Venturing out from a partnership to his own business, Joe Moller risked losing his clients. But his success story is one worth celebrating – and he should know since he caters celebrations for some of the biggest names in the world. Here’s how a credit card helped launch Moller into event production superstardom.
Wow-factor celebrations are integral to Los Angeles, California, and Joe Moller is a veteran of the luxury event planning space. But after three years of working with a partner, he knew it was time to launch his very own venture. In 2007, Joe Moller Events (JME) was up and running the show.
It wasn’t an easy financial decision, however. “I had many apprehensions about which of us our clients would choose as their service provider,” says Moller. “Then, having been the agency they selected, finding the operating capital to execute their events with the same style and culture they were used to at the previous agency. I had to overcome staffing issues, supplier issues, new hardware issues and every other problem a startup faces.”
To make the magic happen, Moller slapped down a credit card that matched his business needs. “It allowed me the resources I needed to resolve many of those issues,” he says.
With Moller’s knowledge, attitude and financing strategy, JME has become a success story worthy of its own celebration. Today, his roster of clients includes the biggest names and most impressive products in the world – such as British Airways, Dolce & Gabbana, Skyy Vodka and Variety magazine. Here’s how it all started and where the company is now.
See related: A taco takeover with the right business credit card
What was the beginning like – any surprise costs catch you off guard?
I don’t think most small businesses have to deal with paying for expenses related to a project three months in the future – and then not be able to invoice it for months after it’s over.
Add payroll to that, along with constantly increasing permitting and insurance expenses, and you can begin to understand why Forbes has “Event Production” listed as one of the top five most stressful careers. Trust me, it isn’t because of the balloons and napkins!
So credit cards have helped?
Definitely. American Express products have allowed JME to experience consistent growth over our 12-plus years by allowing us greater operating capital options – without having to seek other financial solutions.
Additionally, the points, lounge and other cardmember benefits (such as reservations and travel) have all been applied to meeting and exceeding our client’s expectations. My card of choice is The Platinum Card® from American Express, and with it, we feel invincible! From travel services to car services to scoring reservations at hard-to-get-into restaurants and even concert tickets, this card allowed us to slay everything that was thrown our way.
Additionally, the points generated from our usage allowed me to take my whole family to San Francisco one year for my birthday, stay at a premium hotel and cover an amazing steak dinner for the group. The sense of pride knowing I had earned and saved sufficient points to do this is a memory that I vividly recall discussing with my father (who has since passed) as a watershed moment for me, professionally.
What types of expenses do you typically charge?
According to the brilliant pie chart available on the American Express site, the majority of JME’s spending is in the business services categories.
In our case, that includes rental services, catering services, audiovisual services and printing services. As we are based in LA but over 60 percent of our projects are outside the region, travel is another big expense for us.
And for any potential new clients, we have an aggressive thank-you gift program that isn’t cheap!
How do you handle the financial aspects of running the business? Are you usually leveraged or do you remain debt-free?
For many years, we were able to remain in the black with the only reoccurring debt being our monthly credit card bill. As our clients grew, so did the size and expenses of their respective events. This, coupled with the frequency of events rapidly increasing, meant we needed to have more operating resources available to meet these growing needs.
As a result, we have utilized lines of credit and worked with American Express to ensure our limits matched our needs. That in and of itself has been a challenge to manage at times, but with the relationship now being almost 15 years old, we have a proven track record with zero missed payments.
Where you are now with the business?
JME has had an annual double-digit growth rate for over the past 10 years and I am very proud of that. Sustaining this growth has cut down on my hours of free time, sleep and overall personal life a little bit, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I love what I do, and the annual growth is the single biggest validation for those efforts in large part because we have an over-95-percent return client rate. I do miss a little more free time on the weekends but love every minute of the time I have invested in JME.
Do you have any regrets – anything you’d like to do over?
Looking back over the years, there are a handful of lessons I have learned that stick with me. One that jumps to mind is doing my own taxes when we started, and fooling myself into thinking I was good at it.
As a service provider, I now appreciate and understand using experts to accomplish tasks outside of your area of expertise – especially when it comes to financial matters.
For all the startups reading this, having an accounting firm who understands your business, your goals and operating issues is far more valuable than any savings you may think you incur by doing it yourself.
What have you learned that you can offer others as advice?
The single greatest lesson I can share with anyone reading this is don’t quit, ever.
We have been up against powerhouses in our industry on bidding opportunities and won! I attribute our success to never giving up, and most importantly, never thinking quitting was an option. There is a quote by Calvin Coolidge that I read weekly and I believe in more than anything I have ever read:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
My best advice is to never forget there isn’t any force or person in the universe stopping you from becoming successful. No one. Take ownership of your decisions, good and bad, so that you have the power to change the ones you don’t like and continue the ones you do.
Also, get a great credit card tailored to your needs and use it often, make payments early and regularly so that your financial partner can rely on your performance – not your promises. Lastly, never assume the sky is the limit when there are footsteps on the moon!