This article is a transcription of our CEO, Sarah-Jane Benham's, recent appearance on Elevate Mentoring's 'If I could tell you just one thing' podcast. If you'd prefer to hear the full version, visit their website: https://www.elevateme.co/podcasthidden/sarah-jane-benham 

 

Mel:
So, for those who don't have the pleasure of knowing you, as well, as we both do, please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself.

S-J:
Sure. So, I am S-J, Sarah-Jane and I'm the Managing Director of Kru live. We're a global live engagement agency. And we specialize in the provision of authentic event staff for brand experiences. We are 18 years old, we're independent. There's about 17 of us full time currently, but we scale up to about 50. We work with creative agencies and direct brand too and the likes of Visa and Nivea and Heineken and still welcome some of the same clients we did since day one.

Mel:
Amazing.

S-J:
Testament to our reputation, I think.

Mel:
Yeah.

Max:
We're also Campaign staffing agency of the year [2022-23].

Mel:
One of the things that I love about Kru is the ethos behind it, about being a home for creatives and performers. And obviously, we know a little bit about your background, having dived into your letter and being the friends that we are. So how was your experience having been a drama student and a performer shaped some of that vision for Kru?

S-J:
Well, the vision was always there from day one for a start. So, we were formed to introduce a different set of values to the industry. And they were values really simple actually, just to provide a service of excellence to both the staff and clients alike. So, the values have always been there, look after your people. You know, look after your people, you have happy people happy clients, and is that very much became sort of our guide and our North Star, who likes it absolutely everything that we do, from the way we answer the phone within two rings, or how we respond to an email, how we troubleshoot, it was always is this a service of excellence, both our staff and clients alike. So that has always been like day one, look after people, pay them well, faster than anybody else, give them all the tools they need in order to be awesome at their job, right? I don't think that anyone wakes up in the morning goes, I'm going to mess this one up for them, you want to do a good job. So, it's just about making sure that when you've picked the right person for the right brands, there's fans engaging with fans, but also that you've given them everything that they need. And you've built some, you know, strong relationships there, trusted relationships. So, that's always been there since day one. But to go to your creative point, yeah. So, my background, I used to be an actress, I went to a university, a drama school really, called Breton Hall. So, this isn't RADA. It wasn't your traditional drama school, is very alternative and very creative. So, we would do immersive site-specific theater. So, lots of random memories I have of you know, doing all sorts in trees and woods and in a dilapidated mansion. That was where I met my sort of, I guess we were just a bunch of creative misfits that all came together, and they are 100% like my lifelong friends now. But when I graduated, I needed to supplement my income when I was resting. And so that's when I discovered the world of brands experience. I had no idea that this industry even existed, not a clue. And I don't think it was called that back then. It was like promo.

Mel:
Promo staff was like the thing!

S-J:
Yeah. But it was great, because it meant that I could supplement my income between gigs. And I was, in my opinion, I felt like I was successful at the time, like I was making money, but you wouldn't know any of the shows that I did at all. But I got to tour the world. And I was making a living out of doing thing that I loved. But there were lots of times in between the gigs, lots of resting, and that's when I discovered this world, and it was amazing. I found myself surrounded by like-minded creatives, actors, dancers, performers, artists, you name it, and it very much became like a new community of mine. And so, when I joined Kru, I was working in the field for Kru and other agencies. And Tom, who's founder of the business, Tom Eatonton. He had just secured an amazing contract with Jack Morton, still working with them to this day, and it was for the World Cup in 2010. And he needed an extra pair of hands.

Max:
So, here you are 15 years later.

S-J:
I know. So yeah, interviewed, I got the job like two weeks supposed to be. And then yeah, three years later became MD, we grew the team at that point, I think we grew it from three to about 30. And I think the transition from letting go of the acting to being in this world was that it just felt so similar. And I felt like I could still be a part of that creative community. And better still, you can help them continue to do what they do best. By helping them financially, supporting them and giving them roles that they could do with their eye shall, and it's very reciprocal worked really well for us too. So, there's been amazing success stories, and it’s very much sort of, I guess, a Kru community now because there have bigger than Kru, there are Kru marriages and Kru babies.

