& Incentives asked Carol Krugman, CMP, CMM, president and CEO of Krugman Group International Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla., to discuss the top challenges that independents face today, based on her recent address on the subject at the MPI Independent Planner Issues Forum in San Francisco:
Running a business — “One major challenge is balancing two very different, and sometimes conflicting, roles: running a small business and being a meeting planner. The former takes as much time and energy as the latter, and it often seems as if you're using opposing sets of muscles.
“When I first started KGI, I had to do everything that a support staff of 30 people had previously done for me. I devoted at least 25 percent of my time to things such as billing, tracking receivables, filing, office and supplier management, and/sales activities. I was not prepared to be CEO, CFO, and VP of marketing, sales, purchasing, administration and operations and, on top of that, hold down the jobs of bookkeeper, office manager, and receptionist.”
Liability — “An area of considerable concern is how to keep current on liability and insurance issues and to protect ourselves. Since 9/11, both professional liability insurance and cancellation/interruption insurance have become more expensive, as well as more difficult to obtain. And, with an increasingly litigious business environment in the U.S. and an unstable geopolitical climate, independents are more vulnerable now to lawsuits by disgruntled attendees and even clients, and to cancellation of meetings with resultant financial loss.
“We carry general business coverage, professional liability insurance specifically designed for meeting planners, and, when necessary, we have clients purchase special insurance such as cancellation and interruption. We may also have them list us in their policies as additional insured parties.”
Setting fees — “One of the greatest challenges, especially to newly independent planners, is to understand the value of our expertise and our time, to communicate this to our clients, and to charge appropriately for both. We chronically underestimate our worth and the amount of time it will take to complete a project. As a result, we tend to undercharge for our services or give away our expertise.”