Review of LeaderFest 2015

LeaderFest 2015 was reviewed in the July 2015 edition of Business Voice - The Magazine of  the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The event, held by MD2MD, was the sixth of its kind held in the Thames Valley and this year was at the Green Park Conference Centre, at Oxford Properties building in Longwater Avenue. It attracted 70 business leaders representing MD2MD groups across the country. The event was sponsored also by Zest, Doxzoo, Zaptext and Thames Valley Chamber.

Whilst there are many conferences, exhibitions and seminars aimed at inspiring leaders, the difference with LeaderFest is that it builds upon the highly successful ’leaders learning with, and from, leaders’ peer model of MD2MD.

In a unique interview based format, delegates heard about the business journeys of some impressive leaders plus tools, tips, techniques and thought processes that helped them build their business. At the end of each interview, followed by a questions and answers, delegates compared notes, discussed what they heard and what lessons could be applied.

Bob Bradley, Managing Director, MD2MD (also Vice- President, Oxfordshire Chamber), hosted the event. He began by saying: “The theme of the day will reinforce the MD2MD ethos; it will be leaders working with, and learning from, other leaders. What of their thoughts, decisions and actions have contributed most to their success and, to the extent they are prepared to share it, which were ones they would do differently if they were able to rewind history”.

The interviewer was David Hyner, an award winning professional speaker, author and charity fundraiser. His first guest was Paul Brundage, head of Oxford Properties European region. Paul spoke about the impact of technology on the property market: does digital mean there is too much of the right type and location? On the other hand, Cisco has more people in its building due to the trend for more collaboration.

Next was David McAllister, who was elected a Member of the European Parliament at the top of the Christian Democratic Union’s list of candidates in Lower Saxony, Germany: He has a unique perspective, having grown up in Germany but bi-lingual all his life due to his Scottish father and German mother. He has always been a ’rock solid European’ and passionate about a united Europe. His view is that the UK has far less influence in Brussels than before but David wants us to stay in as the UK was the driving force in the single market, and free trade agreements. The EU also benefits from UK relations with the Commonwealth and USA. People here are not really sure what Europe is all about but think it should be transparent and more democratic. David’s final message was “we are stronger together and UK ideas will make Europe work better”.

Tony Waters, an expert in major contract sales and in leading 828 companies through both high growth and turnarounds shared his expertise. The key in big ticket sales is to spend more time understanding the other party; research the individual and the company; build relationships with stakeholders. When recruiting take time and gather other trusted opinions. Punch above your weight to beat big competitors.

Lesley Cowley OBE, was previously CEO/MD of Nominet and became the first ever Chair of the DVLA in 2014. Her work at the DVLA includes helping with IT transformation and stakeholder reporting. Lesley feels that women are under-represented in business and we need more female business owners. They are less likely to push themselves forward and need coaching and mentoring.

Finally Gary Frank, founder of the Fabulous Baker Boys (grew to £17m sales with 200 employees), said it was important to look at the big picture and step out of the day to day operations decisions will be different. There is no secret to being an entrepreneur – it’s just very hard work. Ask for help and tap into other’s expertise.

The last word goes to Bob: