This morning, back home, I have the first opportunity to recap two days of speeches. Was it worth travelling for hours on end and forking out a couple of hundred hard earned Euros on fees and expenses?

Yes and no.

As for expertise and new insights – sorry guys, you’ll have to come up with more. Whatever was introduced by means of offering solutions for the trough in our sport I have long since incorporated in daily work. One or two new campaigns now suggested nationwide are online already and I signed our organisation up months ago. So what’s new? And of those attending, who hasn’t heard of them already? But maybe I am just too experienced in what I do, to be surprised by anything, our sports associations come up with as viable solutions for problems in our branch. Or else, I am just plain arrogant, who knows.

As for new input, there actually were two speakers, I was considerably impressed with. Funnily, they were almost the only speakers with no relation to our sport. One university professor on the topic of management by appreciation, correlating the importance of an appreciative staff leadership to demographic change, the foreseeable shortage of workforce available in the near future and the life values of generation Y and Z (they are the workforce of the future), weaving his scientific findings into a measurable monetary gain to any employer.

The other speaker a man of well above eighty. He is the founder of OBI, a DIY store chain now operating all over Europe and beyond. He spoke of entrepreneurship and how it used to be back when he first came up with the concept of offering everything, a house owner with a garden might need, under one roof. As opposed to the big variety of different stores, one had to visit in former times: the iron monger, the paint shop, the gardener, the wood shop and so on. The importance of always trying to understand, what the customer might need. And he spoke about the principles and values, he always led his company by.

I obviously was biased, as soon as he was introduced. I have to confess, I am a DIY store junkie. As it happens, I am also a fan of OBI. Hardly a month goes by without me visiting the local branch.  I am hard pressed not to own a tool, not to be fascinated by rows and rows of anything, a handywoman might need. And their big selection of everthing a gardener needs. I have been to other DIY stores before, but I keep coming back to OBI, because they are just the best.

Little did I ever question, why this is so. But listening to its founder, I get a clearer picture of what makes the difference. I understand it is a cut-edge business, obviously much much bigger than what we do, much harder to succeed in, with other big chains having failed not so long ago (Praktiker, for instance). His number one rule, made understood to everyone working in his organisation, is “customer satisfaction”. Not being big, not offering best price or largest assortment of products or whatever, just plain and simple: keep the customer satisfied. This involved a strive for getting to know and understand the customer from day one.

Listening to this fascinating gentleman made me think about the last time I looked at anything in my own working universe with the eyes of a customer. Rather than with all organisational hickups, anything considered might bring. And how to best introduce it in a way as efficient to us as possible. Not as convienient to the customer as possible. Gotcha!