Last Thursday, we had the chance to attend ScaleUp Summit Barcelona, a conference hosted by ESADE Business School with an incredible lineup of speakers who gave us practical guidelines on how to come up with an effective scale up strategy. Among the most important things we learned were: marketing effectiveness is the absolute key to scaling up successfully; you got have some personal skin in the game; and what makes us weird also makes us wonderful.
When we arrived, the auditorium was already full of entrepreneurs, business executives and MBA students. They all turned up at ESADE for a chance to learn something from the four influencers speaking on stage, and do a bit of casual networking in between sessions. The event offered both. The talks actually did provide the audience with some useful tips and strategies that could implement in their own projects, and if all the takeaways weren’t enough, the speakers, who are renowned authors of several books themselves, gave us a long list of volumes to read – or keep on our desks and glance at their covers for motivation. The coffee breaks proved to be good opportunities to go up to people – or have people come up to you – even though by the end of the day, cliques had formed and you found yourself grouped with the same people again and again.
Learn How to Scale Your Company
The conference was so intense, it’s difficult to select a few highlights, but we’ll try. Following an insightful speech by Greg Brenneman (Chairman, President and CEO of CCMP Capital), the event’s moderator Christopher Pommerening (Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Active Venture Partners) revealed a very interesting – and somewhat mysterious – project called Our Dream School that involves creating a new school model that takes into consideration the needs and preferences of children today, and the children of the future.
After his short presentation, Carlos Muñoz (Founder of Vueling Airlines and CEO of Volotea), also known as The Man Who Founded Not One, But Two Successful Airlines, took the stage. He spoke about why the founding of Vueling happened at an ideal time in an ideal climate, how they experienced the race against their main competitors, Iberia and Ryanair, and how, after Vueling was forced to surrender and merge with Clickair, Carlos used the lessons learnt and gathered a team of experienced professionals to create a completely new airline project, Volotea. Like he said, you gotta have personal skin in the game.
Marketing Is Everything
After hearing the impressive story of how one man built two airlines from the ground up, it was Verne Harnish’s turn (Founder of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, also known as The Growth Guy) to inspire the crowd – which he did not from the stage, but from among the audience, standing just in front of the first row to connect better with those listening. His energy and easygoing personality made his speech about scaling companies so much more enjoyable. We learned that the ego we needed to get started is the thing that will kill us when we start scaling up; that marketing is the key to a successful scale up, that we need to learn when to say yes and when to say no; and that we’re not the only ones who find people difficult to deal with.
Weaknesses Are Advantages
Dave Rendall, who is “just” a full-time speaker and nothing else (like he himself emphasized) put the icing on the cake. It’s a shame that the auditorium seemed to have become emptier by the end of the day, because his talk was the most relatable, the one that non-entrepreneurs, too, could fully understand and learn from. Not to mention that it was extremely entertaining: laughter rippled across the crowd after every second sentence of his.
The author of three books including ‘The Freak Factor’, the comedian-speaker in the pink pants whose worldwide popularity takes him across continents on a daily basis, taught us to redefine our concepts of what is “wrong”, embrace our weaknesses and build on them – which is some advice that we can all take to heart, even if we’re just living our everyday lives and not scaling any companies at all. We can still recall him reciting his mantra in his compelling voice:
What makes us weird also makes us wonderful. What makes us weak also makes us strong.
As for the event organization of the event: great venue, great food, but extremely cold air conditioning among the rows where the audience was seated.
All in all, the conference was definitely worth attending, and we can’t wait to be back next year!