Intrinsic Events

Confessions of an Event Planner: The Power of a Post It.

For those of you that don’t me, I’m an event planner. 

At times, the role of event planner gets a negative connotation. We often get, “Oh, you’re a party planner” or “Oh my, I would NEVER want your job” or the worst, “Geez, your job is so hard, you get to travel, check out awesome venues, seek out the hottest entertainment, make things pretty and have fun all the time”.

Well, my latest blog series lives to show the world, that yes my job is awesome, but it’s also extremely hard, physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, and the ultimate test of strategic thinking, problem solving, and remaining calm under pressure. These stories are true, honest and pretty comical.  Enjoy.

The first of these stories, The Power of a Post It, took place earlier this month.

It was an extremely HOT weekend in Maryland. Intrinsic Events had just come off a Friday night wedding in Washington, D.C. and it was on to Round 2 of the weekend. A beautiful wedding in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, MD.  We had spent months getting to know this amazing couple, reviewed every detail, secured an amazing line up of vendors, walked through the timeline over and over again, and at one point, my business partner and I looked at each other and said, “This one’s gonna be a piece of cake.”  I spoke too soon.

Rule #1 in Event Planning: Nothing is ever a piece of cake. The moment you let yourself think that, that’s the moment when the unpredictable happens.

Let’s rewind to a few hours earlier that day. The wedding was supposed to begin at 4:30 p.m. and around noon, it was requested that we have the valet company arrive early. Sure, no problem. We pulled out our phones and called the Valet. And called, and called, and left messages, and sent emails, and sent texts, and called, and called again. What the heck? Why was no one answering? Our event was in 4 hours.

Ok, so no big deal, worse comes to worse, they won’t arrive early but they will arrive at their normally scheduled time of 4:00 p.m.

Wrong.

4:00 p.m. came and went with no valet in sight. Guests began to arrive, photographs were being taken, my business partner was on bridal party duty and I was supposed to make sure all other logistics were running like clockwork. That included the valet.

I had the moment of “Oh Sh*t, what do I do? The valet situation was a hot button for our clients, it was NOT going to be Ok if this became an issue.

Think Jessica, Think. So I did what any event planner would do and began to assess my surroundings and my resources. Sorry, I admit, there was no PLAN B back up for the valet not showing up. For a summertime wedding, Rain and heat exhaustion were my biggest concerns.

I immediately looked around and realized OK, well I have a parking lot. Then I thought, “Could I park these cars myself?” – Wait, no way. I’m not exactly the world’s greatest driver and the last thing I need is to be sued by a guest.  

Rule #2 in Event Planning: Never sacrifice yourself or your business liability to please a customer. A lawsuit is never a successful resolution.

Ok, what next? I realized I didn’t need to be a valet, I just needed to stall until the REAL valet decided to show up.  I also needed to make sure the guests were happy, made it to the ceremony on time, and believe that my Plan B was really Plan A.

So, I looked in my purse and found a stack of blue post-its.  LIGHTBULB!

I immediately had a plan.  I’ve seen hundreds of valet companies in action and I certainly was no beginner when it came to creating processes and efficiencies. I would simply create my own valet system with a pen, some post its, a legal pad, and an amazingly good photographic memory.

I told myself, I got this. But first, I had to make friends with the parking attendant for the lot so she didn’t let the guests driving in suspect any shady business. I walked up to her, introduced myself, asked questions about her and her life, then… told her my #WeddingPlannerProblems. She got it, she felt bad, and she immediately became my ally in this mission.  

Rule #3 in Event Planning: Be nice and kind to everyone you meet because you never know when you may need their help.

The first car pulled up, here we go. They were greeted by the attendant, she directed them my way, and I directed them to their parking spot, wrote the #1 on a post it, took notes of year, make and model for car #1, handed them the post it with a smile and a welcome, took their keys and sent them on their way.

And it continued, for 25 cars and 30 minutes, in 100 degree heat, in a black dress and heels, in the middle of a parking lot in Baltimore.  And yes, I did get some strange looks and maybe a little skepticism but no one said a word. They believed me and my process. They were happy because I was friendly and efficient and at the end of the day, all they wanted to do was park their car.

The “real” valet eventually showed up and the parking attendants and I had some fierce conversations. But you know what, it’s not their fault, it’s their boss and I knew that. We talked out how to remedy the situation and everyone left the wedding happy, with their cars in one piece.

And to this day, our Clients never knew there was an issue. I’m sure one day over cocktails, we will tell them the truth and have a great laugh about it all, but for now, it’s our little secret.  All because of the power of a post – it. 

Thank you Romy & Michelle for the invention. I will never go anywhere from now on without post-its in my purse.

Rule # 4 in Event Planning: Nothing is ever as it seems and you can’t stop the earth from rotating.

Life happens and issues arise. It’s a fact that events are stressful and unpredictable obstacles are going to be thrown our way. Yet, the real professional is one who can act quick, develop a workable solution, have confidence in their plan and who can ALWAYS project a fresh, happy-go-lucky aura to all those around them.

The truth is, whether you believe it or not, someone is always watching you. Looking frantic, nervous, tired, and stressed is not an option in our world if you want to be successful.  Crying, pointing fingers, and placing blame is also not an option because it does no one any good. It can ruin events, ruin your reputation, and usually never leads to repeat business.

A large part of an event planners job is to assess situations, maximize your resources, build relationships, prevent crisis, and maintain a (smiling) poker face at all times. It’s not an easy job, but someone has to do it. And I can honestly say, I’m so happy for myself, my business partner, my team, and my clients, that I am the lucky one who has decided to take on the challenge.

Stay tuned for more of my Confessions.  

FOLLOW my business @EventsIntrinsic 

Don’t Forget the Small Stuff. Things every Human (especially Entrepreneurs) should do every day.

Don’t Forget the Small Stuff. Things every Human (especially Entrepreneurs) should do every day.

We all know there are certain actions, habits, and behaviors that we should be doing each day to be a successful entrepreneur. I’ve read countless blogs, listened to hundreds of podcasts, and observed my mentors on the subject.  I know that to be a successful and productive entrepreneur, I should be and need to be reading one great business book a month, exercise daily, drink water, wake up before 6 am, check emails before 7 am, eat healthy, find a mentor, plan your day, set goals, save money….and I completely agree with every single TO DO.

Congratulations, Graduate! Now What?

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

May is one of my favorite times of year, especially here in Maryland. The weather is at its absolute best; there are tons of things to do outside (i.e. festivals, boating, baseball games). Schools are hosting their proms and college grads are gearing up to jump into the real world for the first time. The energy is contagious and I love it.

I can’t help but think of how I felt as a college graduate back in 2008. I was excited, nervous, scared and eager to figure out my life all at the same time. I didn’t know exactly what that life was going to look like but I was excited to figure it out.

FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS OF AMERICA

My business partner and I recently spoke to a group of students at our Alma Mater Towson University about the series of steps and events that led to us running our own business. They students were so interested in what led to what and many of them were also interested in becoming entrepreneurs.

The truth is when I graduated from college I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I loved people, planning events, marketing and sales. I knew I wanted a position or job that I was proud of. But how was I going to accomplish that?

University does a great job preparing us for the real world for the most part. We learn the educational and social skills required to get out there and function as adults. What University does not prepare us for is life because life is uncertain and unpredictable. We control our own destiny for the most part and I wish someone had told me that you don’t need your 5, 10, 20, 30-year plan locked down as soon as you were handed that diploma.

Here are some things I wish someone had shared with me as a newly graduated college student.

1. COME UP WITH A PLAN, BUT UNDERSTAND IT WILL CHANGE…A LOT

It’s important to set goals for yourself as soon as you graduate from University. There isn’t a right or wrong thing to do when you are fresh member of the real world, but it’s good to try a few things and see what you like.

When I graduated I made the decision to move back home for the summer, work in a restaurant and save as much money as I could. Once the summer ended I knew it was time to find a job, so that’s what I did.

2. BE YOU

The world is filled with so many different personalities, which makes it so great. In order to find a job or opportunity that is in line with your passion, you have to be yourself or it won’t work. I witness too many young adults trying to be someone they’re not because someone else said so. As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that being different and standing out from the rest is what makes you awesome. Focus on what truly makes you happy and the rest will fall into place.

3. FIRST JOB = EXPERIENCE

I was so naïve when I first graduated. I thought I would get a really cool job in the events industry somewhere in the city, have my own office and be able to jet set around World. When this didn’t happen, I have to say I was a little bummed. I landed a job in sales, in the city, had a cube and a very strict 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. schedule.

