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6 Business Lessons I Learned From Planning My Daughter's Wedding

When my daughter told me she was going to get married, I was thrilled for her.

Then I swallowed hard because I knew the wedding was going to cost me plenty of cash. Hey, I've watched "Father of the Bride" more than once!

But I was surprised to find that the process has so many similarities to running a business. Here are six things I learned:

  1. A project manager is crucial. Not only are there loads of details to tend to and multiple ways to address each one, but there's also a virtual avalanche of suggestions and advice from well-meaning friends and relatives. If you don't assign a single point of contact, you're toast. The same is true in business: A project manager keeps you focused on the vision, so you don't get mired in the details.
  2. Live by your budget. Weddings have become big business, and people spend fortunes on everything from "save the date" notices to elaborate favors for guests to take home (ours was a CD with all the important songs from the occasion). Some things are "must haves;" others are "nice-to-haves." You need a budget to tell the difference. In business, your goal is to make money. It's easier to make money if your team knows its budgetary limits in advance. That way, you don't have to manage every cost decision as it occurs.
  3. Know when you're making an emotional or a rational decision. Is $10,000 too much to pay for a knock-his-socks-off bridal gown -- that she'll wear just once? What is the perceived value of any single purchase? Weddings are all about emotion. And, come to think of it, so are many business decisions. For example, at Blinds.com, we looked at an acquisition target that would have expanded our size by 70 percent and was fun, besides! But rational thinking won out: The execution risk was just too great.
  4. Part of making rational decisions is checking references. My daughter and I were excited about the apparent expertise of one floral-design firm -- they seemed to "get it." But once we checked their references, it was clear that we could not trust them to execute their plan. At Blinds.com, we don't just check the references provided by our vendors, we also use social media, such as LinkedIn, to find people who use those vendors -- and then we actually ask about their experience. And, unlike some companies, we check the references of the people we hire.
  5. Focus on your audience. I might be paying for the wedding, but the people I needed to please were my daughter, son-in-law, and our guests. We tried to make every decision with them in mind. In business, it's easy to get distracted by people who just "look like" your target. Or to write marketing copy that pushes your message rather than addresses your audience's needs. Put yourself in your audience's shoes. Always.
  6. Understanding expectations. A wedding is important to many people: the bride and groom, their parents, and their larger families. We all had roles to play, and we needed to understand everyone's expectations. We've taken that to heart at my company: On our website, we show manufacturing times as one day longer than they actually are. When the blinds show up a day early, our customers are pleased with our speed.
My daughter's wedding was beautiful, by the way. And, on the surface at least, it went off without a hitch. Careful planning made all the difference.

What business lessons have you learned from planning a wedding or other big event? Business people (and fathers!) everywhere would like to hear them.

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