The entrepreneurial journey can begin in the most unexpected of ways. We spoke with EO New York member and president of 4PM Events, who discovered her entrepreneurial spirit after a chance encounter with a friend’s colleague, to learn about the events industry and how she started her companies.
1. How did you get involved in the event-management industry?
TM: I attended Boston University on an academic scholarship, but I needed additional funds for ordinary living expenses. Initially, I worked at Smith Barney, cold-calling for a stock broker, but I thought I was being underpaid and overworked. One weekend, I went out with a friend and was introduced to a promoter for a nightclub. He explained the basic deliverables and economics of the business, and I was hooked!
2. What do you love the most about your industry?
TM: I fell in love with everything about events. From negotiating with venues to creating flyers to managing the guest list … I loved it all. After graduation, I worked for CNN, while also supporting a few charitable organizations’ fundraisers. After a few years, I started my own company, and as my friends got engaged and started seeking advice on wedding planning, I realized there was a business there.
3. What would people be surprised to learn about your industry?
TM: That the US$120 billion wedding industry is about to enter a growth cycle, as the Baby Boomers’ children start walking down the aisle.
4. What should everyone adhere to when it comes to hosting a successful event?
TM: One must always be mindful of the guest experience, as well as the “flow” of an evening. For instance, if I’m planning a wedding, I’ll advise my clients to have a one-hour cocktail reception, followed by a two-hour dinner. It’s better to have an event that’s in constant motion than one that drags on for hours. And when it comes to decor, never skimp on lighting— it’s the most transforming effect there is.
5. What’s the most interesting or unusual request you’ve had a client make?
TM: When we did a corporate dinner party in Versailles, a client asked us to hire 100 actors to dress in 17th century costumes and create a ‘party within a party.’ It was breathtaking and unforgettable.
6. What tips do you have for successfully managing difficult clients?
TM: Drink. When that doesn’t work, drink heavily! In all seriousness, I’ve found the best way to deal with difficult clients is to be proactive, attentive and transparent. Whether you have 50 projects going on at the same time or just one, the client experience should be the same. And finally, as a trusted advisor, one is hired to educate, advocate, create and execute … but never dominate; you have to remember that the customer is always right.
7. When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
TM: When I realized that I could have a flexible schedule, full creative control, unlimited earning potential and couldn’t be fired from a company that I owned outright.
8. What’s the next “big item” on your business list of things to do?
TM: The next big item for us is upgrading and implementing new technologies to make us more efficient and productive. On the back end, we’re making significant investments in mobile and upgrading our CRM systems. On the production side, we’re working with specialty lighting companies to produce cutting-edge, 3D projections at events.
9. If you could be mentored by anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
TM: I would love to be mentored by Richard Branson. He is a serial entrepreneur, and has a dedicated passion and vision for his projects. I am inspired by his accomplishments.
10. What one business book should every entrepreneur read?
TM: I know you asked for one, but I’m going to give you two. Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, and Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go.