The Sibling Duo That Started Their Own Events Agency
Julia Charles-Wiginton and Michael Charles – directors of Julia Charles Event Management – discuss the ups and downs of working with a sibling with C&IT Magazine.
When I started the business with my younger brother Michael, I only had one hesitation: I didn’t want our business relationship to impact on our personal one.
We come from a tight-knit family and are very close, so it was important for us to make sure that whatever debates we might get into at work could be left at the office and not resurface in our social lives.
Luckily, we both adapted to this change professionally and manage to maintain healthy relationships as colleagues and siblings.
After my first events business went under during the recession, Michael literally picked me up off my kitchen floor and told me that we could rebuild an agency together. We mutually decided to start with an 80/20 split, reflecting the fact that I had many years’ events experience and was already established in the industry.
It was essential that he adapted quickly to this level of responsibility and thanks to his remarkable dedication and hard work, he and the company hit the ground running. We now have an equal share of the business to better reflect how invaluable he has been to our joint success.
Working together has highlighted just how similar we can be sometimes. We both have an entrepreneurial spirit and drive to be better, but you would expect this of most businesspeople. It’s our creative traits that are most alike. We often find ourselves off on a tangent discussing new ideas, then realising an hour has passed since our ’15 minute catch-up’ started.
This is why I have learned to rein it a little over the last 18 months decided to focus on business development and strategy, leaving Michael to be the major creative force behind our work. This dynamic has proved to work well and our skill sets compliment each other well when we approach things from this angle.
We have a healthy rivalry, jokingly comparing who is working on the better event or who has the better clientele, but I’m also very proud of him and I gloat about his successes too.
Working with a sibling is great. You get to be very honest with each other and you don’t have to be tactful; a raised eyebrow or frown is enough to disagree and she doesn’t take offence!
We each know that the other will be 100 per cent honest and that’s a great advantage in any business.
We rarely disagree with each other, although I always approach things at 100 miles per hour and it’s good to have Julia there to reel me in.
The events industry is not 9 to 5 and we both work extremely hard, so it’s great to have a family member who gets it. It’s nice having someone who understands and appreciates the work the other person is putting into the business.
We can get competitive when we work on events. I’ll video call her from an event in Kuwait to show off how amazing my bedroom is and she will hang up on me because she is in the office working on accounts.
I’ll brag that the client has booked me a business class flight, whilst she happens to be flying on Easy Jet. But, she will get her own back on me. Last month, she was at Gleneagles with a client drinking champagne whilst I was in a hotel that didn’t have an iron…or even a lock on the door!
We are at different stages of our careers too, which adds some more diversity to our joint outlook. At the moment, for example, I’ll jump at any opportunity to travel, something Julia has done a lot of before and is less motivated by.