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International Conferences are a great place to learn new skills and build strong networks. I love everything about the business, especially learning how to do things better. Having a business is a great learning experience. When you are the decision maker you succeed and fail by the ideas you put into play.
Loudon Design is the latest business I have implemented. I had run a successful freelance web design business in the past but I put that business into hibernation when I decided to work within the commercial design sector.
Having a business again has really allowed me to see how far I have travelled. This time round I spent time building a quality portfolio, honing my craft and putting in my time to enable me to offer a more rounded service.
That journey in my mind has only just begun. I want to continue learning, adapting and moving forward. The best way to improve is to get around people that are further ahead of the game than you. I now have a strong business network, an accountability partner, secured a mentor and invested into an international business group.
Each any every one of those listed helped make Loudon Design what it is today. I allow my business to be shaped and tweaked. Testing new thinking and strategy and observing where it leads.
For me, that meant solo travel. When I was living with my parents we never flew anywhere. My mum was scared of flying and that had an impact on the types of holidays we could go on.
I’ve seen more of the United Kingdom than most people that live here. I had never flown until very recently (three years ago) and on that flight, I had not taken any ownership for planning the flight and transfer arrangements.
When the seanwes conference was announced for October 2016, myself the non-traveller instantly bought a ticket.
I was committed.
Backing yourself into a corner. Forced yourself to deal with things you fear most. It is a harsh method that has worked for me many times in my life. You can’t back out if you have put a lot money down on the table. That was my way of forcing myself out of my defined comfort zone.
The next step was to work enough to make Loudon Design pay for the accommodation, flights, currency and equipment I would be taking. If you are reading this I flew out yesterday (I wrote this article on my flight).
You might wonder why a Scottish Web Designer would travel over 5200 miles just to go to a conference. There are several reasons why I decided to go, we covered one in that I wanted to put myself in an uncomfortable place as that’s how you grow as a person.
If you always take the easy, known paths in life you will never discover anything new.
Growing up in Scotland I quickly learnt as a nation we are very critical borderline self-sabotaging when it comes to business.
Scotland used to be a visionary country, with a lot of people taking top positions across the world.
Jump forward to 2016, and you will observe that there is an underlying opinion that to make money and have a successful business makes you “one of them” and you can find yourself alienated from friends, family and colleagues.
I was never a fan of that mentality. When I think of business I see hard work, people working longer than average hours to build something they are passionate about.
I believe the Americans now have the advantage on us in this regard, which is why the entrepreneurs I spend the most time listening to reside in the United States.
There is nothing wrong with a business being successful. Creating wealth, jobs and exports is something a business owner should be proud of, rather than being shamed.
Entrepreneurs don’t look at other business men and women and think they are bad people for making a profit, they recognise the positive attributes and impact those businesses are making. Without businesses to make money there are no jobs, if you have no jobs your country will go nowhere fast and the people that are unlucky enough to live there will have a not so happy life.
I joined an American business community rather than a British community as I seen core differences in how the two countries approached business. While there are outstanding businesses that are forward thinking within the United Kingdom they are in the minority.
In Scotland, we almost play our ideas down. The analogy I always use is the coffee shop.
• Scotland’s Inward Focus – If the owner was Scottish they would start out saying their business plan is to become the best coffee shop in Scotland, then work themselves down to Glasgow, then down to 2 coffee shops in a street, to a single coffee shop inside another store. This mentality is driven by the fear of failure and I’ve seen it more times than I can count.
• America’s Outward Focus – If you look at our cousins in America they start a company to dominate the world, they want to be the best in class. A global business from day one, regardless of if they are a mum and dad business or coming from a family of entrepreneurs, there is the concept of the American dream and aiming big.
If you are serious about growth it’s important to assess the difference between both local and international conferences. Getting around people that think progressively about business growth and strategy has a profound effect on your own mentality.
If you surround yourself with people who doubt themselves, are negative to every idea you employ or critical of every success you’re setting yourself up to believe them.
In contrast surrounding yourself with supportive, open and successful people does the same thing, only you find your mind opening up to more possibilities for both yourself and your business.
The biggest driver when I booked this conference was the mindset. I want to grow and that means getting around people I believe in and see as examples of best practitioners to learn from.
International Conferences: surrounding yourself with supportive, open and successful people will change your mindset for the better and allow you to grow more as a business.
When I played chess as a child I sought out adult players, as I understood that losing would teach me more than winning.
I would give it my best shot, I would try to win using the techniques acquired from earlier games. More often than not I would lose against a superior adult player.
