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How Thurso Gala sowed the seeds of entrepreneurship in Liam Christie

Liam Christie
Liam Christie

Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Ross-shire-based Liam Christie, director of Christie  Consultants Scotland and North Highland Events & Promotions.

How and why did you start in business?

My wife, Lorraine, and I have always arranged music events as a hobby, starting in the ’80s when we were both involved in the local Thurso Gala.

After a career in retail and banking I decided to follow my dream and build my own events business. Holding down a full-time position while arranging events proved too much, so we took a leap of faith some five years ago and I left my job and set up North Highland Events and Promotions.

This year I have also launched a new commercial consultancy, Christie Consultants Scotland, to help other budding entrepreneurs with their own journeys.

Our specialist team provides a wide range of services covering everything from planning to finance, HR needs, marketing, logistics,  and acquisition and exit strategies.

How did you get to where you are today?

It has been a rollercoaster ride. The past 16 months have been a nightmare for the events industry as our revenue dried up overnight, thanks to Covid.

Fighting through those dark days has taught me a lot about myself and also about the importance of thinking outside the box.

I’m also really grateful for all the collaborative relationships with other entrepreneurs that we’ve built up over the years. These people have helped us keep the faith and we know the good times will return.

Who helped you?

Lorraine has been the biggest support and the one person who challenges a lot of my creative ideas and pushes back to test any new plans, and family and friends have been wonderfully supportive too.

Alisdair Barnett, my former line manager and colleague at the Bank of Scotland, has been the most influential and supportive friend on this journey – more than he will ever know.

I learnt a lot about managing people from my time as president of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, and I recently become president of BNI Tuath (business networking group).

Through BNI I became a member of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), and I’m grateful for the support the FSB gives the small business community across the region and beyond.

What has been your biggest mistake?

Giving all my time to the business and not enough to my family – and to myself. It just about broke me last year when we were up against it, but it has made me realise the importance of home life and keeping everything in balance.

What is your greatest achievement?

Putting smiles on people’s faces through entertainment – it’s priceless. Seeing people enjoying themselves at our first Live Drive-in Show last year was incredible and very emotional. It was worth all the hard work.

If you were in power in government, what would you change?

The entire system. We need more collaboration, more devolution of powers to the regions, and much more joined-up thinking between local officialdom and business communities. We should also get rid of the House of Lords – it’s a complete waste of money.

Mr Christie would scrap the House of Lords.
What do you still hope to achieve?

To rebuild our events business and then sell it on to a fresh-faced team of enthusiastic entrepreneurs who can take it to the next level.

I also have some radical thoughts for businesses within our region, but I’ll need to check with Mrs Christie to make sure I’m not shaking the tree too hard.

What do you do to relax?

Long walks around Lochussie, where we live, which is so peaceful. It was home to the Brahan Seer and has a special, spiritual feel to it.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?

I’ve just finished the latest Jack Reacher novel, I listen to a lot of country music, I’m longing to get back to the US for a holiday and am glued to the Euros – and devastated that Scotland didn’t get through.

What do you waste your money on?

Beer – not a smart move.

How would your friends describe you?

Fun-loving, up for the craic, generous with time, the life and soul of the party and probably a little bit crazy.

What would your enemies say about you?

“I wish he’d go away or maybe come work for us”, but I don’t give dream-stealers too much thought to be honest.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

Currently, a Nissan Quasqai but I’d take take anything from the Dicksons of Inverness range – they sponsor our car.

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