What I learned about marketing from ‘Vetulio’s way’

It’s the summer of 2014 and the my girls and I are on our summer holidays.

We’d visited Rome and taken a train to Florence where we started the second leg of our Italian adventure.

It was hot. An Italian noon in summer hot.

So by the time we’d walked the 10 minutes from the station to our hotel carrying cases through the cobbled streets we all needed a few minutes rest before we went exploring.

It was at this point that Cassie spotted Gelati del Bondi, a Gelato shop  just over the road from our hotel.

We went over and sat down on the seats outside of the shop whilst deciding to order.

That’s when Vetulio Bondi, the owner of the Gelato shop, wandered over…

(more…)

Nerves, my new mate Saam and the day I fell off the orbit

So there I was.
Bright and early on a fresh sunny Saturday May morning….

….hanging off the UK’s tallest sculpture!

It’s not how I’d choose to spend a typical Saturday morning I’ve got to be frank however the opportunity to experience abseiling the Orbit (the large red structure on the Olympic park) together with the chance to raise some cash for an amazing cause (Richard House Children’s hospice) was too compelling to turn down.

Approaching the event I was feeling clam. So when people asked “Was I nervous?” as the day approached I answered with the truth. I wasn’t.

Even as we arrived at the Olympic park the butterflies hadn’t kicked in. However as we put on our harnesses, entered the lift and moved towards the open window towards where we going to launch ourselves off the reality of the experience started to hit me.

I mean I knew it had to be safe. I knew the organisers wouldn’t let us do something inherently dangerous.

However looking down from the top of this gargantuan structure to see this bunch of tiny people waving back the reality of how far up you truly are hits home!

To settle the nerves I was talking to some of my fellow victims, erm I mean participants. Some were clearly nervous, some were joking and others were scarily calm.

We then, as we were heading down the Orbit two by two, selected who we were going to head down with.

I got partnered up with a lovely fella called Saam. Whilst chatting I discovered that Saam’s 9 year old boy uses Richard House and I quickly remembered why I’d decided to get involved with this particular pursuit…

It was for families like Saam’s. Families who really value the outstanding help and support Richard house gives them.

In no time Saam and I were beckoned and were told it was our turn to descend. All of the particular ropes were attached…there were three in total, one I controlled, and two ‘safety ropes’ in case, I was told, I decided to go ‘all SAS’.

Then we were told to start to lean off the side.

As experiences go, and even attached to a bunch of ropes, being nearly 400 foot off the ground and leaning into space isn’t the most natural experience in the world!

However I trusted the instructor at the top and leaned out.

“Now” said my instructor “Take one leg off and put it on the platform just below where your foot is now”

I did as he said and found myself wiggling my right leg around in vain. I couldn’t feel the platform!

“I can’t feel it” I said

“It’s just below where your leg is” he replied but regardless of where I moved my leg I couldn’t feel or touch the platform.

Suddenly with my right leg waving aimlessly trying to find a platform (which must have existed but had seemingly disappeared when I tried to find it) I felt my left leg slipping and suddenly I found myself hanging off the orbit a little quicker that I was expecting.

Now I know I was attached to a bunch of ropes, and I had volunteered to abseil but I’m wondering whether my slight slip meant that I can legitimately order my “I fell off the orbit – and survived!” T shirt!

My instructor looked a little frustrated at his simple instruction not being followed but being a true professional guided me to the right place and told me to start to descend.

I regained my composure and slowly started to descend. Below me, I could see Saam zipping down his line whilst shouting “This is brilliant!”.

Saam was right. This was brilliant.

I slowly descended, even feeling calm enough to give the photographer on the observation deck a thumbs up as I came down, and as I came down I could hear Cassie, Charlotte and Sophie shouting from the bottom.

As I felt more comfortable and in control I started to move a bit faster and suddenly in no time at all I was back on “Terra Firma”.

Saam had already arrived and as I looked at his huge smile I realised that I was smiling from ear to ear too.

I removed my ropes and my harness, went over to congratulate Saam and then went to greet the family who looked relieved I’d made it down safely!

“You did it!” Sophie, my 3 year old shouted.

“Yep!” I thought to myself “Despite being calm, then petrified, then falling off the top of the orbit….

…I did it!”

