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Managing the Flood Gates

Managing the Flood Gates as Event Planning Returns

6/15/2021

 

Desk

We have been waiting, hoping, praying, and looking forward to this moment for over a year—people are ready to meet again. Clients are sending RFPs (Request for Proposal), booking events, and are considering various cities to host their events. We are once again seeing increased interest in utilizing our DMC (Destination Management Company) services in Asheville. Clients want DMC planning time for Charlotte. They want unique venues and experiences in Raleigh and Greenville. They are looking for tours and activities in Charlotte and Asheville. Bottom line, the RFPs are coming. And we are excited. But this is a friendly reminder that we also need a little empathy and understanding. 

The event industry has been completely decimated by Covid-19. At Mosaix Group, we have been fortunate. We have stayed busy with amazing virtual events and with our customizable gifting program, MoxBoxes. Many of our partners, suppliers and vendors have not been so lucky. They have scaled back their crew, limited their hours, made changes to absorb the deafening blow that Covid has been to our industry. Many of them are still managing amazing companies and creating fantastic tours and activities but everything is taking a little longer. They are working with fewer resources and even fewer people. It is taking a little more time for them to get back to us and therefore, for us to get back to you. The whole industry is feeling this pain. Hang in there. We are excited. But our industry has been through the wringer. The industry is coming back to life with excitement and zest – but not all the players are in place quite yet. 

We are being extremely careful in our due diligence efforts on behalf of our clients to ensure that we are working with the best suppliers for not only an amazing experience, but also to mitigate all financial risks. This is what we do. We are here to vet out every aspect and vendor for your program. In Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Raleigh, and really, all around the country or world, we are being meticulous with our planning to ensure quality and risk mitigation on every level. This takes a little time, especially when our suppliers have less to work with. 

We are slammed with proposals, and we LOVE IT! We cannot wait to deliver amazing experiences, tours, activities, dinners, and more. No matter how busy we are, we are taking time for due diligence. We know you want to get things moving quickly. We do too. But this takes a little time and taking this time is the best for all of us. 

Are we ready for you – heck yes! We are not only ready, but we are also excited and full of pent-up energy to welcome you and make this the best event ever. This is our gig. This is our jam. We have been waiting and cannot wait to welcome you with open arms (or a fist bump if you prefer!).

Melissa Murray, Mosaix Group Owner  

North Carolina based Meeting Planning Company | Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Raleigh DMC. 

Gratitude for 2020

Despite the difficulties 2020 brought, especially to small businesses and the hospitality industry overall, there are things to be grateful for. Owner of Mosaix Group, Melissa Murray recaps the pain of 2020 as well her reasons to be thankful.

A Fresh Start… Sort Of

Most of us looked to the New Year as a fresh start and a big step away from the challenges of 2020. 2021 appeared to be the cure for COVID, social injustices, polarization, and other challenges that created inextinguishable sparks in 2020. Well… it was the cure until we actually entered 2021. As the pandemic reigns on in 2021, tensions continue to be high and the country continues to stand divided on many important issues. We know the dropping of that ball on New Year’s was not the cure.

While I could dive into many important topics in the aforementioned group, I would like to stray to one that I think has been lightly mentioned but bears repeating. Gratitude. Gratitude for 2020. I will look at 2020 as a year of remembrance for many things but gratitude will be at the top of my list. How can I be grateful for such a disastrous year? I must be making money from the pandemic? Nothing could be further from the truth.   

Crashing Down

Mosaix Group Corporate Event Pre-COVID

As a hard-working entrepreneur, I own and manage a company that handles corporate events. Our yearly planning meeting at the beginning of March 2020 showed a record-breaking year between what was on the books and in the pipeline. This was to be a phenomenal year. Later that same month, we started dismantling contracts and looking to staff furloughs and layoffs. It was beyond brutal – both personally and professionally. No decisions were easy. As things came crashing down, I worried about losing my business of 20 years, my amazing employees, and my sanity.   

When the world is seemingly falling apart all around you, it is time to look for the positive. It is there. The positive is sometimes buried in a pile of s—t, but it is there. I began to see everything differently as I was treading cautiously through April and May.   

A Time for Thank Yous

After eating in for eight straight weeks, my first meal at a restaurant in June seemed like an amazing luxury. I am pretty sure I tipped the waiter more than the cost of the food. I was not alone – I could feel the pain that he was experiencing.   

Going to the grocery store I thanked every worker I could find for doing their job; which was truly an amazing gift for all. When grocery shopping, I was thankful for what was on the shelves and chose to change meals rather than harp on what I could not get. We found some great new meal options due to COVID. I delivered a meal to my neighbor who is a nurse and had been working countless hours. She thanked me and held back tears of both gratitude and pain. I gave a small gift card to my mailman and trash collector. I gave a small gift and cookies to my amazing UPS driver.  They help me consistently throughout the year. Why has it taken me so long to say a heartfelt thank you?  

Our family enjoyed more meals around the table, family games, puzzles, and more. With three teenagers in the house, I was very thankful that events, dates, and outings were cancelled. This was precious time I would not normally have with them. (Ok, at times I did wish they would get the heck out of the house but we are focusing on gratitude here!).

When history looks back on 2020 many lessons will have been learned. There will be advancement in medicine, procedures, and hopefully in political division, and social justice. When I look back on 2020 I will look at it as the year I learned to be extremely grateful for the little things in life. Because the little things are truly big.   

Melissa Murray, Mosaix Group Owner  

North Carolina based Meeting Planning Company | Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Raleigh DMC. 

Lessons Learned from Owning a Business During a Crisis

Asheville and Charlotte based event planner and owner of Mosaix Group, Melissa Murray, has spent the past few decades globe-trotting, client-pleasing, and venue-taming. She is equally at home steering the CEO of GE to his stadium seat as she is wrangling the Blues Brothers. Her track record is simultaneously an inspiration and a warning to her intrepid staff. In today’s blog, Melissa talks about hard lessons learned during her career as an event professional. From 9/11, to the recession, to the current COVID-19 pandemic, she shares what it’s like to run a business during a crisis.

Melissa Murray, Mosaix Group Owner

It all Started in Vegas

The long and winding road of my event experience started in Las Vegas. Sinatra was our paid (and more than a little tipsy) entertainer and Lee Iaccoca was being celebrated for his amazing influence on Chrysler during his departure event. Being handed a walkie-talkie made me feel like an integral part of the action even though I was more of a human arrow and digester of bus fumes than a vital part of the event. My career has taken me all over the world and has been both thrilling and challenging. Events have changed tremendously over the years and so much of it has stayed the same. The challenges and disruptions of COVID-19 have been daunting and beyond severe but it’s not the first time the event industry had to turn on a dime to make a new reality work.

Over the past 30 years, Charlotte event planners, Asheville event managers, and event professionals from around the world have had to roll with the punches and pivot (getting to hate that word). While we have not seen anything on this COVID-19 scale, much of what we have experienced has helped us prepare for this new reality.

From left to right: Melissa Murray, Alan Melichar. Mary Marbut. Marianne Blazar. On-site for events at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

Owning a Business in a Crisis

The dot-com bubble taught us about contract negotiations, cancellations, and extreme budget reductions. 9/11? Many lessons were learned by that tragic event. Force Majeure clauses were analyzed, scrutinized, and tightened-up. My experience on 9/11 was waking up at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas expecting 3,000 pharmaceutical arrivals that day while having around 1,000 attendees and vendors ‘in-house’ – most of which traveled in from NYC. We learned to think on our feet and get creative to manage clients, attendees, suppliers, contracts, and most importantly, help with overwhelming emotions from all involved.

The recession brought along the lesson of tightening up the ship and watching every penny. All expenses were examined as corporate budgets were slashed and even modest spending was scorned. The contraction in both the volume of events during this period along with the event budgets had a tremendous effect on the event planners at that time. I learned many lessons the hard way. Mistakes are always more dramatic when finances are slim.

COVID-19 has thrown another curve ball into our industry. Maybe more of a curve asteroid. Lessons learned in the past are helping to carry us through this challenging time. My most important lessons from years past are helping me through yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Lessons Learned
  1. Tighten up your contracts to protect you and your client.
  2. Save for a rainy day, week, month – or year (2020). Ok – maybe it is too late to do that now but remember what you just came from when we are all out of this. Save those dollars.
  3. Reduce spending. Know where every dollar is headed. What is the minimum amount needed to get you through? This is going to be a long ride.
  4. Take care of your staff. This is extremely hard during COVID-19. Many of us have had to lay off staff, furlough staff, or even let them go. Take good care of the ones left. Carry the burden in this uncertain industry. Make sure you check in with those that have been laid off. I’ve written letters of recommendation, helped with unemployment insurance, and referred them to other jobs.
  5. Clients are feeling the uncertainty and challenges too. Take care of them. Reach out. Give guidance and support (regardless if you have a program with them at the current time).
  6. Celebrate the small victories. Have you received reasonable cancellation fees, had a project move to next year rather than cancel, won a little contract for your new ‘start up’ within your company, received PPP or other grants? Celebrate it all.
  7. Take care of yourself. The never-ending happy hour was a way to numb the initial reality of this craziness; now it is time to take care of yourself for the long haul. Yes, you know this is going to be a long haul. There is a great deal riding on those shoulders. Take care. People are counting on you.

-Melissa Murray, Mosaix Group Owner