Sunday, February 27, 2011

A successful conference

I have mixed feelings as I see off the guests from our dealer conference in Dubai.

I'm glad that the 4 months of hard work are over, and that the meticulous planning proved worthwhile, but this is shaded with a tinge of sadness as the event finished in a flash ... just as new friendships were being kindled and I was starting to enjoy it !

It had been 2 years since we last held such a conference for our Russian and former Soviet Union customers. After trips to Hungary, Finland, Switzerland and Czech preciously, we were again considering Europe, until someone in the team suggested Dubai. I don't know why this option had never been tabled before, but with me living here and us having an office and an infrastructure more than able to deal with the event, it was a quick decision to confirm it as the venue for 2011.

I pulled out the contacts I had at Emirates and the Atlantis Hotel, and the event timetable set itself. Beach time, water park, desert safari, a gala dinner by the sea and shopping, all positioned around a formal conference morning.

As with all such events, big picture planning is the easy part, but there are hours of dedication put in by so many people (internal and external to our company), and they deserve a depth of gratitude for their efforts. Details starting from setting the theme of the event to the letters that go out each day of the event, the logistics of bringing poeple from more than 10 different time zones to the location, and then on the ground coordination. From the center pieces on the dinner tables, to the music selection for the band ... it is an amazing amount of work for a 72 hour "project" but was executed by those involved to near perfection. Thanks to all of you involved from the Moscow office, Dubai office, Arabian Adventures and The Atlantis !

The main conference part this year comprised of 6 business presentations followed by a "cooking class" in the hotel.

6 presenters (including myself) each made presentations (very snappy, even if I do say so myself), and there was a great effort (and relief) to avoid the usual formal verbatim powerpoint slides. Each presentation was lively and the whole "show" littered with multimedia that was well appreciated by the audience who I also believe got some genuine take home value knowing that much more about our business and what we have to offer.

Our guests then moved on to the Saffron restaurant. We had taken it over to allow our guests to occupy the different cooking stations and try their hands at making sushi, naan, tempura, hamburgers and pastries, and at the same time, have a good chance to experience our products in the kitchen.

It's easy to spend money on events such as this. Booking a good hotel and fancy restaurants is easy. We have always tried to go that extra mile to structure our events and trips and take care of our guests on a whole other level. We strive to create memories and strong emotions each time we do this and from the reaction and words of praise I got from so many of our guests at the gala dinner last night, I can see that this was achieved, noticed and appreciated ... and that makes it all worthwhile.

I am proud of the team who worked on this event. They clearly have a deep sense of loayalty and caring for Binatone. The brand, the business and its values. This comes through so clearly in their actions and I hope our clients see it. If they do, even 10% of it, we should reap the benefits of this event with customers knowing there's truly an "only with Binatone" benefit to be had when partnering with us.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A fantastic week on the slopes :-)

What a fantastic time. From the planning stage to the moment we left, a superb and memorable week.
After going for the first time last year to Courcheval, we decided that a skiing trip is the first thing to go into the family calendar each year.

This year our planning started with a phone call to the agency Powder Byrne (highly recommended through a friend), and they set the tone and benchmark for everything that was to come.

Our travel coordinator, Ivana, was diligent in understanding our needs. From travelling convenience, to the age of our kids, our skiing ability, and the type of resort, amenities and activities we wanted on our holiday.

Laax and the Rocks Resort.
We were offered to go to stay in the brand new "Rocks Resort" in a relatively new resort village called Laax, a 5 minute drive from the more well known resort of Flims in Switzerland. This new modern facility met our key requirements of being "ski-in, ski-out" and offered a very comfortable 2 bedroom apartment type room.

The view from our "ski in" hotel room.

From the date of confirmation and to the weeks leading up to the trip, Ivana was in touch. Checking the flight details, sending us the information packs and even booking all our restaurants for the week we were to be away.

So off to Zurich we flew. An afternoon and an overnight, before an early start and 1.5 hour drive to Laax.

