By: Kieron McRae
We all love a good conference.
A couple of days out of the office, a chance to spend exorbitant amounts of money on nice venues and a few over-the-top parties, with the only cost to us being having to sit through “death-by-PowerPoint” conference sessions filled with mundane income, expense and profit graphs.
At the Carrick Wealth Conference 2016, there wasn’t a PowerPoint presentation to be seen, and
for good reason.
For us it wasn’t about the “rah-rah” or the numbers. While that stuff is important (and we’re in no way being secretive about it) we have realised that conferences can be significant, value-adding tools that help re-align our focus, and regain and re-establish our vision.
It’s important to start the year on the right foot, and acknowledge people who performed. We believe that
conferences are an opportunity to be introspective, and also share and receive ideas from our strategic business partners.
So, you could say that we wanted to do this intelligently. Absolutely, and this is why it was our intention to have a lasting purpose behind almost every item on our agenda.
Under the Spotlight
Held at Kievits Kroon, North of Pretoria, we kicked off the conference with an open Q&A forum facilitated by journalist Astrid Ascar, where the Carrick Directors addressed questions posed by employees and suppliers before and during the session.
The interaction was 100% intentional. We can’t think of anything more counterproductive than a one-sided conversation. In fact, that’s hardly a conversation at all. We looked at the feedback given by employees in our pre-conference survey, thought carefully about our responses and gave open and honest feedback.
Highlights of the conference included talks given by keynote speakers, Chris Bertish of Big Wave Surfing fame with a message entitled “Dream it, See it, Believe it, Do it”, Professor Tim Noakes on the importance of nutrition and self-belief, as well as Group Managing Director of Carrick, Craig Featherby.
The Big Questions
A talk on the essence of branding, with the help of a specially designed brand wheel, led to conversations surrounding what we are as a business versus what we are not.
Distinguishing the two was intended to help guide our ideas surrounding the company vision, values, beliefs, positioning, and even the way we look and behave.
The group discussions that followed were a powerful lens through which our partners and team members were able to actively reflect on Carrick’s brand and core values, addressing important questions like:
- Who are we?
- What do we stand for?
- What values do we want to hold onto as a company?
All critical questions that we hoped would be asked beyond the confines of the office as we encouraged our employees to reflect the same. We wanted a focus on identity: who we are as individuals and how that translates into who we are as a collective, and therefore, as a business.
Sales VS Ops
The Sales versus Operations debate had team members on the edge of their seats as important questions were raised by Operations Director, Mike Fannin and Director of Sales, Mike Potts, like “why does this process take so long?” and “why is certain paperwork completed so poorly?”
It was all in good taste though, with an emphasis on getting our processes down simply and effectively.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. Not even the company’s key business partners were safe.
Through a series of round table discussions, parachute and presidential style debates, product providers went head to head, giving an account for themselves and the value they add to our clients. They had only min
utes to address key questions thrown at them, amongst others:
- In light of the current financial situation, what is at stake in our industry?
- How do we make it through current financial setbacks?
- How do we work together in order to truly add value to our clients in the face of adversity?
In the end, the take-home message was simple: if we’re going to be strong, we need partners with whom we are fully aligned, who understand our business and our people and who subscribe to the principles of accountability and transparency. These principles are everything if we are to come out strong this year.
The Ultimate Test
We can talk about finding courage. We can sit inside all day and talk about it. That’s easy, and maybe even a bit naïve. Finding courage means very little unless we put it into practice.
We wanted to take our intentions a step further by making our theme as real for our team members as possible. So we thought, what better way to achieve this than actually taking that step?
The build-up over a long day in the conference room culminated in the ultimate display of courage: a real fire walk. What this act meant for the teams in terms of camaraderie is another story altogether, but the essence of it, finding courage to step into the fire individually and collectively, is what we were hoping to achieve here.
And we did. The photos speak for themselves.
The Fun Stuff
The gala dinner at the end of day two was a black tie affair and guests were entertained by The
Muses, a popular local female string quartet.
Carrick issues five annual awards which were awarded to the following team members:
- Top Associate Assistant: Alice Cropper
- Best Newcomer: Seanagh Fannin
- Manager of the Year: Ian Edwards (JHB)
- Associates of the Year – Paul Mitchell
- Director’s Award: Simone Player (CPT)
Our core values of integrity, transparency and professionalism mean nothing if they can’t stand the test of the hot coals we have to walk over. They’re just words that are nice to throw around.
Our absolute willingness to be honest, vulnerable and transparent in front of our product providers and stakeholders is what, we believe, will make all the difference.
So yes, we could use this conference as an opportunity to brag a little, but we’re proud of the way that our people and our partners handled the heat in the line of fire.
This time last year you could say that we were the new kids and underdogs in the industry. So, the positive feedback from all of our stakeholders (internal as well as external) has been significant for us, because we’ve realised that we’re not the small players anymore.
Differentiating ourselves in the market in terms of the technicalities isn’t what sets us apart. Our ultimate mark of success is being the employer and the advisory of choice. For us that means that we need to be better, always setting the bar higher for ourselves and each other.
We can succumb to fear, or muster the courage to do what is meant to be done in spite of fear. With the current financial climate, we can either be pushed aside by the effects of it, or choose to push through despite it. We know times are tough, and because of that we’re going to have a great year. It’s all about perspective.
What motivates us internally, as individuals and as a business, will ultimately reflect in the reason that people want to work with us: our capacity and potential for integrity, transparency and professionalism.
We choose to be 100% intentional to that end.