Back from Australia – Memories and Lessons Learned

What a great trip! I got to see Sydney, the remoteness of the Blue Mountains, strengthened existing and created new friendships and business relationships, played golf on one of the world’s great courses, and expanded my speaking/presenting resume to include “international speaker.”

Here are some of the things I learned:

PEOPLE IN SYDNEY ARE: (I’m generalizing based on my observations from only 8 days there, so take this into consideration.)
-Friendly. They like America and Americans, and seem ready and willing to help visitors. Great people!
-Fit. Overweight people are rare in Sydney. Everywhere you look, people are running or biking. Sports and fitness are big here.
-Non-smokers. Goes hand in hand with fitness – I saw very few folks smoking.
-Prosperous. OK, I’m sure not everyone here is doing well, and I stayed mostly in the city. Likely the suburbs and rural areas are different. But I also heard from locals that the worldwide economic downturn has had relatively little impact in Australia. The standard of living – best I can tell – is identical to the USA.
-Tech savvy. PCs, MACs, iPads, smart phones, iPods, all the rest … everywhere you look.
-Proud of their country. For instance, numerous locals pointed out to me that Australia is roughly the same size as the continental US. (Just under 3 million square miles for AUS, and just over 3 million square miles for the US – I looked it up.) They are justifiably proud of their heritage, their culture and their accomplishments. (We Americans should be proud of the fact that Australia is a staunch ally of ours. I’m writing this post the day after the USA’s Veterans Day and am reminded that Aussies have fought, bled and died alongside Americans in wars all over the world.)
Free. “It’s a free country.” I’ve heard that saying hundreds of times over the years in the USA and was surprised to hear it (In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised) to hear it in Australia.
-Self-reliant. Hey, when your country gets its start as a prison colony and is an island in the middle of the ocean, what else can you expect?

A word about Australian coffee: I’m a coffee lover and when a bunch of my Aussie Great Game of Business colleagues came to the USA in May 2011 they told me, “Mate, American coffee is crap! Come to Australia for some real coffee!” So I did. They were right. My new favorite is Aussie “Flat White.” It’s like cappuccino without much foam. Order a “Long Black” and you’ll get American-style coffee but it will almost always be made to order, by the cup – not sitting for hours getting stale on a hot plate.

Aussie Q&A:
Do Australians say “Bonzer”? Nope – apparently only in the movies.
Do they call each other “mate”? Yep, all the time. But just the men.
Do Aussies wear leather hats and carry big knives, like Crocodile Dundee? Not in Sydney.  Maybe in the Outback.
What about money? Australia uses dollars and cents, just like the US. When I was there in Oct. 2011, the exchange rate was about 1:1.

Trivia: Australia is the flattest and dryest continent in the world, according to Wikipedia.

TRAVEL

  • A 12+ hour flight in coach/Economy is brutal. Even upgrading to United Airlines’ Economy Plus doesn’t cut it. The seats don’t recline much so you’re basically trying to sleep sitting up. Go for Business or First Class.
  • Use http://www.seatguru.com/ to determine which seats on your plane are good or bad, then choose a seat based on their ratings.
  • United’s 747s do not have electrical outlets in Economy. I assume all 747s are the same regardless of airline. If you want to use electronics on board, charge it up good before you leave.
  • Going through Customs is not a big deal. Read all the rules and follow them and you’ll be OK.
  • My electrical converter to allow use of USA devices in Australia went out my first day there, and despite trips to numerous stores I was unable to find another. I got by, but don’t assume you’ll find stuff like that when travelling – take a spare.
  • Depending on where you’re going, what cell phone you use and what cell carrier you have – you may or may not be able to use your own phone overseas. If so, order an international plan for the time you’ll be gone. If not, go to http://www.cellularabroad.com/ and for not much money, they’ll ship a phone to you at home before you leave. Do all this early and be prepared.
  • For the credit cards you plan to use overseas, contact those card companies in advance and give them the dates you’ll be there. They’ll approve use in the destination country. If you don’t, there’s a good chance your purchases there won’t be approved. Leave unneeded credit cards at home.
  • If you’ll use Skype to visit with foks back home during your trip, get yourself and them set up before you go, so all the Skype addresses are in place and you’re ready.
  • Take a 4GB or bigger memory stick so you can pull all your photos off your phone and camera. You don’t want to fill them up and be unable to take more photos.
  • If you need access to computer files back home, get an account with http://www.dropbox.com/, http://www.sugarsync.com/ or another similar cloud storage provider. Upload the files you’ll need before you leave and you’ll be able to get them from overseas.

