The 5 Dynamic Ideas From Inc’s Iconic DC

Last week, I attended the Iconic:DC event where Inc magazine lined up a ridiculously talented and inspirational group of leaders. Upon reflection of my notes and speaking with friends about the event, it became clear that there were six dynamic ideas echoed as a common thread among the speakers.



Culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage. In “Good to Great,” Jim Collins urged us to get the right people on the bus. The world will change, but if you have bright, engaged people you will always have a competitive advantage in handling those challenges and changes.

Marcus Lemonis urged, “Handle your employees properly with integrity, honesty and transparency.” It is a great start in building a values-based workplace. But, it goes so much further. I wonder if companies even have a vision of the culture they aspire to build. Or, if they write them down, so they can ensure to align actions with values.

What are you doing to make your company a compelling, fun and engaging place to come everyday? If you are not actively and purposefully thinking about your culture and consistently articulating and acting upon your values, you are falling behind other companies.

Super Simple Story

In today’s ever expansive digital age of “Big Data”, our minds can be boggled by complexity. Let’s face it: Anyone can take an idea and make it complex, but who can take a complex idea and make it super simple to understand and grasp?

Companies need simple stories that resonate with people. Consider:

Bert Jacobs, Life is Good: “Optimism is what changes the world. It isn’t a philosophy, it is a strategy to living a full life.”

Eric Ryan, Method: “Why are we using harmful, dangerous chemicals to clean when there are safe alternatives?”

Bayard Winthrop, American Giant: “When you do something that resonates, people talk.”

Hilary Folger, Lippincott: “People are not buying something, they are buying into something.”

These are simple, powerful and articulate ideas.

The stakes are high. Consider this Shark Tank fact: 100% of funded companies were able to clearly explain their business idea and proposition within 90 seconds.

Creativity is the ability to simply solve problems without abundance of resources. And, it isn’t just a company’s main value proposition that is important. It’s everything inside the company. Be diligent in keeping processes and systems simple. People can execute on simple. I’ve seen far too many companies who try and make things so “cute” that it no longer makes no sense to anyone on any planet.

What is your company’s super simple story? Do you have one?

Just Start

In a room full of current and aspiring entrepreneurs, speakers still urged everyone to simply, “Start.” Whether it is fear of beginning a business – or paralysis by analysis while changing a business, the real advice is to “just start.” There will always be a million reasons why, “It isn’t a good time” and there is only one reason to begin: “It is the right thing to do.” Oh, and be willing to change and adapt as necessary.

Nothing great happens standing on the sidelines.

What are you waiting for to start?

One Big Adventurous Journey

It is easy to look from the outside in and think, “Wow, what an overnight success!” The struggle is real. And, it takes courage and creativity. There were bumps (mountains) in the road for each of the businesses, but they persevered.

Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul. – Douglas MacArthur

Take for instance that Bert Jacobs and his brother rode around in a van for five years before rolling out the “Life is Good” concept. They almost gave up and joined the real world.

Or, Kenneth Cole Productions, who renamed his company “Productions” so he could file for a permit to park a trailer on a highly visible corner to “shoot a commercial” in downtown NYC. In reality, he was really guerrilla marketing to fashion buyers. By using some creativity and imagination, he catapulted his company forward – an opportunity for exposure he could have never afforded otherwise. Hence, Productions remains a part of his company name today.

Bob Parsons poured nearly $30MM into GoDaddy trying to build websites before it turned the corner and gained 80% marketshare in domain registration. He came back from a vacation secretly planning to shut down the company, but held out long enough for it to blossom.

The path is not easy. But, it is worthy of the gut check. Are you up for the journey?

Investments in Training

Every successful company is making huge investments in people. If you want to outperform the marketplace, you have to be in a position to have the best trained people, who have the greatest attitudes and can deliver your message in concert with your company culture. Take note.

Working hard is no longer good enough. If you are not investing in your people (or yourself), someone is gonna steal your lunch money. Or, worse yet, you will never unlock the potential within yourself or your company without investing in training.

I left the event pumped up that I had made the investment to attend the Iconic event. There is so much to learn, so much perspective to gain and so much inspiration to soak up. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to invest. (Psst: it happens on a daily basis: reading, Ted talks, at lunch discussing big ideas…walks on the beach to refresh. Double hint: It doesn’t happen in front of the television.)

So, what is your plan for growth?

Random Quote

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”

— H Jackson Brown

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