Spotlight on Leaders and Trends

The world of exhibitions is filled with stories of amazing people.

Some enjoy universal recognition while others prefer to remain in the background  doing their part to make our industry stronger. UFI is proud to introduce a  new initiative called, "Spotlight on Leaders and Trends."

UFI's Barry Siskind, will take an in-depth look at the life and  career of one of these key industry figures. This will focus on the key  issues we face through the vision of those who are working hard to make our  exhibition industry responsive and dynamic.

   Sandy Angus, Chairman of Angus Montgomery,

Interviewed By: Barry Siskind, UFILive Community Manager (02/06/2013)

Sandy has been a leader in the exhibition industry for years and has taken on many roles. has taken on such roles. From 1985-87 he was chairman of the UK’s Association of Exhibition Organisers. From 1986-88.he was  founder and deputy chairman of the Exhibition Industry Federation.  Internationally, he was elected president of the UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry in  2001-03, and became the first non-American chairman of the US International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), in 2005-06.
He has been the recipient of many industry awards such as the Lifetime Achievement from the AEO, Pinnacle Award from IAEE, Gold Medal from UFI and the Hall of Leaders from CIC.
Sandy’s business interests are global in scope.  During his career he has developed a reputation built on independence, strength and integrity. His unique perspective on the state of the exhibition industry and his willingness to share what he has learned, makes him a fascinating subject.

Barry: You are at the helm of a company with over a century of history. As CEO, does this create more of a burden for you than someone who is starting up or heading a younger company? How do you handle it?
 I don’t regard this as a burden, but more as a privilege to be at the helm of a company with a long and interesting history.  Safeguarding that reputation is certainly an obligation I take very seriously.

Barry: Angus Montgomery is now involved in over 50 exhibitions, owns a facility and acts as consultant. Do wearing three hats have any special challenges? How do you and your staff handle them?
The 3 different sectors of the industry with which we are involved are all treated very separately with their own managing directors.  Being an organiser and venue owner in the same city does lead to conflicts of interest but at the same time is a very good safeguard for the organising business, particularly when it comes to allowing competitors into the market place.

Barry: Most of your investments are joint ventures with local partners. Why did you choose this business model rather than owning all of your exhibitions outright?
In fact two thirds of our business is wholly owned.  We have used local partners elsewhere in the world to get and maintain a head start over our competitors.  It also helps to spread the risk.  Amongst the 20 or so partners we have worldwide, none have yet created a business which even remotely compares in size and profitability with our own wholly owned businesses.
Barry: What would be the circumstances where you would opt to be the sole owner rather than a partner?
Whenever possible I would prefer to be a sole owner rather than a partner. However, in the art world the partnership model works particularly well for a variety of special reasons.

Barry: And what might those circumstances be?
We are happy to follow a partnership model in the Arts because there are very different benefits which each of the parties can bring to an art fair.  The whole success of art fairs revolves around the attraction of collectors and the number of pieces of artwork which are bought.  One is therefore dealing with a relatively exclusive number of people who are vital to the success of the art fair model.  

Barry: It sounds as though your focus is on the quality of visitors rather than the quantity.
 Yes, the number of visitors has little bearing on the perceived success of an art fair, where galleries have to sell in order to maintain their support of the fair.  Access to these regional collector data bases is crucial.  The same is true for the galleries.  

Barry: Are there other lessons that can be learned from the world of art?
I do not feel that the art world has any lessons for other sectors of the industrial exhibition market place other than one should avoid a partnership  unless it can bring tangible evidence of being able to influence the end result.

Barry: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the exhibition industry today? What steps should the industry take to face this challenge?
The greatest challenge facing the industry today comes from the digital world and social media where organisers can become the information portal for an industry sector providing a 24/7, 365 access point.  The fact that our customers, both exhibitors and visitors, make their own choices about how to access information is both a blessing and a curse. This will increasingly require our marketing teams to become steeped in the role and function of social media and communication.

