Richard Dodgson: Be brave and bold to succeed

As Richard Dodgson knows, there are no second chances in the events industry. That's why his start-up, Timebased Events, gets asked back every year.


Richard Dodgson: getting it right first time

Life as an actor can be tough. Despite winning roles in theatre and television (including Coronation Street and Brookside), and a job running a street theatre company, Richard Dodgson (now 47) found he had to take on other jobs.

While working as a translator, he became frustrated at being forced to work with out-of-date equipment. So in 1994 he decided to apply his theatrical skills to corporate events and began to work on projects for event management firms.

He very quickly realised that there was an untapped appetite for events that involved performances. This realisation inspired him to stop being an employee and to strike out on his own. Timebased Events was born in 1996.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Converting part of his bedroom into an office, and armed with only a telephone, Dodgson began approaching companies. By the time 1997 rolled around, he had generated enough revenue to justify taking on a friend as his first member of staff. By the summer of the same year the duo had moved into permanent offices.

The turning point came in 1998 with three major projects that would put Timebased Events on the map. Firstly, they were hired by Twentieth Century Fox to publicise the launch of the hit film Titanic, which went on to break all previous box office records.

Dodgson was also commissioned by London department store Selfridges to help with a big relaunch. Finally, he was hired by the lifestyle magazine GQ to produce their first Men of the Year awards. He did such a good job that he has hosted all 15 subsequent ceremonies.

At the moment Timebased Events has a turnover of £4m. The company could raise this easily, but Dodgson is a strong believer in quality over quantity. He emphasises that his reputation allows him to be extremely selective, with Timebased Events turning down far more work than it accepts.

Every proposal that passes over Dodgson's desk is heavily scrutinised, with the firm only making a bid if the proposal meets three criteria. These are "can we win it, can we do it and will it bring us lots of publicity?"

This bespoke approach has won Dodgson and his firm a passionate following. One project that he is particularly proud of is an Indian wedding reception that he ran in Berkeley Square.

One guest, the real estate tycoon KP Singh, was so impressed that he insisted on flyingthe company out to India to put on a series of events for him. This included a black tie dinner at Singh's mansion in New Delhi and a Bollywood-themed birthday bash on the 18th hole of agolf course.

Dodgson's ambitions are now focused towards more international events. Timebased Events is currently pitching for part of the Rio 2016 Olympics. He has also started to put together an international network of similar local agencies that he can partner with.

His advice for those interested in following in his footsteps is that "you have to be both brave and bold". He cautions that budgetary management skills are extremely important. It's also a very competitive industry, where "you're hired for the next year's events the day after the event takes place". Those who mess things up "don't get asked back again".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri