Loudon Design

Seanwes Conference: So Polished


Seanwes Conference in a word, incredible. This article should have been written on the plane home on Monday but after over 29 hours of being awake, I found it difficult to put my many thoughts into words. Thankfully I have now had a chance to sleep off much of the jet lag.

So what happened at Seanwes Conference? A lot. To summarise it I will share the message I sent to my wife when she asked: “so how did it go?”

“Imagine going into a room. Everyone there cares about every other person like a cousin, sister or brother. Only instead of not understanding you they get you on every level. They assign you levels based on your mindset, ideas, business implementation and conversations. You laugh, eat, share experiences and construct. They are truly international so it gives unbelievable insight dynamics. Also, they are super smart, and all working their ass off. Some more than others granted, but it shows all different approaches. A hustle family.

I am a straight talking guy, if I don’t find value in a task, I switch off from it. This was the first event experience I have had in which I extracted value from almost every minute I was awake.

The question I guess most would interested to learn is:

Was Seanwes Conference good value for money?

Based on the fact I spent $5500 of my own money to make this happen, I was expecting a lot from this conference. Yet, the talks themselves were not the area I expected that value to come from. Rather I went to mix with peers and other business owners that had been implementing similar ideas to their own businesses.

Some of the conversations I had on the day I landed changed how I see my business and have given clarity as to how I move forward with it. I would say this week was easily worth ten times what I paid for it.

I have previously been too great conferences, seen good talks, made lasting connections. However, I am not accustomed to so many business owners being a completely open book with their earnings, costs, and strategies that work for them.

On a slightly less serious note, the other question friends will be asking is ‘did I melt?’

I am not a “sunshine” sort of guy. In fact, I hate being warm, so when I announced in 2015 I would be flying out for one week of business in Texas the number one statement was “John, you will melt”. The update was yes, compared to Glasgow Scotland, Austin is like walking around a very large relentless oven. Yet I am told on good authority that this weather is “cold” to Texans.

I was nicknamed “Meltin’ John” because nearly every time I went outside I would start baking. Despite the heat, Texas was an amazing place. The people there are lovely and you are made to feel very welcome. I will definitely be back next year.

So let’s discuss the value of this trip


1. Coffee & Meetups

Great People

Long before the conference started people began arriving in Austin.

Our community members travelled in from Egypt, Thailand, Luxembourg, Romania, London, Glasgow, Dublin, Brazil, and all over the United States. It was one of the most culturally diverse groups of business people I have sat within.

seanwes 2016 community members

Joe Darnell (www.joedarnell.com)

Each attendee came with a business or side passion that was at a variety of different positions. This made the conversation extremely enjoyable and dynamic when we discussed the issues and successes we had.

Seanwes Conference Mindset

Having spent a year and a half with the members of this community online, I would say I have a good idea of the general mindset of the room. The biggest asset within this business community is the way the members think. You won’t find any form of negativity. Feedback is given in volume and they will be as straight talking as you can handle.

Seanwes Conference 2016

Joe Darnell (www.joedarnell.com)

The general spiteful comments or vague “that’s nice” seen on communities like dribbble is absent. You could go into the chat system and say I am stressed with this business situation, I don’t know what to do, and leave with 10 different approaches and clarity on what you are doing right and wrong. That’s what it’s like online.

So offline you are having those same types of conversations only you are sharing a coffee or a local Austin cider. It’s infectious to get around people like that. I have never experienced it until now. It’s a great feeling to sit in a room where at least 50% of the people are smashing records for net profit, youtube engagement or email subscription.


Give and Take

The best part about any meetup is the giving and taking of information. When you are talking shop, discussing business strategy, tools, and books you have the opportunity to directly help those who are in need of guidance as to what their next step could look like.

I have an incredible design business. I do well for my sector and I am lucky enough to be in the position to reject or take on the types of projects I feel passionate about. It’s taken me many years to work out the best way to run a design company. Even all this time later I find myself tweaking and adapting my approach and processes.

There were several digital businesses at these meetup’s and I recognised myself in many of the same situations. How do you win new work? How do you handle workloads? How do you budget for your business? What tools do you use for X and Y scenario?

It wasn’t all me giving, though. I didn’t travel out purely to be a good guy and share everything I had learnt, there were plenty of individuals there that were miles (kilometres) ahead of me when it comes to business development.
Right now as I write this I have been in business for Loudon Design, for just under a year and a half. Business has been growing steadily and I have a great range of opportunities landing in my mailbox or live chat.
I have 18 pages of notes taken from just the conference meetups, 7 days, afternoons and nights spent talking with other business owners. It’s immensely valuable and I know what I need to do to get the most out of the next 12 months.


