What things do you always take with you when you travel to an event?

29 October 2010 by Ken Brown  
Filed under Event management

Now I have to admit that I was checking in on one of the many LinkedIn groups that I’m a member of and came across this subject posted as one of the discussions.

It got me thinking about what it was that I couldn’t do without when I went away to manage an event. Personally, it was simple things like comfy PJs, two alarm clocks and the event file – my event bible. The PJs and alarm clock stay the same but the event file has turned into a laptop and iPhone!!

Professionally, I almost took the whole office with me. Being able to reach for scissors, blu-tak or post-it notes without having to leave the venue was just so important to me because my role on the day was event management and not SHOPPING!!

So I ask you: What things do you always take with you when you travel to an event?

If you’d like my events box checklist why not send me a message and I’ll either email it to you or I might even throw it up here as a blog post.

EventManager™ gets a shiny new look and feel

15 October 2010 by Ken Brown  
Filed under Event management

Whilst it’s definitely getting colder out there we have had some cracking days this week and it’s warming to see all the spectacular colours that Autumn is throwing out at the minute from our view over the campus at Keele University.

As well as exciting new functionality we’ve decided that it was high time that EventManager™ took on some new colour and got spruced up with a bit of a make-over as well.  We’ll be scrapping the existing management screen look and feel and adding the clean new sexy looking interface screens designed by our brilliant designers, Lisa and Rob.

As a rule of thumb we make our systems easy to use and navigate and incorporating great design is fundamental to that principle.  Clean white backgrounds overlaid with strong navigational and management screen colours make EventManager™ both functionally and now visually one of the nicest events packages to use.

If you’re an existing user we’ll be rolling this out to your installation during w/c 25 October 2010.  If you’re interested in an events system why not contact us and we’ll be more than happy to give you a demo of the system.

Internet Business solutions

12 October 2010 by Kevin Holdridge  
Filed under News and views

Our largest local competitor went bust last month. The failure of Internet Business Solutions (aka NetBiz Solutions and another slight variant under which they have just started trading again after apparently walking away from £400,000 of debts), has prompted us here at Kent House to reflect on the nature of the market and of our own business.

The NetBiz Solutions business model is one which plagues the Internet industry. It appears to have been built on generating contracts through an aggressive sales operation delivering lots of small under-priced projects so that the company can survive on cashflow from holding on to customer deposits (they held £100,000 of customer deposits at time of lquidation, yet the liquidators reported only £5,000 of work in progress). Apparently the company collapsed because of “a loss of key sales people”.

Well, we at Kent House certainly have no problems with the idea of sales and marketing and with providing sensible but keen prices – quite the opposite. So what is the basis of our objection to companies like this one?

Firstly, they contribute to the low levels of confidence and trust generally accorded to the web development sector.   Under their business model, the customer is likely to get a pretty but pointless website built on no other strategy than (a) the customer thinks they need a website but isn’t sure what they should be doing with it, and (b) the developer needs to maintain cashflow.  Customers who have had their fingers burned in this way and have spent money on a website that has failed to achieve anything for them either find themselves forced economically to stick with what they’ve got despite its inadequacy, or are reluctant to risk making a new investment and are inherently suspicious of the sound advice offered by firms such as ours. Being closed to the opportunities offered by online channels can be a serious competitive disadvantage.

Second, is the issue of the sales-driven approach.  The economy would, of course, collapse without sales teams, and a strong sales operation is critical to the success of many companies and ventures.  But, the “churn and burn” sales approach is wholly inappropriate to meeting the needs of small and medium enterprises who want to invest scarce resources in order to generate net profit from online channels. The quick sell of a formulaic website from a rate card in this situation can lead only to disappointment and resentment.  A tailored plan involving competitor and market analysis, identifying targets for return on investment, and a customised package of online services is a much more complicated deal to “sell” and it requires some honest communication and some working-up. But, it is the only way that the customer is going to make money from their investment. Web industry cowboys find it easier to sell on the basis of “The website will cost you only £2,000 if you can pay a 50% deposit today”. It’s harder to convince a client (especially when they have been burned once) that a cleverer investment of £3,000 will earn them much more than that in new business or deliver more than that in efficiency savings, thus making money rather than costing “only” £2,000.

The third disappointment for us is that this kind of company is a bit like a nasty infection – it tends to keep coming back after you think it’s gone.  In this case, Internet Business Solutions seems to have engineered a “phoenix” situation whereby they have immediately started trading again with an almost identical name from the same offices and with apparently the same people running it. The only things that seem to have gone away are £400,000 of debt, a substantial grant paid earlier this year by the regional development agency (apparently in 5 figures!), and most of the staff.  Unsurprisingly, the “new” team of 7 seems to include mostly sales and marketing people and a book keeper – leopards generally don’t change their spots.

On a personal note, I consider the increasingly common practice of phoenix companies to be disgraceful and disreputable. It is inevitable that some businesses will fail – there but for the grace of God, etc.  But that is no justification for leaving betrayed staff and creditors behind while shamelessly restarting with the original company’s assets bought at nominal prices. One of the reasons I formed my own company was so that I could operate by a fair moral code – having to compete with lowlife competitors sometimes makes that difficult, but I know on which side of the line I want to stay. I would also question whether liquidators are always diligently exercising their duty to get the best deal for creditors.

One small ray of sunshine from this shabby affair is that our biggest local competitor (by “biggest” I mean largest by number of staff) is now smaller than us – at least until they persuade another swathe of unsuspecting customers to sign up.

Slick new features and look and feel to be released for EventManager v4.0

12 October 2010 by Ken Brown  
Filed under Event management

August and September have been busy months for the EventManager™ development and design team. As most of you’ll know we maintain EventManager™ all the time, applying tweaks and fixes based on client and user feedback as well as deploying new client requested features at various points throughout the year.

Alongside this routine maintenance we also carry out planned development path work so that we can keep EventManager™ ahead of the market adding new features or improving the application interface.

Over the next few weeks our EventManager™ lead developer, Imran Nazar and our Product Manager, Ken Brown will be revealing some of the exciting new functionality that will be coming to a screen near you if you’re a member of the EventManager™ family.

Topics we’ll be covering include:

  • a shiny new look and feel for the EventManager™ management screens;
  • drag and drop badge production;
  • custom email marketing campaigns via invitations;
  • abstract submission and paper management;
  • managing the registration process through barcodes;
  • EventManager’s very own Android phone app;
  • making your event more visually appealing through event and client level branding;
  • getting your delegates engaged from the get-go with your own event private social networking group or discussion forums;
  • advanced event options that allow you to manage tables and meeting rooms.

To kick off here’s a sneak preview of the new look and feel of the management pages

EventManagerTM - Shiny new look and feel

EventManager™ - Shiny new look and feel

Kent House awarded “excellent” ISO pass at external review

8 October 2010 by Ken Brown  
Filed under News and views

For any of you that have been externally audited you’ll know that it’s like someone going through your knicker drawer – it’s more than a little uncomfortable – but much as you don’t like it has to be done.

As part of our on-going commitment to delivering quality products and services to our clients as well as carrying out internal meetings and reviews of our quality process we have an annual external review carried out by QMS.

Our annual review this year was held in September and we’re delighted to announce that we passed the ISO9001:2000 standard with flying colours and have also passed and been upgraded to the lastest standard of ISO9001:2008 from this point onwards.