A birthday is almost always a cause for celebration and this year a few industry pioneers commemorated some very special milestones. We ask them how the business events industry has changed over the years and what it takes to stand the test of time.

By LAUREN ARENA

DMS celebrates 21 years

Destination Marketing Services (DMS) started life in 1992 as a tourism representation company and over the past two decades has become one of the most formidable destination management companies in Australia.

With a global network of more than 30 DMCs operating in more than 60 countries, DMS has two divisions – a DMC-focused division that specialises in representation of ground operators, and Unique Venues, which is dedicated to international hotel representation.

DMS managing director, Leila Bishara, says she was compelled to start the company after noticing a gap in the market.

“At the time Australia had no commercial operations that focused on DMC representation. So I created this new concept and soon after realised that this service was – and still is – in very high demand,” she said.

“But things changed as the industry reeled from the combined effects of the 9/11 disaster, the Bali bombings and the Ansett collapse. It was quite clear that in order to survive we would have to branch into other areas – that’s when we launched Unique Venues.”

Ms Bishara says the industry has grown up a lot over the past 20 years, but this has also brought on new challenges.

“In the 80s and 90s the business events industry was operated by a group of highly creative and entrepreneurial professional incentive practitioners. Now only a handful of the incentive practitioners from this era are still practicing. The new wave of decision makers are just as professional but they have different pressures from the corporate market, and now it’s more about budgets than creativity and innovation.

“As this is an industry based on relationships, you have to have the best name in the industry, you have to be known and widely acknowledged in your area of expertise and you have to be extremely resilient and be able to continuously adapt and change with the trends.”

ID Events is over the hill

To commemorate its recent 40-year milestone, ID Events invited all current and past employees to party in style at Bar 100 in Sydney’s The Rocks with close to 200 ex-staffers coming along for the ride.

Reflecting on how the company has evolved, ID Events chairman, Bill Wright, says the business was originally founded as an inbound tour operator that formed part of a larger group of companies offering tourism and travel services.

“The collective group included an incentive company, hotel and airline representatives, a travel agent, training company and an inbound operator (ID). The concept was excellent but probably ahead of its time and ID is the only one to survive.

“The evolvement stemmed from handling special interest group tours out of Japan and incentive travel out of the US, to handling large travel wholesalers sending both groups and free independent travellers,” he said.

“After the milestone in 2000 of handling Coca Cola and Westpac for the Sydney Olympics, we moved away from leisure tourism to focus solely on the MICE sector.
“The next step has been to include event production as an in-house capability which brings us to where we are today in 2013.”

Along with the Sydney Olympics, the company’s long list of achievements also includes handling the largest finance conference to visit Australia with 7000 SIBOS delegates and five separate corporate events on the one night; and managing the tours and logistics for the 2012 Oprah Winfrey extravaganza with only two months’ notice.

Mr Wright says there are three key components to achieving success and longevity.

“First, you need to believe in a vision while also being able to change along the way; second, diversity in a business enables survival – many competitors over the years were not sufficiently diversified and as a consequence no longer exist; and thirdly, a philosophy of treating the key components of business – clients, suppliers and staff – equally.”

“Starting a business and making it successful are two totally different things. The only advice I could give would be to have a clear vision and believe in it. Because if you don’t no one else will.”

Sidekicker turns one

When Sidekicker co-founders Tom Amos and Jacqui Bull decided to take a leap of faith and start a business that manages and supplies an on-demand workforce, they never expected within a mere 12 months to be taking the corporate events industry by storm.

The company is all about connecting people and Mr Amos says he was initially surprised by the uptake he received from the MICE sector.

“When we created Sidekicker we actually thought busy professionals and business owners would be our target, and didn’t really consider event planners – but we quickly noticed a trend in the meetings and events industry requesting event staff and promotional assistants and realised we’d discovered a great niche.”

“Having a small team allows us to spot trends in our business and the market and adapt quickly, such as changing our focus to the MICE sector.

“In our first year we’ve proven that the model works and that businesses love having access to short-term assistants. There are lots of bright individuals ready to add value to businesses and events and next year we’ll be looking to grow the business, expanding beyond Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, while maintaining the high standard of our sidekicks,” he said.

The company celebrated its first birthday in September with a bottle of champagne and the launch of a new website. m