Inc 500 Conference and Awards
This blog post is REALLY LONG… but I wanted to sum it all up in one post. I did some smaller posts on our real estate coaching blog that you check out as well… but here goes…
As I have been mentioning a little bit throughout the blog posts during the last couple of weeks, Rory, Steve and I were awarded by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. The real estate marketing company actually made it number 386 on this year’s Inc. 500 list.
It’s kind of funny… because this was actually one of the goals that we have been talking about for the past five years. So achieving a goal after five years of really hard work is something that is truly magical. Prior to being on the Inc. 500 list, Central Penn Business Journal selected us as one of Central PA’s emerging businesses. This was a great honor as well… but it wasn’t tied to any sort of financial circumstance, so it wasn’t quite as sweet.
I posted a few updates on our other blog, RorySteveAndDave.com. I did this on that blog just because it’s the blog that we use for the company that made the list. However, I thought that it would be appropriate to also write a blog post here that contains what happened at the conference and what it really means to ProspectMX that we were there.
Golfing and Decentralization
On Thursday morning Rory and Steve were able to go out on the golf course and hit some balls with some of the most influential business leaders in the country. Steve’s team actually came in second, beating the pants off Rory and his team. I wasn’t there (I hate golf), but heard that it was an absolute blast and that everyone was treated like royalty, which was a common theme throughout the entire event really.
Around four o’clock that afternoon we went and heard Rod Beckstrom. He talked about his book “The Starfish And The Spider”. At first, to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to this specific session but once he started going I realized that he had some really great concepts. The basic consensus is that if you cut all of the starfish’s legs off, you’ll end up with five new starfish, because they don’t have any centralized system. However, if you’re a spider, and you have one of your legs cut off, you just become a seven legged spider. The idea was to be like a starfish, and to have your business decentralized, so that you can continue to grow in many different places, all at the same time, without the fear that one major loss will shut your company down. I’m not really explaining it that well, so go get the book.
Motivate Your Employees to Innovate and GROW
The next event was Alfred Spector, Vice President of Research and Special Initiatives for Google. He talked an awful lot about how to inspire innovation within your company. Many things were discussed such as the 20% time that Google utilizes for its people, and how to keep people excited to work on their projects. He made a comment that a happy programmer, for example, will get a project done very quickly if he enjoys working on it. But, if you give the programmer a project that he doesn’t enjoy, the time gets longer… the project doesn’t get done… and you just have a miserable employee altogether. I think, while it may be difficult, we are definitely going to incorporate this into our business.
We then listened to Keith McFarland talk about how to actually take your business from where it’s at now to the next level. Many companies that make the Inc. 500 list vanish over time. Keith was very funny and very casual. He really encouraged a lot of people to study companies that are at our level, and he feels that there’s a great need in the marketplace for data relating to how extremely successful companies made it while they were in this phase.
Thursday night, we walked around the marketplace for a little while, where we got lots of great schwag from companies like Dell, CareerBuilder.com, and many others.
Then, it was off to dinner, where I had filet mignon, some incredible wine, and some all around celebratory conversation with the guys about where we’ve been and what’s to come. We then had a few drinks and headed back to the hotel.
On Friday morning, we heard from Jim Collins, the author of “Built To Last” and “Good To Great”. These are both books that I own and have attempted to read, but in all honesty never got through them. They were just a bit too dry for me. But I have to say this, Jim Collins in person is not the Jim Collins in writing. He was extremely entertaining, and made some absolutely incredible points. A few great quotes that Jim said were:
“Your business can look completely healthy on the outside, but be dying on the inside… like someone with cancer who just doesn’t know it yet.”
“If you allow your amount of growth to exceed getting enough of the right people in your key seats, you will fail like a stone dropped from your hand.”
“You have made a hiring mistake when you have to motivate an employee; the right people are self-motivated.”
“A true executive leader has a ferocious passion and ambitious desire to achieve things that aren’t about them.”
“The right people do what they say they will do, and understand that they don’t have a job, they have responsibilities.”
The King of Remarkable (and Tom Peters)
After Jim, came Seth Godin and Tom Peters. Seth is responsible in part for our mission statement, and he didn’t even know it until I met him. The thing that I love about Seth is this: he’s addicted to being remarkable all the time. I actually saw him in the hallway and am completely embarrassed to say that I was a bit starstruck. He’s just one of those guys that I wish I could attach a machine to and suck all of the knowledge out of his brain, so I guess it’s good that he writes books. Seth was wearing enormous green thick glasses… making him, of course, even more remarkable.
Tom Peters said a few things that really hit home for me. One of them being that “in a movie… the role of the director is to create a place where actors and actresses can go to a level they never dreamed of.” Just as that is a director’s role when creating a movie, that is also the role of an entrepreneur. He also asked the audience a great question, “What is more important… loyal employees or loyal customers?” At first I was tempted to say loyal customers, of course, because that is what actually creates your revenue stream. But then I thought about it for a moment, and realized that if your employees aren’t loyal and love what they do, they are not going to be able to create loyal customers.
