FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Jocelyn Flanagan
January 13, 2015
I’m not sure driven is a good descriptor. Given her story and all she is doing, I can’t imagine another word that fits …
Jocelyn Flanagan is a very busy lady – so fitting in time for this interview was a logistical challenge. We met in the Bankers’ Hall lobby on New Year’s Eve between appointments as she was rushing to catch a plane. Wincing, not from my probing questions, but from a broken rib [some irony there for someone used to making her living on ice] from a slip/fall over Christmas.
What does your company name mean? “Events equal management and creative consulting. The experience matters.”
She was tight for time – a plane to catch, New Year’s Eve – to Toronto. I asked, ‘romantic rendezvous?’ to which she replied, “I wish!”
She describes herself as “never married, no kids and enjoys long walks on the beach …”
Jocelyn Flanagan was in a hurry – not to leave, but to tell her company’s story, but I was more interested in getting her story first. She grew up on an acreage in Springbank, just west of Calgary, from age one. Youngest of four (two brothers, one sister), mom is a social worker who was a stay-at-home mom, dad an entrepreneur and oil & gas executive. K-12 in Springbank. To pursue her passion for competitive figure skating (ice-dancing with partner Jason Elford … ranked 11th in the world at their peak) took her to Toronto for coaching and school (University of Toronto – B.A. in International Relations), skating for Canada, Europe, Madrid (teaching at a figure skating centre), learned Spanish. Then she wanted to come home, or at least closer to home. She worked for Mike Moore Sports Tourism – bringing European hockey players to Canada and sending Canadian ones to Europe. A desire to be more creative and closer to home (mountains, Canmore and Invermere were calling her home), she took a job at the EPCOR Centre in 2000. One day she walked into a convention – the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Special Events Society – and she was hooked!
“Event management was more interesting than hockey players.”
She teamed up with some partners .. and soon e=mc2events came to life. Fast forward to today – 24 staff, offices in Calgary (13½ years), Vancouver (3½ years) and Toronto (2 years). She tells me 60% of their business is in Calgary, 10% in Toronto and 30% in Vancouver … but given some of her comments and all that energy and time spent there, that Toronto is a huge growth opportunity. She admits it is, but returns the focus of our discussion to Calgary.
To what do you most credit your success? “Support of my family. I have a phenomenal family who made me who I am. Surrounding myself with great people – finding great people. And a very positive outlook.”
What has held you back? … “Not enough time. Sometimes it feels good to fly under the radar. Don’t stop till it is finished. Spending ¾ of my time in Toronto …"
“Our events aren’t trivial – they are meaningful, purposeful.”
On succession … “Too soon to make a plan.”On retirement … “I’m not going to work till I’m 100. I’m going to play until I’m 100!”
I pried for details, but only got a hint .. something big coming around Stampede time this year, in Toronto (do they own boots & jeans?). More to come I am told – I’ll bet it will surprise them and probably benefit Calgary too … so stay tuned for news of a corporate event.
Easy for her, I’m sure. Not her first rodeo…
I asked Jocelyn how she sees her businesses – event management – over the next quarter?
… not as severe as the last downturn (2008-9). No signs yet of drastic cuts. We’re diversified across the country.
And over the next five years?
… difficult to call …
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… collaborative, flexible, quality, forward-thinking. We get great prices because we build great relationships.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Jocelyn Flanagan and e=mc2events, why do they choose you, why do they business with you?
… proactive in my approach, fun, high energy, highly professional, a ‘client first’ focus. We are not party planners – we do events with purpose.
How would you describe your leadership or management style?
… highly collaborative. I love to give feedback to my team. I’m a success if people around me are successful.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… oil & gas prices! … 2009 was tough, cutting back, cutting down …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… both my parents. Dad teaching me to be a leader, not a follower. A figure skating coach – Marijane Stong – an extraordinary leader with a calm forceful demeanor.
Work life balance, do you have it?
… it exists. I’ve had it. I love what I do!
… squash, downhill skiing, running, triathalon, dabbling in acoustical guitar, travel - recent spots ... Palm Springs, Seattle, Iran, Sochi (cheering for the Spanish team – one of her former students was competing). I don’t sit dormant for long …
What do you read?
… business books, Malcolm Gladwell fan, novels (like Ken Follett) that have been translated to Spanish.
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