Emma Little started her venue-finding agency, ExecSpace, in Scotland in 2008. She admits that it was a struggle for as long as about 8 years, but then in 2016 its reputation for efficiency and quality spread way beyond Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is now locating venues for around 1,500 events annually, with about 10% outside the UK.
It may have taken time to grow because Emma insisted on building her team, now numbering 12, by bringing in new young recruits and training them to do business her way.
‘I didn’t want them to import bad habits from elsewhere’, is how she explains her approach. ‘We could launch them on a good and interesting career’.
She identified the level of quality of service clients demand. Then, she says, as people move within the events sector, furthering their own careers, they spread the word about what she can offer.
‘We achieve further business’, she goes on, ‘not only from new clients but also by being entrusted with more of the relevant work within the corporates.’
The larger companies realise the extra benefits they derive from identifying all the venue requirements throughout their organisations and placing them all through ExecSpace.
‘We are talking about events ranging from a gathering of 10 people arranged for a PA, to the training facilities needed frequently by the HR Department and to the Sales Director’s big annual conference. When all these are channelled through us, the clients can see exactly what is being spent annually and on which venues – and we can effect economies on their behalf. In one recent instance, for example, we were able to show a saving of 22% year on year, amounting to a worthwhile £249,000.’
‘We point out to clients’, says Emma, ‘the value of making decisions early, so that we can get first choice on the most suitable venues for each event in a programme. We can also be pro-active if there is an annual conference and we keep the clients aware of the timetable well in advance. Our team is simply an extension of their team.’
Emma can look back on many memorable events they have placed, including those with large numbers of attendees and complex requirements for spaces for their meetings, committees and for the accommodation for the delegates themselves, but one that really sticks in her memory is an instance where they were called upon to act quickly – very quickly.
‘We were phoned at 8.30 in the morning to say that a client had found a problem with a venue that the client had booked for that day. Could we help? Well, we were able to relocate their event successfully by 9.30, in time for the start of their proceedings!’
Identifying the right venue for an event, maintains Emma, means that ExecSpace ‘has to get under the skin of the event. We have to ensure the venue can assist in achieving the objectives in terms of its facilities, its character and environment and, of course, its price. That is why we are always on the look-out for unusual venues, when, for example, a client needs the Wow factor. It is always a bonus to provide a client with something that normally money can’t buy for an event.’
Emma is not particularly concerned about the current Brexit problems. ‘There is always something new to contend with’, she says pragmatically. ‘If it’s not one thing, then it’s another. You just have to get on with it and minimise any ill effects.’
In passing, Emma points out that nowadays the wellness of the delegates and sustainability are important factors in the selection of a venue.
‘People have to be made to feel special, their cuisine has to be good and all forms of waste have to be reduced to a minimum’.
ExecSpace has firm views on how venues have to be presented to clients for a final choice. ‘We are great believers in Virtual Reality to give the best possible idea of what a venue has to offer and how things flow during an event.’
In fact, to meet a need, Emma and her team have added ExecSpace VR as an extra service for venues that don’t have a suitable video.