the spreading of a beloved relative’s ashes. Last year, they organized a hike for a family that wanted to celebrate Mom’s life in the mountains of Colorado, even though she’d lived in Florida.

“She was a hiker and photographer, and Colorado was their favorite place,” said Forero, who suggested family members each write something brief about their mom – a meaningful word, thought or memory – on a rock to be left at the peak. She later discovered the ritual was more fitting than she could have imagined.

“It turns out, their mom had traveled the world and at the top of every mountain she wrote her children’s names on a rock. Even the kids didn’t know about that,” Forero said.

For her mother’s celebration, Baldrica wanted a setting that didn’t obligate gloom – and could handle a modest crowd.

“Anytime you have a death in the family, it’s difficult. When you’re 90 years old, it’s sad but it’s something you want to celebrate, too,” she said.

She chose a spot that had positive vibes: her mom’s garden. The theme: things you didn’t know about Ruth Solazzi.

A DJ played six decades worth of Solazzi’s favorite tunes and caterers served Italian. Each guest received a flowerpot to take home, as well as a seed packet and encouragement to spread the blooms.

“That would really have been something my mother would have loved, and it’s something I never would have come up with,” Baldrica said.

Forero even arranged for digital copies to be made of the sole original recording of Solazzi’s master’s recital, captured on vinyl roughly 70 years earlier. Each guest got a CD.

“To take an old vinyl record and make it usable, it was quite the feat,” Baldrica said. “It was the first time that most of the family members had ever heard it. Some of the family and friends had never heard her sing at all.”

 

TSE 2015 Recap

10887617_10152424997160876_275784905464771912_oI just returned from the 2015 Special Event Conference & Tradeshow the other day. This year (I think I’ve been the last 10 now…I’ve lost track.)  I taught 3 classes:

-The TRUTH about Planners and Vendors!
-How to Be REALLY Profitable
-Do You Want to Know What I Know?

I have to say I really loved Anaheim.  The weather was great, the host hotels & convention center were all together and there was a Starbucks & plenty of restaurants within walking distance.  I even got to meet up with some of my family while I was there!

Iwas most excited for my newest class, the advanced, Q&A style “Do You Want to Know What I Know” where I answered ​ANY​ questions attendees had. The room was full of experienced planners​ and vendors​, many of which ended up learning a lot from each other. (I did too!) My favorite question was when someone asked me what life experience I credited with bringing me to where I​ am​ currently. I was touched ​that ​someone cared to ask something so personal. It was great being able to share how much my parents helped me as they were business owners ​as ​well.

I did take ​a​ controversial stance on budget​s this year​. ​The bottom line is that you will never be profitable unless you control the budget! ​For planners, this means that the end client pays you so you can control the pricing and ​then ​pay the vendors yourself.​ If you’re only charging a fee for hourly work, you’ll never make as much money as you can when you’re the project manager.​ Want to understand this better? Contact us.

I met lots of great people (as always) and was able to even have a few quick coffee meeting​s​ to discuss business practices with​ old friends and​ new friends. Looking forward to 2016!​ Thank you TSE for the opportunity and for a great conference!​

What did you think of this years TSE?  Comment below!

-Tami

AAW 2Two weeks ago I had a fantastic time speaking at the national American Agri-Women conference in Niagara Falls. For those of you that haven’t heard of the AAW,  it is the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women with over fifty state, commodity and agribusiness affiliate organizations throughout the country. It is an all-volunteer organization, working to advocate for agriculture since 1974.

I gave my presentations “Building the Business that Creates the Life You Want” and “Delegating: A Guide to Higher Profits for Control Freaks” to the (mostly) female attendees.  I admit I was a little nervous.  I thought, “what are these hardworking farmers and agricultural business leaders going to think of an event planner coming to tell them how to run their businesses?”  I was wrong.  The lessons I’ve learned and the changes I’ve implemented in my business were EXACTLY what these women needed to hear.  I administered a little tough love when I made it clear that the only obstacle these business owners had was themselves.  They need to set clear boundaries of time and tasks and stick to them…then delegate anything that they are not good at, don’t enjoy doing, or don’t make money doing. That is the only way to enjoy life while running a successful business and leading by example to the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

AAW 4

No matter what industry you’re in, you can have a successful business and balanced life!  It doesn’t matter if you’re an event planner or a farmer.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business one month or twenty years…change the business so that it is serving you!  Set personal goals that the company can help you meet.  Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to others and hire help.  Make changes as needed to the business…be flexible.

I have so much respect for the women in the the agriculture industry and was honored I could share my ideas with them.

-Tami Forero

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Forté Events is a strategic event design and production firm specializing in celebrations of lifecorporatenon-profit, and social events worldwide. This award winning team also designs custom, experiential learning programs and corporate training sessions.

CEO of Forté Events, Tami Forero is a veteran of the special event industry having planned hundreds of strategic corporate, social and non-profit events.  She’s a sought after consultant and speaker with topics both on the event industry and business skills.