david beahm

About this Episode

Today on the show, a chat with world renowned event designer, David Beahm. Famous for his white beard and round glasses, he truly is an unforgettable persona. And if you’ve had the good luck to attend one of his remarkable events, then you know his gifts are truly special. But how did the man become the myth? It was the year 2000, and Hollywood IT girl was getting married to Hollywood royalty, the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. More than 1000 guests at the legendary Plaza Hotel and a young David Beahm was tasked with making their dreams a wedding reality.

Episode Transcript

David Beahm 0:00
Out there, we were a big business. In reality. I was still sleeping in the back of my studio on a futon. House and garden called three days after the wedding and said, You must have a fabulous apartment. May we come and photograph it? I’m like, Oh no, I’m a private person.

Angela Giovine 0:23
Pop culture has become obsessed with entrepreneurship stories from Silicon Valley, and big startup. But the backbone of our economy is made of small local businesses. Every day, millions of small business owners deliver quality products and services, support the local economy, employ their neighbors and follow their passion. We think their stories are worth telling. I’m Angela Giovine. Welcome to the extra ordinary small business podcast.

Angela Giovine 0:59
This episode is brought to you by WP Engine.

Angela Giovine 1:08
In the world of special events, he’s a legend. Today on the show, a chat with world renowned event designer, David Beahm. Famous for his white beard and round glasses, he truly is an unforgettable persona. And if you’ve had the good luck to attend one of his remarkable events, then you know his gifts are truly special. But how did the man become the myth? It was the year 2000, and Hollywood IT girl was getting married to Hollywood royalty, the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. More than 1000 guests at the legendary Plaza Hotel and a young David Beahm was tasked with making their dreams a wedding reality. We talked to David about his small business journey, being a leader at the forefront of a burgeoning events industry and the magic that can come from live events.

David Beahm 2:09
I’m David Beahm, I’m a small business owner in New York City and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We are a special events company and produce from here and New York, all over the world.

Angela Giovine 2:22
How long have you been in business?

David Beahm 2:25
I think this is my 22nd year.

Angela Giovine 2:27

David Beahm 2:28
Yeah, I started in my godfathers flower shop when I was, I guess, 13. But I’ve had my own business started in the city for 22 years.

Angela Giovine 2:39
Being in the event industry for over two decades, you must have seen such an evolution from 20 years ago to now to what events have become. Tell us how you got into the events business. So you said you started in your godfathers flower shop, and then how did it evolve?

David Beahm 2:59
Well, I have three degrees in music. So I was a band and choir director, and then ended up getting my masters at San Diego State and work for San Diego Opera, And finally, Ian Campbell, the director of the opera at the time, said, Get the hell out of here. You hit a ceiling in San Diego, get out. And so I came to New York to be a star and to be on broadway, and I auditioned one time and said, Okay, that’s not for me.

Angela Giovine 3:33
That’s not me.

David Beahm 3:33

Angela Giovine 3:34
Wow, it only took one audition.

David Beahm 3:36
Well, you know what I said, one audition. I’m not even sure I ever did a professional audition. I went for a couple calls and just said, Nah this life, it’s a wonderful life and it was not for me. So I managed New York City Opera’s traveling company and came off the road and said, I’m just not a show business person. What can I do? So I went back to my roots as working with flowers, worked in a couple of flower shops, worked for seasons on 53rd and eighth who Gerald Palumbo has a house, literally, right over the hill from me in Bucks County.

Angela Giovine 4:12
Oh, I didn’t know that.

David Beahm 4:13
No, yeah. And I came to visit here years ago when I worked for him. So that was probably 25 years ago, and thought how beautiful and I always remembered being here and going to New Hope going, Gosh, what a special place. And I love my clients, I don’t want to be around them. I don’t- you know, they don’t want to be around me. I don’t want to be in the Hamptons. And I felt Bucks County was just so beautiful. And I had forgotten exactly where he was, and I ran into him at the Cascade, the restaurant, the Cascade Lodge, he was was like Jerrell, what are you doing here? I’m like I live over there. Well, so do I. Isn’t that amazing.

Angela Giovine 4:58
It’s funny.

David Beahm 4:58
but so I worked for him in the flower shop and met Philip Balloon who was one of I think, the four or five founders of special events in New York City in the 1980s, fundraising and special events went hand in hand, and it got a little out of control because the galas were real Galas and weren’t really making any money, but we’re being fabulous. And the the five people, Renee Reynolds, who has a farm in Bucks County, kind of started it all. He was one of the first decor people at Studio 54. And of course, everybody with somebody came to Studio 54 and the four guys Robert Isabel, Phillip Balloon, Paul Bott the three guys, were working with him doing decor at Studio 54 and partying at night where they met all the socialite, and they said, Well, this is fabulous, will you come decorate my party? And that’s how special events in New York was born. So when I started in 98, it had gone through the 80s, there were these established businesses, but only just a few. Now, there are a lot.

Angela Giovine 6:27
Yeah, it went it went from a couple of creative houses, so to speak, to just pervasive.

David Beahm 6:34
Exactly, and you know, now they’re offering it in colleges and universities as majors. I was like what? I had to learn how big of a tablecloth goes on 60 and proud, you know. And I’m glad I had to learn that way. I had the basics of flowers from my godfather’s FTD shop in Virginia. And my experience of working in opera on a grand scale and understanding how lighting is so important. And what we do is basically theater. And especially when you get up to the grand weddings we do in New York or around the world, you’re producing theater. I always say we basically produce a broadway show, it comes in at nine o’clock in the morning, and it’s out the door by two, that night.

Angela Giovine 7:26
It’s so funny for you to describe it this way. I think I mentioned to you before I left my career in finance, to start a little event planning company over a dozen years ago now. It sort of evolved away from events into media and events. But I also came from a similar background, I was a dancer my whole life, danced every day, all day, you know, companies, I went to college, not for theater, but I went to college at Fordham University in New York City and founded the Dance Company at Fordham.

David Beahm 8:01

Angela Giovine 8:02
So I have this business degree and I always loved dance. And like you said, at that time, you didn’t run into event planning as a career. While you’re an undergraduate, it was just not something that you would consider. And it wasn’t until I had a couple of years.

David Beahm 8:18
I didn’t know what it was,

Angela Giovine 8:19
Yeah, I had a couple of years under my belt. I was at Johnson and Johnson, they asked me to start planning events internally. And it was like a light bulb went off in my head. And I was like, This is theater. So it turns out a bunch of my dance friends had all separately gone into event planning, and I was like, Wow, there’s really something here because it’s so similar, like you said, like the lighting. I remember producing dance shows where, you know, working with the lighting designer and the gels and the silhouettes and everything and you’re just wired to think that way. You know, people now are so lucky to know that it is a career path, but it wasn’t something that you could consider until you’re out in the world back then.

David Beahm 9:00
And it’s so important to have had that experience. I always tell this story, there was a room at a hotel in New York, that’s not so pretty. It’s just plain and just not pretty. And it’s where they normally have the ceremony and the mother was just going, I hate this room, I can’t, I said, Calm down, watch what we do. And so we put the ceremony in the middle and only focused the light in the middle and made the perimeter of the room dark, and the room went away. And she came in and went, Oh, my God! What did you do? She didn’t understand, but suddenly the room went away, and it’s that understanding of directing the eye with visuals and with lighting that I think makes my career very exciting. And it’s not just being a glorified florist. It’s a craft. It’s an art and I’m so glad to have found it.

Angela Giovine 9:59
So when you decided to go out on your own at that moment, did you find a business partner? Did you have money saved up to go out on your own? Or did it just start happening organically?

David Beahm 10:12
Kind of organically. I worked for a couple companies in special events, and one day I said to myself, I can do this. And I was at my witt’s end with one particular designer, who I finally just said, I can’t work for you and a friend and I met for lunch. And he said, You know what? His partner at the time, and he were talking and he said, we’ve decided you can do this. Why can’t you do this? Please know we’ll be here to help you. We’ll give you a little money, get your stationery and stuff and we’ll give you some business advice, but just jump and just do. And so I started it in my little railroad apartment on 40 Third Street on the second floor. And one night I did a wedding and slept under all these light lilies and almost gassed myself to death. But you just make it happen. I found someone who would help with a van who would help me deliver. And off we went.

Angela Giovine 11:19
And what year was that did you say?

David Beahm 11:21

Angela Giovine 11:22
98. So, started off humble beginnings, just you contracting some friends. What were some moments that helped you grow your business?

David Beahm 11:33
Well, the fact that in 2001, we did Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas wedding.

Angela Giovine 11:39
That’s a big moment.

David Beahm 11:40
I realized, the day after, that I could go to any magazine stand in the world and find my name in a magazine.

Angela Giovine 11:50
That’s chilling.

David Beahm 11:51
It’s chilling, it’s intimidating, and at the same time, I suddenly became a quote unquote celebrity tourist, and the phone quit ringing for a year.

Angela Giovine 12:03

David Beahm 12:03
We were the hot new property in New York, I found a designer to work with me, and we had friends from working around. You know, that’s the wonderful thing about owning a business in New York as opposed to somewhere else is that there’s a freelance pool from which you can draw of the most talented people. I could call Vivian and call Derek and they can be there and we can produce anything. So we were the hot property. We were doing all the big corporate stuff, and private homes and really, like I said, the hot new thing and when you up to that celebrity status, suddenly everyone went, Oh, we can’t afford him anymore. Let’s look for a new hot property. So I really had to tap dance for a year, to get the message out that we were still here, we were still attainable and we would still work with you. You know, I think so many people entered that celebrity status of no back off, you can’t afford me anymore. And I still had to pay the rent.

Angela Giovine 13:11
There’s so many questions there. So first of all, how does something like the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, come to you? You don’t just cold call

David Beahm 13:21

Angela Giovine 13:22
that kind of thing or do you? How does that happen?

David Beahm 13:24
You know, I know that there are planners and designers out there, it wasn’t so much then but because of the advent of the Internet, we can now know who their agents are. So there are back channels. Cold calling is not a- but you know, so and so and you know, so and so could you have them call and drop my name? That’s the way it’s done now.

