Last week, I had the great honor of attending the annual Inc. 500/5000 Conference, which celebrates the fastest-growing companies in the United States. Surrounded by the country's most inspired and innovative entrepreneurs, I was constantly amazed at what people can accomplish when they set their minds to it. Truthfully, I took a look back at my life and career and thought, "Should I be doing more? Am I inspiring others?"
It was a question that hung around me, like a text bubble in a cartoon, as I met and spoke with the many attendees, honorees, and sponsors at the event. The answer came to me via multiple sources, interactions and conversations.
The first of such was when I sat in a session hosted by Norm Brodsky, author of "The Knack", Inc. Magazine columnist, and notable entrepreneur. For those who have yet to hear him speak, he's a cross between Mickey Rooney and Carl Reiner; so it's no wonder he's a dynamic CEO and writer. One of his main credos in life is, "A smart person learns from his own mistakes; a wise person learns from the mistakes of others." Brilliant. As I applied this wisdom to my daily responsibilities with Growthink, I realized that it held an ultimate truth for ALL growing companies: analyze where competitors fall short or stumble, and make THEIR mistakes YOUR advantages. In business planning, we do this all the time when we assess the competitive landscape: what can our clients do right, that predecessors did wrong? By way of illuminating these insights for clients, I truly believe we help inspire them.
While I was exiting the above discussion, a young man to my right looked at my name tag - which displayed Honoree, and said, "Congratulations." Why did I have that moniker on my badge? A compliment meant for Growthink Founders, Jay Turo and Dave Lavinsky, the designation let other attendees know that the company I represented was on the distinguished 500/5000 list. Running into that same young man later - the founder of a recruiting firm - I learned that he aspires to be on one of the lists someday. He humbly asked if he could send his business plan for review, to which I was very receptive and began speaking to him about his vision. The fact that he was able to come to the conference and talk to people that were once where he is now, or who could help him set and achieve growth milestones, was something that he treasured. Maybe one day, at another Inc. conference, I will see him again with Honoree on HIS name tag. Wouldn't that be something?
One of the most jaw-dropping moments of the conference was when Bob Williamson took the stage. Serial entrepreneur and new author with "Miracle on Luckie Street", he came out to applause and started to speak about his experiences. Jaws hit the floor when he admitted he arrived in Atlanta with only a few dollars, was homeless (living on Luckie St., no less), and began a rampage of drugs and felonies including heroin, crystal meth, dealing, armed robbery, stints in jail, and grand theft auto that led to a head-on collision and months in the hospital. Long story short, he was an avid reader that discovered the Bible and - shortly after fully recovering - quit all vices cold turkey. As we sat there, stunned, he brought the crowd to raucous laughter by admitting that "needless to say, [he] didn't have the greatest resume."
So why was he on that stage? Well, he lied to get a job in the Glidden manufacturing plant and found a way to save them $50K on labels. Several promotions, years, and companies later, he's a happily-married, soon-to-be great-grandfather who sold his last ground-up company for $75M.
Whoa. One thing is certain: I will never again pass judgment on anyone coming to Growthink for services.
Can I do more? Yes. I can believe wholeheartedly in the people who rely upon the guidance of my company to make vital business decisions; and if, at any time, the road gets rough, I'll ask them, "Have you heard of Bob Williamson?"
The most memorable moment of the conference, however, was when U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, spoke in the general session on Thursday afternoon. He announced a new initiative by the Obama Administration that will surely motivate those starting and running small businesses, whether left, right or center: the creation of an Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Along with an Advisory Committee/Board, the Office will enable the incubation of new and growing companies across the nation via education and a network of support (follow the Tweets at seclocke). Echoing the sentiments of the President, Mr. Locke infused the room with a sense of confidence and belief in entrepreneurs, now and in the future, and their ability to exponentially impact the economy, employment, and the generation of new ideas. Looking around me, the room was alit with the knowledge that each of us - by way of being entrepreneurs or working WITH them - could make a significant difference.
Everything culminated with an awards ceremony and gala, where "Puttin' on the Ritz" was a celebrated notion and all Honorees approached the stage in recognition of their ranking on the 500/5000 lists. As I accepted on behalf of Growthink, I commended Mr. Brodsky on his top hat; very fitting for such a festive occasion. It made think of a time when fashion statements like this were the norm for an evening out. During the Great Depression, more businesses were created than ever before; many people lacked money, but what they didn't lack was ambition, tenacity, and a good top hat. Why is that, do you think? While I don't expect we'll see a chapeau resurgence, I do think it's a relevant and bittersweet analogy about succeeding when the economic odds are pitted against you.
With that said, there were so many other speakers from whom I gleaned inspiration. Not possessing time to write a novella, I will capture their respective wisdoms below while wishing each and every reader tremendous success built upon fortitude, courage, belief, and the ability to endure.
Scott Griffith, CEO of Zipcar: 7 Steps to Success
1) Get the business model RIGHT
2) Use information as a competitive advantage
3) Keep it simple
4) Create a value-based culture
5) Sell the steak, NOT the sizzle
6) Have a world view
7) Innovate yourself, along with the company
Norm Brodsky: "Build a business like you're going to be in business forever."
Bob Williamson: "Bigger is sometimes better, but PROFITABLE is always good!"
Jill Blashak-Strahan, Founder & CEO of Tastefully Simple: 3 Things to Remember
1) Just start (many times it's the 'start' that stops us)
2) Know where you're going (which doesn't mean you always know what you're DOING. Dream it, believe it, work it)
3) Don't stop (don't get sucked into fear; fear is the gatekeeper to strength)
Herman Chinery-Hisse, "The Bill Gates of Africa": "Everyone saw Africa as a problem; I saw it as an opportunity."
