In our series of revisiting past Golden Bridge Awards winners and their journeys since winning the award, today’s story puts the spotlight on Netshield.
Netshield is a technology and IT service led company that won the 2012 Golden Bridge Award for ‘Best Newcomer’. It has experienced continued success across Europe ever since.
Netshield came to Belgium on a market visit with UK Trade & Investment and made connections with a number of different organisations – including the British Chamber of Commerce – helping them to get a strong foothold in Belgium.
In less than three years, Netshield was able to grow exports by over 100%. Since 2010 Netshield has seen annual turnover growth of 35% of which 5.9% is due to Belgian exports.
We took the chance to speak with Richard Carty, Commercial Director at Netshield.
Richard, it’s been about two and a half years since you won the award. Compared to where you were at the time and where you are now, what has happened?
We have been involved in Belgium for almost five years now, but it was only in 2012 that we experienced our first trading year. Starting from scratch, our revenues surpassed the 100.000€ mark, and it has been growing steadily ever since to about 500.00€ in 2015. Given that we have been through a recession which hit Belgium pretty badly in 2013, that is not a bad result.
Winning the award gave us some immediate smaller results in terms of recognition. But in the long term, we have managed to build from it and use it as a means to spread our word further to access key organisations and people.
What role does Belgium plays in Netshield’s activity?
At the moment, Belgium represents 20-25% of our turnover. Hopefully that will continue to grow, but we need to manage other markets too, as we don’t want to take our eye off them. That is challenge we are willing to accomplish at Netshield.
Regarding our client-base, Belgium offers a diverse spectrum of service-based companies and organisations such as various chambers of commerce and COBCOE. Compared to the UK, it’s different in the same: we are also very diverse there, but in sectors going from education, to retail, manufacturing, etc. In Brussels, all our clients can be encompassed under professional services because the city is focused on that.
However, that trend is quickly changing. Through connections we’ve made in Belgium since the Golden Bridge Award, we have been able to see that there is life outside of Brussels, as we are starting to expand our client-base to Flanders.
What surprised you most about working in Belgium?
As with everything in life, there are pleasant surprises and not so pleasant ones. In Belgium, everything can take that little bit longer, and that is especially true for the business environment. When setting up here, you have to be committed to the long run strategy, as sometimes you can only see the results after a number of years.
However, I find that it’s a nicer way of doing business here, one that is more relationship-based and not as price driven as in the UK and USA. Over there it’s all about how much you can cut the price.
When you come to Belgium, you have to play the long game, where patience is key. But once you have a way in, you are guaranteed stable clients and a trustworthy market.
Do you have any top tips for prospective Golden Bridge Awards candidates?
Your story needs to convince everyone, and that starts with you. We were honest and told it as it is. Many people tend to focus too much on financial volume, but that shouldn’t be a concern as long as you emphasize on what you have achieved with the amount you can generate. Its quality and not quantity that matters.
More importantly, I would see it as a journey and not as a destination. It’s all about how you build on the award after the gala. Who you meet and what achieve after is the key.
The Golden Bridge Awards recognise the trade and export success of UK companies doing business in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies doing business in the UK. Companies of any size and in any industry can apply. Applications close in early September, and the winners will be announced at a high-level black-tie gala dinner in London on 26 November. Winning companies receive further recognition and profiling throughout the following year through the organising chambers. For more information on the awards and how to enter as a candidate, please contact James Pearson at firstname.lastname@example.org.