Barry: What is your perception of the growth of virtual events and its impact on face to face?
I haven’t seen any virtual events which have had any major impact on the definitive face-to-face event.  It could be that with improving technical developments they might become more user friendly, but I remain unconvinced they will have a great impact on face-to-face marketing.

Barry: How optimistic are you about the industry’s ability to attract new people to a career in exhibitions? 
Because of our location in London and our reputation, Angus Montgomery is able to attract good, talented young people into the business.  Hanging onto them is a bigger challenge and whilst it is great to see so many of them succeeding in their own businesses or elsewhere, I occasionally take  stock on how many new businesses and shows have been created by ex-AM employees.  It is an impressive range of exhibitions and events which I always feel could have been part of our business.

Barry: You have stated that “The strength and reputation of Angus Montgomery lies in its independence.” Can you please explain what you mean by this statement?
Independence means an ability to make decisions quickly and without any reference to next year’s profits.  With no outside shareholders to consider, decisions can be made without reference to any third party.  
Barry: You have been actively involved in the industry. You were chairman of IAEE, past president of UFI, and chairman of Association of Exhibition Organisers. What have these roles given you?
I have always instinctively felt the importance of putting something back into an industry from which I have been able to take so much.  Apart from the satisfaction of helping to grow the industry through such an active involvement, I have also been able to benefit through the relationships which these roles have spawned.

Barry: You have been honoured with many industry awards. Which holds the most meaning for you? Why?
Playing a role in the reorganisation of UFI at a critical time is something which gives me great pleasure.  It has emerged as the definitive global organisation with a string of recent Presidents who have given it a new strategic direction and focus.

Barry: Do you believe it is important for industry members to stay actively involved in industry associations? If so, why?
You are either a joiner or someone who avoids industry association involvement.  Relationships are very effectively nurtured by association involvement. The educational role of exhibition organisations as well as the general promotion of the industry are two arms of any successful association from which everyone benefits.

Barry: You changed the name of your company to Angus Montgomery which I assume is an exercise in re-branding. What do you want the new name to say?
I have personally been linked to the Montgomery brand for over 40 years.  Sadly there are no Montgomerys left and I do feel that having a name at the head of a business which personalises it, does have an advantage.  I want the name to say quality, reliability, integrity, loyalty, honesty.

Barry: Your company owns an exhibit hall in South Africa. What prompted the move from organizing fairs to running a facility?
Our South African business is approximately one third of our global business and has been a wholly owned subsidiary for 45 years.  When the exhibition halls in which we ran most of our events went into liquidation, we knew we would have to buy the venue if we wanted our organising business to survive.  On 52 hectares, it could easily have been turned into warehousing or a massive property development.  

Barry: You are CEO, consultant, speaker, organiser, facility owner and association executive. Which part of your various jobs do you find most rewarding? Why?
My role now is to look at the business strategically and advise my eldest son on how he should be running it.  Nobody reports to me and I am not concerned with any of the day-to-day running of any of our businesses.  I believe I know about every single aspect of our business and have never felt more excited by the new opportunities out in the market place globally than exist right now.  I believe I have met my responsibilities within the associations I have loved being a part of, but I have always understood the need for new blood, new ideas, and  new energy.

Barry: In 1895 Greville Montgomery founded the company and passed it along to his son Hugh and then to his grandson Bryan. Now that your son Damion is active in the company, is history repeating itself? What is the single most important bit of advice you have given him?
Always do the right thing even when it appears to work against your better interests.   Doing the right thing usually only costs you money.  Reputation is hard to earn and easy to lose.  .

Barry: Where are the next big opportunities for growth in the exhibition industry?
I honestly believe that global opportunities will continue to provide growth for international companies for a number of years to come.  Africa is probably a 20 year project and in many ways India has the greatest potential of all when the Government and cities recognise the possible rewards and wealth which the industry can bring.

Barry: No interview would be complete without asking you about your signature red socks. How did that begin? Why has it stuck?
I always say that having socks of one colour takes away one decision every day and I never thought when I started that they could become some kind of signature trait.

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