How I Got Here - Sarah-Jane Flanagan

Sarah-Jane Flanagan, client services director at event staffing agency Kru Live, was set on singing in London's West End before starting a career in the event industry. She shares how learning a good work ethic early on and grasping every opportunity has helped her to succeed.

Sarah-Jane Flanagan of Kru Live shares her career story
Sarah-Jane Flanagan of Kru Live shares her career story

What do you do and how long have you been in your current role?

In March 2013 I became client services director for Kru Live. The role was born out of Kru Live’s passion to continually provide the best possible client service and delivery. It is a fundamental part of the company's ethos best demonstrated by the ‘Kru promise’ – standards and efficiencies put in place to ensure that both new and existing clients know what to expect and when. In addition to this I am responsible for generating new business and implementing our marketing strategy.

Where was your first job? What was the most important thing you learnt there?

My first job was working with my parents in our traditional Irish pub called The Sun in Clapham Old Town. We were taught to graft from a very young age. As one of four children we all mucked in as a family unit to collect glasses, serve food and wash up after a busy Sunday lunch in Mrs Flanagan's Kitchen. It taught me how to converse with all walks of life and laid the foundations of a strong work ethic - work hard, have a strong team around you, connect with people and take full advantage of every opportunity.

How did you get from there to where you are now?

I left the Licensed Victuallers’ School where I boarded from the age of 7 to 18 and headed straight to drama school. I toured in productions which took me as far as Melbourne. In between shows I turned to promotional work to support my then career. As a brand ambassador five years ago, Kru Live stood out as an agency that was ahead of the game and always had its staff’s best interest at heart. Simple things like a personable approach, organised systems and always paying on time meant that I only ever wanted to work for Kru Live.

Kru Live had won a big contract for the World Cup and needed to grow the booking team – I interviewed for the role and never looked back. I had learnt to utilise the skills learnt as an actress in the events industry, seized every opportunity that presented itself and went on to develop my role as staffing manager before handling large-scale accounts for a number of our agency clients. Working in what was a very small agency meant I had regular and close contact with the directors and so learnt very quickly. I love the excitement of developing new relationships and winning new business so when we restructured earlier this year and the opportunity for my latest role presented itself I jumped on it.

Looking back, did you expect your career path to take the course it has?

No, not at all. I thought I would be singing in the West End. I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with events, it certainly wasn’t the plan. All I know is that I was in the middle of it before I knew it had begun.

Would you do anything differently?

I wouldn’t give myself such a hard time when I had to start turning down performing roles.

Who has inspired you along the way?

Holly Tucker, chief executive and co-founder of the award-winning online market place Notonthehighstreet.com. I used to babysit Holly’s little boy when she had not long founded the business. We later discovered we both went to the same school. I recall always leaving Holly’s with a spring in my step. She would regularly give me a late night pep talk about my career and what it was that I wanted to achieve. She is an incredibly inspirational woman and epitomises having it all. Holly and Sophie started the business from their kitchen table with children under their feet – in June 2013 they were awarded an MBE. Testament to how far they have come.

Is there a piece of career advice you’ve ever been told that has stuck with you?

Something which I read that has stuck with me was a quote from Nadja Swarovski who said: "Knowledge is power. So make sure you get a good education and grass-roots experience in order to become an expert in your field. Passion and belief in what you’re doing are vital. Having a strong work ethic and integrity will carry you far in business. At the end of the day never fail to listen to your gut instinct." 

What career advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

Always be yourself and stay positive. Every day is an opportunity to learn and enjoy new experiences.

How do you wind down and relax after a hectic day?

I am a keen rower at Kingston Rowing Club and can train up to six times a week – admittedly this is hard to maintain working the hours we do in the event industry. But it’s an important part of unwinding after work. Besides from the obvious health and fitness benefits, you can’t take your phone with you on the boat.

Want to share your career story with us as part of the Women in Events campaign? Email associate editor Rachel Bull to feature in a future How I Got Here.

Comment below to let us know what you think. Plus, read exclusive campaign features in the print issue of Event. You can get it by subscribing here.


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