Tuesday, 26 May 2015

My Week with Inc. - Part 1

I recently attended Inc. Magazine’s annual GROWCO Conference in Nashville and came away from the experience inspired, informed, and in awe of the smart and driven entrepreneurs I met throughout the week.  The conference is broken into topical breakout sessions and general session speeches. I wanted to share my takeaways and lessons learned from the event as a way of encouraging other small business owners to make next year’s event a must-do part of their growth strategy.  In order to make this digestible, I’m breaking these up into 2 posts.

Part 1

#1: Editors Dinner - This was an amazing opportunity to meet an Inc. Magazine editor and spend quality time with fellow conference members.  An Inc. editor is placed at each table and leads discussions that touch on business challenges, initiatives, and topical conversations. I highly recommend it to anyone attending a GROWCO event.

#2: Open Book Management - This presentation, led by Steve Baker from the Great Game ofBusiness, was truly a game-changer for me.  It was the first event I attended in the conference and set the bar high.  GGoB is a way to set short-term goals that motivate and incentivize your employees beyond the annual bonus or sales commission.  It engages entire teams and has been proven to increase productivity and profits.  I highly recommend the book, and if you’re so inclined, attend an event.

#3: How Much Should I Charge - Pricing is something all businesses must deal with and an ineffective strategy can have serious consequences.  This lecture, presented by Lisa Hendrickson, provided two approaches to proposing an estimate:
  • WAG = Wild Ass Guess
  • SWAG = Scientific Wild Ass Guess

According to Lisa, the goal of pricing is to create stable margins, and only 20% of pricing strategies are based on numbers while 80% are based on psychology. Her model for finding the best strategy to fit your business is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the customer? 
  • What do they value? What do they want?
  • What is their customer segment? 
  • How much does it cost you to deliver this?
  • What are the product segments? 

Though this strategy doesn’t give you the magic number, it does help you weigh the factors that contribute to setting the perfect price point.

#4: Daymond John - Daymond was definitely one of the highlights of the GROWCO event.  His Master Class was energetic, insightful, funny, and incredibly inspiring.  If you don’t know Daymond’s backstory I highly recommend reading his autobiography.  He is much more charismatic than the person you see on Shark Tank.  Among the many lessons he gave, Daymond boiled down his advice to 5 key points for becoming a successful entrepreneur:
  1. Set a goal. (6 months, 5 years, and 10 years) 
  2. Do your homework.
  3. Love what you do.
  4. Remember that YOU are the brand.
  5. Keep swimming.
He also led a great Q&A, answered numerous questions from the audience and gave very thoughtful answers.  I won’t spoil any more as his speeches are a must for any entrepreneur, and I highly encourage you to sign up for one and see for yourself.

#5: Air BnB - Joe Gebbia, co-founder of the popular online lodging provider was interviewed about his company’s success and what led them to be selected as the 2014 Inc. "Company of the Year".  One of the key points he made was that it’s integral for a company to learn from their customers.  The founders spent a lot of time with their early hosts- interviewing them about their experiences with AirBnB, listening to feedback on their website, and even photographing the first hosted spaces. 

The trio struggled for years to become profitable through a “trough of sorrow” and even created Democratic (“Obama O’s”) and Republican (“Captain McCain”) cereals to sell during the hype of the 2008 Presidential Election. 

He also touched on some hot button issues like host insurance protection and navigating the laws and code requirements in 100+ countries.

#6: Hint Water - I had never heard of Hint Water before this Q&A and have been on the lookout for it ever since.  Their story is really interesting and their mission is even better.  Find out more here.

#7: How To Become a Ninja Sales Leader - Abe Issa, founder and CEO of Global Efficient Energy and a fellow Texan led this really, really good session on improving your sales strategy.  Besides discussing best practices- shop the competition, know your differentiator- he also went into his personal strategies that have led him to an almost 80% conversion rate.  Without giving away too much of the special sauce recipe, some of the highlights were:
  • "Same day presentation, same day close." 
  • People are buying the salesperson, not just the product or service.  
  • Don't prejudge your leads.
  • Coach your sales force; don't just manage. 
He also has a really interesting way of motivating people to do more than they thought they were capable of: 
  1. Make a fist. Really squeeze hard.
  2. Now squeeze a little bit harder.
  3. And finally a little bit harder.
  4. Now, why weren't you squeezing this hard when you were first asked?
#8: Strategies for Innovation & Growth - Shama Hyder is the CEO of Marketing Zen Group, and 30 minutes wasn’t nearly enough time to absorb everything Sharma has to offer. She’s whip smart at marketing, particularly in regards to social media strategies.  The business use of social media started as a way to casually interact with your customers/clients and hope for some brand recognition, but has morphed into a data-centric quantitative approach to generating measurable ROI using a broad platform of deliverables.  Most notably in Facebookland, where fans are almost impossible to reach organically, brands need to measure their ad spend and targeting very carefully while also making sure they are treating it as an extension of their broad marketing concepts. 

Most applicable to Swagger was the discussion of video’s increasing importance beyond short form entertainment.  More website visitors watch video content than read the corresponding article so marketers need to remain cognizant of this medium and utilize it as a companion to text-based content, or even in lieu of, in many cases that require higher, measurable engagement.

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of my recap from GROWCO where you’ll hear about my takeaways from the following speakers and guests:
  • Company Culture: Start With Your Personal Core Values with Kevin Daum
  • Johnny Be Good: How To Build Brand Loyalty and Inspire Innovation with Johnny Earle, founder and CEO of Johnny Cupcakes
  • The True Story Behind the Honest Company with co-Founders Jessica Alba and Brian Lee     
  • Behind the Burner (and Business) with Chef David Cheng of Momofuku
  • Past, Present, Profits  - Air BnB, Evernote, Rumba
  • Lessons From Business with Marcus Lemonis 
Do you have any questions or opinions on this information? How about any business advice of your own? Tell us in the comments below or tweet to us @Swagger_Media!

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