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What I Learned at the EY Strategic Growth Forum

Thanks to a hook up from my dad, I was able to attend this year's EY Strategic Growth Forum a few weeks ago. This was a four-day bender for us entrepreneurial types, looking to sit at the feet of people who have achieved a lot while also rubbing elbows with people still doing it. All while eating and drinking in Palm Springs.

So I had to go, right?

I was glad I did. This may have been the best and best-run conference I've attended. Maybe I'll return one day to take the stage myself, but for now, I went to several sessions and left with lots of new ideas and proven tactics. Below are my notes from these sessions. I've arranged them by speaker and a single thematic word, in case you're looking to glean a little wisdom yourself.

H. Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO, SC Johnson - TRUST

Johnson runs one of the most successful family businesses ever. In fact, while the company's brands flashed on the screen (Off, Windex, Ziploc, etc.), he asked who in the audience had at least one of these under the counter in their home. Every hand shot up. That was impressive. 

He talked about how and why employees and customers must trust a company:

  • "Information is critical. Share it. Without it, people will fear the worst."
  • On making commercials: "You get to do fun things when you know what you stand for."
  • "Stick around long enough and you'll get to tell some great stories."

Leading CEO Panel with Fedele Bauccio, CEO, Bon Appétit Management Company; Paul Grangaard, President and CEO, Allen Edmonds Corporation; and Jennifer Morgan, President, North America SAP America, Inc. - LEADERSHIP

You can see the full video of this chat here. Below is what they said that I took away, broken down by who said it:

What challenges do you face each day at work?

  • Bauccio: "The rate of change that Millennials are bringing about."
  • Grangaard: "If I lose the hearts and minds of our people, then I'm done as CEO."
  • Morgan: "Are we moving fast enough?"

Who is one CEO you admire?

  • Bauccio: Howard Schultz, Starbucks
  • Grangaard: Richard Davis, US Bank
  • Morgan: Jack Welch, GE

What is one book you'd recommend:

How do you relax?

  • Bauccio: "I play golf."
  • Grangaard: "Ride my bike, golf, play the trumpet, go to a nice dinner."
  • Morgan: "Hot yoga."

What do you think your business will be like 10 years from now?

  • Bauccio: "Technology is rapidly changing the food industry. I think technology will drive us toward a more plant-based diet, helping us to create even healthier products for people."
  • Grangaard: "People will still shop in physical stores, but the products will be shipped home for them. There will only be two major department stores and they'll have a lot of in-house lines."
  • Morgan: "The economy will be even more networked and we'll really start to see the effects of the power of sharing."

David C. Novak, Executive Chairman, Yum! Brands, Inc. - RECOGNITION

Novak led the massive growth of Pepsi and KFC (among other brands) while actively leading those respective businesses and now has a book that details a lot of his strategy and successes. But, ultimately, it comes down to making sure people feel valued.

  • "Self awareness is the key to lasting leadership."
  • “No involvement, no commitment."
  • "The most important job of a leader is to define reality."

Lisa Bodell, CEO, futurethink - WORK

Bodell covered a lot in her brief time on stage, especially as it related to running a company, staying innovative, and leading others. A few quick takeaways:

  • "Most folks spend their time in meetings and emails. This is not where innovation happens."
  • "What makes you great as a leader may make you bad as an innovator."

I've got one more session and panel to recap for you soon - a session I attended all about purpose. In the meantime, crawl around the conference website and you'll see just how high profile and deep this event was.


Sam DavidsonComment