When the pandemic hit it was easy to bury our heads in the sand, I clearly remember thinking in February 2020, at least Chelsea Flower Show will be safe because that is the end of May, almost 7 weeks away. How naïve was I, but not alone, I guess? How many people can honestly say that they had global pandemic down on their SWOT analysis, even fewer probably had a plan for what to do if it should happen. We were all, apart from a few scientists, fumbling in the dark, wondering how to survive.
There were a few industries that seemed to be hit harder than others, hospitality was the one on everyone’s lips, the Events Industry was lumped in with this. Even though the Events Industry is responsible for an £84 billion direct spend per annum, accounts for 50% of the total UK visitor spend and provides over 1 million jobs to highly skilled UK based workers; the impression given was that it was a few weddings and parties.
At the start of the crisis several well-meaning professionals and friends were telling me to give up,” there is nothing you can do”, “your business cannot survive”, “pivot”. For a while I believed them but then I referred to an exercise that my business coach had asked me to complete in 2019, identifying my ten core strengths and realised that there had never been a time when I needed to draw on these more. The first five strengths are why I believe we survived when all around us competitors were failing.
The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness or as I prefer to call it stubbornness. There have been so many knock backs along the way that without this core strength I would have caved and called it a day. However, it quickly became clear that if we could tackle each obstacle one at a time, not get overwhelmed by the bigger picture then the business could bounce back from each set back. With each bounce back confidence grew and the next would not be quite as daunting. Oliver Myles has been in business for ten years, starting from scratch we had grown to a team of 4 full time staff, 5 freelance staff and running 40 events per year, if we could do that then surely, we had the resilience to survive a year without business.
The fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action despite difficulty or opposition. It would have been so much easier to look for another career, but running events is in my blood and so in spite of so many people telling me to find something else to do I had to stick to my guns. Yes, we could have started selling masks, or hand gel or set-up a drop shipping store front for t-shirts, but this is not what we know or excel at.
We ensured that our clients knew that, although, we might not have been able to run events we were still here, keeping up regular contact with them, sending snippets of news. The persistence paid off, because now the green shoots of live events is starting our clients are getting back in touch with enquiries and bookings. Moreover, we are gaining new clients who have no idea if their usual supplier is still around.
The practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude. A positive attitude when running events is essential, ‘a can do attitude’, our unofficial office motto has always been ‘the answer is yes, now what’s the question’. We have had to draw on our positivity to keep ourselves motivated through the dark days, when all we were doing was contacting clients to say that the concert/event/sporting occasion they been looking forward to was being cancelled. Without the ability to remain positive the year of refunding, rescheduling, and rebooking would have been impossible. There were times when we had to paint on that smile, but the mere act of doing so lifted our moods and that in turn reassured our clients giving them the confidence to stick with us.
Ability to effectively communicate, understand, and empathise. Empathy was needed in abundance, when dealing with clients, partners and suppliers. Throughout the country there was a great attitude, everyone being in the same boat and endeavouring to survive together. This was so evident in the events industry where we all supported each other in anyway we could. Each client or supplier had to be treated individually, there was no one size fits all solution. Listening has always been key in this industry but the ability to pick up on the nuances of a conversation became event more important, so not hiding behind emails or on-line forms was key. After reading stories in the media of endless queues trying to get through to larger corporations our clients found that when they called, we answered.
A strong feeling of support or allegiance: We have as a business and myself on a personal level have always been fiercely loyal. We have been working with most of our suppliers since the start of the business and before, from accountants to web designers, marketing companies, venues to entertainers. As a result, when the going got hard they supported us in whatever way they could, sending news items that might help, offering shoulders to cry on, reduced payment terms or referring us to people that one day might become clients. Loyalty works both ways and we were so moved to have clients call us, not to ask if their booking was safe, but simply to say are you ok? One regular and delightful client was making a monthly call to check in, all the while saying, ‘it will be fine, once events can start again, we are going to keep you so busy you will not know where to turn’. The strength of the relationships built over the years gave us a safety net. Now we are looking forward reinforcing and growing those relationships.
Going forward we are looking forward to getting back to what we do best, running fabulous events. We have learnt so much in the past year about us as a business and ourselves personally and we will use this to build a bright future. In the meantime, we are looking forward to sharing a glass of Champagne or two with our guests as the country cautiously starts to unlock.
17 May 2021