The Vienna Diaries

Over the past few days I have had the privilege of attending the BKR International EMEA region’s annual conference in the great city of Vienna.  Covering Europe, Middle East and Africa, the EMEA region boasts 65 member firms that cover 50 different countries.  The conference was hosted by Managing Partner of Artus Group Wolfgang Dibiasi which is the member firm based in Vienna.  I attended the conference in my capacity as Vice Chair of the Asia Pacific Region.

After the session was opened by EMEA Executive Director Tim Morris, I was involved in a panel Q & A discussion along with Worldwide Chair Howard Rosen from Arizona, Americas Region Chair David Goldner from Baltimore and EMEA Region Chair Nilesh Shah from London.  There were many interesting discussion points including, the strong growth in the Asia Pacific Region and especially in India and China.  There was also discussion around the future challenges in the accounting profession and the potential impact of current key political issues including the US elections and the UK vote in whether to leave the EU.

The session then moved to a great presentation from Karen Reyburn from The Profitable Firm who presented on Social Media and Marketing.  A key take away from the session amongst many was to have human conversations on Social Media.  It is social after all and the people we connect with want to get to know us as people.  You can find out more about Karen and her business here:

The next session was a highlight for me with Lorenz Huber presenting an outstanding session called the Leadership Orchestra.  Lorenz brought in his own mini orchestra and demonstrated the leadership qualities needed to be a great conductor and then related that back to our roles as leaders in our firms. The key messages were: team alignment, clearness and consistency, inspiration and dynamics.  There was a great interactive component to his presentation where we practiced our conducting skills – some more successfully than others!  You can find out more about Lorenz and Leadership Orchestra here:

In the afternoon there were breakout sessions from Martin Bissett, Julia Fawcett and Karen Reyburn covering topics of Looking after Future Leaders, Leveraging Digital Media and Social Media.  These smaller groups generated a lot of great discussion amongst the members.

From Saturday evening to Sunday evening, the important social parts of the conference took place.  For me these are always the best part of the conference, not only because we get to see the wonderful city that we are visiting, but mainly because it is a time where relationships are built and solidified.  Saturday night was a dinner on top of Vienna at the Sky Restaurant, Sunday was a tour to the spectacular Schonbrunn Palace, lunch at Das Screiberhaus and then a walking tour of the city which took in the old university, St Stephens Cathedral and other historic locations like Mozart’s house and Blood Alley.  On Sunday night the formal gala dinner was held at Parlais Ferstel and included some fantastic music from out host Wolfgang on the piano accompanied by violinist and cellist.  Apart from these social events, I also took time to go for a run every morning as I usually do and got the chance to see a lot of the Danube River and Canal along with running along Hauptalle.  For me a great way to see a new place.

Back to business on Monday and first thing was the famous EMEA region statistical analysis that has been presented at many conferences by Les Nutter from Manchester.  The members in the region all present comparable information on key financial and other areas of their firms and Les then presents the results including discussions on what specific strategies member firms have implemented to achieve their results.  I found this very interesting and came away with a few good tips for our firm.  It is interesting that the challenges that firms are facing are very similar whether they are from Austria, The Netherlands, Australia or the US.

The conference ended with a presentation on the business opportunities in Austria, a tax committee update and then some previews to future events including the World-wide conference in Santiago Chile and the joint EMEA/Asia Pacific conference being held next year in Singapore.

Overall, even though a long journey for a short visit, I found the visit to Vienna to be excellent.  It was my first time there and I will be back again as a tourist one day.  I came away with thoughts and ideas on how I can improve my own firm, but most of all I got a chance to see the friends I have in the EMEA region and make new friends.  This is the strength of BKR International and reaffirms our firm’s ability to assist our clients anywhere in the world with high quality professional advice from people that we really know – not just a name from a member list.

Jason Croston, Managing Director of SRJ Walker Wayland & Vice Chair of the Asia Pacific Region for BKR International