We made it! Exactly one year to the day, Remarkable flung open its doors and we set off on our exciting journey to create the UAE’s leading events agency. As much as we’d planned and set the foundations prior to launch, no-one could have fully prepared us for the last 12 months, a thrilling rollercoaster of ups and downs, terrifying drops and euphoric highs.
As we gear up for our second year of business, we wanted to take time to reflect on some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way. So here goes! (Apologies in advance for the length, trying to fit a whole year into one post is hard work)…
1. Running A Business Is Hard
I’m sure most of you reading this are thinking, yeah, duh! And don’t get us wrong, we absolutely understood what we were taking on when we created Remarkable. The opportunity to do things our way, be our own bosses and build a company we could be proud of running. What people don’t often comprehend is that with business ownership (especially during the start-up stage) comes a constant sea of admin, expenses, billing, diary co-ordination, new business development, sales, marketing, social media etc. A relentless wave of “stuff” that can, if you let it, consume your time, mind and daily lives. We’ve learned to handle these tasks (with a number of helpful apps and software programs) in such a way that makes it much easier and less time consuming. A little “stuff” every day, instead of a week spent catching up on things later!
There’s an old adage that says, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Well sorry, but we beg to differ. Undoubtedly running your own business is extremely personal and is about learning to deal with a gamete of emotions on a daily basis. Excitement. Fear. Happiness. Euphoria. Stress. Success. Joy. And yes, even failure. A real mixed bag. But it’s how you channel these emotions that really matters. We truly believe Remarkable’s ongoing success is closely linked to our ability to take each and every one of these feelings and turn them into an opportunity for growth. To refine, rethink and make our business even stronger.
When meeting new people for the first time, we’re confronted with two very different reactions to the “I own my own business” answer to their “what do you do for a living?” question. The standard “wow, that’s exciting” response from people with a 9-5, salaried job and the more knowing “great…and how are you finding it?“ response from fellow business owners and entrepreneurs. Yes it’s tough, but the highs far outweigh the lows, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It takes commitment, putting in the time and effort over the last 12 months has seen us hit our targets and reach our year one goals. Our job is to keep the H.M.S. Remarkable on course and figure out how to ride the waves as we continue on our journey.
2. Trust Your Vision And Instincts
Before we launched Remarkable, we took a long, hard look at the UAE events industry and founded our company on three really clear pillars; service, quality and integrity. The UAE isn’t short of event companies, in fact the market is somewhat saturated, but when surveying the market, time and again these points came up as lacking.
In everything we do, every client we engage, event we produce, and supplier we deal with, we aim to deliver world-class service, provide the highest quality results and treat everyone we meet with the utmost respect, regardless of who they are, or what they do. Everyone’s contribution is vital. It’s what sets us apart, and we simply can’t operate in any other way. It’s our vision to create an events agency with a difference, completely transparent, with people at its core. Happy People + Happy Clients = Happy Business.
3. Communication Is King and Transparency Is Queen.
For us, communication and transparency are the foundation of what we do as an events agency. Far too often we hear horror stories from clients and prospects of bad experiences, shady working practices, and undelivered promises. It’s frustrating both for those on the receiving end, but also for reputable events professionals trying to offer a trustworthy solution. Open, honest and regular communication is the cornerstone for how we service our clients. We’d much rather build a long-lasting relationship built on mutual respect, than make a fast buck on a one-off project.
The flip side to the communication coin is transparency. From the very beginning, we set out to create a truly open business model for our clients. In a market that often views event management as something of a black box, we wanted to offer a genuine alternative to the all-too-frequent world of hidden mark ups and behind-closed-door dealings. A transparent service, at a transparent, set price, delivered within a transparent relationship. Simple.
This approach has really helped us identify likeminded clients and suppliers, who enjoy working with us, safe in the knowledge that our long-standing, mutually beneficial relationship, means more to us than any mark-up ever could.
