4 Lessons I Learned Going from Part-Time Employee to CEO by @TigrisEventsInc

by Serena Holmes

I have been with my company, Tigris Events, for over a decade – having worked my way from temporary sales staff to President and CEO. The past 13 years have been filled with exciting opportunities and a fair share of challenges along the way. I have learned about what it takes to lead a team, how to run a business and how to become the best version of myself. Here are four lessons that stand out:

1. Be open minded about your future

I’ll be honest – my original goal was not to work in experiential marketing. In fact, I hadn’t heard of ‘promotions’ until I was mid-way through university! At the time, I was preparing to begin my career in broadcast journalism. I started in promotions on a temporary basis in order to earn extra money while I was in school, but I loved it! Still, it took a year and multiple offers for me to finally accept partnership at Tigris and dedicate my future to the company and an industry that is unrelated to what I studied in university.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be where I am when I first graduated, but I am so happy that I kept an open mind and decided to take advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me.

2. Turn your weaknesses into strengths

When I hired my first full-time employees, I found myself micro-managing their work. This wasn’t productive. It took precious time away from my own work and didn’t provide our employees with room to grow and develop in their careers.

Once I realized this was a weakness of mine, I worked hard to change. I made sure to train our team members properly so they had the tools and resources they needed to do their jobs. This has fostered a culture of autonomy, trust and creativity at Tigris. Having seen how this has transformed the company and allowed us to attract talented employees, I’m determined to maintain a positive company culture that supports each team member.

3. Look at challenges as opportunities

In 2008, I was shocked to learn my business partner had decided to leave the company. We had a few options to consider. We could dissolve the business and move on; however, it seemed like a shame to waste the work we had put in already. My partner could sell her shares to another business, but it felt like it wouldn’t be a balanced partnership as I wouldn’t have any shares in their company. Lastly, I could take the risk and buy her out. Given we were in the midst of a recession, and I had just bought my first house the year prior, this was a bit scary.

Although this was an unforeseeable rough patch, I decided to look at it as an opportunity and learning experience – even if it was attached to a large price-tag. Our sales had doubled during the year prior, and we had built a great reputation for ourselves. As such, I decided to take the risk – and company operations. Nine years later, Tigris has continued to grow, and I know I made the right decision looking back. We have won numerous awards including Top Choice Award for Best Event Staffing Agency 2 years in a row. I have even had the honor of being ranked as one of the Canada’s Top W100 Women Entrepreneurs of 2016.

4. Never be afraid to reinvent your business

Just as you need to be open minded about your personal future, you also need to be open minded about the future of your business. The competition is fierce. You need to keep up with advancements in technology and changes in customer demand if you want to survive.

Tigris has rebranded and changed its name twice in the past four years. Originally the company was known as Tigris Personnel. In 2014 we decided to change our name to Tigris Incorporated to alter the perception that we were only a staffing agency. Unfortunately, this change didn’t have quite the impact intended as we hadn’t changed our email, website and social media handles to match. We were worried about damaging our SEO rankings but after two more years, it was obvious we needed to be clearer and changed the company name again. This time to our current name, Tigris Events.

These changes were not simple and included new websites and logos, color schemes, business card designs, promotional material, emails and social media. There is always a bit of fear when you change things like your company’s domain name and social media handles, but it’s important to be flexible and do what is best for your business in the long run.

If we hadn’t been willing to adapt to change, it’s possible the company wouldn’t be around today. Instead, our ability to adjust to the constantly changing world of experiential marketing has led to new opportunities and exciting plans for the future.

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Serena Holmes is the President and CEO of award winning experiential marketing and events staffing agency Tigris Events, based in Toronto.

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