We’re celebrating our thirtieth year at etc.venues which makes it the perfect occasion to talk to some of the extraordinary people who’ve helped shape our business; people like Adam Simpson, our Director of Marketing and US Sales.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’m from a small village in Guildford called Pirbright. Went to Durham University and studied Classics. I enjoyed the detective element, understanding opinion and trying to unravel the meaning behind historical events through stories and plays. How we see ourselves and how we communicate with each other has always fascinated me.
How did your education lead you to the events industry?
Well, it does seem like a strange leap but it was my recreation time at uni that sowed the seeds. Having experienced London’s music scene, I found Durham’s night life was a bit lacking, with very little entertainment. So, I got together with a few friends, found some decent local DJs, and organised a music event. The first one attracted 200 people. A few weeks later, we were drawing crowds of up to 800, charging £2.50 per ticket. It was great fun. The best part was the awesome feedback from people who appreciated what we were doing. That’s when I realised, I wanted to carry on doing this...
Why did you join etc.venues?
After leaving university, I spent a few years working for an events company, initially as an Events Co-ordinator, managing other people’s events, before moving into sales. It was while I was working agency-side, helping clients source venues for their events, that I got to know etc.venues. Unlike a lot of the hotels, they prioritised the meeting planner – rather than leisure guests and, because of this approach, they always delivered. Their exceptionally high service levels made them an easy sell. My clients never complained and would ask to rebook the following year. I was so impressed by them that when I heard they were hiring sales managers, I applied. In fact, I turned down a better paid job to join. That was nine years ago.
What was it that attracted you to the company?
It didn’t feel like I was joining a company. It felt like I was joining a brand. Unlike many businesses in this space, etc.venues had established a strong reputation. They were trusted. That meant, as a salesperson, you didn’t feel like you were doing everything on your own. When you contacted a planner or organiser, they often knew etc.venues. So, it never felt like a cold call. Even if they weren’t aware of us, our message was so distinctive that it immediately opened doors.
What was the message?
Unlike a hotel, our whole focus is geared towards serving the planner. We don’t have to think about spa guests, or golfers or any of the other services hotels offer because we only concentrate on serving a business audience with business needs. We design space that meets our planners’ needs very well; bringing groups of people together in a frictionless environment where they feel completely comfortable. Once you’re in our space, everything is at hand. The flow is effortless and intuitive. Events are seamless. We think about every single touchpoint. No one else does what we do in such a considered way. We genuinely are masters at configuring and creating space that people want to be in; to collaborate in; to work together in.
What made you transition from sales into the marketing role?
I’d been Head of Group Sales for 8 years and enjoyed the role. However, I wanted a fresh challenge and the next natural step was Director of Marketing. I believe sales and marketing are very closely connected. They both start with an understanding of who your audience is and how you can best solve their needs. In sales, my message was delivered one-to-one, through regular conversations with clients. Whereas in marketing, I have the opportunity to take all of the insights I’ve learned and deliver them to a much bigger audience. In this role I get to become the brand’s chief evangelist, bringing our product to life to everyone. I love that.
How would you describe the brand?
Unlike many of our competitors, our venues are often designed (and built) from the ground up rather than hotels which often repurpose their spaces. The sound-proofing, the acoustics, the level of natural light and the configuration and layouts of each room are carefully thought-through and optimised to deliver the best possible meeting, conference and training event experience. That’s why we say our venues are ‘supercharged not superficial’.
At the same time, our people are trained to ensure every guest achieves their best. It’s the reason why we call ourselves ‘Success Engineers’.
What’s been your proudest achievement to date?
My proudest achievement was, perhaps, the most challenging one. During the pandemic, the hospitality industry was on its knees after months of forced closure. Morale was down and confidence was seriously dented. Our sector needed inspiring. We developed an idea that was designed to bring key figures from the hospitality industry together through a hybrid event that linked 15 venues across the UK. It was called the UKickstart Event. Over 1,400 planners and organisers attended (virtually and in-person) and we also attracted the attention of Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport and Tourism, who listened to what we had to say and represented our industry’s collective interests in Parliament. The campaign didn’t promote etc.venues as such but it certainly positioned us as a leading and highly influential voice within the hospitality industry. More importantly, it inspired planners and organisers to start thinking about running meetings and events again. And, as briefs go, they don’t come more challenging than that!
If you’ve been inspired by this article, you can read more about our people and how they’ve helped shape our brand over the past 30 years here.