everywomanClub Member and 2012 NatWest everywoman Award Winner Liz Hobbs MBE on following her instincts
everywomanClub member and 2012 NatWest everywoman Award Winner, Liz Hobbs MBE set up Liz Hobbs Group Ltd with the intention of injecting new life into a declining market. Having worked in the sporting industry most of her life, Liz saw a gap in the market and decided to bring music and entertainment to the horse racing industry. With artists like Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Lionel Richie, Madness, Westlife and One Direction performing at sporting venues across the UK – she has brought millions of pounds back into British sport. Here we learn what motivation means to Liz and how she had adapted her management skills to ensure success within her team.
What is Liz Hobbs Group Ltd?
Liz Hobbs Group Ltd is a concert and event organisation supplying music events to the sporting industry. The inspiration was twofold: to empower sports venues and make them more appealing on ‘dark days’ - to do this Liz Hobbs Group Ltd began by introducing a music event to a pre-existing sporting event. This, in turn, added value to an already great day out. Now, the majority of UK racecourses have music events following a race meeting.
Where did the idea stem from?
I was already in radio and television when I began managing other sports people. I married an actor, Frazer Hines, who at the time was prominent in Emmerdale and took over his management too. I looked after a Channel 4 racing commentator Derek Thompson and went to Epsom to talk to the Managing Director about him – we ended up talking about entertainment in general and I suggested we supply entertainment for The Derby. He gave me £5k as a budget and I provided the full plan for his entertainment - Derby day entertainment and the festival atmosphere grew and grew from there. The entertainment was good, the racing was great and it added value to the day – people were really enjoying the music and the change in the feel-good factor was noticeable. So we started full blown concerts after mid-week race meetings. Our first artist was Gerry and the Pacemakers – and racing and music was born! I guess it was a niche at the time, but it started opening up new opportunities not just as a business for me, but for racing and music too.
Was the business easy to set up?
I studied Business Management as part of a college course so understood how to keep books and the business basics. I set up the company from home with only a telephone and computer – I was self taught. I took on one person part-time and then another person and then we needed to move into an office to create more space. I’ve really loved every second of the journey.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST BUSINESS HIGHLIGHTS AND STRUGGLES?
My very first concert was a huge highlight – I felt like a fledgling company then, creating something unique and special. Watching thousands of people have such a great time thinking 'wow, we’ve done this' - never fails to send that tingle up my spine and the ultimate is helping sporting venues reinvest money back into sport, these are all huge highlights for me. It’s also about a unique customer experience and sport and music delivers something very special. I may have created a new and unique touring opportunity for hundreds of artists which is great, but having been able to influence both the music and the sporting industries is what makes me most proud. I have had personal struggles – including some pretty major spinal surgery following a water-skiing accident in Penarth, South Wales – I had 4-5 months off work. After that surgery, I took one week off and was having meetings on my couch lying down. They were meetings with a difference! I firmly believe that a business is only as good as the person who is leading it. Personal challenges affect everyone in different ways, I’ve also been divorced and anyone who’s been there knows what an unsettling time that can be, but once sorted the business went from strength to strength and had my undivided focus and attention. Bad debt is always a challenge to a new business and mine was no exception, although I only got kicked hard once. You do have to live and learn in business, but now I always trust my first instinct!
WHAT DID YOU FIND WAS THE BEST WAY TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS?
I have never proactively marketed my company; it grew through word-of-mouth and face-to-face communication. I find communication speaks volumes, I have never taken out an advertisement, our business is a bolt on to a sporting venue and I’m happy they take the kudos for a well-run event. Initially, I found sitting on the phone and organising meetings was the best way to spread the word about the business. For me it took a lot of face-to-face meetings and developing relationships with key clients. I think the business has gone full circle, initially hiding behind emails meant the personal touch was lost, developing relationships with people is what creates loyalty. We didn’t even start with a website – that is a recent development. The business, for a long time flew under the radar and to a certain extent still does, it is the relationships that matter most. I feel it is because of this we are now an established and well-known company, in fact we are a Fast Track 100 company and I am very proud of the team which has helped us to become that.