If you do fancy sponsoring me now I’ve completed the challenge and help me continue to raise money for an incredible cause you can find my Virgin Giving page here.

Sculptures, Families and why I’m throwing myself down the orbit for a great cause!

Let’s be clear…

Throwing myself down the UK’s tallest sculpture isn’t my idea of fun!

However there’s times in your life when you get the opportunity to do something scary, push your boundaries and raise some money for a brilliant charity.

Therefore I’ve committed in 3 weeks time to Abseil down the Orbit (it’s the big red sculpture on the Olympic park!)

It’s on behalf of Richard House, an East London hospice which provides incredible care for kids with life limiting or life threatening conditions.

Cassie and I have been massively lucky (and are massively grateful) to have two healthy (and mostly happy) girls.

Therefore when I look at the challenges of the families who have to cope with children who have the challenges of extremely poor health, and it’s within my power to support these families in my own little way, I should, shouldn’t I?

That doesn’t mean I’m not a tad nervous…I’m not ruling out a large gulp when I arrive and look up, or intense sweating (and possibly tears!) as I’m descending. However I know I’ll finish it and look back and be glad I’ve done it!

But, if you can I’d like you to help me out.

As I mentioned the main reason I’m doing this is to raise some money for a fantastic cause (you can read more about the work that Richard House do here).

If you fancy helping me out by contributing to this cause….feel free to follow the link below and donate how little or much you can afford…

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=ChrisvstheOrbit

Also if you happen to be in Stratford on the 2nd of May and fancy coming along to cheer me on, shout at me from below or give me a little shove it’ll be great to see you (as long as you’re there to cheer me on and not shout at me or give me a shove!).

Thanks for your support in advance!

A search for meaning and a trip into desolation.

I’ve spent weeks thinking about writing this article…

It’s the toughest article I’ve ever written.

Not only because it’s on a massively serious subject.

Not only because it’s a subject which impacted and continues to impacts millions of families.

The main reason I’ve found writing this so tough is because…

…I didn’t want to let her down.

As she guided us round it was her intensity was palpable.

The look in her eyes as she looked around the group in front of here and said…

“Never Forget. This is the place that over a million people were killed.”

On this particular day I, along with my dad, were visiting Auschwitz.

We’d been in Poland for a couple of days, staying in Krakow.

We’d already spent some time at Oskar Schindler’s factory and the square celebrating the work of Tadeusz Pankiewicz, the pharmacist who, along with his team, risked their lives in the Krakow ghetto by supplying much needed medicine and getting involved in clandestine operations help the people trapped in the ghetto.

However whilst the stories of Schindler and Pankiewicz contain cruelty, the process of dehumanisation of thousands of people and brutality beyond belief at their core are stories of men trying to do the right thing at a time when it would have been easier to tolerate the sickening behaviour of the Nazi regime.

At their core visiting these places are a tiny sliver of light in a time and place where darkness reigned.

The Schindler and Pankiewicz stories illustrate not only how cruel but also how compassionate man can be.

However Auschwitz was different.

Visiting Auschwitz isn’t about hope over adversity. It’s a place where a Facist regime systematically killed over a million people.

It’s a haunting place where the ability to find meaning is incredibly difficult.

Our guide continued showing us around. Past the thousands of shoes, the fillings extracted from teeth, the hundreds of suitcases all still marked with names,written because many of the people on the way to the camp were lied to.

Inside the only remaining gas chamber. A dark foreboding place illuminated by a single candle in memory of the lost.

Standing at the gates of Auschwitz II where the train arrived and people were sorted.

The ‘lucky’ ones remained alive to work, but living in inhumane conditions, sick, starving and treated like animals.

The ones who didn’t get selected included most of the women, all of the children and anyone considered unfit, were killed almost immediately.

All the way through our visit being guided by her. 

The woman with the intensity in her eyes. 

The woman who didn’t want us to forget.

On the drive back from Auschwitz to Krakow my Dad and I didn’t speak much. Every now and again I looked over and wondered what he was thinking about. Whether like me he was trying to process what we’d seen. I wondered if, like me, he was trying to find meaning in such a desolate place.

However, about ten minutes into the drive back I remembered that I’d brought along a book.

A book which seemed appropriate to read…

Man’s search for meaning by Victor Frankl.

You see Victor was held in these camps in World War 2. He’d been in Auschwitz. He’d seen the brutality first hand.

