Competing for success

July 4th, 2013   

How the same simple principles can be applied from a school swimming race to competing to make our businesses the best they can possibly be

Mark Godfrey

Go Marsh!

Earlier this week my daughter took part in her Schools’ annual inter-house swimming gala. She swam four races, representing her house, Marsh. It was a great event, with all the girls between the ages of 5 and 11 taking part, each representing their House in at least two events.

Amid the screaming, clapping and general furore that the races generate, I was struck by the absolute effort displayed by each swimmer and even more, the support and encouragement each girl gave their team mates during every single race.

This was a fun event and culminated with all the girls smiling and congratulating each other, knowing that they had given their all for their team and individual selves.

Go AI!

Rewind two weeks and I was very fortunate to be part of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year, CEO retreat. This was a gathering of 24 finalists and 100 or so business leaders from across Ireland. 7 days of events and meetings with some of the best Business Leaders it has been my privilege to meet.

EY Entrepreneur of Year CEO Retreat.  We arrive at the University of Notre Dame.

Ernst and Young, Entrepreneur of Year CEO Retreat. We arrive at the University of Notre Dame.

Entrepreneur of the Year is a competition, but, of a different nature. Rather than competing just with each other, it’s an event where we were competing to make our businesses the best they can possibly be and by doing so, make it a world class competitor, representing the Island of Ireland. As an Englishman running an Irish based business, I was amazed by the enthusiasm, interest and genuine good will that was afforded the 24 finalists. As one of the alumni put it, “you’re here on merit, what you take away will shape your future”.

Inspired by success

We met some truly great business leaders, from Pat Ryan, the founder and retired CEO of Aon Corporation, to Jim McCann who built “1-800 Flowers” into a billion dollar business.

We also met the legend that is Lou Holtz. The American college football coach who’s mantra of “Play like a champion today” inspired and guided the University of Notre Dame to the College Championship in 1988. The man, who admits to having written more books than he has read, combined vision, leadership and ambition to build an unstoppable team. His humour, humility and integrity shone through and the rapturous standing ovation showed just how relevant and inspirational his address was.

 

9068199338_1829fd0d32_b

Co-Founder Simon Cole and Myself learning from last years Entrepreneur of the Year, Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani Inc.

So what did I take away?

Vision, leadership, teamwork, integrity, quality, energy, empathy, dedication!

These and many other words are used all too often. It’s when they are believed and valued that they become powerful. These values are the cornerstone upon which Pat Ryan built the biggest insurance company in the world. When you’re 82 floors up in his building, you’re pretty glad the foundations are strong!

Ultimately the qualities that make a great business haven’t changed. Great businesses simply continue to value, practice and build upon them. Great companies nurture and inspire teams that are equally dedicated to the company vision and their customers. Great companies display dedication and integrity and above all, strive to improve and innovate in everything they do. As Mr Holtz said, the most valuable lesson he ever learnt was that if you’re not trying to improve, you’re lagging behind.

 

9067854852_6ccdcffecd_b

So will we win the competition?

I hope so, but win or lose, we will lead, support and cheer our team on to be the best we can be for our employees and customers.  Like my daughter and her team mates, we will support every race and win or lose, we will be satisfied that we have given 100% and of course, strive to improve.  If we “Play like Champions ” who knows what we can achieve. It will be all the better, if we can do this with a smile on our faces!

We have a great team and the makings of a great company.  Entrepreneur of the year?  Leader?  Supporter?  Coach? Whatever the label, Automated Intelligence is stronger as a result of what we have taken away from the competition and hungry for further success. Ultimately our customers will be the judges and I for one welcome the appraisal.

 

Go Marsh!

Go AI!

And as Lou would say “Go Irish!” …..and of course, the odd Englishman!