Growing a Hands-On, High-Touch Business with Perfect Planning Events founder Tara Melvin

Growing a Hands-On, High-Touch Business with Perfect Planning Events founder Tara Melvin

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How duplicable systems keep things running smoothly
  • Why strong vendor relationships help Perfect Planning Events deliver
  • How to control the client mix so that you’re getting the business you want

I learned a lot about what it takes to run a hands-on, high-touch business this week when I talked to Tara Melvin, founder of Perfect Planning Events, on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast. As a wedding and events planner for more than a decade, Tara has developed deep relationships with vendors and created systems that help her deliver the high level of service her clients expect.

Systems and strong relationships

Build your vendor partners and treat them how you want to be treated.

– Tara Melvin

On average, Perfect Planning Events handles 15 to 18 events per year depending on the mix of full-service clients and the less time-consuming coordination-service clients. Tara is highly involved with the customer for 9 to 12 months. All vendor communication from the venue to the DJ funnels through Tara, so the bride, groom and their families only need to worry about the phone calls and emails coming from one source—Tara.

I’ve been in business for 13 years now and I have good, solid vendor relationships that when I call on them to get the support I need, I know they’re going to bring their A game whenever it’s time to produce events for my clients.

– Tara Melvin

To be a successful planner, you need to be highly organized, and so Tara has developed a systems-based approach that’s mostly electronic to keep herself, her team and her clients updated and on the right track. Tara uses Evernote to keep the flow of notes and ideas going even when she’s on the go, Outlook to schedule all her appointments and follow-ups, and gives each of her couples a client workbook with checklists, budget sheets and information that she developed over the years to make wedding planning simple and less stressful for them.

With her full-service clients, Tara has nine face-to-face meetings (this doesn’t include site visits) that last two hours each. They discuss any changes to the “hopes and dreams” for the event, payments that are due and progress with the planning.

Pricing strategy and client mix

Tara recently verified her pricing strategy: She wanted to be sure she was providing a fair price for her clients, but also wanted to ensure that she was being fair to herself. So, she tracked every email, phone call and hour she used from start to finish for a full-service client. It was a real eye-opener for how much time she spent with each client. From there, she calculated what she wanted to make annually and came up with a per-hour price for her services.

Tara always aims to get that full-service client. She won’t sign a client for just coordination services until its 6 months out from their wedding date. This allows her to preserve her time for her most desired service offering, but then she can fill in any of her open time and make additional income by offering just coordination services.  

Listen to the full episode to learn the secret to dealing with client drama with poise and professionalism, how Tara introduces her team to each project so that they can step in for her if necessary, how networking helped her make connections that built her business and what’s next for Perfect Planning Events.

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What do you think of when you imagine someone with money, power, and influence?

What do you think of when you imagine someone with money, power, and influence?

If the answer doesn’t look, sound, or have a similar background to you, then we have a problem.

Of course, it’s natural that the people you think of or the image you conjure when you think of money, power, and influence wouldn’t appear like you.

They’re moguls. They’re born into it. They’re aggressive. They’re all buttoned up. They’re wheeling and dealing. They’re ego-centric.

And while we all know that all people with money and influence aren’t bad guys, it remains the pervasive image. It’s hard to aspire to become something when the image of our goal is so negative.

That’s why we, as small business owner and future leaders, need to work hard to find images of economic power and influence that we can aspire to.

Because we are the New Economy.

I firmly believe that the people our children will think of when they think of money, power, and influence will look, think, and sound a lot like us.

And I believe that as people with money, power, and influence, you and I can create much-needed change for our culture, communities, and government.

But we won’t do that without attaining some combination of money, power, and influence.

The good news is that it the path to money, power, and influence is more accessible than ever before. It’s so accessible that you’re already on it! You’re building your business, your company, your empire and impacting the way the global economy is evolving.

Here’s the thing, though:

Money, power, and influence aren’t things that are bestowed on us from some outside force.

We have to claim them.

That’s what we do at CoCommercial: we help today’s small business owners claim the money, power, and influence that will make them tomorrow’s economic powerhouses.

We provide a safe space to show up, practice using your power and influence in a supportive community, and discover the truth of what’s really working to grow businesses today.

On Thursday, June 1, we’re devoting a full day to claiming the money piece.

Our community is examining how building wealth in the 21st century is changing and how we can approach our businesses with a New Economy money mindset.

