From wannabe rock star to working at Wimbledon and Wembley

“You can be something, you just need to believe in yourself.” That’s the message from Justin Crane, of The Crane Event, to Cambridge Leadership College students.

Justin has never been one to shy away from work. His dad was in the RAF and the family moved to a new base every three years. At 7 or 8 years old he started going around the base with a bucket of water offering to wash cars. Later he got a paper round. He got temp work through agencies so he could go to college.

Speaking at Leaders Lunch, Justin said: “A lot was manual factory work. Working in milk factories, putting computer games into boxes, building the boxes to put the games into. And normally 12 hour shifts. When you’re doing those things for 12 hours, you soon learn to push yourself in college so you don’t have to do that for the rest of time. It’s a good experience to make yourself realise quickly what you want to do.”

Justin Crane talks about his career during Leaders Lunch When he was 14 Justin fell in love with music and declared he was going to become a rock star. His mum told him: “Not many people get to do that.” Justin replied: “Yes, but why can’t I be one of those people?” It didn’t matter that he didn’t know how to play an instrument!

He learned guitar and studied music at college and was all set to go to university when he found out he was going to be a father. He got a job in a factory.

Justin said: “I still did music on the side. The music started to take off, started to work in my favour. I was working, playing music, supporting my family. We would go off and do the music side of things, which in turn teaches you a lot in life. When you are stranded in the middle of Germany in a van which has broken down you soon learn how to troubleshoot, how to problem solve. When you are planning a tour for something you plan how to route things, the logistics, what to load. It’s project management.”

The importance of transferable skills was a key message in Justin’s talk. Every job he got enabled him to learn skills which could be applied in different settings. His knowledge of tour managing became useful when he got a job working for a language school organising student activities. When he was made redundant eight years later, he had experience and a range of skills he was able to apply to his idea for an events company.

This was the start of The Crane Event, which Justin runs with his wife Jemma. Their agency has worked with Cambridge University and helps with hospitality at Wimbledon on Centre Court and during football matches at Wembley.

Justin said: “We’re doing things we would never have dreamed of two and a half years ago.

Justin Crane with Cambridge Leadership College students“You can do something. It’s about the person. You can be as academic or not academic. It’s the belief you can do something. Something people talk about when they start off by themselves is imposter syndrome but having the confidence to do that and have people see you as an expert in what you’re doing, you do know what you’re talking about. They are looking for the best person to solve that. The belief in yourself you can do that will cause other people to believe in you.”

Another leadership lesson Justin had for our students was the importance of having a support team and finding belief in yourself. Leaders don’t always feel like leaders. Sometimes you need someone else to share ideas with or to give you a different perspective.

Justin said: “It helps if a few times you have somebody showing they have belief in you, that helps. Friends, a partner. I’m lucky my wife is very motivated. We bounce off each other. It really helps to bounce off other people, which is hopefully what you’re all doing in here.”

  • Leaders Lunch takes place at Cambridge Leadership College every Friday. The students cook for our guest, we enjoy a meal together and hear about their life.

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