Jim Cairns, vice president and general manager of Unique UK, takes the hotseat to chat about resilience, customer relationships, and the strength of the Unique team.
How long have you been at the company?
21 years – I started my career at Unique as operations manager.
What is your greatest achievement at the company?
There have been many notable achievements over the years including cost saving initiatives, successful high-impact project launches, sales growth, streamlining work processes, and introducing innovative new products, however my greatest sense of accomplishment has been in contributing to an incredibly positive company culture that resonates throughout our entire high-performing team here at Unique. This culture permeates all the way down from the top of our organisation, which is why we love working here, and is why we have incredibly high staff retention rate.
Favourite part of your job?
One of the favourite aspects of my job is most definitely working with customers. Interacting with clients on a daily basis allows me to understand their needs, build relationships, and provide solutions that genuinely make a difference for them. I find it incredibly rewarding to help customers navigate challenges and witness the positive impact our products and services have on their businesses.
The variety of personalities and situations I encounter keeps things dynamic, and the opportunity to exceed their expectations and foster long-term partnerships is something I truly enjoy. It’s not just about selling a product or service; it’s about building trust and creating a positive experience for our customers, and that, to me, is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my role.
Least favourite part of your job?
While I thoroughly enjoy my role, if I were to highlight a challenging aspect, it would be anything that removes me away from the positive development of actual business – there are many such administrative examples that require meticulous attention to detail and can sometimes be time-consuming. However, I recognise their importance and I believe that even the less enjoyable aspects of a job contribute to personal and professional growth.
Who is the unsung hero of the company?
The unsung hero/heroes at Unique are undoubtedly and unequivocally our entire team, in the UK and further afield. Their consistent dedication and hard work often operate behind the scenes but play a crucial role in the overall success of our company. They consistently go above and beyond their responsibilities, and their contributions significantly impact the smooth functioning of their departments. Recognising their efforts is essential, as they embody the values and spirit that make Unique such a great place to work.
What is the biggest change within the party industry that you have seen since you have worked in it?
Over the years, the party industry has undergone significant transformations, and the most notable change I’ve observed is the increasing emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Customers and businesses alike are now more conscious of the environmental impact of events and parties. Initially, there was a strong focus on disposable items and single-use decorations. However, there has been a noteworthy shift towards more sustainable options.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to ‘stay humble’. This simple yet powerful guidance has been a constant reminder to approach success with gratitude and a grounded mindset. It emphasises the importance of acknowledging that individual achievements are often the result of collaboration, learning from others, and being open to continuous growth. Staying humble encourages me to appreciate every opportunity, value the perspectives of those around me, and remain committed to ongoing self-improvement. It’s a guiding principle that not only influences my professional life but extends to personal interactions as well.
Biggest lesson you’ve taken away from the last year?
The biggest lesson I’ve taken away from the last year is the profound importance of resilience. The challenges and uncertainties we faced collectively reinforced the notion that adaptability and perseverance are key to navigating through any unforeseen circumstances. In a world that can be unpredictable, being resilient means not only bouncing back from setbacks but also adapting, learning, and growing stronger through adversity. This past year has shown me that embracing change and remaining steadfast in the face of difficulties not only allows for survival but also presents opportunities for innovation and personal development.
If you could change one thing about the party industry, what would it be and why?
It would be to eliminate counterfeiters. The prevalence of counterfeit products and piracy in the industry not only compromises the integrity of brands, but also poses serious risks to consumers. By addressing this issue, we can create a more trustworthy and reliable market for party-related products. This change would involve implementing stricter regulations, primarily at import, fostering collaboration among industry stakeholders to identify and eradicate counterfeit operations, and educating consumers about the risks associated with purchasing fake or unauthorised products.
If you didn’t work in the party industry, what industry would you work in and why?
I would most likely pursue a career in property development/management. The realm of real estate and property investment has always intrigued me due to its potential for long-term growth and financial stability.