However even in the worst times he had hope for the future. He believed in the positivity of man. He believed in the importance of finding meaning even in a life too terrible to imaging by using his imagination instead of the reality around him

In all my trip to Auschwitz was both fascinating and disturbing in equal parts and as I’ve already said, trying to find lessons from such a desolate place is difficult.

The intensity in that Woman’s eyes and the brutal reminder of the number of deaths stays as a continuous reminder.

A reminder that hatred may be a powerful force but overwhelmingly it’s a force which is ultimately destructive to most involved.

A reminder that whilst genocide isn’t linked to a particular country (whist not on the same scale it’s happened in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia more recently) it’s the same actions which result in such atrocities. Label certain people “differently”. Then treat these people as a threat. Then polarise and dehumanise.

A reminder that by remembering what happened in our past helps us make sure that the way we look beyond race, or colour, or creed and just simply treat people decently.

Reading Mans search for meaning by Victor Frankl book taught me a number of equally important lessons…

That even in the darkest time there can be hope.

That the power of our hopes, dreams, aspirations and goals can help us look to the future and not be caught in the present.

That most of us will face challenges and feel overwhelmed but are incredibly lucky, and should be incredibly grateful, that we live in a place with a relative abundance of opportunity.

and

Whilst your surroundings can be controlled by oppression…the one thing the oppressors cannot control is your attitude.

As I’ve already said I’ve found writing this to be quite tough.

But hopefully, and for sharing what I learned from the experience, I haven’t let her down.

What do you think?

Conferences, Enthusiasm and Raising the bar at the IFP conference.

I’m half way through my annual trip to an event I’ve attend every year and has quickly become an “must do” event in the diary!

It’s the Institute of Financial planning annual conference!

Now I know, especially if you’re a non financial type, what you might be thinking….

“A bunch of financial planners! That sounds as much fun as the international paint drying convention!”

Well, Let me stop you right there and explain why I like it so much. Imagine this…

You get a bunch of incredibly bright, massively supporting and hugely committed people in a room. (obviously I’m excluded from that description….I just manage to sneak in every year!)

You put on an event full of positivity, reflection and tips on how we can live our lives more intentionally.

and

You add a lovely venue and some fantastic food and drink!

The interesting thing (and I’ve attended three years on the trot) is what I learn not only from the speakers but from just surrounding myself with fellow professionals as well as fantastic people, many of them I’m proud to call friends.

I always find that when I attend events there are some key takeaways…Let me share the ones I’ve found most valuable over the last couple of days.

—————————————————————————

* Raising the bar (the expectations in your life) has the power to unlock the potential creativity to achieve huge goals.

* There’s a huge power in making a ruckus and celebrating your unique quirky qualifies (hearing this made me feel massively positive about my own!””)

*  Working to deliver a fantastic service and adding value.

*  American’s are massively enthusiastic….and that enthusiasm is hugely infectious!

* I’m lucky enough to work in a world where fellow professionals are generous enough to share experiences, challenges and concerns to show that life is challenging for us all and those challenges are there to be beaten (a huge shout out to Tina Weeks and Justin King for doing this!)

———————————————————————–

As you can see my key learning points aren’t about pensions, investments and money.

They’re about life.

For me, spending a couple of days talking, questioning and learning about trying to live a life well lived is well worth doing.

How about you?

Rubbish Romance, Relationships and the french fella who got it right.

I’m rubbish at romance.

I forget anniversaries.

I don’t buy cards and flowers (when on the incredibly rare occasion I do they’re usually of the last minute supermarket or garage variety!)

and

Cassie and I don’t spend enough time alone together. I could make excuses about kids and work and a million other reasons but the reality of it is that I don’t work hard enough to find this time! (something I’m conscious of and need to work on)

However I reckon I don’t reckon I’m alone…

Blokes in my experience aren’t particular good at romance.

However during my Easter trip to France I’d seen an example of a fella who seemed to have the romance thing sussed!

Let me set the scene…

Whilst Cassie and Sophie (my youngest daughter) were having a relaxing day at the local zoo, Charlotte (my 10 year old) ventured out to spend the day at the Louvre in Paris.

