My Takeaways from ‘Look Up’ – Brighton Summit 2018

Last year was my first summit and I was so inspired I wrote this blog the very next day. Reflecting on this recently made me realise just how far we’ve come in 12 months. From little old me, run ragged being Social Brighton last year, to proudly attending with my team this year.

As coaches and mentors always say, it’s important to take a moment to appreciate your achievements! I think the Brighton Summit is becoming my annual benchmark, during which I’ll look back at the previous year and feel proud of what’s happened.

I’ve been thinking about what my takeaways from ‘Look up’ are and it’s these 5 things that stand out for me:

  1. Embrace what makes you different
  2. Share your story – no matter how boring you might think it is, it is interesting to someone.
  3. Leadership requires new skills because people have changed
  4. Be open to new opportunities
  5. Networking reaps rewards

Embrace what makes you different

The first speaker, Claire Mason, from Man Bites Dog, spoke about the lessons learned throughout her life that have helped her to grow her business. And the one that really resonated with me was about going against the grain and embracing your uniqueness.

I started training businesses in social media marketing in the very early days of social media in 2010, just before it really went nuts, and Claire’s talk made me realise that we can really carve our niche in a sector that is becoming more and more crowded. My team and I are the ones that can focus on what we do differently and what we do better to grow the business.

Her confidence in her own business resonated with me as well as how her creativity was key in forging a way forward to scale up during challenging economic times. I loved the way she kept things simple and understood that everything throughout her life, even from planting teddy bears next to the potatoes and hoping she’d grow more, has contributed to her journey as an entrepreneur. Inspiring stuff indeed.

Share your story (no matter how boring you might think it is)

While Callum (rather predictably – sorry, Callum) went off to join the ever-popular Lego workshop, Daria and I chose to take part in the ‘Find Magic in the Mundane’workshop run by Moop (The Museum of Ordinary People).

This was a surprisingly thought-provoking workshop where we all sat around a table of inanimate objects that appeared to have no significance: I can recall a champagne cork, paper hat, plug, candles, batteries, a toy gun, some rope… you get the picture, it could quite easily have been a car boot sale table at the Marina.

We learned about a very interesting sounding pop up, The Museum of Transology, at Brighton Museum which I definitely plan on checking out. And the story of this exhibition gave us the inspiration to tell the story behind an apparently boring object.

We were asked to choose something from the selection on the table that resonated with us – now, it’s worth mentioning here that I absolutely LOVE this kind of thing; stepping outside of the day to day and thinking differently about work, ourselves and communication.

We then had to write about why this particular object resonated with us so Moop could make an exhibition about it at the end of the day. I’m sorry if the tag in the photo below sounds cheesy, but it’s true! Interestingly, Daria chose a travel plug adaptor – there seems to be a common theme here 🙂

So during this workshop, I realised that what may seem like something innocuous, can actually mean something very important. I’ve always believed that communicating more about how we feel rather than just what we do, especially in our marketing, is always going to lead to more engagement. But it was so refreshing to participate in a workshop like this and realise just how interesting it is to hear other people’s stories represented in the mundane.

Leadership has changed because people have changed

Nicole Bradfield from Within People ran a fantastic workshop about the 7 Leadership qualities we need in 21st century businesses. Times have certainly have changed in terms of the workplace from the pre-internet days when people were defined by their job title, when there was a clear hierarchy and where it was all about the ‘9-5′. To today where there is more work freedom, people are not defined by their roles but by themselves and their purpose. And younger people are far more discerning in the types of businesses they want to work wtih.

Nicole’s insights from speaking to leaders of global businesses were fascinating and the group discussions she facilitated were quite eye-opening. Learning about other business’ challenges in terms of leadership really helps to add perspective to your own.

The 7 qualities of leadership that we need to adopt today are:

  1. Vulnerability
  2. Empathy
  3. Curiosity
  4. Creativity
  5. Conviction
  6. Courage
  7. Patience

Culture is not just a ‘nice thing to have’ but an essential part of any business that cannot be something in a policy somewhere but rather an integral part of an organisation, which is created by how the leader in that business operates. Nicole was great at making us think about these qualities and how they impact the growth of our business.

Have a clear purpose and vision

One takeaway of several talks and workshops that both Callum, Daria and I enjoyed was about vision. In his talk about being connected, Neil Gibb said:

“When there is no vision, people perish.”

And I think, even at a small business level, this is true. Everyone in a company, no matter how large or small, needs to know what the vision is to feel part of the business and to feel connected. Nicole Bradfield confirmed this for me when she explained the 3 things leaders need to do to ensure they are leading well: clarity, belief and confidence. Clarity of vision and your purpose, belief in the business and creating the space for people to share their story and their ‘why’ and the confidence to lead and unleash your team’s potential.

I also believe though that whilst vision is essential to guide a team and create loyalty as your business grows, it’s important (for me, certainly) to stay open to opportunities that allow your business to grow and not always stick to a strict ‘plan’.

Neil talked about the fascinating story of Kodak and Instagram. Kodak was apparently the 5th highest valued business in the 1970s and even owned the patent to digital photography, but they didn’t create anything like Instagram! Perhaps they had lost the ‘purpose’ which Instagram had: to allow people to easily take and share photos!

Keep ‘looking up’ and stay open to new opportunities

I completely agree with Julie Roff’s fantastic quote in the Summit brochure:

Look Up and throw yourself into all the opportunities today will give you to engage, learn and grow. You wont’ regret it.

I’ve made a kind of resolution: to make sure I don’t forget to look up from the business regularly, to see what’s going on around us, to make sure our people are thriving, that we’re networking, that we’re making the most of any opportunities that come our way. Sometimes, when you’re growing a business, you get so stuck ‘doing’ everything that it can be hard to keep perspective.

I probably said the same thing a year ago… but that’s what I love about the Summit – it’s such a valuable day with the perfect blend of learning, stories, thought-provocation, practical workshops, inspiration, new people, new conversations – all of which were complemented by the fab food and drinks!

Another great summit from the Brighton Chamber who I’m sure are already busy planning the next one 🙂