Mercia is one of the leading providers of training and support services to the UK accountancy profession. Over 6,000 firms have attended their training events, relied on their technical products and promoted themselves using Mercia's marketing services.

We speak to Sarah Perry, Training Events Executive about the Group's history and work with us!

Founded over 30 years ago, our growth and success has been driven by providing all sizes of firms (from sole practitioner to top ten firms) with a diverse range of high quality products and services that suit their individual needs, so that the firm can focus on their clients.

Since 2006 Mercia has been part of Wilmington Plc, the provider of information, compliance and education to professional markets. Mercia is a key part of Wilmington’s Accountancy Division together with other well recognised brands in the UK accountancy profession, Practice Track, Quorum Training and more recently Quantum Professional Training.

Lime Venue Portfolio. Hi Sarah, please can you tell me what your team is like at Mercia?

Sarah Perry: Our whole team are passionate about achieving excellence and helping firms to maximise the value they receive from using our products and services.

We have over 30 highly qualified experts in our dedicated technical team who are central to our product development as well as our delivery. With an in house team of this calibre we are often first to market with new offerings and can even remain as flexible as when this was a much smaller business.

LVP: Can you tell us a bit about you and your role

SP: I have worked at Mercia for 11 years following careers in the hotel industry and at an Accountancy Practice.  As a supervisor I look after 16 team members who work amazingly hard to ensure all our courses run smoothly. We arrange the courses, organise the notes, confirm the speakers, organise travel and accommodation along with delegate requirements such as bookings, invoices, the sale of technical manuals and online webinars. Tea, biscuits and cakes definitely get us through the day.

I am a people person and love getting out to conferences to meet delegates, speakers and the venue teams.  We have clients all over the world however I have never been asked to administrate a course in Mauritius, which is a shame!

I love planning things so much so that family and friends have to comply with my rather strict organisation requirements, - Birthdays and get-togethers follow the same rules as my conferences.  Last year I planned my own wedding in only 7 months, surprising the venue with my own function plan, contingency sheets and meeting!

LVP: It's clear that finding and booking venues is a big part of what you do. How do you get the right venue and room when you need it?

SP: When choosing venues it’s not all about the big posh hotel with green apples on display and the coffee machine with 10 choices – it’s more about the simpler things such as; having enough parking for our delegates, the room being a comfortable size, making sure they get a nice cup of tea and that the staff are polite and helpful.

All of our delegates get the opportunity to comment on the course and venue by completing one of our course assessment forms. This provides valuable feedback to our team, allowing us to ensure that we continue to give the best service and experience to our delegates.  We often find that when a venue has been marked as poor, it is because the little things have been forgotten or the venues have tried to be too different. 

LVP: Venues come in all shapes and sizes and quality varies so finding good ones must be a challenge. Do all venue bookings go smoothly?

SP: Not all of the time! It would also be useful if venues could consider who they have in each room, there was one occasion when our course had to be abandoned due to a rather excitable group in the next room learning all about new adult products.  This certainly caused a giggle several days later, however our Accountants just couldn’t focus on the update course they had booked for.

LVP: Ahem....Soooo...How do you make sure you provide what your clients need?

SP: Accountants earn CPD hours by attending our courses and although most attend our core titles we also run a programme of specialist titles, trainee level sessions and full day conferences with multiple expert speakers. With planning often happening one or two years in advance, we sometimes need to add course titles and include more to ensure we deliver what our clients want, need and expect. We constantly review our industry to understand where the gaps are and how we can meet client needs by delivering the content that will add value to their business.

LVP: You clearly love events, what advice would you give to anyone interested in events?

SP: If anyone wanted to get into conference planning I would recommend getting experience at a venue first so you can appreciate both sides. This allows you to understand what the sales and operations teams do, providing invaluable information for you to move into planning.

You need to be able to think calmly and logically, while also being a good communicator – you will deal with a variety of people that all need to be treated differently. It is also important for you to be able to think outside the box. We often have to consider school holidays, religious occasions and sports fixtures, as it’s amazing what affect this can have on an event. 

Having a career in events is very challenging but hugely rewarding as it’s a job where you can see something through from start to finish, which is very satisfying.

LVP: And finally, how have we been able to help you?

SP: We can have 80 events running in just one week and although we know our courses and venues, there are occasions when things go wrong or additional support is needed. your team know what we need and expect, so should alternative venues be required they will find us something suitable.

New venues are always being added to the portfolio and we are always informed if there is something relevant to a location we use. We also benefit from having one person overseeing our account, providing us with better rates and a point of contact if we need help resolving a certain niggle or problem. Plus you are lovely people!

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