Real Leaders and Inspiration: Takeaways From Entrepreneurship @ Cornell #ESHIP15

Cornell ESHIP cover photo

I had the opportunity to participate in Entrepreneurship @ Cornell last week. Besides it being enjoyable to get back to campus after a 15-year hiatus, I left feeling inspired by the people I met. This included my fellow speakers, attendees, the faculty and most importantly the Cornell students. Anyone worried about the state of America today and the next generation of leaders need only spend a week like mine to gain a renewed sense of optimism. More than anything, the drive to create new enterprises to solve new and old problems with innovative approaches and the sense that “no one can stop me” I got from so many individuals was gratifying. Cornell seems to be doing a better job than most university systems in coordinating across the various schools to support and encourage entrepreneurship. As Director of Entrepreneurship @ Cornell, Zach Shulman said, “I have 13 bosses. I report to all 13 Deans and they all support our activities.” The ability to cut across schools as diverse as Agricultural, Business, Hotel, Engineering, Industrial & Labor Relations, Law and support would be entrepreneurs regardless of their chosen field is powerful.

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Jay Walker ‘77, a keynote and founder of Priceline.com and Walker Digital put the entrepreneurial bug in perspective by calling it a “disease”. Do you have it? If you do, you can’t get rid of it. He also made a great point that you don’t build a company with a group of people who ALL have the disease. That would not be successful. You need a team that can build processes, and get things done. That certainly fits my experience. As I said to some of the classes, we are glorifying the entrepreneur this week and it is a great thing. However, one does not build a business with all entrepreneurs. One builds a business with a team of people with complimentary skills and ability to execute. Every visionary who can articulate the future and see what no one else sees, needs someone pulling back asking the questions: that sounds great, but how do we DO that? What needs to be in place to make it work? What about these problems?   One must have a balance and the how do you actually do what is being proposed way of thinking is critical.

Jay Walker @Cornell IMG_5313 Mayor Svante Myrick twitter exchange

Jay went on to identify 10 ‘superforces’ – Jay Walker shares 10 ‘superforces’ of the business future. At the opening night banquet, the superstar Mayor of Ithaca, Svante Myrick addressed the group. Mayor Myrick is truly a remarkable leader. He called all entrepreneurs the “annoying” people without whom, nothing would change. When I commented to Jay Walker that I’d like to see Mayor Myrick in higher office, he said something with which I immediately agreed… “We need fresh leadership doing good things at the local level. Let him do that now.” In the excitement for how good I think he is and his potential on a larger stage, its easy to forget that we need a whole bunch of Svante Myricks doing exactly what he is doing locally in this country. The Mayor and I got into a little twitter exchange after his talk above.

Tech Entrepreneurship Roundtable Prgm image IMG_5281IMG_5320IMG_5284 Smoke at Cornell - Hosp Roundtable

Leading into the celebration, I had the privilege of participating on the CHR Technology Entrepreneurship Roundtable at the Cornell Hotel School. This roundtable was of the highest caliber and I really enjoyed learning from and debating the latest developments in hospitality and how technology is affecting everyone’s businesses.   There are several people I met through the roundtable with whom I will remain friends far into the future. I presented the case for why today is better than any other time for new brands to reach their audience, which led the group to a discussion of the asynchronistic nature of startup/new brands vs large established brands. This applies to hotels and to beverage brands. The bottom line is using today’s technology, a new brand can communicate with its core following or “Tribe” directly, something that in the past was nearly impossible or cost prohibitive to do. Larger established brands have a much harder time competing at that level and by their very definition, cannot micro market as easily.

I also really enjoyed sharing stories of our entrepreneurial journey on the CEN panel on Friday with Panelists:
Jamey Edwards ’96, MBA ’03, CEO, Emergent Medical Associates
Carl Forsythe MBA ’82, President & CEO, Globe Composite Solutions
Smoke Wallin ‘88, CEO, Taliera

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Jamey and Carl both brought great perspectives as we took turns telling stories and engaging with the audience.

The Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship hosted two panel/socials that promoted a group of entrepreneurs interacting with students. Both of these were a lot of fun as I enjoyed the panels and students!

