Insider to Insider: David and Corbin Baxter, Owners of Soulbox Productions

David & Corbin Baxter

Photo courtesy of Sil Azevedo, Azevedo Photography

This week’s Insider Interview is brought to you by Kelly Simants.  She met with David and Corbin Baxter of Soulbox Productions a few months ago and was wowed by their energy and enthusiasm.  She loves how open the videographers are to share with people in the industry. David and Corbin started their business in 2001 when they wrote, directed, and filmed a feature length film.  They began filming weddings full time in 2004.  I love what they have to say about their clientele: “It is amazing to us that our clients are just like us.  They find us through our work: creative, energetic, carefree, organized, and detail-oriented.”  This is so relateable.  They have managed to give prospective clients a taste of what it’s like to work with them.  Brilliant!  Here are more brilliant thoughts from David and Corbin.

David & Corbin Baxter
Owners, Soulbox Productions
Dallas, TX
www.soulboxproductions.com
Established 2001

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Capturing once in a lifetime moments for our wonderful couples. We’re so lucky that we’ve built so many great relationships, we absolutely love what we do!

What is your best tip for time management?

Make attainable yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Corbin and I set priorities and accomplish them as efficiently as possible. For example, we pride ourselves on replying to inquiries within 24 hours.

What is your little marketing secret?

Network, network, network. Corbin and I are both advertising majors and so it was a surprise to us in the beginning that building relationships with your clients and other wedding vendors is by far the best marketing.

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

Well, we’re going to be a little biased on this one and say anything vintage: cars, dresses, veils, invitations and for us, true super 8mm film coverage.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

Started filming weddings in super 8mm from the beginning. We had Corbin’s father’s super 8mm camera for 5 years and didn’t even know it.

Thanks David & Corbin!

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August 7, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

SWOT Analysis: Defining the Threats for your Business

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Today is the T day of our SWOT Analysis.  We have defined the Strengths, Weaknesses, and Opportunities.  Today, we’ll be defining the Threats to our business.  Threats come from outside factors to your business.  It is useful in identifying the threats to your business so that you can be watchful and aware of them.  Knowing your threats will help you make better business decisions.

Take 15-30 minutes today to work on defining the threats to your business.  These are the challenges you will face along the way.  Here are some helpful questions and tips for defining your business threats:

  • Look at the economic, social, and political climate. How can changes in these factors present threats to your business?
  • What is happening within the wedding industry?  Are there changes that could be challenges to your business?
  • Talk about other professionals in your segment (both your competitors, and your non-competitors).  Do they present any threats in market share?
  • Is anything happening locally that could affect your business negatively?  Nationally? Internationally?
  • What are the market trends?  Are they moving with your business or in another direction?
  • Are there any economic factors that affect your suppliers?  How can these factors present a threat to your business?
  • Is your reputation at risk in any way?

Those are some scary questions, aren’t they?  But, it feels better knowing the imminent threats to my business.  It helps me understand where I need to go and how I can change my business to adjust for those threats.

On Monday, we’ll tie it all together.  We’ll take a look at what to do with all this great information.  Come back to the blog tomorrow for another awesome industry insider!

August 6, 2009 at 7:00 am 2 comments

SWOT analysis: Defining the Opportunities for your Business

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This week, we are working on the SWOT analysis for your business.  This exercise will give you a chance, to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Today, we are going to uncover the opportunities outside of your business.  If you’ll remember from our discussion on Monday, your opportunities and threats come from outside factors affecting your business.

Take 15-30 minutes today to work on defining the opportunities for your business.  These are the “places you will go” and “things you can do” with your business.  Here are some things to think about while working on your opportunities:

  • Look at the economic, social, and political climate.  How can changes in these factors define opportunities for your business?
  • What trends are happening in the market?  How can your business fit into these trends?
  • What opportunities are there within your market segment?  In your local market?  At the national level?
  • What relationships can you build upon?
  • What investments can you build upon?  Investments can be those made into equipments, supplies, inventory – or – advertising, promotion, public relations.
  • Where do you see lemons?  Can you make lemonade?
  • Where do you find a challenge at the consumer level?  Can you create a solution?