Mel:
Actually, still a blast.

S-J:
We should do Kru Love. There are flat shares, there are, you know, lots of high successful actors who have started their career Kru or gone through at some point. So yeah, that's what I love about the creative side of things.

Max:
You say the values piece and the answer to Mel really authentically and really passionately. And I've known you for a while, and we've had a joke about the acting thing in previously, but it just comes across so genuinely, I think that's really special and really nice. And then something you mentioned there. And we'll go kind of almost back a bit further. But you mentioned that leaving acting into Kru and that thing of what success was and having to leave acting behind. Do you feel that it's a natural progression? Do you feel that it's a shift in careers, and it's not necessarily the success you once thought but now?

S-J:
No, 100%. I wanted to be an actress. And that's what I thought I wanted at 18. It was, that was the thing that pushed me, that gave me, to be honest, the feeling that I've got right now, you know, pushing you out of your comfort zone.

Max:
You been into discomfort id what we know.

S-J:
You know, gets your heart beating, you start thinking, you know, why would I do this? Why would anyone put themselves through this? There's enough going on, like why would you do this? But then that feeling you get afterwards. It's just like, it's not a word. Is there a word for it that like, buzz that like post show, that like kind of come down, it's so good. And so, I tried to seek that out my entire life. And I think that what I've done is I've just replaced it with pitching. Which is terrifying. Replace it with pitching. And also, sometimes when I'm speaking, if it's like a big company, if I'm honest. So, when we have to do like big, that have to do, want to do big company days, like team building sessions, that for me, success is making them feel like they're part of something bigger. They know what the vision is what the purpose is all about. And sometimes it can put a bit of pressure on myself and sort of be the super inspiring, like leader. And actually, like, I don't know why I do that. Because we always have an amazing time afterwards, but it is that kind of putting you out of your comfort zone. And afterwards, I'll be like, that was good. I enjoyed that. I need to do more of that. Yeah.

Max:
Everyone has that feeling then how you've, that nervousness of the pressure putting youselves on. So, the letter that you did write, which is amazing. And we all thoroughly enjoyed kind of reading it, I suppose opened you up in a way of a bit more about you from a younger kind of view. And being the daughter of a landlord. Tell us a bit about your growing up I suppose. And that kind of schooling and who you are as a person and how that's kind of grown, I suppose.

S-J:
Thank you for asking that question. I also thank you for this opportunity because the whole thing was so therapeutic.

Max:
Really good.

S-J:
Really good. You never…

Max:
But therapy bill comes later by the way.

S-J:
…you rarely stop to pause and look back and go, oh, that's why I'm like this today. That's where that came from. And of course, at the time you don't know it. You only know when you look back anyway, in hindsight, but okay, I guess it all started being sent to boarding school at a super young age. So, the reason I went there to begin with me, and my three other siblings is because my parents were landlord and landlady. So, we ran, they ran Irish pubs, and we lived upstairs. So, it's quite a unique upbringing. And the school was set up well over 200 years ago, initially as a charity. So, it's a licensed trade charity, and it was supposed to be a safe haven to get publicans, children out of inner city, London, in my case, give them some fresh air surrounded by nature, give them a private school education. And so, my parents jumped at the chance. And so, I went from the age of seven through till eighteen my entire career. But I knew how lucky I was to be there. And I knew that that wasn't the norm 100%, like Monday to Friday life at school, amazing, absolute incredible. But it was a wild away from my weekends. And my weekends were fun too. They were colorful in a different way.

Mel:
In your letter, actually, I get a real sense of your dad and the kind of character he was.

S-J:
That's incredible. Yeah, my mum and dad. So, if you imagine like my, some of my youngest memories are working in the family business. So, my dad, for example, like he was a landlord, he would always be in a three-piece suit, pocket watch, stood at the end of the bar, like giving everybody a warm welcome, made everybody feel super special. And I think it what I learned from him is that I call it now social chameleon, he could just adapt, he adapted so easily. And you can talk to all walks of life. But also, it was my first experience and exposure to creating an experience. And I obviously I can say that now looking back, but at a time, I had no idea but what they were doing was creating that warm Irish welcome, that traditional feel. You had my mum who's like the hardest working grafter I've ever met in my life, I've known in my life with the highest of standards, but it was 24/7 and it was intense. So, that going to school was just the most incredible opportunity. And so, I was like, I'm gonna make this count, I have to make this count. And almost sort of, if I'm honest, like a sense of knowing I deserve to be here. And I'm going to make sure that everyone knows to myself and others that I deserve to be here and this chance, and I'm going to make something good out of it.

