24 Nov 2011

CNN blog: European businesses ‘down but not out’

Read CNN Business Correspondent Juliet Mann's blog who was in Barcelona to cover the Award ceremony for the European Business Awards by clicking here:


Full transcript below:

(CNN) – Turn on CNN, open the ‘papers, check your emails. If you hadn’t noticed yet, the European economy is pretty close to crumbling around us. Or is it?

Meet the shining stars of the European business world and the big picture is more boom than doom. At least that was the message we got at the European Business Awards in Barcelona.

The Marketplace Europe team headed to Barcelona for the Awards ceremony this week. The event is designed to showcase innovation, drive and resourcefulness from companies of all sizes, nationalities and sectors around Europe.

So far, so predictable. But what made it more than just another date in the November “events season” diary was that we weren’t baffled by power-point presentations or bored with a load of corporate-speak. We were buoyed by the upbeat mood.

As the former EU Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht, (pictured above) said “We are down, but not out”.

He said this year in particular, it was more important than ever to show solidarity with companies in Europe who are making a go of it while the markets are so volatile. He moved trade talks meetings in Brussels to be at the European Business Awards.

There, we met mattress makers from Turkey, brewers from Greece, UK telecoms start-ups and courier services from Germany, all keen to talk about how they are nurturing and growing their businesses in tough economic times.

Turkish Human Resources company Group Bilgi says winning Employer of the Year will really motivate their teams.

Taxi G7, the century-old Parisian cars firm, walked off with the Award for Consumer Focus, delighted that their strategy, of always putting the customer first, was being recognized by their peers.

A younger firm, Maesa Group, scored Entrepreneur of the Year. Started from scratch by two French graduate friends in 1997, the firm spotted a gap in the market for customized beauty products and packaging. Thinking outside of the box, creating a niche in the competitive global cosmetics market, has helped the company grow into a $100 million business with global reach.

From a scramble to get a couple of hundred companies to compete in the early days, now in its fifth year, the team at the European Business Awards HQ in London are now inundated with thousands of applications from companies keen to share their success stories. The combined turnover of this year’s entrants tots up to $1.4 trillion. It feels like what you get is a snapshot of what is really going on in Europe, from Armenia to Italy, from Germany to Kazakhstan.

While policymakers seem to flit between bickering, denial and passing the buck on the debt crisis and more, European companies, in and around the EU are making stuff, exporting stuff and all the while turning a profit with happy customers in tow.

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