It wasn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but it gave me the most amazing real-life corporate work experience and helped shape the work ethic I have today.

If you’re lucky enough to land your dream job straight out of college, good for you! For the rest of you, use your first job experience as a tool to learn best practices in business and try to have fun during the process.

4. IT’S A MARATHON NOT A RACE

Success doesn’t happen overnight; at least not for all of us. It takes a lot of blood sweat and tears to become a master at something. And even when we become masters at something, we’re always looking for ways to improve.

Being successful at what you do in life will take a lot of commitment and focus on your part. Don’t get frustrated if you aren’t exactly where you are “supposed” to be at age 23. Don’t put a timeline on yourself. I remember I used to think I would be married with kids by age 26, and that sure didn’t happen. Instead, I’m having the time of my life building a business that I love, working with a business partner who is amazing and meeting some of the coolest people I’ve ever met throughout the process.

If you work hard and are passionate about what you do, you will get there. Don’t stress.

5. BE PASSIONATE WITH EVERYTHING YOU DO

 They say the average person will spend 30% (much more for entrepreneurs J) of their life working. So if that’s the case make sure you LOVE what you do. Too many people go through life unhappy with choices they make surrounding work and I never understood why. There are tons of different opportunities for work out there, be sure to find one that suits you and brings out your passion.

 No one wants to work with or have someone work for them who is a Debbie-Downer. Embrace opportunities and turn your work into your passion. Results will always be positive and you will be happier overall.

 I hope these bits of advice serves as some help to all you graduates. You should be proud of what you have accomplished thus far and excited about the next part of your journey you’re about to embark on. Always go through life with an open mind and heart.

 

“So, What do you do for FUN?”

How many of you entrepreneurs out there hear the following on a daily basis?

“You work too much.”

“Do you have to work today?”

“Are you working this weekend?”

“So…what do you do for FUN?”

In the beginning, my responses were always a nod, half paying attention, half not caring and simply yes, yes, yup, uh-huh, ok.

But when it came to the FUN question, I tried explaining that my Work IS FUN. Building a business is so much FUN each and every day. Learning something new by meeting someone new is FUN.

But the reality is, non-entrepreneurs just don’t understand that concept. In fact, non-intrinsically motivated and un-passionate entrepreneurs don’t even understand that concept.

For those out there reading this who don’t understand where I’m coming from, let me just tell you the things about being an entrepreneur that are SO FUN every single day.

-       It’s like a board game, the fun isn’t in the end when you win or lose, it’s the anticipation of setting up, getting started, and going through the course that’s the fun part. Entrepreneurship is like one never ending family board game night…. Complete with tears and impromptu victory dances.  

-       Succeeding through others brings extreme happiness.

-       A “To Do” list is the most exciting read of the day for me. It’s never a “To Do” chore, it’s an “I can’t wait to get this done” activity.

-       Meeting other entrepreneurs for the first time is like discovering a long lost friend or sister from another mister. There is an instant connection, bond, ongoing conversation and sense of comfort unlike any other.

-       The glass is ALWAYS half full with an endless water cooler supply sitting right next to it. It’s incredible to look at the day and the world in front of you and know that opportunities are endless.

-       There’s places you go where “Everyone knows your name.” If you create relationships, brand yourself, and consistently network yourself and your business, there is always somewhere you can go where everyone knows who you are, what you do and your name. That’s just fun.

-       Freedom is fun. Freedom to create your own choices and then make your own choices. Freedom to create a life you’ve always imagined. Freedom to change directions. Freedom to change schedules. Freedom to work with whomever you choose. Freedom to do whatever you want.

Don’t get me wrong. This ‘ship is hard. There are times I feel like I’m in college going through sorority “Hell Week” all over again.

Entrepreneurship takes time, money, emotions, physical endurance, strength, love, passion, and discipline.

But at the end of the day, it’s fun and we wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.

I’d rather go through the entrepreneur “Hell Week” every week because it’s more fun and exciting than going back to the corporate desk job life I lived before.

You know what wasn’t fun? Having anxiety if I hit traffic going into the office. Having a weekend “off” but not enjoying it because my work bestie in accounting just got laid off. Being told I do an amazing job, but there’s no room for growth.

That’s NOT fun.

Whenever anyone asks me and my Intrinsic Events business partner, “So how has it been starting your own business?” Our first answer is always, FUN.

We know it’s hard for people to believe us, but I hope this blog gives some insight as to why entrepreneurship is fun. At least for me.

I’d love for you all to share what you think is FUN about being entrepreneurs.

Stay tuned on my next blog for some steps to take in order to ensure you are able to have FUN as an entrepreneur. 

FOLLOW @Intrinsicevents for more advice and of course, FUN!

A Test of Leadership: Crisis Management

CHARM CITY CRISIS

There’s no doubt that this week has brought out a lot of emotions in many people who live, work, and play in our beautiful Charm City. The series of violent events that occurred over the past week in Baltimore, MD are disappointing, scary and have wreaked havoc on the city and its people; sending many into crisis mode.

As I watched things unfold throughout the day on Monday via Social Media and on TV, I found it very interesting to see how different people manage a crisis situation. 

As an Event Planner, I’m not stranger to crisis management. That is what we do. We deal with issues as they come and are constantly putting out fires to ensure the event is a success and our clients are happy. As a small business owner, mastering this craft has been incredibly helpful. Things go wrong in business everyday. Crisis situations in business and in life are inevitable and unavoidable. 

BE AMONG THE GREAT

However it’s in these moments of crisis that define ourselves as people and most of all, as leaders.  I’ve seen many “leaders” be put in moments of crisis and forced to step up to the challenge of handling and managing the situation in front of them.

Through these situations, I’ve come to the realization that leaders are ultimately defined in their actions, not their titles. Crisis situations are those moments that separate bad, good and great leaders. Here are some ways to make sure you fall amongst the great.

STAY CALM AND DON’T LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT

When you are in a leadership role, all eyes are on you. Every move you make will be critiqued. So don’t give them a reason to give you a bad critique. Always stay calm in crisis situations. The crisis is problem at hand; the last thing anyone needs is for the leader/manager to freak out.

DON’T MAKE EXCUSES

When a crisis occurs in your business, you need to deal with it head on. Don’t sit there and make excuses and try to convince yourself and everyone around you that “it’s not that bad.” The longer you avoid the situation, the worse it’s going to be.

PROACTIVELY PLAN FOR THE WORST

You should always have an idea of potential threats that your business could face. It’s important to be aware of these threats so you can create action plans ahead of time if a crisis does occur. Being ahead of the game is a good thing.

TAKE ACTION…NOW

As a business owner and leader, there is really no place to hide in a crisis situation. You’re going to be faced with difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversations, but that’s ok. You’re solving a problem; it’s not supposed to be easy. It’s your job to make sure things get handled quickly and efficiently. Instead of running away from the problem, attack it!

Gaining a Competitive Advantage: Part 3

Show Your Face.

Rule #1 in Gaining a Competitive Advantage is business is to create an edge over your competitors and to have something that no one else in the industry has.

Well guess what? Unless you’re a twin, no one else has YOUR face, so show it and use yourself to your competitive advantage.

My business partner and I are pretty much connected at the hip. We go to every networking event together, make decisions together, biz dev together, partake in happy hours together… anything, we do it together.

A LOT of people tell us we aren’t being efficient with our time, we say we are being strategic. People know us and our brand because of US. Whenever we walk into a room together, people know it’s @EventsIntrinsic

It’s not a bad thing when you walk in a room for networking and people start saying, “Those @EventsIntrinsic girls”, “Those girls, are they sisters?” “Those girls, what do they do?” “Oh those are the girls that are partnered with those @Pixilated guys”.

We are two (fairly) young blonde girls who like to spiral curl our hair on occasion. We like to have fun. We like to talk and laugh with each other as business owners. We like to tag team a conversation not only because it’s fun but because we don’t want to repeat conversations. We value ourselves as the greatest marketing tool in our box. We celebrate who we are as our brand, Intrinsic Events.

It has been so critical for our business development and growth to get our faces out there, especially as a service based business. Even in those moments when you feel ugly or sick or tired, just get out there and show your face. People remember YOU more than they remember your website or tag line, trust me.

It is hard for me to network, I’m introverted, I am around people all day long planning events and at the end of the day, I just want to go home. But guess what? That’s not how you gain a competitive advantage. You gain a competitive advantage by putting on some mascara, black eyeliner, and power heels, and getting your face out there.

