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By Yasmine Lingemann

IN BRIEF:

  • VAT will now be collected at the point of sale instead of at the point of importation. 
  • This means that non-UK retailers who are selling goods directly to a UK consumer with a sale value of less than €150 (£135) must:  
    • Register for UK VAT with HMRC  
    • Collect UK VAT from the consumer 
    • File VAT returns 
    • Send VAT to HMRC 
  • The EU are also implementing their own VAT system in July 2021 – where non-EU sellers must register once for the whole EU market.  

WHAT IS THE IMPACT ON BUSINESS?

While organisations would have welcomed the trade deal between the U.K. and EU, signed on December 30, 2020, it came so close to the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020 that many had insufficient time to fully understand its implications on their activities before it took effect. As people return to work their focus will now be on understanding what changes have taken place as a result of Brexit and the terms of the deal. The economic repercussions of Brexit have been challenging to many, so it is very important businesses familiarise themselves with the changes, so to benefit the most in this difficult time.

Much has been written in the press about how these VAT changes make life more difficult for non-UK businesses. However, if those businesses were already making sales valued at more than £70,000 a year into the UK they would have already been VAT registered and charging UK VAT to customers.  If the packages being delivered are under £135 in value there will be no import VAT or duty to pay and hence, their situation will remain largely unchanged save for the need to complete customs declarations.

For businesses that were not already UK VAT registered and have packages valued at more than £135 or sell via OMP, the position is more complicated.  To determine what your obligations are we would recommend reviewing the following questions:

1. What is the value of my package?
2. If selling via an OMP will you met the conditions for them to take on your obligations to account for UK VAT?
3. If your packages are going to be over £135, what will the customer experience be like if they have to pay extra import costs in addition to your charge?
4. If packages are over £135, will any duties be payable?

Generally, most of the UK’s VAT rules applicable to organisations providing services remain unchanged post Brexit. Specifically, there were no widespread changes to the place of supply provisions (rules that determine the country in which VAT is paid) or rates of VAT. However, changes were made in other areas, and it’s important you familiarise yourself with these changes so that you don’t lose out as a business.

For example, EU retailers sending packages to the UK now need to fill out customs declaration forms. Shoppers may also have to pay customs or VAT charges, depending on the value of the product and where it came from. However, customs charges are the responsibility of the customer, not the retailer, who often has no idea of how much the eventual extra cost might be. They cannot be paid in advance and are levied only when the item reaches the UK.

The end of the Brexit withdrawal period has resulted in many UK VAT rule changes, and organisations will need to adapt to new VAT accounting arrangements. We recommend  that organisations review their sales and purchase transactions and administrative processes to ensure that any changes to the VAT rules have been identified. This will help guard against unexpected costs.

We are here to help you. Head over to our new website here, where you can find support in our Brexit Hub, and get in contact with us or our network to make sure you adapt to these new changes successfully.

THE FACTS:

VAT on GOODS COMING INTO THE UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eu-business-exporting-to-the-uk

UK VAT registered businesses importing goods into the UK are able to account for import VAT on their VAT return, rather than paying import VAT on or soon after the time that the goods arrive at the UK border. This applies to imports from the EU and non-EU countries. 

However, customs declarations and the payment of any other duties are still required. Customs duty (tariffs) applies to some goods and excise duties continue to apply to tobacco, alcohol and certain energy products. Customs and excise duty payments can be deferred to be settled monthly with a duty deferment account. Businesses need to register with HMRC to open a duty deferment account and will need to provide a bank guarantee.

Since 1 January 2021, VAT on imported goods with a value of up to £135 is collected at the point of sale not the point of importation. This means that UK supply VAT, rather than import VAT, are due on these consignments.

Online marketplaces (OMPs) involved in facilitating the sale of imported goods, are responsible for collecting and accounting for the VAT, even when the goods are in the UK at the point of sale.

For goods sent from overseas and sold directly to UK consumers, the overseas seller is required to register and account for the VAT to HMRC. Overseas sellers also remain responsible for accounting for the VAT on goods in the UK when sold directly to UK consumers.

Business-to-business sales not exceeding £135 in value are also be subject to the new rules. However, where the business customer is VAT registered and provides its registration number to the seller, the VAT will be accounted for by the customer by means of a reverse charge. 