One of the people speaking at this virtual event is my own money mentor, Amanda Steinberg, founder of DailyWorth and WorthFM.

She agrees that the way we earn, spend, and save as the power to create change–and turn you into a leader. In her book, Worth It, she writes:

“More money means more choices.”

That can be the choice to donate to your cause, your candidate, or your community.

That can be the choice to take time off to organize a rally, a fundraiser, or a townhall.

That can be the choice to stretch your comfort zone and meet with other community leaders to discuss ideas for improving quality of life.

New Economy leaders make more money so these choices are available to them. And, in making these choices, they claim the power and influence to impact the world the way they want to.

If you’re ready to step into leadership, to claim more power and influence for yourself as business owner, and you are ready to manage your money and money-making to make that happen, you should join me for our first-ever virtual conference: The New Economy & Your Money.

CoCommercial members get in free–and it’s the only way to attend!

So claim your free 30-day all-access pass today and mark your calendar for June 1!

But even if you can’t join us: remember that the face of money, power, and influence is yours.

See you there!


Are you making these critical #NewEconomy money mistakes?

Are you making these critical #NewEconomy money mistakes?

There’s nothing like running a business to bring up all your “money stuff.”

In the process of avoiding dealing with our own money stories, strengthening our relationships to the almighty dollar, and–goodness forbid–looking at spreadsheets, we make some pretty damaging mistakes when it comes to money.

In the New Economy, it’s never been more important to get the money stuff right. After all, we’re counting on you to become one of the economic powerhouses shaping our future!

Here are 5 of the money mistakes I see entrepreneurs making in this new age of commerce:

Mistake #1: Confusing Income, Revenue, and Profit

Probably the biggest mistake I see freelancers and small business owners making is confusing their personal income with their business revenue and therefore not truly taking profit into account.

The main reason this is a big problem is that it makes planning damn well impossible!

If you plan to earn $80,000 in revenue, but you need $75,000 to live on, there’s a really good chance you won’t come up with that $75,000. What’s more, you won’t have any money to invest back into the business.

So let’s clear these things up:

Income is your personal paycheck. It’s the money in the business you send back to yourself in exchange for the work you do. The sooner you start thinking of your income as an expense of the business and not just what’s leftover (or worse, the same as what you’re bringing in), the better.

Revenue is the sum total of what your business generates in earnings. It’s the total amount of money you have to play with. Revenue is not your personal income.

Profit is both the money you have to invest into the business on something unproven or new (i.e. not in the original expense budget) and the money you can pay yourself as the owner of the business. Profit is not your personal income–even though some of it comes back to you.

By keeping track of each of these 3 figures separately, you have a much better idea of what is really going on with both your business and your personal finances.

Speaking of separation…

Mistake #2: Commingling personal and business finances

You should know by now that your business and personal finances should be in separate accounts. Even if you don’t have a business bank account and a business credit card, business money should be in its own places.

But a lot of people start down the path of commingling their personal and business finances because they don’t realize they’re “starting a business” when they’re just starting out. By the time they realize they have a business and things should be separate, it seems impossible to divide them.

I know because I was in this situation only a few years ago. I had kept good records as my business grew… but the massive task of separating accounts had me paralyzed.

What’s worse: having commingled my accounts meant that I had the wrong outlook on my money. Not only were my finances not separate, the way I thought about my money wasn’t separate.

Even though I knew the difference between income, revenue, and profit and could distinguish between those things on paper, in my brain, every dollar I was spending on the business was also “mine.”

This, it shouldn’t need to be said, is not how you grow a business or run a company.

Separating business from personal finances creates an immediate money mindset shift and opens your eyes to new opportunities.

Mistake #3: Setting goals based on previous income

There are a number of reasons setting goals based on your previous income at a job just doesn’t work.

The first is that being self-employed dramatically changes your financial situation–especially if you live in the USA. You might need to buy healthcare on the open market instead of through your employer’s plan (yes, world, welcome to America). You’ll almost definitely be paying self-employment tax instead of payroll tax (and, oh yes, you’re responsible for all of it).

On the positive side, you might not need to pay as much for your work wardrobe, gas, or lunches. But… you might realize that you need someone to do the laundry or mow the grass because it’s just harder to find the time to do chores when the option is grow your business or take care of the house.

I would set a revenue goal of at least double your previous salary (if you were happy with it) so that you build a business with the capacity to actually take care of you. You can adjust your personal income from there.