Ahhhh… fun!  Are you starting to see it all come together?  Are you starting to be abuzz with ideas?  There’s a whole world out there, and the SWOT Analysis is very helpful in helping you find it.

August 5, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

SWOT analysis: Defining the Weaknesses of your Business

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This week, we are writing a SWOT analysis.  We are defining the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of our Business.  I find this exercise extremely useful in taking the temperature of my business.

Take 15-30 minutes today to write about the weaknesses of your business.  This can be challenging because it forces you to face some of the thoughts you may be avoiding.  Remember that by recognizing your weakness, you can build strength.  Here are some thoughts to help you determine these weaknesses:

  • What are the things holding your business back?  holding you back?
  • What is unhealthy about your business?
  • What are the struggles that your business has and that are difficult to overcome?
  • What are your daily challenges?  your larger challenges?
  • What are your sources of frustration?
  • What negatively impacts your relationships with vendors, clients, and/or employees?

Spend some time dreaming about the things you’d love to improve about your business.  We’ll summarize the entire SWOT analysis at the end of the week.

August 4, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

SWOT Analysis: Defining the Strengths of your Business

This week we are going to do a SWOT Analysis of your business.  This is a helpful tool in which you take a step back to examine key characteristics of your business.  This is a strategic analysis that is done in all businesses of all sizes: small sole proprietorships on up to Fortune 500 organizations.  I encourage all businesses in the wedding industry to do this twice a year. It’s great at quickly assessing:

  • whether you are moving in the right direction or not
  • what is AWESOME about your business
  • what needs to be changed and improved
  • what external factors (trends, economics, politics) affect your business

SWOT Analysis

The SWOT breaks down into two components, of two parts each (four parts total):

Internal Factors:

  • Stengths – the strengths of your business, IN your business
  • Weaknesses – the weaknesses of your business, IN your business

External Factors:

  • Opportunities – opportunities for your business, OUTSIDE of your business
  • Threats – threats for your business, OUTSIDE of your business
Creative Commons License: Xhienne

Creative Commons License: Xhienne

Define the Strengths of your Business

Take 15-30 minutes today to write down the strengths of your business.  Be honest and realistic.  This is to be used to help you make decisions about the health of your organization.  Here are some things to think about when defining your strengths:

  • How is your business different from others?
  • What are the intangible assets (people, experience, knowledge) and tangible assets (office, equipment) that makes your business strong?
  • What do you personally bring to your business?  What do your employees bring?
  • What are some of the achievements your business has had in the last year?
  • How is your business perceived within the wedding industry?  What is its reputation?  What is your reputation?

Hold onto these strengths, we’ll be putting it all together at the end of this week.

August 3, 2009 at 7:00 am 9 comments

Insider to Insider: Andrea Porter, Owner of Circle Park Bridal Boutique

circleparkbridalKelly Simants recently met with Andrea Porter, Owner of Circle Park Bridal Boutique in North Dallas.  She was impressed with Andrea’s business saavy and her super cute shop!  Andrea started her career in the cosmetic and fashion industries working for companies such as Estee Lauder and a leading intimate apparel company. More recently, Andrea worked in hospitality management and event coordination, overseeing daily bridal, social and corporate functions for up to 5,000 guests. In 2004, Hilton Brand Vice Presidents awarded her with the Innovation Award, given annually to just one person in the company worldwide. Circle Park Bridal was Andrea’s vision to create a beautiful boutique with incredible customer service and gorgeous gowns at fair prices.  I love Andrea’s business insight!  (I think you will too!)

Andrea Porter
Owner, Circle Park Bridal Boutique
Addison, TX
www.circleparkbridal.com
Established 2007

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Whether it is a huge affair or a small and intimate celebration, a couple will never feel more overwhelming love and support than on their wedding day.  I encourage brides to walk slowly down the aisle, to savor the look in her groom’s eyes and to take in the joy on her guests’ faces.  Relax and enjoy everyone’s company, cherish every conversation, each giggle, every smile and all the happy tears.

