Owen Smith

Owen Smith – Chairperson

What made you make the move into running your own business?

I’m involved in a number of different areas of business and professional life. My principal occupation is as a barrister and acting solicitor. I’ve been practising in the field for more than 20 years. Having studied law at university it seemed like a natural choice, and I’ve always been interested in practising law, particularly as a barrister. As a professional service law is quite different to any other business, one that struck the right balance between business and professional interests. It’s a hugely satisfying career and Gibraltar is a very exciting jurisdiction to work in with a very high volume of commercial litigation balanced with a wide variety of other types of work, such as clinical negligence, Admiralty and even a spot of criminal.

Alongside my career as a barrister, I have also had the opportunity to run and develop my events business, Word of Mouth, through which I have had the privilege to create some of Gibraltar’s most enjoyable events including the Calentita Food Festival and the Gibraltar Music Festival together with some of Gibraltar’s hardest working and most creative individuals and businesses – as well, of course with the support of Government. The large-scale events business and law could not be more different in terms of their output, but there are a surprising number of areas where the skill sets crossover including the requirement for extremely hard work, creative thinking and exacting execution.

More recently, with the advent of the endemic and the consequential hibernation of that live events market, I have branched out into other areas, most recently launching a tax residency app called Overnite. Although still in its early days, this is a project with truly global potential, and I confess is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on.

What were the biggest challenges for your business?

I think the biggest challenges in business and professional life are similar in each of the areas where I have worked. You need to move fast, gain experience and persuade others that you are capable of moving forward and developing so that you can take on more and bigger responsibilities and grow.

Did you ever feel like giving up and how did you overcome that?

I think it is natural in any area of work to have moments where you feel completely overwhelmed both with work volume and/or responsibility. It’s at these times that you need to call on the foundation of core skills learned at the outset, together with an inherent self-confidence that you are good enough to get the job done.

Was it difficult at times to balance family commitments and business?

It’s always extremely difficult to balance personal and work commitments. I think it’s important to make sure you use your time productively and compartmentalise where possible. Taking time for yourself ensures that you give yourself the best chance of being able to give your utmost at work and in your personal life.

What were the biggest mistakes you think you made in your business?

Sometimes your biggest mistakes are also the moment where you learn the most and certainly for me that has been true. I’m happy to say that I don’t think I’ve made any big mistakes in my professional life as a lawyer, but in my other areas of business, I think I have learned a lot about being commercial and protecting your own interests when negotiating agreements. Sometimes in a creative industry, you could be so keen to get the project done at the standard that you want, that you can lose sight of the commercial value of the time and effort you are putting into it. Then again, I suppose it’s not all about money.
What would you do differently if you had the chance?
I think my time management has improved massively over the years; if I could go back and change anything it would be to get better at that earlier on.

What are the achievements you are most proud of?

From a legal perspective, I’m very proud of being a partner in one of Gibraltar’s leading law firms working with an amazing team of talented individuals from whom I learn every day.
In the events world, I’m extremely proud of what we achieved for the Gibraltar Music Festival, alongside individuals and companies all of whom were from Gibraltar. We built a truly unique event, worked with some of the biggest names in music (and when I say this I mean on the professional side of the industry rather than the celebrity side – but we also had that privilege as well), and I think we left a real legacy for Gibraltar because I can look around today and see companies that were born out of, or are still operating, using the skills and the contacts that they learned whilst working on the music festival.

What do you think are the most important characteristics of successful business leaders?

You have to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, and a realistic plan as to how to get there; know when to take advice, and when to ignore it.

What is your favourite thing about being in business?

The satisfaction you get from a job well.

What is your business dream and has the end game changed for you over the years?

The end game is always evolving, and my goal is to one day decide that I’ve actually arrived.

Why did you join the GFSB and what do you believe are its greatest strengths?

I think the GFSB plays an important role in representing the voice of our business in our community. In a sometimes highly bi-partisan public conversation, our main strength is our ability to push issues purely on their business merits, and without political agenda.