In the early 1980s, Tony Laurenson had a background in catering and a talent for playing drums. A conversation with friends led to the topic of catering for musicians when they went on tour—revealing that practically no one did it. "Most bands spent a small fortune eating out every night," Laurenson says.
That conversation prompted him to join one of the few tour catering companies. "I saw an opportunity, loved it, and started Eat to the Beat with Joe Jackson as our first tour in 1984," he says.
Eat to the Beat has blossomed into Global Infusion Group. From its headquarters in the U.K., GIG employs some 150 full-time employees at work in 48 countries. The company has offices in the U.S., China and Qatar, offering a wide range of services from catering for band tours, TV and film production, festivals, and special events to logistics services, consulting and entertainment.
Special Events: How did you launch your international operations?
Tony Laurenson: Opportunities came to us, through our music business touring the world with bands and international relationships with some of the world's largest production companies, working on product launches, award ceremonies, sporting events, ceremonies, and other corporate and private events.
SE: Do you spend a lot of time analyzing a new venture or just take the plunge because it feels right to you?
TL: A bit of both. Deciding to take a leap and chase an opportunity often comes down to instinct and recognizing that an opportunity can lead to a venture. I always try to think long term, not short term, and what can be gained for the greater good--you’ve got to be in it to win it! Some ventures are real no-brainers and can take days to do, such as our mobile event laundry business. Setting up in China, on the other hand, took three years from my initial visit.
SE: What are some of the benefits to working internationally?
TL: Being international affords a wider range of opportunities, not just within the existing business areas but also emerging markets, in particular China. And a strong emerging market does help to offset weakness in others. Ultimately, being able to service the needs of clients worldwide has been the target for many years.
SE: And some of the drawbacks?
TL: “The sun never sets on our business,” but time zones can be challenging, with so much going on and different cultures, there can never be a system to fit all. The key is having the right people work alongside you that you can trust, as it's hard to be everywhere at once! As someone once said, “The strength of our company is in the depth of our management."
SE:From being a sole proprietor to overseeing a multimillion dollar company, what have you learned about the business? What have you learned about yourself?
TL: As my grandfather once told me “If you enjoy what you do, you’ll be good at it!” No two days are ever the same, and the client is always right. We all learn lessons every day, and it’s remembering that we don’t know everything yet! I don’t do everything myself and have a team around me that I trust. We love what we do and that helps to keep the drive and passion going.
SE:Is there a “GIG way” of doing things?
TL: I would like to think that there is a GIG way of doing things--happy, smiling, professionals that strive to achieve the best and consistently deliver despite the challenges along the way is one of our mission statements.
Ultimately all the divisions work independently but they are all complementary and offer many event support services that an organizer might require--it affords our clients fantastic synergies in one place that they know they can rely upon.