Viviana Kohon | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Viviana Kohon

Background:  

Located in one of Toronto’s oldest and largest venues at 150 Symes Road, The Symes is designed to handle almost any type of event. The venue, scheduled to open in fall of 2017, will primarily accommodate weddings, exhibitions, corporate events, fundraisers, showcases and film productions.

The Mistake:

Namita Tandon-Walsh, my current partner, and I previously ran a events planning company that was very focused on service. Because of our background – Namita worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto for more than 10 years, and I worked on CTV for more than 10 years – we were very focused on execution and customer satisfaction for every one of the events.

Our first year was spent organizing social events, corporate events, fundraisers, you name it. Being a team of two at the time, we were really trying to make a mark for ourselves by providing maximum client satisfaction.

So sometimes, to make our clients happy, we would say yes to things that ended up costing us in terms of our own time and sometimes, our bottom line. We were really straining ourselves because we didn’t set realistic expectations for our clients, or educate them about the time and cost that went into doing events a certain way. We always pulled their events off, but it was becoming difficult for us to continue like that.

In the events and show business, we have a saying: You can have fast, good and cheap, but never the three at the same time.

The Lesson:

You can make anything happen at our events: We’ve had snow inside, cars driving inside rooms, and acrobats hanging from ceilings. We’ve finished evenings with fireworks, and transformed ballrooms into forests and enchanting lands. But it all needs to be planned, priced and staffed accordingly.

In the events and show business, we have a saying: You can have fast, good and cheap, but never the three at the same time. You can have two out of the three. Meaning, if you want a well-executed event, and have a modest budget, you will need lots of time to plan it. And if you want something fabulous to happen, but you have no time, be sure your budget is high.

Once we started explaining this to our clients and educating them on what was necessary to pull off a successful event, we were off to the races. We’ve been very effective and have made many people happy with our service, doing things like flipping a room three times to accommodate a ceremony, a dinner, and a dance floor. We’ve also transformed a basketball court into a winter wonderland for a corporate event. We were successful because we educated our clients, and therefore had the right tools to execute. We will be using this same approach at our new venue.

Follow The Symes on Twitter at: @thesymesca.

Pictured: Viviana Kohon | Photo courtesy of Blynda DaCosta ​Photography

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