Getting To Know You: Sam Rowe, CEO, Ignition

Sam Rowe

As part of our series of meeting the finalists of this years Lloyds Bank National Business Awards we spoke to Sam Rowe, CEO, of the double finalist company Ignition.

What do you currently do at your company day-to-day?

I am Ignition’s CEO, setting and delivering Ignition’s business strategy and working with our strong management team in the UK and US to deliver on all our objectives.

Whilst I am always outwardly promoting our business, I also spend a significant amount of time working closely with our internal teams. We are very much a people business and the relationships I hold with the team are extremely important to me and a very important part of our success.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

We wanted to do something different in our industry and take a more dynamic approach to the rather old school approach to events and exhibitions that existed 11 years ago when we started out. We also aspire to be ethical leaders in our field and we very much walk the walk when it comes to sustainability.

The company holds three major accreditations in this area – the ISO 14001 for Environmental Management and the ISO 9001 for Quality Management. We were also the first in our industry to receive the ISO 20121 for Sustainable Event Management.

Our inspiration was also to create a business that cares and a place where people enjoy coming to work. The desire to work with brilliant people was key, so that inspiration always flows in every direction within the workplace culture.

Who do you admire?

I admire people who have a strong and ethical approach to their work, as well as people who are brave, who work hard and who respect and inspire others.

I love seeing people who are determined to succeed, whatever the odds and I have a great admiration for those who really give everything to their life’s work and whose results then go on to have a positive influence as role models for those starting out in life. A lot of athletes fit the bill. Particularly notable examples for me are Seb Coe, Katherine Grainger, Jessica Ennis, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Mo Farah.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Nothing major, I’m happy to say. We’ve had some great success. We could probably have grown at a faster rate and ended up with a bigger team that way, but having a more tight-knit team has allowed us to build a fantastic work culture. Our team members do whatever it takes to make things work and have really helped shape the business we have today.

What defines your way of doing business?

The values we live are breathe are those we call EPIC: entrepreneurial, personable, intelligent and collaborative.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Work hard and always feel that you’ve given your all when it matters. Be polite and helpful – it goes a long way and remember that you’re not entitled to anything until you’ve proven your value and ability.

Respect everyone – be prepared to do anyone else’s job, no matter the hierarchy – but always delight your manager! If you want something to be better, offer your ideas and never quit when it gets hard – ‘Winners are not those that never fail but those that never quit’ (cited by many but most recently by Banksy!).

For those starting a business themselves, I would say always to recruit people that outshine you, always be good to your team and always reward the extreme effort people are willing to give.