The dynamic founder and managing director of Adelaide-based All Occasions Group divulges how she keeps her passion alight
Your company just turned 20 years and is a leading conference organiser in South Australia. How did you get started?
I studied tourism and hospitality at University of South Australia and interned at the Adelaide Convention Bureau. I was there for six years and had a small stint in a PR company before starting All Occasions. I was in my late 20s when I launched the company. I learnt along the way by working with different clients, and handling different situations.
What motivates you to stay in this business?
When people appreciate the role that you play, and the skillset that you bring, it gives me a sense of accomplishment and achievement because I am helping somebody else deliver on their target and ambitions. If we can do that successfully and put on a really good conference, showcase Adelaide, and also achieve the financial outcome, that will give me a great sense of satisfaction.
You have the International Astronautical Congress and World Fisheries Congress among your clients. Whatâ€™s your secret in staying competitive in a challenging environment?
I think youâ€™ve got to be a risk taker as there is a lot to manage. Make sure you create a well-balanced team that covers a lot of different skills. I know the specific areas that I am good at and stick to that. I also donâ€™t micro-manage people; I think you need to be able to trust people.
What is the biggest risk youâ€™ve taken so far?
We recently took on a financial risk for a smaller conference by working with a professor by underwriting it. It turned out to be very successful and we made a reasonable profit at the end of the day. But for that to work, we had to have majority control over decisions, and how money was being spent. In that instance, we had a contract that clearly defined our expectations. That is certainly something that I see happening more and more, that requirement to financially underwrite something. Youâ€™ve got to be astute to know how to make that assessment, whether to underwrite an event or not.
How has the market changed in the past two decades?
Thereâ€™s been a merger of associations, so there are probably less associations out there. I think that they have become a lot more business savvy, so for accountability, they are now run like businesses. Therefore, transparency is now more important. That is critical because we find that clients sometimes have been burnt in previous experiences and are not as willing to hand over control.
So how do you convince a burnt client to trust you?
Trust takes time to build so I think you need to be honest and straight talking, and have discussions about why you recommend certain courses of action or certain decisions.
Are you concerned though about the associations sector shrinking?
I think it is a reality, and it is important to have strategies in place for how to deal with it. The PCO market will naturally shrink and grow depending on the amount of business. A lot of the associations are also employing in-house PCOs now. In some instances, opportunities are reduced, but that naturally cleans out the industry. So Iâ€™m not as concerned as weâ€™ve got a good strategy and process in place as
to how we win business.