Meet Business Expert, Zoe Wadsworth

Jun 29, 2024 | Coach Guest

“Show Notes”

Zoe runs Ask Zoe and calls herself a consultant with a difference. She focusses not
just on your business, but also on marketing. So she educates customers on what
‘to do, when and how to help you grow. Sam and Zoe met four or five years ago
pre-Covid when Zoe ran Fab Events. This business was setup in 2016. Zoe grew the
business with 4N, the networking group Sam and Zoe were involved with at the
time. The name Fab came because people kept saying “Zoe you are Fab”. Even in
this business she was doing marketing as well as events.

When Zoe started Fab events, she said she could do all events, which she realises
now probably wasn’t the best idea. While Zoe was running lots of events she spent
a lot of time working with event photographers. She says if you are at an event you will

usually need more than one photographer. There is usually too much going on
for one person to capture. You can be the main photographer in the room, but you
will need other photographers at other places, such as arrivals. That doesn’t mean
as a single photographer you can’t do events like these. It means you just will need
to collaborate with other photographers.

The reason Zoe called the business Ask Zoe is that she has built and kept
relationships over a long time and those people who she is connected to will
always Ask Zoe. Covid brought big changes to Zoe’s business and from a business
point of view she sees it as a blessing. It gave her a chance to stop and reffect on
what she had been doing and what she wanted to do going forwards. During
Covid, Zoe was busy analysing the news and working out what would happen next
and what she needed to do. As Covid was building in early 2020 events were
already being effected before the UK population. This was due to early restrictions
‘on imports. At this stage Zoe decided the best thing for her to do was focus on
online events management.

What happened during this time Zoe’s business was doing well while many in the
industry were fading. And so Zoe’s connections were asking what she was doing.
She had been using a 7 step consultancy strategy that she had been trained in at
Hilton and at University, and was using this in her business. But many people were
feeling overwhelmed during Covid, so she stripped it down to a 4 step process.
Zoe then found that her business was only 5% events and 95% marketing and
consultancy. She then talked to a lot of people including Collette Evans who does
her branding photography to Clare Froggett who does Zoe’s branding and she
developed Ask Zoe. So most of what she does is marketing and brand consultancy.
some common things that photographers could do to improve
1ess. Zoe says it really depends on the business and Zoe always starts
with a call to see what help people need. But business owners tend to feel

overwhelmed in terms of what they need to do to get to the next level they want to

Zoe has worked with a few photographers and tends to find that they are very
creative and tend to focus on this creativity, rather than what they need to grow
their business. Creative people tend to be a little introverted and their creativity
their output. Zoe talks about getting KPIs (key performance indicators) in place in
your business. These are just goals, nothing complicated. But things you need to
focus on to get the end result. This is related to the show on business planning.
Sam and Zoe discuss the types of KPIs photographers may have. For example it
might be to do three weddings a week in the peak season, but have a month off in
winter. But other photographers may simply to just do one wedding a weekend.
The key is it’s relevant for you and your business. Zoe says a business a plan should
be like a story, have a beginning a middle and an end. The middle is how you make
it happen and how you join the dots.

“Show Transcription”

Sam: Hello and welcome to Shoot to the Top and today Marcus is not with me. So it is me but luckily you don’t have to listen just to me. I have an amazing guest with me. So today I have Zoe Wadsworth with me from Ask Zoe. Hi Zoe.

Zoe: Hi Sam and you’re doing an amazing job.

Sam: Thank you so much.

Zoe:  Yeah, Marcus you’ve got competition. He’s now got to do the next one by himself.

Sam:  That’s it, I’ll think of one to drop out and I have missed a few so we’ll let it go, just this once. So do you want to introduce yourself Zoe for our listeners?

Zoe: Yeah sure, so thanks Sam for inviting me along today. I am Zoe Wadsworth of Ask Zoe and I class myself as a consultant with a difference because I focus on not just your business but your marketing efforts too. So educating you ultimately on what to do, when and how so you get a better return on investment into that business and bottom line to help you grow.

Sam: Excellent, sounds very positive and now Marcus will be groaning as it means we’ll talk about a lot about marketing and he won’t be able to intervene with other questions so he’ll be worried already but there we go. But it’s been quite an interesting story, your business. So I mean we knew each other, we sort of met each other, what a long time, four or five years ago networking?

Zoe:  Yeah, yeah.

Sam: Certainly before Covid wasn’t it?

Zoe:  Definitely before Covid.

Sam: That’s it, yeah, yeah. I remember we used to both run 4N events and kind of cover each other events and stuff.

Zoe: Yeah we did, yeah.

Sam: Didn’t we from time to time?

Zoe: We did, yeah.

Sam:  But back then you were a completely different business, was it Fab Event?

