Improving Our Events Business By Increasing Our Margins And Focusing On One Market

$333,300
revenue/mo
1
Founders
12
Employees
product
Entire Productions
from San Francisco
started January 2001
$333,300
revenue/mo
1
Founders
12
Employees
2.78M
alexa rank
3.67K
followers
528
followers

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

I’m Natasha Miller, “recovering” jazz vocalist and classical violinist who owns and runs a profitable multi-million dollar company doing event and entertainment productions. We’re called Entire Productions and are based in San Francisco, CA and work in all major markets. Our clients are companies that do large-scale special events, experiential marketing events and other corporate events like Uber, Salesforce, Google, to name a few. We work with startups, Pharma (Genentech, Abbott Labs) and fintech companies, large banks, hospitals and non-profits like The Chan- Zuckerberg Initiative as well.

We’re either placing entertainment of every genre and discipline (bands, DJs, artists, models or aerialists, etc.) into high-end events or we’re designing and producing them completely. When we’re placing the entertainment we’re referred to as a “supplier”. When we’re planning the event we’re known as the “Planner”. We did 777 events in 2018 and nearly 600 in 2019 which was actually a goal of ours to do fewer events for a higher cost-per-event, increase our revenue (which we did) and increase our margin (which we also did). We’ve divided our company into two specific divisions now which took a lot more work than I imagined and we’re still ironing out the kinks.

We were just told we made the Inc. 500 list for the fastest growing companies in California at #205. It’s very exciting to be acknowledged by such an esteemed publication.

on-using-a-concepts-and-practical-tools-for-leadership-improvement Disco Ball Dancer at a Wealth Management Client Party- The Battery, San Francisco, CA

Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

Since we last talked my business saw a revenue increase but not to the level I had hoped. Honestly other things that happened last year were much more important than revenue which I’ll outline here and continue to remind myself are MUCH more impactful and lead to having a more successful company.

  • Fewer # of events with a higher per-event cost.
  • Higher margins (profit is KING!)
  • Increased revenue (very proud of this especially in light of the above)
  • Splitting the company into two distinct divisions with their own Profit & Loss reports and a new (and cleaned up) chart of accounts.

We’ve been investing in SEO with a company that was referred to me by my Entrepreneurs’ Organization group who have been doing a great job. Large companies with the right type of business are finding us and we’re landing them. Some of this has to do with referrals as well as seeing our events on social media but some are search-related and I’m surprised at how well it’s doing for us.

If you’re struggling to grow your business you might want to consider narrowing your scope of work, pivoting, or perhaps your sales and marketing tactics aren’t working.

As far as sales go, it’s the most in-bound meaning we didn’t spend time last year going out to clients and pitching them nor did we have the time to go out and meet with the ones we already have. Whenever we send out a newsletter to our 10,000 person list we get a giant swing/uptick of inquiries. We don’t schedule our newsletter to go out regularly and only do so when there’s something REALLY GREAT to say so our open rate is great and our click-through rate is as well.

We’ve scaled back our team to allow for laser-focus of the San Francisco bay area. That means that we’re short four employees but we’re planning on hiring a couple more this year. We’re seeing what we can do with a slightly smaller team this year.

I’ve hired an administrative assistant but when grouping all the things she does into main “buckets” of work it turns out she’s doing marketing, social media and office duties (planning our internal events and helping plan client-facing marketing events) so I’ll be crafting a new job description and title for her, now.

We’ve continually been qualifying out smaller, low-budget events as well as turning down wedding events that take about 4x longer to book and produce and don’t yield as great of a return on our time and efforts.

Most of our clients are repeat clients if they have a repeatable event or need. Some of them transfer and change jobs but stay in the industry so we get new clients out of that. It is difficult to fill the gap from where they left though and we should be putting more effort and time into that. How do we keep them happy and coming back? We give them excellent service and an incredible event while being low-maintenance to them and helping them do their job better.

We have landed on the following lists for the 2nd time in a row and have added a few more accolades:

NEW THIS YEAR

  • BizBash Top 1000 Planners
  • Certified Woman-Owned Business

on-using-a-concepts-and-practical-tools-for-leadership-improvement

  • Inc. 5,000 Fastest Growing Companies in California (Will be published Feb 19, 2020)
  • Zenefits“Zennie” Award

I was asked by Inc. Magazine to be a mentor to entrepreneurs in their Consultant’s Corner for their Inc. 5000 conference in Phoenix, AZ.

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on-using-a-concepts-and-practical-tools-for-leadership-improvement

I was a speaker at a large event industry conference in Las Vegas- IMEX America where I spoke about Experiential Marketing Events.