We had a fantastic day roaming the corridors of the Louvre marveling at the Egyptian and Roman antiquities and giving our amateur opinions on what art we liked (Venus De Milo), the bits we were amazed by (among loads of other stuff some of the architecture in the Louvre is stunning) and what we felt was frankly a bit underwhelming (Sorry to do this, but in real life, the Mona Lisa, Meh).

After a busy day we headed back to meet Cassie and Sophie in a cafe for Dinner near where we were staying in Maisons-Lafitte (a Paris suburb a twenty minute train journey away from Central Paris).

Charlotte and I arrived first and were waiting for Cassie and Sophie to meet us when I noticed a couple sitting together 3 tables away.

This couple, who looked like they were in their late 60’s or early 70’s sat next to each other on the same side of the table. He was dressed in a shirt, jacket and a cravat. She wore a simple yet sophisticated black jumper.

However it wasn’t what their age, their clothes or how they sit which started to fascinate Charlotte and I…

…It was what they were doing.

In between them they were holding a book, he held one side, she held the other. The book, written in English, was smaller than a paperback and seemed to be a story about music, relationships and conflict in 1920’s America.

He read in English and then translated to French. She laughed and smiled at every line. He smiled back and continued.

Every now and then he would seem to insert his own humorous perspective on the story and she would laugh again.

The scene was enough to warm the heart of even someone as unromantic as yours truly.

I was facing the couple whilst Charlotte had her back to the couple facing me and whilst we talked I mentioned how lovely I felt the particular scene was.

“What” said Charlotte “Over there” pointing directly at the couple.

“Charlotte!” I said “Don’t point at people!”

She giggled when she realised what she’d done….”Sorry!”

About 10 minutes later Cassie and Sophie had arrived and I started to tell Cassie the story of the romantic french couple reading and laughing together in a cafe on a sunny bank holiday Monday when I noticed that the couple had finished their drinks and were now leaving.

As the man passed he gave me a knowing nod…

“Have a great evening” he said smiling.

“Thanks” I said “You too…”

and as the couple wandered off arm in arm I just remember thinking about one thing…

How important the time we spend with the people we love truly is.

Social Freedom, Regulation and the worrying story of the cowboy gambler.

I’ve never been a huge gambler.

I don’t do the lottery (in my opinion you might as well sling your cash in the bin), the only bet in a bookmakers I my annual trip to put a tiny bet on the Grand National every year and although I quite like the atmosphere of the dog track I only go once a year and normally never bet more a couple of quid per race.

I’ve also been to Vegas.

The first time I visited was with my Cassie, my Wife. This visit provided a strange experience which provided me with a tiny glimpse into how gambling can potentially have a huge negative impact on an individuals life…

It was 10:30am and we’d just finished our breakfast in one of the large Vegas casino’s. We decided to go for a wander along the Las Vegas strip and upon exiting our casion passed a blackjack table.

Whilst we weren’t particularly interested in a game this early in the morning we didn’t really have the chance anyway. All the seats on the table were full! However we did decide to stay around to watch a couple of hands..

Whilst most of the players seemed to be playing relatively conservatively (or as much as you can when playing blackjack) there was one guy who  sitting at the end of the table…

A checked shirt, cowboy hat and a whiskey in his hand (quick reminder – this was mid morning) this guy was betting and betting big!

Obviously slightly drunk and with the good fortune he’d experienced in the last couple of hands behind him he was feeling confident.He looked like he was doing well. He had a huge pile of chips in front of him and seemed to be on a relatively good run of luck.

“Place your bets please” said the dealer.

The guy pushed his entire stack of chips forward on the table.

There was an audible ‘oooh’ around the table as he did it. This made the man in the cowboy hat beam with pride.

However this pride didn’t last long as after he was dealt three cards and found himself with a total over 21. This meant he’d lost the entire stack of chips…

The game continued but I couldn’t help but stare at the guy.

He was silent. Staring into space. Lost in thought.

In the distance a lady was walking intentionally towards the Blackjack table and this seemed to snap the cowboy hatted man out of his slumber.

“Do me a favour” he said addressing everyone on and around the table and on the edge of tears “That’s my wife coming up and I’ve just lost our money. Please don’t say anything.”

The wife arrived at the table…

“Hello Honey,” said the man seemingly instantly to change his emotional state “You’re looking lovely today” and they strolled away from the table.

