If you do what you love …

JessGoodwinThe past couple of months have been a bit of blur, travelling across the South West and UK whilst working at a variety of events – I am writing this sat in my hotel in Manchester having spent the week at Tatton Park Flower show. Earlier this week Joey and I were chatting over dinner and how we came to know about Mackerel Sky, which I thought would be a good intro into my first blog.

I first met Claire 5 years ago; I was an enthusiastic events management student in my 2nd year at Plymouth University. Claire was a guest lecture sharing her knowledge about sustainability in events and talking about her company Mackerel Sky (then known as Event Cornwall). I didn’t speak to Claire after the lecture but I left inspired, thinking what a cool company Mackerel Sky would be to work for.

Wind the clock forward and I now work for Mackerel Sky Events. I have now been an associate for nearly 4 months and I have already had a great (and busy) summer! From day one I got stuck in, spending my first weekend at St Ives Food & Drink festival. Despite it being a long weekend, I enjoyed every minute of it. Meeting lovely traders, eating delicious food and spending 3 days on Porthminster Beach in the sun, who could complain?!? Since then I have worked at Tunes in the Dunes, 2 prestigious flower shows and I am getting ready to pack my bags for France to go to Lorient Festival (I’m a little excited for that!).

I have been welcomed into the Mackerel Sky family with open arms and so far it’s been a blast. As they say ‘if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life’.

Jess Goodwin, Event Associate, Mackerel Sky Events homepage

No man is an island they say

group-01I think we can all agree that, in business, and specifically in events, people are our greatest asset.  This is true but only really so if we manage and develop that team and wider network to play to our collective and individual strengths.

What I mean is that, like any asset, if they are not used they can never be effective. You snooze, you lose! This gauntlet is laid down to all of us, irrespective of job title. Even if you are the office junior or an events assistant, you still have access to and use of this asset to gain support, to learn, to develop skills and to build your own network of useful people. And for anyone further up the chain of command, we have responsibility for this asset. We spend a lot of money on our people in terms of salary/fees, facilities, incentives, our time, knowledge and effort so we simply cannot afford not to manage our teams well.

In order to get the best value from our investment in our teams, we need to understand and appreciate them, their skills, approach, communication styles, needs, wants…and it can seem that all we do is service other people. In fact, that is exactly what we need to do to get the best from our teams. We need to design teams that have complementary strengths and skills to ensure that the client and wider stakeholder groups get the best possible experience.

At Mackerel Sky, we have a fantastic team of Associates with a vast range of experience and a great body of skill and ability that enables us to take on almost anything! Our business model enables us to draw together an appropriate team for each project that ensures that we will deliver to the highest possible standard within the brief and budget.

Internally, we all have individual growth plans that focus on developing the skills and experiences that each member of the team wants to and that are necessary to expand the reach of the company and individual project teams. Each person in the company is supported to undertake training and we plan our workload so that we have the right balance of confidence, skill and experience with learning and development opportunities.

But is takes time and effort and consideration. It also reflects on the value that I place on our team and on their commitment and involvement with the company. It is vital to take the time to notice each person’s work, to thank them, praise them and equally hold them accountable when stuff happens. Not shout and scream but recognise that it hasn’t gone well or that there were issues, and enable the individual or team concerned to learn from it and move on to the next project.

By investing in our teams and taking the time to be present in all of it, we are doing all we can to engage with the individual to gain collective benefit, to build the business and to deliver the event successfully.


Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Who would be in your Top 5 of inspirational people?

