Managing International Perceptions


Managing International Perceptions

Managing International Perceptions of South Africa Contractors

This call for further debate is brought to you by ConCept G.

The reliance and reliability of contractors in South Africa has been called into question by some overseas exhibitors and contractors, who say that the South African contractor is not reliable, cannot deliver on time and with good quality. How can we increase both these items – reliability and quality – in the South African context? And what are the reasons for these negative perceptions? This is one possible reason: South Africa has a multitude of contractors to the events industry; many of these are reliable, professional organisations who deliver on their clients’ expectations consistently. Sadly, there are a few bad apples that have tarnished the reputation of South African suppliers due to late or non-delivery and quality that does not match international standards. This can occur when suppliers outsource portions of the work to sub-contractors.

Jennifer Gibson, owner of award-winning exhibition design company The Exhibitionist, feels that the process is trial and error, as the company is only as good as its contractors. “You have to ensure the sub-contractors offer the same service you do to your clients. Your contractors are an imperative extension of your team”, Jennifer says. However, some companies call themselves full-service, turnkey solution providers, when in fact key elements of the work are not done in-house. Is this not a form of misrepresentation? Andrew Gibbs of ConCept G feels that there should be a process undertaken by an independent body that will inspect the factories and capabilities of contractors. If the company that is being vetted in fact offers all services in-house without the need for sub-contractors, that company will be given a certificate stating that it meets the requisite standards and is a Level A supplier, for example.

“What happens if a supplier doesn’t deliver a stand to a client on time? Nothing. We have internal codes of ethics within South African associations, but these don’t hold us accountable for delivering on our promises to our clients”, Andrew says. “The exhibitor is sometimes naïve, in that they think that what they see on Facebook or on a website is the whole truth, but do they go to a supplier’s premises and check that 100% of the work can be handled on-site? Almost never.” Nigel Walker of Compex, says “I agree that an industry body can [should] provide a ‘register’ of service providers in “Good Business Standing”, thus providing a basis for guidance for exhibitors and contractors. Such a register could include copies of relevant, current and valid documentation such as VAT registration, tax clearance certificate, health and safety documentation, B-BBEE certification, company registration, directors/shareholders, public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance; confirmed membership of industry bodies/associations (particularly those which are underpinned by legal requirements as provided for by an Act) ”.

European Best Practice

By Andrew Harrison of ESSA

The process of sub-contracting services of all types is a natural part of doing business in the events industry, both locally and internationally. It can be difficult to accurately select suitable sub-contractors in another country, let alone on another continent in a different hemisphere. Whilst it would be impossible to have a universal vetting process there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk when searching for, and recruiting, someone to look after 

your client. The Event Supplier & Services Association (ESSA) was born out of the need to provide some form of surety when engaging an event contractor, or sub-contractor for an exhibition or live event. In order to join and to maintain membership, the association requires its members to be able to produce a number of documents, for example, trading accounts and suitable insurance, and, most importantly, adherence to a strict code of practice. This provides some measure of confidence for the person engaging an ESSA member to deliver the whole, or part, of an event,

and it has also been a major drive for the association’s members that, when subcontracting work, they seek to do so through fellow ESSA members as this provides consistent values and adherence to the code of practice. As an association, we can help locate a specialist, and general, sub-contractors for overseas organisations from within our membership. The better the brief, the narrower the focus. Or, any company can go to the ESSA ( Economic Society of South Africawebsite and look at the criteria for membership and then select a member with the most suitable expertise and experience.

“The industry body could also undertake an inspection of all service provider members and verify that each service provider is indeed an owner and has stock of the service items that the provider is advertising they are a provider of – such as furniture, shell scheme, electrics, marquees, plants etc. Otherwise such a service provider should be recorded as a project manager, agency, procurement company etc. The industry body could further indicate which service providers have a particular service component ‘in-house’, and which are sub-contracted.

I would go further and say that a service provider should not be ‘listed’ as a provider of ‘xyz’, unless the sales attributed to ‘xyz’ actually contributes at least 10% of that service company’s total turnover. There is nothing wrong with sub-contracting aspects of a project, indeed the exhibition and event industry is underpinned by such relationships, but such relationships should not be disguised/hidden from the end-client”, Nigel concludes. Andrew also feels that contractors should not bite off more than they can chew. “Suppliers should only take on work that they know can be executed timeously, based on the build-up days stipulated by the organisers.” Jennifer agrees, saying, “The one thing I am sure of in exhibition stand construction is expect the unexpected, what with our tight deadlines, late sign offs, unfortunately things can go wrong, but you must ensure you and your team have the tenacity to deliver despite the unforeseen circumstance”.