24 September 2010

I recently attended the NFEA and PROWESS conferences which were held back to back in Nottingham. This is possibly the major event for our industry and sees an interesting programme of speakers with the chance to talk to other leading lights from the industry.

What continually amazes me is the fact that many agencies fail to attend. According to sources at the NFEA the excuses are varied and innovative! However a common theme of “I have not got the time” or “we cannot afford it” crop up all the time. I cannot understand this mindset. I am afraid that these are the very people who need to attend such events as they are clearly struggling in their individual businesses.

Whilst I am sure that it will not add to my popularity rating I feel that I must berate these people who are doing untold harm to the movement. The conferences are heavily subsidised and the costs of attending are minimal so the cost argument falls down straight away. The dates are well publicised in advance and so diary commitments should be minimal and thus the question of time management can only come down to disorganised CEOs.

It is no coincidence that the most successful agencies are perennial attendees at the conference. They have the wisdom & foresight to understand that expanding your network of contacts, learning new things, discussing plans with people in similar situations and gaining a greater understanding of the events dictating future government strategy far outweigh a £200 cost or day out of the office.

So what can be done to help these “Ostriches” take their heads out from the sand? Perhaps it needs a larger agency to “adopt” a smaller one and provide a bursary to enable the CEO to attend. A more proactive stance amongst regional members to exert some moral persuasion would help as would a personal contact from the NFEA CEO to every agency who has not attended. If we wish to be seen to be helping all then we need to be proactive and not just rely upon the dwindling number of forward thinking agencies.

I am a passionate advocate of learning, swapping good practice and networking to improve NWES and our growth and reach is testament to that success. Perhaps now is the time to hold to account those Chairmen of agencies which are under performing – shape up or ship out? Radical perhaps but difficult times call for radical solutions. We need to be relevant for 2010 and beyond and not living back in the 1980s.

So strike out a couple of days in the diary for September 2011 and take some time out to work on the business instead of working in the business – that’s what a good CEO does.

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