And believe me, it’s not just about showing your face. That’s just the first step. It’s about being consistent in showing your face and building relationships with your face, consistently.

As a service based business, our greatest leads and customers have come from referrals through networking or from direct networking contacts. 

We keep the referral funnel plentiful because we are in front of people all the time, not over email, not over phone, but over good old fashioned handshakes, eye contact, and a smile. Not just once, but CONSISTENTLY.

There’s something to be said for the old tag line, “Put Your Best Face Forward”.  I encourage you to use your face as the greatest marketing tool you have in the coming months. It will do wonders, I guarantee it.

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going

“CAUSE YOU HAD A BAD DAY”

Whether it’s a result of your alarm not going off, your computer crashing, your biggest client texting you non-stop because they’re upset, or because you totally bombed a presentation…we all experience bad days now and then.

Bad days are the worst. Especially when you’re an entrepreneur. We as business owners don’t have time to add a pity party to our already busy schedules.

WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS

I actually experienced one of these “bad days” this past week. It all started when I woke up Monday morning feeling like death. I was stuffed up, achy and feverish. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sleep the day away. But I had more things on my to-do list than I knew what to do with, so that was not an option.

When I got to the office and attempted to tackle that lengthy to-do list, we had an unexpected crisis occur that required all of my attention. Nothing was getting done, which was stressful.

After we finished putting out fires for most of the day, my business partner and I decided to take a lunch break at 3:30 p.m. This was the highlight of my day. Finally, an opportunity to relax, have a beer, take my mind off work and recharge…oh, and to have my car towed!

One hour trip to the impound lot, $300.00, and few tears later; I was back in the office prepping for a very late night ahead.

TIME TO REFOCUS

The fact of the matter is, difficulties and obstacles in life, both personal and professional, are inevitable. They’re going to happen and when you are concentrating on building a business, it may seem obstacles appear more frequently than not. 

It’s important NOT to focus on the obstacles you encounter, but instead focus on how you are going to handle them. Sure, I could have thrown my hands up in the air and called it quits for the day after my car was towed, but I didn’t. I chose to look at the obstacle that was thrown at me as an opportunity. “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” – unknown

HANDLE THAT “BAD DAY” LIKE A BOSS

As an entrepreneur, I strive to make a conscious effort to deal with situations in my life strategically verses reactionary. If I am having a bad day or if I’m feeling really down, I go through the following steps, which helps me stay positive and focused:

  1. ACKNOWLEGE IT: They always say the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. Well a bad day can quickly turn into a problem, so recognizing that and making the decision to turn it around is half the battle. The quicker you accept the fact that you can’t control what the Universe throws at you, the quicker you can move on!
  2. DO YOU: Once you’ve had a chance to gather your thoughts and calm down, do something for YOU. Go for a walk, grab a cup of tea or coffee, listen to some jams…do whatever calms your soul. I like to go somewhere quiet and meditate (which is something I’ve picked up recently and highly recommend to all entrepreneurs). Focus on yourself completely.
  3. UNCOVER THE SILVER LINING: This is my favorite step. After you’ve had time to calm down and focus on yourself, it’s time to uncover why that obstacle wrecked your day. There is always a lesson to be learned from a negative situation. Find it. When my car was towed the other day, my lesson was to slow down and really pay attention to my surroundings. There were signs (yes they were small signs) on the side of the street that I had failed to read. If I hadn’t been moving so quickly through my day, I would noticed them. Entrepreneurs are always running a mile a minute and we need to be told to slow down sometimes. It will only make us better.
  4. LET GO: I used to have a real problem fixating on things that didn’t go my way. Well that is no way to go through life, especially when you are in business for yourself. We need to be agile and willing to shift our focus or direction at any time. If your day was terrible, who cares? Move on. You never know if a bad situation is setting you up for an amazing one just around the corner.

So next time you’re having a bad day and feel like this…

Take time to accept the situation, focus on yourself, look at the positive and let go of the negative. It’s a sure way to move forward onto bigger and better things. If you have tips on how to turn your bad days into positive ones, please comment below!

FOLLOW ME @intrinsicrach  and @IntrinsicEvents

Gaining a Competitive Advantage: Part 2

Be a Category of One.

One of my favorite business books of all time is Becoming a Category of One by Joe Calloway. In this book, Calloway challenges businesses to not become the leader in a category but to create a new category within your industry altogether, thus becoming a “Category of One”.

Easier said than done right? Wrong. It’s really not as hard as you think but there are action steps you must take in order to identify who you are and what new category you want to create for your company.  Calloway provides this advice to all business leaders in order to become a “Category of One”.

1.     Have a story. Think about it. In order to differentiate yourself from anyone else in your industry, you must have something that no one else has. The easiest place to start in defining these unique attributes is your story. It’s yours, no one has it so learn how to tell it, share it, and use it to your advantage.  

2.     Adapt to change. The world is constantly changing and you need to be able to transform your company to the constant evolution and not become comfortable with where you are today. If you do, you will disappear and become a category of extinct like the good old T-Rex or Blockbuster.

3.     Defy comparison. Find a way to take the basic, do it better than the rest and then make your competition a non-issue. Stop worrying about how to “beat” your competition. Instead, worry about how to “beat” your customer’s expectations….every single time.

4.     Your brand is most important and your customers define it. Whether you want to admit it or not, whether you spent thousands of dollars for a marketing agency to brand the crap out of you, none of it will define you the way your customers will. Especially in today’s world of social media and instant content sharing, your customers’ definition of your brand is ultimately what defines your brand. In the most basic of explanations, perception is reality and you must deliver on what you want your customers to perceive every single time. If not, then you change your reality to your customer’s perception and market the crap out of it. Take for example. They started out  

5.     Be better, not different. If you go through your competitive advantage exercises and conduct your SWOT analysis and at the end your result is that you are completely equal in terms of product, price, place, service, and quality to your competition then what do you do? It’s simple. Be better, not different… to your customer. Know your customer better. Get closer to your customer. Emotionally connect with your customer better than anyone else out there.

6.     Be Consistent. Delivering on the basics consistently will win with customers every single time.  People like reliability, comfort, and the ability for others to meet (not exceed) expectations.

So now that you know the basic principles on what becoming a “Category of One” means, how do you create it?

Since I learn way better through real life examples vs. theory, here are some amazing examples of Baltimore-based companies who became a “Category of One”… whether they intended to or not. And since their new category creation, other companies have followed in their footsteps trying to compete in the same category vs. creating their own.

And I guarantee you, these “Category of One” companies below are not going to sleep at night worried about how they are going to “beat” their competition now. They are going to bed innovating how they can “beat” and exceed their customer’s wildest expectations in creating new categories.  I encourage you to learn more about each of these companies and find out their strategies to becoming a “Category of One”.  

Example #1 – Pixilated Photobooth (www.PixilatedPhotobooth.com )

Gone are the days of ugly, velvet curtain, crowded photo booths that cut off half the people in the picture like this.   

And thanks to Pixilated Photobooth, welcome to the FUN photo experiences that never, ever get old or ugly or crowded.

Example #2 – Up Dos For I Dos (www.updosforidos.com )

After years of working in a well-known beauty salon, Founder Ashley Riddle, was tired of seeing brides come in stressed out, pressed for time, and downright uncomfortable for their wedding day hair and makeup.

Why not start a business where the salon comes to you in the comfort of your hotel suite, with mimosas and your entire entourage at your side? So that’s what she did and 11 years later, she hasn’t looked back!

When competitors started coming into her market space, she innovated yet again and started Up Dos For Us Too (www.updosforustoo.com ) which delights and entertains children with the fantasy of dressing up, princesses and tea parties.

Example # 3 – Gundalow Juice (www.gundalowjuice.com )

Founder, Dana Sicko, was tired of hearing her Clients from her personal chef business, Nutreatious (www.nutreatious.com ) complaining about disgusting flavors of cold-pressed juices and accessibility to cold-pressed juices on the east coast. So what did she do? She started her own, delicious, first ever cold-pressed juice manufacturing company right here in Baltimore.

Example #4 – Order Up (www.orderup.com )

Tired of the same old pizza, Chinese, and subs take out night after night? Confused as to how that same pizza from the same place could take 20 minutes one night and an hour and a half the next? Well Order Up solved every single complaint anyone could ever have about the take out industry. They expanded the offerings to real food from real restaurants and created an app to be able to track your driver from literally Point A to Point B.

