Reflecting over the past year-and-a-half it was everything a proper highlight should be. A breathtaking venue, good food and wine, and an amazing group of people. Throw into the mix star-quality partners, inspiring young achievers and international business people presenting and discussing impactful topics and there you have it, a glimpse of the inaugural Contribution Compass Partner Conference.
Getting up at 02:45 AM on a Wednesday morning to catch the cab that was taking co-founder Belinda Doveston and myself to Cape Town International Airport, it couldn’t help but have an air of adventure about it. Leaving from our base in the quaint and cozy country town of Grabouw, the hour’s worth of drive afforded me some sleep to make up for the vastly unfamiliar rise, but after checking in at the FNB Slow Lounge while the day was yet to dawn, a special kind of gratitude crept in.
Having been a journalist for roughly two years leading up to my involvement with the Contribution Compass I have done numerous interviews and stories on entrepreneurs ranging from start-ups to established business leaders. The inspiring achievements and courageous successes always sounded so much more romantic in the telling. This time around I was the one accompanying the entrepreneur on the journey and today I can attest: results are achieved, not bestowed.
Following months of planning and preparation, it was only fitting that the venue resemble the quality deserving of the many hours we’ve put into building our partner network. As our destination we had Champagne Castle Hotel. Nestled in the heart of the Drakensberg it offered an unparalleled experience of the area or as their official slogan reads, “You are unlikely to experience a greater ‘Sense of Place’”. True to their promise, the landscape was nothing less than majestic. The pinnacle of our experience was however yet to be reached over the next couple of days that followed.
Soon after we arrived at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Belinda and I were collected by our Business Development Executive, Gift Mposula, who had with him a special guest. Having come all the way from New Zealand, Sue Trezise was the partner who had travelled the furthest for the event and fitting that her first visit to beautiful South Africa should be to such a picturesque setting. I have been dealing with Sue as part of the May facilitator group in training and while the benefits that digital platforms now offer us to engage people across borders, it had that warm ring to it that personal encounters offer. This was to be the case for much of the conference to follow.
One of the things Contribution Compass prides itself in is being an innovative platform. Coming from a Humanities background I have a preference for face-to-face interactions and I remember entering my training with the Facilitator Programme with a slight curiosity as to how it would pan out seeing that it was online. Today we are finishing off our second group and having been part of the January group this year I will admit that my doubts have been put aside. Following months of working with people digitally, having spoken to them in our virtual classes, helping to promote their content online, and doing peer reviews on the homework, the groundwork was laid for what was certainly a watershed moment for me during my time with the Contribution Compass: meeting everyone in person!
After we arrived at our venue following a four hour drive from Johannesburg to the Drakensberg, we settled into our rooms, with views, and started setting up for the cocktail event that took place on the first evening. Once everyone had arrived it did not take long for the socialising to peak. What a dynamic mix of individuals we had. Coming all the way from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Phalaborwa, Pretoria and even across the sea, we were a colourful bunch. As it should be, after all, our theme for our inaugural conference was #UnityThroughDiversity.
The first conference day kicked off on Thursday 12 October and with 20 partners attending, we were anticipating lively interaction and knowledge exchange due the quality of the pool of minds we had in the room. Names include the likes of international entrepreneur, mentor, speaker and Contribution Compass co-founder Carl Bates; serial entrepreneur and sales guru Brian Walsh; success strategist and coach Usha Maharaj; enterprise development specialist and founder of the 10X-e Project, Jason Goldberg; author, business coach and speaker, KK Diaz; consciousness coach, Ann Baret; clinical psychologist and business consultant, Kgomotso Sekhute; and leadership development specialist, Robyn Jackson; to mention but a few. Our first topic of discussion going into the day was around meaningful economic impact – which is the Sirdar Group slogan – and how we see it, especially tying in with the Contribution Compass.
The conference days were divided into morning and afternoon sessions and for each session, different seat allocations were assigned. For this specific activity I was lucky enough to be on the table with our New Zealand partner Sue, young professional Nompilo Swanepoel, and The Real Entrepreneur’s Sally McKenzie. After discussing our views it was with great enthusiasm that I could report back to the room that sharing is indeed caring. From our group we had in the mix the fact that employment and entrepreneurship can affect a whole family ecosystem, that Contribution Compass in itself not only educates people about their natural energy but also offers an ownership/entrepreneurial component through our partnership model, and also that giving to others and your community releases “feel-good” hormones. What a great way to set the tone for the rest of the conference to follow.
Next up we had founder of The Real Entrepreneur (Pty) Ltd., Brian Walsh, who gave a talk about their ‘REAL Marketing Blueprint’ and how one can go about leveraging and automating your sales pipeline for maximised results. Success strategist Usha Maharaj followed soon after with her presentation on executive coaching together with some case studies, practical examples and activities for the groups aimed at utilising the Contribution Compass in real-life scenarios. Founder Belinda Doveston concluded the day with an interactive exercise on identifying and correctly linking companies’ value propositions to identifiable profile types. For example the fact that Coca-Cola’s value proposition comes across as strikingly Champion in nature – the profile associated with brand presence – or that the innovation component linked to Apple might be seen as a Catalyst trait. The main idea behind it all, to have fun and learn at the same time.
That evening we convened at the at bowls green for a match between two groups of people who were for the most part completely new to the game. Great fun and lots of laughs, but what made it even better was a glass of wine in hand which was readily available from the hotel staff and seemed to bizarrely improve some people’s aim. Dinner was next on the agenda and with the quality and variety of foods to choose from at the buffet, it made for a fine dining experience. Since everyone had met and engaged by this time, it was one of the social highlights of the event with stories being shared, friendships and alliances being made, and business deals and partnerships being formed – organically, intimately and with full tummies.
On Friday, the final day of the event, most had convened early morning for a quick run through the beautiful hotel grounds and mountain trail similar to the day before. Watching the sun rise over the Drakensberg mountainside is an unforgettable experience. Once we all convened back at the conference hall, we touched on some key insights from the previous day and handed over to 10X-e founder Jason Goldberg who shared with us the realities of growing a business in today’s corporate environment and how they go about scaling businesses for success. Carl Bates was next in line and shared some valuable insights on keeping clients engaged and leveraging your investment through using the Contribution Compass in your company to maximise contribution and return. We concluded the day with a partner ideation workshop and shared ways in which we as partners will stay in touch and create ongoing value as well as a session on creative ideas to improve the platform going forward. Watch this space in 2018!
For the topic of this blog article I chose one of the Xhosa words I have learned as part of my ongoing journey of refining my skills in the African language. Dibanisa means coming together, bringing together or mixing and true to our theme for the conference it was everything I had hoped it would be. With partners coming from various backgrounds, races, religions and creeds, something that stood out for me was that I could feel the love. It was with a tender amount of appreciation that I could peruse the social media pages of our partners following the event and witness the positive comments and feedback in this regard. My journey with the Contribution Compass is one that has taken me from a space of writing about and promoting South African success stories to being actively involved in launching and managing a platform that is indeed creating meaningful economic impact.
Our biggest announcement from the event was however the following: that for the first time we will be launching a profiling tool of this nature in an African language. In fact, the most spoken African language in the country, isiZulu. It has been a great privilege to be part of this team and for all the proverbial blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the Contribution Compass, I remain deeply grateful for the unique and powerful learning and growth experience it has been. It is with both great pride and humility that I can reflect on the paradox that for an inaugural conference I am able to say, look how far we have come.
By Michael Meiring, Partner Coordinator