The Powder Byrne rep was ready and waiting for us, Andrea. She continued the excellent service. I am a seasoned traveller and quite used to dealing with check-ins and formalities on trips quite efficiently, but Andrea was having none of it ! She made us relax as she took care of all formalities, and short of physically holding our hands, led us to the ski rental shop and put us on the slopes a short 90 minutes after we had reached ... and our holiday had begun !
Super lady number 3 then turned up ... Susanna. Our ski instructor for the week. She was lively and friendly and we felt the kids were in super hands. On day one, she checked what goals the kids had in mind, and it was black runs and jumps by the end of the week.

Advanced skiiers !
And so the goals were set, and we all went off. Myself showing the way, but by the end of the week, I was struggling to keep pace with kids. Along the way we had our bumps and bruises. Poor Shaan was the worst off with a badly bruised shoulder, but he braved his way each day and consistently pushed for higher and higher levels with no inclination to give up. The only task he wasn't up to as a result of his injury, was the indoor ski jump training center (an outstanding facility) ... something little Tia (only 9) made the most of. I admired her going on the rudimentary training for the jumps, but I was seriously impressed when she went on and down the ski jump slope without a hesitation. There is a very special feeling to be a parent and see your kids excel.

The champion slalom team :-)

The apartment was really nice. A fully stocked and equipped kitchen kept Reena busy each morning as she looked after "the 3 kids". Andrea's daily 7am drop off of fresh baguettes and croissants was a delight to accompany the fresh ham and cheese in the fridge.

A well deserved hot chocolate break !
From the start to finish, we had an excellent time. Some great food, fondue, excellent wines, hot chocolate on the slopes, great skiing and most importantly, valuable family "down time" all together.


Lunchtime on the slopes - Reena hiked and we skiied

A serious shortage of snow !
We were slightly disappointed by the severe shortage of snow, but there was enough to manage and the snow making machines proved to be a worthwhile investment !

We are planning next year already, maybe Japan ... but Powder Byrne don't operate there :-( 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My creative side !

While considering speeches and presentations for our upcoming conference in Dubai, I was rummaging through some archived stuff and came accross this video I made a while ago.

I seem to recall it was a mixture of having a new camera, new "stop motion" software, and new video editing software that my son had just got !

Excuse the crudeness of the execution, but I still think it was a good creative idea.

If Ari Gold is reading this, get me a gig as a big time hollywood Director :-)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My January

A long month has ended. A busy but energising start to the year.

More than 80 hours of flying. 11 flights, 8 cities, 5 countries and 4 continents ... That's a lot, even for me!

I went to the US, China, Russia, Nigeria and Ghana. Working weeks away, but managed to disciplined and be home every weekend. Something I hope to maintain throughout the year.

The year started with Las Vegas and the CES show. A positive experience. A chance to meet many people in our industry and learn of their thoughts for the year ... most of which were positive.

Next off was China and a chance to progress new product projects which I hope will see the light of day in time for Christmas this year.

Russia was next. Its been a slow recovery after the crisis and this year offers lots of promise (and risk), so the trip was to discuss the aggressive year ahead. It was also celebrated by way of the senior team taking me out for a (belated) birthday dinner and marred by the terrible terrorist attack at the airport (which fell right in between my 3 day trip).

Last for the month was my whistle-stop tour of West Africa. Accra, Lagos and Abuja in 4 days.

The markets seem to be rebounding there after a, mostly, slow 2010, and we had a small prayer ceremony to inaugurate our new purpose built office building in Accra.

In Nigeria, I made my first trip to Abuja in nearly 20 years, and I was impressed with the city and its development, and with what a totally different place it is from Lagos.

With the family, life got back to "routine" after our excellent Christmas break. The kids went back to school and we all enjoyed the Dubai marathon day out together.

On the personal front, I only managed one round of golf at the beginning of the month, but plenty of football. Freeplay Energy finished the E-Sports indoor 5 a side tournament as champions and we started playing in the DuPlay league.

I continued my dietary discipline, and feel great - I am sure this helped my energy levels to be able to keep up my travels at this pace.

Last but not least, Arsenal had a great month. Reaching the final of the Carling Cup, passing 2 rounds of the FA Cup and keeping up the pressure in the Premiership.

Next month brings Shaan's birthday, a week of skiing and big conference in Dubai for our top Russian customers. Roll on February!