Industry Trends

Episode 18: Planning for Success: How to Achieve your Live Event Goals feat. Tom Stimson

Do you have a plan for your live events business? Tom Stimson coaches live event professionals and 'accidental entrepreneurs' on how they can achieve success by making intentional choices.

Here's What We're Talking About 💬

  • Intentional success and why it’s hard for event professionals who didn’t set out to start a business.
  • Why this industry is full of accidental entrepreneurs.
  • What the number one issue is for event business owners right now.
  • Why we have to push forward when our tendency is to look backward.
  • How to identify a bad client.
  • How we’ve taught our clients how to treat us.
  • The difference between a quote and a proposal.
  • The reason we have discounts in our industry and why it undervalues us.
  • The problem with discounts in the live events industry.
  • What the biggest opportunity is for our industry right now.
  • What we can do as an industry to put ourselves on the map for investment dollars.

Angela’s takeaways 💡

  • The importance of intentionality.
  • The importance of not going backward.
  • Being economically valuable.
  • The need for leadership forums and how that could breed transparency and authenticity.

Listen 🎧


Watch The Episode 📺


Important Links 🔗


Read The Transcript 📚

[00:00:18] Angela Alea:  Hello and welcome back to another episode of Corralling the Chaos. Today we're gonna talk about a number of things, including decision-making and strategic thinking.

[00:00:40] Angela Alea: So to help us do that we have asked Tom Stimson to join us. There's no denying that decision-making over the last few years has been murky at best given everything that's going on. But the live event industry, even before Covid, they've always had a massive challenge when running their [00:01:00] businesses, which is a great solution that Tom has helped so many achieve.

[00:01:05] Angela Alea: But there's little to no predictability to a lot of things in our industry, which makes it difficult. And then adding on top of that, companies don't really have access to good data, real-time data, access to good tools that are really built for our industry that understand how we operate. And then certainly not many financial insights because let's face it, I think we've unnecessarily complicated a lot of our financial models by how we do things.

[00:01:32] Angela Alea: So, companies have been forced to really kind of run on hunches. Which doesn't necessarily instill a lot of confidence in those of you running your business and who have operated under these challenging circumstances. So we've asked Tom Stimson to join us today to discuss this challenge as well as dig into some additional issues around ethics and leadership in our industry.

[00:01:53] Angela Alea: How to compete and the transition that we've seen in our industry. For those of you who may not know Tom Stinson, [00:02:00] he is a business advisor, coach and speaker who works exclusively with hands-on business owners and management teams of live event production companies that want to improve their decision-making and elevate their strategic thinking.

[00:02:14] Angela Alea: So welcome, welcome, welcome, Tom Stimson. I'm super glad that you are here.

[00:02:19] Tom Stimson: Thank you, Angela. It's nice to see you again.

[00:02:20] Angela Alea: Yeah, you too. I've seen many of you, I've seen Tom, in lots of places. He's very connected to what's going on within our industry, so I'm definitely interested to dive in.

[00:02:35] Angela Alea: But you know, you talk in your bio about some of the value props of things that you bring to your customers as far as helping them with their decision-making and elevating strategic thinking. So what does that mean and how can companies exactly accomplish that?

[00:02:51] Tom Stimson: Well, you know, my newsletter is called Intentional Success and it's all about intentionality.

[00:02:58] Tom Stimson: And many of the [00:03:00] folks running our companies are, business owners, are accidental entrepreneurs. They were good at something, they kept getting calls and all of a sudden they own gear. They have employees and they're trying to pay taxes. Right? And they never intended to go out and be a business. They didn't.

[00:03:16] Tom Stimson: One of the first things my prospects say to me, I don't have a business degree. I don't know what I'm doing. I know how to do a show. I know how to do rental. I know how to do...whatever it is that they do, but they don't know the business side of it. And I don't find this in other industries. It's very prevalent in our world because it takes a certain kind of people to be attracted to what we do and to find a way to make a business out of it.

[00:03:42] Tom Stimson: I work with. Other consultants in other industries, and they don't have the same challenges, that my clients do with their clients, and they have businesses that can be sold to other people who could now run that business. It's very difficult for people in our industry to sell their business [00:04:00] because nobody else can run it but them.

[00:04:02] Tom Stimson: So making intentional choices is important. If you have a goal, if you don't have a goal, just keep on doing what you're doing. Flail all you want, but if you have a goal, you have a place that you're trying to get to, then there are intentional choices you could make that will get you there more directly.

[00:04:20] Tom Stimson: And having a scalable business that's maybe transferable or a succession plan for, you know who's gonna run it next, having that in mind will help you make better decisions. And that's really the first step. Have a goal rather than. I started a business and then things just started happening and they haven't stopped happening in 20 years.

