May 23, 2014

What We Learned at GrowCo 2014

This week Inc.com’s GrowCo conference was held here in Nashville. A few members of the TechnologyAdvice team were able to attend, and came back with some great takeaways. We’ve collected their observations and lessons below.

Our CEO, Rob Bellenfant, found that most entrepreneurs have similar problems and focuses:

Most entrepreneurs face the same set of challenges: moving fast, hiring, scaling the business, and keeping employees engaged. They also have similar sets of principles, such as that the wrong action is better than no action, and that you need to walk first and talk second. All of them reiterated the need to find a problem and build your business around the solution.

Second, even wildly successful entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban and Papa John are just average Joes. They have a sense of humor, make mistakes, and do their best to improve themselves.

Heather Neisen, our HR manager, was only able to attend a couple of sessions. However, she left with some great insights from Steve Baker (VP of the Great Game of Business) and his session on contingency planning:

Baker said that “people support what they help create,” and talked about how businesses should constantly be looking at the market and predicting best and worst case scenarios, then building contingency plans around those predictions. A great takeaway/action point from this was that you should get your whole team to have feedback, agree upon, and literally sign-off (pen and paper) on the goals/direction of the company. That way everyone feels like they have ownership and a say… and they are held accountable.

Spencer Donaldson, Chief Operations Officer at TechnologyAdvice, had some thoughts on risk management:

Morgen Newman reiterated a great point for me. Perceived risk and actual risk are two totally different things. The risks we are taking in business are not that bad and the consequences of failure are usually nowhere near as upsetting as you initially feel they are. Use your fear to motivate you and not to cripple you. If you have common sense no matter what happens you are going to be able to progress out of whatever failure you MAY have.

Our Media Relations Manager Keith Cawley thought the best advice was “dare to be unsexy:”

One of the common themes was for businesses to focus their energy and efforts. Find the one or two things you are GREAT at, then put all your focus into building around and off of those strengths. Jason Fried gave some great examples of businesses that have endured for decades because they found their niche and absolutely owned it, be that custom bra fitting, palette recycling or leather products. Not the sexiest areas of business, but they all identified an opportunity to solve a real problem for their customers. We went through this “refocusing” in our own company recently, so these messages resonated with us.

Stephen Belcher, our Director of Data Strategy, reflected on one of the big quotes he heard during the conference:

“Enthusiasm is the lifeblood of business. Be generous with it.” – @NormBrodsky

I believe people have to really enjoy what they do each day at work and get excited about it, or at least believe they have a mission to accomplish in the work they do. Otherwise, if that all starts to fade away then it’s probable that the last piece of twine holding them to their work might just be a paycheck and that won’t last very long before they burn out and decide to go in search of finding that joy again elsewhere. Therefore, the challenge for any business owner, and for ourselves to realize, is to keep one engaged, encouraged and driven with a true sense of purpose in their work.

Finally, our Online Events Manager Clark Buckner had some thoughts on company focus, and the future of Nashville’s tech scene:

For me, there were two takeaways:

First, some companies said you need to move fast, others said it’s okay to move slow. What I think they all agree on though is to focus on your culture and values. That’s what separates the best companies from those that fail. Second, Nashville is on the rise as a tech conference destination. I manage an event calendar of 180+ tech conferences across the country, so it’s especially exciting to have one of them here in our backyard!

These are just a few of the thoughts and observations the TechnologyAdvice team took away from GrowCo. Our Senior Director of Business Chris Isham also outlined three lessons from Mark Cuban’s speech, and you can read a play-by-play account of the conference on our TA @ GrowCo live blog.

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