Our Best Year Yet, A Look Back At 2019 By Michael Gietzen
While I’m currently awaiting the arrival of yet another delayed service courtesy of Southern Fail, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts to summarise quite possibly, the most remarkable year of business I’ve experienced at Identity.
As I think of Identity’s somewhat unbelievable success, it’s imperative that the entire team (Identiteam – not sure that will stick!) understand just how proud I am of our achievements, both collectively and individually. There’s a considerable amount of effort that goes into delivering an event, most of which goes unseen and I’d like to assure everyone that the directors and I see your hard work and appreciate it immeasurably.
It’s been a whole decade since my story at Identity started and what can I say? It’s been one hell of a ride.
After returning to work in January 2019 after the Christmas break, I remember speaking to Antonia, my wife, over breakfast about my fond memories of attending Royal BNI Eastbourne, Chamber breakfast meetings and nearly every networking opportunity available around Sussex In an effort to secure as much new business as possible. I have made some great and long-lasting friendships from those early networking sessions alongside the many, many laughs and hangovers.
These days however, my networking is centred around London or internationally. For those that dream of travelling for work, while it sounds glamourous – rest assured it’s a far cry from reality, highlighted emphatically as I continue to wait for this bloody delayed service. If it wasn’t for video calling (thank you WhatsApp), I’d see even less of my boys and wife – which is undeniably painful at the best of times.
You may know Janet, our Director of Live Events and our most recently appointed board level director. From day one, she’s been a revelation. Whenever you take on a new senior team member, especially one with board level responsibility, there’s always going to be a level of uncertainty and trepidation. Thankfully, I can truly say what an amazing friend and business partner Janet has become, and I look forward to achieving so much more together in 2020. We have shared many high and lows this year, along with Paul, Operations Director, as we often burn the midnight oils collaborating on our tender submissions and major project executions. While we’ve all agreed 2020 marks the start of fewer all-nighters and takeaway pizzas, I’m quietly confident that won’t be the case!
I’m pleased to say that we’ve experienced far more highs than lows this year with significant wins coming from both the public and private sectors alike. We kicked 2019 off by setting some firm company objectives; some conscientious, some mandatory and some quite frankly audacious and I’m pleased we’ve left nothing off the table as we see out the final stages of the year.
To reiterate, this post is absolutely not me bragging about our success but celebrating in it. I am so, so proud of what we’ve achieved, this year in particular…
We’ve smashed our sales targets!
We’ve created a more balanced portfolio of clients across both private and public sectors which span a diverse range of markets!
We’ve made significant progress in our environmental endeavours – and in many cases delivered industry firsts – on our promise to reduce our environmental footprint. Notably through our commitment to achieving a plastic-free office and producing more sustainable events. It was just yesterday that we were awarded with champion status for our plastic-free office environment!
We’ve been lucky to have recruited some exceptional individuals in 2019, joining our already fantastic team – without a doubt, this has been our single greatest achievement this year and I couldn’t be prouder of the incredibly talented team we have at Identity.
October saw us move beyond 100 colleagues working from our HQ in Westham. Yes, the payroll has shot up exponentially and it certainly used to frighten me (and probably still does) but nothing we’re achieving would be possible without this brilliant Identity team I’m lucky to call myself a part of.
At this year’s Identity Conference (our internal event) I spoke at length about the Identity ethos and how ‘The Sum of the Parts’ is so, so important. I’ve seen first-hand just how effective problem solving, idea generation and ultimately, project delivery, is when it’s a team effort. Working in siloes just can’t work as well.
Work isn’t the be-all and end-all though. We’ve taken part in many activities this year as a team. The weekly running club, offering support and refreshments to runners at the Eastbourne Half Marathon, our notorious (but always fun) Summer Party, the delicious Great Identity Bake Off, our family walk and picnic, the River Thames boat cruise and many piss ups following our Friday drinks.
Where would this year be without the vast number of major account and project wins? It’s this stat that really drives home just what a year it’s been and how fortunate I am to be surrounded by such a talented and ambitious team.
Early in the year Identity was awarded tier-one supplier status for Siemens. The innovation giant which employees over 350,000 people around the world – that’s a huge coup. Not long after that we delivered our first project with them – multiple activations at the Goodwood Festival of Speed – a festival that attracts over 200,000 every year. Not only that but one of activations was a hydrogen fuel cell – the cell charged the electric cars at the festival and even featured on Sky News drawing special praise from His Grace, The Duke of Richmond.