[00:04:42] Tom Stimson: right? Cause and figure out why you're doing this and then we can start making some better choices. And that's when strategy starts to come into play, right? That's when we can start thinking strategically and depending on where you are, there's a different process that we'll go through depending on [00:05:00] where, you know, that company is starting from.

[00:05:03] Tom Stimson: To get them where they're going.

[00:05:05] Angela Alea: That's such a great point. It's so funny, in all my years in sales, when I would call in a company and they'd say, well, we're just a little bit different. I used to always roll my eyes. I'm like, I get it. You think you're different, but you're really not. But I will say in this industry, it really is different.

[00:05:21] Angela Alea: And I mean, it has made a believer out of me in the last decade that I've been in it. We are not like anybody else and it does make it hard. It also makes, makes it exciting. And I think it also creates an opportunity for us as an industry, to create what we want it to be, but it does make it challenging with not a lot of standards.

[00:05:42] Angela Alea: And you know, it's interesting when you talk about the intentionality of these companies and their exit plans because companies in our industry, they're valued as a multiple of EBIDA, it's not on growth, right? It's not on revenue. And a lot of these companies, they [00:06:00] don't understand what adds value to their company.

[00:06:03] Angela Alea: And so the companies that are thinking about exiting or figuring out, do I pass it to a family member? Do I get out altogether? Is it an acquisition? Is it a merger? And so I think the more they can focus on what are the things that make my business more valuable because I think you're right, Tom, instead, success...

[00:06:22] Angela Alea: It's happened to them. And so much of our industry is, it's what happens to us, right? I don't know why I got this business. I just fell into it. I fell into even becoming a business owner versus leapfrogging that and becoming intentional and proactive, and what do I want my business to be? How am I positioned?

[00:06:40] Angela Alea: How am I gonna compete? What's the one thing I'm known for? And so I think that's great. To have you as a resource to help these business owners think through that. So instead of things just happening to them, they can go make things happen that's gonna add value to their business. So I think that's great [00:07:00] to place, an emphasis on that.

[00:07:03] Tom Stimson: Yeah. And, the information is out there and, you know, I challenge the notion. Our industry is unique. It is special. Right. But it's not really unique. We have income, we have expenses. We have overhead. We have employees. We are no different from any other type of company. Okay. What we do is different, but you know what?

[00:07:26] Tom Stimson: Lots of companies do something that's different from us.

[00:07:29] Angela Alea: Yeah. We've made it special.

[00:07:30] Tom Stimson: To your point, we've made it special, but the fundamentals still apply. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, but a lot of us did because we didn't know any better. Our peers and our mentors didn't know any better.

[00:07:44] Tom Stimson: They were accidental entrepreneurs also. So we had three generations working in this industry who have started companies going off of what the previous generation did.

[00:07:55] Angela Alea: Yeah. And I do think there's a lot of barriers to entry, which does not serve our [00:08:00] industry well because we have overcomplicated, we have made it special.

[00:08:03] Angela Alea: We have made it far more difficult than it needs to be. You're right. You've got income, you've got expenses, you've got profitability. Right? At the end of the day, that's the same model no matter what type of business you're running. Service business, is a little different than some of the others, right?

[00:08:17] Angela Alea: Because of how the valuation works and those value points are different. I think you're right. And we talk a lot on this podcast about the need for our industry to standardize so many things because we do make it more difficult than it needs to be. I'm right there with you carrying that flag that we don't need to be special.

[00:08:39] Angela Alea: We don't need to be unique. We need to be better than and, and really kind of look at the commonalities that exist within our industry.

[00:08:47] Tom Stimson: Right. And, you talked earlier about, the data and the tools and the insights not being there. No. The fact is they're. We're tripping over them.

[00:08:54] Tom Stimson: We just don't know how to use them.

[00:08:56] Angela Alea: Yeah, right. So, well, and it takes a lot to get to the data, [00:09:00] right? It takes a lot to get to what it is. I mean, the number of times our customers have said, I can't put my finger on it. I know I'm losing money here. I'm not more profitable here where I like to be. And they're, they have these hunches and their gut instincts.

[00:09:15] Angela Alea: But they don't take the time to go dig through it to really pinpoint what is it. Is it a person? Is it a process? Is it technology? What is it? Because they're moving fast. 

[00:09:25] Tom Stimson: It's that lack of business acumen. They know how to do the work. Yeah. They don't know how to run the business, which means they're not used to looking for key performance indicators and they're not look used to analyzing their numbers, so they don't know where to go.

[00:09:39] Tom Stimson: They see the numbers, but they don't mean anything to them. So having an outsider look at them, connect the dots for them, but the fact is, you know, our financials are really, actually quite simple. There are only a handful of places you need to look to understand what's going on in your business.

[00:09:58] Tom Stimson: And, how you can [00:10:00] make an impact and how you can change things. So if a company's not healthy, it doesn't take long to find out why. Yeah. The breadcrumbs

[00:10:06] Angela Alea: are there. That's right. 

