SOBCon 2012 Pivot with Purpose then Karaoke

SOBCon-mastermindOver the weekend, I attended my fifth SOBCon, the successful online business conference. With only 144 people in the room, the two day conference is about as transformative as it gets. To see what I mean, you’ll find links to prior SOBCon coverage at the end of this post.

Were you at SOBCon 2012, too? Please share links to your posts and images so that we can keep expanding!

Much of the magic comes in the way of mastermind time with small groups. On Friday, I interacted with Drew MarshallDebba HaupertWill English IV and two representatives of a digital marketing firm in Mexico. That’s me with my Saturday small group: Andy Crestodina, Laura Fitton aka @Pistachio, and Marc Pitman. Gary Goldstein is not pictured. Along the way, conversations at lunch and during breaks kept the SOBCon synergy flowing.

So good to experience SOBCon with Chris Garrett, Becky McCray, Sheila Scarborough, Barry Moltz, Beth Rosen, Connie Burke, Steve Hall, Lennie Rose, Michelle DamicoJeannie Walters, Jeff Power, Jeff Willinger, Jeff Shuey, Sean McGinnis, Shashi Bellamkonda,Amber ClevelandJustin Levy, Molly Cantrell-Kraig, Kim Eierman, Ric Dragon,Derek Overbay, Mark Horvath, Lori Holton Nash, Nick KelletPhil Gerbyshak – and everyone else in the room! One person many of us really missed this year: Lorelle Van Fossen.

It’s amazing to me how Liz Strauss and Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie can keep the conference feeling so comfortable and familiar, yet so fresh and inventive, year after year.

Equal parts reunion, revival and reawakening, SOBCon is an experience that everyone needs to have at least once a year. I agree with Shashi Bellamkonda who compared the conference to an annual oil change.

SOBCon 2012 focused on mastering the 7 crucial steps of strategy and execution — Vision, Mission, Position, Conditions, Decision, Networks, and Systems — to create and leverage opportunity that is uniquely tuned to your business, its competencies and its goals.

Every year, my SOBCon experience is different. After the first one, I got off the train in Glen Ellyn literally buzzing with positive energy. And, I always say, “This was the best SOBCon yet!” Although, this year I really mean it. Here’s why.


For me, the people in the room are a good barometer of the quality of a conference. Are they smart, creative, friendly? SOBCon is all of these and more. The culture is invisible, yet indelible.

Throughout the room, tables of six to eight or so discuss models in a mastermind session that forces/inspires you to make progress based on the input of the brilliant minds around you.

Then, there is the speaker line up: all excellent and best in class who present at a high level, yet interact at the same tables as peers. The program is built around a presentation that introduces a model with smaller talks woven in. Here’s what we covered.

Vision & Mission: Setting the Intention and Getting the Attention, How to Claim Your Quest and Attract the Best to Join You: Tim Sanders

Position: Assessing Where You Stand and What You Value, How to Use Two View of Position to Build a Solid Value Proposition: Rick Turoczy

Conditions: Working with Trends, Cycles and Change, How to Find the Profitable Opportunities: Les McKeown

Decisions: Raising Bottom Line and Improving Influence, How to Use Decisions to Reach Goals, Motivate People and Attract Opportunity Panel: Carol Roth, Laura Fitton, Gary Goldstein, Angel Djambazov

Networks: Connecting with the Right People, How to Build Your Community and Forge Strategic Relationships: Steve Farber

Systems: Processes the Run the Business, How to use Metrics, Such as Net Promoter, to Keep Customers: Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie

How can you balance better?

Liz Strauss, big thinker that she is, opened the program by asking us if we were unbalanced. Um, yes, we are. At times, Liz speaks as a poet – or my notes from her presentations come out that way.

Balance is form and function.

Architects, strategists know about balance.

Balance helps us experience trust.

If you’re not balanced, there comes a fear that you might fall over.

If you can’t trust, you will experience fear. Fear is the mind killer.

How can you balance better?

Are you building a birthday cake or a business? Liz Strauss

Think about it: are you following a recipe or are you being fluent, flexible, original and elaborative?

What is your higher purpose?

Tim Sanders challenged us to think higher and more purposefully. Your base purpose is about you: you have a family to feed and a business to run to do that. Your higher purpose is either your secret sauce or your missing ingredient and there is zero gray.

You have to have three things for success:

  1. a higher purpose
  2. passion for the purpose
  3. focus to put the purpose in the center so you always know the why behind the what

Real enthusiasm comes from a sense of meaning. Enthusiasm drives purpose and engagement.

Your purpose doesn’t have to be original, but it must be organic, it’s gotta be in your DNA as an enterprise.

Tim’s grandmother says, “When you get on lost something, play Bible bingo. It’s your fortune cookie.” Here’s the verse he found when he was looking for his purpose.

“Promote good works and acts among men, especially as we gather in public and encourage others to do the same.” Hebrews 10:25

Never forget you have to apply more purpose to get more engagement. True happiness comes not from self-gratification, but by defined focus on a purpose.

“If you believe in something and you translate that into hard work, you’ll find an audience that believes in you,” said Brian Solis, a surprise SOBCon guest speaker who dropped by for a 15 minute chat.

What position are you in?

Rick Turoczy says your position is where you are now. Are you being brutally honest about it?

Position helps you commit your vision to action.

There is no weak position. There is only weak positioning.  There is strength in every position.

