Learning Opportunities from the 2011 Ohio Growth Summit

It went too fast. Two days: learning from thought leaders, thinking inside, outside and all around boxes, continuously tweeting conversations and commentary, networking and reconnecting, and taking notes.

The Ohio Growth Summit (OGS) is all about small business learning, innovation, opportunities and action.  OGS11 seamlessly mixed nationally known speakers, authors and business authorities with local speakers, authors and business authorities. The result? One of the best conferences for entrepreneurs in the Midwest.

Each year, the OGS is the culmination of months of planning and connecting by the Ohio Small Business Development Center (SBDC) team:  Mike Bowers, Tonya Wilson, Jeff Shick, David Rivers, Nancy Stoll, Omar Diop, Randy Morgan and Kevin Hammond.  Based at Columbus State Community College, the team has years of entrepreneurial, investment, marketing, banking, manufacturing, sales, international and consulting experience. Few teams are better connected and positioned to assist entrepreneurs as they seek to start, grow and prosper their businesses. The OGS is in its seventh iteration, each year building upon and improving upon past conferences.

“We’re all experiencing a fundamental shift in business, where every employee is now a potential point of customer first contact and support via social networks.”

Nate Riggs started the conference with a clear picture that businesses foundations are shifting, offering advantages to forward thinking entrepreneurs. Nate’s call to action included creating values driven branding, consciously building, leading and empowering teams for success and fostering consistent engagement.

Geben CommunicationsHeather Whaling prodded business owners to communicate strategically, anticipating media influence and leveraging information and relationships to your advantage.  Entrepreneurs creating opportunities by leveraging the evolution of communications.

Tom Williams, founder of Innogage led a “digital natives” panel discussion on understanding the generation joining our workforce and how they are capable of effecting significant positive change. Charlie Wollborg focused on innovation and brand positioning urging us to be introspective and compete against ourselves – constantly seeking to improve. He also made it clear that success results from action, not complacency.

Kyle Stuef clarified that choices between “old media” or “new media” are irrelevant absent an understanding of your brand’s promise and your customers’ expectations and experiences. Tom, Charlie and Kyle made it clear entrepreneurs can leverage these learning opportunities for greater success.

Key takeaways from the conference revolve around strategically anticipating and leveraging technology to position your business for success. Encapsulated in this is “being social” – entrepreneurs meaningfully engaged with customers through our digital worlds, fostering valuable relationships in our physical worlds.  This is a key tenant of Jay Baer and Amber Naslund’s book The NOW Revolution. Being social encapsulates intentional relevance, attracting interest rather than forcing it, personalizing experiences, and empowered interaction consistent with core principals.

And that was just the first day.   OGS Day 2 was even more packed with relevant, actionable information and unparalleled learning opportunities, including the significance of content, social media measurement and tools, use of improvisation in social marketing, crisis management and response in the Now Economy.

Day 2 culminated with a fascinating panel discussion lead by Erika Pryor on the experiences and lessons involved in Team CbusSXSW11 trip.  The discussion was punctuated by humorous rapid fire tweeting, “multitasking”, audience engagement and clear messages of involvement and relevance; a real-time lab with relevant learning opportunities for our own businesses.

We’re all experiencing a fundamental shift in business, where every employee is now a potential point of customer first contact and support via social networks. Our customers are communicating continuously with us and each other, and what they are saying has staying power. The necessity of crafting strategy and empowering employees to capitalize on these new realities – turning chaos to opportunities – was brought home throughout the conference; company success depends upon it. I already have plans to participate in next year’s OGS12, and you should too.

Connect with our Ohio Growth Summit community and definitely plan to be there in June 2012.

Rick Coplin





I work alongside emerging companies on business formation, commercialization strategies, and capital planning. My passion is to find, support, mentor, coach, incubate, & fund start-ups engaged in innovative technology businesses.

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