[00:10:08] Tom Stimson: They're all there. The clues are there.

[00:10:08] Angela Alea: Absolutely. Well, what do you think or what do you see is the number one issue on owner's mind right now?

[00:10:17] Angela Alea: As you come outta Covid and then are facing a recession. So what are, what are people worried about?

[00:10:23] Tom Stimson: Well, I mean, it, it's the same thing they're always worried about, which is uncertainty. Right. You know, the lack of insight into their sales forecast, not being able to clearly see the pipeline, not recognizing the trends that are gonna give them confidence because the trends have changed and customer behaviors have changed.

[00:10:43] Tom Stimson: They're ins a little bit insecure about the future. Recession is newsworthy, but it's not necessarily important yet. Because the [00:11:00] fact is we're always getting ready for a recession. There is always gonna be another recession. The question is, are you healthy enough to get through that?

[00:11:07] Tom Stimson: Yeah. And, because business won't stop. 

[00:11:11] Angela Alea: And are you finding clients who are healthy enough to make sure that their clients are healthy enough to get them through it as well? Well,

[00:11:18] Tom Stimson: Let's think about what our experience with recession is in the past 20 years, and we're thinking about the 2007 recession, which was bigger than a recession.

[00:11:28] Tom Stimson: That was a depression and it was a failure of the banking system. Banking and finance went okay. That was not a reflection on the economy. Mm-hmm. . That was the input, the recession was the output. Right? Recessions are normally, You know, a normal thing. I mean, they, they happen, it's an ebb and flow.

[00:11:51] Tom Stimson: Yep. And therefore they're generally not as severe. Um, they're not generally centered on a sector, but some sectors respond differently. And [00:12:00] what happens, what happens in our industry in a normal recession is, um, clients spend a little bit less they'll do the same meetings, but they'll do less.

[00:12:12] Tom Stimson: Yeah. Right. So we can deal with that. We can still make a, you can still have 50% gross profit on less.

[00:12:18] Angela Alea: Events are still gonna happen. You're right. They might look a little different. The budgets might shrink a little bit, but being strategic and getting ahead of that and making sure that you're acquiring the right customers at the right margins to do, you know, to set yourself up for success.

[00:12:37] Angela Alea: That's an important part. Well, no surprise there that that's on some people's minds. Although, you know, I'll tell you what we see on the LASSO platform. We have not seen anything slow at all. Even going, even going into Q4, you know, we've got events that are built and locked and ready to go for 2023.

[00:12:54] Angela Alea: So we're not seeing that growth slow down. Hopefully, that's an indication. Yeah.

[00:12:59] Tom Stimson: [00:13:00] There's another phenomenon that happens when we're busy like this, is that cash flow becomes a problem. You think cash flow would be great. Because you're, you're so busy. But the fact is you're burning through a lot of cash.

[00:13:11] Tom Stimson: Yeah. And there's a lag and getting paid. I am dealing with some owners who are a little bit panicked about their sales pipeline because their cash is low. It's not a selling problem. , yeah. Okay. This is a finance problem. Yeah. So, you know, it's like you, you're, you're overreacting to the wrong thing.

[00:13:28] Tom Stimson: And again, it's that not having the business acumen recognize what the symptom is telling you and you're, you treat the wrong symptom.

[00:13:37] Angela Alea: Makes sense. Well, speaking of patterns and trends, you kind of talked about that a minute ago. What are some of the patterns and trends that you're seeing that make you nervous, and then which ones are you excited about?

[00:13:50] Tom Stimson: Well, none of it makes me nervous. I am, I am cautiously watching the tendency for people to go back. , [00:14:00] you know, history has a lot of gravitational force. There's, you know, man, things were so much better in 2019. Well, actually no, they weren't. If we objectively look at your business, they weren't better. It was just more comfortable.

[00:14:14] Tom Stimson: So there's a tendency of, well, when can we get back to doing it this way? And that's dangerous because I've, as I've said before, Best things that's ever happened to our industry has been the pandemic. In that, it forced us to think differently about how our businesses create value and what the profit formula is - and going backwards to some of the old ways of doing things, of having too many employees because it's easier than trying to find a freelancer, that does not solve your last minute problem, by the way.

[00:14:44] Tom Stimson: Last-minute jobs are not fixed by having more employees. It makes no difference at all. Owning more gear than you actually need, you know, because, well, it made my EBIDA look better. Well, no, it actually didn't because [00:15:00] you, the CAP X pulls down your EBIDA. So having a better understanding of what's going on with all of these things was gonna help people, but the lure of the past is strong because it's comfortable.

