Learn from others as much as possible.
Serena Holmes is the President and CEO of Tigris Events, an award winning brand experience agency headquartered in Toronto that specializes in dynamic personnel, promotions, marketing, and events. Serena has been with the company for the past 13 years and took over operations in 2008. Since that time, the Tigris has grown throughout Canada and now includes over 2,000 event staff throughout the country. In her role, Serena oversees project management for the company’s largest clients and also drives the company’s business development strategies through sales and marketing.
In 2016 Serena was selected by W100 as one of the top female entrepreneurs in Canada. The prestigious award champions female business owners who have demonstrated the tenacity and creativity to grow a successful business. You can learn more about Serena and Tigris Events on the company blog.
Where did the idea for Tigris Events come from?
I actually didn’t have the idea for Tigris – the founder did! Having been involved in events for a few years, she felt there was a strong need for accountable and professional companies who could deliver a client’s objectives better. Tigris is a service-based business but it’s our professionalism, passion and energy that set us apart from some other companies competing in the same space.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is a bit different. If I’m in the office, I like to check in with each of my employees to make sure they are on track with their events and see if they require any support. The rest of my time is working on marketing and/or sales – either proactively or reactively. We invest heavily in SEO so we have a steady stream of booking requests, proposals etc.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Every idea starts with a plan – for smaller events they often follow the same 10-12 steps. For larger events, there are a significant number of details, deadlines, and deliverables -so we put together a critical path outlining every tasks required, who is responsible and the due date. This helps keep us on track to ensure the event is coming together on budget and on time. We work with our clients to understand their vision and objectives, and in turn work with our suppliers and talent to bring the event to life.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Traditional media has become less effective than it once was so there is a huge trend to leverage talent – we like to call this “people power” to have a persuasive influence on potential (and current) consumers. In the experiential marketing and event staffing space, this is a huge opportunity to increase our volume of work, execute unique ideas and diversify in new industries.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m a little bit OCD when it comes to my email. If I receive an email, I can’t not open it. I believe our sense of urgency and communication at Tigris is exemplary compared to other agencies like us – and its something our clients value. Even if we can’t deliver what they need immediately, we acknowledge their call or email and manage their expectations so they know when they can hear back from us.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Learn from others as much as possible. I didn’t start getting coaching or mentorship until 8 years into the business. If I could go back, I would have tried to get support earlier on to accelerate the growth and success of my business.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
My first promotion was a catastrophe. The zipper on my pants broke half way through and I couldn’t work the second half of the event. It was extremely embarrassing to deal with this with my new boss, co-worker and the client – but they understood. I thought the work was really unique and enjoyed it – so in spite of the embarrassment, I continued to pursue the work. At the time, I never would’ve dreamed I would be doing it full time let along owning my own brand experience agency all these years later.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
SEO. I couldn’t speak more highly about it. It has revolutionized our business and been a huge vehicle for growth. Our business has literally tripled in the last 4 years due to our investment in internet marketing.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
As mentioned above, marketing your business online is essential in this day and age. New customers search for everything online – from finding a company to work with and a restaurant to eat at, to reading online reviews and purchasing apparel. Your business can’t possibly take off if you can’t be found easily online.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I think one of my biggest failures was how I handled my first full-time employee ten years ago. My partner had left the business so I needed to bring someone on board to help manage our accounts – but I wasn’t used to delegating and found myself micro-managing. I’ve since learned to train team members – then give them the trust, space and autonomy to run their own events. You have to expect they will make mistakes from time to time and understand that it’s part of the process.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I once had an idea for a multi-purpose shoe that could be a platform, a chunky heel or a stiletto all in one. I loved the idea of buying three looks for the price of one. I could be wrong, but all these years later, I’ve never seen anything like it (probably because shoe stores would rather you buy 3 individual pairs of shoes!).
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently spent close to $100 on a custom frame for the footprint of a baby elephant I met in Thailand. The captive elephant industry in Southeast Asia is distressing and the living conditions are pretty awful – but in spite of this, these gentle giants are some of the most beautiful animals to walk the earth. Having had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks with them in projects geared towards giving them a better life is something I will never forget.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We are currently building a custom software solution to help automate the collection of availability and scheduling for our events. This will help our account managers to become incredibly more efficient and enable our company to scale better as we grow.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – it’s a simple, no non-nonsensical take on how to build relationships to positively impact your business. It was a great read.
What is your favorite quote?
“We are a product of the choices we make, not the circumstances we face.”
- Learn from others as much as possible. I didn’t start getting coaching or mentorship until 8 years into the business. If I could go back, I would have tried to get support earlier on to accelerate the growth and success of my business.
- SEO. I couldn’t speak more highly about it. It has revolutionized our business and been a huge vehicle for growth. Our business has literally tripled in the last 4 years due to our investment in internet marketing.
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