Better Together – Being together in times of crisis

Mark Jones, CEO & Founder of Giant iTab

‍The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the events industry across the world. As a supplier of event tech solutions to trade shows it hit our traditional business hard. With no events taking place the orders dried up, a scenario echoed by most suppliers to this industry. And sadly, there does not appear to be an end in sight. Much like other suppliers we’ve reacted to the market conditions and are working hard to support our customers old and new with a product range that’s been adapted to offer extra health & safety features for events in the new norm, but we are not alone in saying these are challenging times and uncharted waters.

As we have tried to navigate the treacherous landscape over the last six months, being part of an association has been extremely beneficial. We have been a member of the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) for over two years. We decided to join as we felt that we had reached the stage as a company where we would benefit from being part of an association who represented our individual and collective needs within the events industry. We were introduced by Mash Media’s Group Operations Director, Dan Edwards, who is on the ESSA Board. Benefits such as free legal and HR advice, as well as the opportunity to network at a high level with like-minded members operating within the event sector were particularly appealing.

Before COVID-19 we benefited from receiving regular newsletter updates from ESSA about the industry and activity of individual members which gave us a good overview of how events were fairing and where some of the major events were taking place. We were also invited to join the association’s AGM which provided many interesting sessions and speakers and role-play opportunities designed to help us hone our teambuilding skills and be more creative in our business thinking.

When COVID-19 steamrolled the UK in March, being a member of an association became really important for me as the founder & CEO of a business which had built its success around events which were no longer able to take place. ESSA was the voice of the events industry helping us understand the situation better as it evolved and most importantly representing our company and our peers to the Government. ESSA explained to the Government how our unique service situation meant that we were suffering as an industry, the recovery would be much slower and later than other industries and that we needed additional help to be able to weather the storm for the long term. It was also extremely beneficial to have regular webinar and zoom meetings (hosted by Andrew Harrison of ESSA) including being able to listen and speak with other business owners who were finding themselves in a similar position. When we were in the early days of COVID-19 and in lockdown, this highly isolating situation was nerve wracking but was made simpler by being able to share our experiences and see that other people were in the same boat.

There is no substitute for being part of a group of like-minded people and like-minded companies all with a common cause and a common objective, to keep the industry strong and to grow and develop the industry in partnership with other companies. I would strongly advise joining an association, even during the current crisis, for no other reason than to suggest that it makes you part of a group collective where you can share your views, hear other people’s views and take a more holistic view about your position and the economic climate that you operate in. You only really get out of it what you put in, but it is worth the money and the effort. Even In times of a crisis being a member of an association pays dividends as now, more than ever, we are better together.