AT THE UK BORDER:

Fiscal compliance checks at the UK border include checks to confirm the correct valuation for goods declared at import. Current requirements for importers and agents to assure the completeness and correctness of declarations will remain. Systems should be extended to cover EU imports with a view to identifying false information from consignors, to assure HMRC that clear anomalies can be pulled out from the high scale of declaration volumes typically handled. In particular, importers and agents will need to ensure their systems can identify consignments that are outside the scope of the new arrangements and thus remain liable to import VAT.

Vigilance around consignment valuation will continue, but with more focus on the declaration boundary at £135 or less for this policy. Systems will need to identify excise goods and goods being sent by one private individual to another, which are outside the scope of the new arrangements.

VAT ON GOODS COMING OUT OF THE UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eu-business-importing-from-the-uk

Check with your EU country’s customs authority about the rules for sending goods to the UK from the EU. Make sure you talk to your trading partners in the UK to:

  • agree responsibilities
  • make sure you have the correct paperwork for the type of goods you are trading

You must make sure you have completed the necessary border requirements.

There will be no substantive change for the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and member states of the EU, including Ireland.


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Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period.

See our website here for more details on how we can help you: https://www.britishchamber.be/


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The British Chamber of Commerce works with a broad range of Accredited Service Providers to bring you the best professional advice for international businesses who are in or entering the Belgian market. This series aims to give you a bit of an insight into these companies; showcasing how they can help you develop your business. British Chamber members can book a free first consultation with any of our expert advisors.

We’ve been speaking to BNP Paribas Fortis on what they think the biggest issues are for business when joining the Belgian market.

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Which 3 questions should companies looking to do business in Belgium ask themselves?

You cannot enter a market without thoroughly analysing it first and having a clear idea of its main players and competitors. Which leads us quite nicely to the first question: What does my target market look like, and what are my market timing, KPIs and objectives going to be? Once you have answered this rather basic but essential question, you will need to determine how you are going to enter the market. Will you set out on your own, or do you appeal to a specialized partner to help you access the market more efficiently and reduce your time-to-market? Finally, you need to determine where in Belgium you will set up your business. Many factors will influence this decision, such as the exact nature of your activities, what federal or regional incentives may apply to your company, the need for logistical and transport hubs, the need to find qualified personnel, etc. And once again, it is important to decide in advance if you will make this choice alone or in concert with a partner familiar with local regulation, culture, business habits and recruitment.

What is one emerging trend in the business/regulatory environment which you would advise companies in or entering Belgium to be particularly proactive about?

Efforts continue apace to encourage entrepreneurship and attract foreign investors or companies. This is done in various ways, for instance by reducing or streamlining regulation, installing specific and advantageous tax systems, providing well-situated infrastructure and office space, investing in high-quality and internationally-oriented education, etc. All of these measures are intended to make it easier for your company to enter the Belgian market, but it will take some time and research to familiarize yourself with them.

Additionally, a great many aids and grants are available from federal and local authorities. We advise you to contact one of the dedicated investment agencies, such as the Brussels Enterprise Agency (BEA), Flanders Investment & Trade or the Office for Foreign Investors (OFI) in Wallonia , who will be more than happy to tell you which aids or incentives apply to your company.

Why is it important for new entrants in Belgium to speak with you

Most importantly, for a seamless continuation of service.  Thanks to BNP Paribas Fortis being part of a global group, both your mother company and your Belgian activities can work with a single bank and enjoy the same service offer. Put more concretely, your relationship manager in Belgium will be in contact with the British BNP Paribas team, allowing for a better understanding of your specific needs, central reporting and an effective service level.

Through us, you also have access to an extensive offering of digital banking services and innovative solutions covering all your banking and financing needs, including international cash management, global trade solutions, factoring, fleet management, expat services, etc. Wherever you decide to establish your subsidiary in Belgium, you will receive a dedicated relationship manager from a central corporate bankers team in Brussels or from one of 16 local business centres.

Last but not least, we are quite experienced in servicing Belgian subsidiaries of foreign groups, which explains why over 3,300 foreign groups have chosen us as their bank in Belgium.

If you’d like to organise a meeting with any of our Accredited Service Providers, or are interested in becoming one, get in touch with James Pearson – our Business & Trade Executive at james.pearson@britishchamber.be

Golden Bridge

With the announcement of this year’s Golden Bridge awards fast approaching, we’re providing a last look at the candidates before the awards ceremony in London next week. The awards recognise the achievements of companies making the successful leap from the UK to the Belgian market and from the Belgium and Luxembourg markets to the UK. Here we take a look at NMC and talk about their move into the UK market.

