We arranged to meet in a restaurant near Ghent for a chat and a bite to eat which actually went on for a few hours. We met Nikolaas, Thomas & Carlo Gyselbrecht & Thomas Van Cauwenberghe. The 4- head management team behind the success of ‘PIPA’.
“We pay particular attention to salt and pepper, as Peter Goossens would say .” (Nikolaas Gyselbrecht)
Nikolaas Gyselbrecht: ““Where did the time go? In 1999 I began with the PIPA website – which at the time was called Pigeon Paradise . Simply as a portal website. Anyone who wanted to could link their website to ours and vice versa. In this manner you could easily find and visit websites from fanciers over the entire world. We never thought that our website would grow to possibly the most powerful medium that pigeon land has ever known. We grow year after year. A few years back we were asked to sell pigeons via our website. And so we started. Very small scale. With a couple of pigeons. And they were sold in the shortest space of time. Sold abroad. We ‘played’ on this. We soon realised that there was a need to auction the pigeons via internet. The principle is simple. We take photos of every pigeon, we place them on our website and the clients can bid for a certain period of time. As soon as the pigeon is sold and paid for, it is transported to the country of the client. Due to the band of trust which has been built up over ten years, we have been able to expand to become the absolute number one in the world in pigeon auctions .”
But time isn’t standing still. Especially not in computer land ...
Thomas Van Cauwenberghe:
“Absolutely. That’s why it was time to completely renovate the website. A new lay-out as well as an easier – more logical – system, in which almost everyone can find their way around. At the time you had to be good with computers to find your ‘way’ around our website. It wasn’t always easier to find what you were looking for. And that had to improve. That’s why we visited a few website makers and programmers. We already had the concept in our minds. It just had to be carried out and programmed.”
Nikolaas Gyselbrecht: “In the end we chose the biggest internet company of Belgium, which also made the website for ‘De Redactie’ (the new website of the tv channel ‘één’, ed.). Five people needed one and a half years to get everything on its feet. Both in layout and in terms of software it was a "hellish" job. But they have made it into something ‘fancy’. The entire website of www.PIPA.be has been totally renovated. The concept and the idea behind PIPA remain the same.”
Thomas Gyselbrecht: “We only have one goal and that is to make the ‘surfer’ feel as comfortable as possible with our website. That’s why, for example, last auction season during the winter we introduced our new ‘auction module’. In addition to the complete new look we have also worked on the ease of use. It wasn’t always easy putting ideas into practice, but I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our IT team. We sometimes asked the impossible, but they have managed to convert everything to realistic possibilities which are now offered on our website. You can now place your own bid and thus ‘join the bidding’ on all the pigeons offered for sale on our website. A whole evolution when earlier you could only bid per e-mail or per telephone. Now, once your account has been approved by our team, you can place your own bid. And if you have been out-bidden, then you will be notified via and sms on your mobile and/or e-mail. This way you are perfectly informed of what's going on at the auction and more specifically the pigeons that you prefer. We focus everything on the ultimate convenience in terms of our module auctions. Admittedly, we, as Belgians, see the module in Dutch. But in America for example, he will see it in English. A Chinaman sees everything in Chinese. Japanese in Japanese, a German in German etc.
In short: the system is completely multilingual and automatically knows the location of the client surfing the auction. Shortly there will be another 5 languages so that almost everyone in pigeon land can follow our website and the auction in their own language .”
“Feeling’ a pigeon from a distance, is only possible by PIPA ” (Carlo Gyselbrecht)
Good job ...
Nikolaas Gyselbrecht: “We can’t complain. In addition to an extensive network of about 22 agents in various countries, we also have 20 people (including ourselves) in permanent employment. There are also 10 free lancers who are busy for PiPa for 50% of their time or more. Then you have an organisation with more than 50 people! They ensure that PIPA can be called a real brand name. Really, they work very hard to make PIPA great. It has become a real close team on which we can always rely.”
Thomas Gyselbrecht: “We really can’t minimalize anything. The extensive network behind PIPA, which has an almost complete international coverage shouldn’t be underestimated. That means almost invariably that people all over the world can conduct business in their own language with someone they ‘know’ of can ‘trust’. That is very important. Look at us, Flemings. Imagine that we had to conduct business in French. We wouldn’t feel as comfortable as with Dutch and this with someone we ‘know’. That is what we want to prevent with our network of agents. And it works, that much is clear .”
It does indeed work, because in the meantime you have broken every record. Almost everything is in your name: most expensive pigeon ever, highest total and highest average .
Nikolaas Gyselbrecht: “Once again: we have our employees to thank for this. Our own clerks, as well as our network of agents. They ensure that PIPA is promoted. Human Capital is as it were everything for a company, we try to take the best possible care of them, at least 2 x per year we do an activity together. We give them presents now and again e.g. now for Easter etc.
