6 Key Takeaways From The Art of Small Business Toronto

the art of small businessOn Monday, October 21st I was fortunate enough to attend The Art of Small Business conference in Toronto.

Throughout the day, I attended six presentations from bestselling authors and thought leaders who spoke on various topics relating to entrepreneurship and running your own small business. Today’s startup scene has never been hotter and this conference is certainly helpful to small businesses looking to learn about marketing, sales, technology, and leadership, all of which are critical components to the success of any small organization.

If you weren’t able to attend, here are 6 takeaways, each from a different speaker.

1. Mitch Joel – “The Only Screen That Matters is the One in Front of You”

the art of small businessGet your engagement where it counts.  It doesn’t matter how many screens you have when you only have one pair of eyes. The real point is that your customers are going to decide how they interact with you. They want to get the content they desire, on the platform they like, exactly when they want it.  Because you can’t be everywhere at once, pick and choose your spots carefully. For example, you probably don’t need to be on every social media platform but having a website is a must. Joel refers to this principle as one screen world, and reminded the audience that while “screens may be proliferating, they’re also integrating”.

2. Jonathan Fields – “The Belonging Crisis”

the art of small businessIn order to build a successful and compelling brand, marketers need to find a missing need for belonging in their target audiences. It’s important to identify a pain point and create a lifestyle, not just a product that serves it. Fields highlighted two companies that have become successful at creating lifestyles to match a customer pain: Lululemon and CrossFit. Both brands have created their products around an “enhanced movement culture”.


3. W. Brett Wilson – “Keeping Track of Your Principles and Priorities”

the art of small businessAs one of Canada’s leading investment bankers and stakeholder in several businesses, the former Dragon’s Den star gave a speech on his life story, telling the audience about what he’s learned on his path to success.  Brett noted that for many entrepreneurs, long hours and dedication to the business often overtake time with loved ones and can make you lose sight of the three things that really matter; your health, family, and friends. You know that running your own business tends to require a lot of late nights, but it’s important to keep a healthy work-life balance.

4. Stephen Shapiro – “Expertise is the Enemy of Innovation”

the art of small businessWhen you become too good at one thing, you start to think the same way (constantly). Because innovation is all about repeatable quick changes, small organizations need to be in a continuous state of evolution and change to help foster a culture of innovation. This tends to be easier for smaller businesses than for larger businesses. If you want to implement an innovative culture into your small business, don’t just leave a suggestion box and ask for ideas – if you don’t listen, morale will be low. Instead of asking your employees to “think outside the box”, give them a new box to think in. Don’t give them a blank slate but provide them with parameters to help increase their creativity.

5. John Jantsch – “Duct Tape Marketing”

the art of small businessJohn Jantsch defines marketing as getting people to know you, like you, and ultimately trust you. In order to do that, you need to create a web presence that is informational and helpful to others. Jantsch noted that the best thing any organization can do online is be helpful and answer questions. By answering questions, you’ll build trust with your customers and prospects. Content marketing is a great way to do this, since providing helpful information will help establish your businesses as a trustworthy and knowledgeable leader your industry.

6. Michael E. Gerber – “Let It Go To Work”

the art of small businessGerber argued that we all enter this world as creative and artistic individuals, but somewhere in early grade school, your parents and teachers kill it. He argued that entrepreneurs need to get back their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit by making the choice to not focus on absolutely everything. Dwelling on all the little details tends to prevent you from doing anything. In order to prevent your business from suffering paralysis by analysis, you need to just “let it go to work”.

A BIG thanks goes out to Allen Tan of ME.N.U Food Truck for the fantastic notes and to The Art Of for organizing such an event!

The great part about The Art of Small Business Toronto was that each speaker took on a different problem facing small businesses today, helping focus attention on new solutions for classic problems and highlighting innovative ways to approach them.

Were you at the event? We’d love to hear what you thought of it and what your key takeaways were.

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