Friday, 13 May 2011

The Institute of Directors – Annual convention 2011

Whenever I attend a conference or convention, I am happy if I achieve the following:  Meet interesting people whom I would like to get to know better, learn something – hopefully to do with work, but life lessons are just as important, and finally – hear a view or comment that exercises my intellectual reasoning and continues to chip away at my thought processes after the event.

The IOD Convention earlier this week didn’t disappoint.

As a new member – this was my first convention and I was pleasantly surprised to note that among the 1400 delegates there was a wide variety of professions and personalities. Not the old fogeys that I had expected! We were treated very well – this is grown-up stuff, not a tacky carrier bag in sight. Instead we were treated to lightweight briefcases and ‘lunch boxes’ that were a far cry from the marmite sandwiches and carton of drink from my schooldays.

Networking opportunities abounded, but the key focus of the day was an impressive succession of speakers, including Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, his opposition counterpart, Ed Balls and a variety of entrepreneurs and business leaders.

The agenda was a little too full for my liking, with long uninterrupted sessions in the morning and afternoon. I guess a full agenda is better than a sparse one – but six presentations on the trot is asking a lot of any delegate. I was amused to note that the colour of the backdrop and the introductory music changed for each speaker but felt that T Rex ‘Children of the revolution’ and a red background was a little tacky for the General Secretary of the Trades Union Council (TUC) Brendan Barber! George Osborne was, of course, treated to a blue background but had the good sense to question the choice of The Beatles ‘Can’t buy me love’ as his backing track!

I really liked Brendan Barber’s style. Bearing in mind he represents 6.2 million members, the majority of whom do not agree with the government’s stance on public sector cuts and fiscal policies – he described his attendance at this event as a ‘difficult away fixture’. Miles Templeman, the Director General of the IOD, threw some tough questions at him which he handled calmly and eloquently.

George Osborne has an impressive natural way of presenting- but delivering the usual party line wasn’t especially interesting. I felt comfortable with the fact that both the government and opposition chancellors clearly have a constructive and cordial relationship with the IOD.

In my opinion, and judging from the ‘networking chat’ – the two speakers that especially inspired were Jonathan Edwards, the Olympic Gold medalist and Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, founder of The Black Farmer (a successful food range, supplied from his own farm). Both men spoke with genuine passion and candour about their single minded focus on their ‘compelling vision’.  Jonathan to achieve the ultimate in his chosen sport and Wilfred to one day own a farm – an inconceivable dream for a young Jamaican immigrant living in inner city Birmingham in the 1950’s.

Both achieved their goals by concentrating not only on their desired success but as importantly – ‘the quality of the process’. Successful entrepreneurs appear to have these two key characteristics in common. A clear vision of the end game and a commitment to reaching their dream in the best, but not always the easiest, way possible.

Great stuff.

And the view that got me thinking? Miles Templeman commented that NHS reform was ‘outside the reach’ of the IOD. Sorry, Miles but I don’t agree. Good health is good business. Business leaders and the private sector should have a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of employees and the health of the nation in general. We should work with the coaltion to ensure that the NHS reforms create a sutainable way forward to achieve this.


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