Arranging marriages and meetings in San Diego!

By Farooq Mohammed, MD of es-p – an instinct for winning

When Ervin from MSDUK first approached me to write a ‘blog’ about my experience attending NMSDC2015, I wasn’t sure as I’d never done a blog before, but I decided to have a go and will leave you to now decide if I have succeeded!

So what was my experience in San Diego? In one word… awesome! From having the amazing opportunity to speak at the conference to meeting with key figures from the US corporate world, everything from the beginning to the end started fast and finished even faster with lots of contacts made.

The journey began long before getting on the plane. I’d recognised the visit as an invaluable opportunity for my business (es-p.org) to network and pursue our goals. In making the internal decision to attend, it was important to be crystal clear about how it all aligned with our strategy. We’d spent 3 years building a business foundation, and entering our 4th year set a course to pursue growth where the decision to visit the US aligned with expanding overseas. The next step was setting objectives to maximise ‘ROI’, a key objective being to raise awareness of our brand and unique value prop. We started promoting via social media and were then pleased to hear from Raj at MSDUK, requesting a profile of each business, with the aim to compile and share a UK Directory with MSDUK’s contacts in the US to begin the process of facilitating meetings in advance of our arrival, we’d not even set foot in San Diego yet and we were being promoted… the ROI had already started!NMSDC 2

During the visit there were so many positives, from the glamorous location of being close to Miramar (think Top Gun!), to staying at the Bayfront and opportunity to network with thousands of businesses at the iconic San Diego Conference Centre, it was very easy to forget I was there on business! Picking out a couple of highlights is near impossible as there were so many, however if I was to do so it would include the opportunity to speak, I’d done public speaking previously during my corporate life but never to an ‘international’ audience so this was potentially a banana skin if the content failed to stimulate interest. Audience numbers weren’t great due to a lack of promotion, but two things went in my favour, luckily the subject matter was positively received, and the audience included key figures, who were suitably impressed to extend impromptu invitations to ‘select’ meetings and invitation to ‘speak’ again during the conference. I was stunned, we had definitely arrived in the US! With the momentum behind us it all began to build with opportunities to engage with US stakeholders. The second highlight almost began to feel like too much opportunity to handle at once if that is at all possible! Separate to the opportunities which presented after speaking at the conference, Mayank from MSDUK had also arranged a series of targeted meetings with US Corporates (USCs), if I had been impressed with Raj organising the UK Directory pre visit, it just ramped up another level to engage with key USCs one on one to introduce ourselves! I remember thinking to myself, where else would you be presented with ‘organised’ opportunities like this to present your propositions and explore potential business opportunities? The third highlight I would pick out would be the spirit and camaraderie within our group. We were a ‘diverse’ mob who didn’t know each other at the beginning but from the moment we met, I knew it was going to be great. The ease and speed with which we all started to ‘work together’ felt like an extended family, from supporting and looking out for each other to helping set up and support the MSDUK stand at the exhibition. Best bit of all was the banter within the group, from ‘arranging’ Raj a potential future wife to my being labelled with a new name… ‘GB’ (Thanks to Rahul Mehta).NMSDC 3

I think it is fair to say we all returned home exhausted but very inspired with a long list of business contacts and conversations to follow up. It took me the best part of a day to debrief feeling like I’d been away weeks, not a few days! Today, I’m engaged with a select list of USCs who are interested in es-p and most align with our priorities. Conversations are taking place via video, telephone, etc. and relationships are developing. I then found myself travelling to Johannesburg 4 weeks later to attend the SASDC conference, a direct result of engaging with the SASDC delegation who were also in San Diego, exploratory conversations are now also started in that part of the world so you just never know when you start where you are going to end up. I should also mention the value of conversations with peers back here which only come about because we were together in San Diego, not to mention the bonus of the odd dinner party invite too! So all in all, when you unpick my blog, hopefully you will find an aggregated value from the trip through making contacts, friends, conversations and opportunities which translates to an amazing ‘ROI’. For me, the NMSDC experience has inspired and expanded my horizons, this has already influenced our business strategy and leaves me excited about the future ahead. So if you are thinking about attending NMSDC2016 in Chicago, don’t hesitate, I recommend the experience wholeheartedly.

So in summary what have I realised? We have been a member of MSDUK network for just over a year and have already gained so much value in return, this trip is just one example of that. Without being (1) part of the network and (2) recognising the fantastic support of Mayank and his team, it would be a challenge to achieve the same level of access and opportunity on our own, so I have to take this opportunity to publicly say thank you to everyone at MSDUK for enabling my experience! NMSDC2015 serves as a timely reminder to myself of always remaining open to possibilities and new challenges, whether, writing a blog or exploring new markets. We can slip into our comfort zones and limit ourselves, and if we never push to go beyond these limits, we’ll never reach the heights to become the Top Guns on our own journeys. Back in 2012 I never envisaged choosing to leave the corporate world let alone establishing a business. I now look back and recognise that as one of the best decisions I ever made and look forward to the next stage of my entrepreneurial journey after 3 years in….

I hope I’ve succeeded in sharing my personal experience and provided food for thought, please do let me know what you think about the blog and whether I should continue or keep to the day job! Thank you for reading the blog and I wish all of you good health, prosperity and success in 2016.