[00:15:12] Tom Stimson: So that worries me. The other thing that worries me and, you know, is, Part of the lure of the past is what our customers want. So while I want my clients to stay in the present and look forward their customers, some of them want them. Want their suppliers to go backwards too. Would you go back to the big discount?

[00:15:36] Tom Stimson: Hey, can I get this at the 2018 price? Why is this more expensive? And they're, they're trying to pull some of their suppliers backwards. And that's a bigger fear for me because many of, many of us are afraid of clients. Yeah. Um, we're afraid of losing business when in fact that customer who's asking you to not make money, [00:16:00] As a favor to them is not a good client.

[00:16:03] Tom Stimson: Yeah, yeah. Let's go find better clients. So if we get, if we get hung up on. Clients who are not going to treat us fairly and are not going to help you intentionally get where you need to be if they're not on your side. You need to go find better clients,

[00:16:20] Angela Alea: find better clients, and also, you know, do a better job leading.

[00:16:24] Angela Alea: That's what clients are hiring us to do, right, is to be the expert, to keep them from making mistakes and don't be afraid to lead your client in the right way versus... there we are again, being reactive. The client says A B, so we give them a B versus, Hey, have you thought about C because a, b might, might be the wrong path for you and here's why.

[00:16:44] Angela Alea: And don't be afraid to lead them to do that. 

[00:16:47] Tom Stimson: if you go into the, into the mind of a salesperson in our industry and when the client says, Hey, we need to cut our budget by 30%, the salesperson doesn't instantly think, oh, I need to reduce the scope of work by 30%. They [00:17:00] instantly think, well, let me find a way to give you the same job.

[00:17:03] Tom Stimson: For a lower price.

[00:17:04] Angela Alea: Yes, yes. We've trained the clients how to treat us...what to expect in our industry. We have trained them well and we should undo that .

[00:17:12] Tom Stimson: Yeah. Yeah. We created a clientele, price shoppers. You know, and not all clients are price shoppers, but the folks that are out there, and there are some, you know, notoriously famous buyers in our industry who are experts at price shopping.

[00:17:30] Angela Alea: All right. I was gonna save this for later, but I think we should just go here now. Let's talk about the discounts, Tom. Why do we do that? Why on most of the quotes, and I'm gonna call 'em quotes because I see more quotes than I do proposals, and in my mind, there is a drastic difference.

[00:17:49] Tom Stimson: Yeah. Thank you. There is a big difference.

[00:17:51] Angela Alea: Yeah. But why are we continuing to right off the. in a pitch, we give a quote and here's your [00:18:00] discount. We completely undid what we just spent an hour pitching with that discount. So talk to us about why they're there. Should we continue using them and, and how do, or if we're going to, how do we use them to our benefit?

[00:18:13] Tom Stimson: At the, at the risk of being didactic, you know, you have to look at the history of discounts.

[00:18:19] Tom Stimson: You know why they're there...because there is retail, there is reseller, and there's wholesale. Discounts are a way to get there. How did they become customer-facing? I don't know, but I wanna go back and throttle that person. Yes. And it was, it was a rental salesperson, you know, in the 1970s who wrote a quote to rent some overhead projectors and some flip charts.

[00:18:43] Tom Stimson: And it was a good customer and they asked for a discount and they gave them one, and they put it on the quote, and here we are. Right. So, but today's buyers aren't looking for discounts. They're going, what is this? Right. [00:19:00] You know, it, it's, it's out of place in the scope of work type of selling that more people are doing.

[00:19:04] Tom Stimson: Yeah. But the fact is, our rental management software has a place for a discount. You can put a discount on every line. You can put a master discount, you can discount sections. There are discounts all over the place. Yeah. But nobody ever said, quit showing it to the client. The client doesn't need to know how you got, how you did the math.

[00:19:20] Tom Stimson: That's right. The reason we have discounts is because in rental production, we sell from a retail price and we discount it which is one of the things that makes us unique and special when other industries look at us going, why would you do it that way? Any other industry, including, you know, the systems integration industry, the built environment sells from cost plus margin.

[00:19:43] Tom Stimson: And we don't sell from cost plus margin because we don't know what our cost is. Right.

[00:19:49] Angela Alea: Sell from retail. You're in lies the problem

[00:19:51] Tom Stimson: They're in lies the problem. Yes. So, you know, discounts will be there. Because we do need a customer-facing [00:20:00] sales tool, but discounts are a tool. And the problem with discounts is that they are a trade and we forget that they're a trade.

[00:20:08] Angela Alea: It just seems so embedded in. the philosophy and I just, man, if I could wave a magic wand, it would be like, let's not talk about that anymore. with the discounts, because I do think it just undervalues so much. But to your point, right, that's an internal mechanism, right? Like, Hey, I know what my margin needs to be, here's what it's looking at.

[00:20:27] Angela Alea: Maybe this is a strategic client, or we'll make more in certain areas. It doesn't need to be customer-facing to your point, right? It's just helping you manage your profitability intern. 

