Barcelona International Convention Centre’s Phil Cross on Being Adaptive

"I believe that success is based on hard work, with a certain amount of 'being the right person, in the right place, at the right time.'"

Phil Cross

Phil Cross, head of sales, Barcelona International Convention Centre.

EDUCATION I studied business, leisure, and tourism at the [U.K.’s] GNVQ [General National Vocational Qualification] level.

MY FIRST INDUSTRY JOB Like many people, I fell into the events industry. I was working for [travel operator] TUI UK, and had completed a successful season running a Mediterranean destination on a senior management development program. As part of my career development, I was asked to organize the logistics for a company conference of over 800 delegates. These delegates were all U.K.-based travel agents. The job involved all logistical requirements, from delegate welfare to registration to transportation. We went from kind of herding the delegates one moment, to solving general event issues the next. It was hard work, but I had a blast. I was hooked!

MY PREVIOUS THREE JOBS My previous three roles have all been sales and marketing roles on the supplier side of the industry — representing a group of hotels specializing in events, a multi-destination DMC, and now I have been involved on the venue side for nearly eight years.

WHAT I DO NOW My current role is head of sales at an international venue in Barcelona — the CCIB. My main role is simple: to ensure that we can guarantee long- to medium-term financial security for the venue and destination by maximizing our business opportunities and leads. I work with a fantastic sales team of six people, who look after and manage a diverse range of clients and events. One of my key responsibilities is to give them the support and the tools they need to gain the trust and commitment from the clients they work with to ultimately confirm business. The success we have is not based solely on sales results, but also the successful completion and execution of the events we host.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT MY JOB It’s a cliché, but I love the constant changing environment. There are challenges, constantly. I love the uncertainty, and whilst sometimes it can be the most frustrating thing in the world as I am not able to concentrate on my to-do list, it is also the very essence of what we do. Whilst it may be a little sadistic, I very much enjoy the difficult and challenging negotiations, the clients that really challenge you to do something differently. I find the most rewarding part of the job is the staff management that is needed when managing diverse teams. With so many strong personalities in our venue, it is can be the most frustrating part of the job, but when you are able to overcome challenges and bring people together, it is by far the most rewarding.

MOST INFLUENCED IN MY CAREER BY I have been blessed by having the opportunity to work with many very professional people in my career, and I have learned something different from many of them. Most recently, my immediate manager has helped me to trust myself and my instincts and judgment but to back these up by being more analytical, by gently nudging and coaching me in the right direction.

If I have to highlight one person and thank them for influencing me the most, it is someone on the PCMA board. I would rather not name him, as I will never hear the end of it! This person always brags that they “found me whilst I was selling the big issue.” Whilst this is quite an exaggeration, the truth is that he saw something in me and gave me my first real opportunity to grow professionally. From that opportunity, my career in this industry started.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY BIGGEST PROFESSIONAL MISTAKE I suppose my biggest mistake has been at times overconfidence. There have been times when I have felt confident walking into a situation, whether it was a sales presentation or a negotiation; however, I have not taken the time to prep myself properly on the needs of the client or the questions I may be asked. The lesson I learned in these circumstances has been to expect the unexpected and prepare for everything — to put myself in the position of the third party and ask many questions, or ask colleagues to play the role of the third party.

MY NEXT BIG CAREER GOAL In my next role, I would like to continue growing professionally and have more responsibility and influence decisions. Having said that, I very much enjoy my role and still have a great deal to learn about aspects of the industry that I am less experienced with. I believe that success is based on hard work, with a certain amount of “being the right person, in the right place, at the right time.” So I don’t have a set career goal, other than ensuring that the CCIB continues to meet its targets and goals, and above all we meet our clients’ expectations and deliver excellent events.

MY ADVICE FOR YOUNG MEETING PROFESSIONALS For anyone that wants to be in the events industry today, they have many options for a career path. There are some very complete university degrees, master’s degrees, and courses. However, I would advise them to be realistic and understand that any course they go through will give them an invaluable advantage in the industry, but when they move into the workplace, their education continues. Their degree is a starting point, but the real world is very different from the classroom, and they will have to adapt to this competitive and diverse environment. Beyond that, my advice is simple: Be yourself, and be true to your values.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.