Max:
That's quite unusual. So, to interact at that age as well, to have that self-awareness of, I know, I'm lucky to be here, and I'm going to make the most of it, your peers at the time, similar or a bit off, because I know quite a few people that have gone to boarding school, it seems to be the kind of get one extreme or the other in that, those who go off the rails or those that kind of really go at it and lean into it and try and make the most of it. So, they know the opportunity.

S-J:
Yeah. Well, there were a bunch of us who came from similar backgrounds. So, I think the boarding school allows for about 200. And they were either army children or children of pub owners. But everybody else were local day students in ascot. And so, I think for me, and no one ever made me feel that way ever. But I found that this was an unusual environment for me to be in. And I think it was just the contrast. And I could just tell that I, this was an unnatural environment, and that I've been given this opportunity. And yeah, I needed to make a count. So, from a very young age, like it was about resilience. Because you have to figure out age seven, like I know, I don't want this to be a pity party at all as well. Because I always get, I wanted to be there, it was incredible. But you have to work out quite quickly, to how to read room, build relationships, be independent, and build resilience. And I made it work for me, it worked really well for me. And I made incredible friends. I said yes to every opportunity without hesitation, I talked about that kind of spark that thing. When you put yourself out of your comfort zone, that's where the growth came. And again, it's only really looking back at this, I don't think, I didn't know that at the time. I wasn't articulate enough to express that. But I can see it now looking back.

Mel:
And you can only imagine why at seven we've all got kids in this room, and you're coming up to that sort of age. And you just think about God, a seven-year-old trying to understand those kind of life skills that frankly, even adults are trying to really master as well. It takes real strength of character. And you said something there about saying yes. Nine years idea and obviously seeing the letter as well and the things you know that sense of saying yes and pushing yourself out your comfort zone. And something I talk a lot about, you know, no growth ever came from being comfortable. But this sense of saying yes to everything. It's a real trait of yours actually, and quite an unusual trait. Because for a lot of people there's that sense of nervousness or will I mess up or will some but yours was yes. Yeah, go for it. So where is that yes, taking you because it's like you need some interesting places, but has it ever been a negative? Because we also talk about yes, people are having some challenges. So, there's the hundreds meaning behind that.

Mel:
The yes got us to where we are today, it gave us the growth. We went to the opening of an envelope, like we would be at every industry event. Do you want to see me there?

Max:
I think I did.

S-J:
And it's tiring, but it gave us growth and it helps you know build our brand awareness and helped us walk out on our own set pieces and you know how we want to present ourselves.

Mel:
But also, for you privately it's a key to some like some of your life experiences or

S-J:
I think I know what you're trying to, so when I was younger at school, it was that kind, it was that you want to go, do you want to take part in this experience on this tour ship? Where you would sail in, I remember being tied to a mast sale again on a tool ship sailing into France.

And, and then there was an opportunity where I got to interview as a competition to go and have an exchange trip to Canada at school exchange trips in Vancouver. I think it was about six weeks, I must have been 14. And there was just no hesitation, I'd be like, yeah, of course, I'm gonna go for that. And I'm probably going to get it. I just had this, like can't self-confidence and belief. And I think it was all down to that kind of proving to myself that I can, that I deserve to be here. And that makes an account base.

Max:
That is incredible. And that confidence, that trying to find the kind of the question to ask really because I don't necessarily think it's natural to be so pressured. And I put a lot of pressure on myself in order to perform or to do certain things. But to do at that age, it's remarkable to do. My last is there any been any downsides to it, and I'm interested as a very, very driven then 14 or throughout your kind of younger years and things driving you to be the best. Were you the best in class or in terms of like academics and things like that?

S-J:
I think it was pretty average.