Angela Giovine 13:47
So there was a network there.

David Beahm 13:49
Yeah. But like I said, I was the hot property in town and I had been working with a hot property planner, and she called one night and said, you may not ask any questions, but I need you to design your dream wedding at the Plaza. And I’m all of this doesn’t make sense.

Angela Giovine 14:06
No parameter.

David Beahm 14:07
No. And I said, Well, this is ridiculous,

Angela Giovine 14:10
Everybody’s dream is different.

David Beahm 14:11
Yeah. I was like, Simone, come on, and she was like, trust me, you want to do this. So I sat down at my computer and designed over a couple days and got it all together. And I guess it was two weeks later. She said, can you come to Catherine Zeta-Jones apartment? I was like Hooooolly.

Angela Giovine 14:35

David Beahm 14:36
It’s been a roller coaster. Of course. It’s been a calling card, It’s gotten me in the door, and it shut some doors,

Angela Giovine 14:43
Right. So it gives you that credibility, like you said, but I think it’s so wise what you said that, you know, as a small business owner, you have to think strategically about when an opportunity like that comes along, something that every entrepreneur is looking for. How does it close other doors and how do you position yourself a message properly such that you don’t stop yourself from having other clients at different service levels? So walk us through how you did that.

David Beahm 15:13
Well, it was a double edged sword. You know, I laugh out there, we were a big business. In reality. I was still sleeping in the back of my studio on a futon.

Angela Giovine 15:24

David Beahm 15:24
House and garden called three days after the wedding and said, You must have a fabulous apartment, may we come and photograph it? I’m like, Oh, no, I’m a private person. You know, it’s me and my ca-

Angela Giovine 15:37
Right, right. Just keep it up.

David Beahm 15:38
Yeah, Vivian, my cat kept my feet warm at night and that was the reality of the situation. But it was very important to maintain. Okay, you’re up here. You have to keep flapping your wings and make sure that you’re seen and be the David Beahm, the brand now. You know, I used to be that guy you would call What’s his name? And then suddenly, you were David Beahm the brand. It made me the bridal design expert for Marshall Fields in Chicago. And suddenly, I was being limoed all around Illinois, and doing presentations and doing Good Morning Chicago and Good Morning Detroit and as their bridal design expert. Okay, I’m not real sure I’m your bridal design expert, but here we go. What do you need to know? And that’s what it is, you know, whether it’s fake it till you make it or whatever you want to call it, can’t say no, not ever an option. And the reason I put my name on my business is that my name is the most important thing I have in my life, and my reputation. And I’m willing to put that on the line for your event. And I think that’s very important that I say that

Angela Giovine 16:57
Right, your name and your business represents not only your sterling reputation, but also probably it calls to mind certain visual aesthetics. Evoke certain feelings, so to speak. And that’s something that you’ve curated over time. Is it a conscious thing? Or is it more artistic?

David Beahm 17:18
Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t know It is a conscious thing, it’s interesting. At one point, they’re in New York and they’re still around there was David Brown, David Stark, David Bun, David Beahm. As there is another David so you know, everybody we still get Are you the David that, so I had to make a very conscious effort. What is going to set us apart. One I branded my look, and I’ve started losing my hair, so I shave my head. I’ve got this big gray beard, I’ve got the brown glasses that have become a brand. And now I with the big gray beard

Angela Giovine 17:59
And its memorable.

David Beahm 18:01
It’s memorable, and you don’t have to remember B E A H M. You can call up the Plaza and say, Who’s that guy, the designer with the big gray beard, and everybody knows who you’re talking about.

Angela Giovine 18:13

David Beahm 18:14
Where as David Stark, who’s the guy with the cool glasses and the hat and the tennis shoes. You know, its branding a look and I’m kind of known as the whimsical fun like guy. And I needed my look to be whimsical and friendly, and memorable.

Angela Giovine 18:31
And you did it in such creative ways. It wasn’t just a logo or an information video on your website. You did it with the way you look, you did it with these really memorable touches.

David Beahm 18:44
Well, and also I’m doing a little bit, a lot of branding, being the guy with the farm.

Angela Giovine 18:50
That’s how I came across you.

David Beahm 18:53
My farm, and plants and flowers is a very important part of who I am. And being here helps me think and digging in the dirt gives me creativity. But it also is, Oh, who’s that guy with the farm? I don’t know that’s the reason I got the farm, because just being here makes me happy. And it’s very important to me. But at the same time, it is a branded it tells you who I am. And that’s why I like having two Instagrams, there’s @davidbeahm and that @davidbeahmtoo.

Angela Giovine 19:31
Right,more personal.

David Beahm 19:32
Yeah, they are two people, you know, one’s the brand, one’s the person. And it gives you insight into both.

Angela Giovine 19:39
That makes sense. So it was the Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas wedding and then no turning back from there. How many people are on your team today?

David Beahm 19:49
We have a dozen full time but like I say we can have 60 or 70 on staff on the weekend.

Angela Giovine 19:56
So how did you go over time, from one to a dozen full time plus, plus all of the contractors? When did you start to feel that you needed to build your team, your full time staff?