But the biggest reason to not use a previous salary as the baseline for your revenue goals is that by defining your business by “earning enough,” you set yourself up for failure. Fall even a bit short and you need to pinch pennies or suffer through unnecessary anxiety.

Worse, you’ll end up creating a business with limited capacity–just enough to give you 50 hours of work per week and a meager paycheck. Goody.

Mistake #4: Using Your J-O-B Money Mindset to Manage Your Business

Almost every entrepreneur was an employee first. You likely learned all sorts of things in that job that have benefited you in your business.

But there’s one thing you learned that isn’t helping: how to manage your paycheck.

The J-O-B Money Mindset is the internalized practice of managing a finite sum of money in a zero sum game.

In other words, over time, your brain figures out exactly what it takes to stretch that paycheck across as many needs and desires as it can until it runs out. Then you get a new paycheck and the process starts again. It might not be “living paycheck to paycheck” but the zero sum mindset still exists.

But that’s not how your business works. There is no finite amount on that check nor is it a zero sum game. You can make as much money as you decide to make and you always know how to generate more.

While that might sound pie-in-the-sky, if you don’t believe it, it’s probably because you’re still living with a J-O-B Money Mindset.

This mindset prevents you from doing things like hiring, investing in better software, taking risks, and looking for unique opportunities. The J-O-B Money Mindset is about protecting what you have, the Business Money Mindset is about expanding on what you have.

Mistake #5: Not Negotiating

I’ll keep this one brief: always ask.

Ask for more, ask for less. Just ask.

If you’re negotiating with someone who’s paying you, negotiate for more. Start with your best-case-scenario number. You’ll be surprised how many times you get it.

If you’re negotiating with someone you’re paying, always negotiate down. You might be surprised with how often this works! You may know that your cable company or credit card company will lower your rates, you might not know that many of your business service providers (think apps and technology) will do this too.

Don’t take a “failed” negotiation as a failure. Sometimes the price is the price or the pay is the pay. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Getting Right With Money Is Crucial To Breaking Through

Now look, if you’re making one or more of these money mistakes, it can feel overwhelming when you think about fixing them.

Don’t try to tackle everything at once. But do tackle it.

It’s tempting to think you can make wait to correct these until you’re making more money. Unfortunately, these mistakes are a big part of the reason you’re not making more money.

If you want to break through to a new level of earning, you must fix these money mistakes first.

To help you do just that, we’ve put together a virtual conference all about making and managing money in the New Economy.

The best part? It’s just one of the perks of joining CoCommercial.

Members get in on this conference absolutely free. And so can you when you take us up on a 30-day free trial.

Click here to learn more about getting the inside scoop on money-making with CoCommercial.

See you there!


Why Physical Goods are the New Services with inkWELL Press founder Tonya Dalton

Why Physical Goods are the New Services with inkWELL Press founder Tonya Dalton

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How a physical product helps service providers create a more sustainable model
  • How Tonya tackles product development from idea to launch
  • How using your mission to guide decision-making keeps your focus

This week, on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast I chat with Tonya Dalton, founder of inkWELL Press who has made it her mission to “help women find peace through productivity.” As a former teacher, Tonya knew right from the beginning that education was going to be a big part of what she was going to offer in her business. She said the biggest compliment inkWELL Press can receive is when people tell them that they’re actually a service-based company that just happens to sell a fabulous product—journals and planners of all kinds.

Products Extend your Reach

Products are physical manifestations of services.

—Tonya Dalton

As Tonya shared organization and productivity strategies with those she coached, she wanted those people to have the right tools available so they could implement the strategies she taught. A physical planner had helped her stay organized and productive, so she set out to design her very own for her clients. The products themselves have become brand ambassadors of sorts, since a lot of their business is from referrals. Not only are people talking about inkWELL Press’s planners, they also talk to their colleagues and families about the systems and how they are being more productive.

“Having a product helps you reach people without you being in front of them. I’m still able to generate revenue, put forth my mission without me having to do every single bit of it,” said Tonya.

Products help service-oriented and digital businesses reach corners of the marketing world that they may have not been able to reach otherwise.

Product Development Process: Idea to Launch

When you’re creating your timeline, you need to account for things that you don’t really know.

