As far as niche business goes, it doesn’t get more niche than Ashfield Meetings & Events. While they are not the only meetings booking agency in the land, they are the only ones who specialise solely on the healthcare sector.
They describe themselves as a full-service international event management company, able to deliver every aspect of an event: from venue, programme, content, teambuilding and social activities.
To better understand who they are and what makes them tick, I spoke to Luke Flett, head of sales & marketing.
What is your USP?
Our specific focus on the highly regulated healthcare sector differentiates us from our competitors. We have vast experience and knowledge of all healthcare meeting types and unparalleled insight into the venue, meeting management and compliance requirements.
Why is booking or managing healthcare events different to booking non-healthcare events?
The main differences apply when you are running external events that involve the attendance of healthcare professionals. You then have to adhere to a variety of compliance codes (that vary depending on where the event is being held and where the attendees are coming from) that stipulate spend limits and restrictions on various items such as the food and beverage and standard of hotel.
How many people work at the company?
We have 320 people that work for us with over 180 full-time employees based in the UK.
Our aim is to provide an engaging and fun experience to all of our staff so they are focused on developing a career with us, rather than simply having a job.
As such, we have a continued focus on developing and adapting our employee engagement with learning and development initiatives.
We spend approximately £250,000 annually on learning and development and were very proud to have been recently awarded a UK Employee Experience Award.
We also have a social committee that run regular events throughout the year (both inside and outside of the office), a comprehensive wellbeing programme focusing on work/life balance and we allow our staff to take time away from their day jobs to provide charitable support to our Ashfield Cares initiative.
How do you find operating out of the Midlands?
It’s a great place to run our international business. We are based in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, which is well serviced with nearby airports, train stations and excellent motorway access. The bespoke space we are in was converted and designed to our specification so it met the needs of the business and encourages fresh thinking and collaboration among the teams. It is an inspirational environment where work feels like fun and the teams can grow and develop.
How old is the company, and can you explain the story of its growth?
Our origins date back to 1976 but the most recent history was the strategic acquisition of two businesses: Universal Procon and WorldEvents, by UDG Healthcare PLC. The businesses were merged to become Universal WorldEvents and in 2014 we rebranded as Ashfield Meetings & Events. Recent growth has come from diversifying and developing our service offering with a particular focus on exhibit solutions and building our internal engagement departments that include production, creative, content and digital teams.
Who is your ideal client?
Our ideal client is anyone that shares the same values as our agency. We have a strong, values-based culture that ensure our staff focus on living and breathing our brand values (quality, partnership, ingenuity, expertise and energy) and by aligning these with our clients we are confident that we can develop long-lasting and mutually beneficial partnerships.
Do you foresee any challenges ahead for the industry in 2017?
Business in general is facing unprecedented uncertainty and event leaders will need to keep a very close eye on all the external influences that can impact their business, our industry and our clients’ event activity. We believe global security remains a huge concern. For meetings to take place we need to find ways for people to meet in a safe environment. As risk is heightened, and travel policies of big organisations react accordingly, fewer delegates will be willing to travel to global events.
Virtual meeting technology could have a big part to play in 2017 in this regard and as such we have a future technologies advisory board to explore how we can strengthen our technological offering through strategic partnerships.