Many thanks to The Sunday Times Career Section for featuring our Squadron Leader, Kelly McGillivray.
- What is your name, title at work and the name of your company?
Kelly McGillivray, MD and Squadron Leader of theSQUAD Creative Events.
- Tell me about what you do at work
We make magic. We pull rabbits out of hats for our clients and do everything. I know that that sounds a little vague but it is really what we do. A client gives us a brief and we creatively come up with ideas to deliver on the brief. Our main passion is events, creating moments that people remember. Events cover a wide range of things, so we incorporate venues, videos, entertainment, décor, gifts, speakers, promoters, technical, set design, lighting and catering – we love food!
- The events industry has taken a huge knock from the pandemic and lockdown, what are some of the changes and do you think some of these changes will be lasting?
People are more aware, they are aware of their budgets and aware that connections are more important now than ever. How we engage with customers has changed and the way that we meet has changed. The whole landscape of being in the same room as someone else has changed.
I don’t think that it will be lasting, intrinsically people need to touch and engage and they like to laugh and be educated and entertained – so I think the awareness of health safety will still be prevalent but we will get back to a space where we don’t need to just see each other through a screen.
- How did lockdown affect 1. how you work and 2. your business?
One - Luckily we had already given notice on the premises that we were renting and when there were rumblings we immediately sent everyone home with Wi-Fi units and their laptops until we knew what was happening. So for the first couple of months we all worked remotely, it was a surreal time, it was almost like the quiet before the tsunami hits.
Two - At the beginning I was really nervous and anxious about where to from here, wracking my brain as to how I could be like Madonna and reinvent.
We needed to brave and put things in place to make sure that the staff were safe and we could pay salaries, everyone took a 20% salary cut and we managed to get a SAFT loan of R80 000.00 and put in all the claims for the UIF.
So I did sit for a bit and then the work came in and we had a bumper month mid-lockdown which I attribute that to the fact that we have built up the most incredible relationships with our clients and our suppliers, as well as our “can do” attitude. There is not much that can get us down – we do events after all - and that is one of the most stressful jobs in the world!
- What are you biggest takeaways from lockdown?
That we will be ok, that we are resilient and that kindness is key. Giving back, having empathy and ethics and good business practice will carry us through. Making sure that your first goal in business is purpose over profit.
- What work would you do if you could not do this? Why?
Interesting question! I am very big on helping people (we started a homeless feeding scheme in my neighbourhood during lockdown, but that’s another story!) and I thought that perhaps I should work for the UN – travel the world and help people. Now, after many years of project management I am contemplating a couple of things – buy a farm and be self-sustaining, but that’s quite daunting. So, also on my vision board is a little cottage on a Scottish coastline, or I would be very happy to run and manage a castle on a loch in Scotland.
- What did you want to be when you were a child? Why?
Can you believe when I was younger I actually wanted to be a game ranger or a marine biologist; I used to pour over books about the sea I was intrigued at the vastness of the ocean and what lay beneath. I loved reading up about the marine mammals. And a game ranger – not quite sure why I wanted to be that – I would never have looked good in Khaki – but it was about working with animals and conservation.
- What are your career words to live by?
#dontbekak - everyone has a story – just be kind.
About: theSQUAD Creative Event Management
Incredible challenges are what take us to the moon and back. theSQUAD Creative Event Management in Johannesburg work to outdo themselves with bigger, more authentic, lump-in-your-throat, goose-bump-inducing, pulse-raising, smile-widening, can't-believe-that-just-happened experiences. We look forward to you joining us for the ride.
Contact: Kelly McGillivray