It’s no secret to the people closest to me: I’m very ambitious.
Ever since I can remember, as a young boy growing up in Cyprus and, later on, working for our family business, I had a strong desire and determination to succeed; a desire to make sure that whatever I did, I did it well.
This ambition was amplified by the fact that my late father, Rolando G. Virardi, wanted to see me excel not just professionally but on a personal level too. With hindsight, I can now see that his advice always focused on how I could create added value, in particular for people at the forefront of business but also for broader society.
People in the US know all about that.
The United States is the homeland of so many great professionals and, perhaps, of the most successful entrepreneurs this world has ever known. Business in the US is no joke. Every word, every gesture, every smile matters, especially in New York.
Yes, “The lights will inspire you” as the song says but those very same lights can also overwhelm and distract you if you’re not careful.
As I strolled through Central Park, reflecting on how I would make the most of my upcoming workshop with the American P&I Club, I had just one thing on my mind:
“I'm here! I have overcome all the obstacles and constraints and I am where I always dreamed I would be. So I need to make this count.”
Thankfully, I was prepared. More than prepared.
I knew that it was time to raise my game if I was going to deliver a successful workshop on "How to gain a competitive advantage" to one of the world’s leading shipping insurers. After all, how do you stand out in an industry where differentiation is so hard? (For the record, a collective of thirteen mutuals provides Protection and Indemnity insurance for some 90% of world shipping.) The question was not a simple one for the company and while I didn’t have all the answers, I knew that I could deliver insights and facilitate deep discussion to enable and empower those capable people to find the solutions they needed.
Make no mistake, I needed something more than 19 years of training and facilitation experience to make this intensive 5-day endeavour a success.
I pulled together the pieces of the puzzle by traveling beforehand to Athens to meet with members of The American P&I management team in person. I interviewed people with much more experience of their particular business than I could ever have gathered in a short space of time and cross-checked the information with other sources in order to have a clear picture in my mind of the challenges I needed to deal with. Ray Dalio – the founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world's largest hedge funds – calls the process "triangulating", I call it dedication and commitment to delivering value.
Wishing to leave nothing to chance, I went all out with more than 50 hours of intense preparation. I strived to enhance my business and life perspective through numerous phone calls to trusted friends and advisors while, at the same time, rehearsing my performance like a highly disciplined soldier. For days before the event – as well as during the event in NYC – I'd go to bed at night with the same thought in my head:
“Make this count”.
And I did.
A few hours after the workshop was over, the management team expressed their enormous satisfaction with the result of my efforts and not just in words but in actions: they asked me to go back once a quarter, starting next year, to help their team identify and address more business challenges. All the hard work had paid off.
It usually does.
I left the US feeling both exhausted and fulfilled.
I also left as a much better professional and, I believe, a better person.
Most importantly, I left with the hope that somewhere, somehow Rolando G. Virardi might be watching over me with a big smile.