European Alumni Conference 2015

There are 130 Godolphin Flying Start graduates working in 5 continents in almost all aspects of bloodstock, racing, breeding, media and administration. Many of them are successful in their own right, others are climbing the corporate and political ladders and some are emerging entrepreneurs. They have a shared loyalty to Godolphin Flying Start and they form a new wave of industry players with an international knowledge and network unequalled. However, they still face challenges to keep up with technology, social media and industry trends as well as making informed career and business decisions. The Inaugural Alumni Conference held at Cambridge University, UK, on December 10th and 11th 2015 aimed to provide continuing professional education and to harness the power of the Godolphin Flying Start alumni network. The conference, themed “Branding and Reputation”, created an environment in which the energy, experience and expertise of alumni created an electric atmosphere. It brought opportunities for business, learning, sharing knowledge and experience, developing connections, friends and mentors.

 Delegates who registered for the Alumni conference were asked to vote for a Godolphin Flying Start colleague whom they felt had excelled in business and in leadership. These are the  first ever Alumni Awards and they were presented at a reception on the evening of Day One of the conference. The awards were based on votes from alumni and there was one for “Business Excellence” and one for “Leadership Excellence” which makes them all the more meaningful and coveted. The recipients were racehorse trainer, Francis Graffard and Darley Ireland Manager, Gerry Duffy, respectively.

The two day conference was a resounding success with the majority of European based graduates attending. Several flew in from France and Ireland to join their UK based colleagues. We aim to continue with a similar conference in Lexington in January 2017.

Day 1

Day 1 marked another turning point in the evolution of Godolphin Flying Start with the inception of its Inaugural Alumni Conference at the Moller Centre in Cambridge, UK. With 130 graduates spread across the world to date, Godolphin Flying Start is again investing in the future leaders of tomorrow by bringing its network of graduates together and giving them a two-day continuing education opportunity. Over 40 graduates from Europe and America are attending this conference, titled Masterclass: Reputation and Brand, which is taking a progressive approach by looking outside the Thoroughbred industry box to other world class organizations in order to enhance the personal development of its graduates and, through them the fortunes of the greater racing industry. While education has always been one of the defining hallmarks of Godolphin Flying Start, a portion of the conference will also be dedicated to its other defining legacies, promoting and facilitating leadership, via harnessing the collective brainpower of the alumni to discuss and address the global horse racing brand.

In the first section of day one, some of the best and brightest of Godolphin Flying Start look to entrepreneur Philip Turner of the Chestnut Group, Barbara Clancy legal counsel of World Rugby and Chairman of Irish Sports Council Kieran Mulvey on how to build their own brands and manage crises in today’s dynamic and fast changing world. One of the topics covered in depth by the speakers was the challenges relating to brand that today’s up and coming generation are going to face as they move through their careers in an increasingly connected and shrinking world. To paraphrase the MC of the day Jocelyn Targett, you can spend a lifetime building a reputation and brand but in today’s world, all of that can be lost in 140 characters. As such, one of the key aspects that Phillip Turner highlighted was understanding the currency of individual or company brand. Essentially, what is it that customers or clients truly find valuable when a service or product fails to meet expectations? Another challenge our panel discussed bringing in Kieran Mulvey and Barbara Clancy’s experience of working in the professional sports industry was the importance of reputation on an industry wide scale and how other international sports and their governing bodies are facing tremendous scrutiny and investigation worldwide because of their tarnished reputations. It is clear from the response in the room from the alumni that it is this generation’s responsibility to maintain and collectively lift even higher the Thoroughbred industry brand and reputation through both their business and personal interactions.

Following the lively panel discussion, the conference moved into its second phase where Godolphin Flying Start Manager, Clodagh Kavanagh, presented the alumni with a case study titled Global Horseracing: What’s Our Brand? and opened up the floor to discussion before breaking up into small groups to brainstorm the topic before reconvening and presenting their collective findings to the group. Listening into some of the group discussions it is clear that the answer is complex and that the racing industry needs to look inwards with an eye on the horizon in searching for the best way to brand and market itself. One of the comments that was consistent in the various group discussions was that ethos of racing, regardless of how it should be branded on a global or national level, moving into the future is one that needs to be steeped in a reputation of integrity in both business practices and horse care.

With day one wrapping up, it is certain that based off of the positive reception and active engagement from the Godolphin Flying Start alumni that there will be even more to come tomorrow as the conference moves into day two.

Day 2

With the first day of the Inaugural Godolphin Flying Start Conference coming to an end, the alumni headed to The Glonville Hotel for a reception and the presentation of awards for Business Excellence and Leadership Excellence. These awards were voted on by all Godolphin Flying Start European Alumni with French training sensation, Francis Graffard, taking home a beautiful bronze for Business Excellence and Darley Ireland General Manager, Gerry Duffy, winning the award for Leadership Excellence.

Beginning at 9:30 am this Friday morning, the conference pushes forward again picking up on yesterday’s panel discussion with a presentation focusing on navigating the information age by Page Group Regional Talent Director, Beverley Nicholas, titled Your Digital Brand and Business Network. With both personal and professional social media networks becoming more integrated part of our lives the alumni were extremely interested in how to manage these channels leading to a very interactive presentation. One of the ideas that was focused on was that word of mouth can quickly become world of mouth, meaning that information travels and becomes viral like at no other time in history, making it imperative to be cognisant not only of what is posted on social media but of what happens in public settings. An interesting observation that Beverley made based on her 20 years in talent acquisition is that a danger of the social media age we live in and a problem that the Page Group are seeing is that many candidates from the newest generation entering the job market are very skilled with online communication but have a serious skill deficit when it comes to in-person relations and interpersonal relations. In addition to interpersonal relations she also highlighted personal authenticity and the ability to strategically network as two key traits that the most successful individuals have.

Following a short coffee break the conference moved into its final phase by welcoming Ronny Helvey, the Marketing Director at Joules Clothing, to the stage for an intimate sit down chat show style interview led by MC Jocelyn Targett. One of the ideas highlighted by Ronny was the importance of brand authenticity and that reputation is won or lost on the ability to deliver your vision. The theme surrounding the importance of authenticity was a common thread woven throughout the day and seemed to strike a chord with the attending alumni. As many of them own their own small businesses or are in positions to make hiring decisions at the companies they work for, how to portray the values of their brand and how to determine the real values and character of potential hires was of particular interest.

Day two wrapped up by revisiting the question posed on the previous day, Global Horseracing; What’s Our Brand? The alumni again broke down into small groups to pick up where they left off the day before to try and get concrete ideas down which could then be discussed among the larger group. The ideas and potential answers discussed in this session will be collated and presented to the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities as a proactive impetus towards continuing to unite and lift the thoroughbred industry to even greater heights.

Based on the quality of speakers, engagement, and atmosphere, the Inaugural Darley Flying Start Alumni Conference was a resounding success. The conception and fruition of the event was spear headed by Clodagh Kavanagh and Joe Osborne with support throughout from Martin Larkin. The event was also supported on the two days by Godolphin Flying Start’s First Year Trainees in the following roles: Delegate/Guest Liaison- Lauren De Arias Huep, Carrie Hu, William Freedman, and Hannah Marks; Video- Jackson Buchanon and Conrad Bandoroff; Interviews- Alayna Cullen and Brittney Dixon; Social Media- Patricia Bowman and Cherry He; Photographer- Mary Ellet; Reporter- Michael Smith.