Example #5 – Under Armour (www.UnderArmour.com)

And last but certainly not the least to Baltimore natives, Under Armour, who has completely changed the industry of athletic performance apparel.

“While playing football for the University of Maryland, founder Kevin Plank hated having to change his sweat-soaked cotton T-shirts over and over again during two-a-days. Knowing that there simply had to be something better, he set out to create a solution.

Plank named his new company Under Armour, and after extensive research on the athletic benefits of synthetic fabrics, he designed the first Under Armour HeatGear® T-shirt. Engineered with moisture-wicking performance fibers, the shirt helps keep athletes cool, dry, and light in the most brutally hot conditions.” (http://www.uabiz.com/company/history.cfm)

What a concept? Keeping athletes and exercise enthusiasts cool while sweating to death?

On behalf of myself, my friends, my Merritt Athletic Club-goers and the city of Baltimore, thank you Mr. Plank for always striving to be a “Category of One” company.

      So let’s recap.  

The best way to gain a competitive advantage is to eliminate the competition and become your own  category of one. 

 

Gaining a Competitive Advantage: Part 1

Pay It Forward.

Gaining a competitive edge is one of the most important milestones in building any company, especially a startup.

But what does it mean to gain competitive advantage? Ultimately, it’s having an edge over your competition. Defining a competitive advantage is a challenge. It’s especially conflicting and difficult when your competition consists of your peers, your mentors, your colleagues, and even your friends.

It all comes down to value. A competitive edge is gained by creating a GREATER value to your customers and your partners. Often times that’s accomplished by offering lower prices or additional benefits. Sometimes it’s created by justifying premium pricing for premium services put out by established businesses with highly decorated leadership in place. Or, for startups, it’s offering the first to market niche idea that everyone has to have.

Whatever your competitive advantage strategy is, essentially we all have to answer the question, “Why should our customers purchase from us versus the competition?”

There are various strategies that I plan to touch upon during this series, but first and foremost, for @IntrinsicEvents, our strategy to gain a competitive advantage has been to Pay It Forward.

What does it mean to Pay It Forward?

The concept of Paying It Forward is not new. It dates all the way back to 317 BC, where it was used as strategic plot in ancient Athens. However, it became more mainstream after the 2000 movie, Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and that kid from the Sixth Sense (I highly recommend any entrepreneur to watch it if you haven’t already).

In the most simplest explanation, paying it forward means doing something for someone out of kindness and not expecting anything in return. As the receipt of an act of paying it forward, you don’t pay them back directly, but you pass it on to another.

Ok so what is the point of all this? We’re in business to make money, experience growth, and build teams. How does paying it forward play a role and contribute to these goals?

Because it’s proven that acts of kindness builds exponentially in a community and because deep down people believe that one good deed deserves another. It’s the golden rule in its finest form. Think about it, by building a community based around the pay it forward concept you are creating a following, creating a culture, and ultimately defining your values and brand within your business community.

Paying It Forward not only creates the world a better place. It makes the world (especially our entrepreneurial world), a more successful place.


Why does Paying It Forward Give You a Competitive Advantage?

In my experience as an entrepreneur in the Baltimore startup community, I’ve learned that those companies who pay it forward are ultimately….

-       Obtaining the ability to recruit better talent because XX company is “A Great Place to Work For” - resulting in having that premium talent as an advantage.

-       Taking advantage of word of mouth, the most inexpensive and effective form of marketing

-       Surrounding themselves with like-minded people (because in reality, we like being around people who are doing kind and good things for us)

-       Experiencing the pure Intrinsic Motivation that comes from helping others do well and make money

-       Creating a culture of respect and admiration within your peers, partners, and employees

-       Generating referrals that gives the ability to maintain a steady source of income throughout peak and low business periods

To be successful in building a business and being an entrepreneur, you need to identify those activities at which you and your company excel, not just the activities in which you perform equally well with your competition. In a very competitive environment, @IntrinsicEvents, myself @JesGignac , and by biz partner @IntrinsicRach, truly succeed  in the ability to maintain an intrinsically motivated mindset and pay it forward at all times. That’s our competitive advantage.

So, I’d love to know, what does paying it forward mean to you and what ways does your company pay it forward?  

Is Fear the Ultimate Motivator for Entrepreneurs?

COMMONALITY AMONGST ALL FOUNDERS

After our first StartUp Soiree back in January, my business partners and I received an email from a well-known business owner in Baltimore who had attended the event. He thanked us for the invitation, complimented the execution of the event, and said he was honored to be in a room full of other Founders. All really kind things, but it was what he said at the end of the email that really stood out to me.

He said that as he made his way around the room, he started to notice that many of the Founders he spoke to all shared a common emotion – fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the next step. Fear of balance in their lives.

A profound observation that really got me thinking. Is fear the ultimate motivator amongst entrepreneurs?

AM I THE ONLY ONE?

When I left my corporate job to pursue Intrinsic Events full time, I experienced many different emotions. I was excited, extremely motivated, very focused – and scared out of my mind. I often wondered if it was just me or did all entrepreneurs feel this way? Did all entrepreneurs experience fear?

The answer is yes. All entrepreneurs have fears. We are human after all. But it’s the way they handle their fears that makes them different. Fear makes us feel uncomfortable and tends to invoke a fight-or-flight response. I’ve discovered that great entrepreneurs step out of their comfort zone and almost always take the fight response.

BE BIGGER THAN YOUR FEARS

The thing is, fear can make or break you as an entrepreneur. The key is learning and mastering the art of turning fear into a positive energy and never letting it control you.

As a business owner, it’s important to constantly evaluate yourself so you are able to grow personally and professionally. Over the past year, I experienced fears that were hindering my company’s growth. Instead of fleeing or becoming paralyzed by them, I attacked them and turned them into my ultimate motivators.

Here are some of those fears and how I handled them.

FEAR OF REJECTION

Ok, so who likes to feel rejected? Yeah, that’s right…NO ONE. We all long for acceptance and approval from others and when that doesn’t happen we tend to be crushed. It’s hard not to feel that way.

Business owners put so much time, energy and passion into their work. So when someone comes along and doesn’t like what we have to offer or chooses to take their business somewhere else, it sucks. And I don’t know about you, but I always used to take rejection personally. Key words, “used to.”  

As an entrepreneur I had to learn that not everyone is going to want what I have to offer and that’s OK. Don’t let rejection be a fear that consumes you. Instead, use rejection as a motivation to do better next time. When a potential client turns me down, instead of getting upset I ask them “why?” Obtaining this feedback helps me improve my processes and services and I know that there is another opportunity right around the corner.

FEAR OF NOT BEING PERFECT

We’ve all heard the saying, “Nobody’s perfect” right? Well how come we don’t apply that same concept to ourselves in professionally? No business is perfect, bottom line. This is why entrepreneurs are constantly innovating, pushing the envelope and figuring out how their business can stand out from the rest. It’s what makes being a business owner awesome.

I’ve always held myself to a very high standard professionally. My work has to be perfect and if I make a mistake and my work is sub-par, I am my worst critic.  This mentality has made me an excellent worker, but isn’t the best mindset to have as an entrepreneur.

Instead, we must acknowledge that “perfect” doesn’t exist. We as professionals are always going to be evolving and the same goes with our businesses. So what I have learned to do is set deadlines, put my best work out there and to not get hung up on whether I think it’s perfect or not. Know that you can always go back and improve. If you obsess over perfection nothing will ever get accomplished and in time you will fail.

FEAR OF FAILURE

Ah yes, the fear amongst all of us entrepreneurs, whether we like to admit it or not.

None of us want to fail. We all want to produce an amazing product or service that our clients find useful and we want to run a profitable business, end of story. But when we all decide to become entrepreneurs, we are signing up to take risks. We don’t know if we are going to succeed or not.

Nothing in life is guaranteed. We don’t know how long we are going to be here, so it’s important to make the best of the hand we are dealt. This same concept can be applied to running a business.  

One of my StartUp Soiree business partners recently shared a piece of advice, which was, “The only way to fail, is to not try. Just give it your everything.” (Thanks Nic!) His advice has stuck with me and really puts things in prospective when dealing with the fear of failing as a business owner.

We as entrepreneurs cannot stress over the possibility that we might fail. This will get us nowhere. Yes the possibility will always be present but the chance to build something great won’t. I’ve learned to focus on the building instead of the fear. This has helped me stay positive and true to what I was meant to do.