David Beahm 20:09
Well, I always thought I could kind of do it myself and then

Angela Giovine 20:14
Don’t we all as amall bsiness owners?

David Beahm 20:15
Yeah. And I made a total that for over the books. You got to realize what you can do well, don’t do numbers well. And through, time, you know, I have someone who handles the books, I have someone who does logistics, I have someone who organizes everything. I stand in the middle of going, No, that doesn’t look right, that doesn’t look right. But have all these people orbiting around monitoring the situation. And I think it was trusting your gut and trusting the universe. You know, I was trying to do all the designing myself and finally my friend Tom Collie whom I used to work with, called me up one day and said, I found your first employee I said I’m not hiring anyone. He said, Yes, you are. This guy is too good, you need him, you’re blowing up, you’re going to kill yourself, hire this guy. And I did and it was the best decision. It’s about protecting yourself. When I first started my business, I called my friend Bill Dudley and said, advice, what’s the one thing you need to tell me and he said, Surround yourself with good people. And that is the absolute truth.

Angela Giovine 21:34
It really is because as a small business owner, you just have the tendency to say, I can roll up my sleeves and work an extra hour and do that and save myself the aggravation of trying to find someone to do it. I can save myself the money and to really take yourself out of that mode and move into, I can be more effective and the sum of the parts can be greater if I can find the master of books and the master of assistance and all of the things into one. So were there other than your friends helping you realize, what were some ways that you recognize those were ways to become more successful?

David Beahm 22:14
You know, when I was a school teacher, I had to supplement my income and a friend of mine was like sell Mary Kay, what’s better than a gay guy looking at a woman going Beautiful. You know, and I, if I had pursued it, I would have made a really good career. But the Mary Kay way of looking at business, I understand still taught at the Harvard School of Business.

Angela Giovine 22:39

David Beahm 22:39
And she always said, if you can pay somebody else to do the work, that’s just busy work, pay them so you can go do your job. And that was really important to me.

Angela Giovine 22:53
So you learned that early on in a very unconventional way.

David Beahm 22:56
In a very unconventional way. And the other thing that she always said, is that every person wears a sign that says make me feel important. Whether it’s an employee, or a client, or you, everyone wants to feel important. And I think those two mantras, I guess, are really what I still use in my business today. You have to let your ego get out of the way. You’re not a bookkeeper, David, shut up and let somebody do that. At an event, mainly, you’ll find me sweeping the floor, because I just want to get out of everyone’s way and let them do their job because I set expectations. This is what I need you to accomplish. And now go do it. Don’t tell me about it, don’t show me, I’ll check on you, but just go do your job because I’m counting on you to do that.

Angela Giovine 23:55
Build the well-oiled machine and then let it go.

David Beahm 23:58
You just have to learn to step out of the way, because the more I tried to get in the way of production going, Oh yeah, we can do that in an hour, well, no, we can’t. You know, if I listened to them, we would have been better off. So now, it’s kind of okay. I’m here if you need me.

Angela Giovine 24:25
Every small business needs a website. That’s not new information. But these days, there are so many easy software options for creating your own website. My personal favorite happens to be WordPress. It’s been around since 2003. And it’s open source, which means it’s free, there’s no monthly fee for it, and there are literally thousands probably millions of people who can work in and develop on WordPress. Today, 36% of the entire internet is built on WordPress. Everyone from your neighborhood coffee shop and local restaurant, to Rolling Stone, The New York Post to Vogue and even Disney are on WordPress. I’ve hosted my WordPress websites with a number of different companies over the years and I’ve been with WP Engine for a while now. Here are the top three reasons I love WP Engine. First and foremost, my site just works because at WP Engine they are 100% dedicated to WordPress websites. That means their servers are configured to optimize performance for WordPress. It just removes so much hassle out of the equation. Number two, they know WordPress. I used to get so frustrated when something would break on my website, maybe it was a plugin or a WordPress update. And I’d contact my web host tech support and they’d say, Sorry, we don’t support WordPress. WP Engine makes it simple to create, update and manage any WordPress website. And number three, my personal fave is their 24 hour chat tech support. I have used it countless times. You aren’t talking to a bot you’re talking to a person and they provide actual real help when you need it. Over chat. So if you have a WordPress website, or if you’re thinking about moving to one, I highly recommend starting with WP Engine. Listeners of extraordinary small business can get a special offer. Get 10% off any of their hosting plans now, just head to extra ordinary small business dot com backslash WP Engine and get 10% off hosting from the masters of WordPress hosting at WP Engine that’s extra ordinary small business dot com backslash WP Engine.
Angela Giovine 26:55
Let’s talk abot risk. Every small business owner, has to take risk to sort of get to that next level, whether it’s signing you first lease on space or making that first hire. What were some risks that you’ve taken over tha course of your business that have taken to the next level and alternatively what was a risk or two that yo’ve taken that maybe became learning experience for you?

David Beahm 27:22
Well, I always think the Fred Flintstone cartoon, there was a big T lifeguard and Fred but I don’t know how to swim and he just came over and picked him up and said, Everyone into the pool and threw Fred in and he swam. That has kind of been my mantra throughout my career is let’s jump into the pool and see. If we think we can walk our way out of the pond, I hope. You know, but it’s having a cast iron stomach to just do the things you know you have to do. And you have to try and you can’t beat yourself up, that’s the biggest thing. And I find that with younger people today, one little failure, and they’re curled up on the bed with a sheet cup over their head.

