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Martin Fahey asks: “Does MIPIM work?”

So, two weeks on from the MIPIM event in the south of France and my sleep has been replenished and my sore feet are finally recovering – My colleagues and I worked out that we clocked up 322,837 steps between us during the event!

Having now had time to contemplate this year’s event, it is clear that despite a conscious effort from all to escape the political chaos taking place in Westminster, it was simply impossible to avoid mention of the dreaded ‘B’ word, not least because of the continued uncertainty the lack of a decision brings.

Brexit seemed to come up in a lot of conversations this year, several people I spoke to during MIPIM reported longer pauses on projects or decisions being held until there is further clarity.

Beyond Brexit, there was UK housing crisis and the future of retail and the high street, and I am pleased to say, of sustainability and building new and refurbishing existing to higher standards.

I also heard a lot more this year about ‘well-being’ and the benefits to staff and customers of better internal environments, both in terms of health and productivity.

This emphasis on improving the quality of life for people with better built environments extended to issues such as diversity, mental health, new patterns of working and the use of advanced AI to complement human efforts, rather than replace them.

Could this new way of thinking and approach perhaps provide the catalyst for others to learn from?

Martin Fahey Martin Fahey Head of Sustainability & Commercial Business

Speaking of productivity

Despite the political news from back home, the general mood at MIPIM was upbeat and positive, no doubt fuelled to some degree by a combination of sunshine, alcohol and lack of sleep!

We have been lucky enough to call the London Stand our home for the past few years and this has become a natural place to meet people.  I understand from speaking to many attendees that other stands weren’t quite as vibrant as the London terrace (their words not mine!), and that may have something to do with the friendliness of the stand, or the show in general.

And this throws up one of the absurdities of MIPIM. It is possible to have more serious and meaningful meetings in one day than you can manage in a whole month or more of phonecalls and emails back home. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with both existing customers and new prospects are ones that hadn’t been planned in advance.

I think that’s because people are at MIPIM to meet and listen in a way that they simply aren’t when back at home. 

People are generally available and genuinely interested in talking to you.

Lessons to be learnt

There were lots of interesting examples from around the globe of how the construction industry is working hard to develop the sustainable future we all need.

We all know the urgency of doing something together to safeguard the future of our planet.

For me, the takeaway quote of the week came UN secretary-general, Bank Ki-Moon, talking about the need to take urgent action on climate change: “There is no Plan B, because there is no Planet B”.

Over the 13 or so years, I’ve been attending MIPIM, it is clear that this need for action is building a momentum and change is coming.

One of the standout talks that I managed to hear was from Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, who was speaking enthusiastically about the future of Belfast. 

He talked passionately about how cities can and often do change radically and suddenly, if they are given a compelling catalyst.

There were many other talks about the future of our cities, especially on how we can engineer the complete removal of cars, which is a pretty radical thought from the planners of Oslo.

Could this new way of thinking and approach perhaps provide the catalyst for others to learn from?

This for me is one of the most valuable things that MIPIM offers – the ability to see what others are doing around the world and talk to them directly about their experiences.

A worthwhile visit?

I’ve mentioned above that people at MIPIM are more likely to engage with you than back home, and are more open to discussions so yes, for us as a business, we felt this year justified the time and resources needed.

I’ve met many people again that I only get to see face to face at MIPIM but communicate with regularly by phone and email, thereby strengthening the relationship.

I’ve also found new contacts and potential customers who will help us understand what the market needs so that we can do more than ‘just provide boxes’ to the construction industry.

And this is a major part of the value for me as we get to see and hear thoughts from around the world on what people are doing to build a sustainable future.  So there is a lot to learn as well from the event.

I will leave the final thought though to my colleague Dan who has written a really reflective article on LinkedIn about his first experience of MIPIM.  He took away four key lessons that I think we can all learn from:

-         Listen more, talk less – there’s lots to learn

-         Banish Subservience – Everyone has value to add

-         Preparation is king – And don’t forget the lip balm!

-         MIPIM is just the start – Hopefully of a beautiful and fruitful relationship

You can read his full post here.

Martin Fahey is Head of Sustainability & Commercial Business at Mitsubishi Electric and coordinator of the company’s Green Gateway programme.