Secrets of Success: Christopher Bo Shields, Co-founder, Totem
Totem is a hybrid events platform that allows users to host events of any size – from a roundtable of ten to a multi-track event for 10,000 people.
Chris Bo Shields has reimagined the event space in the wake of Covid-19 which has seen Totem launch its own hybrid events platform in 2020. He speaks about his journey to Business Matters …
What problem does your company solve?
Totem helps clients to create their own white-labelled bespoke branded events landscape so that they are not sharing the same experience with their competitors. Totem connects in-person and virtual guests together through a shared experience, using video and chat. Forrester recently published a report that predicted that as we move back to something approaching real life, the hybrid model will take over, blending both physical and virtual elements.
What type of businesses do you work with?
We can work with any organisation that hold events – everything from commercial events to internal comms and training.
What is your USP?
We’re not just a tech company that builds platforms for the sake of it. We’re passionate about the events industry. The best gift for us is seeing events people use the platform in a way that helps them to transform their businesses. Much of this journey into hybrid events is uncharted territory, and the future of events continues to be difficult to predict. That’s why Totem allows the ultimate flexibility for guests to be in-person or virtual, or to move seamlessly between the two.
What are your company values? Have you ever had them challenged and if so how have you dealt with it?
Our company values focus on the importance of creativity, exclusiveness and environmental impact, and we have made sure that these resonate through our products. For instance, we include the option for carbon offsetting in our hybrid app for physical events. We encourage our exhibitors to not bring printed materials, in order to gain carbon offset points within the app.
How do you ensure that you recruit a team that reflects your company values?
We do find that recruitment processes help us to hone our company values. we’re asked about our policies on everything from female leadership to the environment, which keeps us on our toes. We enjoy this, as it’s the difference between greenwashing and truly measuring the impact of a process.
Are you happy to offer a hybrid working model of home/office post-covid?
We were never in doubt that great work can be achieved either in-person or remotely. However, it is harder to maintain training, on-boarding and mentoring, not to mention company culture. We find the best approach is to work with our team to find the perfect balance for individuals and the company as a whole.
Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
Transparency and honesty lie at the heart of any good relationship, and that’s the same regardless of whether it’s with a supplier or a customer. Letting suppliers know the challenges we are facing is key to them delivering on their promises – and this is also the case with our clients.
Any finance or cash-flow tips for new businesses starting out?
Act like Virgin and spend like Easyjet.
If you could ask one thing of the government to change for businesses what would it be?
They need to provide us with a clearer idea of how we can work in Europe. Our business used to rely on sending skilled people abroad to manage events. This is so much more difficult now, as there is no government information available on how this can be done in the current landscape.
What is your attitude towards your competitors?
We’re compassionate towards the events world as a whole, which has suffered massively. We’ve been inspired by people in the industry coming together to solve problems, rather than competing with each other.
Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?
As our company continues to grow with services that enable true hybrid, our dream is to retain our company culture, and to remember why we were successful in the first place.