Mel:
Just say for the record, there is nothing average about this.

S-J:
Well, actually, I did struggle a little, I was I am dyslexic. I don't think you ever lose being dyslexic, but you learn ways.

Max:
It's a superpower.

S-J:
It is, right? It is. So, I never felt that that helped me back, in fact, I got extra time in exams. Yeah. So, at a young age, I had that sort of that drive. But like, you also lose it unfortunately, little bit. I think I wish I still had some of that. And I think as you get older, the stakes are higher. You have more responsibilities, you know, the fear starts to creep in. You've got you've got more to lose. So, I could learn a thing or two about my younger self, for sure. But to answer your question about the challenging times, challenging it in terms of, what's the question saying?

Mel:
Yeah, there's a yin and a yang. So, obviously led you to some incredible positive things and some incredible things. Has there ever been a negative side to that?

S-J:
Yeah, I think there has, I feel like I've come through that. So, to the point where I don't have to say yes to everything now. And it's great, it’s so good. I've got, I answered very few people, I have, you know, full autonomy, I can be more selective and respectful of my time. So, the negatives are, you have no time, you have no social life. There's a tradeoff, things have to give. So, some of my friendships fell by the wayside, I will still obviously still have great friendships now. But I didn't have as much time for them. I couldn't, I felt like at the time, I couldn't carve out as much time, it was kind of like all or nothing thing. Just go all in on the moment in time that I'm in. From a business perspective, though we don't apply that same, just for the record, say yes to everything. We learned a few years back that we had so many clients, so many clients start to long tail, we started to qualify better, we put minimum spends in place and varied criteria in order to take on a client. And what we found is that we were producing better work. So, we had less clients, we were more profitable. The team were less spread thin, less overtime hours. It's brilliant, for so many reasons for everybody. Well beings’ point of view, but also financially. So yeah, now we, all we will often politely decline. But I can't say whether if I knew that piece of advice when we first started out, whether I would have applied it back then. And I think the truth is, I probably wouldn't that we are where we are today because of that hard graft, because of that grit. But I don't expect my team to do the same thing. And that should be made really clear. I tried to model a better lifestyle and life balance now. And that's something I'm really proud that we can do.

Max:
Do you probably direct and you can tell me to bugger off here if you'd like to. In terms of that and only because of the environment we're in at the moment, especially our industry and younger people coming through, challenges certain talent in terms of nurturing it in the right time, things like that. Do you think that there is a bit of fear factor around that hard work or even talking about it and maybe that yes piece to an extent of that just going beyond having to work harder, leading to success quicker? Or do you think we're just going to different times and actually, it's not relevant?

S-J:
It's really hard to answer that because I, you know, I want to protect my team as well. I don't want them to burn out. I feel very responsible. And in recent times, post pandemic, 21 was still going through it. But we had our biggest share on record. It was absolutely incredible. But it was also in the most operationally challenging that we have ever faced. And at that point, we had, I think the business had right sized about five us. At that point, we had to scale from 5 to 50, I have a matter of about six months, in a world of limited resource, and it was just the most stressful time and off the back of that year, I remember thinking, I will never ever put anyone through anything like that again. And it was, you know, out of our control to a degree, we scaled as quickly as we could, but we were rebuilding our business, whilst you know, having to deliver these contracts for our clients. We're very grateful for them. And also, to that point, you know, lots of people I hadn't actually met in person that I'd recruited on the team, on a permanent basis. I was mindful that was asking a lot. And trust doesn't come overnight, you've got to build that. And so, I was trying to tell them, you know, this is not a reflection of who we are, trust me. This is not normal business. This is not how it normally runs. And so yeah, that was really difficult. So, I think when I'm answering your question, I feel like it's more of like a responsibility for them that they don't have to go through that. But what will the outcome be for those individuals, when you know, it's a nine to five, really high quality? So, time will tell.

