Located in Venice, California, Sonia Sharma Events (SSE) is a high end boutique event planning and production company. SSE specializes in coordinating high-end and multicultural weddings as well as an array of social events. For 10 years, SSE has impacted the event planning industry as a result of Sonia Sharma, the owner of the company. SSE sets itself apart from other companies in terms of color and design. Her designs are unique, utilizing colors that are beautiful, bold and vibrant. In addition to her distinctive designs, SSE is known for working hard while having fun at the same time. SSE uses many aspects of organizational communication that affect company culture. There are subtle nuances within the operational dynamics of SSE; both in office work and the event day; but these are nominal with respect to the average event/wedding planning firms.
Organizations are defined as places where individuals work and perform a significant amount of objectives and tasks that cohesively constitute the overall business. When examining the effectiveness of an organization from the traditional rationale, it is understood that productivity and profitability are what the measurable variables of efficiency are. In other words, how well are the staff at the organization performing to get the tasks done and to what extent is the job satisfactory? Yet, while this approach may mark an underlying way of achieving objectives and tasks, it omits the glue the holds organizations together - communication. Therefore, to effectively understand the effectiveness of a business, the organizational culture approach must be applied (Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo, 1982). To fully ascertain the organizational culture approach, data was collected from Sonia Sharma Events through both office work and event day execution.
When examining the organizational cultural approach through the lens of SSE, the typical office day must be outlined. When booking clients, Sonia first examines the various inquiries she has received from those interested in using her business via website, other clients as well as those who have called the office. From there, Sonia consults with these individuals to determine what they are seeking from her. An explanation is given on what types of services she offers such as signature events, private parties and corporate events.
In doing this, Sonia is defining the culture of SSE. Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1982) note that Clifford Geertz's principle that culture is a web. Culture is studied in terms of webs. These webs are spun when individuals go about their business of constructing a structure (pg. 123). Thus, Sonia is constructing the operation of dealing with clients a certain way, and that way only. In addition to responding to all of the inquirers, Sonia specifically touts her full service coordination, as this is where she makes the majority of her revenue. Sonia also defines her culture by specializing in Indian and Pakistani weddings, and not necessarily going for the typical, white American client. Essentially, clients must meet certain qualifications before SSE will opt to book them.
These qualifications are what Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1982) refer to as relevant constructs, facts, and practices. These formulate the organizational experiences and the nature of how the organization will be defined (pg.124-125). After deciding on whether to book a client, Sonia meets with them at a fancy or trendy restaurant. This reinforces the overall SSE organizational culture. If a client opts to move further after the first initial consultation meeting, then an additional meeting is set up at the SSE office. Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1982) discuss what is referred to as cultural rites and rituals that organizations have (pg. 126). Most, if not all of the decisions pertaining to a wedding or event are made by Sonia and her staff at SSE. The daily tasks include pre-even coordination, which consists of providing the bride with books of the various color schemes, flowers, dresses and themes associated with the conceptual types of weddings/events offered. The client is encouraged to bookmark certain pages in the books that allow SEE to create a design sheet of what the event/wedding will entail. SSE exercises their “rituals” by planning everything from the cocktail hour to the reception. As an intern, it was my “ritual” to do several important things for Sonia such as creating a master RSVP list, noting what meal selections the guests have chosen; checking the website, Wedding Jojo to see if answers and/or responses have been provided there; calling the guests through the office landline to inquire about their attendance; and checking the SSE P.O. Box for correspondence through there. Additional duties included filing of receipts and bills and dealing with vendors through e-mails and personal calls/texts.
Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1982) further their discussion by stating that to gain notable observations and insight on organizational culture, research has to be detailed and precise on organizational members in action. This assists in identifying how well the climate is and the sufficiency of effectiveness of that organization (pg. 127). One organizational member that affects the organizational climate is Milana, Sonia's assistant. Through her attitude and actions, Milana is a force to be reckoned with as she makes many of the tasks and objectives difficult for the team. She is and has been Sonia's assistant for 2 years and thus, the two of them have a very personal relationship; but that also extends to poor and inadequate treatment of their employees. While interning at SSE, both would contact me after regular business hours without thought of the responsibilities that pertained to my life. It became overwhelming as they felt my internship duties extended beyond the scope of the regular business day. Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1982) added that by studying an organizational culture through a variety of accounts of the organization's life that a variety of perspectives are achieved (pg.128). Therefore, examining both the operation of the practices of SSE as well as the overall approach that Sonia and Milana have toward their employees, it allows for a full viewpoint of the office environment at SSE.
The organizational culture of Sonia Sharma Events is also defined by the actual event execution. There are occasions where SSE goes into crisis management mode prior to events. Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1983) state that organizations have their own way of doing and interacting. Organizations become easy to analyze through the ways in which they perform and communicate. An organization's performance is theorized in two ways: first, in a kind of theatrical way where performances are overdone and second, through an accomplishment structure, where performance brings significance to the organization (pg.129). Thus, SSE is operating in accordance with the first aspect of what Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1983) suggest about performance with the crisis management operation on event days and prior to them.
There is much that has to take place regarding production of the events within a short amount of time. SSE takes sole responsibility for everything including the event's location; the type of vendor, as pleasing the client is the number one priority. The client is never wrong, and when observed, there were several instances where Sonia and her team took issue with that. It can be said that SSE overdoes certain aspects of their events as a part of their customer service oriented business. In the field observations, the organizational culture was surprising more cohesive on event day than in the office. This could be due to the performance element that Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1983) mark as a defining factor in how an organization is seen and known. The performances of an organization are episodic and often scripted at certain intervals. Communication runs smoothly during these scripted performances (pg. 129).
Two examples of scripted episodic performances are that the staff is much more pleasant on event days, as the team tries to stick together and help one another out so we are one strong unit. Specifically, Sonia has all of the staff on walkie talkies and communications is a must in order to prevent issues and to ensure problems are solved. Additionally, interns are given the task of gift attendant, always, at an event. The job entails sitting at a table throughout the even from cocktail hour to reception, accepting gifts on behalf of the bride and groom, if it is a wedding. When guests drop a gift off, the intern outs a number sticker on the particular gift and the guest signs their name next to the number on a gift log sheet. This is done so the bride and groom can send a thank you note to the guests for the gift they received.
An example of communication on event day is when Sonia often has employees run errands during production mode and record hours if anything is purchased such as gas money or other items. This is an example of what Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1983) note as being episodic performances that are loosely scripted (pg.133). The Sonia Sharma Events team works together and everyone gets alone as they are looking at getting the final product finished and in motion. After an event concludes, there is a tradition where shots are taken by the entire SSE team at a bar to celebrate the accomplishments.
The culture at Sonia Sharma Events is not unlike the culture at many firms of this nature. While SEE defines itself by a certain type of clientele and rationale in terms of how it deals with its employees, much of its culture is systematic. The organizational culture approach reasons that a business' effectiveness is marked by how it functions and holds organizations together. From that particular slant, SSE achieves that objective in event day execution, but falters in its office operations.
Pacanowsky, M. E., & O'Donnell-Trujillo , N. (1982, Spring). Communication and Organizational Cultures. The Western Journal of Speech Communications, 46, 115-130.
Pacanowsky, M. E., & O'Donnell-Trujillo , N. (1983, June). Organizational Communication As Cultural Performance. Communications Monographs, 50, 126-147.