It’s a long, bumpy road to achieving work/life balance and you can easily get down about it. I find that embracing small wins- such as those lunches with my kid and his friends in the cafeteria, keep me going.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR agency OFD Consulting, which represents wedding and event professionals globally. Since 2009, Meghan and her team has earned them coverage with the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Brides, Bridal Guide, the Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, WeddingWire, HGTV, Brit & Co and Refinery 29, among others. When she’s not working alongside her team of wedding publicists, Meghan serves as the leading Wedding PR education expert in her field as a highly sought-after speaker.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Many don’t realize that I’m actually a recovering wedding professional. I got the bug for the industry in college and after a post-graduation internship at the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, I made my way back to the East Coast, where I accepted a one-year placement with Americorps. The pay was abysmal so I took a part time job at a local historic estate and officially transitioned full-time into the wedding and event industry after I wrapped up my time with Americorps.
About a thousand events later, I made the move to open my own wedding PR agency, combining my long-time background in public relations (my undergrad degree) with my love of the industry. These days, I split my time representing some of the best event professionals in the business, while also traveling throughout North America speaking on PR and marketing related topics.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When I was still working on creating a reputation for our brand nationally, I found myself in the throes of royal wedding madness when Kate Middleton wed Prince William. Knowing the weeks leading up to the Big Day would receive significant coverage by mainstream media, we began to churn out a lot of content about our upcoming royal wedding viewing party, set to take place at my house very early in the morning.
The media quickly caught wind of it and before you knew it, I had Good Morning America cameras in the living room. It was such a whirlwind and all came together within 36 hours of the party- I even had to move the party earlier to accommodate the camera crew. I still laugh about my instant panic, insisting to my husband that we needed to change so many things about the house before the cameras came- why in the world I thought our dining room rug needed a refresh, I’ll never know.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
As a working mother, you’d think the obvious answer would be the arrival of our son. Instead, the real stress came a year later when he went into full-time daycare. The transition was a smooth one, thankfully, but he caught everything under the sun- and subsequently, so did I. We were experiencing considerable growth at the time, but my hours were so scattered and inconsistent. It was clear to me then, the importance of having the right team in place. I’m fortunate that this was simply a season of our lives, but I’ve continued to make sure I surround myself by the very best people I can. And to always wash my hands constantly.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
To me, leadership is getting your desired results by motivating your team. I dedicate a fair amount of time to big picture tasks to make sure we’re steering the proverbial ship in the right direction. And my team finds that I’m very open-minded about how we get to those goals- if someone can excel through more educational opportunities, or can get the job done better with the help of an app or program, I’m all ears. My hope is to inspire by continuing to be collaborative while also not removing myself so much from the day-to-day.
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’m a firm believer that you simply can’t be an expert at everything, so I’m quick to delegate things when I come across the right people. Several years ago, I landed on Michelle Loretta of Sage Wedding Pros, who essentially serves as your CFO- mapping out your forecast while also advising on where you put your time and money. By nature, I am not great with numbers so I always found myself in a state of panic. But Michelle creates data that I really understand and helps me make informed decisions about the general direction of OFD. I don’t make any big moves without her.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
I had absolutely no work-life balance for the first several years of owning OFD. I was fortunate to surrounded myself with friends and a partner that could empathize, and understood that I was doing the best I could to give them the time they deserved. For me, I always knew it would be a necessary season in my career in order for us to grow to the point where I could have more of a life. It never felt permanent, so I pushed through it, confident that I was setting myself up for success in the long run. Plus, that difficult time serves as a constant reminder to invest in other people, as well as technology, so I don’t have to run 24 hours a day.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
I’m realistic- I could really feel like I’m gaining steam in one area of my life, and inevitably, I feel like I’m failing (or simply not doing great) in another. I could join my son and his friends for lunch in the cafeteria, but then I’m still going to feel behind on everything else. I may have several national media hits in one week but our fridge is empty because none of us have time to shop. I think that staying realistic that you aren’t going to be great at everything all the time keeps me grounded- I’m not so hard on myself. The good news is that you can ultimately get over that hump with time and experience. As you gain momentum with the business, you can be in a position to delegate more to others.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
1) First, you need to define work/life balance for yourself, versus how others define it for you. Studies show time and time again that if you visualize your goals, you’re far more likely to achieve them, so decide the balance you want for your life before you do anything else.
2) Start cutting out things in your business if they aren’t going to get you from Point A to Point B- even if you enjoy them. You can have a blast networking at an event every month but if you aren’t growing your business in one way or another as a result, you need to give serious consideration to why you’re doing it in the first place.
3) Embrace technology as a means to scale your business, and put time back in your pocket. We live on Basecamp, a really robust project management software that keeps us incredibly organized. We book all appointments through Calendly and I now integrate with Zoom for our video conferences. Every 6 months, we take a good, hard look at what we’re using to determine if it’s still a fit. We also look for any pain points that can be addressed and solved with an app or program.
4) If you’re traveling, get the home in shape before you leave. In our family, I tend to do the majority of the traveling, although depending on my husband’s work, he may be in and out a bit in between my trips. So we’ve created what we’ve dubbed a “solo parenting” list so that the person who is leaving, needs to make sure all the basics are covered- meals are planned, baby-sitting secured, enough cat litter and food for the fur babies, etc. Yes, it’s several extra steps before you walk out the door, but I can leave knowing I’ve done everything I can to make it easy on my partner. It also sets expectations for each of us so we know what may be needed- there’s never any hard feelings over this as a result.
5) Celebrate the little victories. It’s a long, bumpy road to achieving work/life balance and you can easily get down about it. I find that embracing small wins- such as those lunches with my kid and his friends in the cafeteria, keep me going.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.
I have the sincere pleasure of having a first-row seat to my clients as they grow as professional speakers in the industry. We work with them on initially selecting topics, helping them map out what they want to say and how they want to say it.
One of the best feelings is finding out when he or she has secured their dream speaking engagement. And it’s really special when it’s clear they are having the time of their life on stage, and that the audience is really taken with him or her.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
No matter where one stands on any given issue, the fact is, we need to put more time into climate change. Every day in the office, we aim to make greener choices, and are long-time supporters of the Environmental Defense Fund. Imagine the impact we could make if we prioritized doing business under more sustainable conditions.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
You can find most often over on Instagram at @ofdconsulting although we also regularly updated our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ofdconsulting