5 Takeaways From The Most Successful Business Leaders In America

imagethink digital graphic recording displayed at inc 5000 2018 in san antonio
ImageThink’s digital graphic recording captured conference highlights and kept attendees engaged at Inc. 5000.

Key Insights From Inc. 5000 and WORLDZ

Customer focus, creative genius, long-term vision: America’s fastest-growing businesses and most extraordinary cultural icons share these inspiring characteristics.

On-site at this month’s Inc. 5000 Conference and WORLDZ Global Summit, ImageThink captured powerful insights on what distinguishes such success stories and the latest trends affecting business today—along with sharing some of our own, in founder Nora Herting’s WhiteBoarding Bootcamp Masterclass.

From discovering their company’s purpose and making a positive difference in the world, to customer-centricity, psychological techniques and more, speakers touched on influences, tools and perspectives that help them produce next-level ideas and growth. ImageThink described many of these big ideas in images—sharing them in real-time on social media and via visual “time-lapse” summaries that captured key points and fueled conversation on the day and online.

Here are 5 thought-provoking takeaways from some of today’s most successful CEOs, CMOs, cultural icons and ImageThink, to help you grow in your professional and personal life.

Imagethink created a digital graphic recording of kendra scott's insights from inc. 5000 in san antonio
Kendra Scott spoke the the importance of a customer-centric mindset, at Inc. 5000.

1. Compelling brands offer customer-centric experiences.

Designer, CEO and Inc. 5000 speaker Kendra Scott built a billion-dollar jewelry business based on a single, simple philosophy: Create spaces where customers feel comfortable shopping and they will.

Instead of setting her sights on a Manhattan showroom straight away, Kendra started small and stayed local. Hosting events in her hometown Austin, Texas—from children’s parties to cocktail hours—helped Kendra hone her craft according to customer response. Once a spare-bedroom operation with $500 in start-up capital, the business is now a billion-dollar, global fashion brand.

Location is only half the equation, however. Kendra’s mantra—“What Matters to You, Matters to Us”— has not only shaped her market approach, but equally, her success in attracting the right investors, mentors and team members. Her advice? Focus on cultural fit. Find people who share your values and bring the skills you don’t.

digital graphic recording of Dr. Michael Breus' talk on how to sleep better, from WORLDZ 2018.
Dr. Michael Breus, known as the sleep doctor, shared tips on how to get a good night’s rest at WORLDZ.

2. To be better at business—be better in bed.

Sleep deprivation can undermine the most talented and determined leaders and entrepreneurs—affecting decision-making, mood, health, productivity and relationships. And Dr. Michael Breus certainly kept the WORLDZ crowd awake, with expert insights on what stands in the way of a good night’s sleep—and how to get the rest we crave.

Most important of all, says the “Sleep Doctor,” clinical psychologist, industry expert and author: Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day keeps your biological clock in sync and body working the way it should. Steer clear of coffee late in the day and give alcohol, exercise and screen time a big miss before bed. Sleep-inducers include magnesium, bananas, pets—provided they don’t snore!—and writing out your worries.

imagethink created a digital graphic recording of ron shaich's keynote from inc 5000 in san antonio texas

Ron Shaich, founder and CEO of Panera, encouraged Inc. 5000 attendees to keep long term values in mind.

3. Commit to long-term transformation. Value takes time to build.

According to Ron Shaich, founder and former CEO of Panera Bread Company—one of the most successful restaurant companies in history—“short-termism” is a dangerous business strategy. Conscious capitalism is the future.

In his Inc. 5000 session, the renowned entrepreneur had this to share with business-builders eager to succeed: It takes time to build financial value, so take a long-term view. Forget passing trends and limited metrics which fail to convey the big picture. Instead, be open to new paradigms and comfortable with uncertainty. Most importantly, understand the context in which your business operates and when building capabilities, consider what another company would do to compete with you—then do that.

These strategies certainly worked for Panera. The company grew from a single 400-square-foot store to more than 2,000 restaurants with approximately $5 billion in sales.

imagethink created a digital graphic recording of gretchen rubin's keynote on the four working tendencies, at inc 5000 in san antonio texas.
Gretchen Rubin described the four major work-method tendencies, and how understanding which you are can lead to better collaboration and communication.

4. To be happier—know how you and your teammates work best.

What do we need to be our best selves? What are our strengths and shortcomings? And how can we our work with our teammates more successfully?

Inspired by these questions, author and Inc. 5000 speaker Gretchen Rubin identified four main archetypes or “Tendencies” she believes describe most people and how to recognize our own personality profile and that of others. Using this framework, we can understand how people tend to respond to expectations—both “outer” expectations like deadlines, along with inner expectations like keeping a New Year’s resolution. And when we know how teammates are likely to behave, we can better manage those expectations and communication improves.

Here’s how Gretchen breaks it down and what you need to know about each “Tendency”:

  • Upholders have no problems meeting outer and inner expectations (but can be rigid).
  • Questioners need to agree an expectation makes sense before they’ll meet it, so they’ll probe for information.
  • Obligers meet expectations from others but have a hard time meeting their own—and risk burn-out.
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike!
a graphic recording by imagethink's alan quiros of nora herting's whiteboarding bootcamp, with tips on how to use visual thinking to increase productivity, at WORLDZ 2018.
Key insights from ImageThink CEO’s whiteboarding bootcamp, at WORLDZ! 2018.

5. Creativity is democratic… and good for business.

Today’s organizations navigate complex systems, working with people all over the planet on abstract problems. At ImageThink, we believe using visuals can help business overcome these challenges—and that everybody is creative. But people are often intimidated by this idea.

This is why in her WORLDZ WhiteBoarding Bootcamp, our founder Nora Herting set out to prove that creativity is democratic—and thinking in pictures can transform anyone’s ideas into action. While some of us have limiting beliefs about what it means to be creative, this isn’t the realm of right-brained artists, musicians and writers only. Creativity is accessible to everyone, and the best ideas come from putting constraints in place—not “thin air.”

“Widening the frame” is one construct that can help give structure to your brainstorming sessions. Instead of jumping right in and attacking the first—and sometimes the “wrong”—problem, step back and find a question that widens the frame. Great questions challenge assumptions and evoke more questions—which broadens possibilities and the potential for innovation and growth.

Bring the magic of Inc. 5000 and WORLDZ to your office, with graphic recording workshops.

Insights like these inspired audiences at Inc. 5000 and the WORLDZ Summit to think, work and lead differently. Let them do the same for you. And if you’re interested in taking your own big ideas further, our graphic recording workshops will help you and your team think in pictures, feel more confident and work more collaboratively.

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