Can you tell us a bit about what your company does?

NMC is an international leading company active in the development, production and marketing of synthetic foams. Founded in 1950, NMC develops, manufactures and markets synthetic foam products. Our more than 1200 worldwide associates strive to develop innovative, reliable, and high-quality products supported by a complete service package. NMC Group realizes an annual turnover of 200 million Euros and has 12 production units and 20 subsidiaries worldwide.

Can you please provide us with a short history of your business in the UK and why you chose to enter the UK market at the time you did?

In the mid 1970’s we established that there was a market for a quality, lightweight alternative to decorative plaster in the construction and painting and decorating sector. Plaster being heavy and fragile, was not easy to transport or install so we looked for a material that was easy to mould but was light and durable. In February 1977 we launched our first range of Polyurethane Decorative cornice and ceiling centres.

Did you have to make any adaptations to your products or services specifically for the UK market?

With information gathered from the above reports it was confirmed that the biggest usage for coving in the UK was the mass paperfaced Gyproc sector. In 2010 we developed and created a range of 3 profiles in 2 formats to capture a share of this market. It was also apparent that to sell our products in the UK the length of the products (normally 2m in Europe) would have to be increased to 2.4m and 3m to satisfy the professional trade in the UK.

What are your future plans for business development in the UK?

NMC UK supply all the major companies in our market field, (B&Q, Wickes, Screwfix, Toolstation, Akzo Nobel, Crown Paints, Homebase, The Range, Burberry) we aim to continue working with these companies forming long term partnerships, providing new products and services and the continuous improvement of those we already offer.

Join us at the 2015 Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards to celebrate the best of Belgian, Luxembourg and British business. The awards, now in their 19th year, aim to promote trade between the UK and the Belux countries, and to promote the best and brightest in this dynamic and growing market. The awards will be hosted at a gala dinner in London on 26 November at the BLCC Clubhouse Ballroom. You can register for the event here! Don’t forget that for those travelling to London from the continent, an exclusive Eurostar discount is available. Please contact events@blcc.co.uk for details of how to book.

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This week, we’re putting the spotlight on the Golden Bridge Awards, which the British Chamber is co-organising with the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain for a fourth consecutive year. This summer we’ve been looking back on the successes of some of our past winners – Netshield, Real Good Food Europe and Premier Farnell – as they described the milestones they’ve achieved, the progress they’ve made and the learning experience they’ve had since becoming winners.

One key thing we learnt is that winning a Golden Bridge Award is rather a kick-starter than an end goal in itself, and that as a participating company, you need to think about how you make the most of your win:

“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 you achieve after is the key”, said Richard Carty, Commercial Director at Netshield, elaborating that: “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.”

Our past winners also shared their experiences of doing business in Belgium:

“Everything can take that little bit longer, and that is especially true for the business environment. 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”, Richard Carty told us.

Belgium’s geographical position and bureaucracy are two other aspects to consider:

“Belgium has the benefit of being globally well located. I wouldn’t go so far as saying it’s ideal for business, but if you create the right framework then a lot of the local issues go away”, Jerry Vaughan, Global Operations Director at Premier Farnell said, with Thierry Dubois from Real Good Food Europe agreeing that: “one of the main challenges is definitely the administration and bureaucratic processes. I would advise any UK company entering Belgium for the first time to delegate as much as possible to an accounting office, lawyer’s office, or any kind of service that could give you a helping hand with the administrative work.”

Over the past few years, we’ve seen many different reasons for companies to apply for a Golden Bridge Award. For some, it’s all about the profiling that comes with the award win, for others the main objective is the related business development opportunities during the gala night and the follow-up events.

For Jerry Vaughan and Premier Farnell, the award helped to facilitate meetings with key stakeholders such as the British Ambassador and the Minister-President of Wallonia, while Thierry Dubois and Real Good Food discovered that the application process itself also offered a chance to reflect and recognise what the company had actually achieved:

“When you get busy growing your business and you are constantly striving to reach the next level, you usually don’t find the time to sit down and look back at what you have achieved. The award application process offered a great opportunity to do just that. Besides that, it was certainly a nice celebration party!”

