“What we hope to achieve is simply put: expanding minds, expanding networks,” says Richard Scruggs, director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Mays Business School. Expanding minds and expanding networks is the tag line of Envision”08, the first conference for entrepreneurs hosted by the CNVE. Envision”08 (short for “entrepreneurial vision”) will be held April 23-25 at the Marriott RiverCenter in San Antonio, Texas.
“We want to introduce each participant to new ideas that can help them to improve their business, build better teams, and become better leadersâ€¦we also hope they will leave with ten new contacts, people that can help them with their business,” says Scruggs, who is one of the leading organizers of the event.
While there are plenty of business conferences in Texas each year, Scruggs says that to hear a message specific to the needs of an entrepreneur, you would likely have to go to the east or west coast.
“There are not enough opportunities in the state for aspiring entrepreneurs, active entrepreneurs, and leaders of high-growth businesses to interact with one another or hear from some of today’s leading thinkers,” says Scruggs. “We hope to create such a resource through this event.”
Scruggs anticipates that the conference will draw 800-1,000 participants to hear their roster of well-known speakers. The list of presenters is still growing, but the headliners are in place:
- Marcus Buckingham, author of “Go put your strengths to work!” and “First break all the rules” is slated to kick off the event with a keynote address. He is an independent consultant, author and speaker, and is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on employee productivity and the practices of leading and managing.
- Guy Kawasaki will open day two of the conference. A managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm, and a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine, Kawasaki has a range of experiences to draw upon. Previously, he was an Apple Fellow at Apple Computer, Inc. where he was one of the individuals responsible for the success of the Macintosh computer.
- Peter W. Schutz served as CEO of Porsche A.G., the automobile company, in Stuttgart, Germany, from January 1981 until January 1988. During his tenure, Porsche worldwide sales and revenues grew enormously, giving credibility to his planned presentation topic at Envision”08: “Extraordinary results from ordinary people.”
- Brian Lanahan will be speaking about branding your business with a story. The connection between storytelling and marketing has been Lanahan’s primary focus throughout his career, during which he has worked with such brands as Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Pepperidge Farms, and Unilever. Lanahan recently launched his own company, Align, which connects story and strategy for new brands.
“We have a well-rounded set of entrepreneurs, thought-leaders, and business people as our presenters,” said Scruggs, also emphasizing the workshops and breakout sessions between the speakers, which will allow for more interaction and discussion.
There will also be an exhibit hall at the conference with displays from companies that support entrepreneurs, such as accounting and marketing firms, as well as government agencies.
As with all university programs, Envision”08 will also benefit students, though this is not its primary goal, says Scruggs.
“This is our chance to do more outreach to the community and to promote the center and the university in the business community as a source of information,” he said. “We want to be known as a group that brings people together as a resource for entrepreneurs around the state.”
Some students will attend the event, but the primary demographic will be professionals. Scruggs hopes that the conference might open the doors for relationships with business leaders that could become guest speakers in Mays classrooms, or provide internships and jobs for A&M graduates.
“Our target audience is entrepreneurs, small business leaders, start-ups, young companiesâ€”from across the nation and world,” said Scruggs, who sees great value in a conference aimed solely at self-made business people. As a young business you have challenges other businesses don’t, he says, such as building a culture, brand, track record, and stability.
“At the conference we’ll discuss things such as transferring from an entrepreneur-driven company to one where you have a team running the companyâ€¦we’ll talk about how to pass on a company from one generation to the next,” said Scruggs.
Larger issues facing all business people will also be presented, such as how to find and keep talent, how to interest today’s generation of college graduates in your company, and how to find capital.
The return on investment
Scruggs and CNVE assistant director, Lenae Huebner both agree that attending the conference will be well worth the expense for attendees.
“Think about it as an investment: what would it save you if you increased your revenues by two percent?” said Scruggs. “What if you made one smarter hire or reduced your turn over by one person? What if it made your management team more efficient? What would that be worth to your business?”
“If you’re willing to invest in your company, this is a priceless opportunity,” said Huebner, also mentioning a “friends and family” discount for those affiliated with Texas A&M University, as well as an early registration discount.
Another draw for the event, says Huebner, is that it is going on during Fiesta, an annual city-wide celebration in San Antonio. Envision’08 ends Friday afternoon, and Fiesta continues through the weekend, with live music, dancing, parades, and other special events.
To take advantage of the Aggie friends and family rate, register before February 1, 2008 and use the code word “INVEST’ when registering.