I recently had a most unfortunate experience at a local wedding showcase here in Denver, and it’s one I want to share with you. Let me first say that I have the utmost respect for my colleagues. Having been a small business owner, I know how hard it is to have to hustle to book clients, find leads, and gain referrals from both vendors and clients. In fact, it’s one of the things I miss most about owning Blume Haus. For five years I worked my tail off to get where I am today. Now, working for a high-end luxury hotel and enjoying the clientele that come with the name of the establishment is only helping me become a better designer. I am very proud of where I am and the designer and businessperson I have become.
Friday night I was at a wedding showcase talking with newly engaged couples and their entourages. I love meeting people who are so excited about the journey they’re about to experience in planning of one of life’s happiest moments. Next to my booth was another local florist. She and I are familiar with each other because of the intimate nature of the wedding professional community here in Denver. I know she has been in business for some time now and that she’s good at what she does for the niche that she services. Imagine my surprise when I had started a conversation with a bride and groom about flowers and the bride cuts me off to say, “I simply love your work but the florist next to you told me how expensive you are and I don’t think you would ever be able to work with our budget.”
(gasp) “I work all types of budgets and I would love the opportunity to sit down with you and let you know how I can work with both your vision and your budget,” I replied. So I shake it off, thinking that was odd. Then two more brides tell me the same thing. Honestly, I was shocked. I can’t imagine trying to win favor by tearing down another vendor. A wedding is such a personal moment and the personal connection between the bride and her vendors, especially her florist, is so important.
At one point, we had a small break in the flow of brides walking by. I glanced over to my neighbor’s booth to see her pointing to arrangements at my booth, telling a young woman and her fiancé how I price my flowers and how she could save them money. Unbelievable! So unprofessional. I have never experienced such a negatively competitive vendor. I was speechless.
I walked away from the entire experience with a few very valuable lessons. First, it was a great reminder that I *never* want to sell myself by selling out a colleague. My sense of confidence in myself as a designer and integrity as a person are too important to me. Second, my work and my service stand on their own, and I don’t need to justify, explain or defend my clientele to another vendor. And third, if a potential client buys into that particular strategy, that isn’t a client with whom I’m interested in working. My clients come to me because they know I’ll do everything in my power to exceed their expectation and make the entire process something to enjoy, not because I undercut someone else’s pricing strategy.