I never had any real desire to live in the United States. The relocation was improvised, although it did occur organically from growth within my business. The lessons I’ve learned from my relocation experience, both good and bad, can help prepare you for the expectations of moving to another country.
Some background first: When I started my business in London in 1986, very few event planning companies were in existence. I began operations after seven years of working with sports clients at a PR agency. I realized I was largely handling logistics for special occasions, and that there was a huge demand for them.
At the time, I was in partnership with someone who had a lot of contracts with the city. As a result of this, my business flourished and we landed our first client: Lloyd’s of London, which needed sponsors to celebrate its 350th anniversary. That event put me in contact with the Lord Mayor of London, and we established a solid relationship. His committee of business leaders recommended my company and generated business for us to manage many European, then international events.
This success led to requests for me to teach what I had learned in the United States. By now, the event planning industry was emerging and universities were adding courses that needed someone with my experience to share insights.
During a seminar in San Diego in 1999, a planner from with Duke University in Durham, N.C., contacted me to organize high level donor event for their Campaign in London, then in Europe and Asia on behalf of the school. That led to more work with the university, and suddenly I was spending 10 months a year in the Triangle area and became psychologically invested in being successful there. I realized I needed to relocate to North Carolina full time – and I did so without a true strategic plan to follow.
What occurred next was a great deal of learning on my part. These are the lessons I learned about starting and building a business in another country:
Thankfully, a few things did pleasantly surprise me after making my move. These included:
Sally Webb, CSEP, is CEO of The Special Event Company, a strategic event and meeting management company based in Cary, North Carolina. Founded in 1986 in London, England, and operating in the United States since 1999, the company opened its U.S. headquarters in the Triangle in 2005 and expanded to Charlotte, NC in 2011. TSEC has won more than 30 international awards. The company maintains a prestigious local client base and is a one-stop shop for all aspects of event production, logistic management, and marketing through its group of companies. For more information, please visit http://www.specialeventco.com/. Sally is a member of the Enterprising Women Advisory Board and is a 2013 recipient of the Enterprising Women of the Year Award.
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