2023 BizBash 15 Over 50: Russell Harris

Russell Harris, 64, is the CEO and creative director of russell harris EVENT GROUP.

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Photo: Courtesy of Russell Harris

Russell Harris, 64, is the CEO and creative director of russell harris EVENT GROUP, a Los Angeles-based event production and management company with past clients including Disney, Intel, Audi, and more.

A quote from his nomination: "What sets Russell apart from others is not just his knack for innovation, but also his unwavering commitment to integrity and professionalism. He upholds the highest ethical standards, ensuring that every decision he makes is guided by these principles."

How I got here: "I fell into events. I was determined to be a professional athlete in tennis or volleyball. When I moved to LA, my first job was at The Hollywood Reporter, working as a personal assistant for famed columnist George Christy. I would RSVP for all of his events and premieres, and the whole idea of events intrigued me. That’s how I was introduced to the world of special events.

My first event company introduction was to Mary Micucci from Along Came Mary. My first job in the event industry was at Nights of Neon, a company that provided neon lighting and design for movies and television. Later, I developed more skills at Warner Bros. Hollywood Studios and then honed them at Merv Griffin Productions before venturing out on my own in 2000.  

Long story short, I’ve always loved a good party, and I loved creating environmental experiences for them. What started out as party planning evolved into a different style of creative design that provided a custom experience paired perfectly with the reason for the event. Today, hospitality events have evolved to include product launches, business meetings, conferences, trade shows, award galas, virtual and hybrid events, and more. I love designing a look that is well suited for a brand and that provides an experience that is unique to the purpose of the event. 

I’ve been incredibly honored to design for some of the foremost brands in the world. Who knew that my love for aesthetic and all its elements would turn into a career? I’m not sure I have ever worked a day in my life because I love what I do so much."

Greatest career accomplishment: "About four years into RHEG, I was asked to submit a proposal for Disney International Television for their upfronts. I was competing against two other big companies in LA. We won the business, and it was a game changer that has opened so many other doors. That one proposal and building a relationship with my forever client/friend Evelyn Geraci has lasted over 15 years, and was the jump-start of so many other projects that led to events both here in the U.S. and internationally."

A specific improvement I’ve made: "Russell harris EVENT GROUP is not just a company; it is a manifestation of my personality, my values, and how my team and I perceive the world at large. When each person enters the door, they become an integral part of a creative collective. We work hard to foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork, where every single team member's input is valued and utilized. From event design to company policies, we believe in the power of team thinking and problem-solving. Everyone gets a seat at the table.  

We believe that work should be fun and fuel inspiration every day. That’s not to say there are not stressful times, but we deal with them differently. We always encourage creativity and innovative thinking and seek a sense of adventure in everything we do. Together as a team, we create extraordinary event experiences that leave a lasting impact on our clients and their guests. Each one of our events has everyone’s fingerprint on it.  

Russell harris EVENT GROUP is a family of talent that reflects our passion for event design, our commitment to teamwork, and our belief in the power of collaboration. RHEG is an improved concept of a company and a model of success that has worked for over 21 years. For me, individually as its leader, my company is the way that I can leave a legacy and contribute to the future of events. I want to teach my team everything that I know so they can share it all with future generations."

The biggest change I've observed in the industry: "I could lament about how the economy has defined and redefined the industry, but that’s nothing new. I think the biggest change that I’ve observed is how quickly special events have evolved from parties to purpose-driven events, and then brand-driven events to now engagement and experiential events delivered through a variety of mediums including live, virtual, and hybrid. The industry has evolved at breakneck speed, and being a part of that has been a wild ride. I’ve loved every minute of that evolution. How could one ever possibly be bored with the event industry?"

What I do outside of work: "I’m a passionate equestrian and a competitive jumper at a national level. I have a new horse, Candiamonte AG Z, who is known as Grayson, and we are out to create a name for ourselves. I am looking forward to going back to nationals this year in November in Las Vegas. Riding is cathartic—who doesn’t need a little of that in their lives?

I also love my two dogs, Lexi and Beau, who are German shepherd rescues. My husband and I are big rescue advocates and support German shepherd rescue. Life is just good."

The career advice I'd give my younger self: "If you can’t do it on your own, don’t do it. I learned some serious business lessons from failed partnerships. Relationships are everything. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know and how you treat them. Building great relationships with people is invaluable—they turn into lifelong friends and clients. The No. 1 piece of career advice boils down to believing in and trusting yourself. Trust your gut!"

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