We chat to Max Simpkins, SITE GB’s newest board member, and director of the Young Leaders (YL) Committee, about the benefits of being involved in SITE, his plans to grow, promote and reconnect the young leaders community in 2022, his new job, and much more…
Max recently joined Apex Hotels as MICE Sales Director, having spent the past five years with Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts in London.
How long have you been involved with SITE GB?
I was part of the founding group of young leaders at SITE GB, but I came on board a few months after they had already started. That was around five years ago.
You sit on the board as the representative for SITE Young Leaders. What does your role entail?
I have recently taken over from Kate (Benzine) as Director of Young Leaders on the SITE GB Board. This means I am part of the main board, but I also run my own committee of nine young leaders across agencies, hotels and suppliers, although many of us hold director title roles in our day jobs. To be a young leader, you need to be under 35 or have less than five years’ experience in the industry.
My role now entails overseeing the committee of young leaders and enrolling new young leaders. Our three main objectives for young leaders this year is to grow, promote and reconnect. We want to grow our young leaders’ network, through innovative ways of promoting SITE and the incentive sector, as we begin to reconnect in person again.
What do you personally get out of being involved with SITE?
As the only association focused on incentives, being part of SITE has given me an extensive knowledge of incentives, and the confidence in being an expert in incentives when I am talking to end clients. The YL Programme specifically has helped me to grow my network and develop my career.
It’s a great steppingstone in your career and elevates your profile in the industry, allowing you to expand your network and learn and develop. I wouldn’t be the salesperson I am today with the contacts and the incentive industry knowledge, without being part of the SITE YL Programme.
Now it’s my turn to give back. It’s important that I help to identify and develop and support those coming into incentive industry on their path to becoming leaders.
Why is the SITE Young Leaders’ programme important and what are the benefits?
One of the most important benefits of the Young Leaders programme is mentorship. It provides mentorship opportunities for young developing professionals to support their progression to leadership. Our committee is really positive, ambitious and driven, but we’re also very supportive of each other.
SITE itself gives you the knowledge and understanding of the incentive industry, but the biggest benefit to being involved in the YL programme is growing your network. As a developing leader within the incentive world, whether you are an agent, a DMC, a hotelier, or a tourist board, being part of young leaders gives you access to so many people within the incentive market.
What are you planning for the SITE GB Young Leaders community this year?
We are planning several events this year to bring the YL community together, the first being our Reconnect event on 27 May at The Rosewood, London, along with a summer event and an October event around Halloween. Everything we do is focused on our community and providing opportunities for them to network and develop.
We are regularly in touch with the SITE Scotland and SITE Ireland YL Teams, and we are going to start promoting each other’s events, so that we can all benefit from the wider network. We also plan to proactively push and focus on growing our community. There are so many jobs available out there, and so many new people coming into the industry, we want to connect with them and make sure they are getting the right support.
You recently moved jobs. Can you tell us more about your new role?
I have just started a new role as the group director of sales for MICE for APEX hotels. We have 10 hotels across the UK – six in Scotland, three in central London and one in Bath. It’s a Scottish family run brand, which was started in 1996 with the first hotel opening in Edinburgh. I’m just a few months into the role and very much enjoying learning what is so beautiful about Scotland, immersing myself in our Scottish heritage, and seeing how its integrated throughout all our hotels. We are a four-star luxury brand, but very much at the premium end – most of our hotels have spas and our people have a real passion for delivering a great product and service.
What do you most love about working in the events and incentives sector?
What I love most about the job is that no day has ever been the same for the last 10 years. The most wonderful thing about events and incentives is every new RFP or proposal is different. I have been able to travel the world, meet the most remarkable people, and work with everyone from celebrities to law firms and tech companies – it’s such a unique job.
What’s the weirdest/wackiest request you’ve ever had from an incentive/event client?
The weirdest enquiry I had, and that we had to get quotes for, was having a Formula 1 car helicoptered to the top of a skyscraper building.
Describe your dream incentive…
I started my career as a chef in Bristol and I love food. So, my dream incentive would be to do a luxury tour through France and Italy and Spain, eating in some of the best, Michelin-starred restaurants.
If you weren’t in events, what would you be doing?
I still love cooking, so I probably would have stayed in the kitchen and opened a restaurant.
If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
I would love to go back to Seoul in South Korea. I was lucky enough to live there for four months with a friend when I was backpacking, and I absolutely loved the culture.