Last week I has the opportunity to attend the 2017 GROWCO conference (sponsored by INC magazine) which was held at the Sheraton New Orleans hotel. This was my fourth time to attend the GROWCO conference and I have to say it was by far the best of all. A lot of great speakers and really fun networking with so many enthusiastic small business owners. Their energy was contagious and is one of the main reasons why I enjoy this particular conference so much.,
The conference kicked off with a presentation by Jia Jiang who discussed the concept of becoming “rejection proof” and never being afraid to “just ask” Jia cited his real life experiences testing his “rejection proof” theory that included some hilarious stories about asking to play soccer in someone’s back yard (total stranger) to asking a Krispy Kreme clerk to customize donuts (like the Olympic logo) A little off the wall but was a great way to start the conference in a fun way.
The next presentation was by Steve Case (founder of AOL) who discussed his book “The 3rd Wave" and the future of entrepreneurship in the US. One remark that Steve made that really hit home with me was that “250 years ago America was a startup-just an idea” Such great insight! I also enjoyed his observations about the challenge of financing startups and that 80% of venture capital money was being invested in Boston, New York and Silicon valley businesses. Steve pointed out that essentially the “fly over states” were being ignored which is why he has dedicated himself to helping finance startups in smaller markets like Nashville, Louisville, Oklahoma City etc. Really good stuff and I applaud his efforts to “pay it forward”
After Steve Case’s presentation, we heard from Sheryl Sandberg who is the chief operating officer of Facebook and the author of the bestselling book “Lean In” that discusses Women, Work and the Will to Lead. I must say that Sheryl Sandberg is one impressive lady with an incredible resume! And I think I speak for all conference attendees that it was a real treat to hear comments about women in leadership roles in business to what it takes to overcome adversity in your life. I love her comment that “Resilience comes more from failure that Success” I couldn’t agree more with that statement!
I think that INC saved the best speaker for last which was “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary who is the star of the hit TV show “Shark Tank” I loved his candor and his off the cuff remarks like “I’d give money to a goat if I can get a good return” and “if a business isn’t making money in 3 years, take it out back and shoot it” Some of the conference attendees may have found his comments a little harsh but I appreciated how he “tells it like it is” I also love his comment that his number one priority is that “entrepreneurs need to know their numbers” when seeking investment capital(on Shark Tank of otherwise)
The conference wrapped up with comments from Neil Blumenthal (founder of Warby Parker) about the evolution of his company and the focus on lifestyle branding in the optical industry. I for one really appreciated Neil’s advice about dealing with risk in business and to “Speed Walk, Don’t Cliff Dive” A useful tip not only in the optical business but also in the AV/VTC industry! The conference wrapped up with some additional discussion from Nancy King with Airbnb about brand strategy and global consumer insights. All in all another great GROWCO conference and looking forward to next year’s event.