Mel:
We've had a lot of these sort of chats in our industry, haven't we have like, just because we earn our stripes in one way or another doesn't necessarily mean others to do but at the same token in our industry, kind of you have to put the work in, because that's how you learn. And it's finding the right balance to do it, because I think all of us would say, but certainly in our younger days, maybe the balance wasn't there. And yeah, you talk a little bit yesterday about some of the challenges and challenging times. I mean, obviously, we're Elevate, we're a mentoring program. We're all about leaning on people, who are the people that you lean on in those challenging times. And where do you go to get your support?

S-J:
Yeah, Tom, actually the founder of the business, I have full autonomy of the business day to day. But I will go to him if I need sort of a sounding board and his advice. So, he would be my go-to, I have some, there's an amazing train that we work with, shout out to Chris Merrington. He's absolutely fantastic and was really pivotal to the growth of our business in terms of our mindset. And however, deal is not a good deal.

Mel:
Amen to that. Yes. It's really interesting to hear, because I think a lot of people assume and interestingly, we've talked about this to one of our other guests recently was, you get to the top and you've got all the answers. And you know, what's going on, and you don't need any support anymore. And you've got all the advice. And obviously, you've got quite a few different people that you lean on in different things for different reasons, which is quite reassuring, I think, for people, especially when you're more junior and going, oh, when I get to the top, I'll know it all. We don't.

S-J:
No Especially during the pandemic that coming out of that, no one knew any of the answers. I do get a lot of my advice also from the team, like fresh eyes. They're a little bit more mature than some of them. I can learn a lot from them too. But yeah, Tom's, the CEO and he always have me if I need to run something past him. But I also, we have access to a lot of information to now more than I had growing up, the number of different podcasts that are out there to self-educate and support that's, I will listen to a lot of podcasts in a week.

Mel:
Any favorites other than our one obviously.

S-J:
Mine's mixed. I love Steven Bartlett.

Max:
Love Steven Bartlett.

S-J:
Big fan. I'm also Mary Portas. She called the Kindness Economy and Beautiful Misfits.

Mel:
Good old family.

S-J:
Love her, love her. So, I think it's quite.

Max:
Realistic mix of business and self-awareness.

S-J:
Yeah.

Mel:
It's a real testament that because I think that's the other thing and something that comes through at Kru. And certainly, from knowing you is you really are like whole self. It's not just about right, I turn up to work and I put in armour, it is really much about all of you. And it's lovely to see that reflected in some of the places you go.

S-J:
Yeah. And actually, I think that's, you know, that's also a challenge in the same way. Because when you are super passionate about something, there's not much to talk about myself to want the wider team. When things don't go to plan. You can take it really personally. And something that every now and then I'll remind the team of and myself is we're not saving lives. You know, when it gets really stressful because you really care about what you're doing. Every now and then you just need a little reminder. We're not saving lives.

Mel:
Yeah, one of my bosses says it's PR not ER, yeah.

Max:
Yeah.

S-J:
Yeah.

Max:
With the career we're talking about success rates and things like that, you have, you know, almost taken a traditional route where you've come in at the bottom if you like and there's nothing wrong with that and kind of gone through the ranks, you know, fairly quick and successfully, so credit to you in that time, what is it that I suppose all that's helped you kind of achieve that whether it be mindset, or we've talked a bit about having kind of mentors or coaches champions, you know, that progression and your career, if you like, the kind of the last six, seven years.

S-J:
Definitely, there's no doubt I have a growth mindset. That's what excites me. I know that not everyone has that. So that's definitely a driver of me, seeking out that that growth area and pushing you out of your comfort zone. But I've been doing the role now for a number of different years, but we have to stay on top of your game, you have to be innovative. And over those years, we've launched T-sec, which is our international group, Kru talent, which is the entertainment arm, there's always something that we're working towards, and launching a new initiative. So, you do have to, you know, tweak and polish and continue to work on it.

Max:
Yeah, yeah, I think it's interesting. And then and as you then are in this position of more seniority, then we talk about sending the elevator back down, and then kind of with the team and helping support them as well. So yeah.

Mel:
So, S-J, obviously, growing up as the daughter of a publican, you saw these really entrepreneurial sorts of spirits in your parents and being going into acting and having to sort of sell yourself if you like, versus a business. And I know, we've talked about this a lot, sometimes, like how you be an individual behind a business, but you went from a two-week internship to MD in four years. I mean, that's not that's kind of not a normal trajectory for someone. So, do you think this entrepreneurial spirit was, has always been with you and has been something that you've learned from a young age? Or was it something that you just saw the opportunity and in your characteristic S-J went yes. How did that come about?

