Fran Biderman-Gross, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from New York, is the Founder and CEO of Advantages, a purpose-driven design, marketing and branding agency. Advantages works to build the powerful brand experiences that move people to act. We caught up with Fran and asked her about her first experience on the Inc. 5000 list and what she learned in the process.
Not knowing what to expect, I imagined the Inc. 5000 Conference would be much like the standard industry conference: a few good speakers; some mingling with other entrepreneurs, like me, who made this coveted list; maybe a handful of good tips/deals; and some fun swag from the sponsors. But this gathering of passionate business leaders was anything but typical. Indeed, it was quite extraordinary.
It's one thing to devour Inc. magazine from cover-to-cover each month, as many colleagues told me was their standard practice. The stories of fellow business owners, with their struggles and their successes, are always inspirational and help foster a sense of community and mutual encouragement.
How much more impactful then, to bring these stories to life by spending a few days in the company of superstars, forging a human connection with those who, like me, have fought the tough fight and emerged stronger, still fighting on the other side. Even more satisfying was discovering shared philosophies and common themes that inform all of our businesses--regardless of industry or marketplace--and help them thrive. Here's what I saw, as I made my connections:
1. Purpose is Key. At Advantages, asking "why" and defining our purpose has been our driving force for years now. Clearly, we're not alone; panelists and conference attendees used lectures and breakout sessions to articulate how purpose is the core focus of their companies. These leaders described how sharing, aligning and supporting that purpose, both inwardly within the workforce and outwardly toward your client base, creates unity, efficiency and profitability.
2. Sharing is Caring. To galvanize your workforce and bring them together in service of a single purpose, you must encourage and embrace open communication and vulnerability. True support is not purely financial; it is a free exchange of ideas, experience, best practices and solutions. It is also a space of good will, kindness, patience and understanding. Assembling the best possible talent is vital, but truly supporting your staff, emotionally and philosophically, will energize and elevate them from gifted individuals to a superior, fully-collaborative team.
3. Be Fearless. The confidence to identify your true purpose, and the discipline to use purpose as a prism though which your business approach is filtered, is by no means easy to muster. We are all human, with our unique flaws and individual insecurities. My personal defining moment was the struggle to believe I could carry on after my husband's passing--both personally and with the company we had worked so hard to build together. It was by overcoming that fear--learning to be fearless--that I sparked a period of unprecedented growth for Advantages, and helped us achieve milestones my husband and I couldn't have fathomed some 23 years ago.
I am not suggesting it's easy, but my Inc. 5000 experience this year, and even writing this reflection, is tangible proof of what's possible when you can set aside your fears and dream a little bigger every day.