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Finally, I’ve had a half dozen follow up calls and discussions with student entrepreneurs since last week. These folks are pushing ahead with their various new ventures and represent the future of our country. I am pleased that I can play a small role in giving them input/guidance on their respective journeys.

 

Cheers

Smoke

 

My Week of Leadership & Entrepreneurship @ Cornell and WSWA

Celebration 15 logo

I’m really looking forward to next week’s Entrepreneurship @ Cornell University! The energy building up to this is incredible as I’ve begun to interact with my fellow speakers and attendees.

Right now I’m thinking about my topics and the most important take home value I can deliver to the students, entrepreneurs and attendees.

Before I get to Ithaca, I’m attending the 72nd Annual Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) convention in Orlando, FL.  Since I’m launching a new brand project, it will give me an opportunity to further discuss packaging, branding, sourcing and overall strategy with some of the brightest leaders in the industry.  Last year at WSWA I kicked off the pre-launch of Sugar Skull Rum.

This is a cool brand that unfortunately got stopped in its tracks by certain partners before we could get beyond kickoff in a few markets.  Time will tell where it ends up, but the early response was terrific!  There are lessons in this one I will certainly share at Cornell.

Finally, although I rooted for Wisconsin at the Final NCAA game last week, I am looking forward to hearing Mike Krzyzewski- better known as “Coach K“- head of the legendary Duke University Blue Devils basketball squad, address our group on Monday morning.  Not a Duke fan generally, but definitely hold Coach K in high regard and interested in his message on leadership and winning.

Here’s an outline of my upcoming Cornell visit:Tech Entrepreneurship Roundtable Prgm image

Tuesday/Wednesday – participate in and speak at the Pillsbury Institute’s

Technology Entrepreneurship Roundtable, Chaired by: Mona Anita Olsen, Ph.D. Assistant Academic Director of The Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship, Visiting Assistant Professor of Management & Organizational Behavior, Cornell University

Center for Hospitality Res - Cornell

Mona Anita Olsen

I’m looking forward to my session with  Cornell classmate Joe Tagliente, President, Lenrock and a fellow YPO’r.  Our panel is called “Brand Activation Through Social & Mobile Apps and Development of A Social Mobile Company” The full program is here.

It will be catching up with fraternity brother (Sigma Nu)  Zach Shulman, who I found out after committing to my visit is Director of Entrepreneurship @Cornell!  Very cool!

Thursday/Friday are jam packed with the Entrepreneurship @Cornell Celebration.

 

In this I’m joining more than 1,000 alumni, students, faculty, and staff for two days of on-campus events including:

  • Symposia on a wide range of topics including family business, social entrepreneurship, health administration and more!
  • eLab Demo Day
  • New Business & Emerging Technologies Showcase
  • BIG Idea Competition and Cornell Venture Challenge finals
  • Recognition of the Student Business of the Year
  • Networking opportunities …and more!

    Celebration 15 logo

I have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Olsen’s class called:

Technology for Bootstrapped Entrepreneurship

a topic with which I am intimately familiar!

Following class, I’m participating on a panel of distinguished entrepreneurs in what is dubbed a

Slice of Insight Social at Celebration ’15

The the rest of the day includes a keynote by Jay Walker (one of America’s best-known business inventors and entrepreneurs, has founded multiple successful startup companies that today serve more than 75 million customers in 15 different industries) and the banquet with special guest Svante Myrick ’09, Ithaca Mayor

On Friday I’m joining two other entrepreneurs in a celebration talk:

CEN talk Cornell panel

In between all this I’m visiting the Viticulture and Oenology department, with Prof. Gavin Sacks to learn about what Cornell is up to in the wine world and also to see what we can do to tie them into our 11th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) in Napa in June.

Finally, I’m paying a visit to the Friedman Wrestling center and Coach Rob Koll,  4 X NCAA champion Kyle Dake and first time champion Gabe Dean…  and later meeting up with my old wrestling coach and Athletic Director, Andy Noel... this will entail its own post after we meet up!