Day 8 in Australia and the Trip Home! Saturday Oct. 22

I wanted to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb this morning but just flat ran out of time, so this was probably my only disappointment of this terrific trip (well, plus the fact that my wife Joy had to stay home and help our daughter Katie who is pregnant & on bedrest). I still had a few souvenirs to buy and then had to figure out a way to get all this stuff into my bags. On top of that, my hotel has an 11 am checkout time. I got it extended to 12:00 but it was clear that I had to get packed and ready. No bridge climb this time.

So, I grabbed some breakfast at an outdoor cafe near the hotel and got all my stuff packed up. I headed to the airport plenty early to allow shopping at the airport for last-minute souvenirs and gifts for back home.

At the airport, I had time for a quick beer so I went to the “Botany Bar” and met some Americans waiting for the same flight. One guy had a stuffed Koala with a sign on the bar: “Will Sell Cheap.” Somehow he had more stuffed koalas than he needed. I bought him a beer for it and made a trade. He, the koala and I were all happy. It barely fit in my bag.

On the flight, I met a fellow entrepreneur sitting next to me – Lynne Brick. She and her husband Victor are co-founders and co-owners of Brick Bodies, a chain of fitness centers in the Baltimore area. They have 2 women-only centers and 5 co-ed. She had just flown to Sydney from Baltimore on Wednesday for a meeting of an industry roundtable group that she is a member of and was now flying back to Baltimore on Saturday – grueling! (And I thought my 8 days was too short a time between long flights.) We struck up a conversation and started talking business. She showed me a people assessment they are considering using, which measures the “Grit” someone has … determination, persistence, etc. It’s a simple 12 question self-test. Looks interesting.

The flight was “only” 13 hours, compared with 14.5 going the other way due to the jet stream and prevailing winds. Still a long time to sit still. I got some work done this time, unlike the trip over. I started writing these blog posts for posting online when I get home.

Here are the 4 legs of this journey:

  1. St. Louis – San Francisco 4.5 hours Airbus A319
  2. San Francisco – Sydney 14.5 hours 747   7500 miles  lose a day
  3. Sydney – San Francisco 13 hours 747  7500 miles  gain a day
  4. San Francisco – St. Louis 4 hours Airbus A319

The trip home is like being in a time machine. I left Sydney on Saturday 10/22 at 3 pm and arrived in San Fransisco the same day at 1pm (2 hours before I left Sydney!) There was about a 90 minute layover in SanFran, then change planes and head home to St. Louis and arrived there the same day about 9 pm. In real time, the entire trip from Sydney to St. Louis took about 19 hours but on the clock it was as if it only took 6 hours. Hard to wrap my brain around that.

I got a little sleep on the trip from San Fran to STL and was very glad to see my wife Joy waiting for me at the airport! Australia was great but there’s no place like home!

Day 7 in Australia – GOLF! Fri. Oct. 21

My Aussie friend & business colleague Paul Lawrence from Sydney and I had planned to play, and I left it up to him to pick the course and make the arrangements. But I didn’t know we’d be playing one of the top courses in Australia – New South Wales Golf Club, right on the Pacific Ocean! It occupies the northern headland of Botany Bay (which Captain Cook originally named “Stingray Harbour.”)
www.nswgolfclub.com.au

His friend Dean is a member, so he got us on the course and played the first 2 holes with us and then left. (Thanks, Dean!) We didn’t get to play all 18 as several holes are under major rework. Paul suspects NSW is getting ready to host a major next year – maybe the Australian Open. The 2009 Australian Open was played there, won by Adam Scott.

