My Event World - Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas, managing director of Spy Games, on his SAS days and switching places with Daniel Craig.

My Event World - Dave Thomas
My Event World - Dave Thomas

I got into the events industry because I wanted to offer something completely different. All I had was an idea – that I could use the experience I’d gained in the SAS and in private surveillance to create really engaging and exciting espionage-themed events for the corporate world. It was a jump into the deep end but I like a challenge.

I have been in this role since 2001 when I set up Spy Games.

I was attracted to this particular role because one day I will be attending a client meeting in my suit and the next I’ll be out in a forest, being ambushed by a gang of rogue agents in a stolen prison van. No two days are the same and that’s why I love this industry.

Not many people know that I signed up for the Reserve SAS selection course at 17 and became the youngest person ever to gain the 2/1 qualification. I was a determined young man.

My worst experience at an event was working as one of three suppliers on a teambuilding day run by another agency. Along with Spy Games, there was dragon boat racing and It’s A Knockout. We knew from the start that it wouldn’t work because it hadn’t been properly co-ordinated, so lots of people were left standing between activities. It was embarrassing.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that anything can be achieved as long as you prepare and plan for it. It’s probably my military background but I consider logistics to be a top priority. It’s got to run smoothly and if it doesn’t you need back-up plans for all eventualities. What do we do if the bus doesn’t turn up on time? What if it snows?

The best event I’ve been involved in was an Xbox 360 promotion for Microsoft. We took a group of competition winners to Los Angeles, flew them into the desert by helicopter and gave them a black ops mission. With a great setting and a great budget, we put on a truly unforgettable event.

If I could do it all over again I would not change a thing. 

The one thing I can’t stand is people who think they know it all. You’ve got to be prepared to learn.

Outside of work I spend my time with my wife and three children at our home in the countryside. My family is the most important thing in my life. At weekends, I help coach my son’s rugby team.

If money were no object I would create the most amazing spy school in the world, where underprivileged children could come for free and do the most amazing secret agent training, have fun with gadgets and drive spy cars. It would have to be in the UK – the home of James Bond.

The one event I will never miss is Christmas. In the early days, when I was starting up my private surveillance business, I often had to work at Christmas, but not anymore. I try to take the full week off.

The recession has meant that Spy Games has diversified. Having previously focused on corporate teambuilding, we’ve expanded into doing PR events for TV and film launches, coming up with new ideas for product launches and providing unique children’s activities.

The next 12 months will be exciting, but fairly tough at the same time. It will be challenging, but if you can rise to the challenge, it’s rewarding. We are doing more than ever before. Soon we’ll be launching our new venture at Disneyland Paris.

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be Daniel Craig. Ok, he’s not quite in the same industry, but I’d love to be the next James Bond. What a life. Sadly, I’m not sure my wife would approve.

If I ruled the event industry I would introduce a rule that required clients to disclose their approximate budget before requesting a proposal. I’m always amazed by those people who say ‘we haven’t really set a budget’. Right, I say, let’s do an amazing spy hunt. We’ll abseil down a London landmark, jump into a speedboat on the Thames and have a helicopter pursuing us as we search for a stolen diamond. ‘Oh, we can’t afford that,’ they say. So, you do have a budget then. We can put on a very effective low-cost event, or pull out the stops for something spectacular, but we need a ballpark figure in order to create the right solution.

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