Posted by Anya Soltero | April 27, 2016
Maggie Kennedy Braff (left) with business partner, Paige Miller Buck
An Interview with Maggie Kennedy Braff, Founder of Kennedy Events
In 2000, Maggie Kennedy Braff boldly and fearlessly set out on her own to found Kennedy Events – a large-scale event management company that creates stress-free conferences and events, which allows clients to leverage their efforts into higher engagements and bigger financial goals. Paige Miller Buck, one of Kennedy Events’ inaugural employees, rejoined the company in 2012 as full partner and now runs the business alongside Maggie.
This year, Kennedy Events celebrates its 15th anniversary. What better time than the present to reflect on the invaluable lessons learned along the way in creating a successful event planning business that continues to grow steadily and head in exciting new directions? I sat down with Maggie at the Kennedy Events office based in Mill Valley, California – to gain some insight into the lessons learned along the road less traveled.
What are the five key ingredients that have contributed to building a successful event planning company?
(Maggie) Are you asking for the ingredients to my special sauce? If I had to reduce it to five key takeaways, I would include:
- Surround yourself with the right people… with the right attitude.
- Hire the right people.
- Be bold, even when you are fearful!
- The customer experience is everything.
- Bring your best game to every aspect of the event management process.
Let’s savor each takeaway, starting with the right people . . .
I cannot overemphasize the power of having the right life partner, business partner, business coach, and support network – they have all have been key to the success of Kennedy Events.
- A life partner – starting your own business is not the safe (or sometime sanest) path, and your partner needs to have an unwavering belief in you – especially during those moments when you don’t. They need to believe that your success is inevitable and therefore they encourage you to take risks. When they think that what you’re doing is magical – that helps too!
- Paige as a business partner has injected rocket fuel into our company. Finding the right business partner elevates the work to a whole new stratosphere, especially when mutual respect and admiration are in play. Paige is someone I am accountable to and I strive to be great for her. Paige complements me and rounds me out with a different skill-set; she is tech savvy, learns new systems effortlessly, and brings audacious ideas and insights to the table. Working in a partnership has encouraged me to raise the bar in terms of goals, expectations, and capacity. Now that I have seen the light, I could never go back to running this business alone.
- Consulting a business coach has had an immeasurable impact on our business – it gets me unstuck, flips things on its head, centers me when off balance, so I can then operate from a platform of intelligence instead of reaction. It helps to reset and come from more solid footing, anchors me, and challenges me to think about things from a completely different angle.
Hire the right people . . .
Snap up a “rock star” when she/he crosses your path! Even if you don’t have an immediate place or resources for them, make the room because your business can only stand to grow as a result of their talent, expertise, and all that they bring to the table. Have a database (yes, I still commonly refer to it as my Rolodex) filled with the right people to have at the ready. Who you know is key for an event planner, so grow that network and realize that there is immeasurable value in the talents of your team. I will be the first to stand on a mountaintop and profess eternal gratitude for having a tremendously talented and dedicated team. I feel incredibly fortunate, and so do our clients.
Be bold, even when you are fearful . . .
“When you stretch into your full potential, you will
feel afraid, not ready yet, not possibly qualified enough.
If you do the thing anyway, you will find out how ready you are.”
― Tara Mohr, Author of Playing Big
My “best self” is bold in the face of fear. This isn’t to say that I don’t feel fear – I certainly do, but I cannot get stuck in fear for too long. I give myself a swift kick in the pants to move out of fear and into action. I especially feel it when I am in uncharted territory. The challenge is to be filled with fear when you step into a space that’s larger than you; and you are bold despite being scared. I see this as good fear. And whenever I experience it, I know I am in the right place.
The customer experience is everything . . .
There are two things in particular that set Kennedy Events apart:
- We dare greatly and care immensely about the customer experience; we have a vision of what to look for and want to make it perfect, and…
- We are fully dedicated and committed to serving up an exceptional client experience. This is evident in how we show up for our clients throughout the planning process and at the event. We are your “special ops” team — expertly trained, knows how get the job done, and who makes you look fabulous in the process!
As an added bonus, I add a dash of eternal optimism to our overall approach – believing and seeing the best in in my clients, my team, and the outcomes of all events. I remain confident that everything will be okay and this plays a pivotal role in the customer experience at Kennedy Events.
Bring your best game to every aspect of the event management process . . .
The entire Kennedy Events team brings our best game to the work because you invested in us to make it great and we want to do you proud. We invest our expertise, passion and commitment, with a knack for attention to detail and an eagle-eye, looking around corners, thinking through every possible scenario or outcome in advance, and mapping out the total customer experience in advance.
Our motto at Kennedy Events is “bringing it all together.” When I came up with the tagline 15 years ago, Paige was sitting across from me and wrinkled her nose. She didn’t think it was specific enough – “Bringing WHAT together? For what? How?” – still, I went with it and now she’s a convert. We know it exemplifies our work because we find our clients saying “you guys REALLY bring it all together” without us prompting them, or without them even knowing it’s our motto. Nailed it!