My first Inc. 5000 conference experience began with a 2am arrival at Washington’s Union Station to a taxi line that snaked around the corner with not a taxi in sight. But everything was uphill from there. I shared a ride with one of the Inc. 5000 winners who showed a completely endearing excitement as he pointed to the brightly labeled Inc. 5000 van stationed outside the hotel. His excitement was contagious.


Ted Leonsis - does happiness matter?

I was blown away by some of the day’s presenters.

Ted Leonsis spoke from the heart about being happy to be successful. He shared the harrowing story of being in a near plane crash and striking a deal with God. “If you get me through this, I will give back more than I take.” He told us he’s been trying to live that ever since. I’ll be checking out his new book when I get home. His key takeaways:

  1. Be an active participant in multiple communities of interest and activate communities of interest in your company. We are human. We need to connect. Make these connections around things you care about a central part of your life and enable the same for your employees.

  2. Enable your employees and customers to have high levels of personal expression. There is a reason why blogging and social media posting have become so popular.

  3. Have personal empathy. He told a great story about making a statement that he wanted his company to be “cleaner” and then splitting the day between sitting in the stadium with President Obama and cleaning the stadium (including the women’s bathroom) with the cleaning staff so he could walk in their shoes.

  4. Give back to the community.

  5. Articulate and believe that there is a higher calling. This can be religious or can be a larger goal that you are working to attain. He talked about Groupon’s higher calling being to help get customers for small businesses and to help people to manage their budgets.

Ted’s presentation really inspired me. His ending point – be in pursuit of the “double bottom line” not just profit but social responsibility and social impact – including an impact on you.



Barbara Corcoran challenges the attendees to be courageous

Barbara Corcoran was a dynamo on stage – sharing her rags to riches story starting out as a waitress in pigtails. I’m proud to say that when I met her we hugged and took an awesome photo which I’ll share with you when I get my copy from the Inc. photographer!

I am now a Barbara Corcoran fan. She embodied how scrappiness, chutzpa and sheer charisma were the cornerstones of her success and encouraged small business owners, who have so much less to lose, to be more courageous and take more chances in creating a brand for themselves. My favorite quote of hers “Perception creates reality”. Time and time again, she provided examples of how her merely suggesting the reality she wanted helped other people to make it real for her. I also appreciated her reminder about the “pressure of the crowd” in sales. Creating scarcity if used wisely can be an amazing sales tactic.


Tristan & Daniel talk daily deals and local marketing


Lastly – at a panel in the afternoon Tristan Walker, Director of Business Development for FourSquare, Marci Weisler of Tipping Point Partners, Daniel Kim founder of Red Mango and Inc. blogger Howard Greenstein tackled the hotly controversial topic of leveraging daily deal sites and tapping into local marketing. They shared excellent advice and ideas including:


  • Know your average sale - don’t make the mistake of not knowing how much your average sale is in advance of crafting a discount deal.

  • Count all of your costs when thinking about the profit of a daily deal i.e. franchisees have to pay 6% of revenues even for revenues from a daily deal.

  • Eroding value - they all were concerned that the daily deal industry may in the long run hurt service based businesses like spas by creating a culture that in a sense commoditizes these services so that customers never expect to pay full price. They did suggests trying multi-package discounts.  For example - a discount on three sessions instead of one so that customers build loyalty. Another suggestion was to create a mailing list of your daily deal customers and then run your own deals with discount codes so that your business keeps all of the profit.

  • I also loved Tristan’s story about how vendor Jimmy Chu used FourSquare to get 4,000 people  chasing the Jimmy Chu brand all over London for 3 weeks and drive a 30% lift in sales.  I look forward to sharing a video where I talk more about this with Tristan.

  • The panelists were hard pressed to come up with examples of location based deals for BtoB companies. If you’re a BtoB and trying to figure this out, you’re not alone.

I also had the chance to interview Tristan and Daniel to get some insights to share with you including the backstory on Jimmy Chu. When the videos are posted I will share a few links.

Throughout the conference I got to speak to several attendees.  I was amazed at how consistently powerful their experiences have been and how much the companies who attend love the Inc. 5000 conference. Over and over again, they talk about the ability to really connect with other business owners which can be so easy to miss in today’s Internet driven world. My thought – too many people think of social media as an alternate to face-to-face connections. In fact, social media is about creating and enabling more intimate and face-to-face connections with people you might not otherwise have met. The goal is to get beyond the simple social connection and engage.

Today was my chance to be in the hot seat. I engaged with Inc. 5000 attendees by conducting live critiques and giving answers to how they could use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social tools to build powerful marketing strategies and brands and drive business online. 

More soon!

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