Heath Gardiner, founder of UK based events company List of Life, speaks about the challenges of setting up a new business and the qualities aspiring entrepreneurs should work in order to become successful business owners.
What is the concept behind List of Life?
List of Life is an all service events agency with a focus on experiences that should be on your list of life.
What services do you offer?
Our corporate services are dual purpose; we recommend what we know would be a fun activity, an incredible venue and a great atmosphere but also recognise the importance of team-building, social cohesion, setting achievable goals for the business and building on the skills of staff so we ensure that a majority of our products cater to these needs.
We also offer services for corporate events, hens and stags. We offer a range of products for hens from makeovers, photoshoots and cupcake making to glamping weekends and life drawing. Our stag products are just as diverse with products ranging from a survival weekend to zorbing, playing football with an old footballing legend and shooting alongside Special Forces personnel! We want our hens and stags to be able to get to know each other during the parties so the experience is a big focus.
Really, the answer is: we’ll do anything!
When did you start the business?
I started the business in 2001. Initially we were a business running corporate events but when we saw the potential in the hen party industry, we got distracted for ten years! We started returning to our roots a little bit in 2012 when we started running corporate events again alongside the hen business.
What prompted you to start your own business?
I have always been entrepreneurial and I had been working in advertising for fifteen years but I had started to see some mistakes and thought that I could do a better job of it myself so I began to think about starting my own business.
What makes List of Life unique from other event organising companies?
We don’t believe the events industry is a creative industry. We see ourselves as focused on the logistics. The most creative people of the events industry are the clients and it is our job to make their ideas come into fruition! We also offer a bespoke service where we try to make anything happen!
What were some challenges you faced when you first started your business?
I struggled with growth versus profit and it’s only in the last couple of years that I have managed to successfully have both at the same time. When you focus on growth, you might have to compromise on profit because you’ll offer competitive prices to include as many people as possible whereas if you increase the profit, you risk losing customers.
How did you turn these challenges around?
By using a planning cycle where you focus on one for a few years and then the other. You really have to consolidate your system as well to make sure it’s solid and have some patience because you can’t manage everything at once.
In your opinion, what are three of the most important aspects aspiring business owners should take in consideration before starting out?
Firstly, failure is inevitable to an extent. For example, we might brainstorm and think of a hundred ideas for an event and of those one hundred ideas, two will work. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks like we’ve come up with two very strong ideas but we know 80% of what we had failed. In that way, failures are the strength of business.
Secondly, you have to trust people to do their own jobs. I tried micromanaging the business and checking people were doing their jobs but it didn’t work and it gets to a scale where you just can’t so there is success in letting go and trusting that people know what they’re doing.
Thirdly, have patience. Patience really is a virtue in running a business but the reality is, the slower you make decisions, the better those decisions will be. Because of that, we are a steady company. We could make decisions really quickly and be a larger company but those quick decisions could also mean that we’re over. You have to lead well and have patience.
What advice do you have for people working in the events industry wanting to climb up the success ladder?
The first thing I would say about the events industry is that the imagined role of having a clipboard and radio and being in the centre of the event running it doesn’t exist. You have to have a realistic understanding of what the industry actually entails and what of these jobs suit you.
Success in the events industry is hard to measure but I’ll let you know when I find it!
Until then, you have to understand your clients and be able to get inside their head and know what it is they want without them having to explain it.
Connect with Heath on LinkedIn