Our spotlight interview this month is with Leigh Cowlishaw Managing Partner across two businesses - Winning Edges and Black Box Partnerships. We asked her a variety of questions to gain insights into her professional career and experiences. Read below to see what she had to say:
1. Tell us about your professional experience so far working within the travel, events & meeting industry?
I started as a kitchen porter in a local pub and worked my way up to a waitress, bar maid to a commis chef. I knew at this point that catering was for me and therefore went to college to study hotel catering. For additional money, I worked for an outdoor altering company silver serving at major events including the Brit Awards and major sporting events. Straight from college I got my first full time job, which was away from home in a hotel as a trainee manager, in which we worked around all departments to get a really good rounded experience working in a hotel. Took another two jobs after that in hotels in sales roles and front of house. From here I joined Calder Conferences as new sales and progressed into the operations manager role, which we were booking hotels and venues for the government for accommodation (high volume) and meetings. Negotiating good rates and value was paramount. Then I joined Banks Sadler for 8 years in which I started as new sales and progressed into account management, new bid rendering and became a European Account Director. Managing the strategic side as well as day to day management of the account and supporting on events for Rolls-Royce, Microsoft, Aviva and Santander. Major blue chips. Then I joined Capita Travel and Events Managing their supply chain, maintaining and developing sustainable partnerships for mutual return, creating customer programme strategies and developing the proposition for accommodation and meetings. Creating a high functioning team. Had the absolute pleasure of being the HBAA Chair in 2016 and implemented a five year strategy for the association and its members, I still sit on the board today, as well as on the Meetings Show advisory board and as the steering group lead for GTMC Conferences, Meetings and Groups. Was delighted to be voted onto the 2018 MIA list.
2. Can you tell us a little about your current role and what you like the most about it?
I am Managing Partner across two businesses: Winning Edges and Black Box Partnerships. This is our own business in which we provide training, consultancy and advisory to hotels, venues, agencies. Really exciting to finally being my own boss and working on exciting projects to support and enrich customers propositions and driving value.
3. Describe what a working day in your shoes looks like?
Rewarding, opportunist and always different. Love the variation and love the fact we are adding value, based upon our knowledge, expertise and thinking differently.
4. In your view, how has the industry changed, and where do you see it going?
The industry is constantly changing and evolving through multiple factors and Marco environment impacts. Businesses need to ensure that they are keeping a breadth of changing and looking at what can set them apart from their competition with their offerings.
5. Can you tell us one personal career experience that you are extremely proud of?
Being the chair of the HBAA in 2016, felt honoured to take up this role and leading the association through Change and going back to basics. The legacy success of this year still lives on and I am so proud to have achieved so much, as well as balancing this with an incredibly demanding job at the time and also my family life.
6. How did you get into the events industry?
By being a pot wash and working my way up. I developed a passion for the catering industry which progressed and progressed.
7. Do you have a favourite team building event, if so what is it?
Crystal Quest. I did this in the rain at an MIA agents day and despite the miserable weather it was still great fun and we all mucked in (plus we won... not that I am competitive!)
Also every year for the last four my team and I have organised charity days on which we painted flats for the YMCA and also tidied up a garden for a children’s rest bite centre. Not only were these days great fun and a real team build. It was also an incredible “feel good factor” in giving back and making a difference.
8. Did you have a dream job when you were growing up, if so, what was it?
A paramedic. Still would love to do it now and watch lots of hospital and ambulance programmes. I try to pre-empt the treatment and diagnose, when I am watching them.
9. If you could choose one thing off your bucket list to do today what would it be, and why?
White water rafting at Niagara Falls. Love adrenaline rides and something I have already wanted to achieve - one day. My biggest bucket list achievement was completing the London Marathon with a torn calf.
10. A perfect weekend in your eyes would look like….
At home, going to the gym, dog walking in the sun and spending time with family and friends.