I have to say, last year’s conference was a tough act to follow. You can read about my experience and conference highlights from Hamilton Island for the Family Business National Conference 2017. But in true FBA style, this year’s conference was truly magical.
Kick off drinks. Arriving a day before the formal conference activities, the welcome drinks were held at the stunning Simpsons Gap. This event perfectly set the tone for the following few days with breathtaking scenery, wonderful people, a beautiful performance by the girls in Drum Atweme and a hell of a lot of dust. Mental note: the recent boot purchase was a well timed investment!
Family Business Masterclass. Day 1 started with a masterclass by Andrew Horabin of Bullshift, and what a cracker that was. Formerly a stand up comedian, Andrew’s delivery was perfection, he had the crowd completely engaged as we laughed out loud through fantastic content. Bullshift is all about openness, honesty and straight talk in the workplace. And although we come from a smaller team with a great culture, there were plenty of pearls of wisdom we can take back and share in our own business. Read our takeaways from the family business masterclass.
The longest lunch. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, what’s not to love about an organisation that plans for a lunch that goes from 1pm to 5pm. Moving tables between meals there is no shortage of amazing life stories, incredible business success and just the nicest bunch of people to ever congregate in one place. I have no doubt this will always go on the highlight list!
Exceptional speakers. The calibre of speakers throughout the conference was absolutely phenomenal. It’s a rare opportunity that you get to hear first hand from speakers such as Craig Kimberley from The Just Group, David Fox from Linfox Group, Stephen Keir and Nikki McLeod from Akubra, Marilynne Paspaley from Paspaley Group, Jack Cowin from Competitive Foods Australia and Carolyn Creswell from Carman’s. The sheer grit, determination and craftmanship just shines through when you hear the stories behind iconic Australian brands. From the 162 steps, many by hand, to make one Akubra hat to the fact Nicholas Paspaley spent 20 years perfecting Paspaley’s pearl cultivation techniques. As Marilynne eloquently reflected ‘The determination of making a vision a reality no matter how long it takes is one of the qualities of family business. Time that a corporate board would never sustain.’.
Remarkable women. As female leaders we especially enjoyed being in the presence of some truly remarkable business women during this conference. This kicked off with a women in business breakfast and a panel featuring Nikki McLeod from Akubra, Marilynne Paspaley from the Paspaley Group, Janelle Gerry from Macadamias Australia and hosted by Melanie Cooper from Coopers Brewery. Whilst it was a privilege hearing these women’s stories it was also fantastic to be part of some powerful discussions about gender diversity and the issue of ‘invisibleness’ of women in many family businesses. And a quote Carolyn Creswell from Carman’s mentioned in her closing keynote was definitely food for thought ‘We never question that a man that works full time can be a great father so why do we question that a women can’t do the same?’
Breathtaking dinners. We attended two of the dinners, the awards dinner at Telegraph Station, and the final celebratory night at The Quarry. Both were incredibly well organised (thanks FBA for important touches like the blankets for when it got cold) and the scenery simply stunning. The final night really got the dust flying with an absolutely heaving dance floor, it’s safe to say everyone had a blast!
Generosity. There is a generosity from both the speakers, but also the attendees, who so openly share not only their successes, but also their mistakes. They share their life philosophies and the principles they do business by. They share the wonderfulness of being in a family business, but also the complex, passionate issues that arise too.
The warmth, grace and humbleness at the Family Business National Conference makes it a breath of fresh air from other conferences across the year. FBA has created something quite special, with this conference being in its 20th year now. And I can see why, and I’m absolutely looking forward to what the 2019 conference will bring.