I absolutely loved what Seth had to say about accomplishing goals, and the naysayers that are out there who tell you that it can’t be done. “There is always going to be a reason in the newspaper to not go after a goal that you want to accomplish.” Most of my life I have been told by numerous people that I wouldn’t be able to do what I’ve done. My guidance counselor in high school even made the comment to me that I would be a loser in life. My mom and dad gave me the advice when I was younger, but in a different way and I have to say that if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I have. After his speech, I got to meet and have my picture taken with Seth Godin. We originally wanted to have him on a podcast that we were going to do live from the conference, but Seth had to head out of town and actually committed to getting on a podcast with us via phone in the future. We normally don’t update this blog with the business of RorySteveAndDave.com, but we will in this case, so stay tuned.
Using Social Media Corporately
After the morning sessions, it was time to separate and go into breakout sessions. I found it kind of difficult to choose where to go, because there was so much good information available. Of all the choices, I picked to hang out with Bob Pearson, Vice President of Communities and Conversations at Dell. He had a lot of great ideas and inspirations on how to use social media in business. There are actually a few things I can’t even talk about here that we are going to put into place for some of our other companies. Sitting beside me, live blogging the whole time, was the social media consultant, Debbie Weil, who wrote “The Corporate Blogging Book.”
You Only Have To Work 4 Hours A Week
Then, we went to “Beyond the Four Hour Workweek: Experiments in Lifestyles and Business”. This talk was led by Timothy Ferriss, author of “The Four Hour Workweek. Steve was there with us and I know that Steve got a lot out of it… I was more consumed with attempting to live broadcast (unsuccessfully) the breakout session as a test for some future things we’re getting into. If you are looking to be more productive in your business, I would definitely recommend buying his book.
Obama’s Advisor Screws Up
While I missed the evening session, I heard all about it. Apparently, both John McCain and Barack Obama’s advisors were supposed to speak to the Inc. 500 conference attendees. The problem is that Barack Obama’s advisor didn’t feel it was important enough to come. He actually called 45 minutes prior to the session and canceled. However, McCain’s advisor did a great job of literally getting up out of his seat and going into the other seat to answer questions as they would be answered by Barack Obama’s advisor. I heard he did a great job, and that it was extremely comical. There was a lot of talk from people who were previously voters supporting Obama whose votes were turned just by the obvious lack of interest in entrepreneurs, and how they affect the economy.
Just after that event, we met up with Philip Kaplan, the founder and President of Products at AdBright. Phil is a truly killer guy, and I think we’ll be hanging out with him in San Francisco in the future.
Most Elegant Night Ever
On Friday evening, the Inc. 500 group was sent on buses to one of the Smithsonian Institute museums. They literally closed down the museum for us to see. It was probably the most elegant event I’ve ever been to in my entire life. We were treated like royalty, served the greatest of hors d’oeuvres and drinks… it was magical.
While I was at the Smithsonian event I was fortunate enough to meet Ryan Buchanan, CEO of eROI; Lisa Kindred, business director at Lullabot; Steve Allen, director of sales for KMT software; Alison Anthoine, principal at Quantum Media and many many others as well. While we were there Steve tried to negotiate the purchase of some of the Smithsonian’s artwork but the security guard said, and I quote, “Thems would cost a fews millions and millions.”
We also had the opportunity to catch up with Timothy Ferriss again. We got a pretty cool conversation with Timothy for the documentary that we are going to be doing… which you’ll see in January.
Marketing Gurus and Let’s Be Happy
The highlight for me during the next day was that we got to see the creator of the Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates campaign that is currently running. His name is Alex Bogusky, and he is the creator of many major campaigns, including The Truth campaign. I thought it was really cool how he talked about getting inside the mind of the people you’re marketing to. For example, he had to really figure out why teenagers love smoking cigarettes so much. What he learned is that teenagers want to feel like they are in charge of their own lives. And what better way to prove that you are really in charge of your own destiny than by smoking, and killing yourself. This is why he decided to take it to the next level and markets to these teenagers explaining to them that they are really been controlled by “the man”.
The Chief Creative Officer for IDEO came out after. He was very funny and had a ton of great concepts…most of all, he talked about how to stay happy in business, keeping yourself motivated by maintaining a fun atmosphere.
Wow! We and our wives were enjoying drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the hotel, socializing with people and having a great time. Then, this curtain lifted. In front of us was an enormous ballroom, which I really expected. As we walked through the curtain there were hundreds of wait staff lined up single file with their left arms bent at the elbow and cloth napkins laying over, much like you see in the movies. As we walked through to the tables, the wait staff looked at us and smiled saying “congratulations”. I have never felt so wonderful in my entire life. It was a truly surreal moment as our waiter pulled my chair out and pushed it in as I sat down. He then took the napkin from the table and laid it on my lap.
I had chills throughout the entire presentation, which featured entrepreneurs from many different companies with many different incomes that came from many different backgrounds. One of the statements that hit me the hardest was the fact that this group of entrepreneurs, the Inc. 500 members, have created more than one million jobs in our economy.
Our business was then called up on stage, we received our award, and our picture was taken with one of the Inc. executives.
So, all in all, the event was an extreme success for us. The relationships we built, the things that we learned, and the fun we had were definitely all worth it. We are confident that next year we’ll be on the list again, so I’m excited to see how it changes from this year to the next.