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 11 September. Find all the information you’ll need here.

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 james.pearson@britishchamber.be.

Golden_bridge2012-049In 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 james.pearson@britishchamber.be.

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In our series of revisiting past Golden Bridge winners and how far they have come since their award win, today’s story puts the spotlight on Real Good Food Europe.

Real Good Food Europe, producer of baking ingredients, won the 2013 Golden Bridge Award for ‘Best Newcomer’. It has experienced continued success across Europe ever since.

Starting its European operations almost from scratch in 2010, revenues grew from €500.000 in 2013 to €2m in 2014, and with a turnover forecast of €4.5m for 2015. Real Good Food is now cementing its overseas commitment by opening a new office in Brussels and recruiting new employees.

We took the chance to speak with Thierry Dubois, General Manager of Real Good Food Europe, about the company’s journey since winning the award.

Thierry, it’s been approximately 1.5 years since you won the Golden Bridge Award for UK best newcomer into Belgium. What has happened since then for Real Good Food Europe?

Only good news so far to be honest. We have been growing surely but steadily. At present, we are a team of 10 people compared to the 6 we were at the time of winning the award. We should be adding two more people in the coming months, as we are looking to develop in other markets such as Germany. In the other countries where we already have a presence, such as France and the Netherlands, we have continued growing.

A year ago, we went from being a service company to owning our own warehouse of 650m2 for the next three years, but things went so fast that we already had to move in June to a bigger warehouse (1200 m2) in order to cope with our development. I guess that’s a positive problem to have on our hands!

So it’s really growing fast and in many different directions, especially as we are broadening our portfolio of products and expanding our customer base. We’ve been very successful in Western Europe and we now intend on going to Eastern Europe and possibly Russia if we find the right contact.

What did the Golden Bridge process do for you in terms of reflecting on your business success?

It’s always difficult to measure the exact business impact of these sort of things. However, I definitely know it has raised the profile of our European office, which won the award, as we have been contacted even by potential customers in our UK home market.

Also, when you get busy growing your business and you are constantly striving to reach the next level, you usually don’t find the time to sit down and look back at what you have achieved. The award application process offered a great opportunity to do just that. Besides that, it was certainly a nice celebration party! (laughs)

What have been the main challenges you faced about doing business in Belgium and Europe? Any ‘top tips’ to share on how to approach the Belgian market?

Every time we enter a new market in Europe we are facing new challenges, as we constantly need to re-evaluate how to integrate. France was a very difficult market for us to cope with, but thankfully we believe in always having someone there in the field taking care of each country’s customers. If you don’t know what is happening in a country and you try and find out from a distance, it’s very difficult to supply that market.

As for Belgium, one of the main challenges is definitely the administration and bureaucratic processes. I would advise any UK company entering Belgium for the first time to delegate as much as possible to an accounting office, lawyer’s office, or any kind of service that could give you a helping hand with the administrative work. It happens in many different places, but Belgium is certainly not an easy one, that’s for sure.

What role does Belgium play in Real Good Food Europe’s continued growth?

Belgium is the ideal place to be, but not necessarily the ideal place to sell. It’s a very good place to deliver all over Europe, but the Belgian market is rather small. We’re trying to develop it since we are here and it’s very easy to participate in related events.

From a sales perspective, bigger markets, such as Spain and Italy, are our main priorities though, as we have not been as successful there lately as we want to be. I suppose our recipes are more adapted to Northern Europe, but we have developed a new formula which I hope will enable us to cover those markets as well.

What was your secret to winning the Golden Bridge award, and what tips would you give any prospective candidate?

Try to keep it simple and focus on what really matters. I also brought something typically Belgian along for the selection panel: a speculoos-flavoured sugar-base for cakes, everybody had to love that – and they did!

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 james.pearson@britishchamber.be.

UKTI webinars

By Gabriella Cox, Trade Adviser at UK Trade & Investment

Part 1 of 14 down, only 13 left to go.  On 11th June we began the UKTI Benelux Webinar Series: a series devoted to helping UK companies with their overseas activities. Using some of the FAQs sent to us from UK companies, we compiled a list of a few topics which are commonly a struggle for exporters, the first being ‘Should I export only or should I consider setting up in Belgium?’

So what did we learn?