Hole #1 is a short par 4, 244 meters. (About 266 yards.) We had to hit over some tall rough to get to the fairway. Paul brought a set of Callaways for me to use and advised a 5 iron for a safe shot, so that’s what I did. All 3 of us hit safely to the landing area. I pitched onto the green and got down in 2 to par my first hole on NSW! This was a relief and set the tone for some decent golf, despite being intimidated by being on a pro-level course and using unfamiliar equipment.

In all, we played 11 holes and avoided the construction areas. This was fine with me – I wasn’t concerned about playing all 18 and was there mainly for the experience.

Here are the holes we played and my scores:

Hole #     Par     My Strokes
1               4               4
3               4               5
5               5               5
6               3               5  * See note below
7               4               4
13             4               4
15             4               6
16             4               4
17             3               3
18             5               5
19             3               3  Temporary Hole during construction
Total:     43            48  for 11 holes

* Hole #6 is NSW’s signature hole – par 3 and an over-the-ocean carry. I sissied out and played for a safe landing area, as the green was small and right by the cliff. Paul hit the green and parred it. If I go back I’ll try better on this hole next time.
1 bogey, 2 double bogeys and 8 pars – I was very happy with this score. What a golf experience!

We each had a couple of beers in the club house. I tried a Victoria Bitter and a Resch’s. Both great but I liked the Resch’s better. I bought a few souvenirs in the pro shop and then off to lunch.

We took lunch to Paul’s family who was enjoying the surf at a nearby beach. After meeting his wife and two of his three kids who were there, we headed to Paul’s office so I could see his Great Game scoreboards.

I had met Wendy from his office when they were both in the US for the Great Game conference in May 2011, so I got to visit with her again. She and I walked down the street to get coffees for a few folks in the office and I got to meet some of Paul’s colleagues.

Paul was nice enough to help me find and take me to a “Supercheap Auto” store to find some Aussie souvenirs for my son-in-law Tony who is a racing nut and who I noticed was watching Aussie racing on TV recently. We stopped for a couple of his errands and then back to his house so he could show me his miniature golf course on the roof of his 2 story house! Yep – it’s a flat roof and he has the cups built into the roof surface and the roof is covered with SmartGrass artificial turf! Incredible!

Although I was happy to take the rail back to my hotel, Paul and Louise insisted I stay for dinner. (I bet Louise thought she had seen the last of me at the beach.) We had a delicious dinner and the kids were great.

Getting to see their house and spending time with them, I was amazed at how much like America things are in Australia. Same concerns, family life, home styles – I really felt at home.

Thanks a million to Paul for a great day of golf, and thanks to his family for opening their home to me and making me feel welcome.

Days 4-6 in Australia – The Great Game of Business Conference – Tues. Oct. 18 – Thurs. Oct. 20

Well, this is after all the reason I came to Australia … to speak and help conduct Great Game Australia. So back to work.

My friend and counterpart in Sydney, Ilan Kogus, did a terrific job of planning and executing the conference. We had over 100 people on day 1, and just under 100 for days 2 & 3.

The other two guys who came over from the US were Jack Stack and Rich Armstrong. Jack is CEO of SRC Holdings, author of the book “The Great Game of Business” and the “father” of the entire Open Book Management movement. Rich Armstrong is the president & GM of the GGOB division of SRC. Jack and Rich arrived on Monday. In addition to the 3 of us, the other presenters include Ilan and Eddie Geller, CEO of Unique World, an IT consultancy in Sydney with about 80 employees. Eddie and his company won the “Rookie of the Year” All-Star Award at the 2011 GGOB Gathering Conference in St. Louis, so I got to know Eddie then.

