A handful of Far Reachers attended EntreFEST 2017. For Angie, Chad, Chris, Kate, and me, EntreFEST is familiar territory. For Kelly and John T., however, it was their first time attending.
Regardless of our EntreFEST experience level—veteran or newbie—we all learned our fair share. As with any conference, you come back with all these new ideas and all sorts of inspiration to make them happen.
It would be really hard to sum up a two-day conference in a single blog post effectively, but we can share some of our big takeaways. Most of these lessons are not new for us, but the occasional reminder helps us focus on what matters.
Business is all about people
We heard this theme over and over…and over. From the opening keynote to the last session, a lot of my notes revolve around how important meaningful relationships are to what we do on a daily basis.
In her opening keynote, Alicia Syrett, founder and CEO at Pantegrion Capital, reflected on how many of her business opportunities have come from relationships she’d built. For example, that friend from high school who’s now running a business or discussions with a new acquaintance over coffee leading to an investment opportunity.
Alan Feirer of Group Dynamic said, "Once people feel they've been heard, they're more likely to contribute." This applies to team members, clients, and, let’s face it, pretty much all humans.
Gabe Erickson of Flow Media gave a rousing talk on human marketing. As someone who talks to audiences on behalf of Far Reach and our clients, often through a screen, Gabe’s presentation was an important reminder for me. Even in B2B marketing, I’m not talking to companies, I’m talking to people.
Focus on your customer, not yourself
Closely tied to the importance of people is the importance of the customer. Business is about learning what your customers need and want, and making your business or product all about that.
Neil Blumenthal, co-founder of Warby Parker, talked about the founding story of the online glasses retailer and how everything they do aligns with who they are. Neil said be kind, be authentic, and speed walk rather than cliff dive.
The team at Connect Five did a presentation called Creating & Capturing Value: Innovation and Design for Business. It was all about understanding your customers and users to make sure you’re designing something that adds value. There were a few quotables:
- “Be stubborn up front to avoid being stupid at delivery.”
- “Companies don’t purposely create bad experiences, but they happen all the time.”
Connect Five also discussed the Design Value Index, which measures the success of top design-centric companies against the S&P 500. It illustrates that in addition to having a positive impact on users, design also likely has fiscal implications.
Always be getting better
At Far Reach, we’re always looking to be better than we currently are. This year’s EntreFEST re-iterated how important continual improvement is. In his keynote, Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker said simply, “Commit to continual improvement.” Deal.
One tool (see the exciting tools section below) we walked away with is WWW/TALA. Quickly evaluate what went well and what to take a look at. This exercise, which can take just 3-5 minutes, helps identify things to continue and items to improve. We like the “take a look at” approach, as opposed to something like “what didn’t go well,” because it’s forward looking and action oriented.
We also learned about “flearning,” which is similar to failing fast. Flearning combines failing and learning. You can fail without completely dying and learn a lot from it.
Creating a culture of continuous improvement is easier said than done. In fact, it’s something we focus on every day at Far Reach (#FRCV6). One tip we took away is to create a culture of risk; allow team members to take risks and ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Team members learn from those risks and can share lessons with the whole team.
Tools, tools, and more tools
Every year I walk away from EntreFEST with a few new tools to check out—tools for time management, project management, social media management, and more. This year, there were entire sessions—yes, plural—dedicated to tools, online and off.
Below is the obligatory list of tools and tool repositories. The focus on tools at this year’s FEST is a good reminder to always understand why you’re using a tool. What job is it performing? How is it saving you time or money, or helping you better serve your customers? Don’t just start using a tool because it’s the latest cool thing; take time to think through and document its purpose and payoff.
I don’t know about you, but I usually walk away from conferences with a whole list of books to read. Here are the ones I learned about this year:
- Radical Candor – A book and podcast about balancing caring personally with challenging directly
- Discipline Without Punishment – A book about teaching and coaching team members
- Sprint – A book about solving big problems quickly
- Firms of Endearment – A book with a fabulous title that shares how businesses are making a difference in the world by helping all their stakeholders thrive
If you attended EntreFEST, what were your top takeaways? P.S.
Chris spoke at EntreFEST, too. You can find the slides and resources
from Chris's presentation on the Value Proposition Canvas.