[00:20:37] Tom Stimson: There is a form of selling where you are transparent about your margins. We see this in the construction industry.

[00:20:44] Tom Stimson: We're starting to see it in the remodeling industry where you basically show the client all of your costs, but you also tell them what your profit's going to be. So you can't, you know, you can't dictate your profit and have this fuzzy discount thing at the same [00:21:00] time. Yeah. It's gotta be one or the other.

[00:21:01] Tom Stimson: One or the other. So we like the accidental profit we make when things work out. and if the trade-off to get that sometimes is to show a discount, people are gonna continue to show discounts. 

[00:21:14] Angela Alea: I love, I love that phrase, the accidental profit, becuase I think that's so true. Yet again, we're, our profitability happens to us.

[00:21:22] Angela Alea: Right? Like, oh, you look up and, okay, I look backwards. And that's what we did. Okay, great. I'm surprised one way or the other, I didn't know what it was gonna be. To your point, there was no intentionality behind it. It was. This is what happened to me and here's how we, here's how we fared last month. Yeah.

[00:21:37] Tom Stimson: it's, I mean, what every, every rental company owner is, it's luck and timing, right? Oh, man, we had a great month, but all the shows were on the same week. Well, we all know what that means. It was a horrible month. Right? They said, oh, we had a great month. All the shows were spread out. We're going, oh, wow.

[00:21:51] Tom Stimson: You actually made some money. You're buying the drinks.

[00:21:53] Angela Alea: That's right. Yeah. Right. Yeah. That's great. Well, do you think our industry, um, I, I've seen [00:22:00] it evolve for sure over the 10 years. Yeah. That. Been in the industry, but are we still selling like a commodity or are we getting better at selling value?

[00:22:09] Tom Stimson: Oh, we're definitely getting better at it.

[00:22:11] Tom Stimson: I mean, it's my dying wish that we will get away from commoditized selling and productization. But it's difficult. And it's difficult because you have, you know, influential buyers that want to buy that way, and so buyers are going to influence what we do. But commoditization in a service industry is a mindset.

[00:22:33] Tom Stimson: It's not a pricing problem. It's a mindset problem. And it's not taking the time. This is where the strategy comes in of understanding the value that you're going to create and accepting the fact that your competitor might create value differently. Therefore, they're gonna win different clients at different margins than you are, which is why I shut down discussions about competition in management meetings as [00:23:00] quickly as they come up.

[00:23:01] Tom Stimson: Mm. Because if you're thinking about your competitor, means you're not thinking about your customer right.

[00:23:07] Angela Alea: There again, being reactive. Right. Let's see how I can differ from what's already in place versus going blaze your own trail.

[00:23:14] Tom Stimson: Right, right. It's controlling what you think you can control than, rather than trying to understand what you can accomplish.

[00:23:23] Tom Stimson: If you just looked at it differently, you know, the lack of, the lack of focus on a target customer is a huge problem. In the industry. It's a long-term fix, you know? But that will reduce the commoditization because commoditization is about dialing for dollars.

[00:23:42] Angela Alea: You know, if you're looking left and right, you're gonna miss what's right ahead, right?

[00:23:46] Angela Alea: And everyone's always looking around, what's my competition? What are they up to? What are, you know, they get so focused on the competition, they've missed what's sitting right in front of them. So I think that's, that's a great point. Well, what do you think's the biggest opportunity for [00:24:00] our industry right now, based on all we've been through?

[00:24:02] Angela Alea: What's ahead? We've changed a lot. We've grown a lot, to your point, worried about going back to some of the bad habits, but what's the biggest opportunity we have right now as an industry?

[00:24:12] Tom Stimson: Oh, to be economically valuable? I mean, that's the big opportunity. One, we're not irreplaceable, which is a problem.

[00:24:21] Tom Stimson: What do you mean by that? Well, there are substitutions for what we are. There are other ways to get around it. There are other industries that, that parallel and overlap what our industry does. So we don't have a hold on this, right? If customers aren't happy with how we're approaching it, they'll find another industry approaches it differently.

[00:24:45] Tom Stimson: And we're seeing that. We see this in the, in the, the AV integration world and the built environment and the IT world. It is taking over AV in the built environment. They have a better model. They have a better handle on it. Okay. Um, they are, they are [00:25:00] more internal, they're more strategic. So, you know, that's a risk for us.

[00:25:06] Tom Stimson: There's nothing on the horizon right now, but what I worry about is, that we, we lose sight of the value of where we create value because we need to protect our margin. And we are finally seeing margins, and it's been a long time. Back in the eighties and the nineties, I saw margins like I'm seeing now.

[00:25:26] Angela Alea: If there's a business owner out there now listening in, in an a staging company, like what, what should they, what should they strive to? What kind of margins should they strive to have? Like what's an average?