To have everyone that you both care about, together in one room is an incredible experience….a gift that happens just once in a lifetime. There comes a time when most would trade all worldly possessions to experience this one day over again.  The day will truly feel magical and it will be the one day you will reminisce about forever.

What is your best tip for time management?

Here in Dallas, there are industry mixers, tradeshows and open houses for wedding professionals almost every night of the week.  Face to face networking is extremely important for new business development but can easily take away time allocated to product research, inventory purchasing, staff training, etc.  I had to get a grasp on my schedule by prioritizing which events and associations were most advantageous to attend.  I learned to not over commit. Saying no to some board and committee seats was difficult, but absolutely necessary to ensure I am 100% on top of my store’s daily operations.

What is your little marketing secret?

I truly felt there was a need to shake up the way the bridal gowns were sold by eliminating the hassles that are so common in the industry and by adding a much needed fun factor.  My research showed a need to ensure marketing efforts exude the experience a bride will have at Circle Park Bridal.  We have a super cute retro bride logo that has been very popular with our customers and our website main page is a whimsical replica of the exterior of our two story boutique. Blogging and our presence on Facebook and Twitter have also been great for us to get our message out. We also host a lot of spirited events that are a little off the beaten path from what most bridal shops would offer, such as complimentary special advance movie screenings for our brides to movies such as MADE OF HONOR and BRIDE WARS, our annual Ghoul’s Night Out for Halloween parties, etc.

I guess it is important to explain how a bride’s experience at our store is so different. In developing the store’s concept, I looked at the way most bridal boutiques are run and realized their way of operating hasn’t changed in forty years.  They are perceived as stuffy, they carry mostly sample sizes and only special order, leaving plenty of room for mistakes (wrong size, color, or style arriving or gowns arriving late or being damaged going through customs, etc). Brides relay that most shops are crammed with merchandise and charge ridiculously high prices for gowns and accessories.

I  then compared the operations of a couple of large bridal chain stores and thought with their mammoth size and large number of brides serviced at one time, they were missing the mark in providing a truly intimate and special experience for brides. Through bridal focus groups, I learned many brides perceive gown shopping, whether in a “normal bride boutique” or in a chain store, to be the one thing about wedding planning they dreaded the most.

I market Circle Park Bridal as the pseudo bridal shop…the opposite of what most expect to experience. The store was created initially more as a hobby, as when it opened, it was just three days a week. By staying true to our concept:  offering brides of all budgets a convenient, upscale boutique experience with “retro prices”  as each bride deserves to feel special on the day she selects her wedding gown (all of our brand new designer gowns are priced below $800, up to 80% off their suggested retail price).

We work hard to ensure our store’s offerings are clear on our website. We are small and we carry just 200 gowns at one time in sizes 0 through 16. We don’t have every gown in every size, color and style. We know don’t have a gown for every bride. But when we do, it is an incredible match and the shopping experience is like no other!

Brides have really embraced our store’s concept. We work with just two brides at any one time, so it is a very intimate experience. When a bride selects her gown, she knows exactly the price, the color, the size and how much will need to be altered before she takes it home. With us, there are no rush fees, no lectures about waiting so long to order a gown and no surprises.  Brides take immediate possession of their gown and can then have alterations when they want without rush fees and have bridal photos taken on their schedule.

Circle Park Bridal

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

Most of our brides are steering away from traditional veils. Birdcage veils and hair feather fascinators with antique brooches are very popular with our brides and create a ultra whimsical look that makes their guests smile and know they are in for some fun at the reception. Most of our brides are wearing bold colored heels to incorporate a splash of color and personality into their look.  The Old Hollywood glamour look is a really popular wedding theme right now, complete with cigar bars, martini bars, Frank Sinatra-esque bands and crystal accents everywhere, from floral arrangements, to centerpieces to “back jewelry”.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

I would never again do a finish-out in Texas during the months of July and August.  I would have met with a CPA before I formed my Limited Liability Corporation.  I also would have saved a large amount of time and money had I immediately created an account with a payroll company rather than allocating that task to my CPA’s office for my first six months of operations.