As I write this, we are driving down the A30 heading home (I’m not driving!) and someone on the radio asked ‘how did you get here today?’. It made me think not just about the multifarious transportation options available to us in the UK but also about the journey I have been on to get here, to this moment in time. In the words of the immortal CJ ‘I wouldn’t have got to where I am today…’ without the inspiration and input of the following people:1. Sue Wyatt
Sue was Chief Executive of Rambert Dance Company when I was there and she taught me a huge amount about management, decision making and leadership. She is always calm under pressure; she is strategic in everything; and she invests in talent.  I didn’t always agree with her decisions but I truly respect her. She turned the company around from accumulated deficit into surplus and enabled Britain’s oldest dance company to continue and thrive.2. Clare Hearn
Clare and I started Event Cornwall (now Mackerel Sky) together in 2007 and we were friends before that. One of the many qualities that I respect about Clare is her ability to balance personal and professional. She has taught me the benefit of pausing, of creating space in which to think and she has the most extraordinary brain. I love her different perspective on a situation that means together we generate a much more effective solution.3. June Gamble
June is Executive Producer with Plymouth Dance as well as being a life coach. It was June who first enabled me to pick up the pieces after my life changed quite dramatically and she enabled me to craft a future that I have now made a reality. Time with June is incredibly useful and positive and yet she never says what I should do but facilitates my finding my own solution. She has been through all kinds of stuff but she has found a way to channel this into supporting other people and making life changing projects happen.4. Helena White
Helena is one of the best vets in the UK. She has studied hard, developed her surgical skills to be in the top 5% of UK vets and is now the only female Director of Rosemullion Vets. She is also my sister and is the only person in the world who can really tell me to get a grip! She has been and is going through some tough stuff personally and at the same time is figuring out her role as a leader and manager as well as being brilliant! Helena is strong, generous, intelligent, and a natural skipper. I respect her integrity and time spent with her is always a pleasure.5. Allyson Glover
Ally is utterly lovely. To everyone! She is genuinely interested in every business and every individual who she works with in her role as Director of Unlocking Potential.  She is one of my role models, particularly in terms of how she engages with people – clients, team, funders – and I am inspired by her direct impact on the business sector in the South West. She is another strategic leader who motivates and inspires everyone around her. Again, not someone who provides the solution for me but rather connects me with someone who can help. She also gives me honest feedback which I really appreciate.

You will note that this is an exclusively female list but this wasn’t deliberate! It may be that women are inspired by women. Or maybe I have just been incredibly fortunate to meet and work with some amazing people who happen to be women.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

What Goes Around …

I would like to say thank you to the two drivers who let me out of the junction onto the A39 this morning.  Your consideration is much appreciated.

That junction is difficult in the mornings with heavy traffic in both directions so you really have to pick your moment and most mornings I am entirely reliant on the consideration of other drivers to my plight.  The theme of consideration came up at our Company Gathering last week as well as one of the qualities that we most appreciate and it made me think about how considerate I am in relation to the various roles I play in life.

It is important to recognise that we are dependent upon the consideration of others in almost everything we do – dependent on team members doing their jobs and supporting beyond the job description; dependent on clients being willing to take risks and be creative; dependent on people considering each other at large scale events such as City of Lights and enabling everyone to enjoy the experience.  Considering the impact that each of us has on other people is core to ensuring that everyone can access, engage or enjoy.  This of course applies to organisations and businesses and there is a role for consideration within our decision making as well.

That bit of consideration for the wider impact, that is, the time spent considering another person’s perspective, can make all the difference in the success of our interactions, marketing, events, HR management, motivation and ultimately profit. If we think about launching a business (and I was leading a session discussing this last week with the School for Social Entrepreneurs so it’s at the forefront of my mind), then we could develop a launch programme that includes PR, branding, events, promotions, social media and sales generation.  We could develop a whole heap of activity but without thinking about how it will be perceived and the impact on other people, specifically our target market.  That launch process is vital in creating the future success of the organisation so if we fail to consider the target market (or target clients, or target partners), we are failing before we have even begun.

Similarly, internally, we will only generate a motivated, engaged team by considering individuals in terms of strengths, approaches, communication capacity and abilities and then dovetailing them in the team, supporting them in their roles and providing a bit of inspiration.  At least, that’s the theory.  In practice, people are people and we are difficult animals.  We are inconsistent and emotional and, sometimes, deeply inconsiderate of other human beings.  So for the leader of such teams, we have to have that consideration by the barrow load to enable the whole team to work together.  It may feel like we are prioritising chatting over task achievement but that bit of care and consideration for another person’s situation or view on life can be the key to unlocking a high performing team.

So a bit more consideration all round might make the world a better place!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

Every Day’s a School Day!

BoyGeorgeLast year I was lucky enough to be in the position of leaving my 9 to 5 job and go freelance. One of the reasons I made this big change was that my career learning curve had become, well….flat! With lack of challenges and lessons to learn one runs the risk of becoming complacent and jaded, so one of the joys of being a freelancer is the variety of projects, both in genre, scale and complexity.

With this in mind I was excited to be offered a role stage managing two projects for the Liverpool International Music Festival. Although I used to be a stage manager I hadn’t branched into live music events. The first event was a set with Boy George, which was recorded live by Steve Levine, the audience of 400 could then download the recording by the time they got home. Cue steep learning curve! New jargon to learn, processes to get my head around, job titles to comprehend all whilst coming across as knowledgeable and experienced. I then moved on to supporting the running of the main stage for the large outdoor festival in Sefton Park. All the lessons learnt from the day before enabled me to work effectively and professionally, all in front of 35,000 people- phew!