It sounds simple because it is. It’s a mind over matter thing and is a mentality necessary for all entrepreneurs to have.

PUNCH FEAR IN THE FACE

Being an entrepreneur has its scary moments, but that’s what makes it exciting. Fear is going to be a part of your journey, just remember to explore those feelings and use them to your advantage. Don’t let fear discourage you or throw you off course.

 “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears and your actions louder than your words.” – Author Unknown

FOLLOW ME @intrinsicrach and Intrinsic Events @IntrinsicEvents 


Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

For those of us who didn’t start out in the entrepreneurial world, this was the dreaded question on every single job interview. 

For those of us who are entrepreneurs and own our own businesses, I’m sure we ask this question on a weekly basis of our employees and potential employees.

I get it.  We all need to have a vision, have short term and long term goals, and ultimately portray the “entrepreneurial spirit” and attract talent that complements our vision.

However…

I think this is the dumbest question to ever ask because there is never a right answer. The talent I want to attract as a business owner is someone who answers the question with…

“I want your job. I want to start my own company and be a startup success.”

But then, if someone does answer the question that way, how do you make the justification to invest time, money, and mentorship into that person?

So why do we ask this question? What is our reason and purpose? Is it simply to get to know that person on a deeper level? Is it to understand someone’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivations? If the answer is yes, then I challenge you all to try for just one month to change the question to this.

“In the past 5 years, what have you done and what has happened in your life to you get you to where you are now? “

Because now you’re not just asking them a question, we’re are making them take action and reflect on their actions!

By changing the question in such a simple way you will instantly get a deeper understanding of who they are, where they come from, how hard they work, what their passions are, and what motivates them.

So, I took it upon myself to practice what I preach. Here are the Top 5 Moments in the past 5 years of my life that have gotten me to where I am today. 

And the funny thing is…

Had you asked me 5 years ago, “Where do I see myself in 5 years?”, none of these moments below would have come out of my mouth, because the truth is, you never know where life is going to take you. I’m not saying don’t have a vision, don’t have goals, don’t have purpose. I am saying you can’t predict what will happen to you 5 years from now. I do feel it’s important to plan, to set goals, to take the right steps and actions each day to build up to where you envision your life in 5 years. But for the sake of job interviews and acquiring the right talent for your company, I think it’s time to throw out the dreaded question. 

1.     Little Joe O’Connor came into the world. Exactly 5 years ago tomorrow on March 14, 2010, my nephew, Joey, was born and I became an aunt. Not having children of my own, this is as close as I’ve come. My sister is my best friend in the entire world. I would do absolutely ANYTHING for this woman and when she came to me 5 years and 8 months ago to tell me she was pregnant (out of wedlock but with an amazing man) at 23, you would of thought my world was over. Who was I going to go out with? Who was I going to double date with? Who was not going to be living in a Baltimore City apartment with me like I had envisioned?

God. How selfish. How immature. Having my nephew and having a sister that I look up to every single day for the mother and woman she is, is the best thing that has ever happened to me in the last 5 years.  I learned a lesson in how being selfish will get you nowhere in this world and how sometimes the most unexpected things in life are the greatest gifts

2. Big Joe O’Connor left this world.  In August of 2013, little Joey’s dad, my sister’s fiancé, and one of my very best friends in this entire world, left this world. It was awful, unexpected, horrible,  sad, and it still is. But you can’t cry forever. You find strength inside of you that you never knew  you had. You use these moments to fuel the fire inside you to be the most amazing person and  you can be. You use these moments to realize “What in the world am I waiting for?” Get out  there and make something of this life - this short life we have here.

3.     I found a business partner in a friend. In 2011,   after spending 6 years working alongside a good friend, a past roommate, and amazing teammate, my business partner, Rachel Robinson and I started a dream of building our own event company. We were in San Francisco, CA running an event for the corporate company we worked for and although life was good, we had great paychecks, and traveled the world together, we realized we both had a vision that was much greater than where we were. After much more talk, a few cocktails, and sharing our “Where do we see ourselves in 5 years” dreams, Intrinsic Events was born. 

4.     The Ultimatum. A little over a year ago, the corporate company Rachel and I worked for gave us an ultimatum. Although we were always proactive and transparent in our life goals with this company, and were often complimented on our “entrepreneurial spirit”, it became apparent that Intrinsic Events was our passion. We were challenged on our loyalty and priority with the company and ultimately given a choice. Either stop doing Intrinsic Events or get out.  Needless to say, we got out and never looked back.

5.     Today. Reflecting on the Top 5 moments in the past 5 years today is one of the greatest exercises I have ever done personally and professionally. Putting it out there for the world to read is a different story. But as my beloved Michael Jackson would say, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change”. So that’s what I did, that’s what I’m doing and I hope that we can all make a change to stop the dreaded question of “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

My Challenge

Please take just 5 minutes today and reflect on the Top 5 moments in the past 5 years thatgot you to where you are today and share it with this amazing community of entrepreneurs we’ve built here by commenting below. I promise you will be so happy you did. 

 

Events: Why They Are Important For Your Company's Growth

The WHAT, WHY, & WHERE surrounding your company’s event marketing strategy 

“SHOULD WE HAVE THAT EVENT AGAIN THIS YEAR?”

As an Event Planner, I see various companies struggle year in and year out over this question. The question as to whether or not their company should include events as part of their yearly marketing plan.

Having been on the corporate side of things as an in house marketing/event professional and now being on the business owner side running an event management company, if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that events should ALWAYS be a part of your company’s marketing strategy.

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOUR PEEPS

Bringing it back to Marketing 101, we all know a company’s marketing strategy always includes product, price, place, and promotion. But what these strategy plans often lack is a major “P” – PEOPLE.

Marketing is all about the people, whether it’s your employees, your executives, or your customers. These people are the ones who drive the other 4 P’s of a marketing strategy. Therefore, it should never be a question as to whether or not events should take place, let alone be a critical part of your marketing strategy.

EVENT STRATEGY & ROI

Meetings and events create value to stakeholders. This is accomplished by influencing the behavior of your event participants. If the event doesn’t make participants do something they would otherwise not have done, there is no value.

Hosting events is the best way for your business to engage your clients, motivate your employees, connect with prospects, get your brand in front of the right people, and ultimately create strategic relationships that lead to increased growth.

Even if you don’t have a strategic events strategy built into your current marketing plan, it’s never too late to start small, host events the right way by hiring a professional, and work with that professional to measure the ROI surrounding your events.

READY TO PLAN AN EVENT?

Outlined below are key questions to consider before implementing an events strategy, no matter what the purpose, size or budget. I’ve also included a simplified breakdown of event types, the goals/purpose of each event type, and some of my company’s, Intrinsic Events,  top locations to host these events.

Before you develop your strategic event plan, you must ask yourself these critical questions:

1.     What goals does our company want to achieve this year?  

2.     What events will assist our company in achieving these goals?

3.     What is the purpose of each event?

4.     What are the determining success factors for each event and how will they be measured?

5.     What professional resources does our company have in place to execute these events and measure their ROI? 


READY TO CREATE A SUCCESSFUL EVENT STRATEGY?

Contact Intrinsic Events at Events@IntrinsicEvents.co

 

TOP 10 EVENTS YOUR COMPANY SHOULD BE HOSTING 

 

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

We need to talk.”

Let’s be honest.  We’ve all broken up with someone - Friends. Clients. Significant Others. Peers. Mentors. Vendors. Suppliers. Service Providers. Partners. Employees.

OR we’ve all broken up with something – PC’s. Banks. Office Space. Software. Happy Hour. Coffee.

No easy conversation ever started with, “We need to talk”.  However, we’ve all heard it or said it at one time or another in our lives. And the truth is, breaking up is hard to do. It inspires weakness, vulnerability and procrastination in all of us.

Even if you’ve done your due diligence prior to a breakup in terms of talking to mentors, weighing the pros and cons, crying to your friends, or facing the cold hard truth, the exit strategy out of any relationship can be brutal. Even without contracts and money at stake.

There are times when it may be blindingly obvious to everyone around you that it’s time to walk away from a relationship or partnership, yet in true entrepreneur fashion, you are still so stubborn that you need to come to the conclusion on your own terms.

So how do you know? First, simply ask yourself the following questions:

1.     Have you lost respect for this partner?

2.     Are your needs not being met in this relationship?

3.     Are you only staying in this relationship because of a contract?

4.     Is this relationship causing difficulty or danger to your brand or business?

5.     Do you dread meetings with this partner?

6.     Are you constantly keeping score in this partnership? Are you less forgiving if this partner doesn’t hold up to their end of the agreement?