Thank you so much, Andrea!

July 31, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Hiring Employees: The Interview

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This week, we are discussing the process of hiring employees.  Today, we are going to tackle the interview.  Now, that you’ve narrowed down you choices and have invited your favorite candidates to meet you, what are you going to discuss?  How are you going to interview them?

For me, job hiring and job seeking is all about finding a “match”.  It’s not about filling a position.  It’s not about getting a job.  It’s about ensuring that what I’m getting out of hiring someone is as valuable as what they are getting out of working for my company.  It has to be a “match” or it won’t work.  You’ve done a lot of groundwork in your preparation for the job search, in writing your job ad, and in reviewing resumes.  Now, is time to see if any of these candidates are a true match.

Things to know going into the interview:

  • Have 3-5 key question prepared.  You’ll be asking more than that.  But, these are the questions that are particularly important to you.  The other questions will naturally evolve out of a curiosity.
  • Study their resume beforehand.  You want to make the best use of your time with this person, so be prepared!  You’ll want to ask them about their experience, so make sure you did your homework.
  • Let the conversation flow naturally… like you are having coffee with a vendor you are getting to know.
  • Take notes!  If you have to go back and compare your favorite people, you’ll want to make sure you can distinguish between them.
  • The candidate is naturally going to be nervous.  It’s best to make them comfortable so that you can see what they are really like.  Small talk and general “sharing” helps to establish trust.
  • You are trying to find a match… not someone who is going to solve all the mysteries of life.  You are also looking for someone that you can mentor.  If you can find a good mentee, then much of your employer-employee relationship will be much easier.

Like I said, you’ll need to find 3-5 key questions that are your core “deciders”.  All of your other questions will give you a general feel for who they are.  These 3-5 questions are the “make it or break it” type questions to help you determine if they are a match or not.  They will largely be dependent on your business and the position for which you are hiring.  But, here are some tips…

Things to consider in writing your core interview questions:

  • Think about situations that they encounter while working for you.  For example, invitation assembly can be repetitive and at times tedious.  I want to make sure that people can handle that.  I always ask, “Share with me an experience you had where the work was tedious.  How did you motivate yourself to get the job done?”
  • Ask a problem-solving question.  Every business has issues that can arise out of nowhere.  You want to make that people who work for you can think on their feet and be innovative.  Ask them to give you an example of time when they were faced with an issue and how they resolved it.
  • Ask specifics about their job history (taken from their resume) that interest you.  Ask them to make the link between that job and the job your are offering.
  • Ask them about their customer service and client experience.  Even if they are not interacting with clients face-to-face, everything about our industry is service-related.  They need to have the drive to host and serve others, regardless of where they fall in the process.  Also, an employee who is good with clients is also good with their co-workers.
  • Ask questions to determine whether they are open to learning and good at listening.  You want to ensure that this person is a good mentee.  You want to make sure they are trainable.  Ask questions to judge whether they can take direction or whether it’s their way or the highway.  It’s difficult to mentor someone that doesn’t want to be mentored.

Wrapping it up…

At the end of the interview, you should let them know that you are interviewing a few candidates and will let them know within a couple weeks (or whatever your timeframe is).  Generally, I know during the interview whether I’m going to hire the person or not.  I just have a strong gut feeling about these things.  But, I still hold out to make the offer until I’ve interviewed everyone.  And, I make sure to review my notes.  If you are stuck between a couple candidates, you may want to bring them in for a second round.  Or, have them come into your office for a “test day” and see how they do.

When you have made your decision, give them a call.  I always follow up a verbal offer with one in writing.  (I like to make sure everyone is on the same page and it is good for everyone to see employment terms on paper.)  I also make sure to send rejection letters to people to which I did not make an offer.  (It’s awful to leave them standing, waiting.)

And, there you have it… the hiring of your first… and several more… employees!

July 30, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

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