Management Skills Essential to Business Success — Event Planner

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Victoria Enwereji is Toria’s General Manager of Events. She says KEHINDE AJOSE on how she started her event planning business

Ohat were your childhood ambitions?

As a child, I had a strong desire to succeed, to be rich and famous. I considered different career paths in an effort to achieve my future aspirations. At the age of 12, my desire was to become a successful lawyer. After a while, I started to get interested in comedy. I joined the theater groups at my church and at my school in order to use my skills. As I progressed through my teens and entered college, my goal was to graduate and work for a multinational company. Now I add value to the economy through my business.

What degrees do you have?

For my elementary education, I attended Central Bank of Nigeria Primary School, Satellite Town, Lagos. I then went to Command Day Secondary School, Ojo, Lagos for my secondary education. Later, I graduated with a degree in Economics from the University of Ilorin, Kwara State.

Why did you start organizing events?

Throughout my years in college and after, I found myself helping friends and family plan their parties and other occasions. I always accompanied them to buy outfits because they loved my fashion sense.

I also have a flair for cooking and entertaining guests at small house parties. I enjoy relieving people of the stress of hosting parties while making sure their guests are comfortable and the event is a success. I also did several hospitality jobs as an undergrad.

In 2016, I decided to officially become an event planner. Someone who knew I had a passion for event planning asked me to plan their wedding introduction. I did it with so much joy despite the fact that we weren’t even friends at the time. After the introduction, she contacted me again to inform me of the date of the wedding and told me that they wanted my help again. That’s when I decided to start getting paid to plan events. So I agreed to organize his wedding for a fee. At first she hesitated but then agreed. This is how the business started for me.

How much was your starting capital and how did you raise it?

No capital was needed to start the business. All I needed was my skills, my network and my ability to deliver.

What limitations do you have when planning events?

Not having the right connections and the right network is one of the challenges of event planning in Nigeria. It has always been a major challenge, but my passion, my creativity, my consistency and the recommendations of previous clients always keep me going.

Sometimes tribalism can also manifest itself when a couple hires a planner who is not from their tribe and the parents disagree, saying, “How well is she going to plan our event and s ‘take care of our guests if she doesn’t understand our language’? When this happens, I at least try to learn how to greet in their language before meeting the client.

Also, when family members get involved and don’t like the idea of ​​a planner, they wouldn’t buy into the couple’s or celebrant’s desire. The challenge would then be to satisfy its customers without triggering a family war.

What are the biggest business lessons you have learned over the years?

I have learned three major lessons over the past few years. The first is to always look back on my experiences, reflect after each event, and take notes on past mistakes, as this shapes my future and makes me better at my next event.

The second lesson is to always be over-prepared because you never know what unforeseen circumstances may arise to disrupt the success of the event. I go there a few days before the event and I stay up late to monitor and supervise the set-up. I had a situation where a vendor provided the wrong chairs and didn’t notice until around 7:45pm when the venue turned on its lights for the decorator to start working. I was so furious that I called them for a replacement that night, but they couldn’t deliver. I knew I had to quickly find a solution that evening because the place had to be ready by 10am the next morning. I called every rental company I knew of until one came to my rescue, provided I picked out the chairs myself that night. I went to get chairs from the new vendor around noon and it lasted until about 2am. I left the venue for my hotel room around 2:55 a.m. and barely slept enough before the event.

The third lesson is communication. It is important to always communicate with your staff, suppliers and customers. You also have to be honest and open with them. I always keep them informed of any sudden changes or updates in a timely and professional manner. Some vendors even get tired of me because I remind them daily or weekly of the event briefing and all relevant event details.

How do you handle difficult customers?

I am always listening to my clients. I don’t try to argue with them. I remain calm but assertive. I am firm in my decisions but also flexible when necessary. It doesn’t affect me when they talk to me in a way that I don’t like, so I don’t react badly. I understood that in this job, you meet different people. One of the key elements for anyone to succeed in this industry is to develop people management skills and I can confidently say that I have mastered the art of managing my stakeholders.

I also make sure to document every conversation for future references and for transparency.

What advice do you have for young people who want to follow in your footsteps?

I learned to never be afraid to start small, even when I wasn’t sure what I was doing. So I would advise them to do the same. Start small, don’t procrastinate, believe in yourself, be consistent, be hardworking, be respectful, develop people management skills, be friendly with your customers and try to get to know them on a personal level so you can understand their needs and adapt the solutions to suit them.

Also, always have a plan B because anything can go wrong when you least expect it. Always keep your cool and remain calm in the presence of your customers. Chaos can be managed behind the scenes, but as long as you stay in control and communicate honestly, any event can be successful.

In what ways has the COVID-19 pandemic affected or changed your business model?

Initially, events had to be put on hold due to the pandemic, which had a huge negative impact on the events industry and the economy in general. Nevertheless, with the relatively low number of cases on the mainland, there has been some flexibility regarding the events. Social and corporate events have started to pick up. I ensure all my events are COVID-19 compliant to ensure the safety of my clients and their guests.

First of all, I get an Event Authorization Certificate from the Lagos State Government before the date of the event if the venue is in Lagos.

During installation, I make sure that the tables and chairs are spaced far enough apart to respect social distancing in the room. On the day of the event, we screen guests with a thermometer to detect elevated body temperature. We are also enforcing the use of nose masks and sanitizers for customers and vendors.

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