People Who Inspire Me

This is the first in a series of occasional interviews with people that inspire me. My subject is Catherine Robson, Operations Director at Objektum Venues who started her company at the tender age of 19.

Operations Director, Objektum Venues

Catherine Robson

Catherine, what made you want to set up your own business in the firstplace?

I was organising a fashion show at school and two models went AWOL. As I was racing around trying to find them I realised I had a massive smile on my face, and I knew then that event management was what I really wanted to do. I thought if something makes me feel this good then I have to do it!

I got a place at University to study Arts and Event Management and I was really excited to go, but then just before it was time to start I had a really strong gut instinct that I should just go and do it – that was on the Saturday, and on the Monday I gave up my place at University!

I was 19 at the time, and my parents were very shocked but really supportive – they’ve always encouraged me.

What kind of preparation did you do?

Lots – I thought and talked about what I wanted to do all the time – I believe that if you put your ideas out there you’ll get back what you need. You have to be passionate about your ideas but not precious about them, so that when you’re talking to peole about them you can change your plans if you find you need to.  That’s how I met my business partner Derek. I wasn’t looking for a partner but I met him and he had a lot of the same ideas as me – it was synchronicity. We worked out what we wanted to do, and Derek comes from a training background so we used his expertise and that helped us decide that we wanted to approach Event Management kind of from within the Training world. We made sure we had a good business plan and we did our research before we got started. You have to set yourself  some questions you need to have the answers to before you get started, and for us they included things like

What’s the competition

What do your prospective clients want

What’s your USP

How much will you charge

It can be tempting to go on doing research forever but it’s important to get moving, so decide on your important questions and get started once you’ve got the answers to them. The answers feed into your business plan. It doesn’t have to be a long complicated document – if it’s 22 pages you’ll never read it. I keep mine on my desk and refer to it constantly

What was your Vision for your business when you first began?

We wanted to be seen very much as part of the training world, so we needed to understand what training providers wanted and give them that. It’s changed so much since then it’s hard to remember what it was originally! It’s really important to know where you’re going and keep your Vision in mind, and equally important to be alive to new ideas and be open to changes in direction

What’s your Mission, ie what is it that you’re aiming to do for your clients?

We’re like an outsourced branch of their company so once they’ve called us in to organize an event for them all they have to worry about is the content and getting people there, we’ll do everything else for them, right down to printing out badges and making sure there’s a clock in the room – it’s surprising how many venues don’t think about little things like that, but then they’re not trainers and they don’t think like trainers – we do.

What strengths do you bring to your business?

I think it’s a combination of lots of blue-sky thinking and creativity, and the ability to focus in on the good ideas and making them happen. And my own personal values are central to everything I do.

What do you know now, that you wish you’d known at the outset?

How simple it was going to be! As long as you have a structure, a good business plan and a good business model it’s a lot simpler than I thought it would be.

Someone once told me that people will only buy from you for one of 2 reasons: either you’re fulfilling one of their dreams, or you’re solving one of their problems. If you can’t convince them that you’re doing one of those 2 then your business is basically stuffed!

Who inspires you?

I’m lucky to have 3 people very close to me who I find inspiring. One is my Mum, who’s the most sensible, practical lady you could meet. She keeps my feet on the ground and makes sure my ideas are rooted in reality.

The second is my Dad, who’s a really creative, entrepreneurial character full of ideas. You can see where I get my strengths from!

And the third is my business partner, Derek, who’s really good at what he does, and is really firm about making sure your business is successful while still giving you the kind of life you want to lead.

If you’re running your own business it’s so important that it not only reflects you and who you are, but that it enables you to live the life you want. So if you don’t want to be working 20 hour days you need to be sure that your business model doesn’t force you to, otherwise you’ll just end up exhausted and unhappy.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Retired and on my yacht! Seriously, for me it’s about growing the business so that Objektum becomes the go-to place for Event Management – but a couple of yachts would be nice too…

What would you say to anyone that would like to run their own business, but thinks it’s not something they could do?

It’s really important to have confidence, so if you’re not confident, don’t do it. But having said that, look at why you’re not confident. If you don’t think you could go it alone, think about getting a business partner. If you’re worried about money, find a way to start small and then use the money you make that way to help you grow. If there are skills or knowledge you think you need, find a mentor or someone who can do those things for you. If you can solve the thing that’s causing you to lack confidence, then go for it!

I think Catherine is a glorious example of what you can achieve if you have a vision and some passion and go for it. What’s your vision and passion, and what are you doing to make them come alive?

12 responses to “People Who Inspire Me

  1. I love reading inspirational writing about following our dreams and I think Catherine is so right – if you don’t have the confidence don’t just sit back and think ‘I don’t have the confidence’. Find someone who can help you find your inner spirit, your confidence, your self belief, so that you can realise your full potential as a human being. We only get this chance once and we are only here for a pin drop in time – so love it, live it and go for it!

  2. Couldn’t agree more Lisa – and I’ll be round to interview you soon 🙂

  3. Oh I’d love to….how lovely of you to think of little old me x

  4. Well done Cathy, yet another inspirational idea from you! It is good to know about how others do stuff…remember to love yourself and what you do. x

  5. Thanks Di – I am and I do 🙂
    And you’re on my list as well!

  6. Vision, passion and self-confidence – I can see why Catherine is such an inspirational person! Can these very important qualities be taught, fostered and encouraged? I am sure that there are people who can see themselves doing things with their lives but may not have the ability to articulate that vision. Can one’s thinking be coloured to match abilities with a personal vision? I look forward to reading the other journal entries on inspirational people. This is a great idea!

  7. Stepehn,
    I truly believe that everyone has a vision and a passion within them, and that those things can be discovered and brought out into the light. The right help and support can lead to enormous growth in peoples’ levels of self-confidence and it’s a process that feeds off itself. A lot of the work I do results in improved self-confidence for my clients, whether that was their initial aim or not. Once you see your confidence grow, suddenly the list of things you “couldn’t possibly do” starts to get smaller and a whole new world of opportunities opens up to you – ina ll its myriad colours! I’m glad you like this idea, I have a growing list of candidates to interview!

  8. I definitely need the right help and support, so I will read every instalment with great interest and anticipation!

  9. You know where I am if you need me 🙂
    And take a look at the subject of my next post, the Colour In Your Life Online Gym, which could be the very thing for you…

  10. Cathy

    How do find time to think of all these wonderful ideas! let alone publish them. Truly inspirational.

  11. Pingback: Inspiring People #2 | The Colour In Your Thinking Blog

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