The 'McLean Events' Story, by Nick Needs

One idea, 25 events, 5000 delegates, 21 countries, 12 industries, 6 new event companies ...... all in 20 years!

Roy McLean and my brother Oliver supplied the early foundations for McLean Events, the three of us having got together in 1995 to produce a directory for the petroleum industry, subsequently sold to Adams Publishing in the States. The three of us were a great team but also Roy had a great name and when he parted company with us in 1996, both Oliver and I felt it sounded so much better than ours 'Needs' This answers the first question most people ask about McLean Events. Why was it called that and who is McLean? Roy went on to be tremendously successful in the City.

In 1996, I parted company with Oliver who retained McLean Publishing and I worked on an idea I had actually developed 5 years earlier, but had never had the opportunity to put it into action. Having touted the idea around an exhibition hall in Frankfurt I decided to go for it and with the date set for April 1997 at the chosen venue being Cyprus I launched McLean Events, with only myself, an Apple Mac computer a phone, a fax machine and a very supportive partner Karen to work with, who doubled up as a wife in the evenings.

Enter Com-a-tec GmbH and Bruno Boroeowitsch, who previously had helped develop the petroleum directory, suddenly believing in the idea after he had mentioned it to some of his clients and they said they wanted to support it. We now had a name ERPEC, which actually didn't mean a thing when it was dreamed up but it just sounded like one of those really important exhibitions, usually taking place in Germany, which everyone wanted to be at. Another answer to a question, so frequently asked. What does ERPEC mean?

With Com-a-tec signed up to represent us in Southern Europe I was introduced to Bodo Schwarz who was assigned to ERPEC by Bruno and is someone who remains the longest serving member of the McLean Events team and is by far one of the biggest contributors, along with Deb Bradley, Operations Manager, into the success of the first event and subsequent events. With ERPEC we made it up as we went along and Bodo and Deb worked tirelessly in support of the common goal. Success! Another excellent team which was expanded later on to include Antonia and Amanda, hired to make it happen on site, a duty which they were to perform marvellously.

When the 198 delegates arrived for their first mornings meetings my one dying memory will be that having sweated over the previous six months to convince people from 26 different countries that the concept of this event was a good one, when people sat down at 08.30 that Thursday morning, after 2 minutes into the first session, it was like they had been doing it for years and with that, a new idea had not just been conceived, it had now been born.

One person at the first event was my friend Nick Helyer, who utilised the same format to stage a one time only Spa event in South Carolina and my brother Oliver was also there who ran with the same concept idea in Asia, establishing ASPEC & PetrolWorld. On the last day of ERPEC'97 we launched ERPEC America, which was scheduled for Miami in spring 1998. Being at the first event and thinking about the future possibilities, was more reward than I could ever have hoped for.

My partner Karen tragically died, a little more than a month after we returned home from our triumph in Cyprus, suffering a brain tumour diagnosed on May 1st 1997. She died on June 2nd. I could never have achieved what I achieved in the way I achieved it without the support she gave me. May she rest in peace. During her short illness I had met up with Noor Kassam, then working for his uncle, who had been working at Blenheim Exhibitions Group PLC with me a few years earlier. Noor and I were to go on and launch a dozen events together over the next few years and he once said of Karen that she was truly a wonderful woman. So much so that he asked if SIBEC, our first event venture together in the Health & Fitness sector, could be dedicated to her memory. She would have been honoured.

After Karen's death I worked mostly from home. In my absence Deb, Noor, Antonia and Justin Wall, who had been brought in to assist Deb on operations, kept the boat afloat and within months of the first successful SIBEC in Autumn 1997, ERPEC America took place at The Hyatt Grand Cypress in Orland Florida and we felt similar to the way the Beatles must have felt when they had crossed the water 30 years earlier.

FLEETEC was just around the corner an event for the car fleet sector, a market in which Noor Kassam had previously worked, but whilst SIBEC went on to greater things, FLEETEC, after appearances in Malta, Marbella and Cyprus and ERPEC Americas, after taking place for the second time in New Orleans, were both shelved, as we believed that potentially, there were bigger fish to fry.

Two new companies were established in 1999, McLean Events UK and McLean Events Europe, primarily to give Noor Kassam a 50% stake in the business for the events he was working on. HOTEC was the first event to be developed through McLean Events UK, which initially came from a suggestion by Noor that we should do an event in catering. Richmond events, another organising company promoting a meetings based programme, although very different to ours, were doing a catering event on the cruise ships and the suggestion was that we should replicate their success with our own event. I felt more strongly that an event about everything except food should perhaps be our aim and at an impromptu meeting heading up the M1, Noor and I married our thoughts together and created what turned out to be another winner for the McLean Events stable, but it was not easy. At the first event in Greece, fewer than 60 delegates took part.

In the coming months and years HOTEC and SIBEC was replicated in Asia by Pelican Events a company set up by my brother Jonathan and his partner James Burke in association with McLean Events and my other brother Oliver, who having also worked at Blenheim previously, was now back from organising retail petroleum events with David Egan. At a later date Pelican also replicated HOTEC in the Middle East. More recently Oliver has established Bond Events with another former Blenheim man Mike Murray and together they organise Arc-US an event utilising the meetings based concept, in Architecture. The final two people in the Blenheim connection are Fiona Horan and Emma Faure, who a year ago set up Downstream Events, specialising in meetings based forums and currently they are working on ERPEC'07, as well as their own retail petroleum events in Dubai and Portugal.

In the meantime Noor and I had launched CONFEC together with Principle Promotions, a travel company with connections into the meetings and conference industry. We also jointly launched SIBEC in America during 2003, from which SPATEC, an event for the Spa industry, indirectly came a few years later through yet another new McLean Events company, this time owned completely by Noor Kassam, McLean Events International. HOTEC North America was also subsequently developed through McLean Events International. New events in Ship building and Offshore drilling were added to Noors rapidly increasing list of events, through a partnership he established with magazine publisher MPI. New events for McLean Events Europe, my operating company included TRAC for the people development sector, WHiSPA in Dubai for the Spa marketplace and INTEC just announced a new training event set for the Hyde Park Hilton in November 2007.

Having sold on my shares to Noor, in all the events we organised together during the last two years, Noor realised his dream in 2007 of selling McLean Events International to a major publisher, which in this instance was to a company in America called Questex. The next chapter has not been written yet, but with the potential of this major publishing company in tow, who knows where the McLean Events concept for meetings based forums will end up. Meetings on the moon? Maybe........