S-J:
Seek out the opportunity 100%, I was also in a really privileged position, you know, sat next to Tom and Ben, who's one of the other directors, just learning from them every day, but it does take time. You know, it was something that Tom would say to me is like act as if so, it's always about playing the next role that you want. When you turn up in a room, you be that person that you want to be, model that behavior and you start to believe it, you start to have confidence in yourself. And when that opportunity presents itself or create that opportunity for yourself, rather, it's a no brainer, like you should be that role, because you're already being that role. So, I do feel like I was, you know, I had a great opportunity. I think I spotted a great opportunity. And I found it really fun. That's the most important thing. You've got to find the fun. I was passionate about it. And I was driven because I could see that I was helping to grow this business. And so, progress, so important, seeing that progress and realizing it. But you've got to find the fun.

Mel:
I love that. One of our, we just interviewed Jonathan Emmons for the podcast, he joined us as well and talks about this sense of creativity and fun and playfulness. And it's really lovely to see that characteristic here as well, that sense. And you say in your letter, actually, I get paid to do something I love. And I still am. Yeah, years later.

S-J:
Yeah.

Max:
Do you think that's directly attributed to the success?

S-J:
In terms of me having fun? I had fun from day one. Yeah, 100%. And I think trying to emulate that with the team. You can't force the fun. They've got to.

Mel:
Force fun for professionals. Our worst nightmare.

S-J:
They're creating their own our own culture, if you'd like and someone said the other day, and I just absolutely love this. Chanel on our team, she said that she never gets that Sunday evening, icky feel. Yeah.

Max:
The Monday fear.

S-J:
Yeah, that's it. Got it right. Whatever we're doing, just keep doing. So yeah, and I think, you know also, I know we've talked about this before, but time really is the most precious commodity we all have. And I tell the team all the time, I will never take for granted how much they choose to spend at work and with us. And so, I just think that if it's not fun, then you know life's too short.

Max:
Yeah. We talk about and we're talking about success a lot. And I'd like to ask you, I've got a question first, and I'm gonna come back to success one, but whilst it's been positive, and you have demonstrated, you know, real kind of persistence, and entrepreneurialism and things like that, what are the more challenging sides to it then perhaps that people don't know about.

S-J:
The other side of the story.

Max:
The other side. Yes.

S-J:
The sacrifices 100% and there's a tradeoff. They have talked about friendships, not having enough, like carving out enough time for them. In hindsight, I wish I did. But also, not a lot of people know that I took a really short amount of time for my maternity. And I, in hindsight, I can look back and I can say, that wasn't right for me. I regret that and actually, it's only recently that I can say that because I couldn't find the right words to articulate because by saying that I was saying I was wrong. I was like.

Max:
The pressure is being.

S-J:
100%. So, just to talk a bit about that then, so I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back because I love my job. I absolutely love my job and it became such a huge part of my identity. I think to the point someone asked me the other day, how are you? I'm good. Kru’s up 10% year on year. That's great. How are you? I didn't ask about Kru, I asked about you. And our identities have just become so blurred over the years. But going back to that time, like I wanted to be a Kru. I felt like that's who I was, and I needed to go back early to protect this thing that I built and help build.

Mel:
It was another baby.