—Tonya Dalton

The first product Tonya brought to market was the weekly planner; what she considers to be their cornerstone product. She starts off with a brainstorm and thinks about all the elements that should be included. Then, she goes into a thorough questioning process, asking friends, family and even strangers to see if the new concept resonates with them. This is an important part of the process, and one that’s sometimes skipped by those who are too excited by their own amazing idea, they fail to check to make sure others also believe it is amazing. From there, it goes into design, finding the right materials and vendors to help make her vision a reality. And lots of back and forth with samples and tweaking before going into full production mode. Equally important is to simultaneously build the buzz around your product. It’s not enough to just have a beautiful product. If you don’t have a marketing strategy in place, your beautiful product won’t get in the hands of your ideal customers.

We put a lot of time and energy not into just creating the product itself but actually creating the buzz and excitement around it.

—Tonya Dalton

Use Your Mission to Guide Your Decision Making

Although the way she achieves her mission may have altered slightly—she focuses first on productivity and then organization naturally follows—at its heart, her business has really stayed true to the mission she set forth initially. Her mission is the ultimate litmus test to determine her focus, what products she develops next and how her business strategies shift.  

Get all the detail of our conversation including how Tonya and her husband skimped and saved to launch their business, asked lots of questions and invested in training for the things they didn’t know how to do, how her podcast, The Productivity Podcast is a natural extension of her teaching and what’s on the horizon for the business by checking out the full episode.

We’d love for you to subscribe to Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast on iTunes so you can get the nitty-gritty details on how to be a small business owner from today’s most innovative entrepreneurs.

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ANNOUNCING: The New Economy & Your Money

ANNOUNCING: The New Economy & Your Money

Ever since the personal credit crisis of the 80s and 90s, you’ve been getting personal finance advice rammed down your throat.

And, let’s be frank: most of us needed it.

I remember when I got my very first credit card at 18 or 19. It felt like a bomb about ready to go off in my pocket…

…but I knew I needed to start building my credit history so that I could one day buy a new car, buy a house, or even qualify for a great job.

I followed as much of the advice as I could (but I’ve by no means been perfect).

Once I started my business, though, I realized that some of the advice I’d been exposed to for 20 years was counter to my new needs as a bootstrapping entrepreneur.

After I became more successful and started making more money in a month than I used to in a year, I realized some of that advice was just plain unhelpful! I suddenly had new kinds of assets, new opportunities, and new strategies for building wealth…

…but no idea what to do with them.

As I’ve worked with business owners over the last 8 years, I’ve noticed this same story play out over & over again.

While some lucky people are born into entrepreneurial families and grow up with an investment mindset, most of us are born to parents with regular jobs and traditional ways of managing money.

Taking risks, using debt, investing in new opportunities… they all can seem off limits based on the conventional wisdom about personal finance.

I’ve been wanting to tackle this subject for years but I’ve never had the right situation.

You see, I’m no expert in this area–I’m just hella curious–so teaching a course was out. I’ve done an interview on the subject here or there, but this topic is too big to even scratch the surface of in one 30-minute chat.

That’s when it hit me: I could bring together several experts, plus our curious community at CoCommercial, plus my own skill as a facilitator and host a virtual conference on the topic.

So today I’m thrilled to announce:

CoCommercial Presents

The New Economy & Your Money

The Changing Landscape of Wealth & Personal Finance in Our 21st Century Economy

This virtual conference will include interviews with 4 experts in the areas of entrepreneurship, finance, and business budgeting. Plus, I’ll be guiding participants through the experience with specially designed preparation & integration sessions so they don’t get overwhelmed with ideas or to-dos.

Now, you might be wondering: “Tara, I know you’ve said you have a real problem with telesummits in the past.”

Yep, I have. This isn’t like most telesummits.

My team and I have designed this experience to be manageable, social, engaging, and interactive.

It’s as close to the experience of attending an in-person conference as we can manage. There will be time to meet other participants, reflect on your own experience, and chat with the experts.

You won’t be getting bombarded with a massive playlist of interviews–the conversations will happen live, with your input and guidance.

You won’t be surrounded by people who have no connection to our community or values–the conference is a closed network.

You won’t be forced to fit in hours and hours of content into your downtime–the conference is 1 day you can plan for and attend as a live participant to get the full experience.

Here’s how it works:

On Thursday, June 1, you’ll meet me live in our virtual conference room on Crowdcast at 11am Eastern/12pm Pacific.

My opening remarks will guide you to consider some of the financial challenges you’re currently facing–both personal and financial–and look at the opportunities they’re presenting for you.

