May 16th - 19th, 2017, more than 150 leaders took to Detroit for our annual gathering of values-driven leaders. #SGCSummit2017 immersed participants in two full days packed with interactive workshops, authentic, engaging panels, and honest storytelling from practitioners in our Long Story Short talks.
Our annual Summit is a unique, relationship-based experience, defined by a shared spirit of meaningful networking, vulnerability, and connection. A picture’s worth a thousands words - check out our photo gallery of the Summit in action, courtesy of Rooney & Company.
“Inclusive stewardship is the 21st century imperative.” - Carla Walker-Miller
This year’s Summit harnessed the energy of Detroit’s revitalization, inviting business leaders from within the city to share their stories of anchoring to their purpose and values to achieve survival and reinvention in the face of adversity. Take Carla Walker-Miller, our opening speaker on Wednesday morning. Carla, president & CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services, learned the true meaning of entrepreneur in 2008 when she couldn’t sleep at night: Walker-Miller Energy Services (WMES) was on the brink of shutting down. Through transparent conversations with her loyal staff, WMES led with their core values and reinvented their business model. Today, they are stronger than ever.
Through Carla’s powerful Long Story Short, leaders in the audience were reminded that they must be willing to redefine success for themselves, their businesses, and their families. Carla also stressed the importance of being stewards of your team members, your customers, and your community. Importantly, she encouraged leaders to deliver on that mission by focusing on diversity and inclusion, saying, “I challenge everyone here to lean out. You’re already in business, you’re already successful. Everything we do, we can do it better.”
“Purpose is why you’re here on this planet, what you’re built for, and what you know you’re meant to do from your guts.” - Corey Blake
A flagship of the Summit experience is interactive, hands-on workshops that help attendees deepen their practice of the six qualities of a Small Giant. This year, founder and CEO of Roundtable Companies Corey Blake led the provocative, actionable workshop Vulnerability is Sexy, illuminating how vulnerability can transform both our business relationships and ourselves as leaders. In a series of increasingly intimate conversation challenges, participants experienced the value and impact of vulnerability in action, and learned how they can use Corey’s tactics to attract their tribe and repel those who don’t share their values.
Later that day, founder and CEO of Kinesis Shawn Busse once again invited participants to dig deep with his workshop, The Secret to Hiring & Retaining the Best of the Best. Shawn guided participants through the process of demystifying the complex landscape of hiring top talent, bridging the gap between marketing and HR. A series of individual exercises helped audience members immediately understand and begin to apply the “winning formula” to break down hiring challenges. Shawn left participants with best practices and strategies for marketing their culture, improving the hiring process, and attracting (and retaining!) their dream employees.
“Respect the founder’s risk, knowledge, and their blood, sweat, and tears. If the founder understands you but you don’t really respect where they’re coming from and what they did for the organization, that’s on you.” - Bruce Hendrick
From a man who’s been there, Bruce Hendrick took to the Small Giants stage to deliver a Long Story Short that touched the hearts of many leaders in our audience. Bruce shared perspectives from both sides of a leadership transition. In 2000, Bruce learned the importance of truth-telling and alignment when he took over as president of RBB, replacing the founder who had run the company since 1973. In 2014, Bruce started his own leadership transition, determined to apply lesson he’s learned along the way. Most of all, Bruce shared what he’s learned about the delicate balance between guiding and advising your successor and consciously handing over authority to the new leader.
“There are strong bonds in our culture. We take great care of our customers, our employees, and our suppliers. The result of that is growth.” - Kris Maynard
Just over a week prior to our annual Summit, the Forbes Small Giants: America’s Best Small Companies list was released, celebrating 25 companies that demonstrate the power of prioritizing greatness over growth. 11 of those 25 companies had representation at #SGCSummit2017, including the 3 leaders who participated in a panel moderated by Forbes Senior Editor Loren Feldman: Zawadi Bryant of Nightlight Pediatric, James Goebel of Menlo Innovations, and Kris Maynard of Essential Ingredients.
During the panel, each leader transparently shared pivotal moments and challenges in their company story, along with the secret sauce to their success today. Bo Burlingham, author of the Small Giants book and the annual Forbes list, chimed in with his own words of wisdom during our Q&A with panelists, “The end isn’t when you build a great company. The end is when you leave that company.”
After two full days of inspiring speakers, meaningful connections, and a Shinola notebook full of bright ideas, closing keynote speaker David Dussault brought it home with an incredible talk on manufacturing culture. As founder, president, and CEO of P1 Industries, David is dedicated to revitalizing American manufacturing through industrial entrepreneurship. On stage, he shared some of the most intimate moments of his company’s journey to becoming a Small Giant, recounting their tireless commitment to finding their purpose, values, and shared vision. David’s powerful talk gave audience members a blueprint for how to activate their own high-performing company culture by treating it as a person, using extreme simplicity in design, and evangelizing constantly.
“Our future is bright because of people like you, who put values before velocity and people before profits.” - David Dussault
We couldn’t let the Summit end without one last chance to connect and capture the energy of the past two days, raising a glass to our incredible group of leaders. One last time (until next year!), we gathered at the historic Detroit Institute of Arts, for an evening of drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and live jazz in Rivera Court, surrounded by Diego Rivera’s famous 1932 industry murals (Check them out!). Did we stay out a little past curfew? Yes. Did we deepen our relationships and form lasting connections? Of course.
After the official Summit events came to a close, a small group of values-driven leaders opted for a bonus Day of Mojo, a Small Giants tradition that takes the group behind-the-scenes of unique, values-driven businesses in the host city. This year, we partnered with the Detroit Experience Factory to curate a bus tour of the city along with visits to Eastern Market, the country’s oldest and largest year-round market, and Detroit Bikes, a remarkable young company working to make an accessible, enjoyable bicycle while continuing Detroit’s legacy of quality manufacturing and design.
Excited to join us next year for #SGCSummit2018? We love Detroit so much that we're bringing it back for an encore performance. Expect to delve even deeper into the six qualities of a Small Giant, strengthen your relationships with values-driven leaders from around the world, and explore more of Detroit, America’s comeback city.