Stay professional, no matter what someone says to you. Believe me, I have had a few vendors send very nasty messages my way because either I wasn’t interested in their product and politely declined their offer, they refused to remove my work from their social media (Yes, this is true), or another reason I don’t choose to spend my time or energy speculating about because I refuse to allow them to “take my happy.”
As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Hudes.
As the creator of Smiling Through Chaos LLC, Amanda Hudes dedicates her time to helping women and couples smile more, stress less, and look and feel their best during their event planning experience through Event Planning and Wellness Coaching.
From high profile clientele to the neighbor next door, Amanda appreciates every single client, creating one-of-a-kind, amazing events and moments for each. It’s extremely important to Amanda that she understands her clients, so she puts tremendous emphasis into forming relationships and getting to know their likes, dislikes, style, and what is really important to them. Amanda has been dubbed, “The Timeline Queen,” known for always delivering seamlessly, being on top of every detail, offering creative and unique ideas, all while exuding genuine happiness. With a background in color and design, as well as a multitude of wellness categories, Amanda works with teams of professionals that allow you to smile and enjoy both the process and the big day. From beach weddings to ballroom extravaganzas to intimate backyard affairs and everything in between, the focus with Smiling Through Chaos is YOU.
Expertise you can count on:
- Seamless, organized Event Planning, with 10+ years of experience in Wedding Planning, as well as Personal and Corporate Events
- Wellness expert in the areas of Nutrition, certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), affiliated with Columbia University, Yoga 200-hour through YogaFit, Group Fitness and Sports Conditioning through ACE Fitness, Reiki, and as a Behavior Change Specialist
- Fashion Styling and Color Coordination (graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC), and the ability to develop “Event Stories” personalized just for you
- Helping you focus on the positive and the “happy” in situations
Amanda is the author of Amazon Bestseller, “Smiling Through the Chaos of Wedding Planning,” a guide to helping people smile through the process of planning their big day, and a contributing author to the Bestseller, “1 Habit to Entrepreneurial Success.”
Amanda’s mission in life is to help women and couples celebrate the beautiful moments in life! Helping clients feel empowered, beautiful, and most of all, happy, is so rewarding to Amanda. Besides volunteering her time, for every client booked with Smiling Through Chaos, Amanda uses her passion for giving back to contribute to charities with a focus on creating a future with more to celebrate, including “Futures Without Violence” and the breast cancer foundation, “Evolve Pink,” of which she is on the Board of Advisors.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and went on to work in media and fashion, coordinating my outfits the entire way through, but I come from a line of entrepreneurs, and I knew I was meant to do “my own thing” as well. While working in fashion and later corporate management, I planned personal events on the side and helped women lose weight with nutrition guidance. While I focused on the “why” with their eating habits, it wasn’t until years later, as I continued gaining certifications, that I really dove into the mindset and life factors. Incorporating my design background and nutrition experience allowed me to be the one call for people to feel their best for those special moments. And that was the beginning of Smiling Through Chaos!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When it comes to event planning, mistakes are not funny! Constantly learning is KEY, from every single event, from every single contract and every single experience with every single client and potential client, from every single conversation you have with others regarding your business.