I’ll never know how much that guy lost relative to his income, or his wealth, or even the spending money for his holiday. However the chip stack seemed to be large and the fact that he pleaded us not to mention it to his wife makes me think, to this day, that, to him, it was a significant amount.

I’m not sure whether addiction is an affliction which impacts certain people and whether the vice is booze, drugs or gambling they will find an outlet for this addiction somewhere.

However the fact that we’re now seeing a huge amount of growth in recent years of online gambling sites and the prevalence of machines in bookmakers with just a swipe of your credit card allow you to waste thousands of pounds is a massively worrying trend.

I’m also not sure of the solution.

However the fact that the shops with these machines pop up in the least affluent areas of the country seems to contribute to the fact that these gambling machines target areas where many of the residents can afford them the least.

I’m also increasingly of the mind that decent gambling regulation is the only way.

As a financial planner and business owner I’ve got an understanding of regulation. I also understand it’s ability to ‘bog down’ innovation and potentially restrict growth…

However I also understand it’s entirely necessary.

When it comes to our clients investing money for their financial futures we (rightfully) need to evidence why what we are recommending is entirely appropriate and follow a robust process designed to ensure that we’re doing the right thing for our clients.

However it seems bizarre..

We live in a country where savers and investors are rightfully protected by really important and robust financial regulation..

..why can anyone still waste thousands of pounds without restriction in a casino, or high street betting shop, or even in the newsagents (with the lottery or scratchcards).

I know the counter arguments…

Why should we restrict social freedom by making restrictive laws?

Why should all of those who enjoy a nice, responsible innocent flutter every now and again be restricted?

and

Why should potential economic growth in the bookmaking and gambling industry be restricted by regulation?

I understand all of these arguments.

However when I think about that guy in Vegas who lost thousands of dollars in a matter of seconds.

and

The growth of the number of betting shops in areas where people can afford to gamble the least.

and

the ease someone can gamble their money away compared with the relative difficulty in saving and investing for their financial future.

I can’t help but think we’re getting it wrong.

What do you think?

Cluedo, Pigs in Blankets and learning lessons at Christmas.

It”s the day after boxing day and I’m reflecting on what’s been (in the Daems house at least) a brilliant Christmas.

A Christmas where we’ve ate well, laughed a lot and have all at one stage or another (including Charlotte and Sophie) mastered the art of the strategic snooze (or as I like to call it the “power nap”).

However I’ve learnt a bunch of stuff over the festive period that I want to share.

This blog entry isn’t designed to be any form of great insight, or spark debate, or actually be anything else than random thoughts….hopefully you’ll enjoy it just the same!

About Cluedo

1) I love Cluedo.

2) Cluedo changes people. It morphs people from behaving sensibly into acting like someone in a bad spy movie. I’m talking visible (and sometimes audible) whispering, extreme competitiveness and bluffing with the best of them….or maybe that was just me!

3) Cluedo doesn’t work if there are two murder weapons, one location and no suspect into the “solution envelope” (learned through bitter experience. That’s 45 minutes of my life I won’t get back!)

About Christmas Dinner

1) I love the tradition of Christmas Dinner. Sitting down with the family. Pulling Crackers. Wearing Silly Hats. Talking about what we’ve been grateful for and what our favourite bits of 2013 have been (something we started this year and I like the idea of continuing).

2) I don’t love all of the food associated with Christmas. I don’t choose to eat turkey and sprouts for the rest of the year so I don’t know why we feel obliged to eat them during the festive period. Although the way that Cassie cooked the turkey (in a Wellington) and did the sprouts (with Bacon) made it a million times better (for me) than a “conventional” Christmas dinner.

3) I’m a simple man. If my Dinner next year consisted of a bucket of “pigs in blankets”, a supersized fork and a large gin and tonic I reckon that would make my Christmas.

About Sophie

1) Sophie seems to love Pixar films almost as much as her dad. She’s transfixed by Toy Story. She adores UP (although she calls it “Russell”….the boy in the film). She was mesmerised by Cars….suffice to say she likes their films A LOT!

2) Sophie is currently living proof that the “terrible two’s” do exist. She’s firmly in that phase where she’s pushing the boundaries, trying to exert her authority and get her own way and letting us know in no uncertain terms she’s not happy when she doesn’t. However it’s not that terrible. It’s just at times a bit frustrating (more for Cassie than for me). Regardless of the minor frustrations there’s still not a day goes by where she doesn’t either make me smile, make me proud or make me understand that my life wouldn’t be as good without her in it.

