EN sits down with Greg Cherry, the new MD of Glasgow-based organiser QD Events to learn about the future of the business.
Greg Cherry’s career in the exhibition industry has been varied to say the least.
With past experience running shows at UBM and IIR (now Informa), a spell as business development director for Freeman and time spent in the Middle East as director of sales for ADNEC, he has now headed north to take up the role of MD at Glasgow-based organiser QD Events.
Cherry joined QD Events following the departure of previous MD Fran McIntyre, who left the business after managing it for ten years.
“I’d met Fran, but I didn’t know a lot about QD Events if I’m honest,” admits Cherry. “But if I’d put a plan in place for my career seven years ago it would have culminated in a role like this. This is the perfect role and something I’ve always been looking to do; become MD of a medium-sized exhibition company.
“It comes with its challenges, but it comes with opportunities as well. I’m still learning a lot.”
The company organises five consumer events –Resonate Total Gaming; The Scottish Wedding Show; The Scottish Caravan, Motorhome and Holiday Home Show; Independent Living and The IRN-BRU Carnival – all taking place at the SEC.
But is the perspective of a supplier and venue helpful now that Cherry is running an organising company?
Image credit: Martin Shields
“It does help,” he tells EN. “Having four years working at a venue and understanding how that works is great. It gives you great background. From a contractor point of view understanding the way they work also helps massively. It’s given me an understanding of the operational challenges that organisers or contractors can face.
“I’ve had my own business twice, and everything I’ve done I’ve always treated as if it was my own business. When I was running at the time UBM’s second largest portfolio I would treat it as if it was my own. You wouldn’t do certain things with a business if it was your own, so why would you do it if it was someone else’s?”
EN is meeting with Cherry in London, barely two months after he upped sticks and moved to Glasgow to start his new role, based at the SEC. His first event – arguably a baptism of fire – was the Glasgow institution that is the IRN-BRU Carnival. Less of an exhibition and more an old-fashioned fairground, the almost 100-year-old event is Europe’s largest indoor funfair.
“It’s mental,” laughs Cherry. “I’ve never been involved in a show like that. It’s definitely not a standard model;. It’s exhibition organisers running a theme park. This is the perfect example of creating an experience at an event that people will remember and keep coming back to.
“When you talk to people in the city, they all want to bring their kids to the IRN-BRU Carnival. But that comes with its challenges as well. There’s a level of expectation. It really is fascinating, for exhibition organisers, showing how great we are at running something that’s not a standard exhibition.”
Looking to the future
“QD is at the start of a new journey,” says Cherry. “We’re looking at joint ventures we can do, if there’s anything worth buying, some new product development and organic growth. It’s all about creating a direction and giving ourselves a line of sight.
“For me the first two months have been, ‘sit back, take it on board, and see how they operate’; there’s no point jumping in at this stage. It’s about understanding, building the plan and also making sure everyone’s engaged within the business.”
The conversation returns to the possibility of new show launches in the company’s future. QD Events is a consumer event organiser and Cherry’s experience is largely on the B2B side of the exhibition industry but, he says, both trade and consumer events should have the same basic goals.
“We have to create value and experience across all our events to make people come back,” he explains. “What’s the experience and what’s the content? What does the audience want? Consumer events can be so varied; I might just go ‘this is a great idea’ and do it.
“We’ve already started that process, because it’s fun. One thing we’ve started doing as a team is brainstorming in leadership meetings. Let’s have a look at the process that we will go through in creating something new, but let’s not make it too heavy because you don’t want to stifle any creativity by killing it with a process.”
Launching a show, suggests EN, must be an interesting mix of research and gut instinct.
“You don’t want to do too much research, but when is too much?” agrees Cherry. “You don’t want to do something that creates doubt. I’m not one of these people who will ask a question to ten people until I get the right answer. If nine of them say ‘yes, do it’ and one person says ‘no’ I’m not going to wait for that person and then say, ‘well, I can’t do it now’.
“It’s about doing what’s commercially the right thing – the right thing in the eyes of the business – but also what feels right. Sometimes you just have a feeling about what makes a good show. This is what makes organisers lie awake at night thinking, ‘who’s going to visit?’ ‘Are people going to turn up when I open the doors?’”
Whatever the future holds for QD Events, it’s clear that the organiser is beginning a new phase in its history. For Cherry it means a new home, a new consumer focus and a talented new team of colleagues, luckily he seems more than up for the challenge.