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Independent view

Despite the troubles and uncertainties prevailing in the world today, there are still many causes for celebration. In the case of Fiona Price & Partners, the occasion was our 15th anniversary.

When Fiona set up the company back in March 1988 she was met by ridicule and scorn by many of her peers (all men). “An IFA firm specialising in advising women, she must be crazy.”

They could not see a market, despite the fact that women were making up an increasing percentage of the workforce.

A few had even managed to break through the reinforced glass ceiling – which, although somewhat weakened, unfortunately still exists – to positions of real power.

One lady in particular went all the way, which I admire despite her somewhat narrow world view. I have to wonder though if the current very poor female representation in her party is, in part, due to her iron reign leaving such a bitter aftertaste that the boys have closed ranks.

Thankfully, women&#39s presence is being felt far more strongly elsewhere. In 2002, 29.2 per cent of all managers were women, still not good enough but getting there. And, unlike big hair and shoulder pads, financially independent women are not a passing fad. Neither is an IFA firm specialising in advising them.

Fiona&#39s detractors have been proved wrong, so much so that a number of them are now more than keen to tap into the female market. However, this may prove more difficult than they think as women are woefully under-represented in our industry and will remain so for some time. Despite what some may say, when it comes to advising women, being one is a distinct advantage.

Fifteen years in business is no mean feat, particularly in the current climate. We felt it would be a pity not to mark the occasion in some way and so we decided to hold a party. We wanted something memorable and achieved it, thanks in large part to very generous sponsorship by Saatchi & Saatchi, which hosted the evening.

The party went ahead on the April 1. Not only was it an excellent way to start off our new financial year – I am sure I speak for all of you when I say that I am glad to see the back of the last one – but it also gave us the opportunity to take our minds off what is going on in the world at large. The power of grape, grain and good conversation should never be underestimated.

Apart from the social occasion, it was a marketing initiative to create new business opportunities and to strengthen existing relationships.

Like any event, the party&#39s success was not guaranteed. It took an enormous amount of planning to turn it into something special. But more than anything, what turned it into the success it was, was having a very clear idea at the outset of how we wanted the evening to be – from the type of people we wanted to attend to the choice of guest speaker.

The choice of speaker can make a huge difference to any event. Get it right and you will be guaranteed a good turnout and a captivated audience on the evening. Get it wrong and you will struggle to get numbers and those that do turn up on the night will probably wish they had not (apart, of course, from those who only come for the free booze).

However, we did not rely solely on the strength of our guest speaker – who was excellent – to attract the numbers we wanted. We also had a plan to ensure we got them. This involved very specific targeting, follow-up, acknowledgement and a final reminder just prior to the event.

The formula worked, with about 200 people turning up on the night, more than half of whom were potential new clients and/or business introducers. We are now in the process of following them up and the outcome so far has been extremely good.

The party idea in itself was not something new – we have held many over the years. However, what was different from many previous events was the focus on what we wanted from it as a business and the best way to achieve it. As a result we delivered a great party, which everyone enjoyed and got our message across in a way that bought people in to do business with us rather than turning them off.

Donna Bradshaw is communications director at Fiona Price & Partners


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