Having just concluded the 2011 Advantage Conference in Madrid, I have been heartened by the positive spirit that was evident in both members and business partners alike.
However, it is clearly understood by all that from an economy perspective, we are all in for further tough times ahead.
Indeed, leading journalist, broadcaster and political commentator Andrew Neil predicted that amongst other things, changes to the tax band system would hit the middle income earners hardest, having an impact on the level of disposal spending available to them and ultimately the number and type of holidays that they take.
Encouragingly, the Advantage conference was packed with practical suggestions and ideas of what agents can do to thrive in this tricky environment.
The first session on Friday for example, was specifically designed to help delegates understand that having the right attitude is critical in creating and maintaining profitable businesses and concentrated on identifying the key components of a successful entrepreneur.
Overall, in trying to summarise the key lessons learnt over the weekend, I kept coming back to the same word after every workshop and presentation - that word is relevance.
Although the topics discussed were very different and ranged from retail excellence to making money out of social media activity, they all strongly highlighted the need to provide the customer with something different to the norm, creating relevance for yourself relevance, from which value, worth and sales ultimately derive.
Indeed, retail guru and television celebrity Mary Portas left delegates in no doubt that every business needs to up its game in order to win the business of the new consumer; a consumer who is far more knowledgable, discerning and demanding of value for money than ever before.
Finally, although only time will tell, I got the sense that this conference may have been different from others in that, more than ever before, every delegate left with a clear purpose, a real understanding of what needs to be done in their business and a determination to achieve it.
Perhaps we will put it on the agenda for the next Advantage conference in Malta next April, to understand what delegates did actually change in their business as a result of their Madrid experience. With the dust yet to fully settle on the 2011 event, we are already formulating the next winning event.
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