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October 3, 2008

Nick Grecian:Supplying overseas – the best of both worlds

The managing director of Gallowglass reckons he’s found the answer to cost effectively and efficiently sourcing suppliers for meetings, conferences and events held abroad.

The perennial dilemma for organisers of overseas events is whether to take production kit and rigging crews out from the UK, or to source local suppliers at the event destination. Neither solution is ideal. 

For those who plump for the overseas supplier option, the term ‘lost in translation’ covers a multitude of snags – ranging from misunderstood specifications, to incompatible systems and inadequate back-up equipment. And the instinctive desire to work with a partner who ‘thinks the way we do’ is so much harder to fulfil when you are starting with a new supplier with untested service delivery standards.

Expensive option

British event organisers tend to feel more secure working with home-grown resources and people who speak the same language – in every sense of the word. But stories are legion of impounded kit that was only released on presentation of wads of cash.

These ‘gifts’ aside, exporting equipment and services is an expensive option and one that can be hard to justify to corporate purchasers.

Biting the bullet

As a crewing company we’ve been tasked with setting up event infrastructures all over the world, and have heard countless stories of organisers being let down by untrained, unreliable and uncooperative rigging crews that had been sourced locally. 

At the same time, we couldn’t fail to notice the growing frustration of our clients at having to export manpower to work on large numbers of overseas events.

The pressure gradually mounted for us to set up our own overseas operation, and so, in 2005, we bit the bullet and established two European offices – in the South of France and Barcelona. 

Skills and knowledge

Since then, we have recruited crews from all over Europe. We have trained them to understand and work to our own safety and efficiency standards – and they have needed that training. Many of them are bilingual, and therefore comfortable working for both UK and domestic clients.

In addition to us being able to provide a local, or at least national resource, our European network has enabled us to build up extensive knowledge of all the congress centres and leading hotels on the Cote d’Azur and in Northern Spain, creating efficiencies and streamlining the whole rig and de-rig process at those venues. 

Going forward
The fact that so many of the leading events agencies are progressively setting up bases in Europe, the Middle East and the US suggests to us that this is the way forward for the industry.

Within the boundaries of managed growth, we fully intend to progress with offices in other countries and continents. Our European offices are still servicing a high volume of events that are organised by UK-based clients, but as time goes on we will grow the business from the local markets as well.

Going global is not without its headaches – one of which is the tangle of legislation and the administrative hoops that have to be jumped through to set up a business overseas.

Getting the first foothold always takes longer than you expect. But with fuel and transport costs set to continue upwards and many meetings consolidating into continental or global events, an international capability is likely to become an inevitable requirement for any serious player in the events industry.

Nick Grecian is managing director of Gallowglass

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