S-J:
It was another baby and also my family setup, I was the highest honor in our marriage. So, on paper, it also made sense for me to go back. And I wanted to, and I told everyone I was going to do it. And my sister at the time tried to talk me out and I was like I can do this, but no one prepares you for when baby actually comes. And I remember it was, so I took six weeks. So, you've got six weeks of feeding a baby, holding a baby, pushing a baby in the pram, like you're always with your baby biocide constantly. And then I remember leaving the house walking to the station in a complete daze. And just like not knowing what to do with my hands. I sat on the train, and I had this moment of panic where I looked out the window and I thought it must have left her on the side, something was missing. You know, she wasn't there. She was missing. And so, my whole body was just screaming at me like this is a bad idea. Go back, listen to your instincts. But I kept going on that drone. I saw my decision through and something really weird happened when I got, like the moment I walked over the threshold of the office. I became MD instantly; I was like my MD hat on. It was like playing a role, it didn't feel real. It's kind of out of body. I was fine, completely fine on surface. But you know and we, you know reconfigured the affair so that I could express, and you know I do often call Simon and be like Delilah is hungry. He's like how do you know? Yeah, so it took a long time to sort of adjust to that and it was a very jarring experience looking back. And I think the main thing is, and this is why I guess I didn't want to sort of admit it until recently, but I worry that like will I ever get that one-on-one special time with my children again? You know, who knows? I will probably make that happen. Yeah, like maybe I can take every summer holiday off, take six weeks off every year, get myself to a position where I can make that happen. But I worry that I've missed out on something that I can't get back. And so, I'm sharing that because it's a hindsight thing. And actually, who's to say that I'd be in this perceived level of success now, if I didn't do that, like who's to say I would still be in this position.

Max:
It's really interesting for sharing it.

S-J:
Yeah, but now my, it's an incredible setup and something I definitely want to share. If you guys are aware of events cycle who are incredible stage, friends of Elevate amazing, so they my husband now works with them. And he works part time, time, time. Absolutely good. They are all about championing flexibility and choice which is something I like to model for Kru and I'm really proud of now. You can work wherever you like, you know you come into the office one day a week, and actually people come in more. I have someone working in Bali at the moment. So, let's just come back.

Mel:
Podcast don’t solve that.

S-J:
100%. Yeah, so I that works for our family. We've found a pattern that works for our family, and it does break the mold a little, but it works for us.

Mel:
Yeah, I just want to say to what Max said thank you for sharing because I know it can be really vulnerable to share those things. And from the outside looking in, people will often question those sorts of decisions and that can add to the pressure and I know what that is and I you know as a friend as well, like you models such a brilliant sense of balance and being there for your kids and the humanity and humanity you have within your team and I know it took a lot to share that, just thank you because it will inspire people listening to this. I think we've talked about it as the things we wish we knew before we were moms.

S-J:
And there's also they're awesome. My children are awesome, they're strong spirits. No detrimental effects so far. Yeah, so it's all good.

Max:
Last few questions really. Mel and I was just kind of touched on before and actually started answering, is that what does success look like for you now because it's a very driven individual. You mentioned maybe that's taking summers off to spend with the kids and things like that. Just wanted to kind of ask that briefly.

S-J:
Success to not now means life balance, means being able to say no, and being more selective and respectful of my time. Most success is my team. Not having that Sunday evening is having fun, you know, I don’t know to share this or not. But there was someone on my team recently who had an offer they couldn't refuse somewhere else. And it was almost I won't say how much but a huge, huge salary increase, and I was like I get it. I get it, go, go and give it your best shot. You can do this, and we say goodbye. And she came back three months later. And I think for me, it didn't work out and wasn't the right place for her. And I think for me, I think that says a lot about, like the family and the culture that I've tried. We’ve all tried so hard to create. And that makes me happy that she came back home.

Mel:
Yeah, that's a really nice way of putting it as well. And I think we forget we spend so much time at work and with these people and that sense of family, creating that sense of family around you is such an important part of having those people that you need. So, I think we've got one final question for you, S-J.

Max:
We do indeed and the question of the podcast exactly. And that is what's that one piece of advice that is so good or bad that you need to pass it on?

S-J:
I've said it before, but I say it again. It's act as if. So, it's a piece of advice that Tom, the founder of Kru Live, gave me and everybody within the team. Just act as if, turn up in that person that you want to be. So, model the behavior, be that behavior and you will become that person or that set of circumstances, whatever it is that you're looking to achieve. Other people call it manifestation. It's not too dissimilar. And the act is if really resonates with us as a team.

Max:
Well from us both and everyone here elevate, thank you so much for sharing and taking part it's been a pleasure.

S-J:
Thank you for having me. Yay.

Mel:
That was amazing. Wow.

