The Big Interview: Right Angle Event's Steve Gaskin
CN catches up with Steve Gaskin, former DCI in the Metropolitan Police, the man who arrested Johnny Rotten, and now successful MD of teambuilding specialists Right Angle Events
The man who runs a successful and expanding teambuilding company, Right Angle Events, has, in his former life as a senior detective, had the pleasure of arresting Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols and met HM The Queen after Michael Fagan scaled the palace walls and ended up in her bedroom in 1982.
A 25-year career in The Metropolitan Police saw Gaskin investigating drug trafficking at the highest level before his retirement as a detective chief inspector responsible for managing serious crime in West London.
He says his hardest challenge in The Met was working on murder cases. “This is a sad time for victims’ relatives and there is a duty on the police to solve the case quickly. Having said that, the resources to investigate murder cases in the UK were exemplary,” he says.
Gaskin’s father was a police constable in Central London for over 30 years and career fate was such that, on one occasion, Steve was his father’s sergeant!
Gaskin is clearly an active character, starting his events agency following his police career and obviously inherits an active gene from his mother, Joan, who he tells us, was sandboarding in Peru on her 80th birthday.
So, how did the move into events come about?
An important trait of a senior police officer is leadership and Gaskin led a series of teams into different situations. Examples included an undercover ‘sting’ to flush out dangerous drugs or leading the Central London Child Protection Team.
He had always been entrepreneurial in public services, suggesting different ways to improve the efficiency of the service and was also responsible for training. It is against this backdrop that he wanted to explore something different using the skills he had accrued over 25 years. Teambuilding seemed a natural fit.
His company, Right Angle Events, has been trading for 10 years and the most popular product is The Killing, a 3-hour CSI experience requiring skill, lateral thinking and the ability to work as a team. Gaskin now leads a team of dedicated professionals in a slightly different setting.
What were the early agency days like?
“It was a rude awakening to find out how much solicitors and accountants cost,” Gaskin notes.
“The early trick was to make sure that the books balanced. I started off on my own but my wife Kate Gaskin, who also was a former police officer and a management trainer at Scotland Yard, soon joined me. Kate is certainly the force that drives our company and is responsible for most of its successes.
“After our product had been born, we pitched Center Parcs for some business, unsuccessfully. However, I won a small business competition and thanks to Theo Paphitis, received £10,000 which was invested in radio advertising.”
The advert caught the imagination of Center Parcs and Right Angle Events eventually ended up trading in all Center Parcs locations. A bonus for Gaskin was learning a lot about customer service from Center Parcs.
Orders started to pick up and new staff were hired. One from those days, Jane, is still with them and is finance officer.
The crash of 2008 could have lead to some big problems, says Gaskin, had they not diversified. Using his own money, he bought a marketing list of all educational establishments in the UK. All were pitched to run CSI workshops from primary schools through to UK universities. “This certainly kept the company alive during the dark days of the recession,” Gaskin notes.
The company has since won many national awards.
But how did the Right Angle approach differ from what was already on the market?
Gaskin says he would like to say he scanned the market, did market research and really found out how the industry ticked, but confesses he didn’t. “It was obvious that there were no real immersive crime experiences on the market, therefore were able to penetrate the teambuilding market. The results speak for themselves. There is social proof on the company website www.rightangleevents.co.uk.” The company says its USP is excellent customer service and going that extra mile.
Of all the agency’s teambuilding products brought to market, The Killing has been the most successful. Two years ago Right Angle released an immersive kidnap experience called Taken. It was piloted several times and Gaskin admits it needed some revisions before companies really started to see the value, particularly around leadership.
The Taken product puts clients under simulated pressure.
Anyone would, of course, find it hard starting a second full-on career having had a long police career, but Gaskin thinks both careers complement each other. Although he says his leadership style is totally different in private enterprise, with the events industry all about pleasing customers.
Where does he hope to take the company over the next five years and what trends is he anticipating on the meetings market?
Gaskin believes the vote to come out of the European Union has already affected the events industry.
“The company has many customers with employees both here and abroad. They already know that some of these employees are migrating to other parts of Europe. Right Angle has set up a European company to smooth out any obstacles there may be post-Brexit. In the next five years there will be a lot of uncertainty and unrest in the business world. Right Angle sees this as a huge opportunity for teambuilding. The company has also moved into leadership and management training, embracing high performing teams, leadership, time management and communication skills. This broad offering is really paying dividends,” Gaskin adds.
What can the industry do better?
The name of the game in the business world is collaboration and co-operation with other companies, says Gaskin. “There could be a lot of mileage with some companies joining at the hip for different specialities. This will add effectiveness and efficiencies to both parties. The clear strength of the events industry in the UK is the will, in most cases, to achieve excellence so the customer has a really good ‘road journey’ from enquiry through to execution and feedback.
You are speaking at International Confex this year. What will you be talking about?
"I will be talking about the events industry and potential terrorist threats. There is no direct evidence that the events industry will be adversely affected by terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, it does no harm to look at some simple preventative measures and present what police policy is. In this way the industry can prepare themselves as far as possible and reassure clients This will also help customers whom are generally risk averse.”
Looking ahead to industry trends, Gaskin says information technology will, of course, play a huge part in the industry. “Right Angle is already using virtual reality and artificial intelligence for some of its events,” he points out.
“The industry will continue to be shaped by customer demand. Clearly, the advent of Brexit will necessitate corrections to be made but that said, there should be huge opportunities as well as pitfalls when the UK leaves the EU. After all, the British events industry is world class."