The Europa International director on family, nicknames and a lifelong love of the events industry.
I was born in Croydon way back in the 70s. I grew up in Bromley South East London and still work there nearly 40 years later.
I grew up in a very traditional and loving family, as the eldest child with two younger sisters. Dad (aka Papasmurf) was very much the grafting and enigmatic breadwinner, with my mum being the perfect foil, as she was (and still is) a fantastically loving and caring lady. They were the perfect duo and offered us a great opportunity to grow up in a balanced, compassionate and determined environment, traits that we will carry through the rest of our lives. We are still a close family unit, now rather expanded with the addition of six grandchildren and three partners, although cancer sadly intervened and took away our dad late last year.
I’m not a great deal different than I was at school; as I’ve always been driven, caring and meticulous in what I do and that genuinely hasn’t changed, although I’m definitely wiser and probably a little fatter too!
Smurf has been my nickname all of my life. Sadly there’s no penchant for dressing up in red speedos with blue body paint (although Papasmurf used to do that at the drop of a hat). It was simply because of my name – S Murphy – and my dad also being called Steve Murphy, hence we became Smurf and Papasmurf!
I’m very fortunate to love what I do, but as a rite of passage I worked in the obligatory glazing telesales office, where the sum total of the training was: “here is a Yellow Pages, please start cold calling from the first page”. Needless to say, only I managed one shift as my mind needed a little more creativity that that!
My very first paid job was as a dog walker. We had an old people’s home around the corner from where we lived and they often needed help so I volunteered my services with a friend. They obviously liked us as they used to pay us £1 to walk each dog for 20 minutes!
Events are very much ‘in the blood’. I’m the third generation; my grandad set the company up in 1961, when the exhibition industry was very much in its formative stage.
I started off in the 90s in our retail carpet shop selling flooring to landlords and the general public. I then learnt the trade and worked up through the ranks alongside our event managers, before getting my own HGV Licence, enabling me to become a fledgling site manager myself. I’m now proud to be a director, and truly believe that working my way up through the company enables me to have an outstanding handle on what we do and how to provide the best service.
The industry as a whole is pretty well run, especially related to health and safety records. However, the wider issue for me is some of the red tape that exists…some of it is of course perfectly justified, but some leaves a bit to be desired!
This Industry can be very unforgiving with long hours and short turnarounds, so if we aren’t working then you’ll find me at home with my family.
I’m extremely dedicated to what I do – which occupies the lion’s share of my life – so I can think of nothing better than chilling with my girls, which revolves around swimming, gymnastics, going to the park and at the moment watching Moana on repeat! As a South London boy, given the opportunity, I can be found supporting the Eagles from the terraces or a hospitality box.
Sadly there are no extreme sports for me as I can never satisfactorily complete my own risk assessment! But I’m a keen sports fan and extremely patriotic, so if I’m not playing tennis or watching football or cricket, I can be found following literally anything that includes England and the home nations!
I have been with my long-suffering better half for over 17 years now. We met a university back in the day ’and have a beautiful daughter who is very much a chip off the old block, constantly keeping us on our toes! With a littlun it’s so lovely to watch them develop through the different phases… we’re currently in the ‘why’, and ‘It’s not fair’ stage!
Having a littlun in tow we’re not brave enough to face a long-haul flight yet, but this year we went to Portugal on her first trip abroad, taking full advantage of being out of season before we get into the school timetables.
It’s going to sound incredibly corny, but I love working in this industry full stop, so I wouldn’t say that I have a favourite event. We’re pretty blessed, as we work across a whole range of industries and organisations, so we have a plethora of different approaches, but for me there’s always a special place in my heart for clients that have been with us since our inception.
We have some clients that have worked with three generations of our family over the last 25 years. Knowing that we’ve been able support and organically grow in alignment with their specific requirements is incredibly rewarding. It also allows me to fondly look back at where we’ve come from to where we are today. It’s a remarkable story built upon honesty, integrity and sheer graft.
Within the company we have a Marketer of the Year, and very close to my heart is the ‘Industry Legend’ award, which my dad won at the inaugural EN Elite Awards last year and which takes pride of place at our HQ!