Belgium overall is…

  • a perfect assessment market – generally what works in Belgium, will work further afield in Europe.  Even large companies such as Coca Cola and H&M used Belgium to test European reaction to their products.
  • accessible – not only is Belgium easy to get to for consumers a 1-2 hours from several major cities in Europe ie. Paris, London, Amsterdam, Cologne, but it also hosts a large amount of sea and inland ports, some of the largest in Europe.
  • highly skilled – there are three national languages leading to a multilingual workforce.  Belgium is also home to some of the top management school and universities in the world creating experts, specifically in nanoelectronics, life sciences & high tech industries

For investors, Belgium offers…

  • cost-effective office space – office space can be snapped up for as little as 120 euro per sqm and Brussels is one of the cheapest capitals in Europe.
  • availability – there is high availability of office spaces, facilities and greenfields.
  • tax incentives – companies can deduct fictitious interest calculated on their equity.  This is done in order to stimulate companies to finance investment with own equity rather than bank loans.
  • ease- It is relatively easy to set up a legal entity in Belgium as opposed to other European countries
  • investment grants & subsidies – cash grants are available based on a % of your total investment amount.  Subsidies are available for R&D. Training schemes are in place which could reduce the cost of your work force by around 11% for the first 4 years.

To set up a limited company…

  • there are two main choices – an NV/SA or a bvba/SPRL – the latter is recommended for smaller companies or companies who are starting small – this can be changed at a later date.
  • you will need to have some starting capital – for an NV/SA this is €62,000.  For a bvba/SPRL this is €18,550 – this differs considerably to the UK where there is no minimum share capital requirement. These funds must be deposited and frozen in a special company account whilst the company is approved.
  • an NV/SA must have at least 3 directors, a bvba/SPRL, like a UK limited company need only have 1.

If you would like further information on the content of this webinar, I would invite you to watch the session.  Alternatively, you can access the slides here.

I also invite you to join us for the following 13 sessions of the series; our next topic being commercial law, focusing on distribution, contracts and more.  For more information or to register, please click here.  You are also entirely welcome to contact me directly for more information or for any other export/investment questions.

As a final note, I would like to thank our speakers at this event, Karelle Lambert of AWEX, Corinne Vanbrusselen of FIT, SImon Duernickx of BDO, Amy Dalton of UKTI Belgium and finally James Pearson from the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium.

The British Chamber is pleased to be supporting the UKTI Benelux Webinar Series through the engagement of the chamber’s Accredited Service Providers as expert speakers. If you are a UK company looking for more information about doing business in Belgium, please don’t hesitate to contact Gabriella Cox from UK Trade & Investment Belgium (gabriella.cox@mobile.ukti.gov.uk) and James Pearson from the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium (james.pearson@britishchamber.be).

GoldenBridge2014-267The British Chamber blog is launching a new series of weekly case studies of past Golden Bridge winners and how far they have come since their award win.

Our first story features Premier Farnell, the high-service distributor of technology products and solutions for electronic system design, maintenance and repair. Under its European trading name, Farnell element14, they won the 2014 Golden Bridge Award for UK companies in Belgium.

We took the chance to speak with Jerry Vaughan, Global Operations Director, about their journey since winning the award.

Jerry, It’s been just over half a year since you won the Golden Bridge Award. What has happened since then for Farnell element14?

About a year ago, the group changed to a global organisation, which is driving the changes towards what we call a target operating model. Very simply put, we are moving from three regional organisations (North America, Europea and Asia) to a single organisation worldwide, supported by currently 10 Distribution Centres around the globe. From an operational perspective we now have a global supply chain under the leadership of the new Global Supply Chain Officer.

We are currently in the process of announcing the various levels of managements and direction. As head of Global Operations, the Liege Distribution Centre reports to me, as do all other ones scattered around the world. We ship around 85,000 to 90,000 products a day worldwide, so if something goes wrong it’s apparently now my fault!

What role does Belgium and the Liege Distribution Centre play in Farnell’s continued international growth?

The Liege Distribution Centre has a very big opportunity at the moment. Currently, it only serves European demand, but we are looking to expand that to meet global demand in some cases. From a geographic and logistical perspective, Liege is extremely well positioned and close to the distribution hubs of all the global freight companies that we use. As we define the future network design, the future role for the Liege facility will become clearer, so obvious opportunities exist for us to explore.

