Spotlight: Des McLaughlin, Grass Roots

McLaughlin, group managing director of meetings and events, set up HBI in 1991 before selling it to Grass Roots in 2006. He'll now be heading up its events division.

Des McLaughlin, Group managing director of meetings and events, Grass Roots
Des McLaughlin, Group managing director of meetings and events, Grass Roots

Where have you come from?

In 1991, I set up HBI, a high-end venue-sourcing company. I sold it to Grass Roots in 2008 and was managing director of Grass Roots HBI until now.

What will your role entail?

Along with HBI, Grass Roots also acquired Maritz Europa, delegate management specialist DMS and live production and experiential events specialist MMM. There was never any effort to join up the four divisions as one business, so my role is to ensure Grass Roots is operating seamlessly as one legal entity by an agreed timescale, most likely early 2014.

How will Grass Roots change?

We will have one account manager for each account, rather than four, and our sales people will sell across the portfolio. We have four websites, so we will rebrand and have one site. The focus will be on experiential and high-end events, delegate management and improving our data for clients. We will focus more on developing client relationships so we have a greater understanding of their needs. We have spent too much time on tenders with a low conversion rate. We will focus more on developing client relationships so we have a greater understanding of their needs.

Any more restructuring needed?

There are no more redundancies planned. We are understaffed in some areas and we will be adding staff in key positions in year one.

Favourite event?

I attended the opening launch party of The Palm in Dubai in 2008, which was a four-day trip with all expenses paid with lots of celebrities.

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