Angela Giovine 28:12
Towel is thrown in.

David Beahm 28:14
Yeah, you can’t. You just got to keep going. And that’s so important. I thought that I wanted to, I think it was probably two years after the Zeta-Jones, I was like, Well, if we’re up here in the stratosphere, maybe we can bring our name down to lower level, and do David Beahm Studio and you can sign on to the web, this is when web shops were in the early stages. And, you know, pick your centerpieces and we’ll just deliver them and they’ll be in disposable containers and you’ll have David Beahm flowers without all the fuss and the moss. And Brides Magazine was just like this is the most fabulous idea, this is great and really helped us push it, and it failed miserably.

Angela Giovine 29:03
Really? Why do you think?

David Beahm 29:05
It was at the time and this was probably 2004. It was still $150,000 investment. I didn’t invest enough. I hired a photographer, not a marketing photographer. I hired a web designer, not the designer I needed to afford,

Angela Giovine 29:26
Right. E commerce wasn’t quite there yet, back then.

David Beahm 29:29
Right. And I had no money for marketing. I was hoping that the word of mouth would be enough. And you just had to market market market. And I did. And because we didn’t have Instagram, we didn’t have Facebook. There was, look at my website, there’s a website over here. But the biggest thing I think I learned was, that the reason people come to us is for a creativity, and for custom creation. They didn’t want something I already created.

Angela Giovine 30:01
They wanted to have the touch and feel experience. They wanted to look at you in the eyes, they wanted to have the conversation,

David Beahm 30:08

Angela Giovine 30:08
They wanted the experience part of David Beahm experiences.

David Beahm 30:12
There’s a saying, When you thought you were flying too high, you find out you weren’t flying high and and so that’s when I just said, Let’s be David Beahm, If they want us, they’re going to have to pay for it because our time is valuable. And I think that’s when things started to change is when I valued our value.

Angela Giovine 30:32
When you began to lean in instead of trying to be everything to everyone, instead of trying to market to the luxury and also a more affordable market. You said I’m going to lean into this luxury experience and there’s that concept of polarity that it’s good to be polarizing because you not you attract the people you need to attract but you also repel the people who might distract you.

David Beahm 30:56
Yeah, and because of who I am, I want everybody to like me all the time.

Angela Giovine 31:00
of course.

David Beahm 31:01
Especially in my business, I’m in the business of bringing joy to people. And that’s what I want to continue to do. And I’d love to bring it to everybody. But I’m only one person. Our team is only so big, and they’re they’re really good. So why not value? Do you know that Louis Vuitton has never had a sale?

Angela Giovine 31:21

David Beahm 31:22

Angela Giovine 31:22
Wow. Right and I hasn’t heard the sale of those bags.

David Beahm 31:26
Right, our stuff is so good that we will never put it on sale because that would devalue who we are. I love that. We still have people going, Do you know who’s coming to this party? Like, I don’t care.

Angela Giovine 31:44
Right. You’re like that person isn’t going to help me cut payroll?

David Beahm 31:47
No, you know, Sylvia Weinstock, the cake decor- you know, the Da Vinci of cakes.

Angela Giovine 31:52

David Beahm 31:52
When she was in business would say to customers. You know what, before you came, I went down in the kitchen and I ask everybody if they would work for free, and they won’t work for free, so I got to pay them, sorry.

Angela Giovine 32:06
Right. Sometimes you just have to put it into plain terms so people can understand. It’s not that you want to say no, it’s not right for the business.

David Beahm 32:13
Well, and especially in this business business of making people happy, you really have to constantly remind yourself, that it’s a business, not a hobby. You know, a business is a business, to make money, not to make you feel good, not to boost your ego, and not to make everybody else feel good. It’s a business and it has to make money or you need to figure out something else.

Angela Giovine 32:42
And that moment where you have payroll where, you know, at first, it’s just you and if you can’t take a paycheck for a month, that’s one thing but when you’re responsible for somebody else’s mortgage payment, rent, food, health care, you have that responsibility of making those decisions through that li-

David Beahm 33:02
Yeah. The first five years, I rarely collect a paycheck. But by God, everybody else had a paycheck. There has been one time in my whole 22 years that I’ve had to ask people to hold a check for three days. And that’s something I’m very proud of.

Angela Giovine 33:19
That’s amazing.

David Beahm 33:19
To this day, the reason we have really great employees, contract employees freelancers is that you can submit your invoice in the morning and pick up your check that afternoon. Constantly, constantly. We don’t make people wait. These people are helping us. They are value and we show them that we value them by feeding them well, like people always thank us for you know, we bring in a hot meal for lunch instead of here’s some pizza or here’s a ham sandwich. Yeah, we feed them really well because the car doesn’t run without gasoline. And if they’re feeling good about themselves, and if they know they can work a 20 or 30 hour week and get the paycheck the next day, who you think they’re going to work for?

