Getting into details and combining professional services with fun experiential events is the forte of The Production House Events (TPHE), the company owned by Harry Samuels. In a highly competitive industry and ever-evolving landscape, they set themselves apart by exceeding customer’s expectations and putting people at the centre of everything they do.
Harry had no family experience in running a venture earlier in life, but he has always been passionate about business. He took up a bachelor’s degree in business, majoring in marketing and management at university and going on to finish with a Class 2 Honours degree. After that, he worked in various companies, primarily in the marketing field until he became the CEO of a supply company. His work experience included working in Sri Lanka and New Zealand. In those experiences, he was always involved with organising corporate events.
However, he had the aptitude for entrepreneurship and a good understanding of the business systems and working with people. According to Harry, “The entrepreneurial thing for me came later in life. I wanted to try to do more entrepreneurial things earlier, but it's just that circumstances didn't allow it. It came later in my business career. It was about ten years ago when I started experimenting and exploring it. Once I started, I found I had a knack for it and enjoyed it. I think one of the things that stood out early on was the pressures that come with being an entrepreneur seemed to sit comfortably with me.”
One advantage Harry has is that his business partner is his wife, Gina, and their diverse skills sets make them a great duo for the professional events industry. “We both have backgrounds in marketing and running corporate events. Gina’s strengths are in the creative elements and the events delivery. My strengths are more in the project management, finance and business structures. We identified something early what we thought was a gap in the marketplace, and we thought we could fill it quite well,” Harry explained.
The one thing that scared him in the initial years was the cash flow. “The financial was a big thing. We had recently got married, and we were expecting our first child. There was a lot of unknowns. That's the scary part of it,” he revealed.
There was also the adjustment period as it was a difficult transition from being employed to running his own business. In his last company, which was a mature business, there were 160 staff members. Harry described how “Going from that to being a startup was very different. You have to have different abilities because you have to do everything, as opposed to being able to manage a lot of people. When we started, there was just us. We started with a small team, so we had to do a lot more of a variety of things. But I enjoyed it. I liked the fact that there was variety, and we were in control of our own destiny.”
They also encountered some difficulties in the first few years of the business. Since they were still starting out, they worked hard to win clients. Harry recalled, “Early on, we lost a few big clients, and we reacted badly to the situation. At that time, we had a very good client, and for whatever reason, it didn't work out, and we lost them. It was very challenging to get back from that loss. If it happened now, we'd be a lot better at dealing with it and not obsessing about what happened. ”
As time went by, they also had to deal with the growing pains. The image of the business had relied on the reputation of the directors, which is why they had to hire people that could deliver the high standard of service required. Increasing number of clients meant more workload that required a bigger workforce. “I guess the concerns are to bring in more staff and ensure that the service level that you provide are of a similar standard that we were known for. On top of that, you rely not only on your staff but also the suppliers that you use to deliver their part, whether it's the venue, the food and catering or the staging people. All these elements, you're relying on other people. But it takes time to develop relationships and pick out the good ones. We always have to keep them on their toes to maintain the service level that we pride ourselves on being able to provide,” Harry remarked.
The biggest current ordeal that Harry cited was the need to constantly reinvent and innovate themselves, especially with the shifting scenarios and constant progression in the events industry. “You can't get too comfortable in what you do. For me, the challenge is always trying to develop the next thing and keep up, whether it's technology or people or new offerings. You can't ever be comfortable in one place. For a large organisation that's fairly well-established and structured, you operate under some certainties about your business. But when you're operating in a smaller size, the challenge is to keep innovating and changing,” he stated.
Webinars and online meetings have become a hit for some time. One of their latest offerings is around smaller, more targeted events, which they are calling “Masterclassing”. This is a strong trend in the industry and part of the appeal of these types of events is the high ROI they get from conducting more focused Events. Harry and his TPHE team ensure that they also keep up with the trends in the market. That has helped them garner some wins for the business.
However, there is also a resurgence of big conferences and face-to-face interaction among participants where they can engage with each other to learn and grow. “Our biggest Event is currently happening as we speak. We're running our biggest ever event on the Gold Coast, and it’s the most sensational event that we've ever put together. It's a massive undertaking, with the amount of work and effort that's gone into and still going into it. It is like nothing else that we've ever done. It has taken us to a new level,” Harry proudly said.
Due to their diligence and great work, they have been recognised in their industry by their peers. “One of the highs was winning an award for the Asia-Pacific Conference of the Year last year. We went to Singapore to accept the award. It was a submission of a large event. There were a thousand delegates and 500 trade and support staff and had multiple venues.”
Harry has found great help through EO. His brother-in-law and his brother-in-law’s business partner were members of EO for a long time. Similarly, his friend, who is part of EO Sydney, spoke highly of the organisation and enthusiastically shared how it benefitted him. “I think that was the impetus that got me to join. I had been thinking about it for a while. My Sydney friend’s experience and encouragement was probably the thing that got me to go and sign up,” Harry testified.
Aside from meeting a diverse range of like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners from different ages, gender and nationalities, he also learned a great deal about continually improving himself, his business and those around it. He also found that he still has a lot to learn and develop within himself.
Overall, the greatest lesson he has ever picked throughout his journey has guided him on how to run his ventures. As Harry explained, “There are three things that a successful business needs to have. As long as you have two out of three of these things, your business will be a success. So, one is unique IP. The other is to have a distribution network in place, whatever that distribution channel might be. The third is to create an annuity income stream.”
Armed with the experience, lessons and advice he accumulated, Harry is ready to take on the future. “At the moment, we're investing heavily in infrastructure, both technology and people resources. We're modernising a lot of our systems and processes to ensure that the growth continues to happen and not reliant on the directors of the business. In five to ten years, we hope to launch more events-style business services. We're looking at different deliveries of events, whether they are small and specific, what we call masterclasses, or some larger style unique type of events that we have been doing. Also, we’re considering technologies in the event space, whether it's things like video content, recording of conferences and events, webcasting or other types of modern technologies that we can use to reach a wider audience. So, we've got another side of the business that we're developing as well,” he excitedly shared.
Amidst all these, Harry never loses focus on their corporate values, centred around people. But what keeps him excited is that he sees this as a continuous learning journey. His work provides this learning to people and helps them to improve. It’s also an ongoing exploration for him as a business owner. Despite the difficulties and hurdles, he keeps looking ahead, ready to take risks, as he sets out to fulfil his goals and satisfy his passion for business. “It is important to have confidence. Boldly go forward. Believe that you can achieve a lot more than you can ever imagine,” he imparted.