4. Focus On The Three Ps: Planning, Projections, Pipeline (also known as Prepare, Prepare, Prepare)
This is probably the most important lesson we’ve learned over the last 12 months. We were incredibly lucky to secure our first job in the first week of operation, with a steady event season flurry of work in the weeks following. “Well isn’t this lovely?” we thought. We got totally sucked into the day-to-day of project delivery and neglected to feed our new business pipeline. Big mistake. But that’s ok. We learned from it quickly and will never make that same mistake again. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Besides, as we always say…
5. Our Network Is Everything
The idea of networking is a lot of people’s worst nightmare. Heading into a room full of strangers, introducing yourself and trying to drum up new business is a lot of pressure. If you look at networking from that angle, then of course it sounds like a nightmare. Who wants to spend their valuable time doing that? Not us. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. This year, we’ve met a number of amazing people who have helped develop our business in one way or another (THANK YOU…you know who you are!).
These wonderful people have opened our eyes (and minds) to the power of people. Networking shouldn’t be measured on the number of business cards you hand out, but instead by the number of genuine conversations you have and connections you make. Quality over quantity. Handing over your business card should be the last thing on your mind. Instead get to know the person in front of you. Ask them about themselves, strike up a conversation, find common ground, share a little about yourself. Let them see the person behind the job title. Believe me when I say it’s a lot more effective than becoming yet another business card sitting in a pile on their desk. People do business with people, so relax, be yourself and watch what happens. #totalgamechanger
6. It’s Ok To Ask For Help
Over the past 12 months we’ve built (and continue to build) the strongest possible network of clients, contacts, suppliers, partners and advisors we can. We’re experts in the field of corporate events and brand experiences, having operated in the industry, both locally and internationally for over 30 years combined. There’s not a lot we don’t know about events, and what there is still to learn, is tackled by constant upskilling and taking time to learn about the latest developments in our industry, as we strive to set the trends, not follow them.
On the flipside of being an event expert is the fact that we’re still relatively new to the world of business ownership. We’re smart enough to know when we need help and more importantly, aren’t reluctant to ask for it out of fear or embarrassment. Life is a constant learning opportunity, whether it’s asking someone you know, reading business-effectiveness books, watching inspirational/educational seminars, or attending workshops, it’s vital to keep learning. Ask a colleague, partner, even a client for advice and watch their reaction. We almost guarantee it’ll be one of admiration, as your request shows just how much you respect that person’s opinion. They’ll likely jump at the opportunity to help you and share their (incredibly valuable) experiences. Over the last 12 months we’ve purposely surrounded ourselves with the very best mentors, advisors, industry veterans and those who have walked this path before us. I just wish we’d started building this network sooner. We may own and run our business, but this group of superstars keep us accountable, on track and always on our toes.
7. Summer’s Terrifying, But It Doesn’t Last Forever
In any other country, you’d think this statement was madness. Summer? The season of sunshine, holidays and carefree living? Doesn’t sound terrifying to me. Those people obviously haven’t spent a Summer in Dubai, as the owner of an events agency. Instead of freaking out about where our next event was coming from, during our first Summer we spent the time getting our ducks in a row. We redesigned and rewrote our website, updated our marketing materials, created weekly blogs, caught up on the admin, upskilled, revisited our targets, contacted prospective clients, caught up with existing ones and generally made sure Remarkable was locked and loaded for the upcoming season.
This time was invaluable and is the main reason we’re in such a strong position moving into our second year. It allowed us time to take stock, re-evaluate our offering (and more importantly our target list of clients), strategise for the future and strengthen our core. Going full steam ahead toward your goals is valuable, but taking time to analyse your position and move forward with a clearer sense of purpose and vision, is priceless. Take time to stop and smell the roses – celebrate success, analyse results, learn from past experience and move forward with clarity and renewed energy. You won’t regret it.