Shortly after FoS, we were awarded the contract to deliver the UK’s flagship event for trade and tourism, ExploreGB, which featured special appearances from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Ed Sheeran. The sheer scale and variety of the event made it feel like it was four events in one and there aren’t many which can attest to hosting over 25,000 meetings over two days.
Quickly following ExploreGB and we’d won a multiyear contract to deliver the live events for Highways England – the Government-owned company responsible for maintaining the major roads and motorways in England. Since we were awarded the contract, we’ve delivered over 20 projects for Highways England and are consistently going from strength to strength.
Next up? Only winning our biggest contract to date in the form of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force’s outreach programme – another multiyear deal. This gives me the most joy – winning the contract took almost 9 months of pitching and what felt like an eternity for the team. After confirmation of the contract, I can safely say a stiff drink (or two) was had!
Still elated from hearing the news about the RN and RAF contract, we were awarded the contract to deliver the first Global Conference for Media Freedom, a UK first but with an extremely sensitive and serious undertone. Drawing global media attention and featuring esteemed legal professional Amal Clooney and then Prime Ministerial candidate, Jeremy Hunt, the event was very of a very high profile and it couldn’t have gone any better.
Following on from Global Conference for Media Freedom and we were chosen to deliver the outreach events for the Department for Transport’s (DfT) “Get Ready for Brexit” campaign. This campaign was the single largest staffing and pop-up activation of the last decade which shouldn’t be understated. Politics aside, from a logistics perspective – this was one hell of an achievement and I’m honoured that Identity was chosen to deliver and everyone involved deserves colossal amounts of praise – it was far from an easy project.
Straying away slightly from our project wins and early September saw Identity debut in C&IT’s (Conference and Incentive Travel) Top 50 Events Agencies, ranking 34th overall. To give a bit of context, it’s part of our five-year plan to feature within the top 20 and we’re well on target to achieving that goal, maybe as early as next year…
Event heavy hitters George P. Johnson, Jack Morton and WRG are the three at the top of the tree, so to speak. It’s my vision and goal to see Identity join and maybe even displace them. They are absolutely our competitors, but I have a huge amount of respect for each of them and it’s humbling to think that we’re now in the same league.
Moving back to project wins and this one’s a biggie – NATO Leaders’ Meeting. The Meeting came back to the UK and Identity was chosen to deliver. Events don’t get much bigger than this – 29 of the world leaders including Trump, Johnson, Trudeau, Macron and Merkel would be at an event Identity was producing. That’s insane! Working again with the incredibly talented Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to deliver the NATO Leaders’ Meeting, this year’s was special as it was held in London for the first time since 1990 and celebrating the alliance’s 70th anniversary. This meant there was an unbelievable amount of media coverage and subsequent pressure tied to the event. Thankfully it ran without a hitch, with a certain Mr Trump even commenting “this is how it’s done” – fantastic.
During the NATO build we delivered a project for a new client win, tech powerhouse, Google. Working with such a well-known innovator and household name is a very proud moment for me, personally. What’s more is that the project was won while NATO drew the majority of focus which goes to show our incredible depth of talent. Another congratulations to all involved in this.
Finally – Identity debuts in the Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table. While it’s a mouthful to read, it’s a very real accolade and one that I’m extremely proud of. The Fast Track 100 is a showcase for the 100 fastest growing companies in the UK and Identity ranked 90th in our first appearance. To top it off, in the same week we are shortlisted for the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade – we’re awaiting the final announcement in the new year.
As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of change at Identity. No one has been more affected than Rob (my brother) who’s Identity’s Commercial Services Director and oversees the constant changes to the premises, supply chain and staff. It appears we’re adding a new team or increasing office space every other day.
So, there it is, 2019 in a nutshell – phew.
I’d like to thank the whole team; freelancers, permanent colleagues, new starters, clients and suppliers – everyone. Without you, we wouldn’t have achieved the fantastic success we have.
Thank you to my wife, Antonia and my young family for your support and helping me keep my sanity. It’s absolutely imperative to find a work/life balance, otherwise what’s it all for?
2019 has been a fantastic ride and I genuinely cannot wait for what 2020 has in store for us. I’m excited about what we’re going to achieve, and I look forward to writing another year in review…
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.