Over the last couple of years, we have sat down with various team members from across Gallowglass to find out a little more about them. Everything from their first day to their funniest stories and life outside work has been featured. However, in this time, one person has managed to avoid the spotlight, our noble leader and founder Paul Grecian. Here, we have the chance to get to know Paul a little better and dig into the history of Gallowglass, finding out the decisions and factors that have made the company the success it is today. So, without further hesitation, Mr Paul Grecian:
Let’s begin at the beginning. Before starting Gallowglass, what were you doing, and where were you working?
In the years before Gallowglass, I was playing a bit of rugby and living like a bachelor.
Where did the idea come from to begin a crewing company yourself?
I was languishing in a jail cell in Africa facing a fifty-year sentence. I lay thinking that if I ever get out of this, I will be potless and unemployable and the only thing I will be able to do is to provide a service using people because I will be able to get credit from them. If I can win some business I then just have to make sure I get paid before I have to pay them. My girlfriend gave me some money to get started, and with the final £80 left in my pocket, Gallowglass was founded.
Could you briefly explain the origin of the name?
Initially, all of the guys came out of London Scottish Rugby Club, and as we were aware that getting paid would be one of our biggest challenges in the event/entertainment world, we would have to adopt a fairly mercenary approach to the business. My original partner, Giles Turnbull, more of a historian than I, suggested Gallowglass, the modern rendition of the old Gaelic’ gall oglach’, which translated as ‘foreign soldier’ and these were the original Scottish mercenaries.
In the early days of Gallowglass, what were the biggest challenges you faced?
Getting paid and fretting that people would be unable to get out of bed for an 03:00 start on site.
Was there a particular job or client that made you realise that you’d ‘made it’?
The ASEM Summit in spring 1998, being held at the QE11 Centre in Westminster. We were originally scheduled to start at 8pm on the Friday evening, with 20 people, but by midnight it was all going spectacularly wrong with pallets going through the floor of the building and through the grates in the street outside. Roughly 120 tons of MDF had to be handballed into the building as well as several thousand metres of timber which didn’t fit into the lifts or stairwells. By midnight we were already hours behind schedule, and I was asked to get as many people as I could to start the next morning. It was Friday night, and most of my core people were either asleep in preparation for a match the next day or partying hard and therefore little use to us. I started phoning around at 04:30, and when I walked outside into the early morning sunshine four hours later, there were 90 guys waiting for instructions including a qualified tree surgeon with his chainsaws ready to cut down the timber. It was great, and we never looked back from that enormous job!
What role does the Barcelona office play in the current structure of Gallowglass?
The relationship works very well as they are busy when we are quieter, particularly in Jan/Feb/March, and when they are quieter, they send great crew over to the UK or other overseas countries when we are at our busiest. There are some truly outstanding people on the team over there.
Do you regret not visiting any venues that the team has worked on in the past?
Loads of them! It has often been said by the crew that one of the best things about working for Gallowglass is the venues that we get to work in all over the world, but particularly here in the UK. From 10 Downing Street to the House of Lords to Buckingham Palace. Even the middle of the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, in front of 80,000 people and a global television audience of over a billion viewers. I am constantly thrilled at the things our crew do and see during their work, and I know they are also.
Having seen employees come and go over the years, what unifying attributes fit well within the organisation?
A natural appetite to be part of a team. We have been successful since day one because we were all rugby players initially and brought a genuine team ethic to everything that we did. That means that you have an automatic inclination to support the rest of your colleagues without prompting. We cannot finish until everything is done and once you buy into that culture and realise that it is much better to get stuck into the tasks and help your mates, respect is mutual, and before you know, it is high fives all round and onto the next one.
In a perfect world, what would the future hold for Gallowglass?
We continue to prove that we are the best labour provider in the global event and entertainment sector. We have been told for years by industry observers and commentators that we are peerless. If we can maintain focus and an appetite to excel, that should continue. In the last two decades, we have employed over 10,000 people, and I would love to see us fine-tune the career development of those with us now and in the future. We need to take some responsibility for the options that young people have today and tomorrow both in their time at Gallowglass and where they might move onto. There are exciting plans in place now!
For aspiring managers and leaders, what skills and traits do you need to be able to build a strong and cohesive team?
Instil trust and loyalty in those around you although you can only achieve that if you act with integrity which in today’s’ society appears to be in short supply. Also, remember that these attributes need to be reflected in both parties. It is a two-way street.
Outside of the office, how do you like to spend your time?
There is an enormous difference between how I would like to spend my time and reality. The latter means that I spend my time running around after my children and their sporting pursuits with scant gratitude!
What advice would you give to someone looking to join the Gallowglass team?
Bring a load of enthusiasm with you. Allowances can be made for other shortcomings. We do all make mistakes in life, but if you cannot muster any enthusiasm at the interview stage, then you really shouldn’t be there. If you do get through the interview, be prepared to own your mistakes rather than shift blame and responsibility. I want to know that people recognise when they have screwed up so that they are unlikely to make the same mistake again. If you spend your time trying to avoid responsibility, you don’t learn and are likely to repeat the error!
Hopefully, you’ve learned something from this exciting interview with Paul. Whether you’re looking to make the first move of your career, or looking for a complete change of scenery, then joining Gallowglass’ event crew could be the next step for you! Get in touch with us by filling in an application form!