Zoe: It was, yeah. So, my background is in events and marketing, and in 2016, I decided to set up my own event management business with the support of the networking group that Sam and I were involved in. In that format, you get three one-to-ones, and Caroline very much said, “Yeah, I’m having all your one-to-ones. I’m going to help you set up in business because you talk about wanting to be your own kind of boss, and I just want to help you do it.” So that was Leeds Central in 2016, and that’s where Fab Events was born. However, I had procrastinated, as all good business owners do, with my own business and the idea of running my own business for the ten years prior to that. So even though I hadn’t stepped forward into self-employment, it was very much on my vision board, let’s say. And yeah, Fab Events was born. Originally, Fab Events came from everyone saying, “Zoe, you’re fab,” so we kept the “fab” part of the personal brand. It’s important, you know, in reference to this podcast. Definitely, and obviously, events were kind of the predominant business. So, I did events and marketing, but events are kind of where the interest and momentum built from. And yeah, Fab Events was born.

Sam: Excellent. And so, what kind of businesses were you doing events for?

Zoe:  It was very much a mix. My background in event management goes way back. From my placement with the university, I worked on special occasions and weddings, particularly for the Jewish community in New York. Then, when I came back, I was still at university, working in hotels and bars, looking after the teams and the events there. That’s where my mixed event experience comes from—special occasions, beer festivals, and Oktoberfest. I was lucky enough to get appointed to the Hilton group, where I learned a lot of corporate event management and exhibition skills. My qualifications are actually in exhibition management, so I put my degree to use when I was appointed within Hilton. When I started Fab Events, I was saying—probably wrongly—that I could do all events. You know, that wasn’t being specific enough. Ultimately, what I was attracting were award ceremonies and workshops, two very different elements of events with very different audiences. But yeah, predominantly, they stayed in that category, from awards and celebrations to corporate webinars and workshops delivered in person prior to the pandemic.

Sam: Okay, and then obviously, this is a photography podcast, so I’ve got to put my mark on now and do photography things too. So, you must have presumably worked with quite a lot of event photographers in that phase?

Zoe: Yeah, definitely. Through my award and corporate award ceremony events, we always had a photographer with us, whether doing shots of the stage for a catwalk or awards with a stage setup. This is fun projection for anyone listening who knows about photography and events. We had award ceremony booths with a photographer taking shots of the attendees on arrival and throughout, so we could sell pictures for charity, for the cause, or for the client. So yeah, they were very much part of our toolkit within events. Clients always said, “Yeah, let’s bring a photographer on because we want to capture the essence of the event.” Sometimes we also did videography, but always photography.

Sam: Okay, and then working with photographers, are there things you think photographers did particularly well or things some photographers didn’t do so well? You know, things that you could maybe say, “Yeah, as an event photographer, we found people who did this sort of thing worked really well,” and people who worked in a different way were a bit difficult. Do you have any hints and tips for people in events from an event organizer’s point of view?

Zoe: What I would say is, if you are doing an award ceremony or a corporate event with a significant number of people—anything from a hundred guests upwards—you definitely need more than one photographer. So, if there are any photographers listening to this and starting out wanting to do event photography, remember it’s very similar to what I used to do operationally: you can’t be in two places at once, and you could potentially lose the essence of the event without capturing everything that’s happening. Events are multi-dimensional, similar to marketing, which is a multi-dimensional sector. In an event setting, you’ve got the foyer area, the drinks reception, capturing people as they arrive, the buzz before dinner, photography of what’s happening on stage (usually used for PR and marketing purposes), and backdrop photography where people can take photos after they’ve won an award and buy them. You know, as one person, can’t be in three places at once, but if you’re smarter with it, you can have one in the foyer area, one as the main photographer in the room, and then once everyone sits down for dinner, there are two of you capturing the end of the night, which is important for everyone enjoying themselves. So yeah, my biggest top tip is to consider the number of people and the layout. If you’re a photographer, know that you can’t do everything, so you need to set those expectations with your client if you are a one-man band to begin with. That’s probably where partnerships come in, isn’t it, Sam?You know.

Sam: That’s exactly what I was going to say. There’s an awful lot of Facebook groups out there where you can find second shooters. There are Facebook groups full of photographers who say, “I need a second shooter for [event],” and local photographers work with each other. If you’re starting out or feel you’re a small business, don’t say, “I can’t do events because I don’t have other people.” There are always people happy and willing to collaborate.

Zoe: 100%. Think about where you learned your craft and who taught you. Most photographers apply for work experience and work with somebody who’s been doing it longer. Can they not help you? Do they not know somebody in their network? Sometimes when we start out in business, we think, “Oh, we don’t know anybody.” Well, actually, we do. The reason I’m called a so-and-so and hence the rebrand post-COVID is that I make an active effort to keep in touch with those I worked with. Relationships from employment to events in my own business to now—I’m still in contact with you, Sam.

