This week I attended the 2nd annual Founders Forum hosted by Planet Hatch in Fredericton. It was so great to be back at an in-person conference (yes, with all public health protocols in place) for the first time in what seems like forever.
Founders Forum bills itself as “the place for no BS conversations amongst entrepreneurs & operators”, and it didn’t disappoint in this regard. The moderators did an excellent job of teasing out, and the panelists candidly and openly shared, key insights and practical advice from their own entrepreneurial journeys for the benefit of attendees.
In all there were six sessions in the day-and-a-half event on topics including courageous leadership, adapting to change, the future of sales, building resilient teams, competing in the global marketplace, and social entrepreneurship.
Despite the different topics for each of the sessions the following themes and threads emerged throughout the conference, and were—in my opinion at least—the key takeaways for business owners:
- Think Big. Dare to stretch the vision of your business in ways that make you a little bit—or even a whole lot—uncomfortable. This requires a leap of faith. Set BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals – from Jim Collins’ Good to Great). You don’t need to know how you’re going to get there, but believe in yourself and burn the boats. Even though we’re based here in this little corner of the world, we can—and should—aim to compete in the global marketplace.
- The importance of FOCUS. Entrepreneurs have lots of ideas. That’s what makes them entrepreneurs. But knowing you can’t act on them all—at least not all at once—is essential. Pick one thing, focus on it, get really good at it—like, say, the best in the world at it (see point #1)—and try not to let your focus get diverted from that one thing.
- We’re all social entrepreneurs. Doing well by doing good is good for business, good for the soul, and good for society. And a business doesn’t need to fight poverty or climate change or cancer to be doing good—solving small problems for your customers or your community is important too. Getting a handle on how, exactly, our products and services help our customers, and therefore society, is a wise thing to do.
- The best AND most frustrating part of business is the same: the PEOPLE. But there are lots of best practices that you can implement to tip the scale and minimize the frustration. Go Go CEO Kara Angus’ comments, advice, hilarity, and practical tips in this area were worth the price of the conference and then some.
- Let core values be your guide. Several panelists referred to their core values as a guiding force in their business. Whether it be around the mechanics of a pivot, or the approach to dealing with customers and employees, or to deciding which clients to take on and which ones to cut loose, the business owners on the stage looked to their core values to help them make decisions—both big and small.
- Taking care of and investing in yourself.You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your business. Part of the benefit of running a business from here in Atlantic Canada is the quality of life it affords. Don’t sacrifice that for your business. Take care of yourself mentally and physically. Set personal goals that align with your business goals. Set boundaries and stick to them. Seek out personal and professional development opportunities, and surround yourself with a supportive network.