Noble Events has appointed Sarah Cox has its new managing director, who will lead the business across both strategic office locations in the UK and Dubai.
The appointment comes as founder and MD Penny Noble moves into a newly created CEO role, which will see her refocus her time on the public profile of the business and work closely with Cox and the Board of Directors on the addition of further strategic services to the existing portfolio.
To mark International Women’s Day 2023, we caught up with Cox on her new role, and being a female leader in the events industry…
Congratulations on your promotion, what does the new role mean to you?
Penny has built a fantastic legacy and led by example for almost 15 years. This has always been part of the plan and a natural progression for me when I became deputy managing director in 2017. I am excited and ready to move us forward and take the business to the next level. The transition comes at a transformational time for the agency, as we diversify and expand into the financial services and electrification sectors with key client wins, including ongoing projects for Visa throughout Europe and the Middle East.
We strengthened our creative and strategic experiential offering and invested heavily in our team structure and resources in 2022. We have been recruiting furiously over the past 12 months and are now back up to a team of 24, from 9 at the beginning of last year, and expect to recruit for a couple of new roles in the next couple of months. So, we are back to where we were pre-pandemic, but we have a different blend of skillsets. We have really focused on becoming an employer of choice, and not just bringing in the right kind of people to help the business grow and develop, but keeping those people.
The recruitment process has been a huge part of my life, but now we have that team in place, it frees up some of my time to grow the business and capitalise on those new business wins. I’ll also be looking at beginning our B Corp journey as a business and some ISO certifications as well.
It’s IWD 2023, how has working for a female-owned and managed business shaped your development and leadership style?
I think Penny’s approach to management and leadership is quite special. She’s always talked about Noble being a family, and it really does feel like a family. It’s probably a bit of a generalisation, but I do feel that the level of empathy when you work in female led businesses is better.
People work incredibly hard in the events industry, and they need to feel valued for that. There are also times in most people’s lives when they will need more support, and a bit of give, and having an empathetic approach towards your team makes a huge difference.
We employ a lot of women in our business, and we need to help instil them with the self-confidence they need to flourish and be the leaders of the future that we want them to be. Women often hold themselves back because of a lack of confidence in their abilities, so one of the things we can do as female leaders is to make sure the next generation don’t make the same mistakes as us by being less passive and more active in creating and taking those opportunities.
I think it’s an exciting time for women in the events industry right now and there has never been so many opportunities. I realise there are still challenges and that the glass ceiling exists but there is a strong movement to challenge that. I am excited and proud to be a female led business and believe we can achieve great things.
What are the key attributes required to be an effective leader?
Empathy, but also the ability to listen and consult – being collaborative is hugely important. Recognising you don’t know everything, being comfortable to acknowledge that, and finding people who do know those things, is an important part of being a good leader.
It’s also important to empower people and give them ownership but understand that they might not do things the way you do, and that’s okay. Our people come first, and making sure they are happy is our number one priority. It’s about having that awareness that whilst our clients are super important, without a happy team you can’t make your clients happy anyway.
What can we do to help attract and retain young female talent in the industry?
My advice to the next generation of female leaders would be, if it doesn’t work for you, make it different, change it. If there are things about a particular role that you don’t like, if the hours are wrong, or the structure is wrong, don’t rule it out and say it’s not going to work for me because I can’t work like that person. Speak up and see if you can find a way to change it, so it does work for you. I have evolved and I have been lucky enough to evolve my roles to the way I like to work.
We have a responsibility as female leaders, and leaders in general, to be looking out for those bright stars and encouraging them to take the next step. This happened to me several times in my career, when both female and male bosses have seen something in me and given me opportunities before I was ready to ask for them.