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Looking back at 2022

Wow, where has the last year gone? It seems to have whizzed by, but what an exciting and action-packed one it has been for the PRG family. It is nice to sit down and reflect on it, although typing this is proving a challenge due to recently breaking my wrist and having a plate and screws put in! The good news is, I should be out of plaster in time to carve the Christmas turkey.

It is nice not to have to reflect on working from home and trying to home school the kids, as this year has finally seen the end of Covid restrictions, but it has brought political and economic turmoil and uncertainly (many thanks Liz Truss) tied in with the awful war in Ukraine. The next year is going to be challenging for everyone.

Sadly, the nation lost our Queen, the figurehead that saw us through troubling times, having all shared the joy of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations earlier in the year. But we are all united behind King Charles as he moves towards his Coronation in 2023. It always heartens me to see how, in times like this, we come together as a nation, united in both celebration and grief.

At PRG, we’ve seen our clients continue to grow and flourish. Kathryn and her team have now completed a second hugely successful year working with so many parts of Chubb Fire and Security. As well as our continued support for the UK business, we’ve expanded our remit to support the Frontline business and  produced two new websites for Chubb Skyline and the Chubb Safes brand in Ireland. Back in the summer, we helped to create a super event to celebrate the Chubb Superstars, held at the prestigious Belfry. It has been an absolute pleasure to continue working with Carla and the team and we look forward to getting stuck into the exciting plans for 2023.

At the start of the year we launched our new website, showcasing our full-service offering and portfolio but also ensuring it was well optimised to generate new business. As 2022 progressed, we have brought many new clients on board, but there are three in particular that I’d like to highlight.

Simon Groves and Andrew Bailey standing in front of a Carrier HVAC unit

The first came via an old friend of PRG, who by chance now lives in Eastbourne. Andrew Bailey, former Editor of RAC Magazine who has run his own HVAC PR agency for over 15 years, has joined PRG as an expert consultant and we have taken on Carrier HVAC UK and CIAT as a new client. This is a huge opportunity for us as we strengthen our presence  in the building services sector. Our first task was to attend Carrier’s customer and press event at the end of September, held at Red Bull Racing’s facility in Milton Keynes. Anyone who knows me well, will know what this meant to me – one off the bucket list! Kathryn and Ashley are busy getting their teeth into the account and we have an exciting 2023 ahead of us.

The second is more local to us, but exciting for very different reasons. In the summer, we took on the marketing support for Long Man Brewery just outside of Eastbourne – a new challenge for Ashley and Robbie. Celebrating 10 years since its humble beginnings, the brewery is now becoming a serious force in the South of England and recently launched a range of canned beers that sit well alongside the likes of Brewdog. All of the barley used is grown on the farm and it carries a really strong sustainability story. They’ve won some really high profile awards this year and we are excited to drive forwards in 2023. I recommend treating yourself to a case of the Long Blonde!

Finally, we were successful in taking on Mid Sussex Timber (MST) as a client back in the Spring. The Sussex-based, family run chain of builder’s merchants approached PRG to work with them on improving their digital marketing presence, driving sales through the website and a host of other marketing activities.

PRG’s website portfolio has grown over the course of the year, with Ian and Matt working on a mix of new client websites and refreshes of existing sites to improve user experience and conversion rates. Over the Autumn, Ian has been incredibly busy developing a new site for Mantel Farm, which went live earlier in December. The website involves e-commerce, accounts package integration and a complex booking system for a variety of different animals, such as chickens and ducks! We’re very proud of the hard work that has gone into making this one a success.

Ian, Amy and Matt completed the new website build and launch for Bailey Products, who joined us as a client at the start of the year. We are now undertaking full marketing support for them as we grow their reach in telecom, as well as further supporting their already strong growth in the sewer and drainage sector. We recently prepared exhibition graphics and materials for them, as they travelled to Dubai to exhibit at The Big 5 Expo alongside Grant, our longstanding client Rapid Locking System Europe. They also exhibited at Chilventa in Germany back in the autumn, so our brilliant client Albion Languages expertly handled translation of the exhibition materials into German for us.

Speaking of exhibitions, in 2022 PRG decided it was time that we should get out and exhibit again, having not done anything since we helped organise the Let’s Do Business Expo in Brighton at the Amex Stadium in 2019. So in June, Kathryn and I exhibited at the Gatwick Diamond Experts event in Horsham, meeting some really interesting businesses and attending several very insightful seminars. Then in September Ashley joined us and we took a stand at a very targeted event, the South East Construction Expo in Crawley, where we further established ourselves as a force in the building services and construction sectors.

Amy has been busy this year working with Matt helping to develop PRG’s branding package, refining how we present it, from the website, through to the proposal and the whole service. We’ve completed branding projects for the Bowls Development Alliance, Janet Sinden Solicitors, Energy Technology and Control (ETC) as part of their premises move, and are in the midst of a roll out for local florist Handpicked (formerly Janet’s Flowers). We already have several other exciting branding projects lined up for 2023, so watch this space.