Angela Giovine 34:11
Right. When there’s two different options to freelance for this person or you,

David Beahm 34:15

Angela Giovine 34:15
The one that makes them not only feel good, but also helps them pay their bills and live their lives is

David Beahm 34:22
Yeah, and we do that with our customers, too? If we should happen to miss your phone call, or we get an email, we are responding within 10 or 15 minutes, period. Some clients who have to set limits and say, I’m only going to respond to your emails. Yeah, sorry, your wedding is in two years, usually it’s the lovey burm it’s for mothers but yeah, it’s two years from now, so we’re going to respond to your emails between nine and five. But we want everyone, my mantra, I have a lot of mantras, don’t I? But you have to have them.

Angela Giovine 35:02
You should get these mantras up for Instagram. I would love to

David Beahm 35:05
I got to remember what they are. But my mantra is I only hire nice people and I only work with nice people. Because it’s, we’re in the business of joy and happy. And it’s a party. It is Ron Allen the and I keep dropping names, what is this today? But I love my friend who was the head production manager of San Diego Opera. I think there was a wig problem or something and all of these people were gathered around these union people were yelling and he just finally said People, there are no dead babies here. Can we just stop and take a breath? And it’s not the end of the world. If that coral peony is just a little off, let me take care of that. We’ll adjust the lighting and it will be the color you want.

Angela Giovine 35:55
Have said that same line before. Like We’re not saving lives here, people like you sometimes just have to remember

David Beahm 36:01
Yeah. Oh and especially these days, for heaven’s sake.

Angela Giovine 36:05
Right, right in the middle of all of this just- and to that end, so I have two questions. So going back to David Beahm Studio, and it not being the right move, how long did you let that experiment go for? And what was the moment that made you say, Okay, I’m ready to let this go and move on. Because that is something where you could easily say, just let me try a little longer. Let me just try this for a little bit you know, try to market it in a different way. What made you say I just want to cut my loss with that and move on and lean into the other part of my business?

David Beahm 36:39
Well, I you got to look at where the money is coming from. There was no money coming from it. It was silly. I think I gave it six months and took it down. Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank.

Angela Giovine 36:51
I’ve met her yeah, shoot the dogs early.

David Beahm 36:52
Shoot the dogs early. I was like, there it is. I had already done the studio thing, but she and I were speaking at a conference together and she spoke right before me. I was like, Oh my God, that’s it. It’s very important.

Angela Giovine 37:06
Yeah. She’s a firecracker. You can tell why she has been so successful. She’s such an incredible personality. But yeah, that shoot the dogs early always stuck with me. I always try to remember that because as a small business owner, as an entrepreneur, you do have to push your limits. There’s nobody there. There’s no manager that’s telling you push your boundaries, try this new thing. So you have to be the one to experiment. But when you experiment, you also have to expect failure. Sometimes that’s just the law of

David Beahm 37:38
And and you know, and that’s what she uses it with employees and I’ve used that very a lot too When I bring in new employee and thank goodness, our attrition is very low. I have Christina who is my number two has been with me for 18 years. Timothy’s been there for

Angela Giovine 37:57
That’s the best.

David Beahm 37:57
at 12 I think, you know, it’s treat people well, they stay with you. But Our thing is, I’m going to give you this amount of time, and if you don’t meet my goals, you have to go whether I like you or not. And I had to do that recently, or a couple years ago with someone. I knew he was the right employee, I knew he was going to be great. And he wasn’t. And I could tell he didn’t feel good about his performance. And I had a little talk and he said, Give me three months, I said, I don’t wanna, I’m gonna give you three months. And he still didn’t, and at the end of three months, he said, Thank you very much.

Angela Giovine 38:39
That’s interesting. So there was a set period of time agreed upon between the two of you. So there was something very objective and measurable about it.

David Beahm 38:47
Yeah, because there is so much to learn in special events, and to learn the way we do it. I give somebody six months and I give them a goal at the end of six months, I need this to be done. Or you too be doing this. And if at the end of those six months, you are not, or I’m not comfortable with the way you’re doing it, you absolutely have to go, period. There will be no question.

Angela Giovine 39:13
That makes sense. So, as you leaned into the luxury part of your business, I have to imagine that that level of business feels recessions and changes in the economy more strongly than something you have to have.

David Beahm 39:33
You might think that.

Angela Giovine 39:34
No, you think that? It’s a theory is am I right?

David Beahm 39:37
I would argue, you know, the rich are always going to have money. The rich are recession proof.

Angela Giovine 39:42
So there are people having luxury weddings in 2008 2009?

David Beahm 39:49
Yes, but we call them stealth-wealth weddings.

Angela Giovine 39:53
Interesting. So that’s the wedding where it’s luxury but it’s not in a magazine?

David Beahm 39:58
Absolutely not in a magazine, and absolutely the guest list is reduced, because they don’t want to be embarrassed, especially like in 2008 2009, we had people who had then lost all their money to Bernie Madoff. And they live right next door to so and so. And so and so wanted to have a big wedding, but they didn’t really want to rub it in their friend’s face. And I think that 2008 2009 is where destination weddings started to really take off because why don’t you quietly fly over here and we’ll really whip it up. And you won’t be able to see us in the ballroom over here at this hotel. We’ll just do this on the other side of the world.

