Words of wisdom from Norm Brodsky, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Alexander Osterwalder, and the founder of Warby Parker.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu discussing what it takes to succeed.
After an inspiring day at Inc.'s GrowCo conference, I headed to the historic French Quarter of New Orleans, where Arnaud's hosted a tweetup. There, guests did a lot more than tweet: they shared the moments of wisdom from the conference that they can't wait to take back home and apply to their business. (We also enjoying drinking hurricanes and noshing on appetizers in New Orleans luxury, but let's get straight to the real business lessons here.)
1. Know what it takes to succeed.
Erin Richer, owner of B. Richer Designs recounted some of the challenges of being a military spouse and entrepreneur. Richer, who is a member of Inc.'s Military Entreprneur program, says she struggled with finding new suppliers each time her husband was reassigned. She had to get a new business license several times, and deal with different shipping costs from each location. After hearing New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu talk about two possible choices during GrowCo earlier in the day, "Focus on failure or focus on what it takes to succeed," she decided: "I can succeed in my business."
It seems obvious, but Richer said a switch went off in her head today. Although she's been working on her business for five years, she realized she had to commit to success. She's just hired her first employee, and it sounds like she'll be going home fired up to try new things.
2. Sometimes you need a team to win.
Speaking of "fired up," I met Lori Churchill, co-owner and vice president of Lock-n-Load Java, a coffee brand that contributes $1 of each order to charity. It also provides packages that can be sent to members of the military deployed around the world—and Lock-n-Load pays the shipping costs. Churchill said that Mayor Landrieu reminded her not to give up, and to focus on her goal. She's only been in business a year, and though it has been a bit of a struggle, she's determined to succeed. Her husband Carl (who's also the company CEO), added: "Most of us have faced hardship, and some of us combat and that 'near death experience' Mayor Landrieu spoke of, so we can identify with what New Orleans went through, and how it can distill and clarify for you what you really want out of the future. That positive, disciplined, consensus building, work-as-a-team message hit home."
3. Business continuity plans are valuable.
Megan Torrance of TorranceLearning learned from the lessons of Katrina. "Last year our building almost had a roof collapse, and we had to figure out how to work remotely for a week and a half. If the roof had caved in, it would have ruined our business. Hearing Mayor Landrieu's stories, now I understand the value of a business continuity plan and will be working on one when I return home."
4. Dream big, and go bigger.
Jennifer Pilcher runs Military1Click.com, a firm that works to "provide quick and easy access to the best and newest resources available for our military, their families, and those who support our military." That also includes national companies hiring those people. When Jennifer told me of her experience being mentored by Inc.'sNorm Brodsky, she said she received eye-opening advice: "Go Bigger." Brodsky encouraged her to reach out to military parents, a huge demographic, as well as those companies hiring vets and family members. She saw today that even in a down economy, there's room for small businesses to succeed.
5. It's not all about the product.
Kate Morrison of ShopMilitaryFirst.com learned from author and business-plan innovator Alexander Osterwalder that she could be less focused on "products, products, products" and still succeed. "In business school, it's all about the product, naming the product, protecting the product. I'm going home from the conference to clear my wall and redo my plan around a business model, not a product."
6. Harnessing word-of-mouth is smart. So is helping others.
On my way out, I got a quick demo of the Military Traveler app from founder Anthony Hatala, an active-duty Marine Harrier pilot. Hatala wants his app to be "Yelp for the Military." This mobile app lets soldiers and spouses easily find base resources, since many base directories are out of date or are difficult to use, and people move to new locations often. There are directions to businesses, and community ratings and reviews. Hatala was inspired by Warby Parker's rate of growth. He liked speaker Neil Blumenthal's "sense of serving society and helping others while being successful." He hopes to learn from the company's "advertising without advertising" model of making a product so spectacular that people will show it to each other and spread the word for you.
So many insights from an action and information filled day. What did you learn from GrowCo? Please share in the comments.
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr