This week the focus is on The Golden Bridge Awards, which the British Chamber is co-organising with the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain for a fifth consecutive year. Last year’s winners Ignition are an independent, full service provider of events, training and e-learning working in partnership with many of the world’s biggest brands. We sat down with European Account Director, Pello Morras, who described what they’ve achieved, the progress they’ve made and the learning experience they’ve had since becoming winners.
Pello, it’s been just over half a year since you won the Golden Bridge Award. What has happened since then for Ignition?
Fortunately for us, we have been extraordinarily busy on a great number of projects, helping our customers to present their new products to their intended audiences in innovative, engaging and interesting ways. We have held events in Spain, Sweden, France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Germany and the UK – we have certainly been clocking up the air miles! And overall, this is our best trading year in history!
We always try and keep up to date with technology and there are some interesting developments in the areas of augmented and virtual reality that we have developed skillsets in. Whilst there is no substitute for hands on experience, the potential for us comes from allowing people to see things in new and fascinating ways.
After the Brexit result was announced, we moved quickly to reassure customers that we are a European company, with our long established Belgium-based office representing a tangible example of our commitment to Europe beyond Brexit. Existing customers have appreciated the assurance and discussions with new clients have been generally positive. But there is still a lot of uncertainty out there.
The winning Ignition team at the Golden Bridge Awards
What did the Golden Bridge process do for you in terms of reflecting on your business success?
It was really interesting going through the application and presentation process. Going back, we’ve never really thought of ourselves as especially interesting or innovative, rather we made decisions that were right for our business as we needed to. There was never a time that we sat back and thought ‘wow, this is all part of a master plan’.
The Golden Bridge process gave us the opportunity to reflect on what we did and why and even though there were a number of steps that we took, we realised that they all made sense as part of a strategic plan, even if we didn’t overtly state that at the beginning!
By networking throughout the awards, we were also able to optimise our structure for the Belgian market. It also allowed us to further our image and reputation across Belgium and reassures our contacts, both current and future, that we are a serious player.
Once we had completed the application and done the presentation, we realised that we really did have a good story to tell, and that has helped motivate the team to recognise that we are something special. We had a mix of employees and customers at the Awards dinner in November – thank goodness we won something!
What role does Belgium play in Ignition’s continued growth?
The reality was that establishing ourselves in Belgium was driven by the office locations of our customers. It’s fair to say that in our early years, some aspects of operating in Belgium were not so easy for our business: employment law there was quite different to the UK and accounting practices also unfamiliar. It’s good to see that some of these hurdles are slowly being overcome so Belgium should be a little more attractive and welcoming to company’s like ours going forward. I’ve recently become aware of some incentives and social security exemptions for new start-ups that will no doubt prove attractive.
We will continue to maintain a number of locally-based employees in Belgium. And it was especially pleasing for us to learn that our establishment model in Belgium is good for any post-Brexit structures that we might need. It always was an advantage vs our competitors but now it may become critical.
Rob Forsyth, Ignition’s Managing Director, receiving the Golden Bridge award
What was your secret to winning the Golden Bridge award, and what tips would you give any prospective candidate?
I’m not sure there’s any particular secret to our win; rather, we took the opportunity to allow ourselves to sit back and think about who we are and what we stand for as a company. By getting back to the fundamentals, the way forward becomes so much clearer.
In terms of operating in Belgium, it’s beneficial for start-ups to utilise the knowledge and contacts of other British agencies such as the chamber, it really helps to not go into the market blind and to readily be able to access advice on infrastructure and the differences between business here and the UK.
I would also encourage any prospective applicant to be honest and passionate about who they are and what they do, but also identify the challenges and the opportunities. Maybe our USP was that we told a “story”. Everybody loves a story and they are much more memorable for the jury. Of course we have an advantage in that this is what we do for our customers!
If you think you have a great story to tell and would like to celebrate it with us, you might want to think about applying for this year’s Golden Bridge Awards. You will need to act soon, though, as applications close on Friday 16 September. Click here for more information.
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 24 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 Alexandra Trandafir at Alexandra@britishchamber.be.