March 2011 - Issue 139
“We should be looking to improve our services, not undercut each other...”
Owner/Director, Ethix Management
Date & place of birth:
April 11 1968; Manchester, UK
Your first job after full-time education?
My first job was as a tyre and exhaust fitter for six weeks. I then got an electrical engineering apprenticeship which lasted four years.
What led to your involvement in event production?
I fell into production after working in a recording studio where I found I had a skill for arranging showcases. I was also freelancing for a PA company and the owner kept talking about packing up, so I saw an opportunity to move forward. I took over the business and since then I have built up the company and invested in high-end equipment, developing good links with suppliers and manufacturers.
How did Ethix Management evolve?
I set up Ethix 12 years ago. After watching many companies give really poor service to their clients, I knew I could provide something much better. Our first client was a society band that did events for very wealthy clients. As the company has grown we have still kept our original focus and the band are still with us today.
We constantly look to our clients to help their businesses grow and make sure we have an open communication with them. Any successful business needs to constantly look at ways that it can supply, without trying to do everything and in turn give a very poor service.
I decided that we would focus on production supply and I specifically targeted companies that I knew we could benefit. One of those we have built up a relationship with is Star Events Group with whom we have worked with for nearly 10 years, providing them with production for their stages. Roger Barrett and Jane Russen have been key to the development of our business together. Other companies such as Bliss Events, who we have been working with exclusively for many years, have been key to our development and I personally value these relationships.
Is it getting easier or harder to win clients?
I’m not sure if it’s either, but I do think it’s harder to get clients who want a competitive and first class service. I find that they just want the cheapest possible job over professional standards, which is really saddening as this industry already has enough poor quality service providers and we should be looking to improve our services, not undercut each other.
What are the positives and negatives for you doing events overseas?
It’s one thing to work in Europe, but taking events into Africa or the Middle East requires a completely different skill set. I have had to learn very quickly how to deal with tradition, custom and other influences in order to get things done. That and building a large network of people along the way, which is invaluable when getting equipment moved from one place to another. Carnets, foreign customs and embassies can be truly testing and without a good network and foresight you could not get the equipment and crew into some of the most ‘unusual’ places on the planet. It’s certainly not for the less savvy amongst us.
Working on the Commonwealth Games a few years back in Uganda was very testing when the kit ended up on the end of a Johannesburg runway instead of Entebbe. I managed to find the kit after two days on the phone, and following a few calls to the South African bureau of Associated Press in Jo’burg I managed to get the kit released and on a plane in 24 hours.
Being used to this kind of thing meant I built in contingency into the crew schedule so they ended up at Lake Victoria whilst I sorted out the gear. On the plus side, when you make these events come together it’s one of the best feelings in the world to sit back and know you were part of making it happen and being part of history in the making.
I gather you have produced events in some hostile environments?
Working in the Middle East first came about in March 2003 when I was working with Associated Press and the Iraq War happened. I flew to Diyarbakir in Turkey then on to Cizre to cross the border with an aid convoy to go to Tikrit in the North of Iraq, but my first real insight came in 2004 with the Baghdad elections. This involved a broadcast unit being set up in the Palestine hotel and at that particular time, Western hostages were being taken regularly so security was a key issue. I spent six weeks there and this taught me a great deal about the value of human life and survival.
What occupies your free time?
As a RYA-qualified skipper, sailing is my real passion in life and I spend as much time as possible doing this. I also use sailing as an excuse to take clients out and have introduced some of the technical crew to sailing, too. My ultimate ambition is to circumnavigate the globe in a boat.
Your desert island disc?
Led Zeppelin’s ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’.
What would be your advice to a teenage Paul Jones?
My Dad is the greatest man in my book. He retired five years ago but still comes and works for me, and is often seen backstage making tea for everyone. He always said two things to me: “If you have nothing in this world, you always have your manners”, and “Don’t take yourself too seriously”.