Training & Development

Quint’s Column: A defining moment for Pensacola’s business community

Quint Studer at EntreCon 2017.

EntreCon is over, and it was a wonderful experience. First, a huge shout-out to everyone who helped make the conference such a big success. The speakers were amazing, the sponsors really stepped up, the community volunteers kept everything on track, and the staff from SCI did a terrific job of executing on all the details.

The venues were the perfect setting for all the energy and creativity that were generated and the connections that were made. The downtown restaurants really stepped up to keep everyone fed and happy.

Last year, EntreCon was a great local conference. This year, it was a great conference that just happened to be local. It gets better and better every year, and we are already looking forward to seeing what the 2018 conference brings.

I cannot say enough good things about the EntreCon attendees. As the speakers talked about the lack of engagement everywhere, it struck me that I was in the midst of one of the most engaged groups of people I have ever been a part of. During keynotes and breakout sessions, everyone leaned in, took notes and continued discussions long after the sessions ended. Everyone was eager to learn and connect with others. During breaks, lots of introductions were being made and business cards were exchanged.

When I think of all the progress that has been made in Pensacola, it’s clear that a key part of the success comes from galvanizing this army of citizens who happen to be business owners. The business sector is a well-orchestrated community, and there is so much power in community. In this case, 1+1=3. They are far more powerful together than they are separately.

Pensacola has proven that a galvanized army of businesspeople with a single mission and focus is the key to creating a vibrant community. Without them, Pensacola wouldn’t be the growing, thriving city it is today.

So what exactly is it that makes Pensacola’s business community a force to be reckoned with? Here are five driving factors:

Businesses share best practices with each other. Ask a business owner what the secret to success is and they will quickly tell you it’s learning from the mistakes of others. They depend on other businesses to openly share what’s working and what isn’t. Pensacola’s business community serves as an incredible source of connection, support and advice.

The community is fortunate to have an abundance of “superusers.” In marketing, superusers are those customers who proudly carry the banner for a brand. In this case, the “brand” is the Pensacola business community. The superusers are those people who actually devote their own time to the success of other community members — by coaching and mentoring others, recruiting new members, or providing advice and feedback. In fact, a lot of the speaking talent for EntreCon came from our local business community.

Building and connecting the business community has been very intentional. A thriving business community won’t just happen on its own. Connections have to be sparked and nurtured. The Lunch and Learns and Business Round Tables have been critical in creating bonds and getting everyone speaking the same language. The more members communicate with one another, the more engaged they become.

The business leaders are committed learners. For a business owner, taking two days out of work for a conference is a big sacrifice. EntreCon attendees realize that to keep getting better, you have to make time to really focus on learning. You learn a better way, then you do it, then you give back to others by sharing what you’ve learned.

They see the value in learning together as a group. Virtual learning can be a great thing, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction. That’s why EntreCon is important. It forces people to pause from their busy lives and get together under the same roof. The synergy is amazing. There is also a reason it’s a two-day conference. Something happens overnight. People process the ideas and they wake up with a deeper understanding of the issues. Then they build on their new insights the next day.

EntreCon is proof that bringing the business community together to learn can be a very powerful thing. People really do want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. These connections between businesses do matter. Not only does EntreCon help business owners find advice and support, but also the things they learn from other businesses can help their own companies grow. When businesses succeed, they create more jobs and foster local economic growth.

The closing keynote speaker was Dan Heath, one of the authors of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. He described the power of creating those defining moments that change our lives forever. He says there are four elements that make up a defining moment: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. EntreCon hit all four elements of the defining moments Dan described:

Elevation. This means memorable delight. At EntreCon, elevation happened through the ah-ha moments we experienced, the laughs we enjoyed, the hallway connections we made.

Insight. Insight is about rewiring our understanding of ourselves or the world. We learned some things that will influence lives for decades, including how to start creating moments in our own lives, both at work and at home.

Pride. Dan talked about moments of achievement and moments of courage. During EntreCon, the Cox Business Awards ceremony celebrated the efforts of the business community. Reward and recognition are so important. These awards were a real source of pride and not just for recipients — the entire community celebrated their wins.

Connection. The shared experience of hearing the messages together binds us together in a different way. It reminded us that we are not just a collection of businesses; we are a unified business community. And we are part of a larger civic community as well.

EntreCon was a defining moment for our business community. It brought people together, taught us new things, connected us, and proved that we are stronger as a group. I am so grateful to be a part of it all…and to be a citizen of the vibrant community that is Pensacola.