Event Management: Does size matter? C&IT Blog September 2013

C&IT article by David Hackett from Grass Roots
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C&IT Blog September 2013

I have just finished reading the C&IT article by David Hackett from Grass Roots. Passing it around the office, we all really admired David’s honesty and direct approach, especially about a certain healthcare company being a death wish client. At last we all thought, someone has finally told it how it really is and with that, someone very highly regarded in our industry.

In my event management and venue finding career, we have all had death wish clients, but these clients have also been considered as the holy grail of event management, all of us clambering to get on a client roster, promising greater and larger cost savings at reduced operating costs just to get on board. Of course, a death wish client (in fact any client) is going to rub their hands in glee as they see agency after agency falling at their feet, all systematically reducing costs to a point where margins almost become a dirty word.

As I sit here posed to write, I question how this effects Clearwater Events as a ‘sort of’ start up Events Agency. As a start up agency, the classic death wish client don’t usually touch us with a barge pole. We have a great team with extraordinary talent who delivers extraordinary event solutions, although I know I am biased. Being small, we offer dedicated support with low overheads meaning our fees remain some of the best around. Therefore on paper, we are a good fit.  But, because we aren’t turning over millions or, haven’t got millions in investment, we aren’t considered. Yet, Clearwater Events is two years old, has a solid client base and a positive outlook for the year ahead.

As a start up agency I always describe Clearwater Events as being either in feast or famine mode. There are months where the work flows in, others where it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, our Sales Manager is working doubly hard with the wrath of my expectations hanging overhead. Often, we have the chance to tender, to pitch at RFI stage. Yet, it seems that because we aren’t millionaires in turnover, or started our company as millionaires, we get pushed out at the first hurdle. Hello people…….. Is this really what tendering has become?

I recently read an article about a start up marketing agency. They had a big ambition to remain small, because small isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes small is better. Small means you can keep cost low whilst maintaining a profitable margin. Small means you can offer dedicated, personalized client support. And, small is a safe bet as lower overheads mean lower risks for the client. So, size does and can matter. Bigger isn’t always better.

Clients can and will always have the right to set the rules. We are of course in the service industry so that’s a given. But, no matter the size of a client, there is always room for a smaller agency to enter the mix where events can still be delivered to targets whilst still making money based upon the strict rule book given. Large event companies can seem alluring to potential clients but, larger overheads increases the need to make greater profit lines.

Perhaps this is the start of a game changer? Clearwater Events now work with two rather large multi national companies where we enjoy fantastic relationships, deliver great events and provide dedicated support. And yes, we do make money. Their goals have stayed the same, their approach has remained consistent based on their previous agencies. And we all agree, that it’s our size that has been the game changer.

Death Wish Clients, please apply here.