Agenda – Day 1 “Get in The Game” 

  • “The Great Game of Business”, introduction and overview – Jack Stack
  • “The Critical Number” Workshop – Rich Armstrong
  • “90 Day Mini Game Challenge” – Bill Collier
  • “Getting in the Game – the way we do it in Australia”, Ilan Kogus
  • “Practitioners Panel” – Jack, Bill, Rich, Ilan and Great game practitioners

Agenda – Day 2 “Gathering”

  • “Provide a Stake in the Outcome” – Rich Armstrong and Bill Collier
  • “The Secret of Champions” – Ilan Kogus
  • “An All-star Case Study” – Eddie Geller, CEO, Unique World
  • “Follow the Action & Keep Score” (Huddle Simulation) – Bill Collier
  • “Practitioners Panel” – Jack, Bill, Rich, Ilan and Great game practitioners

Agenda – Day 3   AM

  •  High Involvement Planning – Formulating the “Annual Game Plan”Jack Stack and Rich Armstrong

Agenda – Day 3  PM

  • Roundtable meeting with Ilan, his Mastermind group, Jack, Bill, and Rich

All in all, the conference went great. The attendees were enthusiastic and eager to learn. There were plenty of Q&A sessions with Jack and the other presenters.

In May 2011, Ilan and 12 Aussies came to St. Louis for our annual international conference, the Gathering of Games. Their target is to have 20+ in STL for the 20th Annual conference May 9-11, 2012.

Many thanks to Ilan, all his Mastermind members and all the attendees for the warm welcome and hospitality and for a successful conference!

Day 1 in Australia – Sat. Oct. 15, 2011

I got off the plane – finally – and went thru Australian Customs and also the various routines arriving travelers are put thru. I grabbed my luggage, got a cab and headed to my hotel … a 20 minute ride. My first impressions of Australia: The general look and feel of things is not much different than America. I’m not talking about the climate/plants/animals – I mean the buildings, homes and businesses. Car dealers and other businesses are instantly recognizable, as are restaurants including many brand names. The vehicles are a bit different, though. Driving on the left is the most obvious difference but in general cars and SUVs are smaller. I found out gasoline is about $1.50 per liter, or roughly $6.00 a gallon so that’s a contributing factor. My cab driver was a pleasant fellow from Lebanon who has been in Australia off and on for 15 years. He gave me some additional info about sights and attractions.

I got to Vibe Hotel at Rushcutters Bay about 8:30 am Saturday. I’m still on STL time and without thinking announced that I’d like to check in. Of course they had no rooms ready at that time of day, so they locked my luggage away safely while I went off for a look around, after having them convert $100 into Aussie money. (They use dollars and cents, and at the time of my trip the values were about the same.) My hotel is in the “Kings Cross” area just outside the eastern Sydney city limits. Little did I know that just a few blocks from my hotel was a pretty seedy area complete with strip clubs. Interestingly, this area is frequented by the types you’d expect but also families and young professionals. Quite a mix. Internet cafes were all around so I found one and went in to check email and to finalize my plans for the day. Amazingly, after the long trip I was wide awake and energized – no jet lag.

My hotel at Rushcutter's Bay

My hotel at Rushcutter’s Bay

I went back to the hotel about 11am and they were ready to let me check in. Then I visited with front desk staff for advice on getting started with my sightseeing. They gave me good advice on using Metro Light Rail and getting around in general.

My first destination: downtown Sydney and the Sydney Harbor.

The first person I met is a fellow St. Louisan! His Cardinals shirt gave him away. (This was before our World Series win.)

The first person I met is a fellow St. Louisan! His Cardinals shirt gave him away. (This was before our World Series win.)

In the crowd, I saw a guy wearing a STL Cardinals shirt so I stopped him. Turns out he lives right around the corner from my business. What a coincidence. He’s there on business and like me is out to see the sights.

Beth from the UK, myself and Dan from Katoomba, NSW, AU

Sydney Opera House viewed from Circular Quay
Sydney Opera House viewed from Circular Quay

 

 

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge

I had been advised before coming over to ride the ferries across Sydney Harbor and explore both Darling Harbor and Manly Beach, so I was off to get a ticket. In line I met Beth and Dan, a nice young couple also getting on board. They were headed to Manly Beach for some ocean time and I tagged along on the ferry ride. Beth’s a school teacher from Yorkshire, England who came to Australia but stayed when she met Dan. Dan’s an over the road trucker from Katoomba, about an hour west of Sydney. Beth told me that Yorkshire is way up north in England, next to Scotland. (I told her she sounded Scottish and both of them told me all American accents sound alike – all in the ear of the listener, I guess.) We made it to the town of Manly Beach where we parted company after exchanging email addresses. Manly is northeast of Sydney on the other side of the harbor and is about a 5 mile ferry ride.