One time I had a bride and groom on opposite ends of the hotel where they were getting ready, and I was running back and forth between the two rooms so much that by the time the wedding was set to begin I felt like I had run a marathon! Thank goodness I had brought several pairs of shoes! But between having an assistant and discussing the rooms in advance with the hotel, there are ways to make for a calmer experience before the ceremony.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have been blessed with the most amazing parents who have shown such support, I have wonderful lifelong best friends who have cheered me on, and only a few months ago, I met some truly powerful, ambitious women who have believed in me and my talents without a second thought. It was in this group that I met someone who I was speaking to one time, mentioning that I didn’t understand why I had to go in a specific order — that just isn’t me! She said to me, “Why do you have to play small in order to get big?” You better believe I now have a post-it with that quote on my computer to look at every single day. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, during your tough days and during your excited moments, who you know are excited with you and for you, and who truly care.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Smiling Through Chaos is all about giving back. With every Event Planning client booked, we donate to a charity or organization. The Smiling Through Chaos mission is to help people celebrate life! From donating our time feeding the homeless to donating financially to non-profits such as Futures without Violence and Evolve Pink, it’s part of the heart of Smiling Through Chaos to help people smile more and enjoy both the big and small moments.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
This pandemic has certainly been the most challenging to stay upbeat and motivating. It has hit the Event Industry hard, and there is understandably a lot of fear from both clients and potential clients as well as vendors. We had a vendor cancel right before an event because she was so scared of COVID-19. But that’s where the solution-oriented mindset has to kick in right away. There is no time to wait, and there’s definitely no time for excuses. Every time we get through a challenge, we have learned something, so this year has definitely shown that we can get through anything and do it with a smile! Why? Because it’s necessary. Because it helps us and it helps others. And what could be better than that?
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
There has been a lot of stress recently, with cancellations of events and strong emotions, but giving up is never the answer. This is how I think of it: If I allowed one negative experience to stop me, that could potentially mean that thousands of future clients would never know the difference of working with Smiling Through Chaos and enjoy the experience of planning their wedding, mitzvah, birthday, communion, and other wonderful occasions. I push myself because I know I am meant to help people smile brighter, be amazed when they walk into their event, and be able to focus on what really matters in life.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Not allowing the outside world to consume you. It would’ve been so easy to say, “Well, this year is going to be horrible so I’ll just wait until the event industry starts to pick up again.” This was the year to be a BOSS in your industry! This was the year to say, “I will not allow anything to take me down.” Staying positive, even with so much uncertainty, staying grateful, and continuing to pursue your goals is certainly a sign of a leader.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Be human. Ask people how they’re doing that day and what you can do to further support them. Wow — what that would’ve been like when I was working in corporate! Be the leader you wished you had to look up to when you were first starting out.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
If you must communicate difficult news, I highly recommend doing so over a video call so you can see each other’s expressions and hear each other’s voices. Start out by providing solutions you came up with so they don’t dive head first into an emotional, “Aaaah — what will I do?!” Look them in the eyes and tell them you are with them, you are there. Feeling less alone in the process or in that specific experience will help, and knowing that you are going to do whatever you need to do to make it better allows them to feel supported and cared about.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Aah…you’re asking a Planner this? I say, “Plan forward.” What is life if we can’t get excited for future moments? We plan with flexibility. Want to get married next year? Let’s plan! And if we have to modify the guest count or change the date, we will, but we will do so without the extreme stress that could be, because we do what we need to but refuse to allow something outside of our control to completely rule our lives. Celebrate your birthday! Get married! Enjoy life, because if we aren’t enjoying, what are we doing? Will it necessarily be as free-flowing and easy as it once was? We have no idea what the future holds, but we control our reaction, and isn’t it a wonderful thought that we can choose to have fun?
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Remember who you are and who you want to become. You’re allowed to have a tough day. When it becomes a few days in a row, look yourself in the mirror, literally, and talk to yourself, how powerful and amazing you are, and how proud you are of that beautiful human being looking back and you. And then go do something that you can be proud of. Get rid of the excuses and make it happen. If you aren’t going to, no one else is going to for you.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
I remember a couple of months into the pandemic, I asked other vendors what they were up to. Several said they were just waiting until things picked up again. I was doing the exact opposite, creating new services that would suit my clients and the current situation, working with a designer on a new website and logo, and getting my message out in a bigger way. No one is going to do the work for you. I could never sit and watch others; it’s just not in my DNA.
- Continue to work hard even when you don’t know what you should be doing because the world around you is flipped upside down. A current common mistake is thinking that you’ve been doing well for years so you’ll automatically do well once this is over. Nothing is a guarantee and coasting doesn’t work.
