This month’s #Truboss is a woman who believes in fostering the younger generation with the tools and skills necessary in creating successful careers for themselves. Her name is Serena Holmes and she is the CEO and President of Tigris.
Since Serena took over the company’s operations in 2008, Tigris has become one of Canada’s largest event staffing and experiential marketing agencies with over 1,500 employees across the country.
We caught up with our August #Truboss to learn more about what it takes to be at the helm of a successful operation.
B.T: What does a typical Monday look like for a CEO of a successful marketing agency? I’d imagine it to be pretty hectic!
S.H: Monday’s are usually our busiest day of the week! We are typically wrapping up events from the previous weekend, reviewing deadlines and deliverables for the week(s) that lay ahead. We also sit down every Monday at 11am to go over the progress on all of our bookings.
B.T: Looking back, did you always know that you’d own your own business? If so, what did you have in mind?
S.H: I had no clue! I call myself an “accidental entrepreneur”. I was offered a management position with Tigris only a few months after it was founded. I was also offered partnership but kept declining as I was pursuing a career in journalism… After a year, I decided to take the plunge however and very shortly after, we started booking events with Motorola and Rogers. The woman who founded the company decided to leave in 2008 – just over 4 years after she had started it, so we went through a buy out and I took over complete operations. Growing up, I never thought I’d be running my own company but now that I am, I couldn’t be happier.
B.T: When you first set out to be your own boss did you know that you’d “make it?”
S.H: I don’t think I ever thought of my career as “making it”. From an industry perspective, we are a bit of a small fish in a big pond, but we have been fortunate to have had many great opportunities since the beginning which has kept us very busy.
The only time I was worried about staying afloat was after we lost 3 of our biggest clients at the same time in late 2011/early 2012. We were aware of the shift in our relationship with them due to restructuring happening – and began investing in internet marketing/SEO. We had a bit of a 2 year slump from 2012/2013 but our leads continued growing year over year and our 2014 sales doubled from the previous year and they’ve continued to go up from there.
There is always room for improvement but I’m proud of how far the company has come – from working in the basement of the founder’s parent’s house with just the two of us to buying an office space with 5 full-time staff and 1,500 part-time across the country is amazing.
B.T: One #Truboss I admire is American inventor, Lori Greiner. She once said “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” I LOVE THAT! Can you please share some of the sacrifices you’ve had to make?
S.H: Since Tigris is largely an events based agency, we have things running around the clock – literally. We are also dependent on thousands of contractors around the country to make sure our events are successful. If someone doesn’t show up or cancels on short notice, it can ruin everything.
There have been lots of evenings/weekends when we’ve had to put in extra time to make sure an event is executed successfully.
B.T: There isn’t a secret sauce to success but many successful women have habits that stand out from others. What habits would you say contributed to your success?
S.H: There are a few things. I’ve always been the type of person to go above and beyond for my clients, my employees, my staff – and I have instilled this in my business. Our clients have often commented on the “before and after” that makes a huge difference. Our communication and attention to detail is second to none.
For example, if a client calls or emails outside of office hours, even if we can’t get them the answer immediately, they will be acknowledged and told exactly when they can expect to hear back from us. We also leverage our experience in events to make recommendations to ensure our clients, their events and ultimately their brands, are handled professionally and successfully.
B.T: Who is your favourite female #Truboss and why?
S.H: Good question! I think Arlene Dickinson is a great person to look up to. She started her own business during a divorce with a few kids. In spite of these challenges, she built an empire. Her persistence and hard work is admirable.
B.T: When the going gets tough, what is your favourite go-to mantra?
S.H: I don’t think I have a mantra – but I went through a personal development course a few years back called “Agents of Change”. Their declarations are embedded in my brain and I find them very motivating.
“I have an important message to share with others. I am confident in my ability to be heard and understood. I know what I want and I can create it effortlessly. I am a student and a mentor. I add value to people’s lives. I am accountable and will hold others accountable. I am an Agent of Change”
B.T: What is one piece of advice you can offer aspiring female entrepreneurs who are looking for a little push to launch their own business?
S.H: Sometimes you just need to go for it. In my own personal situation, I was just starting out in my career so I didn’t have the same kinds of expenses I have now like a house, vehicle etc., I can imagine it would be much more difficult starting out later in age – for some reasons – but you’d also have more work / life experience which would help.
If you are thinking about launching your own business, make as many contacts as you can, invest in some courses and find a mentor or two. I wish I’d done some of this earlier and if I had, perhaps I’d be retired by now .