Mike Blackman #ISE20Years interview - part 2: Development of the ISE organisation
When did you start at ISE? Were you the only employee then?
When we launched Integrated Systems Events in the spring 2003, I was on my own for a few months. By July or August I had recruited Godwin Demicoli, who after this became InfoComm rep for German Central Europe. We also had a trainee, Emmanuel Simon – he came on board while he was still studying and was a good asset for us. The three of us managed everything here. We did the marketing, we did the sales, we did all the logistics.
We had support from the team at InfoComm (or AVIXA as they are now) for administration and accounting. And Jason McGraw, who ran the InfoComm show, was the person who worked very much with me to put on that first show from the US side.
But we did everything else locally. We started putting everything together to put a show on in January 2004.
Who were some of the other key people in ISE a little later?
Well, that's when we decided that we needed to be a little bit stronger in how we're organised, but still want to stay as a lean organisation. With having key functions in the US, is that time zones can be an issue.
In 2005 we decided that we wanted to get additional support within the Netherlands, we put out an RFP, approached several logistics companies. Ben Goedegebuure, the sales and marketing director at a company called Congrex, came back very quickly and made us an offer. And actually in the end, it was the offer we felt fitted to us.
Our team within Congrex was Sander Beunk, Farieda Ramautar and Suzanne Van Vliet. (Suzanne works at the RAI now, actually.) And they would help us out with logistics, and doing the marketing together with me and we had their accounts department there as well.
"The three of us managed everything here. We did the marketing, we did the sales, we did all the logistics"
We decided to always employ our own salespeople. In 2006 we took on Thomas Haeger with a specific role to help us build the pro audio sector within ISE.
How did the company develop further after that?
We worked together with Congrex for a few years until we decided that as a show, we needed our own staff and wanted our own people, or at least have the same people throughout – to have continuity with the people we had.
When we started to employ our own staff in Amsterdam, we first hired Martine Niermans. Martine was at the RAI at the time as a project manager and we hired her to become operations director. And then we hired Daniëlle Inostroza as well. So we had an office with Martine and Daniëlle.
At that time we were in shared offices. And then we built up and grew, and took on a few more people in the Netherlands in the Operations team. Outside the Netherlands it was just me to start with, and Thomas Haeger and then we started to build and he took on Ian Morrish in 2008 to build our residential side, and then in 2010, Elizabeth Kondakow joined us to start building up in central Europe, and particularly with Spain and Italy and the southern European countries.
The organisation grew and grew and we became stronger by, I think, having our own people rather than outsourcing too much.
In the Marketing department, Dan Goldstein joined us in 2007, after working at CMP as editor of the ISE Daily for a couple of years, and we took on Stefanie Hanel in 2008.
You've always been the public face of ISE for exhibitors, visitors and the media. Was that a deliberate decision or did it just happen?
It was a deliberate decision because what we had were three associations as owners who were slightly competitive with each other. The decision was made at that time that none of the executive directors of the associations were allowed to speak on behalf of the show; the only spokesperson should be me as the Managing Director. And so it's developed.
Of course, we still have the senior management of each of the associations in the board who actually I report to, so it's still driven by them. But at the time we had three associations that were very US based – although they had people in Europe, the strength was in the USA – and they wanted us to be seen as European. So that was another reason for making me the public face: I was an Englishman living in Germany, running a show in Switzerland. So it sounded very European.