Manly Beach is a great place – very commercialized with lots of surf & T shirt shops, restaurants and overall a very casual atmosphere – almost like a small town from years ago. The ocean is a short 3 minute walk from the ferry dock, so I went there to take some photos.

Manly Beach - street view

Manly Beach – street view

Manly Beach – street view
Manly Wharf - where the ferries dock

Manly Wharf – where the ferries dock

Manly Wharf – where the ferries dock
Manly Beach - Pacific ocean view

Manly Beach – Pacific ocean view

Manly Beach – Pacific ocean view

After spending some time in Manly, I jumped on a ferry headed back to Sydney Harbor and bought tickets for the ferry to Darling Harbor, just around the corner from the Circular Quay. Darling Harbor is a big, busy place with tourist attractions, restaurants and nightlife. Here is their convention center, casino, visitor’s center and plenty more.

Underneath view of Sydney Harbor Bridge

Underneath view of Sydney Harbor Bridge

Underneath view of Sydney Harbor Bridge from the ferry.
The Bridge Climb www.bridgeclimb.com is popular. You can see the groups of climbers in this photo.

The Bridge Climb www.bridgeclimb.com is popular. You can see the groups of climbers in this photo.

The Bridge Climb www.bridgeclimb.com is popular. You can see the groups of climbers in this photo. For about $275 you can get suited up and join a group of 12 folks to actually climb the bridge to the top. I planned to do this on my last day in Sydney and ran out of time.
Sydney Monorail has a stop at Darling Harbor

Sydney Monorail has a stop at Darling Harbor

Sydney Monorail has a stop at Darling Harbor
Maritime Museum - warships and more at Darling Harbor

Maritime Museum – warships and more at Darling Harbor

Maritime Museum – warships and more at Darling Harbor

Enough sightseeing for one day – back to the Vibe Hotel to check email, get settled in and plan tomorrow.

On my way to Sydney!

They show our progress from San Fran to Sydney on GPS screen but it is slow!

They show our progress between the continents on a GPS screen but it is slow!

 

Here are the 4 legs of this journey:

  1. St. Louis – San Francisco 4.5 hours Airbus A319
  2. San Francisco – Sydney 14.5 hours 747   7500 miles  lose a day
  3. Sydney – San Francisco 13 hours 747  7500 miles  gain a day
  4. San Francisco – St. Louis 4 hours Airbus A319
My wife Joyce dropped me off at the airport about 2-1/2 hours before my flight, which was 7:30 Thursday night. Customs was no problem – check-in went smoothly. I checked one large bag and carried on my briefcase (with both computers) and a smaller gymbag-style bag. This bag had some reading material in it and was left mostly empty so I could bring gifts and souvenirs home in it. Both legs were routine. and on time.
My big plans for getting work done on the long flight to Sydney didn’t work out so well. I spent much of the time visiting with a guy named Eric who was from Oregon but has lived the last 23 years in Sydney. He was travelling with his 12 year old son back to Sydney after a trip to see relatives in the US. They were a wealth of info and I enjoyed the conversation. United showed a movie I`d been wanting to see (Captain America) and I watched that. Then I tried to sleep, which I found difficult. Even with the Economy Plus upgrade, space is at a premium and the seats recline only slightly. Toward the end of the flight I must admit I was miserable … uncomfortable, tired of sitting, tired of listening to the engines … I was ready to get off the plane and on with my Sydney visit. I found the entire long flight less than conducive to working. Lesson learned: For a trip this long GO BUSINESS CLASS!
Despite the grueling challenge of sitting still all went well with the trip. Here’s something worth noting- we left STL Thursday at 7:30 pm and had a total of 19 air hours plus about an hour between planes in San Fran. So about 20 total travel hours. But Sydney is 16 hours ahead of STL so we landed in Sydney Saturday at 7:30 am. Basically Friday didn’t exist for me!