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Gold! Always believe in your soul

The day you think that you have the winning formula is the day you are beaten.

As something of an Olympic geek, and a girl to boot, the speaker line-up of this year’s NMBS all-industry conference was always going to grab my attention.

Keynote conference speakers don’t come cheap. But the bang that you get for your conference-organising buck depends on who you get, what they’ve done and how good they are at relating that to your specific business.

Some just turn up, do their spiel and pocket the cheque. Others, like Roger Black and Steve Backley, (and, it has to be said, fellow former Olympian Ben Hunt Davies who spoke at the NMBS conference in Athens) really throw themselves into the occasion, do their homework, listen to the briefs they’re given and play a major part in the event’s success.

In the four years since the last all-industry conference, the merchanting and manufacturing world has changed in so many ways. Yet at times in Marbella, it seemed as though nothing had changed. We saw many of the same faces – some of them still at the same companies – and the main issues seem to be the same.

How do we – by which I mean merchants and manufacturers – run our businesess in the face of increasing competition/economic turmoil/government incompetence?The answer, according to this year’s conference, is quite simple. We need to think differently about our businesses if we are to get different – by which I mean better-results.

Although it wasn’t flagged as a conference with a theme as such, for me, the message was that if you want to make a difference to your business then you have to think differently, you have to act differently.

Roger and Steve both told the conference how, by thinking about their performances in a different way, they were able to achieve their dreams. You could feel the collective tingle go round the room when Steve showed the video of his world-record-breaking javelin throw in Sydney. And, despite it being the 20th time I’d seen it, the clip of the GB win in the 1991 World Championship 4x400m relay, still sent shivers down my spine.

From the Olympians, through Alistair Dryburgh’s off-the-wall approach to business and Chris Hopkins’ tale of how he won over the BBC Dragons, via Ridgeons’ Dave Jordan, the Government’s own Paul Morrell and internet entrepreneur Phil Crowshaw, the message was the same: the world has changed, is changing and will continue to change – we can’t continue to act and think in the same old ways.

Even the presentations and seminars on the forthcoming Green Deal fit in with this. The Government’s flagship energy efficiency initiative, due to launch this October will offer huge potential for builders merchants, but it will require a different way of looking at the business in order to make the most of that potential.

Like the old saying says, if you do what you’ve always done, then you get what you’ve always got.

And, as the lovely Steve Backley – the only British track and field athlete to win medals at three consecutive Olympic Games – put it: “Train like you’re number two in world, even if you’re number one. Always strive to go one better.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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