Sam: even though we’re chatting here now and doing the podcast.

Zoe: It’s about thinking about the bigger picture and who we know, even if we feel we don’t know anybody.

Sam: Cool. So, you had Fab Events, and then the dreaded COVID struck, which was a big deal for a lot of photographers and businesses in different ways. What happened with your business?

Zoe: Yeah, it was a blessing. I now can say it was a blessing because it allowed me to stop, which never really happens, and I don’t know if it will happen again. It allowed me to stop and reflect. As I mentioned earlier, I was basically saying yes to everything when I should have been saying yes to the right things, in reference to the right event type or the right client. Even though I was fortunate to get along with all my clients, a few relationships didn’t last as long as I’d like. I look for clients to build long-lasting relationships. So, it allowed me to stop and reflect. My background is in market research. I did it at university and all the way through to employment. I was looking at trends overseas because this was clearly something impacting everyone. China’s closed its borders—it’s one of the most populated countries in the world. It wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t necessary. What a lot of people may not realize is that a lot of exporting and importing happens in events. All the way back from November and December of 2019, the bigger projects I was involved in and consulting on were getting paused because they couldn’t get equipment from an AV point of view or pharmaceuticals from America. America was following suit. My sector was impacted a lot sooner before the lockdown. I was looking at what China and Japan were doing, and you’d imagine with Japan tech, online platforms for events and virtual reality experiences were happening. I had the idea to transfer to online event management. I would help my clients move their full business and event model online. That’s what I spent December and November doing—research. In January and February, I was thinking about how I could commercially position that as a potential new business. We were called Fab Events and moved over to Fab Events and Marketing Strategies for the first six months. Because we were doing that, a lot of people asked how I managed to stay open when many of my peers were closing doors and making redundancies. And I was showing them the consultancy method that I’ve been trained in, from New York to Hilton to now. I developed a seven-step strategy, and a lot of people were asking me to share that with them so they could do the same. However, you may remember, Sam, not a lot of retention was happening during COVID. A lot of people were very overwhelmed and fatigued with everything going online. Retention wasn’t happening, so seven steps probably was a little bit too much. So, we stripped it back and offered a four-step process. Within 18 months of doing this and showing people how they could do the same, we realized we had shifted from being five percent online event management and consultancy with clients who still didn’t want to come online to 90 percent of the business showing people how they could innovate and turn their business for the better, utilizing my marketing experience and employment experience in a bit of a hybrid model.

When I realized that only five percent was actually events, events really became my USP. It became part of my toolkit, not the whole shebang as it was prior to the pandemic. That’s when I decided to consult people in my network, like Claire Evans from Picture Perfect Photography, who does my personal brand images, and Claire Froggatt, who does branding and could help me pivot into representing myself differently. That’s where Ask Zoe was born. Market research, hence did it on myself, came back and said the term that comes to mind when I think of you, Zoe, is “speak to Zoe” or “Ask Zoe,” especially with what you’ve done during the pandemic—supporting people, offering free advice as well as paid advice. Hence the rebrand and why Ask Zoe was born nearly four years ago.

Sam: Excellent. So now it’s all about marketing advice and helping businesses turn themselves around by having the right direction and marketing in place?

Zoe: Yeah, definitely. We still do some projects. We take on one project under events per year that normally lasts anything from six to 18 months. We still do it, but we don’t advertise it. It’s very much on referral and recommendation. We give them an allocated amount, and we’re currently looking after a youth zone provision project in the local community. It’s very different from what I normally do, but it’s a personal interest—I’m very passionate about schools and education. So, we’ve taken that on as the next project. We still have our toe in the water when it comes to projects and events, but 90 percent of the time, it’s definitely marketing and business consultancy, showing people how they can think differently and move their business forward to get a better return from their day-to-day activities.

Sam: That makes sense. A lot of photographers are fairly small businesses. If you’re working with businesses, either photographers or similar sizes, are there some common things you find that most businesses could do to improve?

Zoe: It all comes down to them, especially the smaller ones, because they’re independent, just like I am an independent microbusiness. It depends on what they’re struggling with. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, hence the reason for the free discovery call—to make sure the problem is marketing or business development. If it’s something else, like the call we had before this podcast where the client needed more copywriting assistance, we give recommendations and point them in the right direction. Not one size fits all, but what tends to happen is they feel very overwhelmed with what they need to do to get to where they want to be.

