A conference like no other, Russell Bedford’s chair, Bruce Saward, opened the 37th Annual Global Conference, which welcomed almost 400 participants from more than 100 member firms, covering some 70 countries around the globe.
In his opening address, Bruce acknowledged the absence of the face-to-face connection, although conceded that most hadn’t missed the jet-lag, particularly the Australian member firms!
He said: "2020 will be a year remembered for many years to come. It has presented enormous challenges for us all, both personal and professional. However, the events of the last six months have demonstrated the importance of the accounting profession. We are the trusted advisers that clients turn to for unbiased independent advice. Advice that is based on an understanding of their position and our ability to develop strategies that address clients’ needs in changing circumstances.”
Our first guest speaker was Hélio Vogas, a leadership and motivational speaker who has spoken at TEDx events and the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Hélio joined us to discuss Decision-making under stress: How to think clearly in the eye of the hurricane, sharing strategies for managing stressful situations, to support decision making when faced with important business challenges.
Board member, Daniel Ryba, and partner at Russell Bedford Argentina, led a panel discussion: Making the most of multinational business opportunities. Daniel was joined by panellists from Russell Bedford member firms, Fabio Corno (Studio Corno, Milan), Laurence Newman (Lubbock Fine, London) and Stephan Strothenke (Tomik + Partner, Halle in Westfalen).
Fabio commended Russell Bedford’s Centres of Excellence, as an excellent resource for connecting with experts within the network on matters specific to individual partners’ specific area of expertise. He said: "Knowing partners in different jurisdictions gives firms a distinct advantage. Strengthening cross border connections can lead to greater business opportunities for all firms, enabling 360° services for clients.”
Daniel stressed that reserving fixed time each week for learning and business promotion is critical for the long-term successful development of a firm. He said: "We have a responsibility to make our clients aware of cross border offerings.”
Day one concluded with an open forum discussion on Corporate Social Responsibility led by Russell Bedford’s CEO, Stephen Hamlet, where he shared the wonderful video of Russell Bedford’s Lebanese member firm, Bureau Saghir & Associates, and their charitable work to help the most vulnerable people of Beirut.
Stephen then opened day two of the conference with his CEO report. Talking about the many challenges that the network and individual firms had to overcome this year, Stephen praised the collective efforts of everyone in the network for continuing to strive for success.
Enhancing digital marketing was an essential and natural development this year, helping the network continue to expand, welcoming new members, several in new territories over the past 12 months, and with referrals between member firms having increased by a further 10%.
Chartered Accountant, public speaker, author and founder of the Value Pricing Academy, Mark Wickersham, joined to discuss Mastering Value Pricing: How to take your pricing to another level.
A gripping session, Mark shared how failing in business can help in the learning process of how to thrive in business. Examining the psychology of pricing, Mark shared advice on the value conversation that partners need to be having with clients to uncover value; asking the right questions in order to build the right solutions.
Our second panel discussion of the conference was led by Deanna Salo (Cray Kaiser, Chicago) and focused on: Advisory services – a pathway to growth?
Deanna was joined by Colin O'Brien (Cooney Carey, Dublin), Jaime Navarro (Navarro y Llima, Zaragoza) and Andrzej Dmowski (Russell Bedford Poland, Warsaw) to share their insights.
Deanna highlighted that, while all businesses have had to quickly pivot to adapt to the current climate, optimising relationships with customers has been at the forefront of Cray Kaiser’s strategy for business sustainability.
Speaking about the challenges that firms face when trying to progress into the advisory sphere, Colin O’Brien said: "Firms are often firefighting, particularly in the current business climate. As a result, they fail to see the bigger picture and offer a holistic view of the client’s business. They needlessly miss out on an opportunity to maximise pricing, as clients tend to place significant value on that added layer of advisory services on top of audit.”
He added: "Clients are looking for insight and direction. It’s essential that we prioritise clients’ needs, remaining available and always taking that call. It’s clients’ livelihoods that are on the line, so the strategic advice you offer them now is paramount.”
Andrzej added: "Firms need to do better at cross-selling; it’s much better for the firm and for the client as they don’t need to look elsewhere for services. However, to enable this, departments must talk to each other and firms need to ensure that they’re supporting internal marketing, so that there is an understanding across the organisation in support of cross-selling.”
Day two of the conference concluded with a Happy Hour networking session led by Stephen Hamlet, a fun and engaging session where members divulged some fun facts, such as what celebrity they would most like to invite to a dinner party, where in the world they would most like to live, and items they couldn’t live without.
It was also during this session that the network took the opportunity to acknowledge the 20 years of loyalty and commitment of Network Development Director, Kempton Bedell-Harper, who has played such a significant role throughout the years in the progress and development of Russell Bedford International.
The final day of the conference was opened by Stephen Hamlet, allowing Mahmoud Saghir to say a few words of thanks to the network for the initiative of support to his city in Beirut, followed by an important AQC update by Jim Sylph. A feedback session followed, providing members with an opportunity to exchange ideas on strategy with the global board; concluding with the Annual General Meeting 2020 chaired by Bruce Saward.
Closing this year’s online conference, Mylène Pontbriand (FBL, Montreal), delivered an introduction to Montreal; the venue where the network hopes to return to meeting physically, for the Annual Global Conference of 2021.
A huge thank you to members around the globe for their participation in this year’s conference and making it more special than one could ever have been imagined.
Speaking after a successful conference, chair of Russell Bedford, Bruce Saward, said: "Our profession has demonstrated that it is innovative, flexible and adaptive. To be able to adapt and improve, we must continue to learn, be attentive to trends and be open to new knowledge and new ways of doing things. The very act of taking time out to join this conference confirms that our members have such desire to learn, adapt and improve. We are delighted that we have been able to consistently provide these types of opportunities to our members throughout 2020. This year demonstrates that we are stronger together and can go further together.”
Stephen Hamlet added: "2020 will be remembered for being the year of surprises, consistently changing and forcing us out of our comfort zones. It’s been challenging and difficult, yet we stood up to the challenge. We’ve shown resilience, we’ve grown both individually and as a network, welcoming new firms and seeing our existing members enhance. We’ve also shown resourcefulness; creating an array of new opportunities for our members to connect, so that despite 2020’s somewhat rollercoaster ride, colleagues at our member firms did not have to put their own personal and professional development on hold.”
He highlighted: "This very special conference was unlike any of our previous events, we’ve been forced into thinking differently and getting creative and the results have been astonishingly positive. It’s a real reminder of what a unique network of professionals we have at Russell Bedford. They’re highly engaged, completely invested in our ethos and values, and a credit to the accounting profession which has shown adaptability, empathy and delivery!”Stephen concluded by thanking Russell Bedford members and being proud to depend on each other as colleagues and friends: "Continue to be proud of this network. Continue to be proud of yourselves.”