“Want to see where jobs will come from? Look around the room at yourself.” Jim Champy was speaking to the gathering of entrepreneurs and businesspersons who had come to learn how to create and grow businesses in this climate of economic stress. The GROWCO Grow Your Company Conference hosted by INC. magazine was held last week (March 18-20, 2009) in Orlando, Florida.
Come they did, eager to obtain the information and listen to a distinguished lineup of growing companies experts. I estimate as many as three hundred, possibly more, were in attendance. From California, Texas, Kansas, Virginia, Arkansas, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, lots of Florida folks, and most points in between.
Participants ranged from managers of national consulting firms with three or four branch offices nation wide, to a new startup solo practice of a “Global Innovation Coach “(Jennifer Lingerfelt), a recent college graduate. There was a construction businesses owner with 40 employees from Indiana, as well as a clothes and jewelry designer with a company in Arkansas. Present also was a change-success-health “for all,” author and efficiency expert originally from Russia [Natalia Roschina] who focused on the Japanese market; in fact, her business card was in Japanese, but was anxious to get her writings translated into english.
In addition to the learning opportunities every registrant seemed eager to share information about the things happening at their workplace, and to pass on a business card. Networking was an excellent feature of the conference. Meeting rooms, food breaks, and exhibitor’s displays were all arranged to encourage making connections.
One frequent recognition goal managers appeared to pursue was to get on the INC 5000, particularly to climb to the INC 500 list of top growing companies which is published annually in the magazine. This marker was an accomplishment printed on many business cards. Capital TechSearch, an IT staffing and executive search firm from Richmond, Virginia had the Inc. 5000 logo on both their card and website, along with discussing a forthcoming book, “15 Bedtime Stories That Keep Entrepreneurs Awake at Night,” authored by their president David Ingram.
The speakers actively interacted with the participants, not only with question and answer sessions, but worked the crowd having designated tables for lunch and being readily available for book signing. This accessibility made interaction among the attendees flow easy, and offered abundant opportunities to network. The host had even developed a non-technical “consultants” system, whereby participants could place a color coded sticker on their badge designating their area of expertise to encourage others to tap into their knowledge [for example a red button may represent marketing, yellow for staff motivation, blue for financing].
One noticeable difference about the presentations were that the traditional program slide presentations were greatly reduced. While a refreshing change, not having to try to read slides continually, there were no handouts at any of the programs which I attended. This often made it difficult to follow the topic of the speaker. Even for an efficient note taker this was a problem, since before you could scribe the item of interest the speaker had moved on. These absences of content material and continually dropped reminders sometimes seem to hint that the speakers were making a sales pitch for their book; that is, if the audience wanted more specific hardcopy information on their topic.
Some key remarks from speakers include:
– We are not going to have a depression this time: Ram Charan
– Spend time on the floor, hands on with customers: Jack Mitchell
– Need Funding? (Panel)
Need less than $250,000? Try relatives and friends.
$250,001 to $2 Million turn to the Small Business Administration and Banks.
Need more than $2 Million? Seek out venture capital.
To get money from a bank, you need at least two years of business
– Connect with Deep Flow (Train your imagination to be more responsive and avoid the factors that interrupt the flow of imagination): Tom Wujec
– Nothing new in Management (principles) over the last 30 years – Three to five more years of overcapacity before economic recovery: Jim Champy
– Now is a great time to run a business: Jim Schleckser and Kirk Aubry
Availability of Talent to hire Easy terms for buying equipment Customers need help
To enter and be competitive in an established market:
You must do/deliver twice as good a product or service
Be half the price (10-20% lower will not do it)blockquote>
At our lunch table were two speakers who engaged the diners with advice and experience. Joining us was Gay Gaddis, president of T3 [The Think Tank] who was shown in an insert article toting a big gun (rifle); and Sam Horn who presented the POP! (POP! Your Communication) program and gave excellent suggestions on how to come up with a searchable domain website name and had four books on the sales table.
The event was blessed with beautiful weather, a famous location, superb facilities, renowned speakers and training programs, and a crowd eager to hand out business cards and palm the network. All this made for a great grow your company conference.