Here is an example of one of our newsletters.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

When I decided to laser-focus on the San Francisco Bay Area I had 4 employees in Los Angeles who were meant to focus on that market but were actually working on the San Francisco Bay Area business because there was so much of it. The Los Angeles market isn’t as strong and there isn’t the type of budgets and profit to be had down there. I had offered to transfer those people to our San Francisco office but they all wanted to stay in Los Angeles. I offered to help them find new jobs and was able to assist one of them to get a great new career at a company called AllSeated. I wish I hadn’t put as many people “boots on the ground” in that market because it was an expensive entry into the market that turned out to be softer than I had hoped.

I also kept an under-performing and “squeaky wheel/complainer/trouble-starter” employee on for longer than I should have. I will always struggle with this as I want to believe that people want to do well and want to be developed but that’s not always the case. Hire slow and fire fast is the old adage and I’ll keep reminding myself of that when it comes up again. I have a very strong, high-performing team right now.

One of the best decisions I have made this year is promoting a person from within the company to an upper-management position even though she didn’t quite have the skills and experience yet to tackle the job. She has the desire and the energy to crush it along with very solid production and operation skills. I had been looking outside of the company for someone with much more actual experience and never found the right fit.

The next thing I did which I’m so excited about is that I’m putting EOS Traction to work in our organization. It’s a way of operating your entire business so that everyone is “rowing in the right direction”, knows what the company goals are and what theirs are to get there, and puts everything in its place within the organization. So many people use this in my Entrepreneurs’ Organization group and it’s one of the most exciting things I’m doing for 2020.

I attended an entrepreneurial master's course at MIT as well as one at Harvard last year and have so many takeaways I’m slowly implementing into the company. One is a hiring method that Geoff Smart writes about in his book, “Who”. That has helped me structure interviews and ask the right questions to hire better.

I am a voracious learner as of the past 5 years and it has made an incredible difference in my happiness and success in business. I used to think making up the rules on my own was something to be proud of. And to an extent it is, but it’s SO MUCH easier to follow the advice of experts who have figured out this stuff and have succeeded with it.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Our plan is to completely be using EOS Traction in our company as a whole. Right now our leadership team is in training and will be for 2 months, then we roll it out to the rest of the company after that. We plan to actually be able to go out and do outside sales and hopefully I’ll find an incredible Sales Manager/Business Development person to rev up our sales.

One of our full-production events- a Tree Lighting Celebration at Westfield Centre’s Rotunda in San Francisco, CA.

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I’m excited to see this team grow and work to their highest capacity, take on more full-production events and do a few conferences in addition to all of the other types of events we have been doing.

on-using-a-concepts-and-practical-tools-for-leadership-improvement

In the next 5 years, I’d like to be growing by 30-60% each year, perhaps acquire one or more event-industry related businesses to bolster our organic growth. There is a couple of spin-off businesses of our main business that I’m started to develop as well.

Short term, we’ll be focusing on implementing a completely new system and process for our full-production division to rival that of our entertainment production department. We’ll be hunkering down and carving out the time to do outside calls/sales.

I’m in the middle of writing my business memoir and hope to have that finished this year. It’s a story of my humble and turbulent beginning and my journey to owning this incredible business. I’m excited to share it with the world!

Have you read any good books in the last year?

Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street- I read this coming out of my program at MIT. I was able to be in a presentation that Geoff Smart made and it inspired me to make a big change in the way we were hiring our employees.

Traction- Get a Grip on Your Business- Gino Wickman This book is an overview of the framework of EOS Traction. You can implement it yourself but I highly suggest you hire a professional implementer. It makes all the difference.

#Girlboss- Sophia Amoruso I read this book to see how it was put together as a sort of business memoir. Since I’m writing my book I wanted to see if the structure was something I could possibly explore. It’s a good, fun read and is very well-written. I thought that perhaps it wouldn’t resonate with me so much but it actually did. And you don’t have to be female to appreciate or learn from it.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

If you’re struggling to grow your business you might want to consider narrowing your scope of work, pivoting, or perhaps your sales and marketing tactics aren’t working. You could survey 5-10 clients and see where they’re happiest and where they think you could develop in order to change. I’d also make sure you have a great mentor and/or advisor who can help you see your blind spots. We all have them and in fact, your mentors/advisors have their own. Any successful person has a coach of some sort… you are not special. You need one too.

Also, joining a peer group for business is incredibly helpful. There is BNI, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Vistage and likely groups specific to your industry. Be active in them, attend the events and network as well as soak up all of the education you can get your hands on.

If you’re shy or you aren’t terribly confident find someone to go with to these events to help break the ice. A simple handshake, look in the eye and “Hi, I’m (insert your name), I’m new here. Tell me about yourself” would be a simple and straightforward way of interacting. Do not stand by the wall or by yourself with a drink and watch everyone getting what they came for!

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re always looking to hire excellent, high-producing talent. Right now we’re looking for an experienced Event Producer and will be also adding an Account Executive on the entertainment side as well as an Event Coordinator. Check out job listings here.

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
Natasha Miller,   Founder of Entire Productions

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