As we head towards our 15th birthday in June, I have been reflecting on how things have changed for Lime Blue Solutions over the years. We are continually adapting as a company to meet the ever–changing needs of not only our clients, but technology advancements and also governing policies, to ensure we give the best possible service and advice. Here are some of the things I think have changed the most…
The good old telephone. During those first six months back in 2004, I am not sure how we would have gotten established if clients had not answered their phones. We spent most of the day chatting to people telling them about our services and previous experience and 1 out of 10 calls usually resulted in an enquiry. What’s more, when you called a company the receptionist happily put you straight through to the person who organised the events. These days however, it’s certainly not that easy for telesales people as very few people answer to cold callers. In 2009 the recession hit and those companies that did organise events got so many calls from agents fighting over an ever-decreasing pot of business. As a result, the receptionist was employed as a gatekeeper to field such calls and it has remained that way ever since. With the next generation preferring to text, WhatsApp, email…anything rather than pick up a phone, I am a little sad that in years to come those old desk phones may well be redundant.
Procurement. I am pretty sure that 15 years ago this didn’t exist in the events world (or at least in my events world). Don’t get me wrong, I understand there is often a need for a company to have a professional procurement team and many we meet do a fantastic job. My ever-lasting wish is that those in a procurement who don’t know the MICE sector let us educate them about meetings and events before they go out to tender. Events cannot be packaged into a one size fits all. In the past we have been entered into bidding wars which on price alone, just devalues the event they are trying to put on in the first place.
Dietary requirements. Where did they all come from? During our first large event for 400 people, there was just 1 vegetarian, 1 person that was allergic to fish and 2 people who could only eat Halal meat. These days, the special dietary requirements of the delegates can take up a whole page on our event planners. Poor chefs! It begs the question – has the population got sicker so our bodies are more intolerant or are we just fussier?
All those emails! What did we do before? (oh yes back to the phone thing again). My inbox practically groans under the weight of all the emails from the vast numbers of hotels, venues agencies, representation companies not to mention staff and oh yes actual clients …. if I am not careful, I can spend days and days just being re-active and answering emails. I am not sure what the answer is but please lovely venues don’t be upset if we haven’t got around to reading your latest newsletter.
Social media. Well it just didn’t exist. Whether you are a fan or not it’s here to stay and something we must embrace. Thankfully our lovely younger team members love it. If I am completely honest, I am not sure that it makes my life any more fulfilling, although I am rather partial to a WhatsApp group!
Client entertainment. In previous years on our company birthday, we have invited our top clients out to thank them for their business. We have organised some lovely events: Ladies’ Day at Ascot, a trip to the then Four Seasons in Ireland, a boat trip from Cliveden, Henley Regatta to name just a few. It is such a great way to get to really know our clients in a relaxed and informal atmosphere and have some real fun with them with the odd glass of wine or two. Since the Bribery act came into play it is now harder and harder for clients to accept anything let alone come out for a whole day. Indeed, one of our clients is no longer allowed to accept a tea, coffee or lunch from a venue – such a shame.
Technology development. Whatever happened to the lovely overhead projector and screen with the changeable acetates?! The development in technology for events has been huge and continues at great speed and I have to say apps, voting systems, lighting, and all things digital have made a great impact which we have embraced and are now of course a standard element of our service offering.
Health and safety, risk assessments, crisis management …. Just 15 years ago, if we had found out whether there was a fire alarm test and where the fire escapes and muster points were at the venue – then we had done our due diligence! Wow… what a change now. It seems like every year since I have introduced another check list for the team to complete. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing at all – just indicative of the world we live in today that we have to take our delegates’ safety very seriously.
The need to be flexible. Over the years Lime Blue Solutions has had some good years, some not so great years and some amazing years for which we are ever grateful. We originally started out primarily as a venue finding company and we did a little bit of event management. In the next few years we did a lot of event management and a little bit of venue finding. This year it’s a fair split between the two. My husband Clive has run his own successful design agency since the year before Lime Blue Solutions started and we’ve always worked alongside each other. Three years ago we decided to merge the two companies together and this year we are seeing much more demand for websites, branding and creative services too. My point is that we need to be ever ready for the changing requirements of our clients. We have a fantastic team, many of whom have been with us for a long time and I think we are able to sustain this team by being flexible and understanding that each year is different for each of our four areas – events, venue finding, incentives and design and that is okay. The team are great at taking on whatever the particular enquiry is at the time, though I must admit I still tend to be heavily involved in the incentives – strange that!
What hasn’t changed. The euphoria you feel when an event is complete and all the delegates or incentive winners have had a great time and are on their way home. What’s more you, your client, the onsite team including the suppliers feel like you have come through some amazing right of passage together and a huge bond has been formed (mainly because of all the blood, sweat and tears not to mention hours that have gone into the event). We are still working today with many of the clients and suppliers we started out with all those years ago and I think a lot of that is down to these shared, unforgettable experiences.
What also hasn’t changed is my love of travel and seeing new destinations, new venues and meeting wonderful new people in this great industry. I can’t believe how lucky I have been to work in it.
Some Funny Moments. When I explained to the Danish DMC that one guest could not eat red meat, he replied “that is no problem Nicola the chef can make sure the beef is well done”.
On one of the proposals that was sent out to a client was the line “this hotel has great rats” – oops that should have been rates. On another “the nearest station is vagina waters” – oops ‘Virginia’ Waters. Whilst I should have been more cross that these missed the proof–reading stage, I couldn’t be upset for too long as I was laughing too much.
We also have a huge number of funny incidents that we have witnessed from the delegates over the years but of course you know how it is…. what goes on tour stays on tour.