[00:25:38] Tom Stimson: The target? The target EBIDA for that company? That matches the risk that they are taking. 

[00:25:46] Tom Stimson: it's 25%, 25% target EBIDA. That probably means you're at 19 or 20% net profit. These are companies that in 2019 we're thrilled to make two and 3% net profit. Yeah. And they got 8% EBIDA. Whoopie [00:26:00] do. No wonder we don't get financial investors. No wonder there's not financial consolidation in the industry that profits the seller. 

[00:26:08] Angela Alea: Yeah. So when you think about the economic risk that we have, right? For somebody else coming in, what can our industry do to put ourselves on the map for investment dollars and recognition? So, we talk a lot on this show where we don't have our own SIC code, we don't have our own NAS code.

[00:26:28] Angela Alea: There's not a lot of investments of venture-backed companies, PE-backed companies. It's a lot. SMBs. but there's not a lot of investment dollars in our industry cuz I feel like it's so misunderstood on what that means. So what can we do as an industry to put ourselves on the map for those sorts of things?

[00:26:50] Tom Stimson: Be profitable and look less risky.

[00:26:55] Angela Alea: I mean, what does look less risky mean?

[00:26:55] Tom Stimson: Well, if you're making 25% EBIDA, you'd look [00:27:00] less risky. , right? If you have a bad quarter, it's not that big of a deal. If you're making 8% EBIDA, you have a bad quarter, your risk is huge. Okay? The fact is our liability risk is huge.

[00:27:13] Tom Stimson: You know, we have workers in temporary situations. You know, there's so many risks out there. We're, we're, we're shipping equipment across a continent. Okay? It's may look sexy. But the fact is people are going, oh my goodness, your insureds rates must be horrific. How much equipment do you think you wanna buy?

[00:27:34] Tom Stimson: You wanna buy how much gear? You know, financial people look at our industry and go, you guys are crazy. You're doing all of this and you're assuming all this financial risk. Not to mention, you know, risk in your execution for what profit? So yeah, you want investment. You wanna be, you wanna have a seat at the table, [00:28:00] generate some profit.

[00:28:01] Tom Stimson: You know, quit settling for buying new gear as a dopamine hit. Yes, that's right. That will settle for fund your funding, your retirement. You know, being really happy that you're paying a huge tax bill this year. These are the things that we need to.

[00:28:18] Angela Alea: So when you talk about...

[00:28:21] Angela Alea: Taking risks to me, there's good risks and there are bad risks, right? And I, and I think that correlates with leadership because I think strong leaders, um, are the ones who pave the way they take calculated risks, right? They, they are, I mean, small business owners, period. If you own a business today, Kudos.

[00:28:42] Angela Alea: Right? That takes guts. It takes courage. That is a risk. But I wanna kind of shift gears to talk about leadership in our industry because I feel like we, um, we're hungry for more of it. For more people to take the risks, do the unpopular [00:29:00] thing, um, sell in a different way, make the tough decisions, um, kind of draw their line, um, have the business acumen invest in themselves.

[00:29:09] Angela Alea: So what can our industry do? To establish more leaders when it comes to innovation, thought leadership, courage to think differently, lobbying for our industry, creating an industry of ethics and professionalism, the things that you know are easy to say, but you know, when that decision comes in that moment, are you gonna have the ethics to work Well?

[00:29:30] Angela Alea: I think the leadership's out. There's a piece of business that's maybe bad for your team. It's for your profitability. That's what I mean by leadership.

[00:29:37] Tom Stimson: Well, I think the leadership's out. I mean, it's, it's there. I think what you're really talking about is what's the forum for leadership? You know, where can the leadership manifest?

[00:29:49] Tom Stimson: Why should they, what's the reward in it?

[00:29:51] Angela Alea: Yeah, yeah. Where's the community of leaders? Yeah, you're right there. There are some, you're absolutely right. There's some tremendous leaders out there, right? But there isn't a, to your [00:30:00] point, a community, a forum, um, a place even for leaders to go, right? Like they're in this silo making these decisions and versus having.

[00:30:10] Angela Alea: Peers that are right there with them, right. Doing that, and, and as I always say to my kids, safety in numbers, right? When you've got more people moving in the right direction, making the right decisions, that's where you get that momentum.

[00:30:20] Tom Stimson: We, we, there is a, there is a void. I mean, I agree with you. I understand what you're saying.

[00:30:25] Tom Stimson: There is a void on places for this to happen. In the past, you know, we've had manufacturer-led forms that would bring leaders together. You know, the Barco Rental Partner meeting was a great event for, for decades, for two decades, where the biggest players, the biggest thought leaders in the industry got together to look at product, right, and drink manufacturer's liquor.

