What inspired you to start your current business?
I and my co-founder, Caroline Hurley, were excited by the opportunity to do something that hadn’t been done at that time in the events industry, which was to bring together party planning for individuals with high-end events for luxury brands. By merging the two disciplines, we found ourselves with an enviable guest-list, able to offer a creative personal touch to big corporate events and high-end luxury to individual parties. Now that more companies are in this space, it is about expanding through exporting the brand to new markets overseas.
You have adapted and changed over the years from running an international DJ business to fashion and now high-end events business. What would you say the importance of adapting is to career success and when do you know the time is right?
It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to take the plunge and make those big changes in your career. But with each change I make, I find another lease of energy – learning new things; meeting new people; and working out how your previous experience and network can help you in a different context. In terms of timing, I think it’s important to be opportunistic. Some moves can be planned; but others will be reacting to a new gap in the market or the chance to work with someone who would stretch you and complement your strengths.
How do you keep on top of all your business interests? What advice can you give our members about juggling priorities?
While we all juggle priorities on a day to day basis, my top tip for staying on top of things is to schedule in time to take a break and de-clutter your mind.
Tell us about any personal or professional barriers you have had to overcome to grow your business?
Back in 2005, Quintessentially Events started life in a small office in a Soho car park. So we’ve had to work hard right from the beginning to chase every scrap of business and build ourselves up to where we are today. But a key barrier that we – like many others – faced was the financial crisis, which hit us at a time when the business was finally really starting to flourish. Almost overnight, we lost a number of key corporate clients. We had to grit our teeth, look to new markets and dig deep to find the creativity that would set us apart from the competition. Thankfully, that’s now behind us!
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
The greatest challenge can be the pressure you feel to keep the business going in the right direction. To employ a team and to be able to create new jobs is exciting and rewarding, but being able to keep your staff busy and motivated is also a responsibility that I take very seriously. The greatest reward of being my own boss is the freedom that comes with not having to ask permission. If you have an idea, you have the freedom to try it out – taking the credit or the blame accordingly!
What motivational tips can you offer about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?
I like to be clear each year about what I want to achieve, which helps me then to keep the weekly wins and failures in perspective. And I try not to beat myself up about the failures – if you’re never failing, then you’re probably not taking any risks or trying hard enough! It’s easier said than done, but it is a really important skill to be able to dust yourself off; make a mental note of what you’d do differently the next time; and carry on.
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
I’ve never had a formal mentor. But I’ve relied on those around me in the business and very much my family and friends. We are a very close-knit team in Q Events – partly because working together to produce a really high quality event is a very hands-on business and this helps to generate great camaraderie between us.
What one thing could you advise women to do to help them succeed professionally?
For me, business is all about relationships. My top suggestion would be to focus on taking proper care of those relationships – particularly when we’re all so busy. We need to take time to listen to people carefully and really understand what they’re saying, as well as to be authentic so that colleagues and clients get to know the real “you”.
On a typical day how does it begin and end?
I rise around 7am and try to take a little time for myself, which on a good day includes some exercise, before responding to emails. The reality of having offices in time zones means that work hours are long and I have a busy inbox first thing. I am in the office by 9.30am and don’t tend to leave much before 7.30pm, often out for the evening with clients or friends, albeit as I get older, the warm call of home gets louder especially during winter!
What are your goals for 2015?
My top goals for 2015 are to help effect the arrival of our exciting new agency proposition, Q&Co, offering unique strategic insight and data-driven access to the global luxury market place and to oversee the continued expansion of Quintessentially Events, with offices launching in US, Bangkok, Doha and Auckland. And to spend more weekend time out of town.