7.     Has this partnership stopped being fun & collaborative?

8.     Is this partnership bringing out the worst in me?

9.     Do your long term goals or business plans no longer match up?

If you’ve answered yes to ANY of these questions, it may be time to call it quits.

But how?

Just do it. Stop procrastinating. Stop having self- doubt. Stop second-guessing your gut.

Loyalty, cooperation, and commitment to work through difficult times are all admirable qualities in any entrepreneur but it’s important to be cognizant that these traits can also work against us to prolong the right decision and hinder growth in our business.

So just do it, put your big girl panties on and remember the following tips for breaking up.

1.     Keep Calm and Never Attack the other person’s character. You are making this choice so there is no reason to be hostile or angry. It’s also important to remember that the other person may react with hostility and anger so it’s important to never attack them with your reasons as to why you are ending the relationship.

2.     You are breaking up for YOU and what’s best for YOU – not the other person. Yes, it may hurt to see someone confused or upset, but that’s life.

3.     KISS. (Keep It Short & Simple) No one needs a long drawn out goodbye. Simply state your reasons, avoid vague comments, don’t finger point, be polite, and move on. After all, haven’t you spent enough time investing in a relationship that isn’t helping you achieve your goals?

4.     Time Does Not Heal. Growth Heals. – If nothing else, remember this. There are times when we have doubts about our decision to end a relationship and think of turning back. People often say time heals, but it doesn’t. It’s the growth that happens after a significant turning point in our lives that heals us. Trust me, I’ve seen it first hand in life, love and business.

Reflection & Action

In everything we do an entrepreneurs, it’s important to reflect on our decisions and the impact they had on our business. If you have recently gone through a breakup,  in any capacity, I challenge you to this simple exercise.

Answer this question, type it out, and save as a draft.

“If I could get an email from myself 10 years from now, what advice might it have?” 

 

FOLLOW My Business @EventsIntrinsic

FOLLOW Me @jesgignac 

 

If You Can't Please, Appease

IF THE WORLD WAS PERFECT, IT WOULDN’T BE

In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as a bad day. We would never feel defeated as professionals. We would produce nothing but our best work at all times. Everyone would always be completely satisfied with the results we produced. In a perfect world, there would be no pissed off clients…ever.

Unfortunately, this world is far from perfect. Not everyday is going to be great. We do at times feel defeated. We don’t always produce the best work and live up to our full potential. And every now and then we come across clients who are unhappy, dissatisfied or downright angry with us.

MAKE IT RIGHT OR MAKE IT BETTER

I would be lying if I said I never made mistakes or never had a client upset or angry with me. The truth is, it happens. But what I have learned over the past few years working in the events industry and especially as an entrepreneur is that if you do mess up and a client is upset you have to either make it right or make it better.

Dealing with a pissed off client is never easy, but as entrepreneurs we have no choice but to take handle these situations quickly and with some finesse. Here are five steps that will help turn your unhappy client’s frown upside down…

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1. REMAIN CALM…I REPEAT…REMAIN CALM

When you are dealing with an angry client, the last thing you want to do is freak out on them. It’s normal to feel a little defensive. We all work hard and have our client’s best interest at heart, but sometimes things get missed or miscommunication occurs. When a client is upset with something you do, the worst thing to do is react. When we react we lose control and give the other person the upper hand. 

2. ASK QUESTIONS, AND LISTEN CAREFULLY

When people are upset no matter what the situation is, they usually just want someone to listen to them. This holds true when dealing with your clients. Clearly if your client is upset, they are going to have some things to say. So listen to them. Show them that you care about the issue at hand.

3. TAKE ACCOUNTABILITY

I have found success in dealing with unsatisfied clients by first taking a look at myself and taking accountability for the issue. Before you do anything else, you have to stop and take accountability of what you did wrong or could have done better. As entrepreneurs, we must consistently take a look in the mirror and make a change in order to learn and grow as professionals.

4. SUGGEST A SOLUTION AND RUN WITH IT

Conflict resolution is what event planners do best and it should be a common practice amongst all entrepreneurs. When there is an issue we need to evaluate all of the variables and act quickly to come up with a solution. Don’t sit around and think, “shoulda, woulda, coulda.” Just FIX IT.

5. ABOVE ALL ELSE, DON’T POINT FINGERS

When shit hits the fan, the worst thing you can do is sit around with your thumb up you’re butt and point fingers. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was, what matters is that there is an issue and it’s your job to find a solution.


FOLLOW ME @intrinsicrach and Intrinsic Events @IntrinsicEvents 


Baltimore PRIDE

JesGignacIntrinsicEvents

Can I just say, WOW?! It’s not exactly the first word that normally comes to one’s mind after a 4 hour night of sleep, waking up to a day full of meetings, proposal writing, blog writing and the Friday hustle.

But for this Baltimore Entrepreneur - who spent last night in a room full of 75 amazingly talented and crazy intelligent people – that’s exactly what I’m thinking. WOW!

Startup Soiree kicked off last night at the Pixilated Headquarters and the energy was contagious. The excitement and buzz just couldn’t stop and wouldn’t stop! Seriously, check out TwitterInstagramFacebookSouthBmore.com and The Daily Record to see for yourself.

Going into our first StartupSoiree event, I didn’t know what to expect. Why? Because there has never been an event like it here in Baltimore for entrepreneurs. I didn’t know what my big take-away would be, I wasn’t sure if everything IntrinsicEvents and Pixilated had dreamed possible would actually happen. But it DID and it was AWESOME!

As I was driving home reflecting on the night, it hit me. (And no, I’m talking about the Jailbreak Brewing Co. beer or the Nutreatious fantastic taquitos). I left last night recharged more than ever before in my business because of PRIDE.

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PRIDE IN YOUR CITY

Ethan Giffin, #BmoreFounder of Groove , started off the night by stating, “"This city is so ripe...not even being from Charm City I'm so proud to bring attention to this place". Immediately upon finishing this statement, the Startup Soiree crowd began to cheer, hoot n holler, and ramp up the energy.

It’s amazing to see what Baltimore is doing and fostering in the entrepreneur world and Ethan reminded all of us to take such great pride in this amazing city we live, work, play, love and do business in.

PRIDE IN YOUR WORK & WORTH

Entrepreneurs strive for the day they are able to have an intimate, valuable, and memorable conversation with the leader in their industry. Last night, I had the privilege of meeting the insanely creative and driven business woman, Stephanie Bradshaw, #BmoreFounder of Stephanie Bradshaw Designs. During our conversation, she asked, “What is your biggest struggle in your business and growth right now?” To which I answered, having enough time, money and resources to execute on the Clients’ events we have, build new business, and build our business to where we want it to go.

Her advice to me was so simple, eloquent, and real. “That’s great, but always make sure you take pride in your work and your worth. You are talented, your Clients are important, and you need to show that to the world.”

Stephanie went on to talk about how in our industry, It’s not a competition when you have your brand and pride in your work and worth.  In our industry of wedding and event planning, as well as our careers in entrepreneurship, it’s time to stop being in competition with one another and stand out. Be you, be a category of one, and take pride in all your work, and ultimately what you are worth to your clients.

It was the exact thing I needed to hear in that moment as I struggle with growth in our business. It brought me back to my brand and why it’s so important to keep your pride in your work and your value at the forefront of every day.

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PRIDE IN YOUR PEOPLE

Another awesome thing that happened last night was finally meeting someone that you’ve been talking with via social media. For me that was Chris Jeffrey, #BmoreFounder of Order Up . As we were talking about branding and culture and new market growth, I referenced the first time I saw his street team of people during Fells Point Fun Festival hustling and getting the word out about his company and the expansion into Baltimore. His face immediately lit up, he smiled really big, and said, “That’s awesome, my people are awesome.”

Chris showed such pride in his people last night and the culture he has built. As I mentioned in my last blog post, people are the most valuable asset next to time in any startup. Take pride in your people and you will go so far in our entrepreneurial world.

PRIDE IN YOUR TALENT

Eddie Wingrat, #BmoreFounder of Flowers & Fancies, ended our night by thanking the Startup Soiree team for a wonderful evening. Eddie is an older gentleman who has been around in the Baltimore community for a very long time. He wasn’t sure if Startup Soiree was going to be the right place for him to be, as he isn’t exactly in Start Up mode. However, bringing it back to pride in your city, Eddie went on to tell us he was so impressed by the talent in the room. The room was filled with Online Food Delivery, Online Booze Delivery, Photobooths, Event Planners, Make Up Artists, Photographers, App Developers, Marketing Gurus, Chefs, and Floral Companies – quite the range of talent.