Then, you’ll hear from Amanda Steinberg, founder & CEO of DailyWorth and WorthFM (and my personal money mentor). We’ll talk about how to become affluent at any income and what that means for managing how you grow your business.

Next, you’ll hear from Mark Butler–the Budget Nerd–on how to budget in your business so that you can finally afford to invest in the opportunities (coaching, training, tech, travel, etc…) that will help you grow faster.

Our third speaker is Jaime Masters, author & host of Eventual Millionaire. Jaime and I will talk about the ways people who make it to millionaire status have used their money differently than those who don’t.

Then, we’ll take a break for lunch and networking. Afterwards, I’ll host an integration session where I’ll take your questions, give you prompts for reflection and planning, and point you in the direction of additional resources.

Our fourth speaker is Jacquette Timmons, author of Financial Intimacy. Jacquette will share how to approach tricky money conversations in our most important relationships. After all, it might be you running your business… but your money is a whole-family affair.

Finally, we’ll close out the day with more reflection, networking, and planning.


…at this point you’re probably wondering how much this is all going to cost.

We thought long and hard about it. We could have easily priced this experience at $399, $299, or $199.

In the end, we decided to give it to you free of charge.

All you need to do is give CoCommercial a try.

That’s right, The New Economy & Your Money virtual conference is a free, members-only event.

To join us for this epic event, just sign up for your free 30-day, all-access pass.

Inside, you’ll meet other New Economy small business owners having in-depth conversations about what’s really working (or not working) to grow and manage their businesses. It’s the perfect place to trade notes about money and business finance, too!

Click here to claim your free 30-day pass!

Cancel anytime.

See you there!

From Wholesale to Brick & Mortar with Girls Can Tell creator Sara Villari

From Wholesale to Brick & Mortar with Girls Can Tell creator Sara Villari

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Why wholesaler Sara Villari decided to buck the trend and open a brick and mortar shop
  • How to determine what will really sell (Hint: It’s not about a pretty shop)
  • Why trust in the right people is crucial for a business to grow

As we learned in this week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast, sometimes your business can be the exception to the rule. In 2006, Sara Villari began selling screen-printed products that featured her doodles through her online shop Girls Can Tell gift co. Her wholesale business grew thanks to the support of small businesses and boutiques that purchased her products. In 2013, Sara decided to buck the online retail trend and opened up her own brick and mortar shop in South Philly, Occasionette, to feature her entire line of products as well as products from hundreds of vendors. At first, it didn’t seem like a big leap, but it has since surpassed her first business in revenue and scope.

Patterns for Success

What became my retail shop Occasionette has eclipsed my first business by leaps and bounds.

– Sara Villari

Inspired by the patterns she recognized from shops who reordered from Girls Can Tell gift co. often and were really good clients, plus finding a fantastic location on East Passyunk Avenue with lots of foot traffic, Sara decided it was time to open a brick and mortar location. She saw that successful shop owners would pick really strong SKUs and they would order very deeply into those SKUs because they had confidence in what would sell. She recognized that the secret to success for Occasionette was understanding what would sell—a combination of knowing what’s a really good product at its core, what fills a need in the marketplace, what people are looking for and what’s on trend right now. If your goal is to make a lot of money, don’t create products that are a vanity project.

Evolution of a Team

Sara has surrounded herself with fantastic people who really have the best interest of her companies at heart—a partner and employees who complement Sara’s strengths and are passionate about things that she isn’t necessarily good at or cares about. Her team also has the autonomy to handle their parts of the business. Building this trustworthy team is the linchpin that allows Sara to juggle two businesses and to expand Occasionette to a second location.

In the full episode, learn more about Sara’s current team and the plans for her businesses, how she manages to nurture her creative side while balancing the demands of being an owner of two businesses, and how she divides her time between the two.

Every week, I get the nitty-gritty details about how small business owners develop products, build their teams and manage their time. Don’t miss a single episode of the podcast named by Entrepreneur magazine as one of the top 24 Exceptional Women-Hosted Podcasts for Entrepreneurs in 2017 and subscribe to Profit. Power. Pursuit. on iTunes.

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Tara Gentile is on a mission to turn the small business owners of today into the economic powerhouses of tomorrow. She's the creator of Quiet Power Strategy®, a business design system and entrepreneurial family. She's also the host of Profit. Power. Pursuit., which Entrepreneur named one of the 24 top woman-hosted business podcasts.