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 Declan Cassidy, our Director of Sales.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
My mother is a teacher, from Wales, and my father is a salesman with an engineering background from Northern Ireland. His job involved a great deal of traveling around the world, which resulted in plenty of air miles. So, we got to travel a great deal as a family, and I loved that! I enjoyed experiencing different cultures and spending time in hotels. That's really how my love of hospitality started. These experiences inspired me to pick a four-year degree course in Tourism Management at Brighton University which included a one-year internship at a top-notch resort in South Carolina. One of the most important takeaways from my time in the US was the importance of customer service. Americans are outstanding in this area, which really impacted me.
How long have you worked at etc.venues?
After leaving university, I worked at various hotels, Royal Ascot Racecourse (where the Queen would often turn up!) and the Oval Cricket Ground. I'd heard about etc.venues and when a position for Business Development Manager was advertised, I got in touch. I was immediately impressed with the welcome I received and how friendly the people were, so I was delighted when the position was offered to me. Thirteen years later, I'm Director of Sales, and loving it!
When did you become Director of Sales?
I took up the role in late 2020, slap bang in the middle of the pandemic when the binoculars were focused on just one thing – sales! It was absolutely the most challenging time to take on the role. But looking back, it was perfect timing because, as a sales team, we overcame some incredible challenges together, creating an even stronger culture and team in the process.
How important is culture?
Strong culture inspires courage and this instils trust. When people trust each other, they speak the truth – to each other and, just as importantly, to their clients. I think truthful selling is the most powerful form of persuasion. It's the only way you can earn the trust and respect of your clients. They need to trust everything is going to go smoothly; that we will look after them from start to finish… which we do. It's how we've developed a reputation for excellence and the reason why 80% of our business each year comes from existing clients. I also think our team culture is one of the reasons why we won the C&IT Best MICE Team Award last year.
How do you keep your team motivated and engaged?
Research has shown that the main drivers of employee satisfaction are great company culture and values, strong senior leadership and access to learning and development. I believe that etc.venues delivers on all of these things, by the bucketful. We encourage transparency in our workplace and listen to our teams to ensure we are supporting them in the ways they want. Our company values touch everything we do and we actively encourage talent to rise through the ranks.
What's the secret to good client relationships?
Again, it comes back to trust. My role isn't limited to simply meeting sales targets, it's about ensuring we look after the best interests of our clients. Clients always have a choice to go elsewhere, but they return to etc.venues because they trust we will look after them throughout the whole process. With logistics off their shoulders and onto ours, clients can solely focus on their delegates and the content of their events. Ultimately, we are selling a beautiful product; a dream that clients trust us to deliver time and time again.
What are the most satisfying aspects of your job?
Keeping our clients happy and meeting our sales targets are both vitally important. However, I'd say one of the most satisfying aspects of my role is how we achieve that. Typically, salespeople are bred to hit personal sales targets. At etc.venues, it doesn't work that way. Instead, we have 'venue targets' so we need to work collaboratively, as a team, to achieve a common goal. This motivates people to work collectively, supporting each other, creating a more relaxed, happier working environment. And, in my experience, a happy team creates sales.
What do you love most about etc.venues?
Obviously, the quality of our venues really sets us apart from our competitors. But I also love how loyalty is rewarded within the business. You can come in at grassroots level (like me) and, if you have the right mentality, you'll receive plenty of opportunities and support to develop your skills and progress through the ranks. One of our mottos is "autonomy is everything". Regardless of your level, you'll be given responsibility. This motivates people and helps them grow within their role… and I'm living proof of 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.