We Can Be Heroes


We all need a hero….and we can all be heroes…

In creative problem solving methodology, there is a technique called superheroes. A technique that I introduced to the second year event management students at Falmouth University this week.

Think of a superhero. It could be a cartoon figure, a real person, a celebrity, an Imagined character.

What are the characteristics that you admire about them? Perhaps think of superheroes who complement your own skill set or bring new abilities.

Think about the problem you are facing. How would your superhero deal with it? What would they think about it? What would they do?

Perhaps view the problem through their eyes. What insight or fresh ideas does that give you?

In Mackerel Sky, we have a whole team of superheroes that everyone in the team has been involved in selecting. We use them as additional collaborators in our strategising, problem solving, performance management and evaluation. It might seem a bit bonkers to have this imaginary squad of heroes but it is just a creative (and enjoyable) way of gaining perspective and extending our thinking,

Bear Grylls is one of my superheroes and he is a member of this unique cohort because I value how he approaches life.  That is, the idea of being comfortable in your own perspective but being able to appreciate others by having confidence by being in your own natural habitat. When Bear is out on a mission of some form, he is in his natural habitat and he is confident. That confidence enables others to be comfortable with the challenge and to feel the fear and achieve.

The process of enabling one’s team to thrive and achieve is a fundamental aspect of leadership in any context so I utilise Bear’s perspective to help me see how I can be comfortable and confident in my natural habitat in order to support and enable the team.  I also keep Bear’s voice in my head supporting me and enabling me to take on the next challenge, feel the fear and achieve.

Helping someone else is a pretty heroic thing to do so I think this definitely qualifies Bear as a superhero. Who would your superheroes be?


Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky


Let’s Not Forget … The Customer Is King!

In a meeting recently, a client expressed their frustration with a service provider. In fact, that appears to be a misnomer as there was no concept of service in what this provider was, or more accurately was not, providing.

The provider is a website design company and my point is not to name and shame (however tempting it might be!) but rather to recognise the importance of customer service as part of building effective and profitable relationships.

This provider made 4 key errors:
1. Failed to consider the position of the customer in the network
This particular client is really quite influential but even if they weren’t obviously so, their ability to influence the choices of others is vital in building a strong brand. We all need our customers to recommend us, to recognise the value in what we offer and deliver, because word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. And it works both ways. The client is now actively recommending alternative providers….

2. Not considering the lifetime value
This provider has a short-term focus on profit that will only be beneficial in the immediate future. Every customer has a lifetime value, that is the total that they might spend with a given business in their lifetime. Over that period this could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not more but this provider is sacrificing this lifetime value for £80 now. This means that they will have to find hundreds of £80 customers when they could have had one significant customer so they will end up spending more on their marketing budget and spend more time getting to know each of those new customers.

3. Ignoring comparison to competitor offer
Whilst this provider is focused on pricing, other providers are focusing on quality of offer. It is a competitive marketplace and none of us can afford to simply be transactional. It’s all about the actual provision and the relationship. Our customers can pick and choose where they go and who they use so we should all be working to become the provider of choice. If we ignore what our competitors are doing, we are potentially ignoring our customer’s interests and they will leave us behind…

4. Going out of their way to make it difficult
This provider has locked down the service that was provided so that only they can do anything with it. The client has no access to documentation and can no longer self manage the website because the provider has put blocks in their way, closed down the portal or changed the passwords. A defensive strategy that has served no purpose other than to annoy the client and highlight their lack of confidence in their services.

Being defensive and protectionist gets us nowhere in any context. This provider has also started to try to deflect all responsibility for the escalating costs to the client saying it is her fault! In this case, for the sake of considering it all from the customer perspective, this company has lost credibility and clients. The customer is king after all!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

When Events Get Politically Loaded

churchill-382089I recently watched the Paxman documentary about Winston Churchill’s funeral and I was drawn to the fact that this was event planning on a grand scale which started 7 years before it happened. In 1958, Lady Churchill and the various other members of the project team had their first planning meeting and the project was entitled ‘Project Hope Not’.

Winston Churchill remains one of very few commoners to be given a state funeral. When he died in 1965, hundreds of thousands of people came to pay their respects at his lying-in-state at Westminster Hall. Yet more came out onto the streets to line the route to St Paul’s for his funeral. The procession could be seen as one of the greatest mass engagement events of the 20th century. The Project Hope Not team were not just planning a funeral, but the equivalent of the largest UK festival. The whole population wanted to be a part of this remembrance, celebration and gratitude to a man who had become the symbol of hope and determination through the most turbulent and traumatic of times.

As I was watching the documentary, I was struck by the challenge of the guest list. Highly politically sensitive, limited capacity, high demand….not a task I would want! It must have seemed an impossible task and one that I think Winston Churchill would have hated if he had had to do it himself. I wonder if the Project Hope Not team were aware of their event management practice in planning all this – the logistics, media liaison, security, scheduling, stakeholder liaison, volunteer co-ordination, budgeting and everything else that comes into the event manager’s job description.

I was at the Churchill rooms at Bletchley Park last year and I met the man who had collected all of the various pieces in the collections there. He worked with Churchill towards the end of the Second World War and he spoke eloquently about the humanity of this man who recognised that he had made mistakes but would not let that draw him from his focus on winning the war and leading Britain, simply doing his very best.

I think we as event managers owe Churchill, and all those who serve in our armed forces, and the related support services, a debt of gratitude for enabling the freedoms we have today. Without him, without the collective work and sacrifice of all during 1939-1945 (and beyond), we would not have the pleasure of working in this amazing industry, doing what we love.

Thank you Winnie!

“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” Winston Churchill


Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky