The second stop on Inc. and CNBC's Iconic Tour was in my home state of Colorado. Several of the world's leading visionary entrepreneurs gathered in Denver and candidly shared the stories and ideas behind their success as an entrepreneur.
Here are the top takeaways and insights I took from the one-day power conference:
Create a community that's on the same journey
Greg Glassman, CEO, and founder of CrossFit, told us how he has built a global fitness around the idea of reducing the preventable health-related causes of death. And who doesn't want to be a part of that?
Greg's passion for the health and wellness industry were on full display during his talk. It is his passion for the brand that made it a unique model that has inspired immense brand loyalty from its hundreds of thousands of global customers. Greg chalked up the loyalty to creating a common bond from the camaraderie that comes from "agony coupled with laughter," as result of an exhausting workout.
To build your personal brand talk to your audience
Prolific vlogger Michelle Phan has built a massive following on YouTube that includes over eight million subscribers. She has done so by giving away free advice and insights to her audience. The huge following on YouTube has enabled her to disrupt the beauty industry, scale her business, and take on much larger competitors head on.
While her strategy now includes a professional production team, she told the audience of her humble beginnings in vlogging that included nothing more than a powerful message and an iPhone. She encouraged the audience to just get started creating videos and to add the expensive tech gear as they go.
To get funding don't be a jerk after getting a no
Brad Feld, Co-Founder, Foundry Group and Techstars, and Nicole Glaros, partner Techstars, have heard pitches from thousands of would-be entrepreneurs and have help fund countless successful startups. They shared some of their top tips on how to get that elusive, "yes," when giving a pitch to investors.
- "Entrepreneurs can fake passion but obsession cannot be faked," said Feld. He likes to work with entrepreneurs that obsessed with their idea and company. Feld, likes to hear an entrepreneur's personal story because offers the key insights he needs to determine the level of obsession the entrepreneur has and how far they may potentially go to see that the company is successful.
- Having good form in the pitch is important, but the substance behind what is being presented must be amazing. Glaros and Feld need to see a clear roadmap for the future, and the exact steps that the entrepreneur is willing and able to take to ensure that the benchmarks get hit along the way.
- If an entrepreneur gets a no the first time, don't attack, always be thinking long term! Many entrepreneurs are so emotionally invested in their ideas they overreact and attack when they get an initial no from an investor. Instead, always keep it professional. Go away do a bunch of work, stay in touch, and then come back and impress. Many times a no the first go around can become a yes down the road.
To gain an edge align your startup with an already established premium brand
Smashburger founders Tom Ryan and Rick Schaden have disrupted the fast casual dining experience with their version of America's favorite food along the way to opening up 310 restaurants. While the quality of their burgers is the main attraction, I was impressed by something they did to further differentiate their brand. They created the Haagen Daz premium milkshake.
By aligning their brand (which was not known for milkshakes) with a recognizable brand that is known for their high-quality ice cream, they instantly created a premium menu item. The results were that milkshake sales skyrocketed. Does anyone know what type of ice cream McDonalds, Wendy's, or 5 Guys uses in their shakes? Me neither.
Not every day as an entrepreneur will be great
Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC's The Profit reminded the audience that they will face tough days as an entrepreneur. Anybody can get lucky and have some good days in business. Lemonis reminded us that we ALL face inner-struggles and adversity that stands in the way of our success. The best entrepreneurs are the ones that learn how to overcome adversity.
"Entrepreneurs are warriors - you wake up every day and choose this life because you have something to prove." - Marcus Lemonis