EN meets Jan Matthews, chief operating officer at Smart Group, who joined the company in October 2018.
How did you get into the event industry?
I got a call from a head hunter and that was it!
Favourite thing about events?
Apart from them being fun, I love the planning element – and obviously seeing them come to fruition. I enjoy the challenge of having to be very nimble and flexible during them, plus I like that they have a beginning, a middle and an end.
What do you think you can bring to the new role?
I am looking to build on what is already a fantastic company. I think my role is to help grow the different brands whilst driving the synergies in the background, and to ensure that as we grow the business we do it seamlessly – I love taking the strategy and turning it into reality.
What have you done in the first month in the job?
The first month in any job for me is about looking and learning. I don’t think this one will be any different; I want to get to know our people, what makes them tick, what drives them, what frustrates them, why we do the things we do and what our opportunities and challenges are.
What’s on your desk?
At the moment, nothing. Usually there’s a bottomless cup of coffee, a picture of my family, two computer screens, and my mobile.
How do you intend to face the challenges in the industry?
I am a pretty pragmatic person and love a challenge. You have to be innovative in this industry in everything you do, whilst having the ultimate attention to detail. If we keep doing that we can take on any challenges and turn them into opportunities.
I can get frustrated with extended indecision – but not much else.
I had my portrait hung in the National Portrait Gallery and my picture on posters all over the tube during the London 2012 Olympics. It was a bit nerve-racking at the time as everyone knew who was responsible for the Food & Beverage, but my son tells me it was really cool, so I’ll take that.
Best piece of advice?
At the Olympic Games we had a presentation from Ben Hunt-Davis who told us the mantra that the men’s Rowing Eight – who won gold against the odds at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games – had, which was “will it make the boat go faster?” – if it does then do it, if not don’t. We used it through the period of the Olympic Games and I have used it ever since.
Funniest work moment?
Several years ago, three of us were working late into the night to put a leaflet together for a client and one of my colleagues was proofreading it. There was quite a lot to read and we asked him if he had read the last four pages. He was adamant he had, so we moved on. I then happened to look at one of the pages and saw it was an article on taxidermy that had somehow been dropped in by mistake. Goodness knows how – he was adamant he had proofread it, knew it was there and that it was relevant to why this company should win the bid they were working on. Needless to say; the more he tried to explain, the funnier it got. We ended up crying with laughter and even today when I see them we just have to say taxidermy and we start laughing again.
Leading the team to deliver the Catering, Cleaning and Waste at the London 2012 Olympics was an unbelievable experience and was my dream job. My new role with Smart has all the same characteristics as that role, so I get to do my dream job twice.
Who is the individual you most admire?
My late husband, for too many reasons to tell you.
The last film you watched?
A girls’ night out to watch A Star is Born.
At EN HQ, we take our coffee very seriously – how do you take your coffee?
Very large but quite weak and black – so it’s a Grande Americano, one shot, for me.