I just returned from Austin, Texas, having attended my very first Owner Summit, an immersive two-day “camp” for digital agency owners, freelancers and those passionate about the Web. The folks at The Bureau of Digital Affairs – Happy Cog’s Greg Hoy and Greg Storey, and partner Carl Smith – along with a great staff and volunteers, pulled out all the stops for a terrific event, creating an open environment for learning, debating and sharing.
This year’s Summit consisted of talks from industry standouts, smaller breakout sessions and casual events where I was able to meet and share war stories with immensely talented and driven digital agency owners from across the globe.
There were some amazing talks from the likes of Daniel Mall, Mike Monteiro, Nancy Lyons and others. I was particularly inspired by Fresh Tilled Soil’s Richard Banfield, whose “How the Best Get to the Top: Insights into the Top Design Studios’ Success” was revelatory.
In between presentations, my colleagues and I discussed and dissected everything from establishing a company vision and values to pricing, strategy, workflow and growth strategies. I took away too many ideas to list here – but if I had to boil it down to three, it would be these:
1. All great business owners take a deep interest in the craft of running a business.
I drew this from Richard Banfield’s talk. Yes, it seems like an obvious pronouncement, but as presented by Richard it was inspired. I have always loved the operations of a business – its inner workings and structure, how it’s financed and grown. After Richard’s talk, I’m vowing to immerse myself even deeper into the workings of my own business, striving to improve them daily.
2. Confidence isn’t about you. It’s about making the client feel that they’ve made the right choice in you.
For those of you who haven’t heard Mike Monteiro speak, I urge you to do so (you can see one of his more infamous talks here). I’m challenged to name a more passionate advocate for the profession of design than Mike. Brash, abrasive and yet eloquent and empathetic, he presented an incredible talk entitled “The 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Presentations.” Among these insights, I took away that as presenters of designs and campaigns, we owe it to ourselves to be self-assured and passionate – instilling in our clients confidence that they indeed made the right choice in us. I will do this, and encourage my team to do the same.
3. Business is art. Especially when art is what you say it is.
This was a quote from Lullabot Co-Founder Jeff Robbins, who shared “Lessons Learned from Rock ‘N Roll.” Jeff’s pronouncement is simple and profound. To me, business is art – it’s something that you can create and shape based on your passion and personality. A profit must be made, but as a business owner, you have leeway to build the business the way you want to reach this goal.
To say that I learned a great deal at Owner Summit is an understatement. But, perhaps my greatest takeaway was meeting some amazingly passionate and talented owners, designers and developers who inspired, challenged and to my honor, befriended me. These are relationships I hope to build on for years to come. I feel that if I can implement even a small bit of their collective knowledge into my own vision and work ethic, I can inspire my colleagues here to strive for greatness and in doing so, take our company to the next level.
Looking forward to next year’s Owner Summit.
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