Gabi Spanou views every crisis as a fresh challenge. Otherwise, the 50-year-old business woman, who has been a Messe Frankfurt sales partner since 2004, would not have been able to do such a good job of dealing with the debt crisis in her own country. In spite of a critical economic situation that culminated in the temporary closure of some bank branches in summer 2015, she was able not only to keep her regular customers, but even book new exhibitors.
Mirko Schubert, Vice President in charge of International Sales Management (EBU 5), says that: "She did a tremendous job of dealing with the crisis. In 2016, we were able to increase the number of visitors from Greece and Cyprus to Frankfurt fairs by over 22 percent on average."
From her office in Athens, Spanou and her staff make sure that exhibitors and visitors continue to come to our trade fairs in spite of what continues to be a difficult economic situation. Helping companies in her country that have spent years dealing with the crisis is a constant source of motivation for her.
The tenacity that she requires in this task is revealed by one of her success stories: it took her an entire year to convince one of her customers to take part in Interior Lifestyle Tokyo 2012. Spanou explains: "One of my customers said no six times, explaining that Japan was not his market." Yet she persisted, forwarding him an email concerning an article on Japan's monetary policy and the opportunities it presented. Ten minutes later, the customer called her and said he wanted to take part. It was a decision that paid off: by the third day of the event he had agreed on a collaboration with the most important wholesaler of glass products in Japan. It was just one month later when the Greek exhibitor opened a showroom in Osaka.
The collaboration between Spanou and Messe Frankfurt began back in 1995, when she took on the role of representing Messe Frankfurt in her position with the Hellenic-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Athens. Since founding her firm in 2003, Spanou – who was born in Hesse and has both German and Greek roots – has been able to achieve continuous growth amongst both visitors and exhibitors for fairs in Frankfurt and around the world.
What is it that Spanou likes most about her job? The variety – she is in contact with people in a wide range of sectors and countries, and works with all manner of trade fairs around the globe. The scope of the tasks that her team must master is immense: it includes acquiring exhibitors, supporting them with their stand construction, press work and advertising, and collaborating with associations in every sector.
In order to generate further growth, in 2006 Spanou, who holds a degree in business administration, added a travel agency to her company. As a result, she is now able to offer visitors and other target groups additional services, including attractive travel packages. This January, for example, as part of Floradecora she was able to bring a group of florist associations to Frankfurt.
In honour of Spanou's tremendous efforts on behalf of our company, Messe Frankfurt presented her with the "Excellence in Economic Crisis" award at the World Sales Meeting in September 2016 (as we reported in Agora 04/2016).