Promotion takes place via the press and via their own network of agents. Because let’s be honest: what can we – as Europeans – teach the Orientals? Nothing. If you have no foothold there you won’t sell anything. That’s how we came to meet Luna Lai. And via her we had as it were all the ‘important’ contacts in China and Taiwan in our back pocket. Now, in addition to Luna we have many other people in China working for us, wherefrom 3 full-time. (these people take care of the after sales-service, translations, maintain client contact, name registering and some technical business etc.) But I can’t emphasise enough: if you have built up trust, you can’t just simply sell a pigeon for one hundred and ten thousand euros. And definitely not an average of just under ten thousand euros. Dr. Guo – the buyer of the ‘Jonge Supercrack’ from Ludo Claessens à 110.000 EUR – has been a regular customer for years. It is simply because he trusts PIPA that he spends so much money on pigeons. He is one of many buyers. One fault is enough to ruin everything. And we realise this all too well. That’s why we try not to make any mistakes. We strive for perfection. At all levels. Like Peter Goossens ..
“This year we have reached another milestone in our existence as a company ” (Thomas Gyselbrecht)
The top chef of the three star restaurant ‘Het Hof Van Cleve’ would say: people forget the salt and pepper on their meal. But it is this which ensures the perfect workmanship. The right amount of pepper and the right amount of salt can make a meal taste very different. Well, I think it is like that by PIPA. We strive for the workmanship. For perfection. That’s why we often sit down with our team and look objectively at what we can and may change. We now have a very professional company structure reinforced with a Board of Directors, a management team, various divisions each with their own team leader, who then hold their own meetings every 2 to 3 weeks. I am also proud to say that since recently Mr Dirk De Roose, co-owner and CEO of the entire Group Willy Naessens (containing 27 companies with a consolidated turnover of about 330 million euro) spends an entire afternoon with us 4 times a year, as adviser; he is one of the most successful businessmen in Belgium and as a passionate pigeon fancier we can rely on him as PiPa to help us build up our own company through his business experience.”
Carlo Gyselbrecht: “We recently introduced a point system which enables the client to ‘feel’ a pigeon from a distance. It seems quite surreal, but via the point system we determine exactly what the pigeon looks like. The bone structure, the plumage, the muscles etc. Almost everything is taken into account. Positive or negative: it’s all in the ‘points book’.”
Thomas Gyselbrecht: “Only in this way can we make sure that the client is very happy with his purchase. One hundred percent. Because he has been able to ‘feel’ the pigeon through our hands. Every auction site provides a photo of the pigeon and the eye, but it usually stops there. We naturally wanted to take this further and so once again we sent out our employees who had been specially ‘trained’ in describing pigeons. Exactly, I believe you can ‘feel’ a pigeon from a distance- only by PIPA ”.
And it doesn’t stop there. You also sell a heap of pigeons ‘offline’ .
Nikolaas Gyselbrecht: “That’s right. Offline, in other words 'not on the internet', just as many, or even more pigeons are sold. Clients worldwide, who order us to sell a certain pigeon for a certain budget. Every year we buy various national and international winners. I think that last year PIPA bought more or less all the prestigious Ace pigeons and national winners. This is quite a limited list of what took place last season (2010) and what PIPA bought for its clients .
1st National Ace pigeon Long Distance KBDB 2010 1st National Ace pigeon Middle Distance KBDB 2010 (Pierre Matthys) 1st International Pau 2010 (Karl Heinz Koers - Germany) 1st International Tarbes 2010 (Jos Martens - NL) 1st Olympiad pigeon Poznan 2011 Cat. C (Bart Van Oeckel) 1st Olympiad pigeon Poznan 2011 (David Vermassen ) 1st National Bourges youngsters 2010 (Andre Moonens) 1st National Brive 2010 (Locco, Johan van Damme) 1st National Cahors 2010 (Patrick & Dimitri Houfflyn) 1st International Soustons 2010 (Martine van Der Beken) 1st National Limoges Yearlings 2010 (Ronald Lodewijckx) 1st National Souillac 2010 (Norbert Ally) 1st National Argenton 2010 Yearlings (Gaby Vandenabeele) 1st National Gueret 2010 O.b.(David Vermassen
Thomas Gyselbrecht: “We were soon market leader on the internet, over the last few years we have more than proven our leadership in public auctions and last year you can safely say that we have become market leader in private sales of the most quality and prestigious Ace pigeons and national and international winners. And that is once again a milestone in our existence as a company. It is also important here that you win the trust of the buyer, often in Asia, and that you also treat the pigeon fancier in Belgium, the Netherlands, wherever you buy the pigeon, with respect and correctly pay him.“
It is clear: they don’t stand still in Knesselare. They work daily on that ‘dream’ which has become reality. Pigeon Paradise has expanded into a real ‘playground’ for the average pigeon fancier. All the results are centralised in our category ‘clubs’, so that it is easy for everyone to follow what is happening in other parts of the land and provinces. Follow the results of a friend in West-Flanders, when you live in Antwerp? Very simple. You surf to PIPA and click on ‘Clubs’ and then choose the club. News and other things are also given attention. As I wrote: a ‘playground’ for the pigeon fancier. Congratulations to the entire team (kr)