Learning from the Best – A Harvard Business School Experience


Overall, I think Harvard Business School offers a brilliant learning environment coupled with exposure to global thought and business leaders, which cannot be accessed locally in Australia. 

Last June, Event Planet’s Managing Director Amy Merriman packed her bags for Boston, USA and went back to school Harvard-style, participating in Harvard Business School’s Executive Education course on ‘Leading Professional Service Firms.’

Amy was keen to learn about how other professional service companies from around the world managed their businesses to identify ways that she, and in turn Event Planet, could improve and adapt for further and future success.

Event Planet consistently strives to increase its knowledge and experience base and this 7-day course was an intensive program, covering key interest topics such as leadership, strategy, governance, innovation and organisational performance. It was also taught by full-time Harvard Business School faculty members.

The course gave participants a wide range of business perspectives and cultural insights by bringing together thought leaders and practice managers from all over the globe. The variety of service industry sectors represented included finance, legal, advertising, public relations, accounting, architecture and design, IT and management consulting.

“Managing and maintaining talent while sustaining high levels of client satisfaction is a delicate balancing act in any service-based business,” Amy says, “Effective communications, both internal and external, are vital to achieving the optimal equilibrium.”

“Event Planet has always prioritised professionalism and high quality event delivery, along with trying to continually strengthen our culture and brand profile. When this chemistry is right, in a constantly evolving environment, it is dynamic! We’ve produced some of our finest work in recent years and I attribute this to the efforts we have made to continually refine our processes and methodology, year on year for over a decade.” 

For Amy, one of the most valuable aspects of the course included learning how to apply different techniques to align team capabilities and client relationships to drive organisational performance for long term growth.

“Gaining a more sophisticated understanding of the evolution of a client relationship within a service firm was also very revealing,” she adds, “because the delivery of specific event projects demands so much attention, it can be easy to lose sight of the holistic client relationship. Since returning to the office, I have made a significant effort to analyse our clients and their brands to ensure we, as an agency, share both the vision and values required to drive mutual successes.”

Consistently updating and upgrading skills to stay on top of our game is something Event Planet values and Amy says this course surprised her in that the depth of knowledge and variety of experience amongst the attendees who came from over 25 countries, each with extensive knowledge in their own area of expertise.

“Overall, I think Harvard Business School offers a brilliant learning environment coupled with exposure to global thought and business leaders, which cannot be accessed locally in Australia. The sessions and days felt like they went for minutes, not hours, as the content was so interesting and relevant to Event Planet,” she says.

Surprisingly, she adds, there were more Australians in the course than women. “We are definitely an ambitious nation,” she said, adding that she expected greater gender balance. We’re proud to say that she represented both minorities, being women and Australia, in this unique course. “The biggest challenge the gender imbalance presented me was trying to keep up with my study group on the daily 5am jogs we decided to do together before breakfast. I did a few less flights of stairs on the Harvard Stadium (a tradition) but never got left behind!” 

Now, 6 months down the track, Event Planet has been realising some very positive commercial and cultural outcomes from the initiatives introduced by Amy since she attended the course. “I believe the investment in my time to undertake this course has generated an abundance of rewards for both Event Planet and our clients, which I hope will continue well into the future.”