Untitled Group co-founder reflects on last 12 months after sweeping The Smart50 Awards 2023

Via Smart Company

Untitled Group took the number one spot as the fastest-growing Australian SME at The Smart50 Awards 2023 last night, as well as winning The Marketing Award. Two amazing achievements for a brand whose entire business model was threatened when the lockdowns hit in 2020.

Co-founder Nicholas Greco spoke with SmartCompany this morning from Sydney about the big wins, the journey from winning The Resilience Award in 2022 to the top spot this year, and how the right team, hard work, and building a community with other SMEs, have paid off.

How does it feel to be the fastest-growing Australian SME at The Smart50 Awards?

Nicholas Greco, co-founder, Untitled Group: We feel quite honoured to take the number one spot. For an independent business like us, it’s never easy, and to get that recognition means the world to us.

It opens up a lot of doors and opportunities.

You won The Resilience Award last year. To go from a company that’s celebrated for weathering three very challenging years, to winning both The Marketing Award and the #1 spot is quite a story. Tell us about that journey and the last 12 months.

I guess it kind of all started during COVID-19. We’d just come off a massive year. We had a huge summer, all our festivals had sold out and were really at the top of their game. So, a few months later to get told we can’t do events at all? We really had to bunker down and think about ‘what is our business? What do we do?’

And it was the first time, really, for us, in so many years of working together that we were able to not focus on events, and focus on where we wanted this business to go, what we were doing, how we were going to grow this. We were able to look under the hood and work out the next steps, work out where we needed to grow our team, how we could grow the festivals.

That kind of led into the past 12 months, after winning that Resilience Award, which allowed us to expand on everything, and grow. Our team’s grown from 25 people to a team of 70 now, and we’ve been able to bring in some really amazing leaders into the business. It allowed the four of us as founders to step back and focus on growing the business while we have this amazing team that’s able to deliver everything and deliver our vision.

You’ve grown quickly and successfully. You’ve clearly set up a good culture and are hiring the right people. Tell us about your approach here.

We’ve been able to attract specialists in their field. But not only that, it’s a team that is really passionate about what they do. Whether everyone’s working on the events or not, the team is always down there, front left, listening to all the bands, watching everything, enjoying everything. They really love the events we put on, but also everything else that the business stands for. So it’s key to have a team that is really engaged, because putting on an event of these sizes is not easy.

Beyond the Valley is four days, 35,000 people. It’s basically setting up a little city and we pretty much live there as a team for seven days straight. Camping. And it’s interesting. We’ve got to interact a certain way, so it really does become a family. If you don’t love that, if you don’t love the events, it can be quite difficult. So you’ve got to have a real passion for it.

Another big theme last night was celebrating hard work as a community. What are your thoughts on that?

We’ve definitely had to work a lot harder to continue our growth and continue where the business is going. The buying patterns have changed substantially. People are buying tickets later, they’re going to fewer events, but when they are going to events they are spending more money. So it’s about how we can get them there.

We find we’ve really got to engage the community and understand the audience better and find different ways to reach them. But in that, we collaborate with likeminded businesses as well. just recently, another business that we work really close with, UNIFIED, through the always live program, we’ve been able to put on a really massive concert at Flemington Racecourse for Zach Bryan which is in two weeks. That came through collaboration between two independent Victorian businesses.

When things are a bit harder, we’re able to pick up the phone and chat with other likeminded companies and founders and strategise and learn things from each other, and it just helps us stay ahead of the pack.

What words of inspiration do you have out there for other Australian SMEs?

The big one is don’t give up. It is very difficult and we’ve had so many ups and downs, but surround yourselves with good people, with likeminded people, with people that you can go to when things are a bit harder, it makes all the difference. It’s all worth it at the end, for us standing there at Beyond the Valley, on New Year’s Eve, seeing all the hard work that we put into it when the countdown happens, it’s such a great moment.

So, even though it is tougher, economic conditions are tougher, there are still those great moments to be had and it’s definitely all worth it in the end.