What did the Golden Bridge win do for Farnell in terms of reflecting on and celebrating the success of your Belgian operations?

It validated that in Liege we have extremely good contributors in the form of our workforce there, business process intelligence and professional management that has allowed the distribution centre to become one of our key bases.

We shared the award with not only all the employees, but their extended families as well. We believe that if you come to work and you feel good about it, you tend to do a better job, and that is definitely influenced more by what your husband or wife feels, not just your boss. When we have something to celebrate, we always like to get the families involved too, that’s just something we do all around the world.

How has the Golden Bridge Award win helped you in your external relations?

It has given the Liege Distribution Centre and team a lot more visibility to a number of stakeholders. Since the awards, we have been invited to many events and hosted some others too. We managed to meet Alison Rose, British Ambassador to Belgium, a couple of times and Paul Magnette, Minister-President of Wallonia, which has definitely given us sight to some key support that can be more helpful than mere financial grants.

We now know how we have to behave to get the best out of Belgium, we want to have good industrial relations and are better able to manage and cope with the unionised culture. These are solid foundations on which we are building our goal of expanding the Liege Distribution centre in both size and staff.

What have been the main challenges you faced about doing business in Belgium and Europe? Any ‘top tips’ to share on how to approach the Belgian market?

Belgium has the benefit of being globally well located. I wouldn’t go so far as saying it’s ideal for business, but if you create the right framework then a lot of the local issues go away.

If you are working in Belgium, you need to behave according to Belgian rules and culture. Belgian people are obviously different to people in Britain, and that’s why it’s key to find what the trigger points are and why they happen, if you want to get the best out of any country you are based in.

Because of this, we have been able to reach out to stakeholders that we wouldn’t normally be involved with, namely the Wallonia government and the British Council. Not only have we ensured that we are providing sound investment in the region, but it has increased our reputation greatly. I think that the Golden Bridge Award has helped highlight that fact. What people see now is a company where people really want to come and work because it is regarded as one of the best employers in the region.

Getting that equation right guarantees that the quality of work is constantly improving and that we are attracting the right skills and ambitions from people to sustain the future. Good companies attract good people.

What was your secret to winning the Golden Bridge award, and what tips would you give any prospective candidate?

Something that improves the world in which we live in is essential. So be excited about what you are doing – that feeds off naturally and helps you enormously when pitching.

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 james.pearson@britishchamber.be.

In the season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” it’s now that time of the year where we look to celebrate the fruits of success in export and trade between the UK and Belgium. Inspiring stories of export success, accompanied by a great gala celebration: it’s time for the Golden Bridge Awards.

Glynis at GBA judging

By Glynis Whiting (pictured), President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium

As a British Chamber of Commerce, supporting bilateral export and trade is at the heart of what we do. A key on-going activity is to offer UK companies coming to Belgium a “safe landing” through our network of Accredited Service Providers, along with our main trade and export event at the annual Golden Bridge Awards. At the annual ceremony we recognise and celebrate those who have succeeded in crossing the “bridge” into the Belgian market – and in many cases using Belgium as a stepping stone for expanding even farther on an international scale.

This week, I once again had the pleasure of sitting on the Awards’ selection panel, chaired by HM Ambassador Alison Rose and hosted by KBC, the event’s main sponsor, at their beautiful building in the Grand Place in the centre of Brussels. The companies presenting each had a unique story to tell about their business in Belgium, and it’s always a positive and inspiring experience to listen to these diverse stories of success. Our sights are now set on the Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner in London on 20 November, where all the Golden Bridge winners will be announced. The location is a Victorian ballroom just around the corner from Trafalgar Square, a highly suitable place for celebrating success in exports and the Golden Bridge winners in particular.

I wish all the Golden Bridge finalists the best, and I’m very pleased that we as Chambers of Commerce can offer the opportunity to share these success stories and hopefully encourage even more aspiring exporters to make that leap across the Channel. The Golden Bridge Awards truly is a highlight in the calendar, and so I can only encourage you to join the organising Chambers, our sponsors, and not least the awards finalists for a memorable evening in London on 20 November.

The annual Golden Bridge Awards recognise and celebrate excellence in export and trade. The Awards are co-organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium with the Belgian Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain and are this year, for the first time, joined also by the Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce, making the 2014 Awards a truly British-Benelux affair. Read more about the Awards and register for the Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony here.

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