Think about your position and spin it positively. Think about where you are and where you go from here. Positioning is each step and changes constantly. Every opportunity or failure can change your position in new and interesting ways.

Pivot or Persevere?

Pivot, yes you may take a drink, was SOBCon’s most frequently used theme word. There’s something about the word that resonates and gets people to respond. Is it easier to pivot than to change? Here’s an example of pivoting.

Instagram started as an app called and was supposed a competitor of foursquare. It was one of the first apps to do future check-ins, but the only thing people used it for was photography.

What the developers wanted didn’t matter as much as their position with the people who used their app did.

So the founders did what’s called a “Zoom In” pivot where you take one feature from an existing product, and retool the entire product around that one feature. Source

Patterns and Decisions

Les Mckeown says every organization goes through 7 stages: early struggle, fun, white weather, predictable success, treadmill, the big rut and death rattle.

Early struggle is the search/race for a profitable, sustainable market.  Going bust is bad. Typically takes a business three to five years to go through the early struggle phase and 80% of all businesses don’t make it. What stage is your business in?

How easy is it for you to make a [good and decisive] decision?

Carol Roth did an excellent job of moderating a panel discussion about how to use decisions to reach goals, motivate people and attract opportunity. Here are a few quotes, for more see the “Most Memorable Things Said at SOBCon list” at the end of this post.

Laura Fitton: People see a brick wall and stop. Being an entrepreneur is running into the brick wall confidently. The vast majority of people stop themselves. If you’re trying to make a decision, turn away from fear. Respect that some decisions do need to be put on the back burner.

Gary Goldstein: Scary times are simply an expansive of capacity. Make a decision that you’re going to be proud that you make because of the outcome.  Relationships trump results. Collect excellent people.

Carol Roth: Make decisions that are right for you, not for other people. Have a very, very clear lens on what you want, based on your own circumstances and objectives. What’s at your core is what matters.

Angel Djambazov: First make a decision list – write them down. Schedule a time to make decisions. There is such a thing as decision fatigue. Confront decisions when you’re not fatigued. Always ask: who can help you work through this decision? When it’s all stuck in your head, it’s hard to focus. Figure out what information you need to get to a decision point. Go for a drive and get pie. If you don’t have a decision making model, every decision is harder. Having a yes/no framework will drive your business growth.

Love, Love, Love

The act of leadership is an act of love.”  Steve Farber

In his presentation, Steve said we’re all the business of building a body of work [BOW] and then broadcasting it: this is who I am.

When you start to broadcast your body of work, people are going to respond. When they do, pick up the phone and contact them personally. Then introduce them to each other and ask how you can help them.

Steve says every major business opportunity, for him, started with one phone call.  He’s hosting an Extreme Leadership Conference in August in San Diego.

Continuing with the theme of connecting and relationships, Chris Brogan interviewed his father, Steve Brogan and his mother, Diane Brogan, about building an online community.

Process Systems

Terry  went over the keys to great customer feedback.

1. do it consistently – schedule it

2. do it personally – get feedback short and to the point

3. ask the right questions – the raw materials of the right question: experience with the product or service, experience with the people behind the product or service, the overall brand and company experience [through the Ultimate Question]

4. get feedback that would make the experience better and identify things that are of less importance to the customer

Ultimate Question

On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely would you be to recommend this product or service to a friend or a relative?

0-6 Detractors – people out there saying bad things about you

7-8 Neutrals – neither ready to bail or jump for joy

9-10 Promoters – those literally telling you they are ready to shout to the rooftops for you [the evangelists]

Other inspiring speakers: Charlie Gilkey, Sammy Haroon and the Empire Avenue team.


In all the times I’ve been to SOBCon I’ve always skipped the Karaoke part. By the time Saturday night rolls around, it seems like I’ve been on a three-day event party wagon – and I have! This time, I decided to go and check it out after Shashi’s dinner party at the Star of Siam, also a first for me.

Even with much urging from Xan Pearson, I didn’t sing, but Miss Lori, Pistachio, and many brave others did. Phil Gerbyshak was the first to take the stage with an amazing group of back up singers. Don’t miss SOBCon Karaoke in 2013!

Can’t wait until May 2013 to go to SOBCon? Check out SOBCon Northwest “Starting up Strategically” in Portland, happening on September 28-30.

SOBCon Blog Post Archive

SOBCon08 Notes David Bullock: Business Development Action Plan

SOBCon08 Notes Chris Garrett: More Bang from Your Blog

SOBCon08 Notes | Liz Strauss How to Be Irresistible

SOBCon08 Notes Wendy Piersall | When Your Business Takes Off

SOBCon08 Notes | Chris Brogan: New Media Communities

SOBCon08 Notes Brian Clark: The Triple A Model for Social Media Success

SOBCon08 Notes Anita Bruzzese: Managing Your Online Reputation

SOBCon09 Biz School for Bloggers – Prelude, Postlude, Futuredude

Trust Agents – Chris Brogan and Julien Smith – SOBCon 09

David Bullock: Barack 2.0 SOBCon09

Brian Clark: Power Positioning-Get a Personality SOBCon09

The Image Studios-the Importance of Presence-SOBCon09

SMC Chicago SOBCon Event 2010

Royalty Leadership and Loyalty

SOBCon 2011 Models Teams and Tables

Disclosure: Thanks to SOBCon for providing Social Media Club Chicago board members, including me, with complimentary passes in exchange for the opening event planning and promotion.


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