We recently got back from the Inc. 5000 conference in Orlando, Florida. Three days of intense insight allowed us to learn what strategies successful entrepreneurs used to build multi-million dollar businesses. We learned so much that we had to share the knowledge. However, it may be too long to include in one post. So, we decided to include the top advice we got and include beautiful visuals to support it.
Before we dig into the valuable lessons we learned, we want to thank Inc. Military Entrepreneurs, Natalie Thomas, Eric Schurenberg, Elaine & Norm Brodsky and all the sponsors who made this possible!
Branding, Business Culture, and INC. 5000
The most common topic in the conference was needing clarity in your brand and having perseverance to go through the ups and downs.
Jay Jay French, founding member and lead guitarist of Twisted Sister, shared his years of struggles that led to the success of their band. No matter the circumstances and the industry they were in, they remained true to their values. They were a part of the Rock & Roll world, yet they chose to ignore the drugs part. Remaining true to their values/brand during 10 years of continual rejection, their constant perseverance led Twisted Sisters to fame. During their years of rejection, Jay Jay developed a mindset that allowed him to get over rejection and use that process as opportunities to improve.
Take the rejection as an opportunity to reflect on the path that you are on. “Every rejection has some truth to it,” said French. Remember, brands evolve as they grow and looking for ways to improve during a rejection is beneficial.
2. Business culture
Another important aspect of your brand is company culture. No matter the size of your company defining what your culture is will provide a valuable asset when hiring employees — even how you conduct business. “Culture within your company defines who you are,” said Norm Brodsky founder of CitiStorage; partner at Black Gold Suites; columnist at Inc.; co-author of Street Smarts. Culture builds up people and it allows them to feel a part of the company, not just an extension.
Building a solid company culture can take time, but here are three key areas to start with.
3. Clarity Towards Your Purpose
It’s not just getting your employees to understand it, they need to feel a part of it. Especially millennials who want to feel like their contributions make a difference. “You also need to simplify your message so that people can share it easily,” said Adam Miller, Founder and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand.
4. Employee Engagement
Get to know your employees and find ways to empower them. Do not create so many rules. It could end up hampering your company and diminish employee interest.
5. Build Trust
Hiring people who seem trust worthy can be difficult, but not impossible. One you have appointed your leaders/specialists, establishing trust in them is essential. If you micro-manage everyone not only does this make your employees feel less valued, it can decrease engagement. Micro-management usually stems from situations of insecurity. Find ways to connect with your employees — even your contractors. Building trust outside of the work environment can be beneficial. And look for ways to reward your employees for their efforts.
6. Your Mission Supports Your Culture
One of the most inspiring and successful examples of a strong company culture that supports a mission, is seen at Gravity Payments. “Decide what to do for your company. Be part of a purpose. Your mission is more important than pay. Everybody can afford to be normal,” said Dan Price, Founder of Gravity Payments.
Their mission is to help independent business owners achieve incredible success by reducing the cost (and headaches) to credit card processing. When large banks/corporations provided credit card fees that were out of reach to most small businesses, Gravity stepped up to change the industry. They saw a need in the industry and firmly believed in giving a voice to the little guy or gal!
Gravity’s mission is linked to their culture. Each employee holds shared responsibility and everyone advocates to the brand’s core values: creative leadership, passion for progress and responsibility.
After some internal reflection, Dan implemented the $70,000 minimum wage by reducing his 1.1 million salary to the same. People judged him — they thought it was a marketing tactic. But this was derived from the values his father taught him to respect — low paying salaries are wrong and great work merits acknowledgement. His personal values created a shift inside his company’s culture, not only did profits soar, employee productivity was ever-growing!
Finding value in your employees and entrusting them as brand ambassadors who share the same brand core values, will attract others who feel the same — from other employees to consumers. Developing a culture and aligning it with your brand values will help you reach your ideal clients. Remember we can’t serve all, do all. Who does your company aim to serve?
7. Brand clarity
Brand clarity is not just for a targeted reach. If your employees, partners, contractors don’t believe in your mission you may need to define your brand clarity. When the tough times hit, follow Jay Jay’s rejection process and apply it to areas your brand may be lacking. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, use it to develop/refine a solid brand culture. The results may surprise you. Wouldn’t you rather build a company with a strong culture that yields more profits? Establishing a minimum wage may not be your thing, (we think its phenomenal) instead find ways to align your company culture to your brand.
Developing a memorable brand goes beyond your values, perseverance and clarity. How you harness a visual representation of them all is incredibly important. Strategic designers aim to solve a problem that could serve people. We have the ability to humanize the business/branding process, resulting in an approachable and memorable brand.
At Nicte Creative Design, we believe in using design as a catalyst for positive change. How do you envision creating a positive change in your industry? We’d love to hear it!
Oh, and if you are curious to see some photos of us at the Inc. 5000… enjoy!