The Symposium is a unique business event that seeks to open minds, expand understanding, and inspire new ways of thinking.
Many of us go to conventions and meetings throughout the year. They’re usually pretty standards affairs, with speakers who focus on a narrow group of topics relevant to a specific industry. The AmeriQuest Symposium is nothing like that. This gathering of C-level executives and top suppliers offers so much more than the standard fare. Instead of hearing the same messages…”how to sell”…”how to buy”…”how to cut costs”…attendees at the Symposium are hearing about new ways to think. They find themselves considering new perspectives from speakers who at first seem to have only a tangential connection to their business.
Before we get to that, let’s just say that the Ritz-Carlton is a fantastic venue, the food was incredible, and the networking opportunities were unparalleled. With fewer than 300 attendees, everyone was able to find time to communicate with one another…and I’m sure new bonds were forged.
The future belongs to those who are fast.
Now on to the speakers, those who showed us their passion and vision, and inspired us to do more; on the morning of the first day, attendees were greeted by three different speakers with three distinct messages that actually tied together very well. The first speaker was Jim Carroll, a well-known futurist who reports on trends and technology, and speaks before groups as diverse as a national farming organization, a group of nuclear physicists, and NASA. The theme of his presentation was “change is happening faster than ever before,” and that successful companies will be those that define themselves by agility and change. As he predicted, “the future belongs to those who are fast.” I’ll write more about what Mr. Carroll had to say in a future blog, but one of the most incredible points he made was that 65% of today’s pre-school children will work in jobs and careers that do not yet exist.”
Your business is going to get hacked. Deal with it.
If Mr. Carroll made us think about the future and how fast things are changing, the next speaker, Theresa Payton, scared the living daylights out of most of us. Ms. Payton was the White House CIO under President George W. Bush and is a renowned cybersecurity expert. What businessperson wouldn’t be scared when an expert in this field states, right off the bat that businesses are going to get hacked. It’s not a possibility; it’s a probability, and successful businesses will focus on having detailed plans for dealing with this likelihood. She went into specific details regarding all the places that threats come from…and that’s just about everywhere. Considering the breaches that have been occurring, this topic couldn’t be timelier. Here’s one frightening statistic: every 90 seconds, a new deviant of malware is developed.
What’s the deal with Gen Y?
The morning’s final speaker was Curt Steinhorst, a 30-year old communications expert and one of the country’s rising Gen Y leaders in the professional speaking market. His humor-laced presentation had some very serious things to say about intergenerational misunderstandings and miscalculations. He spoke of the frustration that baby boomer bosses experience when dealing with a generation that appears to feel it’s entitled. But the reality for this generation is quite different than it might seem. Gen Y, those born between the years 1977 and 1995, actually have the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression. They are the fastest-growing, lowest-paid, and least established in loyalty of any generation today. Mr. Steinhorst compared the attributes of Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y and asked that companies try to understand how Gen Y employees were raised. This is a generation that wants to make an impact; one that will actually take a pay cut in order to work somewhere that he or she believes in.
What connects all of these speakers is a recognized need for agility and speed in order to capture and hold success. This is an era of connectivity, where, for good or ill, all of us are wired to one another and how we deal with that fact will determine the success or failure of our business and our life.
How is the economy really doing?
The afternoon’s sessions were a bit more business oriented, beginning with a presentation by Dr. Martin Regalia, Sr. Vice President for Economic & Tax Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He spoke about the current state of the economy and where it is projected to go. Although he spoke of the positive trajectory, he made it clear that we are not where we want to be or need to be. Dr. Regalia spoke of the reality that the U.S. economy depends strongly on personal consumption, to the tune of 65-70% of growth. He touched upon the numerous government plans, like TARP and QE to stimulate growth and urged businesses to look closely at their hiring and expansion plans.
We’re all connected…even our cars.
Finishing out the first day, Marshall Doney, Sr. Executive Vice President and COO of AAA carried the issue of connectivity to its literal end…that of the connected car. He spoke, as did Jim Carroll earlier, of the incredible speed at which change is taking place; that the car is becoming a logical extension of the smartphone. Mr. Doney focused on the data and communications facets of new cars. So much information is retrieved from your vehicle; where you’ve been (GPS), whether you’re low on oil or need repairs (internal diagnostics), even where you like to eat (internet connection). The car, according to Mr. Doney, is the next opportunity for marketers to collect all sorts of consumer data. The big question: who owns that data, you or the vehicle manufacturer? This is the question that made attendees sit up and take notice.
Hard to believe, but that was just Day One of this amazing gathering. Later this week, I’ll post the final day’s events. Stay tuned.