Max:
That was brilliant. Brilliant on so many levels. Right? And I don't know if you kind of felt the same but in terms of not only kind of connecting with S-J but equally in terms of getting insight into her career but her as a person and the vulnerability that she showed as well but how.

Mel:
How brave.

Max:
Brave, exactly. How incredible.

Mel:
And I think you know, she talks a little bit in that in the discussion around being a role model. And I think she totally is for so many people that know her and I'm sure it's true of the team there. But I loved also seeing my seeds from her past that have really shaped who she is today. You know, being a publican’s daughter, her acting career, that sense of really taking every opportunity I've got such a sense of that from S-J, leaning into the yeses and seizing opportunities but also as she has grown, learning when to say no and when to take advantage of that versus not a no thing. You know, that's something personally I always struggle with. So yeah, just.

Max:
Completely resonate. The SPs is something that when I moved to London, it was exactly that same thing, you don't know anyone all the rest of it and you're kind of looking for opportunities and you don't know where they come from. So, you say yes and what I think was brilliant about best and I didn't know is that self-awareness at such a young age and that appreciation and therefore then the action and the kind of the positive outlook on them making the most of the opportunities and that equally then kind of leading into more of these yeses and noes decisions. So, I think it was brilliant. And then all the way through then to an accelerated career that in the space of years becoming, you know, an MD, but the sacrifices made along the way.

Mel:
Yeah, and I think it's so important, and I'm so glad that I shared it, you know, everyone thinks you can have it all. But that trade off and there's always a tradeoff. There are always things that you have to sort of decide what you're doing to get to that kind of levels of success, but I also love S-J’s humility may be is the words, sharing that sense of having to stay at the top of your game and constantly having to innovate and learn and grow and never standing on your laurels. You know, you get a real sense of energy from S-J, having done the job for so long in this place. And she's still as passionate about it as I can imagine her being when she started the role which is incredible.

Max:
Definitely. And throughout, there's these moments where she's perhaps lost a bit of that confidence that she has had and then kind of built it back up again. And then it culminated in that piece of advice as you mentioned throughout, throughout earlier you know, we have joked to the previous because, you know, we both did the whole drama school not that you could tell us.

Mel:
Never.

Max:
Never, I think it's just a way of almost, she said manifest but equally you kind of are protected because it's not the real you because you're almost have a summit you are pretending to be something, not pretend.

Mel:
It's also, I think what I loved about S-J is that leaning into stepping forward because I think I'm, we've talked about it a little bit in our industry, perhaps there's an expectation that stuff's given to you and I love that phrase take on it is like act as if you know step forward, step into it act as if you're already doing it and then that will become your reality. And I love that sense of I guess owning your destiny a bit and crafting it and I really get the sense that, that's what S-J has done and there's just so, I think so many people get so much out of that, it was just such a brilliant conversation.

Max:
And now what then success looks like for her.

Mel:
And evolves. I think that's the thing that's really nice is what looks like success and feels like success in your teens 20s, 30s and as your age will change, it will be different, and I love seeing my evolution that the S-J really kindly shared with us and where she's at now. What a conversation.

Max:
Elevate is powered by the generosity of our partners and supporters. To find out more about them you can check them out via elevateme.co.

Mel:
Together we're changing lives, careers and the events industry for the better.

Max:
This podcast was powered by wonder. Wonder is an independent full service creative agency, we're hugely grateful for all of their support.

Mel:
Huge thanks goes to our Producer and fellow team Elevater Peter Kerwood.

  • IVCA Live come Awards 2013 Winner
  • Field Marketing Award Brand Experience Award Bronze winner 2014
  • Event 100 Club 2013
  • Highly Commended - Staffing Agency of the Year 2019
  • Field Marketing Award Brand Experience Award Gold winner 2015
  • Field Marketing Award Brand Experience Award Gold Winner 2012
  • Field Marketing Award Brand Experience Award Silver Winner 2013
  • The Cogs 2016 Awards Silver Winner
  • Event Awards Winner 2016
  • Event 100 Club
  • Field Marketing Award Bronze winner 2013
  • The Drum UK Event Awards: Award Winner 2015
  • The Cogs Awards For the People that make it Work Staffing Winner 2013

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