[00:30:50] Tom Stimson: But they really got there to network and talk about the industry, and we don't have that. Um, Aviso then Infocon. Before then, I c I [00:31:00] was much more, had a much higher density of rental and event people in it. They're diluted now. So Avi A is really more focused on the built environment, so it's not providing a forum anymore.

[00:31:13] Tom Stimson: So we don't have a trade association. that provides the, the, or the right trade association that provides that forum. Uh, manufacturers have cut way back on what they're willing to invest to create these things, um, because they're putting money into branding in a different way. So there's a, there's a void that needs to be filled.

[00:31:34] Tom Stimson: If it doesn't benefit, it's simply not gonna manifest.

[00:31:41] Angela Alea: What would be the benefits of a leader? You called it a forum, right? Like a trade alliance, whatever it might be like where, where would a leader find benefit from those things? What are some of the areas? 

[00:31:52] Tom Stimson: If you look at other industries, um, in the theatrical and entertainment side of the world, they have esa.

[00:31:59] Tom Stimson: [00:32:00] ESSA's a great, a great association, a great organization, and they have a standards writing group. They do technical, you know, they have technical training, they have all sorts of things. They're not really strong into the business world, but they're creating a form where business owners do get a chance to network, okay?

[00:32:17] Tom Stimson: Even though that is not their primary focus. You know, back and there was a time when that's kind of what I C I A looked like. For the rental side of the in or the live event side of the industry. So the benefit for companies is one, they get some best practices and knowledge, which going back to your earlier point, everybody thinks we're in a unique industry.

[00:32:39] Tom Stimson: So how could there be a best practice? Trust me, they're best practices. I've been pounding that, I've been writing them, I've been sharing them and teaching them and changing and updating them for. Couple of decades now. So I think it's that vacuum is going to pull some people in. Will it be led [00:33:00] by the production companies?

[00:33:01] Tom Stimson: Will the, will the big, will the big players get together and say we need to help everybody. The rising tide lift fall boats. Yes. That would be awesome. And I think that would be welcome. Will a trade association invest in this space? Well, a group of manufacturers get together and try and do the same thing.

[00:33:22] Tom Stimson: There's a lot of ways to do it, but I can't... I don't see anything starting at the moment.

[00:33:28] Angela Alea: Yeah, yeah. Certainly an opportunity for sure. Yeah. And something needed. One last question for you before we wrap up. Why do you think our industry, uh, has a lot of skeptics, people kind of looking over their shoulders?

[00:33:44] Angela Alea: Waiting to be taken advantage of. It just seems like there's this level of skepticism that has always existed. Where, where does that come from and how do we fix that? How do we get past that?

[00:33:55] Tom Stimson: You know, I don't know. I think this, I think you're alluding to, you know, there's an ethics, there's an [00:34:00] underlying ethics issue here, which I don't think is unique to our industry.

[00:34:03] Tom Stimson: Every, every industry has. Ethics challenges and you know, they're, you know, people have different understanding of what is ethical and what's not. I come from a transparent world. I, I think everything's transparent. My ethics are transparency and I'm gonna do what I said I was gonna do, and I don't, you know, If, and I'm gonna do it better.

[00:34:26] Tom Stimson: And I'm happy to show you how I do it. I defy you to do it as well as I do it. But knock yourself out. You know, that's my business ethics. Other people think that everything has to be a secret. And I think this, this, this secretiveness, this goes back to the, you know, the same people who are always looking at their, worried about their competition.

[00:34:44] Tom Stimson: You know that these are all secrets. Well, they're not secrets. Okay. And the fact is, even if you had their secrets, is it going to change what you. Right. So I think as people start to understand, and, and this goes back to that community, you know, [00:35:00] having that thought leadership where information is freely shared, we'll start to realize that there aren't that many secrets.

[00:35:07] Tom Stimson: And, you know, in my practice and in my, you know, videos and, and, and webcasts and everything, you know, I, I share a lot of secrets because they're not secret. Right. It's just information and you're gonna use it and use it, you know, to your advantage. They're gonna use it to their advantage, and you're not gonna do the same thing.

[00:35:28] Tom Stimson: It's every, it's up to you to figure out the right way of doing things. Now, how did we get here? It's because we're a, we're a cottage industry. Okay? I mean, I hate to say mom and pop. We're a bunch of mom and pops. Again, all these accidental entrepreneurs. And when you're a small business and you don't win a job, which is not the same as losing a job when you don't win a job because your competitor won a job, your inclination is to mistrust the competitor.

[00:35:59] Tom Stimson: It's [00:36:00] like, okay, now how, how can I do my next job without my competitor seeing what I'm doing? Right? And then you start this vicious cycle of being secretive. Really, it's not a secret if your proposal.

[00:36:13] Angela Alea: That's a good way to put it. Yeah, you're right. We own our success and our failures. Right? It has nothing to do with our competition.

