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01 Feb 2015

Brutal Lessons Learned from A Money-Losing Gig

Last year my company put together the biggest corporate event we have organised.

It was a gala dinner for 1000 top executives from one of the biggest insurance enterprises in Asia. They all flew into Australia, so it was a pretty massive deal.

As it turns out it was very successful as an event, with flashy production and entertainment that was well received, but a substantial failure organisationally and, most importantly, financially. I lost money for the very first time since starting in business in 2008 – $12K in total. Here are the lessons I learned:

1. Don’t get too hyped up about the size of the job.

The amount of money that will come through your bank account, the scale of the production you’re going to put on, and the larger-then-life feel-good factor in a big job can easily deceive you into making emotional decisions rather than rational ones.

That was exactly what happened. Once you start thinking “how cool will it be to put up those impressive event photos on my website” you’ve lost sight of the bottom line.

Never forget that, regardless of your excitement and enthusiasm, it’s still business – and business can be brutal!

2. Assess the professionalism of your collaborators, and if it’s not what it should be, FLEE!!

Surround yourself with the right people. The bigger the job, the more “resources” you will need, and the more you will need to be able to rely on them.

Internally I have a great team, but some of the suppliers and collaborators for this event – especially the ones aboard – weren’t as awesome to deal with.

If the other side isn’t up to the level of communications and productivity that you feel is required, chances are your products and services will be half-heartedly understood and delivered.

And having one of your local suppliers miscalculate their costings and materials and then decide not to show up on the day is never going to be helpful! Unfortunately, in the end, that was what killed us.

See this spiritual discussion on reflective vs impulsive will that explains it all.

3. When things go south, bad luck!

Let’s face it, sometimes you simply can’t control your own destiny.

Despite a handful of snags and hurdles along the way, we did have a fairly substantial event ready to go … until the last-minute foul-up mentioned above.

When that sort of disastrous situation arises, you just have to accept that the planets haven’t aligned for you and scramble to salvage the job (and your sanity) as best you can.

What can change though is our ability to respond – hence “responsibility”.

“It may be our actions that define us, but it is our reaction that changes the course of things.”
― Dianna Hardy, The Last Dragon

Experience is a great teacher and so as we improve in our contingency planning for and reaction to difficult scenarios, our business will be elevated to a place where big gigs like these will be “just another one of those” (hopefully profit making by the time we’re making those statements).

Finally, hey, I’m no saint and there are plenty of things I’m still bitter about. But if greater success comes from experiencing failures, I’m grateful that we went through this trial, because it means the wins are going to pour in like crazy … and I “only” paid $12K for it!

How much do they pay at Uni nowadays for the “join us and your career will be nothing but success” scheme anyway?


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