Everyone in the room had a sense of pride by being there, pride in their talent. Everyone no matter what their talent was invited to the event, they were accepted into the event, and they shared their talent with the community around them.

PRIDE IN YOURSELF

With any event, a debrief is always critical. And Patrick Rife, #BmoreFounder of Pixilated couldn’t have had a better After Action Review than this…  “We did it. We had a vision and tonight, we made it a reality and we should all be so proud.” And you know what I am. I am so proud of our city, of our talent, of our work, of our worth, and of all of YOU who came out last night. Thank you for reminding me why I do what I do every single day. 

FOLLOW me @jesgignac 

FOLLOW my company @EventsIntrinsic for updates & upcoming events.

YEAR ONE: LESSONS LEARNED

RachelRobinsonStartUpSoiree

HAPPY BIRTHDAY INTRINSIC EVENTS

Next month, my business partner and I will be celebrating a huge milestone in our business. In February of last year, we both left our corporate jobs to pursue our passion to build an event management company full time as entrepreneurs.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost an entire year already. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about how I felt this time last year. Feelings of excitement, anxiousness, and enthusiasm were constantly running through me. Although most of my emotions were positive, I remember being a little scared of the unknown – which I laugh about now because that never really stops.

PLAN TO HAVE A CHANGE IN PLANS

As an Event Planner I’m constantly told that I’m extremely Type A. I always have a plan A, B, and C for everything and rarely do I fly by the seat of my pants without thoroughly thinking things through. When you’re an entrepreneur you absolutely should have a plan, but it’s important to know that things are going to change…a lot.

Taking the leap from corporate employee to entrepreneur is no easy feat. It takes a lot of self-awareness, dedication and hustle to succeed.

LESSONS LEARNED

Over this past year I have learned many, many lessons as a businesswoman and as a person that I wish I would have known as I was starting out.  Here are some of them from me to you:

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1. FOLLOW YOUR PASSION

Entrepreneurs are very passionate people. We love what we do and it shows in every aspect of our lives. It’s important to always have “why you started” at the forefront of your mind.

There are going to be times when you are scared, or you are unsure of what to do, or you’re insanely frustrated…that’s OK! No one said it was going to be easy. And if it was, everyone would work for themselves.

2. USE YOUR CORPORATE EXPERIENCE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

I didn’t start out as an entrepreneur right away. I worked in Corporate America straight out of college for several years and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I learned SO much working for a large company. I gained insight on what it was like to run a successful company. I learned what to do and what not to do, which I’m very thankful for.

When I first entered the startup community in Baltimore, I was afraid of coming off as too corporate. But now this is something I embrace. It is important to me to have a certain level of professionalism and it has ultimately helped our business grow.

3. BE PREPARED TO HUSTLE

I knew working for myself was not going to be a walk in the park. Growing up, I saw my parents busting their asses running their own businesses. This is something I always admired in them.

The fact is you need to be prepared to work harder than you ever have in your life. You are building something from fabulous; it’s going to take time and lots of elbow grease.

If you thought entrepreneurship was going to fit inside a typical “9-5” schedule, you’re wrong. The hours will be long, the work will be tough, you may miss out on some social events with friends from time to time, but it will all be worth it.

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4. DON’T BE ASHAMED TO ASK FOR GUIDANCE

Even the best business leaders seek guidance. All entrepreneurs should at some point seek out a business mentor. It’s important to have someone who can provide first hand experience and knowledge and act as a true sounding board while you’re building your business.

I’m so fortunate to have many mentors in my life. I value their opinions and seek out their advice and guidance and it’s been a true eye-opening experience. You aren’t going to know everything starting out.

5. EMPOWER OTHERS ALONG THE WAY

I realized that over the past year I cannot and will not become a great leader in my company and community with out the ability to empower others. Whether it’s a peer, an employee, an industry partner, or an intern make sure you take time to help others reach their goals and grow. We will all benefit from this.

FOLLOW ME @intrinsicrach and Intrinsic Events @IntrinsicEvents 

 

 

(net-wur-king)

jesblog.jpg

 

It’s the beginning of a New Year and you know what that means. The gym is way too over-crowded, Whole Foods can’t maintain stock in your favorite brand of organic almond milk, and networking events are sold out in a matter of minutes.

For all of us 24/7, 365 days-a-year hustlers out there, the New Year can be an extremely frustrating time of year, especially when it comes to networking.

Why?

For me, the frustration lies in the fact that because I do all things out of intrinsic motivation, I expect that others do the same.  I network because I love talking about my company. I meet new people because I receive pleasure in hearing their stories. I go to events because I get enjoyment in checking out a new venue. I offer my services because I know I can help others achieve their goals.

However, the sad truth is, the majority of the people I meet at networking events are there because of extrinsic factors such as punishment from their boss if they do not go to X number of events per month or hand out 100 business cards per week. They are there because they want a free cocktail on their company’s dime. They are there to practice their elevator pitch. They are there for a chance to win the IPAD raffle prize.

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Time & People

As entrepreneurs, time is money and the most valuable asset in our daily lives. 2nd to time is people and relationships. Networking is a necessity for entrepreneurs and something we SHOULD be looking forward to, not avoiding.

By true definition, “Networking is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having common interest.”

As entrepreneurs it is up to us to bring networking back to creating this support system.

But How? How do we create this system in an environment flooded with extrinsically motivated individuals?

Be Autonomy Supportive.

A study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine proves that the power of choice promotes the experience of autonomy, which enhances intrinsic motivation.

What does this mean in terms of networking?

It means giving others the CHOICE to engage in conversation with you, not FORCING them to engage in conversation with you.

It means actively listening to what they have to say in order to offer opportunities that are relevant.

It means giving them the opportunity to listen to what you offer and deciding for themselves if they need what you provide.

It means encouraging conversation and self-initiation in others to do the same.

It means offering optimal educational opportunities for them to learn.

It means creating cooperative networking opportunities by introducing them to others you know

Be autonomy supportive in your networking, enhance intrinsic motivation among the attendees, and create a supportive system for you and your business. By doing this, you are bringing networking back to what it should be.

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Intrinsically vs. Extrinsically Motivated Networking: How do you know until you go?

You don’t. And really, any networking event is what YOU make of it.

However, if we bring it back to time and people being our most valuable assets, then we need to be wise in our networking selections. In my vast networking experiences, I do have critical components that I look out for in networking events. If 3 out of the 5 factors are present, I politely decline as those are the times I find the most extrinsically motivated attendees.

Extrinsic Motivators

1.     Giveaways or Raffle Prizes

2.     No educational component or program

3.     No support of an online or physical community pre, during & post the event

4.     Event capacity is 200+

5.     No commonality among attendees

On the flip side, if a networking event has 3 of the 5 following factors, I make it a point to attend because I know I will genuinely enjoy the time with the people I meet.

Intrinsic Motivators

1.     Guest speaker or educational value

2.     The host of the event is present and engaged

3.     Event capacity is 100-150 max

4.     Shared interests among like-minded attendees is apparent

5.     Opportunity to connect and build relationships pre, during & post the event

 

Bringing it back.

In 2015, I am so excited for the true networking support system that Startup Soirée will create among the entrepreneur community in Baltimore. Through intrinsically providing a networking environment that brings together like-minded individuals to collaborate, learn, inspire, grow, and build a community where autonomy is at the forefront is something that is truly motivating. We are bringing networking back to what it can and should be. 

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FOLLOW me @jesgignac 

FOLLOW my company @EventsIntrinsic for updates & upcoming events.

 

 

 

What Motivates All Entrepreneurs

Have you ever been woken up by your alarm, and all you wanted to do was hit the snooze button and take the day off? Have you ever had a meeting scheduled that you wanted to just blow off? Or have you had a huge project that you let sit untouched until it was too late?

“AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!”

We’ve all been there at some point in our professional lives right? No matter how you label it – whether it is procrastination, laziness or downright exhaustion…entrepreneurs don’t have time for that.

Luckily for us, we as entrepreneurs all possess a special phenomenon deep inside that keeps us going. A feeling that continuously feeds our passion from within and fuels the drive to accomplish our goals each and everyday.

This beautiful thing is called intrinsic motivation.

ARE YOU CRAZY?

