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liz taylor

Values don't change

Liz Taylor, MD at Taylor Lynn Corporation, looks back at how the industry has changed over the last 25 years.

The only real certainty in business is uncertainty. I am a glass half full person and for me, uncertainty is opportunity. Despite the challenges, the event sector, and agencies within it, have evolved into exceptional companies within a multi-billion-pound global industry. I admit to a slightly nostalgic moment here. My company celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and over that time, the rollercoaster of change has transformed my business world.

A chance meeting at Manchester’s Midland Hotel, brazen ambition and a creative spirit led to me setting up my first event business. When I began my journey, my company was fairly exclusive in the North of England, with most fledgling event companies based in London. This had its pros and cons.

Convincing a company to recognise what I could bring to their business was a big challenge: I was not just a party planner. I realised that the key to securing business was becoming a preferred supplier at every venue possible, so I networked until my feet hurt. During that time, I surrounded myself with loyal suppliers, delivering a first-class service and unique product. I decided from the start never to compromise my product by being cheap, to dig in my heels yet remain fair and honourable.

While agency numbers have exploded across the country, from large-scale convention producers to SMEs, what has been consistent is the need for flexibility. An agency model needs to reflect the demands of the market and have enough scope to develop quickly.

During the bank crisis of the 90s, the market changed almost overnight. We shifted much of our work into the private sector where budgets were still strong. We had to develop our corporate offering into creating innovative, smaller, and more cost-effective solutions. Sticking with our clients though until the market, and budgets rose once again. Agencies that wouldn’t evolve, were too slow to change, or couldn’t tap into other markets are no longer with us.

Economy, recessions, the rise of social media: all have made a significant impact on the way agencies plan events and operate their businesses. One of the biggest changes has been the growth of in-house event planners. This is two-fold: firstly, venue ‘booking takers’ have transformed into great event planners, offering a more comprehensive service to clients. For me, they are an ally. We work with them to offer a more detailed event production service without minimising their role in making the event a success.

Secondly, many corporate companies have expanded marketing teams to include event planners. Twenty-five years ago, my main contact for a business event was the boss’s PA. While these unsung heroes of business are still hugely important, many businesses employ an in-house planner. They often view the agency as a threat to their role and so the relationship can be tricky. For me, the challenge 25 years ago was to convince companies why they need my services, where I can add value and be an asset to the event success.

This hasn’t changed. We now work closely to help in-house planners see where our expertise, contacts and ideas can work alongside theirs. We are better as bedfellows.

My motto is that it’s important to stick to what your agency does best. For TLC, I still stand by value and quality, not price as core values. The future is uncertain though; especially if you don’t have the confidence and flexibility to ride the impending storm and make the most of opportunities.

Brexit will certainly bring new challenges working overseas, supplier issues, the value of currency and more. Corporate markets may struggle once again, and the high-net worth individuals in the private sector talk of Brexit relocation. But there is optimism too: our industry is more dynamic and exciting than ever.

Technology helps me push back the boundaries of what is possible. Young, inspiring talent bringing fresh ideas into the mix. The growth of competitors helping us all to raise the bar. So, while the future is once again both certain and uncertain, it is also brilliantly, fantastically bright. Sunglasses may be needed.