Five takeaways from The Art of Small Business

On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend The Art of Small Business, a conference for small business owners and entrepreneurs organized by the media and events company The Art Of, which was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Photo credit: Mira Budd Photography

Photo credit: Mira Budd Photography

It was a great event, filled with speakers from a range of backgrounds. The speakers included Mitch Joel, author of CTRL ALT Delete, Jonathan Fields, founder of the Good Live Project, W. Brett Wilson, a former dragon on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, Stephen Shapiro, an innovation consultant, John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, and Michael E. Gerber, founder of a business skills training company.

I thought I’d share a few ideas that stuck with me:

1. Create something that people will believe in and to which they can belong.

Don’t have customers buy into your product – instead, have them buy into your community, suggested Fields. In a session called The Business of Belonging, he shared insights on how entrepreneurs can bring ideas associated with starting a revolution — and creating a community — into their business practices. In other words, create a sense of belonging. He says the key is to tell a resonant story, one that you and your customers have in common, that “unites us in a common cause.”

2. Success is what you think it is – not what other people tell you it is.

Wilson gave an inspiring session, Partners, Principles and Priorities: The Real Secrets of Success, which focused on the importance of managing priorities and redefining success. “Success for me has become the size of the smile, not the size of the wallet,” he said. In other words, it means having his health, family and friends. The key is to set priorities and determine your own definition of success.

3. The way you frame a question will impact how you find a solution.

Photo credit: Mira Budd Photography

Photo credit: Mira Budd Photography

Innovation is about asking the right question at the right time to the right people, Shapiro said. In a presentation on instilling a pervasive culture of innovation, he shared insights on how we can innovate the way we innovate. If you aren’t getting the solutions you require, consider how you’re framing the questions. “Expertise is the enemy of innovation,” he added. In other words, the more knowledgeable you are in a certain area, the less likely you may be to expand your thinking to generate new ideas.

4. Small businesses and brands are increasingly becoming publishers and content creators.

Do you have a blog? Are you creating original content for your brand? You should be. Jantsch gave an insightful presentation about building a top-notch marketing system for small businesses. One thing he mentioned was the need for small businesses to publish educational content. As he says, it generates SEO, and provides fodder for social media and email marketing. “It’s not just about Facebook, Twitter or one social network,” he added. It’s about integration to be in many different places. Marketing is also ongoing. That’s why editorial calendars are key. Businesses need to take the time to develop marketing strategies as opposed to jumping in.

5. Be here now.  

In other words, be present or in the moment. In Gerber’s session on the art involved with owning and managing a business, which was appropriately the last session of the day, he shared the five essential skills for life, the most critical one being the ability to concentrate:

i) Concentration
ii) Discrimination (not prejudice, but the ability to divide your attention – or discriminate -based on what’s important to you)
iii) Organization
iv) Innovation
v) Communication

This was my first time attending this conference. The speakers shared some great insights and stories, covering a range of topics. And it was tremendous to see the Metro Convention Centre’s John Bassett Theatre packed with so many people from different backgrounds uniting for the same purpose: to meet, to learn and to share.

For those who attended The Art of Small Business, what were your takeaways? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this Samuel, it sounds like it was a great conference and I appreciate you giving some of the key takeaways.

    • My pleasure, Brad! It was a great conference and I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend. If you’re interested, the organization behind the conference, The Art Of, holds numerous conferences besides small business, including leadership and marketing. In case you’re interested, here’s the website:

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