Mixing (pun intended) business and friendship (part 2)

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An inside look at the past, present, and future of Exclusive Events

Part 2: The present (including an important announcement)

So, I left off last time talking about an important announcement. In theory, I could type out the entire second part of this blog attempting to bring everyone along for an exciting ride like they do on a lot of TV shows as they lead up to the climactic big announcement at the very end. However, those shows often provide very little substance throughout the episode or the season, while continuing to just show previews of the end. I won’t do that here because the announcement is not what this is all about. The main focus of this blog is so everyone knows exactly why I think mixing business with friendship was one of the best decisions of my life, despite what many people told me before heading down that path.

The announcement is this: This past Saturday, August 22nd, 2015, Exclusive Events hosted its 100th wedding. On this same day, the company’s co-owner, vice president, and one of my best friends, Tommy Furino, performed at a wedding as an MC for Exclusive Events for the last time.

Now, in every corporate job I have ever had, when someone leaves the company (and it was on their own terms and not because they were fired), there is always a very formal email sent out to employees to share the news, and it often contains a phrase along the lines of “it is with bittersweet emotions that I inform you of…” Well, those words just always seemed forced and overly standardized to me. That is, until now… I am very capable of seeing the parts of this scenario that are bitter for me, and they are only bitter because there were so many sweet parts to having this business with such a good friend. So, losing that is something that makes me sad. But then again, when I look at the big picture and remember that Tommy was my friend before he ever became my business partner, it’s very easy for me to see how this outcome is more sweet than it is bitter.

Just so it’s clear, Tommy and I did not have an argument, the business we owned together had nothing to do with his decision to leave, and finally, I did not force him out nor did he decide to leave in a spiteful manner. Truth be told, when I asked him to help me out with that first wedding back in 2007, I was reaching out to someone to help me fulfill something I was extremely passionate about. Selfishly, I guess I always wished my partner was just as passionate about the business as I was. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Please note that I am not saying this in any kind of derogatory way. We both absolutely wanted to own our own business and we both absolutely wanted to grow it from the ground up, and Tommy demonstrated his willingness to be part of that every step of the way. He actually loved everything we were doing. However, from day 1, Tommy was honest with me in telling me that his true passion was being on stage in front of a crowd as an actor, or being on the air for radio, and that becoming an MC for Exclusive Events was just a good way for him to hone his craft in many ways to achieve those other goals. If we had never had those initial conversations, I’d have reason to be angry today. But because my friend was open and honest with me (as only a friend can be), I was able to properly prepare for today and be proud of everything we have accomplished.

Before any of what I’m saying comes off as sounding preachy or like I have an incredible business acumen and that I have all the answers in order to be successful in life, let me assure you that I don’t. In fact, I’ll be the first to admit that most of what I have done has been a combination of taking calculated risks along with a few leaps of faith without really knowing the outcome and mostly just hoping for the best. I can even openly admit that I am making less money today than I was making a few years ago, which may not really resonate with most people’s definition of success. Ultimately though, it all depends on how you define success.

For me, I think it’s important that you all know this: When we first started, I was just a guy who knew how to mix songs together in a pretty decent manner and in the proper order to make people have a good time at a party. And Tommy, he was the guy in our group who was known for having a good, strong, deep, and pleasant sounding voice, and for having a lot of charisma in a large group of people. Not to de-value our worth, but that’s all we pretty much had going for ourselves. We were smart guys with a slew of other skills, but we knew absolutely nothing about starting a business, owning a business, much less how the whole wedding industry worked to begin with!

With that in mind, I am now going to summarize many hours, days, weeks, months, and years of effort into one short paragraph to avoid boring you with too many details, but more to demonstrate how far we have come. When we first started, we rented almost every piece of equipment in order to do a dozen or so events per year. With the money we made from each event, we used part of it to pay for the rentals and part of it to buy some used equipment so we wouldn’t have to rent it the next time. Essentially, we weren’t making any money, but we weren’t losing any either. This is why our company has never been in the red. Over the years, we continued purchasing new equipment and selling off the older equipment to now find ourselves with a state of the art inventory worth over 40k and we can perform 95% of our events without ever having to rent a single thing. During that same period of time, we also invested over 20k in marketing through various channels in order to develop our brand. Today, we have a viable, profitable, incorporated business with the majority of our clients coming from word of mouth referrals and from the testimonials our clients post on our website.

Every single decision that was ever made, every single purchase that was ever made, every single penny that was ever invested in the business was a joint decision between myself and Tommy. We didn’t always see eye to eye, particularly since I have always come from the “you have to spend money to make money” school of thought and Tommy was from the “you can’t spend money you don’t have” camp.  However, it’s because we were able to speak to each other as friends first that we were able to listen to each other and realize that we both had the same goal but just wanted our vision of how to get there to be respected. Ultimately, we balanced each other out and we are stronger in every way today as a result of that.

So, what the hell will happen now that he’s gone? Well, what if I told you that Tommy has already been gone for most of this year and has only completed the events that he committed to last year before making his decision to leave? Well, that’s the premise for the final part of this blog when I explain to you why the future of Exclusive Events is bright. I’ve spent all this time talking about myself and Tommy, and haven’t once talked about a guy named Fabrice, whom many of you know very well. I hope you will all read part 3 of this blog to find out a little more about what’s to come. And, like last time, please feel free to provide me with feedback and/or criticism. 🙂

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