This week I was at the ‘Growth Summit’ in Sydney. I got to spend some time with arguably the best business writer over the last 30 years. Tom Peters. His first book “In Search of Excellence” sold 3 million copies in the first 4 years. Now on book 16 and 2500 speeches he is still going strong at 68.

What’s interesting about Tom is he doesn’t have any original ideas. He will tell you he does not either. All he does all day is tell stories to make a point. He is telling example after example after fact after fact on what is going on in the world – and all the stupid management decisions that are made.

It was a fascinating way to spend a day. He is also moving to NZ soon as well. My favourite quote:

“The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle”

IMG_0397

Arrived into Bora Bora today after an arduous trip from Brisbane to Auckland then overnight in Papeete, Tahiti (the worst hotel I have ever stayed in – ever). Anyway, all worth it now that here.

I am here to catch up with some of my high achieving consulting buddies from around the world on our annual think tank. My writing space is pretty cool. I am writing my book right now – will post an excerpt.

Rob boat bora bora

Michael Shane Rob Bora bora

Deck Bora Bora

View bora bora

When my eldest son Hugh was 8 we had the ‘profit’ conversation. I told him that a profit was the selling price minus the buying price. Sell take buy he said. A couple of hours after educating him on this most important concept I asked him what profit was. Profit is good he told me! A little while after that I asked him how much profit we should make. As much as possible was the reply!

Hugh is now 15 and wheeling and dealing whatever he can. His favourite saying is ‘let’s do a deal’.

Well it seems that my daughter Harriet has the Entrepreneurial spirit in her as well. Today is election day in Australia and about 150 meters down our road is a polling station and as such there have been loads of people walking past all day today to pledge their vote. Harriet and her friend got the idea that they would capitalise on the opportunity and set up a lemonade stand and sell home made lemonade to the thirsty voters walking past. They started by juicing about 20 of my limes (that were supposed to be for my Corona beer and sparkling mineral water) and the first version was Lime based lemonade – hideous it was.

After a few initial sales I was sent to the shop to get some lemons. So with a new recipe business flourished and 51 cups later they had made $25.50. Only problem was I did not have the profit conversation with her. I paid for everything and they kept all the money!

Girls Lemonade stand

If there are 168 hours in a week and if you sleep for around 58 of them, then you are going to be awake for around 110 hours per week. Simple maths. Out of 110 waking hours how much time is spent either getting ready for work, getting to work, at work, coming home from work or thinking about work?

More than likely half. About half of your adult waking, working life will be associated with work. HALF your life.

I hope for the benefit of your clients, your fellow team members, your loved ones at home and most importantly yourself that what you do excites you. I hope it enriches you and you are thoroughly fired up about what you do. If not it’s a long time doing something you don’t like. Do something else if it does not interest you. It’s not too late. You only have one life.

I said that to a sole owner of a small accounting firm in Western Sydney once. She told me she didn’t like owning an accounting firm and she wanted to sell it. I encouraged her to sell it. She did – the next day for $750k – cash. Take massive action.

Today (our final day) we went into Marrakech to the souk markets. As soon as we got there I had a snake wrapped around my neck – lucky it was not a nasty one. Our guide took us to his ‘endorsed shops’ which we soon worked out where the ones that he got a commission on!

The markets were bustling with people and activity. You could buy just about anything – including people it seemed. One of our party was offered 50,000 camels for her to be a bride of a local man. She politely declined. We bought a range of nic nacs and with some fun negotiation we got most things 50% off the list price.

After we were done shopping we visited Vanessa Bransons (Richards sister) ‘Riad’ in downtown Marrakech. A Raid is a small hotel – Berber style. She has a 22 room hotel which was just amazing. From the street it seems very non-discript. No signage – just a big door. When you enter you go into an oasis of rooms, gardens and pools. Each room is different and one of her rooms was awarded ‘Sexiest Hotel room in the world’ – pretty cool. We had a delicious vegetarian lunch (all the produce was from the organic garden) with Vanessa and her family on the rooftop.

It was extremely hot (40 degrees) so we hit the pool as soon as we got back. Over a couple of beers I found out that one of the guests is a software / internet mogul and he owns a Forumla 1 team – one of twelve only. It’s our last night tonight so we said our good byes and with new friends and fond memories we leave tomorrow via Casablanca, Dubai and then home to Brisbane.

Rob with snake

Spices at Souk

Rob Nat at Vanessa Bransons Riad

What an unbelievable 36 hours. It started yesterday with Nat & I having breakfast with Richard Branson where we talked about a wide range of ideas. After that we went for a trek up the Atlas mountains. They said it was going to be moderate but it turned out to be more than moderate.

Then hit the pool, had ourselves painted in traditional hanna paint and then watched a tennis match. Being a golfer I opted for a couple of beers instead. Before dinner we had 2 local girls do some belly dancing. Seeing Richard belly dancing with his shirt off was quite a sight. I am sure someone will post the video footage on YouTube soon enough. Dinner was on the roof top of the resort where we had a 7 course French degustation menu which was just amazing under the stars.

Today we drove 25 km deep into the mountains where we were met with guides and mountain bikes. We had to cycle back down to a village some 3 hrs away by bike. However, it wasn’t always down hill. Many up hills as well. It was quite dangerous. I came within 10 cm of losing my life as I nearly went off a cliff edge. One of the cyclists was taken to hospital after a nasty fall (his bone was coming out of his leg) and a few others had tumbles. After contending with goats, mules, rough slippery roads, mud and the most amazing scenery you’ll be pleased to know that I was fine – just hot and sore.

