As I've been reflecting this week on the key takeaways of SCIP’s International Conference & Exhibition in Chicago last week, I wanted to extend a thank you to all of you that attended and caused the conference to be engaging to our intellects and extremely fun to attend. I want to personally thank my Vice Chair, August Jackson, for all of his work surrounding the conference – I can say confidently, we’re all in very good hands with August as he prepares the team for SCIP10’s program in D.C. I would also like to extend my thanks to our Program Planning Committee, SCIP’s staff and SCIP President Martha Gleason for the careful guidance the organization provided in making Chicago memorable.
I like to grade efforts whenever and wherever possible, and I’ve arrived at grading this year’s conference outcomes under two main components. First, those elements we could control – areas such as program and presenters, and event logistics. And, secondly, elements we could not control such as attendance impacted by issues like corporate travel restrictions. On the first element, I give our team-based approach a B+ to A-. There are always certain components of a conference that could go better than executed, but I felt we had relatively few of those happenings last week. As I think about this area, I recall the late Coach Bill Walsh’s keynote at SCIP03 Anaheim (my very first SCIP) where he talked about contingency planning and how every good plan needs to have contingencies available to it. We had those contingencies factored in last week, but fortunately, very few of them needed to be utilized.
The second element regarding factors we could not control is more challenging for me to grade. We had a number of established and emerging companies represented in Chicago, from near and far. We’ve all talked to a number of our industry peers that unfortunately had restrictions on their ability to make it to Chicago, and that’s understandable. Clearly the climate we’re in is having some impacts, but hopefully those that didn’t make it last week can still network with those that did… and at least capture some essence of the conference virtually.
Finally, I had the opportunity to make the recommendation that Michael Treacy be our keynote this year. I suppose that, as a function of that, I get to take some credit for him enlightening many of us with new ideas. I heard more than a few people say things like “best keynote SCIP has ever had” and, while I take pride in those comments, for me Treacy was more about a renewed energy to keep striving to be the best. He’s also given me some new ways of examining situations that may have longer-range impact. In particular, I felt his comments about bridge building and getting to that first lane providing functional utility is so important, before you think too seriously about a 2- or 4-lane bridge – that was a simple yet elegant reminder to many of us, particularly those of you new in your roles or a lone practitioner supporting the organization. His comments about receiving venture money with the discipline to work toward a state of being cash flow positive in 12 months applies to most of us too.
But, my favorite Treacy comment last Thursday was “Secretariat wasn’t a horse that day!”. I’m not necessarily a horse racing fan, but I am a huge fan of competition, of all varieties. As the Kentucky Derby approaches this weekend, perhaps some of you will also find strength from that comment to continue your efforts to lead your companies over whatever hurdles stand in your way… and achieve a stride that outdistances your competition.
I would enjoy the opportunity to take any feedback you might have about the conference – feel free to reach me at Derek.Johnson@AuroraWDC.com