Your Next Creative New Business Innovator as COVID-19 Slayer

I’ve worked for two types of event companies: one that created at least two new events annually and another that relied on very large cash cow events and only grew its portfolio through the acquisition of existing events. Both companies are long gone, but both were renowned in their day.

The company managing large events included amongst its roster those that were 10, 15, and, in some cases, more than 25 years old. Its most profitable event generated a 60% margin each year. Unfortunately, none of the cash cows survived more than a couple of years after I left (though some were sold off). To recoup the operating revenues, the firm chose to acquire a new mega-event, albeit one that required a reduced staff to run.

The other, more innovative company started with 60 people and grew that number to 180 at its peak. Most of the new events that it launched were successful in achieving profitability, and the company eventually created its own event development department.

Both companies were profitable and successful, but one had a major advantage with its staff of creative people who could organically build individual events or whole lines-of-business from scratch. As I wrote a number of years ago (The 3 ‘Guys’ You Need to Run a Successful Event), the number of creative people within most companies is typically about 5% of the staff. I call these people the “idea guys/gals.” They are a distinct minority, but a VERY valuable one. The good news is that they exist, and they may be a valued part of your business. The bad news is that they may be operating outside your business – and much of the competitive threat that comes and eats our lunch comes from outside the events business.

An example that I recently discovered is Paddy Cosgrave from Web Summit. Not constrained by the rules that govern traditional event firms, Paddy has created products that he sells to other companies, as well as running a face-to-face and digital events company of his own. And none of his original staff has come from the events business!

But the impetus for original ideas can come from anywhere, including from within. A legacy of traditional approaches does not necessarily predetermine the future. Aevents staff can be taught to be creative, encouraged to make contributions to new business ideas and entirely new lines of business. I, myself, have had to become creative as part of running The Event Mechanic! I can assure you that 20 years ago, no one would have described me as an “idea guy.” I am proof that becoming one can be done.

If you need such an asset within your company, you have choices. You can:

1)     Take on the role yourself.

2)     Develop it from within your company.

3)     Hire from within the industry you serve.

Call me a naysayer or the bearer of bad tidings, but COVID-19 has changed our business forever, regardless of what I see about the industry’s possible ‘return to normal.’ We can choose to do the things that we’ve always done with only half the attendance and exhibitors, or we can learn to build new ways of attracting business, ways that go far beyond doing things as we formerly have done.

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