Saturday, September 24, 2005

Letter from GrowthCamp

I’m writing this from the Nottawasaga Inn in Alliston, Ont., site of this year’s annual GrowthCamp conference for the CEOs of PROFIT’s Hot 50 list of emerging growth companies.

This event bring together amazing entrepreneurs and dynamic speakers for a unique, intense and fun learning experience. In the six years GrowthCamp has been going, it has become a huge hit, and literally changed some people’s lives.

Here are a few highlights from today:

* Magician (or master illusionist) David Ben revealed the secrets of creative problem solving – whether it’s for magic or business. The best psychics don’t predict the future, he says, “they make the future happen.” Savvy entrepreneurs do the same, by creating pictures in other people’s minds, setting expectations, relentless preparation, hard work and confidence. The power of suggestion is key.

* Donald Cooper, whom I consider Canada’s best professional speaker and business guru, talked about “the power of committing to a clear purpose.” Lots of great stories and examples, which I will blog more fully another time.

Here are the questions he says you must ask in order to achieve your profit commitments (not targets – commitments!):

- Are we good enough to get the top price in our specific market?
- Are we efficient enough to be price-competitive, service-competitive, and profitable?
- Does everyone on our team know how their job impacts the bottom line? And how we’re doing compared to where we’ve committed to be?
- Do we hold people accountable for their commitments to growth and profitability?

* Bill Tatham, multi-millionaire founder of Janna Systems, revealed the strategic thinking that transformed Janna from a struggling service company to a highly targeted software developer that sold in 2000 for $1.7 billion. Aim to sell to industry leaders, he advised, and the bigger the better: “Strive for the largest possible average transaction size.”

I chaired one of the six “Idea Exchange” roundtables, where entrepreneurs swapped their successful tactics on marketing and employee motivation. Two great ideas that emerged:
- Do what it takes to keep your key sales people and other top performers, even if it means treating them very differently from the majority of people n your company (e.g. profit-sharing, big raises, phantom equity);
- Survey employees on their satisfaction with the company and its management, but make sure you act on the findings. (One entrepreneur at our table even bonuses his managers based on the scores achieved in their department.)

More to come.

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