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Exhibition World | Feature19Andrew ShanksDevelopment Director, Reed ExhibitionsWhen we saw what was coming, weimmediately started to try to savemoney in 2008, and were actually quitesuccessful even in the later quarter.So, what happened to the world?Well, most of my world was afflicted bylow exhibitor budgets, very lowbusiness confidence and even panic insome business sectors. It was veryhard for our teams to sell. We sawvisitor numbers drop rather promptlyand had more cancellations, lowerrevenues in 2009 and lower profits. I don't think that is an unusual story. But this didn't happen to us everywhere. Somecountries did much better than others. We have 36business sectors, but our business is concentrated in 12or 13 major sectors. We managed in 2009 to hold ourgross profit margin to the percentage it was in 2008.So, what did we do?We had to save money, but we also decided to spendmoney and try to improve the way we did business, andimprove value for the exhibitors. We attacked the supplychain and while we didn't take an axe to costs, we didhave a very careful look at them.We started working, and are still doing so, onimproving our sales process. We have done our best toadd value to service and flexibility towhat we offer our customers.Technology, especially knowledgemanagement within the organisation,communication to the customer anddata management, was one of ourpriorities for investment and still is.In 2009 we didn't actually lose verymuch because, as I said, we werebeing cautious financially. Wecancelled a few weaker events thatmight have failed anyway, and madefewer acquisitions. We actually onlymade one, compared with what wouldnormally be about a dozen or more inany given year.We slightly reduced our workforce. As with our costswe didn't take an axe to it, but we did lose maybe four orfive per cent net year-on-year. Where we could we usednatural wastage, but we did make a few cuts as well.We invested much more in training, research anddevelopment, which we believe makes things better forus now. I think we would all agree that the exhibitionmodel is strong, and that hasn't changed.We have worked hard to improve our own organisationalcompetence, and started launching shows again. We arestill working on trying to provide a more realistic pricingsystem that is value-driven for the exhibitor, and continue todevelop the technology online, with social media forinstance, to support our shows.The recession has fortunately not weakened the powerof our business model. Wherever you go, it is well-documented that people realise the value of face-to-facemeetings.Finally, of course, we have benefitted from the fact thatbeing a more broad-based company, we work in somecountries where things are strong economically, and wework in some economic sectors where things are strong.We feel stronger today than we did 18 months ago.Adapt or dieAt the UFI Open Seminar in Europe, held in Budapest in June, Reed Exhibitions' AndrewShanksand Diversified UK's Carsten Holmshared their contrasting views of therecession, and discussed how their respective companies dealt with the challenge.THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NET| October 2010|Andrew Shanks'We had to save money, but we alsodecided to spend money and try toimprove the way we did business.'