3) Apart from Pixar films Sophie loves “playing shop”, Snowmen, Cuddles more than kisses, standing way too close to the telly and in turns weeing on the potty (making us think we’ve cracked the toilet training thing) and then weeing on the floor (making us realise we’ve probably still got a bit of work to do!)

About Charlotte

1) Charlotte’s a gamer. She’ll spend hours playing, learning about and watching video’s on Youtube about Minecraft (a great little indie construction game which has seemed to taken the world by storm).

2) There’s one thing that Charlotte seemed to value more than anything this Christmas. It wasn’t the Food. It wasn’t the presents. It was just the simple act of spending time with her family. I can’t even start to explain how lucky that makes me feel.

3) Charlotte’s funny. Really really funny. Except when she tries too hard to be. Then she’s not.

About Christmas Telly

1) Just because something is a “Christmas Special” it doesn’t automatically make it an improvement on any other time of the year. Eastenders is still depressing. QI is still interesting and Dr Who is still brilliantly written….but no better or worse just because it’s Christmas.

2) At Christmas you can’t turn on a mainstream channel without finding yourself watching a film. Fine if you’ve got 2 hours to kill but on the whole (and unless it’s a movie I really want to watch) but usually I’d rather be doing something else.

3) I’ve realised that increasingly (and maybe this is just in recent times) in general (there is some brilliant telly I love) I’d rather be reading a book, or writing than watching TV.

About Cassie

1) Cassie takes cooking Christmas Dinner seriously. Very seriously. Scarily seriously.

2) Cassie works really hard to make Christmas really special for everyone in the family and I don’t think she doesn’t realise how truly brilliant she is at it!

3) After years and years together there are times (and more recently than I’d care to admit) when I’ve taken Cassie for granted. It’s around this time of year that I realise how much Cassie does for all of us. Not just at Christmas but every single day. I need to be far more grateful for (and supportive of) everything she does all the time…not just at Christmas.

About Shopping

1) I still don’t understand why Shopping for many is seen as a leisure pursuit. For me spending hours walking around shopping centers seems to be a bit of a pointless exercise. 95% of stuff I want or need I can order online and get it delivered within a day often more cheaply and with less hassle than trudging to Lakeside or Bluewater.

2) I get why boxing day sales are so popular but I don’t feel the same way. For me, jostling with thousands of other people for stuff that I wouldn’t buy ordinarily but feel compelled to just because it’s half the price doesn’t seem to be a great way to spend a day.

3) Although sometimes unavoidable I’d rather spend my time doing almost anything else than shopping including (but not exclusively) walking over hot coals, poking myself with pointy sticks and walking over hot coals whilst being poked with pointy sticks.

About Facebook and Twitter

1) I realised that I’m slightly addicted to social media. Even though I spent most of the time over the festive period doing stuff with my family. I still managed to check Facebook and twitter a few times a day on both Christmas and on Boxing day.

2) I still find it strange how using Social Media can feel so immediate, so personal but yet is also strangely detached. Why does a tweet or a facebook update feel differently to an email sent out to 1000 people…but it does. Why?

3) The combination of social media and Christmas seems to bring out the best in most people. Loads of people being happy and positive which is always a good thing…right?

So…what have you learned over Christmas?

The Monocle, a random ‘du beke’ and a sense of pride.

When you’re busy running and trying to build a business it’s easy to forget how important it is to take the time out to develop as an individual, understand how you can build your business and share best practice with your peers.

For the first time last year I decided to attend the Institute of Financial Planning conference and had such a fantastic experience I decided to return this year…

So early last monday morning, I put some clothes and my laptop bag in the car, gave Cassie and the kids a kiss and made my way to Wales for the 2013 IFP Conference!

However even before I arrived my Conference started with a weird experience whilst I was en route…

I stopped an hour out of Celtic Manor (where the conference is held) at the services for a coffee. In front of me whilst I was in a Starbucks queue was someone who looked quite like Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton Du Beke. However I wasn’t sure whether it was the actual Anton or an incredibly convincing look a like.

My suspicions were confirmed when the barista took the man’s order and in traditional Starbucks style asked his name.

“Anton” came the reply.

There’s probably a few reasons why Starbucks ask your name when you’re ordering your coffee…I’m just not sure that they realised that it helps other members of their queue identify celebrity foot tappers as one of them!

After a brief chat with Anton (about the fact that the Barista had ‘convinced’ him to buy an additional espresso) I continued to make my way to Celtic Manor for 3 days of financial planning related fun! (Yes I said Fun!)

There were some excellent speakers at this years conference.

I particularly enjoyed Chris Griffiths from opengenius who talked about the power of innovation. In a profession where a number of factors (including technology) could potentially mean fundemental changes in how we work I was interested in continuing to build my ‘creative muscle’ to ensure that my business isn’t left behind and this session helped.

Another highlight was Derek “the standards guy” Mills who delivered a message about how to change your life by establishing daily standards and the importance of being your true self.

“Being yourself” was a theme continued by another of the excellent speakers, Bill Bacharach who also spoke about why financial planners should practice what they preach and building a business which allows you to live the life you want.

(On a side note I had an experience where the online and offline personas of an individual I met at conference really differed…one I wrote about in Adviser Lounge last week)

However the key highlight was the opportunity to share best practice and collaborate with the ‘brightest and best’ of a profession I’m lucky enough to be part of….

Firstly I wanted to use the opportunity the conference provides to get some great people in a room and record a podcast (which will be available on common sense money really soon) designed to share some top tips we can all use to help us manage our money more effectively….

So, thanks to Pete Matthew, Tina Weeks, David Hearne, Stuart Wilson and Matt Walne for getting involved (I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!). Having the opportunity to ask interesting questions of interesting people I like is one of the particular perks of podcasting and in that room that day I was spoiled for choice. Thanks again!

I also spent a lot of the three days laughing…and most of the time when it was appropriate! So thanks to Huw Jones and Andy Hart (and Matt Walne again!) for the ‘fashion’ conversation and being partially responsible for helping me believe that my next fashion move should be to try a monocle and cravat!

Also, thank you for the numerous people who provided offers of support, told me that they enjoyed reading my writing and were incredibly complimentary about some of the aspects of my work.

It’s nice when we get feedback from our clients, our professional introducers and friends.

However when you find out that your peers enjoy your work it does put a different perspective on things! If you’re reading this and spoke to me about this thank you!

I’m finding that as a business (and I get the impression as a profession) one of the things we’re doing more and more (and have actually always been really good at) is collaboration. This collaboration might be taking time to share ideas, or giving our time to help, or to fill gaps in particular areas of expertise.

I for one feel proud to be part of such a great profession….and that’s the feeling I was left with on my long drive back from Wales to Essex.

Pride in being part of such a great community.

Ukulele’s, Political Comment and the magic of Edinburgh

One of the benefits of having in-laws in Scotland means that I get the opportunity to visit a couple of times a year. If I’m going up during the month of August I try to combine seeing family with a couple of days visiting Edinburgh to experience the fringe.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Edinburgh in August five times over the past eight years and my intention is to go back whenever I’ve got the chance.

It’s hard to put my finger on what I love about the festival. Maybe it’s the friendliness we experienced from both the residents and visitors to the city. Maybe it’s the constant ‘buzz’ whether it’s Lunchtime, 6pm in the afternoon or 3am in the morning (admittedly there’s a morning lull. Edinburgh in August seems to me to be a nighttime city through and through)…or maybe it’s the incredible randomness of the shows.

This year I managed to see a fantastic Ukulele orchestra, some brilliantly comedic political comment (via @MattForde) and some weird and wonderful mentalist magic (via @Peteheat) as well as seeing some of Bangkok’s ladyboys perform one of the most elaborate shows I’ve ever seen and sit in a tiny venue seeing five aspiring (and seemingly hungover) standups perform a lunchtime set.  Yep….it’s pretty diverse!

Normally when I blog I try to provide a perspective to engage thought and debate. Normally I try to provide an insight into what I feel I’ve learned or understood based on a particular experience.  However for this entry I’m not going to do this and will only say…

The Edinburgh Fringe is simply brilliant and I love it!

 

However I’ve got some questions for you….have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe and what did you think?  Should I try any other festivals similar to Edinburgh? or have you been to the fringe and really didn’t enjoy it?

As ever I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts….