The Responsible Event Planner

This is a guest post by Brent Hardy. He oversees all corporate construction & facilities management activities for Extra Space Storage and leads corporate sustainability programs, implementing solar power, energy efficiencies and more. He writes about corporate sustainable practices here.

After reading Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s new book, , I’ve started to look out for the principles he highlights among successful companies and events that I attend.

Chouinard’s insights in the book, although garnered from his experience running an outdoor apparel company, are applicable to any business owner.

In particular, the general themes contained in his acclaimed series of checklists at the end of the book can apply to the leadership of any type of company, big or small. Below, I’ve highlighted the different sections of the checklist and provided information on how an event manager can utilize Chouinard’s ideals in improving his or her business plan.

Business Health

Implementing business practices that ensure the legitimacy of a company’s finances and credibility of its operations is paramount. Business owners should have independent professionals conduct routine audits of company finances to ensure accuracy and integrity. While the word “audit” typically makes most small business owners uneasy, Chouinard would probably argue that reputable companies shouldn’t get anxious if they have nothing to hide.

That sort of economic transparency is a hallmark of a successful business, including event planning. In fact, Chouinard supports a practice of sharing financial records with employees at all levels so each person that’s part of the team fully understands where the company stands and feels involved in carrying out its mission.

When you consider that an event planning business is out in the public eye more than most companies, literally being casually scrutinized by hundreds or thousands of attendees who could later become clients (or pass along a good or bad word), it makes sense to seek out an honest third-party critique that will only help you to improve your service.


Chouinard regards employees as the backbone of any company, going to great lengths to ensure that the entire staff feels respected and appreciated for their unique contributions. Compensating one’s workers is an integral part of making them feel valued and upholding the responsibility of being the head of a company. However, that compensation can come in many forms. Salary is one form, but benefits are also important.

Even if you have only an employee or two, strive to offer health insurance, some means for retirement planning, and adequate vacation time and sick leave. If covering all that sounds like an ambitious plan for an event manager to tackle, use the recommendations as a basic guide and ensure that your employees feel like family and that you’re doing the most that is possible.

Because an event planner’s employees are literally out in the open and exposed to clients of all sorts, insuring a proud, happy attitude toward the company is paramount. Grumbling won’t be confined to a kitchen or an isolated office — you need your employees to be genuinely smiling as they interact during set-up, break-down, and during the course of an event.


The event planning business is all about service and pleasing the client. Chouinard urges business owners to devote themselves completely to their customers, but not at the expense of others or the environment.

More than in most other types of work, event planners are scrutinized by the second in their ability to make customers happy. Keep up your professionalism, and handle any requests, however tedious, with a gracious attitude.


While every event planner wants to achieve financial success, Chouinard advises business owners to engage with the community while pursuing personal career goals. That engagement can take many forms. Charitable giving or volunteering for an important cause is a great way to start.

Event managers have skills well suited for getting involved in planning a charity event or organizing some affair to raise money or awareness for a worthy cause. Finally, when selecting vendors or recommending them to a client, consider the ones that have a commitment to the community similar to your own. It’s a smart idea for any event planner to set an annual goal or quota of non-profit and charitable clients.


Chouinard promotes reduction of a company’s carbon footprint. The next time you are planning an event, consider selecting vendors close to the venue to avoid excess vehicle emissions, and use materials that will have the least environmental impact. What was once a niche market for green events is growing to be an expected aspect and option for any planner.

Building a strong company with a positive impact on the community and the environment should be the goal of any event planner. By maintaining a firm commitment to responsible management, your company will thrive and gain a well-earned reputation.

Photo Credit: Tom Frost (~1938 – ) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]