Events, entrepreneurship and everything in-between: Eventfinda’s James McGlinn on leadership

As co-founder of event marketing, syndication and ticketing platform Eventfinda, at the tender age of 26, impresario James McGlinn has already got entrepreneurial cred to burn.

Now – or as of this July at least – McGlinn will also be president of the Auckland chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO), the world’s only peer-to-peer network exclusively for entrepreneurs. The Auckland chapter has over 65 members, who together employ more than 1,600 staff and represent industries from accounting, to tech, to hospitality.

At the risk of stating the obvious, establishing a company like Eventfinda – especially at such a young age – is no mean feat. Nor is leading a network of highly driven, creative and successful entrepreneurs.

So what does it take to create a wildly successful, world-class ticketing business? What does it take to get elected to number one spot of the EO?

We invited McGlinn to take the floor and do some straight talking on how he got where he is.

Lead by example

“Hypocrisy is unappealing at the best of times, and destructive at the worst, and being a leader requires the ability to practice what one preaches.”

“If I expect my team to go the extra mile, I have to be prepared to do so myself, and I’ve found that my staff work their hardest when I’m doing so too. This doesn’t mean making a song and dance about how much I’m doing, but simply knuckling down and doing it. I don’t ask my team to do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“Don’t rest on your laurels; there’s always more to do and further to reach. Reward yourself, but don’t stop - your bigger reward will be a team who are driven by your own work ethic, respect the time and energy you invest in them and your business, and align with your beliefs and practices. At EO, our goal is to inspire, motivate and support one another through our entrepreneurial journeys, and I intend to do everything I can to ensure this continues to happen. That means showing up to events, answering questions, making decisions and sharing experience, and never half-assing anything.”

Know your strengths & those of your team

“…and work to them! No one’s good at everything, and if we’re being honest, most people are rubbish at many things.”

“I, for one, am exceptionally bad at rugby, and so I’ve never pursued a career as an All Black. But everyone has a set of strengths, which, if they’re clever, they’ll have built a career from. Identify these within your team and your network, and work to them. Delegate according to skill and experience, and seek advice from those who are more skilled and experienced than you are.”

“The EO Board has a chair for every area of focus; events, learning, social, partnerships and more. As president, my strengths will lie in consensus building, delegation and the ability to connect with and meet the needs of a diverse range of entrepreneurs. Working to these will allow me to be the best possible leader I can, but I’ll leave the specialised areas up to the experts.”

Listen more than you talk

“I cannot stress this enough. This is applicable to just about any area of business: sales, recruitment, planning, networking and more. I think it’s also worth applying to one’s personal life. Ask questions, and listen to the responses to understand what’s going on for the person you’re engaging with; really listen and absorb what you’re told, instead of just appearing to be doing so.”

Team productivity over personal productivity

“A group is only as strong as its weakest member, and a productive, motivated team will significantly outperform a productive, motivated individual – but it requires conscious effort to get to that stage. It may sound airy-fairy, but in my experience, team-building has been hugely valuable. Team exercises, social get-togethers and common goals all help build culture, and a team that’s connected with each other and passionate about their work will be far more productive than one that isn’t. In my own career the transition from software engineer to entrepreneurial leader required a complete mindset shift – with the measure of success changing from my individual performance to the performance of the entire team.”

Teams with diverse backgrounds and shared values are more effective

“‘Diversity’ is a common buzzword in business these days, but there’s a reason for that. A diverse team is a resilient one, able to adapt to change and employ strengths that come from a wide range of backgrounds.”

“Think outside the box, but ensure those you hire all have values that are aligned with your own. You can teach ability but not attitude, so it’s important to work with people whose values fit your business or organisation. The Eventfinda team are about as diverse as you can get – across age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and personality type – and united by shared values, respect for each other, and a desire to deliver the best possible outcome for our clients.”

Talk to people - face to face or by phone, not email

“Wherever possible, having a ‘live’ conversation will deliver much quicker and more effective results.”

“With technology that allows for almost effortless communication so readily available, I think a lot of people have become far too comfortable just ‘firing off an email’ rather than putting the energy into connecting with others and having conversations. All EO members take part in regular forum meetings, where a group gets together to share experience and offer support. All our Board meetings happen in person (rather than via phone or Skype) and I’ve found that issues are sorted more quickly, information is communicated more effectively and relationships are strengthened by being in the same room.”

Be open and honest about what's going on

“Keeping people in the dark is never productive. Your team and colleagues deserve to be kept in the loop about issues that affect them, even if these are things you’d rather not share. At Eventfinda no-one has a private office, myself included – we all work together in an open plan space encouraging continuous communication, and that reflects our commitment to openness and transparency. EO also values transparency and honesty, and I’ll be embodying that throughout my presidency. Be upfront, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You’ll be surprised at how much you receive.”