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Never Stop Learning

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs conference which was held in Chicago. This was my fourth year attending the conference and it’s a great event, besides the fact that I’m black and an entrepreneur there’s numerous reasons why attending a conference like this one is extremely beneficial. The connections made with other entrepreneurs and professionals, the professional development, and the opportunity to charge your batteries and be inspired by other individuals who are in the trenches like yourself is priceless, and all of these benefits can help you generate more revenue.   Any entrepreneur with common sense understands the importance of building their professional network because after all you network is going to determine your net worth. A conference such as this is networking on steroids thousands of professionals who you have a chance to meet face to face have in depth conversations and discover synergies. If you attempted to meet the same amount of professionals on your own it would take a lifetime at a conference you can accomplish this in a few days. In addition you can make higher level connections that would be difficult to make otherwise. I’ve met and made serious connections with C-Suite executives that have dramatically changed the trajectory of our business at conferences. These are individuals that if I cold called them, or emailed I would never get through.  I’ve also met other professionals who’ve become great partners enhancing the services we’re able to offer to customers, and on a personal level I’ve met a lot of good people who’ve become good friends.

Entrepreneurs are like teenagers; exuberant, enthusiastic, willing to take chances, and think they know everything.  In actuality we don’t and you need to have a commitment to professional development that will allow you to grow and take your business to the next level.  At Highbrid we have that commitment and its evident by the in house workshops that we run every Monday but again it would take a million Mondays and a million workshops to duplicate the level of professional development afforded to you by attending the sessions, panel discussions, and workshops a conference has to offer over the course of a few days. These panel discussions and workshops can provide invaluable information that you otherwise would have never known, such as ways to secure financing, how to use technology to enhance your business, how to franchise your business, building an exit plan to sell your business. You can also discover emerging trends and technology in business that you’ll be able to add making a difference in your bottom line.  For me as a principal of Highbrid it’s important that I bring these findings and  newly learned approaches share them with my staff and  begin implementing those they make sense for the growth of the company.  Highbrid has been able to develop proven strategies through information we learned by taking professional development seriously, part of that is attending conferences.

Depending on the size of a particular conference or trade show you can have upwards of 10,000+ participants including vendors, sponsors, and event staff, you have the opportunity to meet all types of people. If it’s a gathering of professionals in your industry or in this case other business owners it can be a very invigorating, and inspiring to meet some of these people. In your professional life at times you get very entrenched from day to day can develop tunnel vision to the rest of world and possibilities around it so it’s great to be able to meet different professionals from different parts of the country or globe. Typically they’re dealing with some of the same issues as you and could help provide insight on how to approach these issues.

Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs conference is one of several events that Highbrid Media’s staff attends throughout the year including Ad Week NY, B.E. Golf and Tennis Challenge, CETW conference for Digital Signage professionals and other conferences, trade shows and events. The connections made, professional development attained, and some of the great personalities we’ve had the opportunity to meet and be inspired by has been more than worth the time and resources and has had a direct positive impact on our bottom line.

Daniel Gutzmore Comment
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conferences, BlACK Enterprise, Professional Development, HIGHBRID MEDIA, Adweek

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Track Shoes Versus Combat Boots

As I wake up this morning reflecting on this day in America that we know as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day. I think about where we are as a country and if Dr. King would approve, be proud, disappointed, shocked, hopeful or resentful. To be honest I think he would be a bit of all of those combined. Dr King wasn't into favors or a "hook up" he didn't want someone to get preferential treatment b/c they were a minority (and when I speak of minorities it includes women as well) he wanted everyone to be treated the same and for people not to be discriminated against based on the color of their skin, gender, or sexual orientation. To paraphrase one of my personal business hero's Earl Graves Sr. minorities want to run the race with the same track shoes as non minorities as opposed to having to run with combat boots on.

More than 40 years after Dr. King was assassinated fighting for an equal opportunity and economic equality we have made strides towards leveling the playing field but are very far behind were Dr. King would have wanted us to be and the numbers tell us all we need to know.  It's  a different fight than it was in Dr. King's day and even he realized what was the next important step, economic equality as he was organizing The Poor People's movement to bring together poor people of all races to demand a fair shake and  living wages from the powers that be.With the disparities in wealth that we see in 2012 with the average minority being worth roughly 5k and the average non minority being worth over 100k this is undeniably the new form of oppression and the front lines of the modern day civil rights movement highlighted most recently by the occupy demonstrations.

The disparities hold true in the business world as well especially in the advertising/marketing/ P.R. arenas. "Supplier Diversity" is a word that has been thrown around the industry for years but really has no teeth to it and is meaningless. I've said it privately amongst friends and colleagues and I'm saying it hear publicly "There is little to no supplier or employee diversity in advertising" Yes some agencies have supplier diversity programs and diversity exchanges were once or twice a year they have a "forum" to talk about diversity in the industry and what can be done to improve it. They'll even invite minority suppliers and walk them through what it would take to do business together, knowing that as long as that supplier is minority or woman owned they'd never do business with them or even listen to what they have to say.

Similar to Dr. King and Earl Graves we don't want the business or opportunity b/c we're minority or woman owned but we'd at least like the decency and respect to have he opportunity to present our talent and capabilities in the same manner that non minority firms do. The only way this change will take place is mandates from clients. The Brands that hire these agencies must start demanding that minority firms and suppliers be used on their campaigns and not just when they are trying to reach a minority audience or demographic to push a product and service but in all cases. Because as my landlord in college once told me "Money Talks". Until the lack of diversity begins to effect the bottom line of these agencies "Supplier Diversity" will continue to be a hollow catch phrase companies trot out like a show pony to look good in the public eye.

Let us continue Dr. King's legacy by ensuring that every person, company, and organization is judged and given or not given opportunities based on their character and ability to get the Job done as opposed to the color of their skin, gender, or sexual orientation. Then and only then will we start fulfilling "The Dream".

@vpgutzmore

Daniel Gutzmore Comment
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Civil Rights, Minorities, Occupy Wall Street, Marketing, Advertising, BlACK Enterprise, Dr- Martin Luher King Jr-, Public Realations, Earl Graves Sr-, Supplier Diversity

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