Who doesn’t love a day out of the office, learning, being inspired, catching up with business besties and networking with newbies?
Most small business owners relish the chance to connect with other likeminded souls, as many of us spend our days solo, toiling away in silence, forgetting that there is a brave new world out there that is stretching and changing, (and also often forgetting to eat!). We can get so consumed by our own thing that we forget to come up for air.
So a business conference, with the promise of great speakers, new ideas (and awesome food), right on our doorstep, is a highly attractive opportunity to break the routine and stretch our pegs.
One such fantastic conference is the BITE Conference – this year held at the Frankston Arts centre. In its third instalment, BITE Con (Business, Innovation, Technology, Entrepreneurial) has become the ‘go to’ event on the Mornington Peninsula for discovering what trends are changing the small business landscape. The promise is that participants will not only hear about these trends but that they will uncover the latest tactics that will help us compete. And I reckon it delivered.
This year’s B.I.T.E. Con had an all-star cast of speakers that worked the stage and crowd to share their best ideas.
Here’s a BITE Con wrapup from each of the speakers:
Steve Sammartino – Futurist and tech expert
First up, this dynamo left it all on the stage. In black shirt, jeans and bright red sneakers he certainly looked every bit the part of the techo and futurist he is. From sharing crazy stats about the pictographic language of emojis to the fact that we’re all becoming natural language programmers in our own homes via Alexa and Google Home, Steve asked us to “embrace the future – because it’s already here, just unevenly distributed.” He urged us to release old ‘legacy thinking’ around the 9-5 work habit and reminded us that we are in the ‘age of mobility’ (be mobile in your mind, body and thinking). He talked about driverless cars as ‘rolling offices’, drones as flying cars and ‘excurbs’ – the thriving new hubs of innovation and opportunity 1-3 hours from major cities. With all the excitement of new technologies however, it’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities. So Steve stressed that technology is ultimately here to serve humans, not the other way around; we are still in charge – both of what we consume and what we produce. Steve left us with three tactics to help us keep up and get ahead: 1. invest 10 minutes per day in a new technology – read, watch, research it. After 6 months, this will put us in the top 1% of people who know something about that technology. 2. Have a side project and spend one hour or so every few days developing it. 3. Always put humans first.
Sharan Kneale from Time 2 Talk – DISC profiling
Sharan introduced the DISC profiling system to the audience, sharing the importance of knowing your own profile as well as that of your audience so you can foster better working relationships by tailoring your communication and interactions. With her expertise in team development and communication styles, she shared a number of examples of how this has played out for herself and her clients. DISC profiling is not infallible or an exact science, as many of us cross between profile types, however it does
give us a good indication of what drives someone’s behaviour and helps us to investigate why people do what they do. In fact, understanding the opposite of our own behaviour is just as important, especially if we are leading teams. This notion is perfectly captured in Carl Jung’s quote: “Everything that irritates us abut others can lead us to know more about ourselves.” Sharan shared generously and encouraged us all to become more aware of our own communication style and that of those in our teams and beyond. She won me over when she shared a slide filled with Dr Seuss’ life lessons.
Trent Innes from XERO – Innovation and technology
Trent drove home a couple of the themes that Steve opened the day with: change is coming, and the death of distance as a prohibiter for employment and opportunity. He referred to what we’ve been through in the last 10 years, and what we’ll continue to go through at an increasingly accelerating rate, as the ‘Tech Tsunami”. It’s a time where we now expect to connect, where small business is the backbone of the Australian economy, where desktop investment is dying and cloud connectivity encourages further mobility, and where the government is finally digitising communications which has a huge flow on effect. He fondly coined the term BYOB – Be Your Own Boss (I could only think of his competitor, MYOB!), and gave us encouragement that the way forward was through small business and remote working. He did also remind us that whilst incredibly powerful, computers are still just machines – they’re not going to replace humans altogether.
Susan Wright from Q Strategies – Raising your profile through media
Susan was chic and dynamic and immediately screamed “PR” to me. She looked the part but also has an impressive portfolio to be the part. She impressed upon us that as a small business we have a number of ‘publics’ and that now, in this age where everyone can be or can create a media outlet, we need to utilise and manage our persona and brand carefully. Susan also reminded us that the media landscape has changed dramatically – even in the last 5 years – and that in order to leverage it effectively we must be mindful of who we are approaching and how. We were given a list of 6 R’s on how to deal with the media: 1. Relevance – who is the audience of the media outlet you’re approaching? 2. Reliability – you must meet deadlines and be available for interviews/photoshoots 3. Repetition – repeat the same message you provide to media outlets across all your platforms (website, socials etc), because journalists will verify
you and the info before contacting you. 4. Relationships – be courteous, trustworthy, and nurture the relationships of those you want to support you eg. invite media to events. 5. Random acts of kindness – be generous, do something unexpected to not only be memorable but genuinely likeable. 6. Remarkable – remark on something, actually have something unique and interesting to say. Susan finished by inviting 5 audience members onto the stage and helping them find an angle that was relevant to Jacki Mitchell’s Taking Care of Business radio show, as an interview was being offered to one lucky participant. It was a great way to illustrate how to massage a pitch to increase the likelihood of it being taken up by a media outlet.
Michael Licenblat from Bounce Back Fast – Resilience and Mindset Coach
Michael has a great way of making an audience self-reflect; I’ve seen him speak before and he didn’t disappoint at this year’s BITE Conference. He talked about the increasing amount of pressure felt by business owners in this day and age and prompted us to consider whether it was due to one of three factors: 1. Being always ‘on’ or accessible, 2. the demands of increased output, 3. the massive rate of change. Re-emphasising the theme from earlier in the day he asked us whether we considered ourselves a servant to our technology, which lead to the next point of discussion about whether we made decisions in the heat of ’emotion’ or whether we make the effort to slow down our decision-making to let ‘logic’ catch up. He suggested that if we can do this, we are on our way to ‘pressure-proofing’ ourselves. Definitely an interesting concept to think about.
Sue Ellson -LinkedIn specialist
Sue gave us some really practical insights into how to improve our LinkedIn profiles and therefore our visibility to potential employers, employees and clients. She also talked at length about the importance of ‘hyper local’ visibility through both your LinkedIn profile and Google account. Her presentation was fast-paced and wordy, with her slides mostly including links to articles she has written about the topic of LinkedIn, but there was definitely some useful information to follow up on.
Shannon Smit from Smart Business Solutions – Invoicing made easy
Shannon got seriously practical on us and presented great tips on how to tackle one of small business owners’ greatest challenges – how to get paid faster. Seemingly simple, yet often overlooked, things such as making sure your invoice is easy to pay – is it clear, does it match the quoted price, and does it include online payment links – and simply asking your clients for prompt payment when you first speak with them about a project. Other great ideas included offering incentives for on-time payments and using a third party to act in the role of accounts receivables on your behalf.
The final session was a panel, hosted by Jacki Mitchell, which consisted of Richard Jeffares (Two Bays Brewing Co), Andrew Lauterstein (Olympic Medallist and owner of Engine Swim and New Wave Swim School), and Andrew Kerr (Inside Edge). With her expert line of questioning and ability to quickly make people feel relaxed, Jacki elicited some gems about the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship from the three panelists. Andrew Kerr and Richard, both serial entrepreneurs, gave us insight into what not to do (tackle the business of business alone), and helped us realise that if you want to be successful you just have to go for it, no matter how crazy the idea. Andrew Lauterstein, newer to business, but no stranger to hard work, said his secret to success was relatively simple: sticking with a routine.
A great day of learning, inspiration, connection and reinforcement that being your own boss is one of the most challenging but rewarding things you can do.