So, all in all I feel boosted; I have made important new contacts, broadened my experience, get to add something different to my CV all having learned a vast amount. It goes without saying that we should all try to ensure that “every day is a school day”, no matter what our career choice. Whether that’s in a small way or pushing yourself out of your comfort zone I feel it plays a key role in ensuring we are at the top of our game, keeps us interesting to clients and genuinely happy in our jobs!

Laura Carus, Associate Event Manager, Mackerel Sky

Time to Talk

megaphone silhouetteWe all know that communication is one of the most challenging aspects of any project or business. It is cited in hundreds if not thousands of business reviews as being “something to sort”, but it is far more than something to sort. Communication depends on personalities, complexity of activity, skills and capabilities of individuals, company culture, leadership styles and stress/pressure.

Think of how easily communication can go wrong….just the wrong tone of voice can destroy a relationship, create tension and distract from our core purposes and tasks. We all have high expectations of communication capability whether it’s from a service provider like a hotel or restaurant or from product information or within project management and business activity. The reality is that it is impossible to meet these expectations all the time with everybody but it doesn’t mean we should stop trying!

There are some great examples of communication from and within businesses but there isn’t a single organisation who have it sorted! It varies according to the culture and structure of the business and to a certain extent on the output/sector of the organisation. Think of the Armed Forces – phenomenal teamwork, highly structured hierarchy, clear lines of communication and command but no room for individuality. Yesterday I was speaking to a potential new colleague who is currently a junglie and about to go through resettlement as he leaves the Navy. In our conversation we recognised the challenge for him moving from this structure and this level of resourcing into the risk and flexibility of the events industry and small business.

So, given that we are working in different cultures and contexts, what makes for great communication?

From my experience, it’s a simple appreciation of who I am communicating with and a bit of emotional intelligence as to how the message might be received. The challenge is that there isn’t always the time to consciously think about this before the communication bit happens…so we need to develop constructs in our brains that enable us to automate this thinking; we need to develop that emotional intelligence that enables us to read the situation and the people and adapt our communication accordingly in terms of language, format and route.

There isn’t a quick fix and this intelligence takes time and experience to develop which makes creating great communication in an organisation of any size even more challenging because we (as leaders) need to encourage and support the development of that intelligence. This is made even more difficult when we layer on our own personal context and stress. It is hard to leave one’s own challenges behind and I would argue that we should actually use these personal experiences as part of our leadership, recognising that we are merely human after all!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

A Happy Band of Professionals

One of the things that is most satisfying to me is meeting and working with people who are truly professional in all that they do.  Whether it’s marketing, construction, accountancy, teaching, event management or any other discipline, a true professional behaves with integrity, working to the highest possible standards, ensuring that the job gets done, enabling the whole team to achieve and with a sense of self that creates confidence (but isn’t at all arrogant).

I have the pleasure and privilege of working with a great number of professionals over the years in a wide range of circumstances and contexts and it is from this experience that I have noted the above qualities.  It doesn’t actually matter what their job title is or how high up they are in an organisation or how much they get paid.  People who are professionals are not only good at their jobs but they understand where they fit in the team, in the project, in the organisation and where they are in relation to that wider world.  They don’t expect others to do it for them or for jobs to be offered on a plate but rather recognise that by hard work, skill development, collaboration and personality, they will create their own opportunities.

In the process of expanding our pool of Associates, I have been delighted to meet yet more of these professionals who bring experience and expertise in further areas of the events sector.  Ian Ley, who runs party planning and private events company 5chip, is a specialist in hospitality and front of house operations.  On meeting him today, I instantly got an impression of someone who knows his stuff and has a direct and clear management approach whether working with volunteers or paid event staff.  We could consider each other to be competitors but actually we both understood how we could add value by working together.  It’s a professional respect thing – I don’t do what he does and similarly he doesn’t do what I do.  And that builds a great team to deliver great results for our clients.

I have always tried to employ people who are better than me in their areas of work so that collectively we achieve that synergy and this is absolutely true of our Associates, and I hope will be true of our Operations Manager who will shortly join us.  I am hoping this person who can look after the ‘today’ and can recognise their absolutely vital role in the success of all of us as individuals and collectively as a business.  I am hoping that this person can bring new perspectives into the business and make sure that we are working as effectively and efficiently as possible.  I have high hopes for this particular new collaboration and, as with all of our Associates, I look forward to raising the bar with them, working professionally and achieving great things!
Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events