Every single business I work with says they feel overwhelmed because they’re either in a state of growth and don’t know how to get to the next level, or they’ve been growing and are now declining and don’t know why. It’s a bit like a seesaw—it depends on what end of the seesaw they’re at, but ultimately, you get the same frustration. If you’ve been successful and you dip, you’re like, “Why? I need to be back up here, and I don’t understand why. What am I doing wrong?” If you’re growing, you’re thinking, “Great, now what? What’s next? I wanted to get to this part, but I don’t know how to get to the next.” It’s very much about creating an open and safe space where they can share exactly how they’re feeling, what they’re trying to create, and what their main challenge is at the moment so we can help them move forward. That’s why the majority of people say we give them clarity and focus, and we create impact because the impact is in the result. We get them to where they want to be, but the focus and clarity come from addressing that initial feeling of overwhelm.

Sam:  Okay, so you’re kind of giving them direction and helping them realize what the important things are, moving away from the tasks that are time-consuming but not vital to their business.

Zoe: Yeah, definitely. Particularly with photographers, we have worked with a couple of photographers, and what I would say is they’re very creative and very good at their job. But sometimes they just focus on the creativity and not on what they need to support their growth. That’s where my services come in. I help them stop, breathe, and evaluate: Is that the right project to take on? Is that the right price to charge? Is that the right client? Is it going to give you what you want to move forward, considering the vision and KPIs of the business? A creative person tends to be very good at the creative aspect but may struggle with the business side. Bringing in a third party or consultant allows them to focus on their creativity while also moving their business forward.

Sam: That makes sense. And just for some listeners, KPIs are Key Performance Indicators. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that? I suspect it might be an unknown term for some listeners.

Zoe: Yes, sure. KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators, which are essentially the goals you want to reach in your business. For example, if you are a photographer wishing to launch a subscription service, you would set a target number of subscribers and the revenue you expect to generate from that service. These targets are your KPIs. If you’re not reaching your KPIs, you can quickly identify why. For example, if you aim to generate £4,000 in a month but fall short, you can break it down to see if you missed your target number of clients or didn’t charge enough per service. KPIs help you track progress and make necessary adjustments.

Sam: Yeah, that’s it. It’s got to work for you. There’s a whole show on planning for your business, so I’ll put the links in the show notes. This is relevant as well. Are we mainly thinking of KPIs like ‘I want 15 weddings at this price,’ or does it depend on the type of photography?

Zoe: It depends on the type of photography they’re providing. For wedding photography, some photographers aim for three weddings per weekend in peak season, allowing them to take time off in quieter months. Others may prefer to do one wedding per weekend to manage the workload and editing. It’s completely up to you and your business. Not one size fits all. You need to ask yourself what the end result is, what you’re trying to create, and work backward to set your KPIs. These benchmarks are your sales targets for the month or quarter. Breaking it down makes it less overwhelming and more manageable.

Sam: That’s it. It’s about making those big-picture goals into monthly and weekly steps, making it achievable and less overwhelming because it’s just little steps moving in the right direction.

Zoe: 100%. The feeling of overwhelm is common, and we provide clarity and focus. We’ve developed strategy days to break down the process into manageable steps, ensuring our services align with what our clients need. This applies to small businesses and photographers as well.

Sam: Cool. That’s perfect. I think people often feel frightened of business planning, thinking it means monstrous growth. But it’s really about defining what you want for your business, whether you want to wind down or expand. It’s about thinking through what you want and helping you get there.

Zoe: 100%. The best way to describe business planning is like a story: what’s the beginning, the middle, and the end? If we don’t consider the end, we won’t know when we’ve achieved our goals. It’s like a car journey: if you don’t know where you’re starting from or where you want to go, how will you know when you’ve arrived? The middle part is about breaking it down into manageable steps. Don’t be scared by jargon or massive Excel documents. Just think of it as telling the story of your business journey.When you search online for Google, think about the story. I always say, think about Goldilocks. What happened at the beginning? What happened at the end? But what people remember is what happened in the middle. That’s business for me: beginning, middle, and end.

Sam: Perfect, I think that is a perfect note to end on. Thank you so much for being with us, Zoe.

Zoe: No problem, thank you for inviting me.

Sam: That’s right, no problem at all. Listeners, are you on our newsletter list? If not, why not? If you’re on the newsletter list, the podcast will arrive in your inbox faithfully every single week, and then you won’t miss it. That is very important. You also get extra tips from Marcus and me. We showcase old podcasts and things like that, so it’s definitely worth joining up. Go to the website, and you can sign up there. You can also apply to be a guest on the podcast there as well. Thank you again, Zoe. It’s been amazing chatting with you.

Zoe: Amazing, thanks, Sam. Thanks for inviting me. Like I said, do share the links if you want to follow us: for resources or askzoe01 on all social media channels.

Sam: Perfect, we’ll pop everything in the show notes. Listeners, I will see you next week.