Shaper: Alastair Stewart

Show aired on 26th September 2015


Alastair Stewart is the Managing Director of etc.venues. His ambition of running his own business can be traced back to his entrepreneurial grandmother who, amongst her many accomplishments, set up a hotel in South Africa which drew the young Alastair into the hospitality world.

2006 was a pivotal year for Alastair when he left Rentokil Initial, where he had been MD of the conference venue business, Initial Style Conferences. With private equity backing from Dunedin Capital Partners, he acquired the specialist city centre venue company, etc.venues, which has become the fastest growing UK conference venue business. In 2012 he secured fresh capital from Growth Capital Partners in a secondary management Buyout.

Alastair recently spoke at a “Startup Grind” event – if you’d like to watch a video of the event click here. Alastair was also an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of Year finalist in 2009 and again in 2013.

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Having worked for the same business for over twenty years, it was sold – the new owners decided I was not going to form part of the future, so I found myself suddenly out of work.

I remember my wife saying to me, after about six weeks off, ‘this isn’t working – you need to go out and sort yourself out’.

I had to suddenly meet a new team and persuade the bank and the private equity investor to back us in a buy-in. Buy-ins are much more difficult to pull off than buyouts.

If you want to do something quickly, you need to keep it simple.

The Finance Director said, ‘you are a man, you are too old and I am not sure I trust you’.

I absolutely love the conference centre industry but to most people it can appear a bit dull.

We spend a lot of time trying to get the small details right so that we can deliver an enjoyable conference venue experience as hosts.

Those considering private equity backing have got to be able to grow their business by at least fifteen percent a year and be able to share their business with others.

My story is that I wanted to get it right from day one.  We think carefully about every decision and we don’t make mistakes – starting at forty six there was no second chance.

I know people wear the badge of failure with great honour, but it is not a badge I wanted to wear.