Last week, I was fortunate to attend the very worthwhile Shift Series National Conference, sponsored by Compass Partners, a growing organization of very bright, passionate college students and recent graduates dedicated to creating and sustaining socially responsible entrepreneurial businesses.
Does having our own business, being successful, controlling our own destiny and helping others and the world sound good? Yep, definitely!
The presenters offered many important ideas and insights, themselves successful entrepreneurs who have great admiration for eager young Compass Partner members wanting to be successful while changing the world. While I could write pages and pages about the speakers, the discussions and the exciting spirit of the conference, I will select just a few takeaways to share.
As some of my friends have expressed interest in starting their own businesses, I am especially excited to have captured helpful ideas to pass along.
From the presenters' discussions, I noted that it is important to think about:
- What do I stand for?
- What meaning do I want for my life, to bring to the world?
- It’s okay to be scared; know that it helps to be able to laugh
- It could very well be helpful to have a partner
- There is no perfect time to take the first step, to launch our entrepreneurial venture; don't put it off if our heart and gut tell us to go for it
- Be rigorous in our plans and execution
- There is no easy way to start a business; be prepared to work diligently and put in long hours
- We'll have to go out of our comfort zone and constantly challenge ourselves, and it will be worth it
- Stay focused on what we want
- There will be obstacles: external, internal and our internal voice
- Don't let ourselves get discouraged or defeated
- Be aware of our mood; being eager, curious, optimistic, enthusiastic and open will help us enormously
- Spend time with people who have a positive impact on us; it is said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Let's choose people who are winners, who are supportive of our "going for our dream"
- How we "show up in the world" matters greatly; let's show up as someone who gives freely
- Always remember: "how we see things" has a huge effect on us and will help us succeed
- Written goals and a business plan help keep us focused
Be mindful of what is driving us. Is it:
- To create a successful business?
- To be our own boss?
- To have more control of our destiny?
- To help people and the world be a better place? All of these are wonderful motivators.
(On a side note, we need to bear in mind that even if money is not driving our ambition, it is important to be profitable. Money is the fuel that enables our business to sustain. I can relate to this, as my primary force in my business leadership coaching practice is clients who are highly satisfied with our work together and the learning and growth they pursue; yet it is the revenue I receive that enables me to continue my own learning and growth, e.g., to take advantage of training and development programs and other opportunities, as well as continue to add to my library of excellent books and coaching resources.)
I believe these ideas capture the essence of how we should approach an entrepreneurial venture. What is missing is the all-important subject of marketing. How do we market ourselves and our ideas? We must accept that marketing will be our biggest challenge! However, it’s not impossible. If we are have a great offering, we are open to ideas, are willing to step out of our comfort zone and are willing to differentiate ourselves, we can be successful in marketing ourselves.
This conference was rich with ideas and encouragement! I have the greatest admiration of Compass Partners, these amazing young people, and am most appreciative of what I was able to take away from their conference.
To me, the bottom line was "follow our dream". We can do it—if we are smart, disciplined, open to ideas and help, persistent, willing to continuing stretch ourselves and expand our comfort zone, and stay positive.
My invitation: if we have a great entrepreneurial idea, the passion to pursue it, and the strong will to make it happen, then let's do it!
I was not able to attend all sessions of the conference because of some commitments of my coaching practice, and should be hesitant to mention the leaders and presenters who I felt were particularly amazing to me. In spite of my hesitancy, I feel compelled to mention these people, while apologizing to those whose sessions I did not attend.
Neil Shah and Arthur Woods, the founders of Compass Partners (visit www.compasspartners.org), while students at Georgetown, Lily Cua, a Georgetown senior and on campus leader who worked diligently on the details of the conference, Zach Warren, the MC, a global entrepreneur himself, and a MPP/PhD candidate, Sarah Stiles PhD, professor of social entrepreneurship, Amy Newmark, publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Warren Brown, founder of CakeLove in D.C., Kenneth Cole, designer, businessman and philanthropic leader, Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, Camiile Preston, founder of AIM Leadership and author of an upcoming book, Unwired, about our lives with our dependence on our iphone, BlackBerry, laptops, etc., Larry Robertson, founder of Lighthouse Consulting and author of A Deliberate Pause, Julie Manga PhD of Leadership Lab, Mark Newhall, founder of Idealwave Solutions, Tom Raffa, founder of Raffa, P.C. and the source of huge inspiration and support of Compass Partners and a leading philanthropic spirit himself, and Morgan O'Brien, founder of Nextel.