2. Six Days of Austin Mastermind

New friends

I met this person on the internet, doesn’t really make them a friend though does it? There’s a big difference between chatting to pixels and discussing something with someone face-to-face. To read body language and also emotion in the way someone communicates an idea.

I met many great people, I didn’t actually meet anyone that I was not keen on. Which is unusual as most of the time there is going to be someone you don’t gel with.

Austin Mastermind

I made the decision to share an AirBnB with two business owners I had never spoke to. Alex was from Romania, and Damien was from Luxembourg. I expected we would get along and might discuss the findings from each day. That happened but also we started running mastermind sessions in the flat.

We each explained what we did in detail and what we are struggling with most. Could be cash flow, or growing pains, traffic or conversion. Regardless we shared these problems, we spoke in real numbers and nothing was hidden. After the overviews had been understood we moved onto deep dive sessions.


Deep dive sessions

A deep dive is when you look into a person’s business with them and ask questions about why a decision has been made. You provide feedback where you can see good and bad traits being implemented.

Deep Dive Sessions

Joe Darnell (www.joedarnell.com)

Some examples:

  • You are asking for their budget, you shouldn’t do that because…
  • You are focusing on yourself, rather than what you can do for the clients.
  • This image is misleading for this body of text

Having honest feedback helps you take a reading of where you actually are.

Lot’s of us just keep the head down and plough through things. How rare it is to sit in a room and actually have time to go through your thinking on your business process, documentation, social media, blog, newsletters, sales techniques, branding, promotional materials and website.

Unsolicited Advice

After spending a week with a person you get a good sense of what drives them. You can say with a high level of accuracy what they are trying to achieve and what methods they have attempted to get there.

Unsolicited advice is a bit like a deep dive session only the business being spoken about is not allowed to talk. You must sit there in complete silence. You can take notes but you can’t butt in even if you want to explain something.

The difference in this approach is people speak about you as if you are not in the room. That flags a lot of different things. Perhaps your website is not clear enough about what you do. Or you are not using titles to their best effect. Regardless of what you hear it is guaranteed you will discover some things about your business that you had dropped the ball on.

No one is perfect. We are all learning. Having sessions like this can be amazingly valuable and I managed to fit in six of them over the week.


3. Seanwes Conference

Eight great speakers, all members of the community itself gave talks on their specialisms and experience. Some of the members are running their own communities, doubling down on their niche, or smashin records with content marketing.

Every talk was relevant to what I have been implementing with Loudon Design. I found Nathan Barry, owner of ConvertKit had an extremely valuable talk and I know that another member from London had flown out there purely for the opportunity to talk business with Nathan.

Seanwes Conference Day 1

Shawn Blanc

Shawn Blanc created an enthusiastic talk about 50 things his dad never taught him about blogging. In the objective of fairness, I won’t share them all here. 50 lines of bullets would make this one talk dominate the article.

The key areas he suggested you focused would be first to show up every day, and also give yourself permission to not be perfect. It’s better to release something imperfect than wait forever to launch anything. If you won’t share you will not learn.

Learning is what moves you forward.

“We don’t make movies so we can make money. We make money so we can make more movies” – Walt Disney

Shawn Blanc Seanwes Conference
Emily Carlton (www.emilycarlton.com)


Katie Hunt

Katie owns and runs a business community, it’s in the process of migrating from Facebook to her personal platform. What made this talk so interesting was that her community had been built up purely on facebook. So we could see a different comparison on business success on someone else’s platform, and building it on your own.

Katie also shared a lot of insight into how she grows her community and fosters the right attitudes to empower her members to engage each other in debate and conversation.

Katie Hunt Seanwes ConferenceEmily Carlton (www.emilycarlton.com)


Kyle Adams

I have followed Kyle Adams for some time, he is an extremely humble yet insanely talented icon designer. Often referred to as the “icons guy”. Kyle shared his story with us, how he went from being an illustration and UX Designer to focusing on something that was not even a sector or recognised subset. Icons.

Kyle only writes about, talks about or creates Icons, and this has led to him taking over that niche.

The premise of his talk is to focus on one thing, master it completely to grow your client base and increase your discovery.

Do not chase every type of design work. Focus hard and niche down into something you are awesome at.

