#EventProf of the week: James Clutterbuck, Berkeley Red

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Each week we will focus on a StandOut individual who has been extraordinary within the events industry. This week it is James Clutterbuck, managing director and co-founder of Berkeley Red.

How did you get into the events industry?
Post-university, after messing around for a couple of years trying to be a professional cricketer and coaching, real life came knocking. Like many, I fell into events via a sales job for an agency selling sports corporate hospitality. It was a hard sell job, I can’t say I enjoyed it greatly, but I cut my teeth there and learnt how to sell.

Where has your career taken you and what roles have you enjoyed?
After two years in the first job, I landed a sales and marketing manager role for a large sports travel agency in London where I set up their UK events arm. I got to go to some amazing events worldwide and it opened my eyes to F1 and particularly the Monaco Grand Prix. I didn’t have any ambition to start my own company at that point but in a sliding doors moment, I was approached by a couple of guys to set up a new events/hospitality/sports management agency called Paragon with them. I was there for 16 years as a director, and we grew it into a well-respected multi-million T/O agency. We parted ways amicably in 2017 and in 2018, with one of my best mates from university, started Berkeley Red – an agency specialising in F1, VIP experiences/hospitality and incentives. We wanted to build an agency with fun at its heart that people enjoy working for, enables our people to achieve their ambitions and have clients that love working with us. We wanted to enjoy the journey having both been in fairly high-pressure corporate jobs.

What is it about your job that you love doing?
I always feel lucky that I get to attend lots of amazing events in a VIP way – staying on our superyacht at the Monaco GP was a pretty cool experience; but that aside one of the most enjoyable aspects of my role for Berkeley Red is the freedom I have with our marketing – and particularly my own social media on LinkedIn. I can be left field, irreverent, controversial, funny, silly, tongue in cheek, self-deprecating etc without the need to “run it past marketing”. It’s certainly given us a bit of an edge over our competitors who mostly remain a bit dull, safe and corporate. We and I are certainly marmite – but it’s given us a regular stream of clients who also enjoy the fun side of life.

What’s been the stand out moment of your career so far?

I think delivering Berkeley Red’s first Monaco Grand Prix superyacht hospitality for 200+ guests. We were a start-up, took a big risk financially on it and basically, all the eggs were in one basket. It was a roaring success I’m pleased to say!

What’s been your biggest achievement? Equally, what have you done that you can now look back on and be super proud of due to its challenges?
Having been in the events business for more than 25 years I’ve lost count of the ups and downs – merely staying in business is an achievement in itself. But the biggest by far was navigating COVID as a start-up events agency with very little in the way of backup funds in the bank. I’m proud during that 18-month period that we didn’t furlough any staff and we continued to market and shout from the rooftops that we were still alive and kicking! We hit upon the strategy of selling future events like Monaco GP at a reduced rate with a monthly pay scheme. It was a hit and we had nearly 100 people who suddenly couldn’t spend any money down the pub or go out, paying us £100-£200 each per month during COVID. It was that cash flow that enabled us to survive albeit we “lost” a significant amount on paper that year. We’ve come out the other side of it now and we’re trading in profit, have hired some key staff, brought an investor in and looking forward with some optimism.

What key pieces of advice would you give to someone starting in events?
Don’t be too proud or too set on a certain job type or have too high expectations of salary level when it comes to starting. It’s highly competitive – just get your foot in the door in any way you can. Get some events experience if you can, which always looks good on a CV – volunteering on events during holidays is a great way to start. I would also advise starting with a smaller agency where you get to work with founders; the experience and breadth of work you’ll do will be far better than starting at the bottom in a large agency.

What career goals do you have and where do you see yourself heading? For example, is there an event that you would love to work on but haven’t?

To be honest I’m a little too old now to have career goals! But I would love to get Berkeley Red to a position where it can operate/function profitably without my day-to-day input and I can enjoy the nice bits! We are mentoring a future MD in-house with this in mind. We want to grow our presence in F1 and replicate our Monaco and Silverstone success at five or six other key GPs such as Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi. We also want to grow our incentive travel arm – we’ve just won some incentive trip business from a major car brand, so we are starting to put our flag in the sand.

If you would like to nominate someone for #EventProf of the week, please email marketing@standoutmagazine.co.uk.