The Inc. 5000 Vision Conference kicked off Monday with a packed slate of interviews with prominent entrepreneurs, networking sessions, and much more. Here are just a few of the highlights from the day's events.

1. Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien spoke with Inc. editor-in-chief Scott Omelianuk about why she left working for large media companies to start her own business, Soledad O'Brien Productions. She also talked about the help she's gotten along the way--from fellow entrepreneurs on the financial side of running a business, and from her parents, who inspired her to go her own way in work and life. And she revealed a useful trick for getting your team members to open up and connect with one another: the Rose and Thorn Game, where each person shares something they're excited about (the rose) and something they're worried about (the thorn).

2. John Ho, chair of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) practice at the law firm Cozen O'Connor, led a networking group focused on best practices for keeping employees safe. Among other timely topics the group discussed: how to ensure your team's peace of mind for their return to work, and how to do contact tracing in the office effectively. "If you're not doing some kind of contact tracing, it's time to start," said Ho, noting that OSHA will start cracking down on businesses that aren't properly protecting their workers.

3. Rohit Bhargava, founder of the Non-Obvious Company, which publishes books that help brands and leaders think differently, has spent his career looking into emerging trends that have the potential to take off. In his Main Stage presentation, Bhargava advised business owners to pay attention to what he called the "flux commerce trend," in which industries begin to blend together. For example, Apple has a credit card, Crayola makes makeup, and Taco Bell operates a hotel chain. "A huge opportunity for business right now is rethinking the industry you're actually in," Bhargava said. To find the next big idea, he suggested, pick up a magazine about an industry or audience outside of your own. 

4. Whitney Johnson, the founder and CEO of boutique consulting firm WLJ Advisors, told attendees that the best leaders constantly evaluate and challenge each individual employee. The key: accurately identifying whether the person is still learning the ropes of their role, an established top performer, or someone at risk of getting bored and leaving your company. That allows you to craft specific routes for the person to continue learning, leading to increased engagement, retention, and productivity. Moreover, it means people will actively want to work for you.

5. Transparent leadership was a major theme at the Inc. 5000 Town Hall. The panelists--Carey Smith of Big Ass Fans and Unorthodox Ventures, Diana Lee of Constellation Agency, and Nicole Sahin of Globalization Partners--agreed that when your company is facing a huge challenge like the pandemic, it's best to level with your customers and employees. Being open can help motivate your team and empower them to share great ideas. "Trusting people is a much better leadership approach than just trying to magically be the wizard behind the curtain and trying to create miracles by yourself," Sahin said.

Free Main Stage passes are now available for the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference. Click here to claim yours.