Lunch was a BBQ under a Berber tent complete with carpet & Berber style furniture. The purpose of the bike ride was to raise money for Richard’s mothers (Eve) foundation. Eve is helping the village people to make clothing items to sell. She is also teaching them about life skills and really giving them a future. We all sponsored ourselves and raised quite a bit of money.

More roughing it tonight and tomorrow off to the local markets for a spot of shopping.

Trekkers

Rob pool

Richard belly dancingAnimals on track Atlas Mountains

Richard Rob on Bike

Rob Nat and Eve Branson

After traveling for 27 hours Nat & I landed in Casablanca, where we overnighted, and then onto Marrakech to stay for 4 days with Sir Richard Branson at his very awesome retreat Kasbah Tamadot. As part of my trip into space on Virgin Galactic we are here we 11 other ‘future astronauts’ and their partners.

There is no agenda on this trip (which is really cool for a change) just an opportunity to meet some truly fabulous people from around the world – including spending some quality time with Richard.

Last night we had a most engaging conversation with Richards 86 year old mother, Eve. She is an absolute hoot and full of energy. We also met the inventor of the ‘jog dial’ device for the ipod. He recently sold his company for a handsome price. It was great to catch up with some of the other fellow London marathon runners as well – war & sore stories abound.

Our accommodation is a Berber tent. As you can see by the pictures not your every day tent! We have stayed in some pretty fabulous hotels around the world – this one tops them all. It’s at the base of the Atlas mountains and right behind us is the second tallest mountain in Africa.

Today a bunch of us are going on a mountain walk and later on a tennis match.

Kasbah tamadot

Rob Nat Kasbah

Tent 2Tent 1

Yesterday my golf coach (James Staniforth, Royal Queensland supremo) gave me an exercise that involved hitting a green with a 7 iron. He use a scoring system based on the quality of the shot hit. Depending on how bad the shot was it would be neutral, -1, -2 or -3 points. If it was a good shot then either +1 or +2 points. It’s pretty tough because to score positive you have to hit the green on the full.

After the first 50 balls I scored my best of +11. After being pretty pleased with myself he then changed the rules and tightened up the scoring system. He took out the neutral score and gave my 40 balls only. I quickly went to -8 with 20 balls to go. Not a good look.

Then James said “I’ll give you one chance to reset to zero”. I told him NO – I will claw my way back.

And I did. I clawed back to +11 and then on my last ball scored a point and went to +12. Afterwards I felt it was time to give James a little seminar. This is what I said.

“When I ran the marathon I did not stop half way and start again because my time was not great. When Jessica Watson (teenage sailing sensation who just sailed around the world unassisted at 16) did not get half way around, quit and then start again.”

I think he got the message. There is no reset in life.

To wrap up the story here are a few pictures! Enjoy

Branson in wings

Team leader dressed appropriately. The 32 runners dressed like a caterpillar broke the record for the most people joined together (with bungee cords) running a marathon. They finished in 5hrs 13 mins. Pretty impressive. The 2 at the front are Sir Richard’s children – Holly & Sam. Natalie Imbruglia to the left and Princess Beatrice is in there somewhere as well.

709314-6113-0007

A lot of people got dressed up. I did not know I was running with Felix the Cat – bit out of it. At one stage I thought a lot of the crowd had come out for me (name on my shirt, calling my name) hence the waving. Alas the 700,000 spectators were there for everyone. Nat told me that Darth Vader finished at least 30 minutes ahead of me!

Buck palace + Rob

This is about 150 meters from the finish. Buckingham Palace in the background.

709334-2053-0046

I am about 20 metres from the finish. I was practicing my finish for weeks. One arm up twirling for 30 metres then both arms up as I cross the finish – with a jump for joy. That was the plan – couldn’t muster the jump for joy!

Rob finish with medal

Job done – got the gold medal, tee shirt, certificate, photo’s, injuries and stories for life to prove it. Exhausted I was.

What a whirlwind 4 night / 5 day trip! It started well before arriving due the volcano in Iceland with Nat nearly stranded in Singapore and me in Brisbane. It all worked out in the end with us both sitting together – even after a heart stopping moment when at check in the LED reader said ‘not valid to board’ on Nat’s boarding card. Here are a few memorable moments..

  1. We stayed in the posh Bentley Hotel although we were collected in a Mercedes Benz.
  2. We selected the hotel because it was only 1 of 4 hotels available in London with a spa bath in the room – it turned out to be a disappointing regular bath with jets.
  3. Although I had been to the UK around 20 times before I had never really used the tube system – after a bit of studying the map we worked it out.
  4. I really appreciated London more than before due to seeing it with a) sunshine and b) running the streets past all the famous sights.
  5. After the run (and the Virgin after party) I was invited to visit St James Palace as a guest of Prince Edward and the Duchess of York. I arrived (7pm) just as the party finished. No one told me of the appropriate arrival time!
  6. We visited Harrods (as we always do) and shopped (me hobbling along) for 4 hours.
  7. It was our 18th wedding anniversary on Monday so (among other things) we went to a show – Priscilla Queen of the Desert. One of the best shows we have been to.
  8. We travelled up north (Northumberland area) to visit my 89 year old grandfather. He was so proud.
  9. We visited the church and cemetery where my grandmother is buried. The church dates back to 1229.
  10. The local newspaper (Hexham Courant) were intrigued of my story (Nat buying me ticket on Virgin Galactic and entering me in the Marathon) so they did an interview and sent a photographer around. It’s a weekly paper – this was big news for the Northern Countryside.
  11. We stayed on a friends farm in renovated stables. They have converted the stables to a 2 bedroom luxury B&B. The stables were built sometime in the 1700’s.
  12. On the way back from London to Bangkok Nat & I had the entire First class cabin to ourselves – very cool.

What a trip!

P1000692