I look forward to writing about my experiences and all the interaction with new and old friends!  Cheers!

 

 

 

11th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium® to Unite Wine, Beer, Spirits Business Leaders, Technology Experts June 25-26, 2015

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March 31, 2015                                                                                                                              Contact: Lisa Adams Walter lisa@winesymposium.com

 

(NAPA, Calif.) —The 11th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS®), the premier event showcasing the strategic use of information technology and services for the wine industry, has been set for June 25-26, 2015 at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel. www.wineindustrytechnologysymposium.com

Executives from wineries, breweries, distributors, retailers and restaurants gather annually at WITS, the only annual conference designed exclusively to foster education and debate around technology solutions for the wine and beverage industry. The 2015 WITS program will include:

  • Educational Tracks – Sessions on Technology Leadership, Small Business, Consumer Direct, Trade Sales & Marketing and Vineyard & Winery Operations
  • Speed Dating – WITS created “speed dating” for winery and brewery CIOs and technology companies. This will provide opportunities for quality one-on-one time with key decision makers and thought leaders.
  • Plus Beer, with BITS – WITS has united leaders in the craft brewing industry to add the Beer Industry Technology Symposium (BITS™) track that runs concurrent with WITS.

“The rapid proliferation of craft brands in wine, spirits and beer is creating unique challenges for all industry participants,” said J. Smoke Wallin, WITS Co-Chair. “WITS is the only place where winery, brewery, distillery, retailer and distributor leaders can sit side by side for a day of learning and discussion to tackle these challenges with CIOs and technology leaders from across the industry,” he added.WITS 2008

The WITS Steering Committee, comprised of technology and business leaders across the wine, beverage and technology industries, is currently finalizing panel topics and keynote speakers. Past speakers have included the CEOs, CIOs and other leaders from Amazon, Facebook, Groupon, Gartner Group, garyvaynerchuk.com, FedEx Office, Nielsen and 1800-Flowers, as well as experts from IBM, Oracle, Cornell University, UC Davis, Sonoma State University and many others.

Attendees and sponsors are encouraged to register early, as space is limited and expected to sell out quickly. Registration will open May 1, 2015. For more information visit www.wineindustrytechnologysymposium.com.

About The Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS)

The Wine Industry Technology Symposium® (WITS®) is the focal point for thought leadership in the strategic and tactical use of technology in the global wine industry. WITS was created in 2005 by a group of wine industry and technology professionals to advance innovation and to address the unique information technology and services needs of the wine industry. The 11th annual WITS is June 25-26, 2015 in Napa, CA. For the 2nd year, WITS also includes the Beer Industry Technology Symposium™ (BITS™) track. Join WITS on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn more.

For more information, contact Lisa Adams Walter of the Wine Industry Symposium Group at 707-666-2525 or lisa@winesymposium.com.

Real March Madness – Indiana Says No To Leadership & Open Mindedness

Indiana Legislature Tells The NCAA, NFL, NBA, Eli Lilly, GenCon, Amazon, Salesforce, YPO, The Chamber of Commerce and Others to Take a Hike

Really? Is this what we elected a super majority of Republicans to do? Apparently, the leadership decided it made sense to push through the “Religious Freedom Act”. I wrote a piece called “It’s 2015: Where Have All The Leaders Gone?” last week, I had no idea how timely that was. Here is a recent story on the issue.Indiana closed for business

Indiana House OKs controversial religious freedom bill

The basic argument of those in favor of these laws seems to be quite weak. This post discusses the fact that the language is very similar to existing law at the Federal level and in the state. If that is so, why is it needed?

Indiana’s So-Called ‘Right to Discriminate’ Law Appears Very Similar to Existing Federal Law

I have yet to hear or read a strong argument in its favor. This is an issue drummed up by those wanting to drum up issues and make a seemingly principled stand on what other people do in their private lives. The hypotheticals they use like a caterer who does not want to serve a gay wedding are simply dumb. If any business like that really does not want to get someone’s business for any reason, they could simply make their bid not competitive and lose out to others. The idea you need a law to turn away business is the very example of conservatism gone amuck.

One of the more ridiculous arguments for a change in the language put forth was “A House committee last week tried to assuage the concerns of some business interests, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, with an amendment that exempts employers from any lawsuits brought by employees under the legislation.” They completely miss the point.

Have any of these people voting for this considered what this legislation actually permits? What if a Muslim shop owner decided their religion prevented them from serving Christians or Jews? Or Visa versa? Under the language of this legislation, that would be permitted wouldn’t it? How about another example, where a restaurant owner believes adultery is against their religion and refuses to allow people they suspect of committing it to dine in their establishment based on their religious conscience. How about couples living together in sin, unmarried, against the teaching of an owners religion. Who gets to decide? The idea that small government conservatives would put into place a framework for the state to arbitrate these questions strikes me as worse than counter intuitive.

And while I do not agree with much of what passes for journalism on MSNBC, this story was well done on putting this in perspective nationally and why this fight is not only wrong but in the end will cause damage to Indiana and ultimately will fail – Why ‘religious freedom’ laws are doomed

The bottom line is why do we have such an activist state government that feels it necessary to make a law like this? Starting with Governor Daniels and continued under Governor Pence, the state has done a great job of attracting businesses and rebuilding the economy in spite of the ridiculous headwinds from Washington. Indiana has a great track record in this regard, especially relative to its neighbor states of IL and MI. So why risk that momentum and progress now?

Consequences:

The big table top game convention that brings 56,000 people and $50 million to the State and is Indianapolis’ second-largest convention, is threatening to relocate its massive late-summer annual event to another city if Gov. Mike Pence signs the controversial “religious freedom” bill into law added in a letter to the Governor “Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years,” GenCon CEO Adrian Swartout said Monday in a letter to Pence.

GenCon threatens to exit Indy over ‘religious freedom’ measure

The Backlash to the Anti-Gay Backlash: “Religious Freedom” Bills Fail, As More People See What They’re Really About

My question is: how long can an organization like the NCAA or a company like Eli Lilly or Amazon who keeps expanding here stand by and do business as usual in such potentially hostile environment to their employees, customers and constituents. Many of my CEO friends around the world in Young Presidents Organization (YPO is a group of over 22,000 CEOs with a combined $6 trillion in revenue and 15 million employees) have been sending messages to the effect of “REALLY Smoke, what kind of state do you live in?” In the case of Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed similar legislation when confronted with the uproar of the NFL (and Super Bowl pullout) and the business community. Governor Pence, do you think we are immune to this? Do you think you are standing on principle? If so it is the wrong one.

How long until the NFL pulls the combine? How many NCAA tournaments do you think we will land going forward. Oh and by the way, what great timing Legislature to put Indiana in the national spotlight during March madness.

Conservatives Against Close Mindedness

Yes, one can be a conservative and be completely opposed to this kind of legislation and behavior. In fact, it is the opposite of true conservatism. This is government intervention at its worst. I’m a long time supporter of conservative causes and of many Republicans, who cannot reconcile this. For example, I whole-heartedly supported the Indiana legislative takeover led by Mitch Daniels and others that was mainly about fixing the education system in Indiana. The fact is the Teachers’ Union had a lock on the legislature and a group of like-minded business people and conservatives got together and supported state legislative candidates and made them competitive for the first time. This led to the current makeup of the legislature here. And there are many good things that have come out of that takeover. That said, this is not one of them.

In fact, it makes me want to put a fund together of like-minded people to knock off the knuckleheads who voted this legislation into law.   While I’m glad the Democrats (and 5 brave Republicans) all voted against this, I certainly don’t want to see the teacher’s union back in control preventing all kinds of experimentation and change in our troubled education system, but I also don’t want to see the current crop of “leaders” in place. Is there not a sensible center? How about a group of fiscal conservative, libertarian minded folks who can knock off the current group and create the kind of government that this state and its people deserve?

Who is with me?