When I played against friends I would easily beat them, because I could spot the common mistakes I used to make.
This is exactly how I view skills development. I didn’t want to travel to America. Travelling to the States on my own without someone to bounce concerns off should things go wrong. There was always the option to put that money into other areas of my business.
Thankfully I didn’t.
I believe I made the best call by booking the first ticket for the conference. I forced myself the think through the problems. To address my fears about solo travel. I flew to London as a test run, just so I could experience flying solo.
If you come from a family that flew a lot or have extensively travelled solo you will be unlikely to picture what it feels like to be close to 30 years old and not know how airports operate. I had a general idea but there’s a lot going on at airports for someone who has never been through the process.
When I came back from London I felt like the world had become smaller. I looked at how far I could fly in 10 hours, and suddenly options opened up to me. It’s hard to convey in words but I felt liberated that I could go anywhere I wanted in very little time. I would have never have felt like that if I didn’t challenge myself.
It will sound foolish to some people reading this “well done you got on a plane” but for me, that was one of my biggest challenges I have faced and I had to overcome my fears and doubts to achieve it. How many people are willing to jump into a fear, rather than intentionally avoiding it?
International Conferences: If you want to grow you need to seek out the challenge, failing a challenge to big, will teach you more than years of sitting in your comfort zone.
The conference I am going is more than your standard conference.
It’s not about the speakers, it about the people who are attending. It has intentionally been kept small (100 people) and focused on individuals that think a certain way. Every speaker comes from the communities own membership, as do all the attendees.
There are no sponsors, no promotional stands and no compromises.
The entire event is set up around helping members grow their business.
I have been to conferences in the United Kingdom and like most events you find they are hard pushed to keep the schedule on track. Normally, you can barely find a minute to have a valuable discussion with another attendee.
The tradition for conferences is to pack talks’ surrounding industry buzz words into the schedule. More things equals more value, right?
Wrong. Quantity doesn’t equate to quality.
You would be helped more by in a single talk and networking session that was tailored to helping you solve business problems you are facing, and tools and skills that assist in what you are personally trying to achieve.
One of the main attractions about the seanwes conference is that I would be getting around people that I respect. The people within the walled community have achieved almost unbelievable things by committing to their values and doing the hard work.
We have Filmmakers, investors, artists, singers, craftsman and developers. It’s one of the most diverse groups of people I have come across and the achievements within the group are incredible.
The shared experience of the group is the strongest asset of the community. Having real life face to face connections with members can only enhance the quality of that experience.
I can say with confidence that I will learn a huge amount in the week I am in Austin, Texas.
International Conferences: I learn more in a 30-minute discussion with these people than I do in a full week of reading.
Friends support you, family support you, businesses in your sector generally work in competition with you, but not here. I actively talk to other businesses with similar services and product models to my own. We help each other and it benefits us more than working in friction.
Trying to tear another person down is energy wasted, no one benefits from it. It’s the primary goal of Loudon Design. My mission statement if you will, to help businesses grow and take more of their market. I achieve this in a positive manner.
Even if you don’t like your competitors, you can learn from them. Defending your secrets gets you nowhere. Very few ideas in life are truly unique, we reshape what we see, hear and learn from elsewhere.
International Conferences: “That was a great idea, I want to do something like that for my business”
Last, but certainly not least I am attending to learn new business skills.
All of that came from skills I have obtained over the years.
Learn what works and do it more. Learn what fails and prevent yourself from making those errors again. It’s all growth. Constantly learning skills that will make you better at what you do. Empowering yourself with what you need to implement and achieve positive results.
I have read so many books on business, finance, marketing and design. Paid for courses, attended workshops. All to sharpen my skillset.
International Conferences: An investment in your own abilities is a gift that keeps on giving.
If you are not growing and picking up new skills you are unlikely to achieve your goals. Life is better when you invest in yourself and keep working towards bigger aspirations and events. I don’t mean purely in a financial sense, this could be to grow your business, to be a better father, to support more people in your community.
Everyone should have a goal and put in some time each day to achieve it.
I knew before I wrote this article out I would have a lot to say about this topic. The trip to Austin is the key highlight of 2016 for my business. I have worked hard to make travelling to the United States a reality.
Austin will be something I remember for a long time. It’s a life event for me, my first international solo flight, my first business trip, my first solo conference, my first visit to America, and my first seanwes conference.
If you’re reading this as a fellow community member I look forward to meeting you in person.