I launched Glow Global Events in New York City as a four-person shop in 1998 and steadily grew it into a sturdy and well-appointed business. I was proud of it, but by 2005, I could see that things needed to change. My company was profitable and we'd worked on world-class events, but I was still an event planner. I wasn't a CEO -- not really. I was limiting my potential, but how?

I couldn't shake the question after that. It's funny. I never thought about changing my company's trajectory -- getting into live streaming and original programming, for instance -- until I did; then it was all I thought about.

I'm someone who does a lot of research; the data and the milestones help me see around corners. So I began by researching my bigger competitors, figuring out what they were doing, how their businesses were set up. I took meetings with clients that weren't typical for my firm. I started to entertain different product lines -- which led, in turn, to hosting internal events and meetings for companies focused on engaging with their own employees.

As it happens, my timing was perfect. Ten years into our business, ahead of the 2008 financial crisis, I saw that major organizations were no longer having big blowout events. But they still needed to engage their employees and were willing to bring on consultants. So that sustained us and gave me more confidence in my path. It was the moment I decided to grow. I just had to make it so.

I signed up for a business accelerator through the New York City Economic Development Corporation. For me, it was a crash course on running a business as a CEO. There, I learned how to think about everything in terms of growth -- keying in on strategy. Specifically, I learned how to build a corporate culture and even rethought my team in terms of growth. I also retooled my website for SEO and moved my contacts and workflow onto a proper CRM tool.

Years later, the pandemic offered a similar inflection point. Four days after New York City shut down nonessential services, I sent a Zoom link to probably five event groups that I belong to on Facebook and registered about a hundred planners. There were a lot of smaller event agencies and solo entrepreneurs on the call who just didn't know what to do with their clients.

I also didn't know what conversation to have; Covid has been uncharted territory for everyone. But I did what I could. We talked about business interruption insurance, and a few planners said they were getting resistance from venues about getting deposits back or negotiating cancellation fees. That's when I knew we needed to leverage this community. On the Zoom, I was literally like: "Who's done an event at this venue? Well, let's all call together." Despite that effort, plenty of planners didn't do virtual events or were just looking for an exit. I hung up from the call with five new event clients.

From there, virtual events kicked into overdrive. We began to see clients increasingly interested in growing their community or broadcasting their good deeds. Some clients didn't have content; they didn't know how to get that message out. So we started creating content, like hosting virtual fireside chats or producing documentaries. We grew our video production team. We hired someone dedicated to curating music, because we didn't want people to attend an event as if they were just logging on to Zoom; we were essentially producing a television show.

Again, that led to growth. We hadn't exactly pivoted, though; what we'd really done was swivel. We'd already been trying all of these things -- the virtual events, the custom content, testing the waters, seeing what worked -- so in the end it came down to action. As an entrepreneur, you can't let opportunities slip by. You have to pay attention to what's happening. See the signs and be ready to act.

But also plan, and plan hard. When I began considering how I could grow my business, and doing all that research, I'd happened upon the story of George P. Johnson, a Detroit marketing legend who began doing automotive and trade shows before his eponymous company expanded in all sorts of directions. Today, it's more than 100 years old.

I thought, why can't Glow be the George P. Johnson of events? We also can be around for a hundred years. I just have to decide it, and make it so.

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