[00:36:19] Angela Alea: We are in control. 

[00:36:19] Tom Stimson: If your quote was off the mark, that's not actually a secret. 

[00:36:27] Tom Stimson: And that had nothing to do with your competitor either. They didn't cause that. Right. And if the client, if the client shared your quote with your competitor, maybe they shared their, their, your competitor's quote with you.

[00:36:34] Tom Stimson: Right. So again, it's really, if it's not a. Then we're not doing anything unethical. Yeah. But if we think it's a secret, then everything becomes about ethics. Yeah.

[00:36:46] Angela Alea: I love the idea of

[00:36:47] Tom Stimson: unethical, the number of truly unethical people is really very, very, very small. 

[00:36:52] Angela Alea: No, I love, I love the concept of transparency, right?

[00:36:56] Angela Alea: That's, to me, that's the takeaway, is what you [00:37:00] see is what you get. Again, stop looking left and right, or you're gonna miss what's right in front of you. Um, and when we are paranoid about what's left or right, we, we miss some really good things, right? And so, um, and I think it chips away a lot of things.

[00:37:13] Angela Alea: Some,

[00:37:13] Tom Stimson: some very paranoid people have been very successful.

[00:37:16] Angela Alea: Yes, that's true. That's

[00:37:18] Tom Stimson: true. Which, you know, which by example causes other people to think that being paranoid may have been, may have been the secret sauce, but now their paranoia was not the secret sauce.

[00:37:26] Angela Alea: Yeah, yeah, that's right. They're successful in spite of their paranoia.

[00:37:30] Angela Alea: That's right. Well, anything else that you see for our future, Tom, or, or patterns or concerns or just what do you hope for our industry

[00:37:40] Tom Stimson: moving forward? You know, I, I hope people understand that the success that they're having right now, They did it right. This is not something that happened to them. This is the byproduct of hard work and you know, a lot of pivoting during the pandemic.

[00:37:57] Tom Stimson: A lot of changing of business models, rethinking [00:38:00] pricing, letting go of some old mindsets and here we are, you know, and grit and determination and perseverance. And they did that and they're now getting, you know, seeing profits. You know, many of my clients are seeing profits they've never seen. And they think it's gonna be short-lived.

[00:38:22] Tom Stimson: They go, no, no, no, no. This is, this is what, this is what you've supposed to been doing all along. I mean, I couldn't do this in 2019. Yes, you could have done this in 2019. The fact is you couldn't let go of the 27 things that you'd have to quit doing in order to be the company that you are now. So I hope they don't go back and grab those things and they, and they, they enjoy their profitability and their success, that they reward their employees, that they take care of themselves.

[00:38:51] Tom Stimson: and they continue to, you know, let their business be successful. And don't devalue yourself because somebody wants it

[00:38:58] Angela Alea: cheaper. Yes. [00:39:00] And now that we all know better, it's time to do better. We, we've all learned so much in the last few years, so it's, it's time to apply it and, and not go backwards.

[00:39:09] Tom Stimson: Yeah. It's, you, you, the pandemic saved me years of.

[00:39:14] Angela Alea: Yes, exactly. You're right. It, it sped up that you're the learnings. You're right. Yeah. They were tough beatings, but we all took something from it. All of us, every single one of us is my hope. Well it's been great to have you there. There are a number of takeaways that I took from today and hopefully you all took as well.

[00:39:32] Angela Alea: The first one is the importance of intentionality. Um, right. We've gotta make things happen and we have to be intentional. Everything that. It, it, you know, what your profitability says. Like, be intentional about that. Set goals, set targets, and then go after 'em in an intentional format. Also, let's not go backwards and get comfortable again.

[00:39:51] Angela Alea: Let's continue pushing. Let's continue looking for ways to be uncomfortable to. To learn to grow and not go backwards. Um, you also talked about [00:40:00] the industry needs to be economically valuable, which I love. And that all comes from running a business with intentionality, becoming profitable. That's what puts us on the radar is when we as an industry, uh, generate, uh, more revenue, more profitabilities in doing those sorts of things.

[00:40:18] Angela Alea: And then last, but not least. the need for leadership forums, community, and with that breach transparency, right? Just, just having more natural connections kind of pulls down the guards, right? And, and allows for real authentic conversations without hiding your secret as you put it. And so I think there's so much ahead for our industry, and I think this is all such great information.

[00:40:43] Angela Alea: Tom, where can people find you if they want to reach you?

[00:40:47] Tom Stimson: Uh, my website is drop on by. I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at I actually answer my own emails.

[00:40:58] Angela Alea: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining [00:41:00] us today. Super appreciative. And for those of you listening, if you like what you hear, be sure to hit subscribe.

[00:41:05] Angela Alea: And if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, reach out to us at Thanks everybody.

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