In our latest guest blog, Elliott Grant and Joe O’Connell, founders of start-up agency Black Book, reflect on the the past 12 months as they mark their first year anniversary.
One year old, where did the time go? For most of us right now, the general feeling is a strange juxtaposition of “when will this ever end” and “how’s it already June 2021?”
At Black Book, the last 12 months certainly hasn’t been what we’d planned or hoped for but that’s been the same for everyone, in the MICE industry and further afield. If we were looking for a silver lining, it would be that if we’d started 6-12 months earlier we may have been far more reliant on sold events and probably have more fixed costs that we would have had to manage.
With the benefit of hindsight, it was a blessing to start in the midst of the pandemic as we were running a lean business and could navigate our way through the pandemic easier than other people may have been able to.
Joe and I decided to take a look back over our first year while reflecting on some important life lessons that have been brought sharply into focus by the pandemic. So here goes…
1. Be kind, you don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives
This may not be totally relevant to the business, but its 100% one of the most important lessons of the last year. There’s no doubting that the pandemic has put a huge pressure on businesses and individuals and the mental health impact is far from being fully known right now. One thing that we are thankful for is the friendship and kindness of the MICE industry who have all genuinely pulled together and supported each other through this. We’ve certainly taken the view that being kind is the best way to go about our business and we’re extremely grateful to those who have shown that kindness back to us.
2. Surround yourself with positive people
Some of you may laugh at this, but both Joe and I are slightly shy individuals and feel especially awkward sharing things on social media. This stems from the worry of being judged and mocked and is something we’ve had to get control of this year. The majority of people want to support you, want you to do well and enjoy hearing about your positive news and for those that don’t, they don’t matter.
3. More money doesn’t make you happier
We laughed about including this one as frankly, we don’t know whether more money would make us happier right now as we haven’t had the chance to test the theory! One thing’s for sure though, not having lots of money hasn’t dented our spirits and has actually helped us focus on important aspects our industry, like getting to know our clients better, spending quality time (albeit by Zoom) with our friends and suppliers around the world and ultimately putting us in a better position to test the “more money” theory in the years to come.
4. Communication is key
Linked to lesson 3, the last year has given us the time to focus on communication. This point is threefold. Firstly Joe and I haven’t been able to see each other very often, but we’ve spoken plenty – calls, Zooms, messages, we’ve probably spoken more than if we were sitting across from each other in an office head down in emails. Secondly, and I’d say this is the case across the industry, suppliers and buyers have made time for each other. There’s been no selling to do, so every interaction has been purely about building relationships and learning from each other – this will leave us all in a much stronger position to offer better solutions to our clients when we start running events again.
And lastly, our clients – we’ve had the chance to get to know them better without the pressures that usually accompany these relationships. Catch ups, surprise gifts and the occasional Zoom party have all helped to build better bonds with people who’ve always been on “the other side of the table”. One thing’s for sure now, there’s a much closer connection between clients, agencies and suppliers which is only going to make us all the better in the future.
5. You can’t control the circumstances, but you can control how you react
In summary, no one could have predicted the last 12-15 months, it’s been like something out of a very unbelievable movie script. But it happened, and it was, and still is out of all of our control. What has been in our control though is how we’ve reacted, as a business, as individuals and as an industry and we are pretty proud of all three!