I bet you never knew how significant 0.3 per cent could be? As it
turns out, it is the difference between catching something really nasty,
known as a ‘triple dip’, and just missing it. Apparently there were
huge sighs of relief in George Osborne’s office last month, when it was
confirmed that the UK economy had in fact grown to the tune of the magic
number above, thereby avoiding three consecutive quarters of economic
contraction and the onset of the nasty three pronged virus. It was a
close one, but we missed it. Everyone relax.
I have to confess, I
was not sat biting my fingernails and fidgeting on the edge of my seat
waiting for this news to come. Why not? Well I suppose a) it just isn’t
news any more b) would we have noticed a vast difference if we did dip
again? As I mused over what to call this particular missive, I googled
‘getting used to the new norm’ and enjoyed a wry smile when the search
returned a top article with the title, dated April 8th 2013, and the
second, dated 24th July 2011. In other words, over the last two years,
not much has changed. I think we have all just got used to it and are
cracking on regardless.
And it’s not been all doom and gloom. A
flat line economy has forced many in the meetings industry to raise
their game. To be successful operators have had to be more creative, get
more personal and work a bit harder. They have had to think a bit more
deeply about the value of face time in a pressurised business climate
and provide solutions, instead of just space. Clients cutting back also
presents opportunities. I founded HBI in 1991 during recession, as
along with a number of other start up agents of this time, I saw that
companies were laying off their even teams and needed support.
the current corporate climate we are also benefiting as strategic
meetings management programs have gone from a nice to have on to a
necessity. So whilst companies may not be spending as much on events as
they were in the heady times of pre 2008 there has never been a better
time to win new business. You just need to stay at least one step ahead
of the market and your competition.
The new norm (even though
it’s not exactly new anymore) has also, among our more enlightened
partners, had a positive impact on workplace relations. We have seen
evidence of management teams discussing the challenges of business
growth more openly with their teams and fostering a stronger sense of
‘we’re in this together’. This has included a greater willingness, on
both sides to embrace flexible working arrangements, which not only help
venues operate more efficiently, but raise the motivation levels of
staff and payback in enhanced customer service. The best venues have
simply rolled up their sleeves and adopted a kind of ‘it’s tough, but we
don’t care’ attitude. Hats off to them.
And maybe things are
starting to look up? At the risk of being accused an optimist, recent
market developments might suggest that there is some investor confidence
returning to the sector. So far this year we have seen the sale of
Principal Hotels by Lloyds to Starwood Capital and last month, following
the demise of the MWB Group, KSL Partners picked up the Malmaison and
Hotel Du Vin brands. The current ‘for sale’ sign outside De Vere Venues
also suggests that the seller, Lloyds again, is reasonably confident of
securing a half decent price for a portfolio that is among those who
have rolled their sleeves up.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not getting
desperately excited by this either. Dips, bumps, down slopes, up
slopes, inclines, declines – they just don’t make much sense at the
moment. As the Test Match Special team might say: there’s not a lot
happening out there. In fact, I can imagine one particular pundit, being
a touch more forthright in his observation of the conditions. Something
along the following lines:
“The track is slow and low, it’s been like it for years, just get out and bat on it and work for your runs”.
In other words, you’ve just got to grind it out. Thank you Geoffery*.
*with apologies to all those who don’t like cricket and have no idea what that was all about.
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