Monday 11 December 2017

My Big Idea: In countries like Russia, conference exhibitors will really struggle to move goods - that's where we come in

Dad Niall Thompson, the chief executive of Interflow Logistics
Dad Niall Thompson, the chief executive of Interflow Logistics
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Niall Thompson (41), a dad of two, is founder and chief executive of Interflow Logistics, which provides logistics services to conference exhibitors in Ireland and abroad.

"I worked in the golf industry before moving into logistics. My first business was Mail Boxes Etc, based near my home in Killarney, which helps people ship small goods from Ireland overseas.

That company is still going strong today. Business slowed during the recession, however, so I started looking for opportunities to increase volume.

Then in 2009 I was asked to help out a family friend who was running a medical conference in Citywest. I was tasked with looking after logistics for exhibitors coming to the event. I quickly realised how difficult it was for them to transport their exhibit stands and equipment.

They had no problem getting themselves to Ireland but it was a different story when it came to moving goods -issues ranged from customs problems to damage caused in transit. In places like Brazil and Russia, I learned it is nearly impossible to get freight through customs without professional help. There was a clear business opportunity there. With the support of my very accommodating wife, Martina, I set up Interflow Logistics in 2010. We are a one-stop shop for exhibitions.

We arrange for stands and other materials to be collected, packaged, shipped by road, air and sea, brought through customs and set up on the event floor. We mainly work with Irish businesses who are exhibiting overseas but also do a lot of international work. Exhibitions are a huge business.

The industry is worth around $5.4 trillion globally and new conferences and events are launched every single day around the globe.

We have also developed a project logistics operation, moving specialised equipment to and from Ireland for companies.

Nine people now work for the business between Dublin, Killarney and London. Our staff are fantastic and are kept busy - right now we are handling in excess of 220 events across 38 countries.

We have just completed our biggest job ever, the World of Coffee conference in the RDS, which was fantastic.

The biggest challenge was taking the business overseas and building partnerships in different countries. In 2012 we were invited to join the International Exhibition Logistics Association, which requires strict vetting, and this year we brought the IELA's annual conference to Dublin.

That was a real honour and the organisation has been great for building partnerships."

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