Small Giants 2022: Nicest People Ever!
Have you ever attended an event where every person you met was nicer and more generous than the person you met the minute before?
I hadn’t either. That is until I attended the 2022 Small Giants Summit in Detroit last week. Wow.
I’ll be honest here–I mostly do not like going to conferences of any kind. I’m the sort of conference-goer who says she’ll go months in advance and then has to be dragged from her safe, comfy home to the event.
When my brother, Michael, invited me to attend the Small Giants Conference with him and our CEO, David, I said yes. You see, events far off in the future ALWAYS sound good to me. I’m always gung-ho and ready for some serious learning, but the closer the conference gets, the less ready-to-learn I am. I like being home. I like my routine, my kids, my office, my daily walks around the neighborhood where I’ve lived most of my life.
In other words, I’m a real homebody.
I expected to be homesick the entire time.
And boy, was I wrong, because every person I met was nicer and more genuine than the person I met before. It was amazing.
Why Small Giants?
The Small Giants Community was founded after Bo Burlingham wrote the book, Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. The book takes a look at some great companies who took a pass on big growth and focused instead on being great. It’s a fascinating study of what can be done when you strive to be the BEST company rather than the biggest company. And the community that sprang up from the book consists of business leaders who choose to prioritize people over growth for growth’s sake. If you check out the Small Giants Community website, you’ll find out that “Small Giants aim towards purpose-driven cultures and business practices with the knowledge that soft skills can lead to hard numbers, and that work/life balance is all about an emphasis on life.” And that’s the kind of business we strive to operate here at AM Transport.
My brother, Michael, has been attending Small Giants events for a long time. He read the book several years ago and was immediately inspired. Since then, he’s attended other summits and participated in small peer groups within the community. In 2020, right as the Covid-19 pandemic was beginning, AM Transport was awarded the Forbes Small Giants Award–an award given to 25 small business in the United States who “favor greatness over growth.” We were and are so proud of this designation.
Last year, the annual summit was held virtually (I had no trouble attending that one). But when the in-person summit was announced, Michael signed us up. He knew I would find a tribe of like-minded peers. He knew I would come away inspired and ready to get back to work. He knew I would meet so many nice people, I’d want to stay another couple of days. He was right!
The Summit: Highlights from my experience!
The Summit concluded last Thursday–a week ago–and I’m still jazzed. The sessions were wonderful. The conference opened Tuesday evening with a reception where I began meeting the wonderful people who make up the Small Giants Community.
Then Wednesday morning, the sessions began in earnest. Kuda Biza, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and fantastic speaker started us off. He told us of his childhood in Zimbabwe, his college years in the United States, and his fortitude in building six other businesses and a non-profit. Kuda is perfectly aligned with the Small Giants mission to aim for greatness. His businesses seek to “solve the world’s biggest problems: education and hunger.”
The first day was filled with great speakers from Drew Patrick (Skidmore Studio) whose foray into the food delivery business during the pandemic enabled Skidmore to stay in business to Elaine Ezekiel who’s talk on generous attention made me really think about ways to improve my listening skills. By the end of the day I was ready for a good night’s rest to think about everything I’d learned.
And the second day was no different. The first speaker of the day was Mel Gravely, author of Dear White Friend. The majority owner of TriVersity Construction Co. in Cincinnati, OH, Mel Gravely is the author of several books and a civic leader. His book (I have a copy of it, but have not yet read it) seeks to help people find productive ways to talk about race. If the book is anything like his talk, I highly recommend it to you. He’s smart, funny, and wise, and his talk made me think and encouraged me to engage in difficult discussions. He also gave me a variety of ways to talk about race.
I would have hated to follow Mel–he was that good–but Hai Nguyen, co-founder of Text-Em-All, didn’t disappoint. Using memory and music, Hai invited all of us into the intricacies of his meditation journey. His presentation was moving and illuminating. I’m not a big cryer, but I teared up more than once.
Later in the afternoon, I enjoyed a panel of great women, Heidi Baumgart, VP of Marketing and Team Development at Arborwear, Karen Kromrei, General Manager of Motawi Tileworks, Lisa Whealon, Director of People & Culture for Deli Star, and Sabrina White, Head of People Experience at Text-Em-All. For an hour, they stunned me with their breadth of experience and in the lengths they go to make sure the folks they work with feel loved and appreciated.
The conference ended with a meditation session lead by Rob Dube, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of ImageOne. He’s the author of the book, donothing: The Most Rewarding Leadership Challenge You Will Ever Take and founder of the Leading with Genuine Care mindfulness retreat in Colorado (Michael has attended this retreat twice and loves it). If you get a chance to talk to Rob, you’re immediately put at ease by his accessible calm. The meditation was the perfect end to a perfect summit. I left that afternoon at 4:00 rejuvenated and excited!
Oh yeah, all the people!
And with all of this, I still have to say that the people I met and the connections I made were the highlight of this summit. And that’s what I was told to expect. The Small Giants team that made this summit happen–Hamsa Daher, Annie Gough, Bridget Bateman, Paul Spiegelman, and Bo Burlingham know what they’re doing by bringing so many innovative and smart people committed to putting purpose and people over growth together.
I can’t wait for next year!