Supporting the “Religious Freedom Act”:

Voting Yes:

Republicans: Arnold, Aylsworth, Bacon, Baird, Behning, Borders, Bosma, Braun, Tim Brown, Burton, Carbaugh, Cherry, Cook, Cox, Culver, Davisson, Dermody, DeVon, Fine, Friend, Frizzell, Frye, Gutwein, Hamm, Harman, Heaton, Judy, Karickhoff, Koch, Lehe, Leonard, Lucas, Mahan, Mayfield, McMillin, McNamara, Miller, Morrison, Morris, Negele, Nisly, Ober, Olthoff, Price, Rhoads, Richardson, Schaibley, Slager, Smaltz, Milo Smith, Soliday, Speedy, Steuerwald, Sullivan, Thompson, Torr, Truitt, Ubelhor, VanNatter, Washburne, Wesco, Zent, Ziemke.

Democrats: None.

Voting No:

Republicans: Beumer, Clere, Eberhart, Kirchhofer, Saunders.

Democrats: Austin, Bartlett, Bauer, Charlie Brown, DeLaney, Errington, Forestal, GiaQuinta, Goodin, Hale, Kersey, Klinker, Lawson, Macer, Moed, Moseley, Niezgodski, Pelath, Pierce, Pryor, Riecken, Shackleford, Vernon Smith, Stemler, Summers, Wright.

EXCUSED (not sure why you can be excused from something like this) Dvorak, Harris, Huston, Lehman, Porter, Wolkins.

At the very least, the businesses that choose to not serve Gays or Muslims or Jews or Adulterers or whatever this bills proponents and the supposed beneficiaries of it are really after, should be required to place stickers that get applied to the front door of their establishments and to be put on an easy to find list on the web. Those who think this is some great move to respect individual’s religion don’t get to have it both ways – The ability to discriminate based on your conscience AND the ability to remain anonymous. You may well choose to not serve someone out of your religious conscience under this law, but we don’t need a law to choose not to do business with you.

 

3/29 UPDATE: Well its been quite a week and Indiana has taken a beating on the national and international stage. Based on everything I’ve read including the law itself (here), this explanation in the Weekly Standard and a balanced analysis in the Star (here) and this lawyers blog post (here) among other things, I stand by my remarks above.   One thing I’ll add, the fact that similar laws exist around the country does not mean they are right.  There are so many laws on the books that may have made sense at one time or another, but today make no sense.  The attempt to balance an individuals right to practice their chosen religion with the basic right to not be discriminated against is not difficult in my mind.  No one has the right to discriminate for any reason.   Governor Pence, that was the right answer on today’s  This Week show with George Stephanopoulos.

Aside from that, the shear political ham handedness of the Indiana Republican leadership (who I supported and elected) is breathtaking.  Every lead in to the Final Four this weekend will have this issue front and center (assuming the NCAA does not pull it at the last minute).  The damage being done economically and reputationally to our state will take many years to overcome. And why?  What compelling reason or case was there that drove this?  You who practice politics for a living, have no excuse.   The damage to my business, my friends, and to my state of over 25 years gives me a high level of motivation to work to get you out of office.

 

April 4 Update:  An excellent post #RFRA firestorm overview…@CarlyFiorina ​ has it right. “Creating an Artificial Divide in Indiana

It’s 2015, Where Have All The Leaders Gone?

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Leadership principles stand the test of time. To me these are defined by integrity, a strong sense of right and wrong, hard work, persistence and resiliency. Finally a commitment to a greater good or cause (helping others) is integral. Letsal20081-206x300(pp_w124_h180)adership is not popularity; good leaders will have times when they are more or less in and out of favor (see Sir. Winston Churchill). Leaders have a strong sense of their core principles from which they don’t depart, regardless of current popular opinion.  Leaders are human beings and by definition are not flawless.  That said, all true leaders have a sense of service – service to their organization or community and to other individuals – from which they strive to lift up organizations and people.  I agree with Robert K. Greenleaf’s view on the topic.

In my travels, I frequently have the opportunity to spend quality time with extraordinary individuals in all walks of life. These include Business CEOs, nonprofit directors, education experts, entertainers, politicians and just ordinary people doing their thing. Many of these individuals are not interested in public leadership, yet in their very day-to-day actions, quietly provide outstanding examples of true leadership.  In a recent interaction with one highly successful CEO, our conversation led to the question of political leadership and the level of vitriol in much of the public dialogue going on. Whether in race relations, economic and entitlement disputes, or combating terrorism, one need only turn on the television and flip channels to hear it on all sides of the political spectrum.