When my business partner and I first started our event management company, many people thought we were crazy and were pretty vocal about it too. We were often asked how we were going to make it on our own and how could we leave Corporate America; giving up a consistent paycheck with benefits. 

I always thought it was interesting that everyone seemed so concerned about our financial security. They didn’t seem to understand what was truly driving us to go follow our passion.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?

We all have things that motivate us throughout life. Some are motivated by money, some are motivated by gratification and approval from others, some are motivated by power, and the list goes on and on.

 

WHAT MOTIVATES ME

I absolutely love what I do for a living. I get up every morning excited for new challenges, eager to meet new people and continuously find ways to build my business. Wanting to produce great work and to help people is what motivates me.

A lot of people ask me “Why did you name your company Intrinsic Events?”

It’s simple.

My business partner and I follow a simple belief that motivation from within produces extraordinary results and success. We also believe and agree with entrepreneur extraordinaire Steve Jobs, that “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

ENTREPRENEURS ALIKE

Since going off on my own as an entrepreneur, I have had the privilege to meet so many inspirational business owners. I’m always so wowed by the level of intelligence, extreme drive and amount of passion each one possesses.

Every entrepreneur is different in the sense of what he or she brings to the table and how they go about running their own business. But the one common link we as entrepreneurs all have, is that we love what we do and are passionate about our work.

THE INTRINSIC WAY

I’ve said it before; starting a business is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears but if you are intrinsically motivated from within I promise it will evolve much easier.

Don’t worry about the money, the fame, and the power that comes from owning a successful business. Never lose site on why you started in the first place. Focus on that passion that led you to where you are now and the rest will fall into place naturally.

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Make That Change

Jes Gignac

Make That Change.

I am an event planner first and foremost. I spent 10 years as an event planner before deciding to take on entrepreneurship.

When most people are asked, “What makes a great event planner?” The answers are usually along the lines of - organized, detail-oriented, friendly, hard-working, creative, …

Never once are the words intelligent, smart, or genius used as descriptors.

Thank you Mr. Hawking for setting the record straight.

Stephen Hawking, one of the most notorious physicists, academics, cosmologists, and author of A Brief History in Time, once stated, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

For all the event planners (and now I know, entrepreneurs) out there, let me say, “Thank you Mr. Hawking.”

You see, all my life I was told by family and friends that I was intelligent, smart and destined for success. I thought I had people fooled in my skills somehow. Clearly my outstanding SAT score of 1090, my GPA of 3.0, or the multiple accounting classes I failed in college did not warrant extreme intelligence. But now I know, they saw in me an ability that eluded intelligence. An extreme ability to adapt to change with grace, a PLAN B, and a poker face.

Then I became an entrepreneur.

As an event planner, I never thought anyone understood what I went through on a daily basis when it came to change. So many colleagues and partners would look at me, shake their heads with a look of guilt and say, “I don’t know how you do what you do.”  It was like they knew I was on a rollercoaster ride that was never going to end.

Then I became an entrepreneur and I realized, THESE people know what that rollercoaster ride is all about!

They knew the ups, downs, twists, turns, queasiness, dizziness, thrill, and LOVE that I knew.

I have met many entrepreneurs along my journey. Some of them I find extremely intelligent and can’t wait until my next chance to learn from them. Some of them, not so much.

I’ve realized that the ones I feel not so much about, are those that do not embrace and adapt to change. They don’t look at what is happening to their business, analyze it and make a change. Or in the worst cases, these entrepreneurs aren’t changing themselves to adapt to their partners, employees, competitors, and overall, world around them.

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Change isn’t easy. Love what others don’t.  

Nothing is easy as an entrepreneur, we all know that. Change can either challenge us and make us great, or threaten us and make us weak. As an entrepreneur, you HAVE to learn to not just accept change, but to LOVE change. LOVE it so much that you can’t wait for the next big change to hit you in the face, knock you down, and then hit you again as soon as you stand up.

Entrepreneurs are used to doing what others don’t, being what others won’t, and loving things others can’t.

I love change, but I understand that not everyone does. From one entrepreneur to another, I want you to love change much as I do, because it’s awesome – and it’s something that non-entrepreneurs can’t love because they don’t have to.

Here are a few ways I encourage and challenge you all to love change as much as I do this year.

Accept that change is constant.

It’s the same reason people love or hate surfing. It takes you so much time, skill and discipline to learn to get up and get moving, only to get knocked down again and again. You can never learn to always stand up because the waves and tide are constantly changing. Great surfers learn to adapt to the changing wave, accept that each ride will be different every time, and just keep swimming.

Believe that change brings something greater than the old.  

This is always the case, whether you know it right away or not. Just believe. I’ve practiced keeping a journal of times when I thought change was the most horrible thing in the world. I document monthly how my life or situation are different because of that change. I challenge you do to the same. I guarantee over time, you will realize that change brought about something greater that what it was.

Focus your energy on fostering the new, not fighting the old.

Instead of trying to fight why things changed or who made the change, focus all of your energy and time on fostering the new that the change created. If you change your attitude, you change the entire outcome of the change itself.

Trust that small changes pave the way to big accomplishments.

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t magically get into the playoffs this season because of game changing moments. Joe Flacco’s completions to Torrey Smith for touchdowns against the Cleveland Browns for their success is a result of small changes every practice, every day, every week, every minute of every game…throughout the entire season. As entrepreneurs we need to keep this thought in mind at all times. Big accomplishments are the result of small changes every single day.

Wear a poker face. Move quickly. Make a change.

Changes happen at the drop of a hat. Our reactions and decisions in those moments, as well as the perception of how we deal with change to others are what define us and our intelligence. When sh*t hits the fan in your business, you have no other choice but to keep calm, wear a poker face, move quickly and make a change– whether it be the right one or wrong one at the time. As an entrepreneur, no one else is going to do this for you. The worst thing you can do in a situation where change needs to be made is do nothing.

If nothing else, remember the words of Stephen Hawking, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

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Action – Reflection – Repeat

AULD LANG SYNE

It’s that time of year again! The New Year is right around the corner. And you know what that means – making a new year’s resolution, right? You know the drill, resolutions to be healthier, happier, more successful, etc. All great ideas, but personally I take a different approach.

I used to make them too, until I realized…they don’t work. In fact, studies show that more than half the country begins the New Year with one or more resolutions, but only 8% are successful in keeping them. 

Like everyone else, I look forward to each New Year being healthier, happier and more successful, both personally and professionally. But what I’ve learned as an entrepreneur, there’s only one real “resolution” that works 100% of the time! No matter what dreams, aspirations or goals you have for the New Year, this simple 3-step formula works every time: Action-Reflection-Repeat.   

IT’S A LIFESTYLE

As business owners, it’s natural for us to look ahead and plan for the New Year. But for me, the process of Action-Reflection-Repeat is more than a New Year’s resolution; it’s a way of life. 

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION

Action is the first and most important step, yet this is where many of us get stuck. Why? Because as entrepreneurs no one hands us a blueprint or a roadmap outlining the steps necessary to make our businesses work. That is totally up to us and only happens through action.

So why do we get stuck? Could it be because we think we have to make it happen all at once? Or because each step has to be perfectly in sync or we get paralyzed? Or maybe it’s because we aren’t certain which step to take next.  Sound familiar? As business owners, we’ve all been there. But what we know for certain: success lies in action.  So take the first step, no matter how small, and remember the words of Robert Collier, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” Even one small step forward will take your further than doing nothing at all. It’s that simple.

A TIME TO REFLECT

While action gets us moving, it’s equally important to pause and reflect. For you see, life and business can only be understood backwards; but must be lived forwards.   As entrepreneurs we are always moving forward into the unknown.  It is only through reflection – looking back and assessing what worked, what didn’t – that we find our inspiration and next steps. One tool I’ve used for years is journaling. What started out as a young girl’s diary has evolved into a business plan for life. It’s a practice that continues to serve me well, both personally and professionally. 

REPEAT, IT’S EASY

So there you have it:  once you’ve gotten into the rhythm of action and reflection, repeat is the easiest step in this formula. Being an entrepreneur is like a dance. We do it because it’s exciting and fun and we love it, even in times of uncertainty. And perhaps it is that uncertainty that leads us all to make New Year’s resolutions in the first place. To look forward, make a plan, chart a course, and strive for new goals in the New Year. As entrepreneurs, we don’t limit ourselves to just one New Year’s resolution, because every day is a new day to make a plan, chart a course, and achieve greatness.