Angela Giovine 40:45
Mmm hmm. It’s more contained so to speak. Although with social media I’m sure that’s a little bit harder.

David Beahm 40:50
It is. It was a lot easier then than it is now. But there are weddings, we did a big NFL football player, and we collected the phones at the front door. And they’re sealed in an envelope, and you can see if you have any messages, and you can come back out to the desk and they’ll unseal the envelope and you can respond and then you have to put it back in.

Angela Giovine 41:14
Now, when you do something like that, do you let people know in advance you’re going to? Or it’s better to just do it?

David Beahm 41:20
Just do it. Just do it.

Angela Giovine 41:21
That makes sense.

David Beahm 41:22
Because we can put all the messages we want on the invitation, you know Please don’t bring your phone. These days people can’t be without a phone so it’s just not- they get physically ill without them.

Angela Giovine 41:35

David Beahm 41:35
And in the case of an emergency, you have to be able to see if someone’s getting intouch with you. So I get that. But no, we’re going to seal it in this little pouch so you can’t take any picture.

Angela Giovine 41:46
So have there beem times where hasn’t been a recession that has cause great challenge financially for the business, where there any moments that your business became so stressful for you because you didn’t know if you wold survive?

David Beahm 42:00
We are in that point.

Angela Giovine 42:01
Yeah, I can imagine right now with COVID.

David Beahm 42:02
We are going to survive, we always have. What we looked like 2 months ago is not what we’re going to look like 2 months from now. And that’s okay.

Angela Giovine 42:13
Is that a function, I would guess that’s a function of just the way the industry is going to go at large. So the prediction of events are going to change

David Beahm 42:21
The way the world is going to go at large, but we base our especially the companies like us, here are 2 3 400 500 people coming to an event and that’s not going to be happening. But our clients, who still want to have a beautiful wedding, can still have a beautiful wedding the phrase devils in the details, it is all about you sit down and and go Oh wow, look at this, this is gorgeous. And you’re still able to give the people you care about a luxurious, beautiful experience. And show them that you care. That’s really important. It may not be 500 of your closest friends, you know depending on where you have it, it’s going to be, that’s going to limit the number of people you can invite. I don’t know what the formulas are going to be, I keep saying the phrase, we don’t know what we don’t know. And we don’t know quite how this COVID works and we’re not going to put people in peril. Though were still studying about how to make it make sense. Yes there are lots of zoom weddings going on, families of 10 getting together, which by the way, I think I am going to entertain doing weddings here on the farm of under 20. You know, July and August here are so beautiful, and if we can figure out how to have a wedding of 15 or 20, and want to broadcast it virtually, to friends, why not? We can arrange to for those friends, they get a wedding package that has maybe a cake and everything you need to help celebrate, maybe it’s a bottle of champaigne, send out to the friends and they just join you and watch the ceremony that’s broadcast,

Angela Giovine 44:18
Get a good aerial videographer or drone.

David Beahm 44;20
Yup, the whole thing.

Angela Giovine 44:21
livestream. That would be cool.

David Beahm 44:23
And of course we have the sound guy Lou Mannarino who is L&M sound and lighting out of Staten Island, they do the sound for New York Philharmonic. So we could probably get some really good sound. And visuals in we’ll set up a satelite link and broadcast it high quality

Angela Giovine 44:44
I love that. Rethinking this virtual experience.

David Beahm 44:48

Angela Giovine 44:48
Ans some of that was already hapening before COVID, I have been in tuned with what was going to with some of the JZ America Tour in Philadelphia with broadcasting over the internet and concert’s being broadcast and this is obviously pushing everything towards that, but I love the idea of reinvisioning it and it doesn’t just have to be on zoom with a silly backdrop, it could be something elevated.

David Beahm 45:12
It can be produced. I don’t know if you saw my latest instagram post, my birthday was this past week, thank you. And Elan Artist, produced a customer video for my birthday, with their musicians They did the arrangements and their musicians sang the music and it was a montage and they had all my friends send in clips wishing me happy birthday. And it was an an amazing emotional beautiful product. And like Wow, wow look at that, that’s a whole thing.

Angela Giovine 45:50
Right. It makes you really think about pushing those boundaries.

David Beahm 45:54
I have been on a zoom birthday party, and everybody’s trying to sing and it’s not a calm… thing.

Angela Giovine 46:01
And not everybody knows everybody- it’s not the same thing but my 5 year old is about to turn 6 in a couple of weeks. And we were just having this conversation, like do we have a bunch of strangers all get on a zoom call at the same time and try to say happy birthday to him? Or like what is the best way?

David Beahm 46:16
Well, I’ve got to tell you, Maddie my partner, and my good friend Lyn and Christina my number 2, called the people who were really important to me. And have them just record a short video message. The fact that I just have all those messages was really wonderful, I’ll have them in perpetuity now to go back and look at. But the fact that Elan took them and made them into a 7-minute movie, that I cried my eyes out. It was so emotional and so wonderful.

Angela Giovine 46:49
Right. It’s really going to challenge your creativity, I think, if you go this direction.