I grew up in a family of teachers and liberals. I was known back then as the “Alex P. Keaton” of my family (Michael J. Fox’s character in Family Ties) by many relatives. In other words, I was a conservative thinking person in a household of liberaFamily tiesls. I grew up debating the issues of the day at the kitchen table. And while at family get togethers even today, we may disagree on approach, inevitably there is agreement on many of the problems in the world and that the status quo is unacceptable. There is no name calling or questioning of each others intentions, but rather a healthy disagreement on solutions. I’m struck by how rare this is in today’s public discourse.

For example, there is widespread agreement that America’s education system is failing our country, our communities and our kids.   Teachers think this. Parents think this. Kids think this. CEOs think this.

See What’s Holding Back American Teenagers?

Why American Education Fails

The Failure of American Schools

The Graph That Shows How Badly U.S. Education is Failing

I view the bureaucracy and the statist entrenched interests as fundamental impediments to change for effective education. One can be quite liberal and agree with that viewpoint. Where there is significant disagreement typically are in the methods and approaches for changing it. Without addressing the solutions here (my point is leadership and constructive discourse not solving education in this post), the level of personal attacks and vitriol around the debate, is often times exacerbated by our public officials. The current fights around Common Core are bringing out some of this (see Who Is Fighting Against Common Core?).   Common Core has brought conservative and liberal groups together in opposition (for very different reasons). In every state and locality, there are the powerful teachers unions who tend to oppose most reforms of any impact. In many cases they have captured the statehouses with members who pledge allegiance to them regardless of position (see Teachers union fights Cuomo’s school reforms).  The debate in most cases is not a debate, but rather, a contest of sound bites to make political points, usually denigrating the opponents.

 

Back to my conversation with the CEO above, we reminisced about leaders in the past who seemed to bronald-reagan-brandenburg-gate-west-berlin-june-12-1987-picturee above the fray and always showed class and respect for their opponents. I mentioned President Ronald Reagan, whom I never had the chance to meet, but admired greatly. I have read and heard from those who knew him, that Reagan treated everyone with respect. He would speak to the gardener, as he would address a world leader. He was also willing to take tough stands regardless of the political winds. His advisors and speechwriters, the State Department and all around him reportedly advised strongly against any mention of the Berlin Wall coming down. When Reagan made his now famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate he overruled them all as he spoke that incredible call to action “Tear Down This Wall”. All agree it was a pivotal moment in the history of cold war, and it would not have come to be had he been willing to say what he thought was right at that moment.  I remember Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan exhibiting these qualities and being willing to tackle tough issues regardless of the dogma of his party.  He had an ability to reach across the aisle and collaborate with political foes on important issues.

Former Indiana Governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels has this quality as well. Mitch served for a purpose, and it was NOT for the purpose of being in office. These were leaders in the true sense of the word.   Individuals who would stand by their convictions in spite of opposition, but who never seemed to make personal attacks against individuals. They also served in the true sense of the word. I miss that.

Smoke & Mitch Daniels

I’m not saying there are no leaders today who exhibit these characteristics, but it is simply too rare. As long as personal attacks of motives and cult of personality (regardless of how bad the behavior) are accepted and even encouraged, this will remain the case. I fundamentally believe one can disagree on ideas and still have great respect for others. This is true in politics, business and life. As serial entrepreneur, Sir. Richard Branson posted today “The importance of good neighbors is often underappreciated. By fostering a healthy and respectful relationship, everybody stands to gain.”   I have many friends who exhibit these qualities traveling to Melbourne, Australia this week for the Global Leadership Conference (GLC) for the Young Presidents Organization (YPO/WPO).  In business and nonprofits, and community organizations, there are individuals exhibiting great leadership every day. I’d be interested in hearing your examples of people who exhibit the qualities of true leaders in their words and deeds.

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