So many thoughts, ideas, and actions ran through my head yesterday. I felt like a hamster on a wheel unable to stop my brain from moving. I’m glad I had the 3.5 hr car ride home from DC after the Inc500/5000 Conference. I needed to absorb, to let it resonate inside. I needed to feel that motivation, spirit and passion for a few more hours before I headed back into military life juggling preschool with phone calls, dinner and clients. I still pinch myself for being chosen among a small group of military spouse entrepreneurs to take part in Inc. Magazine’s 1st Mentorship Fair and then had the incredible honor to attend the entire conference as a special delegate. I hope to provide you with a few lessons that have given me a clear focus of where I want to take my business.
Entrepreneurs and specifically those CEO’s in attendance have an incredible ability to think big. One lesson that has resonated so clearly is to start in the future. All businesses start with an idea. The job of the entrepreneur to to visualize that idea as it exists in the future. What does success look like? Visualize yourself there, walking around and observing. Then map out how you got there. What did getting from point A to point B look like? What steps did you have to take? Who did you meet? Who did you hire? What infrastructure did you need to have in place? What about going from point B to C? The written roadmap is the key. With it you can align your strategic plan to support your vision. Without it you just have a jumbled idea lacking clarity and focus.
A few speakers touched on how to balance work and life, something I am constantly trying to achieve with little success. Russell Simmons said “Work should be like a prayer. You should be able to put your head down and enjoy it.” And Jessica Herrin, CEO of Stella & Dot reminded us to leave the right things undone. So many tasks in business can spiral into that time suck. Social media is one of them. Our task as business owners and entrepreneurs is to 1) focus on revenue creating tasks. 2) Focus on those tasks that directly align with your roadmap and vision. Do something everyday that gets you closer to the next point in your roadmap. Ric Elias, CEO of Red Ventures recommended the book Choosing to Cheat which discusses the idea that you are cheating your family if you are putting them 2nd.
On the discussion of social media, like the rest of your business strategy, it shouldn’t be tackled blindly. Find out how your customers are hearing about you. What are they thinking during the decision process? Why did they decide to hire you initially? Find out the answers to those questions and align your social media campaign to build value. One of the most comical speakers, Gary Vaynerchuck of Vayner Media made the analogy that “most companies are treating social media like a one night stand. Trying to close on the first interaction.” Create context in your social media campaign and shift to your customers emotional center. Have a real relationship with them. A survey is not human, a phone call or favor is.
Social responsibility and accountability is a prominent theme amongst successful businesses. There is a fundamental desire to give back. Ted Leonsis of Monumental Sports & Entertainment says to find the double bottom line. Make money and do good for your community because the journey in business is where the reward comes from. But on the subject of thinking big, Scott Harrison of charity:water highlighted his marketing tactics to take on the world’s water crisis. I was talking to a fellow milspouse at lunch who had missed the keynote and told her to imagine if you had it in your mind to go out and solve world hunger. And you did it. I feel like that’s the inspirational platform he sat from. More so than his ability to market such an inspirational cause and get people to take action, Scott Harrison taught me the value of one person and an idea. And when passion, discipline, and persistence is present one person can do extraordinary things. At the moment I am so excited to be working with a charity project that I’m not quite ready to announce. But it’s a big one. And I have so many ideas swirling in my head to make it that much bigger. So I’m off to map it out to present to the coordinating partners.
I want to thank Inc. Magazine, specifically the President Bob LaPointe and the Event Director Courtney McNeese who had the idea of partnering with Joining Forces after she watched an episode of Oprah highlighting the Bravest Families in America . I watched this episode myself and distinctly remember the questions Tom Brokaw asked viewers which was: “Do you know someone fighting on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan? How about a family in your town that has a loved one serving?”. Another quote that hit me hardest from the episode is when he goes on to say “less than 1 percent of the American population is bearing 100 percent of the burden of battle…I, as a political reporter, believe very strongly that this democratic republic cannot have something that involves our blood and treasure assigned to only a very small part of our population, and nothing else is asked of the rest of us. That’s not just unjust. In a way, it’s immoral.” If you hadn’t watched the episode you can read the highlights here at Oprah.com . Thank you Courtney for watching this episode and making such an invaluable impact in my life and the rest of the military spouses and vets who were also in attendance. And thank you to our awesome host Natalie Thomas and Bridgett. You two were amazing in your own right and I feel so incredibly blessed to take park in the event you helped create. Thank you to General Stanley McCrystal for taking time after his inspirational speech on leadership to meet with the military spouses, vets and Pat Tillman Scholars. My incredible mentors were Steve Richard of Vorsight and Scott Dudelson and Eron Zehavi of Prodege who all gave me a different angle to view my business. An unofficial mentor for me was Matt Zemon of American Support whose company is uniquely aligned to offer work at home jobs in rural areas near military bases. Milspouses, sound enticing?! And thank you to my hubby who took leave from work so he could stay at home with the kids.
As we were leaving there were talks from Inc. magazine about offering this opportunity again next year. If you are a military spouse or vet who owns your own business, or even if you just have an idea, apply and give all of your attention to the opportunity.
Thank you for letting me share.