David Beahm 46:56
Yeah, I you know, I don’t like to proclaim this publicly, but I don’t think we’re going to have big events for awhile, but we’re going to have events.

Angela Giovine 47:06
And so it’s best to just accept the reality and just try to pivot within it, than pretend that it’s not going to happen and not be prepared.

David Beahm 47:14
Yeah, you can fight all you want and you can not want it, but what is, is. And one, legally how many people can you have in your venue, and 2, how many people are going to want to come if they’re cramped into a room full of people dancing and sweating.

Angela Giovine 47:33
Absolutely. I was just on the phone with, I’m on a charity board, I said We need to ask our donors if they’ll even come, like if we’re going to have the event, if we’re going to sign on the data line for a minimum, are the going to come?

David Beahm 47:43

Angela Giovine 47:43
So for a team, when you’re leading a team of 12, to something like this, how do you keep everybody’s morale up?

David Beahm 47:53
With my team, it might be moral. We have twice weekly, full company meetings, some people are having them every day, but I talk to everybody every day and check on everybody. I’m really concerned about my freelancers who have no work out there whatsoever. You know I think they had some Mother’s Day work. So we are in constant contact with them and saying are you okay, do you need anything? I don’t know what we can do for them, but we’ll try. I am being very frank with my crew going, We have to pivot, and we have to figure out what that pivot is.

Angela Giovine 48:34
Making them part of the solution.

David Beahm 48:35
Yeah. I can’t come in, I have committed to them since day one, you know we’re reduced salaries, we haven\t laid any one off. We have our PPP that’s going to keep us going for an additional 8 weeks. But I said there is a finite resource here and we have to figure out where to pick that up on the other side. And I know we can. I said there are a dozen real smart really creative people sitting here infront of me, we can come up with this. And you know, there are like I said Do we get rid of out office? But I think we’ve come up with the concept that we’re going to apprach our landlord going, We’re going to have to move out, or you let us sublet. And we do like a a we work type space

Angela Giovine 49:27

David Beahm 49:27
for planners so they can come in and do a consultation and do a presentation, we have you know a backroom that has theatrical lighting so that people could come in and do flowers and visual presentations.

Angela Giovine 49:41
Very cool.

David Beahm 49:42
And our company manager can handle the schedule and you know, if it’s a confidential thing, we can arrange for everybody to be out of the office, because we’re not all going to be in the office at the same time for a while anyway. There are solutions out there, and I’m not going to stop until we figure out what they are.

Angela Giovine 50:00
I love that. Challenging everything you know to make it work.

David Beahm 50:04
Well, because I’m not failing.

Angela Giovine 50:05
It’s just not an option.

David Beahm 50:07
And I know that we’ll get through this, and I know there is the other side.

Angela Giovine 50:11
Right, we’re not going to be locked up forever. Yes, it feels like forever. I was saying I think today is actually 2 months, was our 2 months anniversary being stuck in this house. But yeah, it’s not going to be forever and so you just have to remember that eventually, life will return to some sense of normal.

David Beahm 50:31
Yeah, it’s not going to be what we know, but we’re human and we have desires and we are creative and I know that we’re going to get through to an acceptable place. You know the spanish influenza was there and who knew about it? You know, thank God we had it to look at, so we understand what we could be facing and the people became serious about it, well some people became serious about it. We won’t go down that road.

Angela Giovine 51:01
So, finish this sentence. I would not be standing here today, if not for

David Beahm 51:09
Good people. I put my faith in my crew. I couldn’t do it without them.

Angela Giovine 51:16
What’s one piece of advice that you would go back and give to your 18 year old self?

David Beahm 51:22
Shut up and relax. Learn how to roll with failure, learn how to roll with disapointment. And learn how to just pick yourself up and keep going. And be you. You can only be you, everybody else is taken.

Angela Giovine 51:40
Love that.

David Beahm 51:41
You can’t be anybody but you. So just shut up about it and relax into it.

Angela Giovine 51:46
That’s another mantra.

David Beahm 51:49
We got them. Platitude and mantras honey, we’ve got them all.

Angela Giovine 51:50
Well, thank you so much for chatting and I can’t wait to see the next iteration of David Beahm experience.

David Beahm 52:03
Me either. It maybe Bucks County weddings who knows.

Angela Giovine 52:07
Right, well it’s beautiful here as you know we all love it here, so..

David Beahm 52:11
This has been delightful, thank you.

Angela Giovine 52:13
Thank you.

Angela Giovine 52:15
And one more time, thank you and shout out to WP Engine, check them out and get your special offer today at extraordinary small business dot com, backslash WP Engine.

Angela Giovine 52:29
Thanks for listening. For more information about our show and our company, head to extra ordinary small business dot com. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram. We would be so grateful, If you could help us reach more listeners. All you have to do, is go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcast and rate, review and subscribe. It would mean the world to us. Ratings, reviews, and subscribes are how iTunes decides which podcasts are worth sharing. Help us continue to bring these stories of extraordinary small business owners to the world. By rating, reviewing and subscribing, you’re helping our small business. It’s free and it takes just a minute. Thanks!