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FIDI Conference – a view from the sidelines by Steve Jordan

Jun 16, 2014
The FIDI Conference 2014 was held in Singapore and, as far as I could tell, was a great success. Around 630 delegates attended (up on last year), the hotel was both beautiful and practical, the food excellent and the dash from one business meeting to another just as relentless as always.

Different from last year, however, was the attendance at the plenary business meetings which was vastly improved. I remember last year criticising the FIDI members for not taking the time to listen to the speakers which, I felt, was a shame for both. This year FIDI made it easier by limiting the plenary meetings to the obligatory roll call and two keynote addresses: one from Rob Waddell, a New Zealander who was both a gold medal-winning Olympic rower and a member of the New Zealand Americas Cup team; and Nanz Chong-Komo, a local business woman. I had to leave before Nanz took the stage on the last day so I am unable to pass comment on her performance.  As a sailor, however, I could be nothing but impressed with Rob’s talk (see panel) a remarkable guy to switch sports and display such ability in both.

Errol Gardiner, FIDI President, opened the event with a round-up of the year.  Which was both interesting and a little more exciting that Errol had expected when a ‘man with a grudge’ walked onto the set, took the microphone and promptly launched into a campaign address.  He just got as far as complaining about ‘ethics’ in the industry before he was unceremoniously manhandled from the stage by very willing volunteers.  Errol, throughout, maintained a presidential distance and carried on unruffled as soon as the stage was clear.  Excellent job!

Roll call was a little more exciting than usual too, with the hour-long series of name, rank and serial number punctuated with karaoke performances from some of the younger Asian set.  It appeared impromptu at first but then became clearly staged when they all took individual mikes, mounted the stage and led the assembly in community singing.  Good fun and a nice attempt to liven up a part of the conference that can be dreary.

Parallel to the main conference runs the FIDI 35 Club events.  The Generation Y up and comings – some already arrived – did a remarkable job of combining business with pleasure (see separate reports). They also extended their age bracket up to 39, for reasons that I don’t fully understand, while retaining their existing name.  Confused?

All in all, a very good conference and a lovely location.  Next year it’s in Cape Town.

Photos:  Top - Errol Gardiner; Singapore by night; On stage entertainment.

Making the boat go faster

Rob Waddell is one of New Zealand’s many famous people.  He was a rower and the country’s only gold medallist at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.  On leaving his sport he switched from a sole activity to a team game by joining the Emirates Team New Zealand Sailing Crew for the America’s Cup in San Francisco in 2013. 

Rob’s presentation at FIDI was entertaining, regaling the audience with harrowing tales of heroism on the water, but he had a much more profound message for the movers.  He said that his success had come from the quality of the preparation he had done.  He never focussed on the outcome, just on the process.  He knew that if he got the process right, and worked as hard as he could, he would get the outcome he wanted.

By illustration he showed that it’s not sufficient, in business or sport, to give 99%.  It is probably that last 1% that makes 100% of the difference.  “We need to make every day as good as we can,” he said. Rob also advised business to learn another lesson from sailing.  He said we must all continually consider what will happen next and what we are going to do about it. “By the time something is happening, it’s too late to do anything about it.”

He said that, in his opinion, ‘belief is everything’. He acknowledged that the moving industry had been through a bad time and applauded its resilience.  Then he repeated Henry Ford’s famous quotation: “If you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

In closing he used another quotation, this time from Sir Peter Blake, the famous NZ yachtsman who won the 1989–90 Whitbread Round the World Race, held the Jules Verne Trophy from 1994 to 1997 by setting the fastest time around the world as co-skipper of ENZA New Zealand, and led his country to successive victories in the America’s Cup. “Every night, when you go home, ask yourself the question: have I done everything I can to make this boat go faster?” 

Photo:  Rob Waddell

Adding a little colonial style

For many years it has been an ambition of mine to visit the world famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore and FIDI gave me the chance.  It’s fair to say that 600 FIDI members descending on the place did take away some of the serene beauty of the palm lined terraces; the queue to get in was unwelcome in the heat and humidity of a Singapore evening; and the room we were first ushered into was too small and, therefore, crowded; but the FIDI delegates grinned through it all.  When they realised that the courtyard was open too, and the (much cooler) room beyond, spirits refreshed.

The refreshing was partly due, of course, to the freely flowing Singapore Slings – a drink invented in the Long Bar of the Raffles 100 years ago and still the hotel’s signature drink – and the rather lovely food.  Standing to eat roast beef is never funny though and when you have to balance a drink in one hand and wipe the perspiration from your forehead with the other it’s even less so.  But FIDI, and Raffles, did a pretty good job with all those hungry mouths to feed in one go and the evening was not interrupted with speeches, prizes, or any other unnecessary distractions, which was a blessing. Very nice.

Did the hotel live up to expectations?  I guess it did.  Very 19th century, very cool (in the social sense), and a great privilege to go.

Photos: The famous Raffles Hotel; delegates enjoying the hotel's hospitality.

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