- Hoping that your services or products will still work for current times. Look at the market and talk to customers/clients. Ask what they’re looking for. If you aren’t getting calls or emails, you might want to look at other offerings you can add or switch to.
- While I was working with a designer on a new website and logo, it kept me so excited for the future! I was surprised to hear other business owners say, “Yea — I’ll do something when things are back.” I wanted to be ready.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Continuing to build relationships with former, current and potential clients is huge in the service industry. Sure, people remember what you did, but people remember how you made them feel. During this crazy time especially, being there for people can make all the difference. When clients are happy, everyone is happy.
I have seen some people deeply discount their services / products. I’m not sure if this has helped them gain business. Others have largely increased their prices. Everyone has chosen to do what they feel is right for their business. For Smiling Through Chaos, we have maintained our pricing structure. It’s much harder to raise your prices back up to where they were without some negativity, and I didn’t feel it was the time to increase the investment when so many people are struggling.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Smile often. If people are looking to you to lead, be a leader. Be someone you would want to follow. Be strong but sensitive. Be human but such a force to be reckoned with. Be the best you possible. I think there is the opinion that in order to be a leader you must be very serious. You have to be serious about your work, I completely agree, but I decided a long time ago that I would always remain ME, an energetic, bubbly, happy person who also happens to run a business and dances through life.
- Focus on what you have but also where your business is going. Which offerings are potential clients asking about and what can you get rid of? Do you need to add new offerings that will allow additional streams of income and serve a purpose the client will be attracted to? Since last March, I’ve probably changed my offerings at least 3 times according to what made sense for the time being. Why would I emphasize large events when the Governor was placing restrictions on events? Stay current.
- If you’re going to do something, do it right. I take on the number of clients that allows me to give each personal attention while also allowing balance with my friends, family and hobbies I enjoy, like Zumba and painting. If I’m going to perform a job and put my name on it, I’m going to do a great job. That’s why I don’t offer “day-of coordination.” I never have! From the start, I said to myself, “There’s no way I could walk into the wedding and do a great job when I don’t know the client or vendors,” so I’ve never offered that! Instead, I offer “month-of coordination,” so I can build relationships prior to and understand the expectations of the client from the entire team. Take the number of clients that pushes you but allows you to give them your 100%.
- Stay professional, no matter what someone says to you. Believe me, I have had a few vendors send very nasty messages my way because either I wasn’t interested in their product and politely declined their offer, they refused to remove my work from their social media (Yes, this is true), or another reason I don’t choose to spend my time or energy speculating about because I refuse to allow them to “take my happy.”
- Dress the part. I’m not saying you have to wear a suit every day or ever, but take yourself seriously and others will as well. You’ll walk with more confidence, you’ll be more productive, and you’ll FEEL like a leader when you dress the part. Of course this depends on your industry, but take a moment and think about what you would respond best to. I can just imagine the look on my clients faces if I showed up to meetings with a sweat outfit and unbrushed hair. I want them to know I take my job seriously and I take my relationship with them seriously.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I’m sorry, what does ‘can’t’ mean?” We don’t know what that word means in my household, and it’s been a major mission in my life to make sure my children grow up with that attitude. I want them to know that they can achieve every single goal they set their minds to. While I was working in corporate, I would say to my Assistants, “Please don’t come to me and say you can’t do something because I will never go to my boss and say that. If you can’t, I will, and if there’s an issue, we will come up with a solution.” I will never say to my clients, “I can’t.” With every challenge there is a solution, so if I have to have a tough conversation, I will always present possible solutions with the issue. But if you know me, you know I’ve most likely already mitigated the issue before I even have to bring anything up. Get rid of the “can’t” and make it happen. Bam!
How can our readers further follow your work?
Definitely follow along on Instagram and Facebook @SmilingThroughChaos and sign up for the Smiling Through Chaos e-newsletters on www.SmilingThroughChaos.com so you can be kept in the loop of new services, photos and backstories from events, and more!
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!