From Hull to Holland: A Trip to Highlite HQ
Renowned for its beer, bicycles, windmills and wooden shoes, Pro Mobile’s Mark Walsh sets sail for Holland and heads for the very heart of Highlite International. We delve into his diary following the dealer weekend at the company’s extraordinary HQ...
Preston: 17th Sept – 10am
Well, good morning! It’s Thursday the 17th of September and this is my first journal entry for my trip to Highlite HQ in the Netherlands. I have been back from the NEC for a day, following another great BPM show. It's a really odd feeling; you spend all year preparing for a three day event and it’s over in a flash! The days following the show are usually spent recouping and working out the next steps for the business, but this year I have had the offer of heading to the Netherlands for Highlite’s dealer weekend.
It really is an honour to be invited to these things; as a person who is passionate about the industry it’s good to see the inner workings of a business. Highlite are also one of our customers – and when customers offer you the opportunity to network with them at a more intimate level, you should embrace it with open arms!
The timing is the only thing that bothers me. Since getting back from my summer holiday in France I have hardly seen Fran and the girls, but I leave today with their blessing and for the good of the company.
Hull: 17th Sept – 5pm
So, I have arrived here in the port of Hull ready to catch my ferry to Zeebrugge. I have never sailed this route before; I decided to drive, as it will give me far more flexibility whilst I am over there. To add value to the trip I have managed to secure a couple of meetings with some additional clients on the journey back.
The ferry is an overnight service and sets off in just over an hour. I will be getting off at 8:30am and heading through Belgium and Holland to a place called Kerkrade, right on the German border in the south of Holland.
At Sea: 17th Sept – 7:30pm
I wasn't planning on writing tonight but I couldn't help myself. I am on a floating social club! No, seriously, it's the Phoenix Club on water. Bingo is at 9:15pm with eyes down at 9:30; the lovely Danielle is this evening’s caller. Then it's dancing all the way with the late-night disco and house duo The Rhythm – this is marvellous. Combine this with the all-you-can-eat buffet and it's paradise!
At Sea: 17th Sept – 11:15pm
A disappointing night at bingo – one off a line. Beaten by a dabber-wielding, bingo-winged Geordie! The duo ‘The Rhythm’ are ironically titled. I think the least said the better… On the upside, the Bass bitter on board is fabulous (which is rare for Bass!).
At Sea: 18th Sept – 7:30am
I'm not sure I'm cut out for a cruise! I really didn’t have the best night’s sleep on board!! I'm just back from an all-you-can-eat breakfast now though – let’s just say I got my money's worth! Long trip ahead today; heading straight to Kerkrade and a hotel called SnowWorld, where tonight I will be joining team Highlite for dinner.
SnowWorld: 18th Sept – 2pm
“Wow!” is all I can say. I'm checked into my hotel, which is at Europe’s largest indoor ski slope! (It’s huge – honestly, you can't see the top!) Lovely big room too, in which I found my Highlite welcome pack with instructions of what to do, where to go and a wristband for unlimited drinks!
After a bit of a poke around the place, I found that SnowWorld also has a tree-top high-wire (in a Go Ape style) and a toboggan coaster! This place is looking great. As I finish writing this I am also proud to say I have done a double burger and chips some justice! Time to sleep it off...
SnowWorld: 18th Sept – 11:30pm
What a great night and (proudly) I'm not too squiffy, despite there being an endless supply of fine wine and Dutch beer. Tonight was arrivals night so the majority of people I met were international distributors including some of the UK collective. There was a variety of representatives from high-end production houses, retailers, installers and more. I knew a few faces, namely (fellow Pro Mobile writer) David Reed from RSDmusic and Bob Fearns from Lighthouse Audiovisual.
Ian Jordan and Dave Drane from Highlite’s UK team are my hosts and have been doing a great job so far. The night started off with a couple of drinks in the bar followed by sitting for a buffet dinner. Ahead of dinner we were addressed by Highlite International BV’s CEO Huub de la Haije. I have known Huub since my Prolight days; he’s a great character and an exceptional front man for the company he founded.
There are a few familiar faces arriving tomorrow, including my friends from CPC. Tomorrow is Game Day for Highlite as they throw open their doors to over 1000 customers. Time for some beauty sleep!
The full article can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 74, Pages 40 - 42.