Andrew Harrison, ESSA director discusses the importance of compromise, respect and communication in a successful partnership.
Six years ago I was a newcomer to the events industry. Since that moment, I have met great people, experienced some truly awe-inspiring events, and I have seen first-hand just what can be achieved when these partnerships are running on a potent mix of drive, energy and creative collaboration.
If I was to sum up what I have seen and experienced, it is an industry of opportunity for those that work within it and for our customers. But in the same period, I believe we have witnessed a gradual commoditisation of the partnerships that existed and sometimes without even realising it.
Taking those closer to home, event supplier and servicing businesses are often the smaller stakeholders in any given project, and as part of competitive practice, much of their sales efforts are driven by price. Equally, we’ve seen relationships move towards, do more, do it faster and do it for less, helping to create ideal conditions for a race to the bottom.
I’m not here to talk about how much something costs, or how much something should cost, what I want people to think about is, are we as an industry getting to the point where all we talk about is price?
‘A genuine partnership’
At the AEO Conference in Brighton recently, a very well respected organiser said that one of the biggest issues facing our industry is how, on the whole, we treat event suppliers as just another commodity.
Now I’m not trying to draw you down one avenue of thought over another, but this is an opinion piece and if I can provoke some thought on the subject then great. Are we as an industry too quick to commoditise, and thus stripping away a lot of the benefits that can only be appreciated if you’re in a genuine partnership?
This is a ‘soft’ issue, compared to topics like counter-terrorism, CDM 2015 or waste management that have clear-cut pathways and processes to help us build a better industry. There’s no recipe for success that will turn every all stakeholders into a valued equal partner overnight, if that’s what you believe should happen.
As such, I’m not going to suggest an initiative or campaign to ‘fight’ industry commoditisation, but I am going to try and encourage everyone I meet in the industry to recognise on my part that suppliers supply much more than their joinery, electrics, carpets, lights, AV, badges, furniture or graphics. They also supply their unique perspectives, their creative thinking, their innovation and invention, and their ability to turn a crisis into a triumph when the chips are down.
Turning the key into the lock at ESSA HQ this morning, my eye caught the brass plaque on the wall next to the door – The Event Industry Alliance – brought to you by the AEO, AEV and ESSA – and I was reminded that our collective success is the result of a large and complex partnership, and like all partnerships, they don’t just happen, they take care and attention to maintain.
Every successful relationship requires a degree of compromise from every party, a willingness to give up some personal benefit for the good of the relationship and the benefit of everyone involved. Taking someone for granted in a relationship is when you fail to recognise the compromises the other party is making, and this leads to a breakdown in communication and trust. Let’s not allow that to happen in the UK events industry.