I must admit that my knowledge of Kentucky was pretty limited before I had the opportunity to travel as a guest representing BKR Asia Pacific region at the Americas annual regional meeting. The only things I knew about where KFC, bourbon, horse racing and Raylan Givens from the TV show Justified which was a favourite of mine. I now have a lot more knowledge after a fantastic visit and meeting including that Muhammad Ali comes from here (and other celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Diane Sawyer), the happy birthday song was invented here, and there are more barrels of bourbon stored here than there are people – that is more than a million! On bourbon I discovered that there are more types of bourbon than I had ever imagined.
My journey to Louisville wasn’t the greatest after a storm hit Dallas and caused my last leg to Louisville to be cancelled. After a 9 hour delay and about 40 hours of travel overall, I managed to make it to the historic Brown Hotel at 2:30am. I had registered with the BKR Easy Runners to take part in the FEAT 5K Charity Run for Autism though and we were meeting at 7:30am to head out. So after 2 hours of sleep I dragged myself down and headed to the race with the group. It was a great community event and although a little hot, and taking a wrong turn, I managed to take out 8th of 800 or so participant and placed first in my age group over 40 to 49. In fact I was fastest of anyone over 20 years old which was nice. Micheal Burch and Allan Tippet from Welch in Ottawa also placed in the age categories and everyone had a great time. We also raised over $400 for the charity which is what it is all about.
After a well-earned nap, I went along to the welcome dinner at the Marketplace Restaurant next door to the hotel which was very nice and it was great to meet up with my old friends from the region. The next day on Sunday I went along to the city tour which took us on a bus over to Indiana to see the Falls of The Ohio which is where the city began in the late 1700s and after seeing a few more sights like the Louisville Slugger Stadium and the Yum basketball stadium, we had a lunch together. After lunch we walked down the road to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience tour which was interesting to hear about the history of the city and the importance of bourbon to its development. Then we walked down to the Muhammed Ali Centre which was an amazing shrine of The Greatest. Our buffet dinner that night gave us a taste of Louisville which is known for its great cuisine including The Hot Brown invented in our hotel and Derby Pie.
On Monday it was time to begin business and it began with a report from our Worldwide Chair Jacqueline Wolfovski and then a warm and funny introduction to Louisville from managing partner of local member firm DLMO, Chris Ward. I’m still not really sure how to pronounce Louisville but I like The Ville! Outgoing Americas Regional Chair David Goldner then gave his report. The sessions on Monday were very interesting for me with Gary Adamson presenting on Partner Accountability and Unity, and Howard Rosen presenting the highlights of the member firm statistical analysis for 2017 with the help of the insights of a number of member firms. It is always interesting to hear that the challenges in other regions are very similar to any other region in the world, but also to hear of some of the unique ways that the American member firms have addressed these challenges. The afternoon breakout sessions that I attended drilled down into these topics further and gave some very practical takeaways. There were also breakout sessions in outsourcing and winning clients with social selling.
That night we went along to the Gala Dinner which was held at the home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs. After a short history lesson which was very interesting, and avoiding an incoming storm, we headed up to the 6th level to our function room which overlooked the world famous track. The dinner was fantastic with various awards being handed out along with the scholarship award to a local student. The food and drinks were great including the local institution, Mint Julep. I had never heard of it, but it is a concoction of bourbon, sugar syrup and what seemed like a small mint bush. It was great! When the band came on, everyone in the group got into the spirit and either danced up a storm or had conversations on the grandstand outside overlooking the track.
The next morning started up with each regional representative including me involved in a Q and A session chaired by David Goldner. It is always an honour to be invited to give some insights into what is happening in our region and it was great to hear of the latest in EMEA from Archangelo Agogliati and the Worldwide Board from Jacqueline Wolfosvki. We even scratched the surface on the impact on some worldwide political issues on our regions. This was followed by a few practice group updates from the respective chairs in the region.
The headline act was Paul Voss who gave a fantastic presentation on what he referred to as The Michelangelo Moment. It’s all about the experience we offer and our grit in facing the challenges that will come our way. Paul was very energetic and a highlight of the meeting for me. The next speaker, Kate Tolin spoke about the use of data to drive your firm’s marketing strategy which gave some interesting ideas of how to capture and use data along with metrics involving your firm’s pipeline. After a Mexican inspired lunch, Bob Daugherty from the local member, gave a presentation highlighting some of the new toys out there in the world of technology along with some tips on properly managing IT in our firms. Roman Yampolskiy from the University of Louisville then scared the life out of us with his talk on the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence on a number of professions including our very own. By the looks of it, I might need to reinvent myself as a personal trainer!
The final session of the day and the meeting was a great panel discussion from 4 millennials from the local member firm DMLO who are part of their iGen Committee which was an interesting discussion on how millennials see the world. It was interesting to me that the insights and thoughts of these young professionals are echoed in my own firm where we have a high representation of millennials.
The meeting was closed by outgoing Americas Regional Chair David Goldner and then it was time for us to say our goodbyes. As always, it was great to see those familiar faces that I have met over the years in other meetings and meet new people. That is the key to these events and of course, I also learned a few things that I can take back to my own firm. Louisville gave me a very enjoyable and memorable experience and I look forward to seeing many of the members again at our Worldwide meeting in London later this year in my first meeting as Chair of the Asia Pacific Region for the next two years.