On the first day of Inc. 5000, it was already raining inspiration in San Antonio Hill Country. Entrepreneurs teed off with Rich Russey through a drizzly sky, but it didn't dampen spirits.

At the Military Entrepreneurs Mentoring Fair, service members showed us the future of business is bright, while some of the 5000 fastest growing companies in the U.S. got early advice through Inc.edu courses.

Here is what we learned during our first day in San Antonio:

1. Veterans are our future.

If banks and venture capital want to make as solid bet, look no further than these talented men and women. In the U.S., there are 2.52 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S., with California and Texas as the leading states. For women and military spouse founders, there are resources and opportunities available to support business growth. 

2. Managing change is difficult but critical for startups.

Noam Wasserman, a professor at University of Southern California, said, whether we freelance or work for large organizations and whether we're married or single, have kids or not, we must be able to think on our feet, assess risks and opportunities, and recruit others to help us navigate them. 

We can learn to recognize our own well-worn patterns and keep our tendencies and habits in check. A founder's ability to recruit a personal taskforce―our own board of directors―that can advise us and help us plan ahead for growth is also vital to growing a business.

3. Manage like an athletic coach.

Steve Baker, vice president of Great Game of Business, says, "Evaluate the game conditions." When an athletic team steps to the sidelines to huddle up, the first thing they do is discuss what's happening out on the field: what's working, what isn't and the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent. This is similar to what many successful startups cover in regular team meetings. Take time to discuss operational goings-on and ensure that everyone in your huddle is informed about the current company landscape, strategy and vision for the future.

4. Simple solutions can be the most effective.

Anyone who has ever attended a conference knows that nametags have a habit of showing their backside. On Twitter, Glenn Burr of CoCo For All, shared his pro tip solution: "Slide a pen over the back of your single fast badge holder to keep it from flipping over and hiding your name." Light bulb moment! This simple solution reminded me that sometimes taking a step back, clearing your ahead and not over-complicating the matter is the best way to navigate through a problem.

Throughout Inc. 5000, we'll be focusing on paying success forward--to each other and to other entrepreneurs who are on the journey. Join us in sharing your best advice to ensure all founders can learn.

What's Ahead

Today, there is so much more opportunity to learn, build relationships and inspire one another. Some highlights to look forward to: Ben Chestnut, co-founder of Mailchimp, will share how he built a company with a clear view of their customer and used owner capital all the way to the top. Brené Brown, the best executive coach I've ever heard, will teach us to dare greatly, and Gretchen Rubin will encourage us to be happier than ever before.

Today will also be the first time for Inc. and Alice to host "Sessions In the Round," a place for experts to lead small group conversations on a variety of hot topics, like telling your story with Kimberly Weisul and financing your growth with Ami Kassar. Finally, and in true Texas fashion, we'll all gather around a camp fire for "Hill Country Glamping." I have no idea what that is, but I expect solo cups made of crystal.

Published on: Oct 18, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.