Ray Anderson, author of "Confessions of a Radical Industrialist", on the mindset that transformed him and led to his polluting company evolving into a GREEN company: "If business and industry must lead, then WHO will lead business and industry?"
Jack Stack, author of "The Great Game of Business": "Operate your business, every day, as if you could GO OUT of business. A little paranoia goes a long way." (Mr. Stack ran his companies profitably through TWO economic down-turns)
And finally, per Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com: I don't have the exact quote, but suffice it to say that anyone who travels to Las Vegas and wants to visit the Zappos Corporate Office in Henderson, will be picked up by a Zappos shuttle, given a guided tour, and driven back to their hotel. Talk about customer service! (Perhaps I could wrangle a pair of shoes out of it as well?)
I hope to see many of you at next year's conference. In top hats, of course.
I just read this really interesting story about Dr. Doreen Orion in Psychology Today and wanted to share it with you.
Dr. Doreen Orion is a psychologist, as is her husband, Tim.
That's why she truly thought her husband was insane when he proposed that they give up everything and travel the country in a converted bus for a year.
But after two years of being nudged to do it, Dr. Orion finally gave in.
So, off they went around the country in their bus. And, during that time, they experienced it all... from a fire, a flood, an armed robbery and finding themselves in a nudist RV park.
Was it worth it?
According to Dr. Orion the answer is a whopping YES. In fact, enough so that she and her husband have decided to sell their home and live on their bus full-time.
So, what did she find? What did she learn?
Dr. Orion learned that "being comfortable" is not all that great. She said, "I hadn't understood how important it is to keep stretching myself, to keep trying new things. A certain spark I hadn't even known was missing suddenly came back into our lives."
The key for me is this -- it is the process of making yourself uncomfortable and stretching yourself when real personal growth and progress is made. As an entrepreneur, you MUST do things that make you uncomfortable. You can not let fear get the best of you.
Consider Johnny Carson who is well known for his severe stage fright. Fortunately that didn't stop him.
And consider the millions of great entrepreneurs who had the courage to develop their business plans and launch their business to the world.
Now, if you haven't truly launched your business, that is, if you haven't developed your business plan and raised capital (if needed for your business), then now is the time to do it.
And, to "make you an offer you can't refuse" (to borrow the line from the great mafia movies), until this Thursday at 5PM EST, I have a really special offer for you.
The offer is this:
For just $1, you can instantly download Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template and get a 14-day trial to GrowthinkUniversity.com
To learn more, and take us up on this $1 special offer, click the link below to watch a video that explains it all:
You can watch the video below:
Did you know that the current stock market rally, which has seen the S&P 500 rise over 54% from its low of 676 on March 9th, is the greatest in history?
Lazlo Birinyi, founder of Birinyi Associates, notes that since March the S & P has risen 0.31%/day on average.
This is three times faster than the previous fastest recovery in 1982, which averaged an increase of 0.12% per day.
He calls it the "Usain Bolt of markets. We just blew through the records."
Tracking the uptick in the market has been rising consumer and economic confidence.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was up in August to its highest level since December 2007.
And the Discover Business Watch Small Business Confidence measure jumped last month to its highest level since February 2008.
How to Take Advantage?
The problem is, of course, first determining if you've missed the rally, and then how to translate this improving business sentiment into opportunity for you.
For those of us that aren't Washington politicians or C-level executives of Fortune 500 companies, the best pathway to do so is via entrepreneurship and via involvement in private companies.
But, and it is a very key but, you have to know what you're doing. As the famous saying goes, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
Quite simply, when it comes to investing in private companies you must "do it right or don't do it at all."
Best regards, and look forward to connecting.
P.S. There are 50% and more rallies every year in various private equity sectors. You just need to know where to look.
And before you start looking, you need to know what to look for.
Medtronic. Cardinal Health. Guidant. Becton, Dickinson. St. Jude Medical. Hospira. Fresenius. Varian Medical.
All of these medical device manufacturers had greater than ONE BILLION DOLLARS in sales last year.
Who Will be Next?
The great thing about this sector is that while the overall venture business is way down, medical device funding is BOOMING.
Firms poured $1.5 billion in 160 deals in the second quarter, up 47% over the prior quarter. In fact, investments in life sciences companies made up 41% of all private venture funding last quarter.
Why Should You Care?
Is there money being made in the sector now - even in this tough economy? You bet your life there is.
America's spending on healthcare will top $2.5 trillion this year alone, accounting for more than 17% of the nation's spending, and may double in the next decade.
Medical devices account for more than $100 billion of this.
Think of companies like device maker Vnus Medical, which Covidien just bought for $470 million - 4 times 2008 sales.
And Danaher, the industrial conglomerate, made big moves in the sector by buying MDS's analytical-technologies business for $650 million.
P.S. Medical devices is a bright and hot sector in the midst of a mostly dismal technology investment climate.
Stop crying in your soup about how tough it is out there and do something about it.Categories:
I recently had the opportunity to speak with expert entrepreneur and founder/CEO of Lending Club, Renaud Laplanche.
Renaud is an expert in raising capital, as he has successfully raised multiple rounds of venture and other capital -- totaling over $50 million for both Lending Club and Triple Hop Technologies, of which he was also the founder.
So I was excited to ask him questions about raising capital for one's business and how LendingClub can help individuals and entrepreneurs. In the interview we covered:
Click below to hear excerpts from the interview: