It’s no surprise to us that Legendary Events has been in business for nearly twenty years, we have, after all, met Mr. Tony Conway himself. His premier special-events company is behind many of Atlanta’s most renowned events, providing their expertise in everything from planning to floral design for political figures, beloved celebrities and everyone else wise enough to book them. So, in the spirit of the New Year, inspired by those in the events industry who have set the bar so high, we sat down with Tony to pick his brain and kick off our 2017 goal setting.
Read on to hear about how he got started in events, his secrets to running a successful business and what is on the horizon for Legendary Events!
Nüage Designs: Tell us your story – how did you get into the event world?
Tony Conway: I started in the hotel industry when I was 16 at Holiday Inn. I then moved to Marriott Hotels for 12 years, Stouffer Hotels for 4 Years and Ritz Carlton for 4 years as Director of Catering and Conference Services.
ND- What made you decide to explore so many different aspects of the event process (catering, florals, design, planning)?
TC -It’s really a natural progression because they all are part of what we do to make an event happen. Plus I also decided that this would give us more control over the product and a better return on investment (ROI).
ND – You also own and operate venues in Atlanta, what was the impetus to make that leap?
TC – It’s good to have spaces that we have full control over for all aspects of an event. It gave us the freedom to create an environment for our clients that I felt was missing in the marketplace. In the end it made sense as a business owner and for all of the clients we enjoy creating special moments for.
ND – You’ve been in business for almost 20 years, what would you say is the secret to that success?
TC – Four things.
1. The team. I am surrounded by amazing members of the special event industry that do it better than I can. I have always felt like the conductor of the symphony and the talent in my orchestra is what makes the music happen.
2. Knowing when to make calculated changes and take risks.
3. Listening to our customer.
4. Making sure I have a trusted team of accountants and attorneys that keep a watchful eye over everything, so that we can concentrate on providing the best possible service for our clients.
ND – How do you find great team members to join Legendary Events? Do you find that you hire employees that stay for a long time with the company?
TC – I am fortunate that so many of the team have moved up in the company. We also benefit from positive word of mouth recommendations that often produces great talent. I tend to hire slowly and carefully in order to make sure that every new team member understands the mission of the company, has a passion for the industry and for making a profit. The Legendary Events family are a tight knit group who work extremely hard; if you don’t pull your weight as part of the team they are usually the ones moving you out!
ND – How do you maintain long-standing client relationships to ensure continued projects together?
TC – Listen…Listen…Listen. We’re honest with our clients and take them “along the journey” with us when planning their events. We let them know if something does not work. We always provide alternative solutions and we’re honest if their request does not fit into our budget guidelines in advance. It’s always important to remember that this is not what they do but they have some ideas and we need to help them bring that to life. I have a philosophy, our clients are part of our overall sales team: they put us in front of their guests who are also potential clients…and they pay for this! Our clients are THE BEST form of advertising for we have. So we are always trying to make sure the entire guest list is treated as though they were the client.
ND – Legendary Events always wows us with new ideas, where do you find inspiration to always innovate?
TC – Everywhere: The fashion industry, other colloquies and what they are doing, conferences, our clients, restaurants, social media, TV, film. You name it.
ND – Of the entire event process, which is your personal favorite?
TC – I enjoy the first meeting. Listening to the client and talking through how we can make those ideas come to life never gets old.
ND – When speaking with newer business owners in the weddings and events space, what would be your advice to them on growing their business and brand in a way that is true to self?
TC – Have a plan and continue to change that plan. Make sure you learn this business, not just work in the business. Make sure you have your finances in order and be prepared for slumps in the business. Hire slow, fire fast. Surround yourself with talent that is smarter than you.
ND – If you could plan a party for anyone, dead or alive, who would that be?
TC – Tina Turner – She’s a legend, need I say more!
ND – What else is on the horizon for LE?
TC – Possibly acquiring additional venues and continuing to look for ways to improve upon what we are already doing.