Broadsword at the beginning

collage of three men working at various places with cameras and headsets
Starting a new business comes with various risks and challenges, particularly in the events industry, which is why we are excited to celebrate our 16th Birthday this year. It has been an incredible journey featuring some remarkable staff, clients, a pandemic and some great events. 

To get some more insight on the beginning, our founders Bruce Teggart and Justin Shaw describe how they started the events agency, Broadsword.

Bruce: It all began in 2005 when I was asked by the Labour Party to work for them on the General Election. I had been at Aztec since 1997 and had progressed up the chain – technician, warehouse manager, operations manager, production manager. I left Aztec with the blessing of the MD to do this. In 2006, Justin joined and Broadsword became a limited company. 

Justin: At the start, the most significant challenge was cash flow, lines of credit for newly established businesses are not easy. 

Bruce: I was determined to make it work but we worked out pretty quickly that we needed to be a company rather than individuals to give our clients the service they were looking for. 

In 2010, Bruce and Justin partnered with a company called TMAV, owned and run by Martin Walton and together they all moved forward as Broadsword. Martin recalls his challenges in the early days.

Martin: I had a business partner and mentor, but essentially there was only me there to do everything. I quickly realised that I needed other people around me and so I rented out space to DCLX and Broadsword, so it always felt like one big company anyway. Doing everything yourself took its toll. After a rush to hospital to find out my blood pressure was sky high, I was open about formally partnering with someone else. It made me realise that the company would end when I did, unless it grew and I had other people to share it with. 

From planning and delivering events to taking more senior positions within the company, Justin, Bruce and Martin reminisce on their most memorable events. 

Bruce: I think it will always be the first Aircraft Carrier naming ceremony, I was parachuted in to deliver this event because no one else could or wanted to do it. This is closely followed by a live TV broadcast from Ethiopia for the 2005 General Election – I chartered a plane that almost crashed twice and electrocuted my celebrity presenter — it’s a proper story. If I ever published my memoirs this would be three chapters. 

Martin: Economist Pride is a favourite for lots of reasons, but the one that taught me what can be possible, with a great idea and a team of great people to help you, was the Nivea Expert Lift. We created a levitation effect inside a conference room in a day. We made the whole audience feel like they were floating. 

Justin: This is a tricky one as there are so many memorable events.. maybe one of the smaller ones such as Tony Blair stepping down, which went out live around the globe from a working man’s club in Sedgefield. The space was not designed to host such an event and it had to be pulled together in secrecy. 

The naming ceremony for the HMS Queen Elizabeth is definitely a highlight. Working in tightly controlled environments and military bases across the country, we delivered the ceremony and viewing areas for those involved in building the carrier. Cable runs where tarmacked over when they decided the road wasn’t quite ok for the main guest’s arrival, internet feeds knocked out just as the bottle headed for the bow (that’s why you always have a backup!) It made for an interesting few days! 

The events industry has had to adapt throughout and since the pandemic, but it still remains one of a kind. The fast paced, intense seasons of back-to-back events with short deadlines are what defines the industry. However as the metaverse has developed and the ability to start incorporating it into events, the future for the industry and Broadsword remains exciting. 

Bruce: The future? Honestly I don’t know. We had a great thing pre pandemic that some brilliant people had created. We lost good people but we survived. I miss the team we had but love the team we have. It is a new direction and a different world and I am so happy to be a part of Broadsword 2.0.

Martin: My goal is to foster an environment where ideas come from anywhere and anyone, not just the creative dept. Whenever a client asks us to help them, the whole company starts generating ideas. We are all creatives in our own way, and there is no such thing as a bad idea.

Justin: I’m focused on a global business with a fantastic team delivering a diverse range of projects for our clients. 

Challenges are the beauty of growing businesses, as without making mistakes, we can’t learn from them. Every challenge was taken in its stride and turned into a learning opportunity helping the staff and business to flourish. Not everyone is a naturally born entrepreneur, however there are characteristics we can possess that will help when starting a business. Here the founders share their advice for those thinking about starting a business.

Justin: The change from working as part of a team to leading the team is challenging and can be isolating, don’t take it lightly. Also never underestimate the value of clients who support you and the journey you are taking. 

Bruce: Be brave and go for it. It’s terrifying at the start. Know where you lack skills and find people who excel in these areas and bring them on board. Look at the directors. We are all passionate about Broadsword but we bring different skills to the party. That’s why it works. Yes we disagree sometimes but we are always working for the common good. Best piece of advice: Never leave angry, if you disagree with a fellow director in a meeting, go for a beer and remember that you are actually friends first. 

Martin: Be prepared to work harder than you ever have before, stick to your ideals and find like-minded people to help you.