We hope you had the chance to join us at our EMERGE Entrepreneurial Summit on March 23! Whether you joined us in person or listened to our guest speakers from the comfort of your couch, I’m sure we can agree we all learned a little bit more about being an entrepreneur. If you didn’t get a chance to tune in, don’t worry. We have you covered with our top 10 takeaways from EMERGE.
1. Get someone’s attention in 10 seconds or less
We kicked off the morning with Craig Elias from Bow Valley College. As one of Linked-In’s top B2B (that’s business to business) sellers, Craig was able to let us in on a secret about selling to businesses: you only have 10 seconds to capture the attention of your listener. This time restraint may sound daunting, but, in Craig’s words, it’s possible to captivate your audience if you are “passionate about the people you are helping or the problem you are solving.”
2. “You don’t know what you don’t know”
As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly engaged in a process of trial and error. Co-founders Mike and Jamie of Calgary Heritage Roasting Co. agreed that in their former life as two wildland firefighters, burning in the bush, they couldn’t afford to be afraid to ask for help. And when they set out on the new adventure of professional coffee slinging, having mentors both inside and outside their industry was essential in helping them determine what they didn’t know and learning how to navigate that uncertainty.
3. Selling is the ability to connect with people
Although we might not consider ourselves to be top salespeople yet, Kim Orlesky shared that anyone can sell to people if they can connect with people. Viewing ourselves as tour guides, we must be sure to guide people through the buyer’s journey by building genuine connections and fostering a sense of personal exploration.
4. Make sure you are contributing to fixing the problem
Our very own Hannah Cree pointed out that, as a social enterprise, you want to make sure you are actually fixing the problem. Take the example of Toms, a shoe company that donates a pair of shoes for every pair they sell. In order to contribute to the communities they were entering with their shoes, their giving model had to be adjusted to include the provision of eyewear, safe birth facilities, anti-bullying programs and drinking water to areas in need. By assessing the real need and your company’s real ability to meet it, you’ll be able to use your profits to positively impact the people and planet.
5. Treat people with dignity and respect
James Boettcher from Fiasco Gelato reminded us that it’s “easy to run a business when you’re human.” By treating your employees with dignity and respect (no matter how hard you’re hustling), you’ll motivate and enable your team to “show up for you like you wouldn’t expect.”
6. Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is king
Dustin Paisley, co-founder of Local Laundry and ATB’s very own Entrepreneur Strategist, explained that closing the “cash gap” is one of the most common challenges entrepreneurs face. As your business grows, you’ll find yourself investing more in inventory and new partnerships and having to pay your employees while you are waiting for your accounts receivable to come in. Maybe you aren’t struggling with revenue; you’re struggling with maintaining cash. Talk to your suppliers and customers to renegotiate their payment periods. And, according to Dustin, it’s totally OK to cut some of your customers if you’re not getting paid on time.
7. It’s OK to work another job
As an entrepreneur, it’s OK to keep (or take on!) a secondary job to support yourself while your business is in its early stages. Andrew from YYC Cycle advised, “don’t jump into your entrepreneurial venture and get stuck up on loving telling your friends that you have a business and are an entrepreneur while meanwhile wondering how you will pay rent next month.”
8. Have genuine dialog with your customers
Our digital marketing panel shared that when developing your solution to a problem, consider doing your customer research on online or social platforms like Reddit. Many people share their opinions and pain points on these platforms, giving you the opportunity to learn a lot about your customers.
9. Show people your authenticity
You won’t always know the answer and that’s OK! Our friends the Calgary Heritage Roasting Company founders suggested that the best thing to do is “be transparent, and show people just how authentic you are.” If you’re living and breathing your brand because your brand represents your true values, your customers will recognize it.
10. Serve good coffee
Most importantly, James from Fiasco urged us not to forget the importance of providing good coffee. He said it best:“Don’t serve shitty coffee. If you work for someone who serves shitty coffee, they really don’t give a shit.” For entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs alike, good coffee is always a must to ensure your team is well-equipped (and well-caffeinated!) for the journey ahead.
Whether you are dreaming, starting or growing, we hope you take these key insights from EMERGE with you as you move forward with your business. For more information about creating, strengthening and growing your business, download our Entrepreneur’s Guide now.