It’s worth mentioning Kyle had badly hurt his back, and had been confined to a wheelchair in San Antonio Texas.

Kyle is so passionate about icons, that he pulled off a Bruce lee style stunt and stood up out of his wheelchair to deliver the full talk.

“I don’t want to give up the skills I have now to focus on one thing” – Kyle Adams

Kyle Adams Seanwes Conference
Emily Carlton (www.emilycarlton.com)

Seanwes Conference Day 2

Charli Prangley

Having met up with Charli in a meet up in London earlier this year. I was excited to see her talk on Consistency is key for building an audience.

Charli’s slides were super clean, the content was well delivered. I think she won the full room over with her London/Kiwi voice and the great sense of humour.

The talk focuses on balancing three important factors: 1. Schedule 2. Quality 3. Topics

To focus on one or two and ignore the other spells disaster for Vloggers, and Charli would know she has done this for years and has 30,000 subscribers to her channel and it’s still growing!

Charli Marie TV Seanwes Conference Emily Carlton (www.emilycarlton.com)

Sarah Dayan

If you have ever read The Design Professional by Andy Rutledge and enjoyed it, you would love Sarahs talk. Sarah brought pure fire to the conference. Nothing was held back, she ripped right into the audience and call them out on their lack of professionalism.

You have to love the confidence of that sort of talk, especially to a room full of people who are top of their respective fields for the most part. There are young people there that earn 6 figures in the launch week of their products. So it’s not like she was talking to tire kickers.

Sarah’s talk was great, I look forward to rewatching the videos. Hopefully, it will also show some of the aghast audience as they are shamed by how business is done.

Sarah Dayan Seanwes Conference Emily Carlton (www.emilycarlton.com)


Nathan Barry

The top talk for me had to go to Nathan Barry. If you are not sure who he is, do yourself a favour and check out ConvertKit.com. Nathan build a competitive product to MailChimp because he saw an area the company was dropping the ball in. They had become too big and lost their connection with the types of people they serve. Far from seeing MailChimp as the competition he just views their business has grown so big it can’t operate at this level without also skewing the product for the other users.

Nathans talk shared real number, spoke about the foundation techniques he had used to build up his company. It was clear to me Nathan was operating on a different level to the rest of us. A true inspiration on doubling down and making a great business from your passion.

“Create a system that helps you create content. Create from a mindset of enough. Focus on what you do best, surround yourself with candid people, perfect your revenue model and build systems to create” – Nathan Barry

Nathan Barry Seanwes Conference Emily Carlton (www.emilycarlton.com)

Seanwes Conference Day 3

Ben Toalson

Ben spoke passionately about balancing work and family life. Something I struggle with a lot. In my house, the roles are split in a very traditional manner. I work a lot, paying for the lifestyle and quality of experiences I want my family to have. I work hard, but in truth, my wife works harder. She is a great mum looking after me, the kids and running the house for the majority of the time on her own.

I get asked a lot how I can have such a high volume of output the fact is I have a solid support network that backs me up. Without my wife, I wouldn’t have half the time I do have to make a success of my company.

Bens talk was very helpful in looking into the difficulties we have in a business when you have kids and family life to balance in.

“Balance is realised when you set goals for each area of your life and take action” – @bentoalson

Ben Toalson seanwes conference Emily Carlton (www.emilycarlton.com)


Sean McCabe

Seans talk focused on thinking bigger, it was the strapline of Seanwes Conference and the subject of his talk. He spoke at length about getting outside your comfort zones, moving beyond yourself and thinking in bigger units.

He also had a lot of advice in dealing with hate. When your writing online, sharing your values, your skills, your business you are eventually going to get someone giving you a hard time about it.

If no one hates you, you are not doing enough. For some to love, some will hate. It’s just that negative people speak louder than the positive people do.

It is your ethical duty to fulfil your potential. Shyness is thinking about yourself.

If you think enough of other people, you won’t be shy. You cannot afford to be shy.

What keeps us from thinking or acting bigger? We are afraid of being criticised. We are afraid of being hated.

“If your work is strong enough for someone to hate you, it’s strong enough for someone to love you. The middle is what you should fear.” – Sean McCabe

Sean McCabe Seanwes Conference 2016Emily Carlton (www.emilycarlton.com)

Seanwes Conference, In Closing

In summary, I got more than I expected from the first Seanwes Conference. It was an awesome week. One of the best highlights of my career and I can’t wait to go back and see how far we have all travelled in our businesses.