The day kicked off with Brendon Burchard giving a whirling and energetic talk about motivation and getting partnerships to work. His speciality is certainly in the field of creating partner models which created synergies between businesses. He uses the analogy to equate building a train track to building your business from scratch, and instead you should consider tacking onto a fast oncoming train because they have already done all the hard work in laying the tracks.
There was a lot to learn from this talk. It was really evident that the power of partnerships is in choosing the right partners and getting the causes aligned. Having partners provides many benefits from getting you featured on their websites, through to speaking invitations and more. When you look at the partnership model, it really makes sense to try to find strategic partners at all times.
An ah ha moment
The real highlight of the day though was about to happen, and for me it was an extra special moment as the host, Greg Habstritt announced that he would not be interviewing Sir Richard Branson as he would not do a good a job as he could. So instead they had Eben Pagan interview him and this was by far one of the best surprises yet. After a fantastic music video intro to Virgin and it’s background, it was time to welcome to the stage the Virgin man himself, Sir Richard Branson.
Ever since I had read his biography, Losing My Virginity, when I was younger, I had always admired him and he has been inspirational. What was great about witnessing this interview first hand is experiencing the nature of who he is as a man and person. Many of his values are ones which probably most starting entrepreneurs would not have on their values list. These are values such as family, being a good listener, creating experiences, being an artist.
What became more and more evident as he spoke was that he would never talk about things in business terms, but more from idealistic terms. In fact when asked a business question which required 3 pointers to answer, he avoided actually answering with 3 tips. One of his points was that he always surrounded himself with people who could do those things better than him. The other thing which struck home was that this man, one of the most successful businessmen on the planet, was a pure natural.
What I mean by that is that he had the right environment growing up which created a set of experiences for his life that gave him the skills, attitudes, values and vision to create the Virgin group and become so successful in business. All of the other speakers, with the exception of the Dalai Lama and F.W. de Clerk, have all started in other places, and made life changing decisions that launched them from their initial paths, to this new path of learning, growth and business as well as personal development.
You could sense the difference as Richard spoke and in comparing to the others, it was clear why he was just on a different level to every one else, he was a natural. It meant no effort for him to think the way he thinks about things, to him, it’s just how it works. For the other speakers, you can sometimes tell that they had to think about their next words, in an effort to ensure they got them right.
After that interview was over, there was a quick question and answer session and then we had an early lunch before the afternoon sessions. In the afternoon we had Barbara deAngelis talk about transformational growth. I really liked the way she used the metaphor of a pilgrimage which we are all on in life and it rings so true. Was there ever a time when you were not a seeker? A seeker looking for more in life?
from old to new
The next speaker was Tony Hsieh, and he was also very inspirational. Tony is the guy responsible for creating the LinkExchange internet advertising network which sold to Microsoft for £265m. He went on to become an investor of Zappos.com and eventually ended up being their CEO. Under his leadership, he grew the company sales from $1.6m to over $1 billion in just 8 years. Impressive right!
Tony was a great speaker and had some amazing tips and insights into values which created his core beliefs and values that echoed true throughout his company. These values are the ones which helped Zappos growth and all this to facilitate the core mission statement, which is providing the best customer service. And they take it seriously too with things like 365 day return policy, free shipping, free returns shipping! If you visited Las Vegas, you can go have a tour of their offices, and they will send a limo to pick you up, give you lots of free gifts and then drive you back to your hotel. In fact often times they’d give so many gifts that they would even ship the boxes of gifts direct to your home. Gifts, all free. Now that is customer service beyond anything I’ve ever heard of.
The key point I took away from his presentation, is the importance of creating that great culture in the company. This is backbone and core values which when done right, will echo throughout the business and create employees for life who believe in the business.
The last speaker was done virtually as Alex Mondossian was in London at the time. I picked up some good refresher ideas from him including creating a mastermind group (something I’ve been meaning to do), stopping multitasking because it just isn’t useful (we did an exercise to demonstrate this, email me and ask me about it). There was more, however I’m really damn tired now. It’s been an exhausting few days, but totally inspirational and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.
They are running this event again next year here in Calgary in the month of June. Rumours are that they have already received provisional agreements to speak from the likes of Bishop Tutu and Kofi Anan. There’s no doubt that this will be another incredible event.