PIPA sales agents visit Belgium

From Thursday 13 up to and including Sunday 16 February the bulk of the PIPA agents stayed Belgium. The first two days, they visited the PIPA offices, learned how the company works and got to know the staff personally. The last two days, they attended Belgium's biggest pigeon exhibition Fugare in the city of Kortrijk.

First time

Over the past few years, PIPA gained world-wide recognition as the most important platform for international racing pigeon news and as world's most prestigious auction house, resulting in a clientele from all over the world. To improve their relations with clients living in the farthest corners of the world, co-operations with multiple local agents were established. These agents are now raising the PIPA brand awareness in their country or region. To make them feel more part of the team and for all agents to get to know each other personally, the idea of inviting all PIPA agents to Belgium came to mind for the first time. A couple of months later, the idea was presented to and approved of by all PIPA agents. Many of them had already paid a visit to PIPA in the past but for some it would be the first time they set foot on Belgian soil. After long preparations, 16 sales agents finally assembled on Thursday 13 Feburary 2014 for a four-day trip to the cradle of pigeon racing, Belgium.

PIPA agents and staff members posing before the PEC loft

Busy schedule

Most agents already arrived on Wednesday 12 February, giving those who came a long way the time to rest and prepare for four busy days. In the first two days, they visited PIPA headquarters. A word of welcome, a personal encounter with all staff members and agents, presentations of each department explaining who they are and what they do, a pigeon assessment session, a guided loft tour and a long brainstorm session on how to improve PIPA's service and communication, all of this was scheduled on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, Belgium's biggest pigeon exhibition Fugare took place. All agents attended the event and were present at the PIPA stand where they could meet several Belgian fanciers and PIPA clients.

Visiting PIPA headquarters on Thursday and Friday

At 10 a.m. on Thursday 13 February all agents were expected at PIPA headquarters for PIPA CEO Nikolaas Gyselbrecht's short word of welcome. From 10:30 a.m. till 1:00 p.m., including a coffee break of course, PIPA sales manager Thomas Gyselbrecht explained what the sales department actually does, how things work, who is involved and what PIPA's philosophy is when it comes to auctioning pigeons. Martin Martens and Ivan Willockx, the two main Belgian supply agents responsible for supplying Belgian pigeons for the PIPA auctions, were present at the meeting as well. All agents were also given one minute to address their colleagues and to tell something about pigeon racing in their own country.

Sales agent Thomas Gyselbrecht and the agents during the sales meeting

PIPA agent for Poland Tomasz Wiczling explaining that Poland is now
probably the biggest pigeon nation in Europe with about 45,000 pigeons fanciers

After a 45-minute lunch break, veterinary Piet Blancke, responsible for the health of the PEC pigeons, held a one-hour presentation on the importance of medical guidance. He listed the most occurring diseases and talked about the symtoms, diagnosis and treatment. In addition, he elaborated on how to inspect birds at arrival. He concluded by giving advice on how to keep racing pigeons healthy with parenteral medication and medication in water and feed. The interest was considerable since the next session started half an hour later than scheduled. Two different groups were formed. The first group was given a guided tour around the loft while the second learned how to correctly assess pigeons. Loft manager Frederik Leliaert explained how pigeons destined for transport are cared for and his loft colleague Sam Bostoen showed the agents the new PEC loft that was constructed last November. Unfortunately, it was not allowed to take PEC pigeons in the hand because they were not to be disturbed while breeding. After 45 minutes the groups switched sessions and around 17:30 the first day had ended. All agents went back to their hotel in Aalter by two shared minivans.

There was great interest in what vet Piet Blancke (back) had to say about medical guidance

Loft manager Frederik Leliaert helping PIPA agent for Germany Franz-Josef Irmer
put on his shoe covers before entering the PEC loft

Pigeon examiner and expert Martin Martens (r) pointing out the location of the breeding feathers

Given the red eyes, tired look and silence of some agents on Friday morning, it seemed the hotel's bar in Aalter did some good business the night before. At 10:00 a.m., PIPA HR manager Despiegelaere started by amplifying on PIPA's general workflow, the interdepartmental cooperation.Half an hour later, the finance department explained how invoices are made, payments are processed and commissions are calculated. Next up was the logistics department, explaining who does what and where and how the PIPA agent comes in. The morning sessions were concluded by the IT department which illustrated that website development is their key task and which launched breaking news, from which you will hear more real soon.

Logistics operator Piet Blomme (l) and IT manager Erwin De Vylder (r) (re)presenting their departments

After the sandwich lunch, the last departmental session was run by the editorial staff. They focussed on their two key responsibilities, viz. news coverage and sales support, stressed the importance of their freelance team and presented some website statistics. The two-day visit to PIPA headquarters was concluded with a brainstorm session with all agents present, lead by president of the PIPA board of directors Thomas Van Cauwenberghe. Some topics which were discussed: how can PIPA improve its service and communication, in which of the pigeon characteristics listed on the PIPA website are fanciers interested and should the pigeons which are up for auction be displayed in a different way? Some very informative things were mentioned such as "Turkish fanciers are not interested in white pigeons because they attract the attention of birds of prey", says PIPA agent for Turkey Recep Oztürk. After the three-hour brainstorm, all agents left in the minivans for their hotel in Kortrijk, where the pigeon exhibition Fugare was to be held the next two days.

Sandwiches for lunch

Thomas Van Cauwenberghe (r) hearing PIPA agent for Vietnam Lam Thanh Hung (left with glasses)
explain that Vietnamese fanciers are mainly interested in performance birds

Attending Fugare, Belgium's biggest pigeon exhibition, on Saturday and Sunday

At 09:00 a.m. on Saturday, the 4th edition of the Belgian pigeon exhibition Fugare in Kortrijk was officially opened. Since the agents would be receiving and entertaining visitors at the PIPA trade stand as well, this year's stand was bigger compared to last year's. A world map poster with a photo and the contact details of each agent was hung on the wall so every visitor could identify them. Some agents visited the trade stands and walked around to experience the atmosphere of Belgian pigeon racing, others stayed at the PIPA stand to chat with visitors and PIPA clients. Each agent present was also asked to present himself in front of the camera, of which you can see the result below. On Saturday evening, a walking dinner was scheduled for the entire crew PIPA. Small snacks and drinks were presented all evening long, by the end of which it seemed some agents had one too many. Sunday was the second and last day of the exhibition but there were not that many visitors anymore. Saturday is generally the most crowded day. All in all, this year's exhibition was a huge success with 7,808 visitors, or five per cent more than last year. What can we expect of next year's five-year jubilee edition?

A world map with the photos and contact information of all PIPA agents

Very crowded on Saturday

PIPA agent for Italy Rocco Toscani just before
presenting himself in front of the camera

Video compilation of the agents introducing themselves

PIPA staff members Britt (l) and Taisa
with Dutch supply agents Ad Fortuin and Jawin
van Namen

Annual meeting?

Looking back, the entire sales team was thrilled to have gathered in Belgium for the very first time. In-house staff members and sales agents, all agreed that it was great to get to know other personally, to become aquainted with pigeon racing and culture in other countries and to exchange ideas. The suggestion of all agents meeting once every year or every two years was not suprisingly already put forward. The event would then be hosted at a different location every year, viz. each time in the country of another agent. Was this the start of something new? Time will tell, that's for sure.