Simon Thompson’s big vision: Global domination

Name: 

Simon Thompson

Role and company: 

CEO of ConferencesGroup – the umbrella brand for the UKs top venue finding services Conferences-UK.org.uk, ConferenceVenues.com and CorporateDesk

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric): 

£750K

Employee numbers: 

15

Growth forecast for the next three years: 

120 per cent

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

Extremely user-friendly venue finding service found at the top of all Google searches for conferences, meetings and events. Not only does it have the web based search tools for finding venues but it also has a team of venue finding experts on hand to help you find, negotiate and contract venues.

What’s the big vision for your business?

Global domination. Worldwide Venue Finding Service with experts located all over the world.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

Current level of international business stands at five per cent. My aim is for us to reach 30 per cent by 2015.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

My biggest career setback was being a minority shareholder in a business. I learnt never to have less than 50 per cent equity in future businesses.

What makes you mad in business today?

Big fat cat agencies that have all the blue chip clients yet force-feed them venues. It drives me crazy! They are oblivious to it and are simply not being offered the best venues that meet their requirements.

Some agencies have been picked up in the press for charging venues extremely high commission fees of over 20 per cent in return for directing client business exclusively with them. I don’t like these tactics as it goes against what venue finding agencies should be about – finding the most suitable venue in relation to the client’s requirements. At over double the industry standard of eight per cent, this means that agents encourage clients to book with whichever venue is paying the highest commission at that time, rather than the most suitable or those offering the best rate. This could jeopardise the future of smaller hotel groups that can’t keep up in a struggling market. I think it’s more important to be fair than inflate prices and by being consistent in keeping costs low it’s possible to achieve better deals that reflect true value for money

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Technology and large scale online conferencing.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

No, it is an increasingly competitive industry and the only thing that will help improve things is for the government and banks to lend more money.

How would others describe your leadership style?

Entrepreneurial

Your biggest personal extravagance?

A silver BMW Z4M. Sadly this is now gone as I have a one year old son – but he is much better!

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

Give entrepreneurs support. Greater tax incentives for investors. Help those that fail to get back on their feet again fast. They are the ones that have learnt the lessons and have the greatest chance of succeeding! They don’t deserve to be punished for having a go!

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