Vivayic at the Small Giants Summit

“It’s not what we do. It’s who we are®.”  Small Giants Community

On a weekly basis, someone will ask “what do you do?” whether at a Mizzou Alumni event, dentist office, or just a family get-together. I generally defer to Doug, who is much better at explaining it, and his explanation usually starts out as “We are a learning solutions design firm.” After seeing confusion on people’s faces, Doug offers a few more details or examples of our work, it becomes much more clear about what we do. However, for me, at Vivayic, it really is who we are and our culture, not what we do.

One example of our culture is our emphasis on learning. If we are going to design learning solutions, we better enjoy learning! One of the cool thinks Vivayic does is a bi-monthly book club.  We choose books related to our industry or business and meet via conference call (we are a virtual office) to discuss a couple of chapters at a time and brainstorm ideas on how to implement ideas we liked from the book. About a year ago, our book club book was Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham (Portfolio, 2006). The idea that there is more to a successful business than a bottom line really aligned with our vision for Vivayic. After a quick Google search, we found there is an entire Community that has the same belief and they get together at an annual Summit. No hesitations….sign us up!! (Ok, there was a small hesitation, we missed the registration for the 2012 Summit, but we added the 2013 Summit to our calendars in Nov 2012 so we wouldn’t miss 2013).

Fast forward to June 7, 2013, Doug and I set off to San Diego to attend the 2013 Small Giants Summit. We were prepared for “June Gloom” as they call it in San Diego, but luckily we did see the sun a couple of days! The Summit was held at a beautiful resort in Carlsbad, CA – that I would highly recommend, especially if you are into health and wellness, as it is the nation’s #1 wellness spa (La Costa Resort and Spa).

via lacosta.com

via lacosta.com

Our schedule of events included a Welcome Reception Saturday evening, all-day session on Sunday, social event Sunday night, and a morning session on Monday. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect from the Summit or the Community. We knew it would be a smaller group (75-100 people) and we knew they were interested in running their businesses in a similar manner, but otherwise, we did not know what to expect or what was in store over the next two days. Several of the participants came up and introduced themselves to us at the Welcome Reception and everyone was very nice, however, it seemed like many of the participants knew each other and I was worried because we didn’t know anyone that we might not get as much out of the conference as we’d hoped. As it turns out, my concerns disappeared by 10AM Sunday morning. The Summit was a format like I had never seen before. After the initial welcome by Bo, and an inspiring visioning session by Ari Weinzweig, CEO of Zingerman’s, we split into groups to “Network With A Purpose” where we chose a table based on different challenges we experienced within our own companies. Immediately, we were discussing and sharing advice with each other based on challenges we all face. This was extremely helpful because A). we were able to brainstorm solutions to a common challenge and B). we got to know and network with 8 other participants immediately and develop a relationship that would continue to build as the summit continued.

This theme of collaboration and culture continued thru the rest of the summit. It was not like other conferences I have attended with one lecturer and the rest of us taking notes. The Small Giants Community was very much willing to openly share their challenges and successes in their own businesses and what they’ve learned in the process. Nick Sarillo, owner of Nick’s Pizza & Pub discussed his focus on values, training, and his method of “trust and track.” Nick uses a feedback model that includes providing immediate and direct feedback to each of his employees at the end of their shift, which has resulted in a turnover rate of less than 20%, which is unheard-of in the food industry. Rochelle Rizzi, founder of Rizzi Designs shared the culture of her firm by taking us on a journey of what she learned at the previous Summit and how she took the information and incorporated it into her business thru the “Rizzi Games.” Jack Stack, owner of SRC, shared his insights about Open Book Management and the pride his employees have in building their organization. Finally, Paul Spiegelman, founder of BerylHealth, discussed company culture and our Culture IQs. Stay tuned for Vivayic’s results!

By the end of the Summit, we had a chance to develop relationships with many of the other Small Giants community members and we know that we have a group of people who care about who we are because of who they are. We are looking forward to next year’s summit already!

Footnote – just to circle back to our Vivayic Book Club, during our time at the Small Giants Summit, so many members of the community have published their experiences and knowledge; I added an entire shelf of books for our future book club discussions:

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham (obviously)
A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading by Ari Weinzweig
A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader (Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading by Ari Weinzweig
A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business by Nick Sarillo
Why is Everyone Smiling? The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit by Paul Spiegelman
The Great Game of Business, Expanded and Updated: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham
Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons from the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons by Lewis Schiff