This past week I had the unique opportunity to attend Inc. Magazine’s 2014 GROWCO Conference that was held at the Omni Nashville Hotel. GROWCO is a 3 day event for entrepreneurs and business leaders who are looking for insights, strategies, and inspiration that can help them to achieve significant growth with their companies.
I remember attending the first GROWCO Conference in Orlando back in 2009 and got a lot out of it so attending the event in my own backyard only made sense to me. Besides that, with an ISI office in Nashville, there seemed to be some good networking opportunities that could benefit us locally as well. And even though I personally was only able to attend one of the three days of events, I have to say that it was not only a good use of my time but it also money well spent. I also liked the fact that my VP of Sales and our design engineer attended the conference with me as well and both were equally enthusiastic about what they got out of it.
One breakout session I particularly enjoyed was hosted by Clint Smith and Michael Burcham (Nashville Entrepreneur Center) where they discussed how “Great Companies Combine Culture and Community for Profit and Purpose.” It made me think about a previously mentioned long term goal I have for ISI which is not to just be successful but significant as well.
Without a doubt the best speaker of the conference (when I was there) was Bert Jacobs who is the co-founder of “Life is Good.” Bert did a masterful job of not only describing the humble beginnings of the company selling t-shirts in dorm rooms and the streets of Boston but also the premise behind the smiling stick man and the power of positive thinking. I love the story about his mother gathering her large family (6 children) around the dinner table each night and asking each one of them to “tell me something good that happened today.” What a great life lesson to pass onto your children. I also really admire the work that Bert and his brother John are doing with their Life Is Good events (Pumpkin Festival etc.) that is raising money for organizations like Camp Sunshine which has been set up for children with life threatening illnesses and their families. Bert concluded his presentation with the deeply emotional story of the Life is Good employee who was seriously injured in last year’s Boston Marathon bombing and producing the commemorative “Nothing is Stronger than Love” t-shirt. Knowing how Life is Good operates, it was no surprise to learn that 100% of the profits generated from their now best- selling t-shirt will go to provide prosthetics for the bombing victims. The world needs more people like Bert and John Jacobs and the Life is Good company! I am so glad I was able to hear his incredible story and I think I speak for everyone who attended GROWCO 2014 in wishing them continued success for many more years to come.
The last speaker of the afternoon was Mark Cuban who is the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team and star of the hit ABC TV show “Shark Tank.” The format was more of a casual Q&A session but in keeping with GROWCO’s theme of being “audacious” Mark Cuban did not disappoint the conference attendees. All the major networks, CBS, NBC, ABC, ESPN and others picked up on Cuban’s audacious remarks regarding bigotry and related issues. He made some good points that sadly got taken out of context and muddled by the media. What I thought was even more interesting was how candid Mark was about how he made his money and the values he is trying to instill in his children (hard work and a lack of entitlement) which is similar to my own philosophy with my kids. I also found his comments about the “student loan bubble” very disturbing since he believes it is this country’s #1 economic concern. On a fun note, I loved his stories about Shark Tank and the different personalities on the show as well as the competitiveness amongst the “sharks.” No wonder it’s the most watched family show on TV today. Whether you love Mark Cuban or hate him, he is definitely someone that gets your attention.
A fitting end to a great conference!