Recently I was fortunate enough to go to the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) 2016 conference in Canberra. The 3 day event was kicked off by JBS’s own Jenny Brown as conference chair and current AFA Vice President. JB launched the theme of “Adaptive Change, Taking Advice Beyond The Horizon”. The theme was very appropriate as our profession continues to go through change, not only with legislation, but also with other factors such as technology and an ever changing political and economic environment.
For me, it was a great chance to be able to come together with other professional advisers, practice owners and thought leaders to discuss ways to take advantage of these changes. The highlight for me, and no doubt the majority of the other delegates, was to hear from the Honourable John Howard. It was fantastic how he spoke about where he sees Australia, lessons he has learnt from his time in politics, leadership and what we, as a nation, need in the current political environment. He talked about the current focus on the Australian banks as “strange” given the number of inquiries into them since the GFC, and the fact that they held Australia in such a strong position during this time. He spoke about leadership and how if you get into a leadership position you are going to make mistakes, the important thing is to get the “big things” right. But the final, and in my view, most important point was that as a leader, not everyone is going to agree with your decisions and thoughts but if you are passionate and decisive, the majority of people will respect you and your decisions.
Day 2 kicked off with Dr Ric Charlesworth, one of Australia’s most highly regarded sporting minds. He spoke about one of the biggest lessons business people can learn from elite sports people, is the emphasis on training and learning. He spoke about the amount of time that athletes spend training and preparing for their sports, rather than competing and how we, as a professionals, need to ensure that we are spending the time required to train to improve.
As previously mentioned, one of the great features of the AFA conference is the networking and peer learning. The “Meet the Professionals and Innovators” session was an intimate session where advisors are allocated to a table with one of 40 leaders in our industry. At JBS, our honour board and awards list shows that we are clearly cutting edge and industry leaders in our own rights, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to learn from others. I used this as a great opportunity to pick the brain of the 2015 AFA Adviser of the year about his approach to business. There is no doubt much of what we do at JBS is cutting edge, but I was able to identify some small ideas that we can use to enable us to provide a more valuable service for our clients.
Day 2 finished with one of the most inspirational speakers I have ever heard, Brian Freeman, Founder of Walking Wounded. Brian’s story was amazing and I have recounted it to many people since the conference. Walking Wounded exists to reduce the incidence of suicide in our Veteran Australian Soldiers and service men and women returning from conflicts such as East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. Brian started the foundation in 2014 for the reason that since 1999, 239 soldiers have taken their own lives once they have returned home, not because 46 soldiers have been killed in combat. To raise awareness of the issue, Brian took it upon himself to carry the Roll of Honour containing the 41 Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, signed by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and sealed in a metal canister on an epic journey. Over 7 months, beginning on Remembrance Day in 2014, Brian commenced with Mount Everest in April, prior to running 4,805km from the Tip of Cape York to the bottom of Tasmania, including kayaking unassisted across Bass Strait, all in 85 days. He then traversed the Kokoda Trail prior to ascending Mount Kilimanjaro, all to raise awareness. Fittingly at the end of this amazing story, Brian was asked to join the MC for the day, and the audience, to complete 22 push ups as part of another awareness challenge, #22pups22days4ourmiltary, a campaign you may have seen on social media.
On day 3 we heard more from our industry leaders, once again with Jenny on the stage leading the way. We heard presentations about the benefits of taking time to work on the business, as well as in the business, a concept called the dance floor and balcony. The theory is based on a nightclub scenario whereby everyone gets the excitement of the day to day work of the dance floor, but often it is good to take a break from the day to day business to spend some time on the nightclub balcony and look at things from a different point of view. This is a theory that we spoke about at length at our JBS retreat, and this was a good opportunity for me to reflect and confirm that I spend enough time looking at how we do things rather than just getting caught up in the businesses of the ‘dancefloor’.
The afternoon included another great session on “Cool Sexy Tech for your Financial Advice Business”. This session prompted us to think about how we see ourselves from a technological point of view in 5 year’s time. The presenters had recently completed a tour of the Silicon Valley where they talked about the 800 plus start-up companies that are looking to shake up the financial services industry across the world. We ran through a futuristic scenario of how our clients will potentially be relating with their finances in the future and how we need to be able to adapt our businesses and services accordingly. I was excited to hear of the technology that is potentially on the horizon, and will enable me to have more relevant, meaningful and time critical conversations with our clients about their goals, dreams and their ability to achieve them.
Dr Adam Fraser concluded the conference, presenting on ‘Peak Performance without the Collateral Damage’. He spoke about the importance of the “third space”. The third space is the transition gap between each task we do, not just at work but also at home. He talked about this as the new competitive advantage in business and life. It is the time that you take to get over what you have just been through and show up to the next meeting or challenge with the right frame of mind, to allow you to get the most out of what is coming next. He talked about how this separates elite athletes from the rest of the pack. For example in tennis, the 3rd space is the time between points, and the best players reflect quickly on the past point, put in behind them and move onto the next point. He spoke about it not being what the best players do during the point it is what they do between the points that makes them elite. For me, I found this really helpful as my third space is often the drive home from work. Up until recently, I had used the drive home to listen to work related podcasts or make telephone calls, but often this meant that I took my work home with me and wasn’t able to shut off to spend time with my children before bed. About a month ago, I decided to listen to podcasts that make me laugh or call mates to catch up. Without realising it, I was using it as my third space and it was meaning that I was coming home in a better frame of mind. This session really re-enforced the importance of this time for “me” and how it makes me a better father as a result. This is something I really want to ensure becomes ingrained in my daily routine.
I often get the feeling that people criticize conferences as junkets or don’t feel that they have time to attend however, for me, the right conference is a fantastic time to step out of the day to day routine, look at things with a fresh set of eyes and take the required “balcony” time to ensure that we, as a business, and me, as an individual, are doing things as best as we can to not only provide a great service to our existing clients, but also provide an offer that is appealing to potential new clients.