Ah, the holiday season! Those magical moments between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve filled with love and romance, friends and family, engagements and wedding planning and out of office responses from your vendors.
There seems to be a great chasm taking place today between people who always seem to be at work, and those who often find themselves turning on the "Out of the Office" auto-response. Before I continue, please know this: Please know this: It is not my intention to disrespect anyone's business or to martyr myself as someone who never takes vacation or never needs their down time. Quite the opposite! I relish my time with my family and friends, I believe deeply in the idea that we all need time to refresh and renew ourselves, and I think that each and every professional has the right to establish their personal and professional boundaries as they see fit. Let me share a little about mine.
This past week I have helped three of my couples "power plan" through the holidays. This is the time that they are off from work, on vacation, and available to truly focus on their wedding plans. Therefore, this is the time I am at work. That's the deal. It's one I made willingly, and continue to make joyously! The frustrations and road blocks we encountered as we sifted through the "out of office" responses, unreturned phone calls, and delayed proposals lead to the same thing over and over again - Those who were available to do the work got the work. Those who gave up a few moments of their time to answer questions and follow-up on meetings were rewarded with signed contracts. And those who were MIA will likely find that clients have gone elsewhere when they return messages in a week or two.
What I have come to find is that, more often than not, the term "I am currently unavailable" is simply a nice way of saying "I just don't want to deal with this right now". It's one thing to respond with a respectful "Thank you so much for your email. I am actually celebrating the holidays with my family tonight, but if it's okay with you I will get back to you first thing on Thursday". It is quite another to have an automatically pushed email listing all of the days and dates and times that you are not available out to anyone and everyone who contacts you. And the standard, "with limited or no access to email or voicemail" absolutely kills me. Where exactly are these people that causes them to have "limited or no access" to any modern form of technology? I have been to some very interesting and wildly colorful places in my life and I can tell you that I have never been separated from all technology for more than a few hours at a time.
My ability to respond, and the timeliness of that response, is more of an indication of my desire to respond than it is to some mythical place where technology simply ceases to exist.
I love weddings. I love love. I love people in love and I love seeing the ways that they express and celebrate their unions. I also love lists and busy days and the creative process. That is why I became a wedding planner.
Then I opened my own business. When I started my company I thought long and hard about the type of business that I wanted to run. First and foremost, I want my couples and clients to feel like they are more than just bookings. I want them to feel like friends and family. Most times, my couples DO become my friends! In fact, I had one couple over for drinks on Christmas Eve, am planning a spa weekend with a former client, and am famous for my random "how ya doing?" lunches and coffees with my brides and grooms. Being this emotionally invested in each of my clients is a luxury, one that I pride myself on being able to provide. I make decisions based on what is bet for the client first, then what is best for the individual partner or vendor, and then what is best for the business. By maintaining these ideals as my core values I am able to do exceptional work with exceptional people. In my world, it is all based on love, respect, and responsibility. It is the Golden Rule of life applied to business.
Would you ever want your bestie to get an "out of the house and too busy for you" auto-text back from you? Of course not! And it is for that reason that I have never once used an auto-response in the 3 years that I have had this company. Not during the holidays. Not while on vacation. Not even when I gave birth to my children.
That being said, there is a much better way to do things than what is currently being done. I've found my way, and I would encourage everyone working out there to really look at what they do and how they do it. Every day I wonder, "Does this serve my client, or myself?" I don't always succeed, but I know that I am always present, always trying, and dedicated to the idea that I will not be outworked - no matter what the circumstance!
So thank you to all of those who worked with me over the past week. Having had one of my brides refer to me as the Olivia Pope of Wedding Planners I say this to my planning partners and friends: You are my "Gladiators" that I couldn't adore you more!
Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and Happy Planning!
PS - And to prove that I do have a "real life" that I slow down and enjoy...Take a look at this Christmas Kiss! Now THAT'S something worth being "OOO" for!