Anna Green, Broadsword
Trying to keep her event business afloat during the pandemic while her business partner husband was battling a severe illness was a huge challenge for Anna Green, the co-owner of Broadsword, which was awarded the Triumph over Adversity award at the 2021 Growing Business Awards.
- What does your business do?
We are an event communications agency, specialising in the internal comms market. We work with corporate clients on cultural, educational and motivational company events such as welcome events, awards shows and conferences.
- Why did you decide to join the business?
My husband and I were intending to start our own business but instead we became co-owners of Broadsword in 2015. At the time Broadsword was quite a small production company and we came in with a remit to completely reimagine it as a full-service event agency. I have a slightly unconventional background in terms of running a business - I was previously a teacher but I originally trained in technical theatre so I have a production background which has been useful for running events.
- What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?
Dealing with the pandemic. Just before March 2020 we were about to move into big new premises, we had a team of
36 people that we planned to grow to around 50 employees, we had opened an office in Hong Kong and we had plans for the US. That all came to a halt overnight as our entire order book was literally wiped out within days. It felt like a tidal wave had ripped through the events industry.
In the first few weeks we had no idea of what sort of support might be available so we had to make some decisions very quickly. We pulled out of the move to the new premises straight away. We were acutely aware that our client base were not going to hang around if we didn’t have a virtual event offering that would help them, so we had to completely change our business model and learn a new set of skills very quickly. We also turned our building into broadcast studios so that we could produce virtual events.
At the same time as the business was going through such turmoil, my husband and business partner came down with
a very severe illness. It was really awful and there were times when I really didn’t know how I was going to get through to the other side.
But my husband recovered and we managed to get our virtual solution ready for the start of the conference season in September 2020. We produced a virtual global event, which was really successful and became a launch pad for everything that came afterwards. Looking back I learned so much from it all and am a better person and a better leader as a result.
- What key lesson have you learnt about setting up and growing a business?
I used to worry about making the wrong decision, but the experience of the pandemic has showed me that you just have to make a decision and stick with it, in order to give the business the momentum and energy to continue to move forward.
- What has been your biggest mistake?
Doubting myself and spending too much time comparing myself and our business to others. It’s important to understand your marketplace, but it’s all too easy to fall down the social media rabbit hole worrying about everyone else.
- What has been the secret of your success so far?
Looking after the team is at the heart of everything I do. I prioritise it over everything. We have a broad range of personalities and skills within the team and everyone is vital for the business to run successfully. I am a huge people person, and for me it is about really helping my team develop and grow. We never stop learning. This underpins all elements of our company culture.
- What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?
Surround yourself with brilliant people. Don’t feel that you have to do everything by yourself and don’t think that you need to be the best in every area of the business. You can’t be. Employ people who are better than you.
- What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?