Video has been an increasingly important part of our offering as 2022 has progressed. I mentioned last year about the wonderful Christmas video that we produced for Eastbourne, but off the back of that we were entrusted to create an “Active Eastbourne” video, highlighting all of the activities that thrill seekers and fitness fanatics can undertake in our town. Alongside that, we have produced cosmetics promotion videos for our client 83 Associates, several promo videos for Chubb and a brilliant sewer retrieval kit video for Bailey Products. To see more of our videography work, have a look at the new page on our website here.

Following the creation of the hugely successful Vulcanus campaign with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for Specflue that I mentioned in last year’s blog, we had the pleasure of working with Hugh again. This time, Specflue exhibited at the Royal Horticultural Show at Hampton Court back in July, where they were involved in live cooking demonstrations with Hugh in the River Cottage garden. We sent Amy up to support and to sample the food – apparently it was delicious!

In the summer, dear old BT decided it would try and make our lives difficult. They cut off our Internet access at the end of July (still not quite clear how they managed this one), which for a business such as ours was an absolute nightmare. Due to a combination of strikes, poor customer service, outright lies and incorrect installation, it took them almost six weeks to get us sorted. Luckily, like most, we are geared up to work from home. However, this isn’t ideal and we like being in the office together. Luckily, our friends at the newly opened FOUNDRY co-working space in Eastbourne town centre came to the rescue and let us use state of the art office space until we got back up and running. Anyone local to us reading this, I urge you to pay it a visit soon (drop me a line and I’ll take you for coffee and a tour) – big thanks to Adam and Richard for the support.

As mentioned in my blog last year, we did indeed undertake more charitable work, supporting some superb causes, most notably St Wilfrid’s Hospice. As part of their annual Jail and Bail fundraiser, we let them lock Robbie up in the Wish Tower on Eastbourne seafront for the morning! He did a great job raising money and, coupled with our other fundraising support, earned us a position as a Finalist at their Charity Champion Awards recently.

Special mention to Kathryn, who raised over £700 for Dementia UK in honour of her late father who passed away from early onset dementia five years ago. She trained hard and then completed a 70 length swim at her local gym back in July – well done Kathryn.

Following a two year hiatus, the Eastbourne International Tennis Tournament returned in the summer. We had quite a large number of rolled over bookings for hospitality from the previous two years, so selling out wasn’t too challenging. But we had a beautiful sunny week that showcased the town at its best.

Speaking of Eastbourne, our town topped Time Out’s list of Best UK Places to Visit in 2023! That is a fantastic accolade and makes me very proud of the local work we also undertake. As part of supporting Eastbourne’ Business Improvement District (BID) we have been running the town centre’s social media and working extensively to once again deliver the town’s festive celebrations and bigger ice rink, which is open until January 8th. Being based in the town centre, having a team who live locally and are raising families here, we feel it is important to help the town flourish and grow. Lots of exciting plans for the next year, so watch our social channels for updates.

On a personal note, it has been a fun year in the Groves household. In February, we celebrated Jo’s 40th birthday, a landmark that she’ll no doubt punish me for sharing on here! Jo became Finance Director at PRG in 2023 as well, as we continue to grow and develop the company as a strong team.

Jenson started senior school in September – exciting and terrifying in equal measures but he has really risen to the new challenges. He’s really got stuck into improving his football skills too, playing for the PRG-sponsored Willingdon White’s Under 12’s.

Lara is in Year 4 and is really starting to show her creative side, embracing crafts and art (very much following in her mother’s footsteps). She played a pivotal role in the promotion for the ice rink this year, judging the Eastbourne Schools’ colouring competition, a heavy responsibility for a nine-year-old!

Ray and Denny continue to enjoy retirement, although Ray has recently been joining me for some catch ups with old friends in the HVAC sector.

I didn’t manage to make it to an F1 race this year, but a couple of trips to the Festival of Speed, meeting Mark Blundell and pit access at the final of the British Touring Car Championships certainly came a close second. I visited the Red Bull and Mercedes F1 factories within weeks of each other, which were both amazing experiences. But next year, a race has to be on the cards!

As always, I’d like to thank Martin Riley for the support, working with me, the management team and running a whole company session to look at the business and help us to grow, develop and succeed, ensuring we are the best we can be for ourselves and our clients. Also, thanks to Ian and his team at Watsons Accountants for all the financial advice, support and guidance over the year (and some great laughs along the way as well).

A big thank you to all of our suppliers and friends of PRG, in particular Sam Thomas at SBT who has been a huge supporter of PRG in recent years and a great friend.

But, last of all, I want to raise a glass to the PRG family! We have a fantastic team of experts at PRG who are stars at what they do, but more than that they are amazing people who I am proud to work with and am hugely grateful for all that they do.

PRG closes on Friday 23rd and we will be back in the office on Tuesday 3rd January and raring to go. Any emergencies, please contact me on my mobile as always. I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, have a wonderful and relaxing festive break and I look forward to seeing what we can do in 2023.

Simon


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