8. Put A Value On Your Time, Not Just Your Service
If we had secured every single proposal we submitted this past year, we’d be writing this blog from the deck of a Superyacht. Not all proposals are going to convert to secured business. Hell, a lot of them won’t even materialise into actual events! But you know what, that’s ok. Throughout our careers, (and in the last year especially), we’ve developed a pretty keen sixth sense for timewasters. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means perfect, and there will always be those people and projects that are too good to resist, but a huge lesson from last year has been to try and filter between what’s genuine and what’s fantasy.
We’ve learned through a number of experiences (that have cost us both time and energy) about the value we hold and more importantly how to focus that value to create maximum return for both us and our clients.
9. You Can’t Change People And Things Out Of Your Control, So Don’t Worry About It
We’re pretty positive people. We try to see the good in every situation and steer clear of negativity wherever possible. It’s just not where we’re from. Too much time can be spent being sucked into other people’s drama. You have as much chance of changing someone’s view on life or attitude, as you do stopping the sun setting every day, so why bother? In the words of a certain Disney ice queen, let it go.
It’s the same with worrying about a situation you have no control over. Mark Twain once said that worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe, and he was absolutely right. It’s ok if we don’t win every pitch. Yes it may hurt at the time and we may not agree with the outcome, but as long as we present the very best version of ourselves and our company, then we can exit the situation knowing we did our best and that it simply wasn’t meant to be. Not every client is a good fit. It goes back to trusting in ourselves and the quality of our offering. We try not to take it personally, we learn from the experience and move onto the next exciting opportunity.
10. Plan For The Life You Want. It Won’t Happen By Itself
As one of the world’s experts in living life to the fullest once said:
You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti?
You want a Maserati? You better work b*tch.
You want a Lamborghini? Sip Martinis?
Look hot in a bikini? You better work b*tch.
You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion?
Party in France?
You better work b*tch, you better work b*tch..
You better work b*tch, you better work b*tch…
NOW GET TO WORK B*TCH!
What Britney is eloquently talking about here is the importance of hard work in creating the life you want. No one else is going to do it for us, so every day we put things into motion and goals in place that bring our target ambitions that little bit closer. #howyoulivingtoday?
FYI – We were going to use Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” as an example here, but we didn’t think “Working 24/7” had quite the same ring to it! 😉
11. Downtime Is Essential
Business ownership can be 24/7…if you let it. We’ve certainly been there; work coming out of our ears, the inevitable “I need that proposal yesterday” request on a Thursday afternoon, the guilt of time not spent with our other halves, family and friends. It’s all part of being the boss. However, unlike working for someone else, we as business owners have the power to control these situations, set boundaries, create flexible working solutions and most importantly, have the ability to flip the off switch when necessary. It’s vital to remember why we’re doing this. Because we love it, yes, but ultimately because we wanted something more for ourselves and for our loved ones. Balance is key. Work to live, don’t live to work.
Remarkable’s world revolves around our clients, and we’d do literally anything for them. But we very quickly realised that doesn’t mean working ourselves into the ground. We’re of no use to anyone if we’re burnt out and unhappy. It’s about being organised, working smarter not harder, setting boundaries and delivering on promises made. It goes back to our continued focus on communication and transparency. An informed client is a happy client. Having an effective release mechanism is also vital, whether it be sport, reading, a day by the pool, pilates, time spend with family and friends, or meditation, these types of activities have been vital in giving us some much-needed head space. This downtime is essential in keeping us focused, motivated and happy, giving us the ability to be more effective and live our best lives.
12. Do What You Love, Love What You Do
So after all of that, were the last 12 months of sleepless nights, tears, laughter, stress and reward worth it? Absolutely yes! 100%! We do what we do because we love it. We care about our clients. We take immense pride in looking back on the many events and experiences we’ve delivered and the company and brand we’ve created. It has truly been a remarkable first year.
A huge thank you to everyone who’s helped us get to this point. We couldn’t have done it without you!