3 Ways to Grow an Event Business

By Howard Givner April 3, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

Howard Givner (@hgivner) is the founder and executive editor of the Event Leadership Institute.

“We’re doing some amazing events now, our clients love us, and we’ve got a great team in place. Yet we can’t seem to break out of this plateau and get our company to the next level.” I can’t tell you how many times a business owner has said that to me at the bar after an industry event. My follow-up is usually, “Describe what the next level looks like.” The response is usually monetary: “We’re doing X in revenue; we should be doing 2X.”

Unfortunately, that’s not enough. You need a blueprint that details how that growth breaks out, and only then can you create a road map to get you there. It’s why I’m hosting an online course called The Business Accelerator: Taking Your Event Company to the Next Level, which begins April 14.

As a preview, here’s a quick look at the three different blueprints event businesses can follow when looking to expand.

1. The Agency Expansion Model
This involves doing pretty much the same thing, but a lot more of it. Your pricing doesn’t drastically change and your services stay roughly the same, but you’re serving a lot more clients and adding more staff. First Protocol is a good example of a company that has shown strong growth by following this model.

However, in order to do so, you need to build an infrastructure that will enable you to handle the growth. First Protocol has an HR person, invests in training and development for its people, and has adopted the management methods commonly found in much larger companies. Unless you’re prepared to build a foundation to accommodate this kind of growth, the increased client load will strain your team and could compromise service quality.

2. The Boutique/Personal Brand Model
This approach is the exact opposite of the first model, and typically involves serving the same number (or fewer) clients, but raising prices and building a very strong personal brand. David Tutera is a good example of this: Earlier in his career, David had a successful decor company, but he made a conscious pivot to focus primarily on higher-end events that could showcase his personal brand.

To adopt this approach, you’ve got to be willing to say no to clients and jobs that don’t fit, even if they’re lucrative. You’ve got to invest in PR efforts to raise your profile and allow ample time for media interviews and public appearances, which can only work if you don’t spread yourself too thin.

3. The Brand Extension Model
This concept entails creating new product lines altogether. A great example of this model is Tara Guérard. Already a top wedding planner in Charleston, South Carolina, Tara has expanded into a line of stationery and interior design services. In order to give your new product line some integrity, you might need to create a separate brand identity and give it its own website, as Tara did with her stationery line, the Lettered Olive. Otherwise it may come across as something you dabble in on the side, and not something you’re an expert in. (Tara also utilized the Boutique Model for her wedding planning business, steadily shrinking the number of clients she services each year and raising the prices accordingly.)

There’s no right or wrong choice here, and you can also tinker with it by combining some of them in different ways, but the point is, unless you have a clear blueprint of what your business will look and function like at the next level, how can you design a road map to get you there?

Disclosure: BizBash is an investor in the Event Leadership Institute.

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