This week our team had the opportunity to attend PS27 Leadership Week, which is hosted annually in Jacksonville, Florida. The event is described as the best leadership training event designed specifically for startups and small businesses. We decided, even though it’s 5 days with long hours (8am-8pm), to go ahead and accept the offer to the event. PS27 Ventures website writes there is a $1500 charge per company- which includes boarding and meals- and, with limited spaces, only a maximum of 15 ‘selected’ companies may attend. If you are lucky enough to obtain a sponsorship (also called scholarships) by one of PS27’s 3rd party investors, the sponsoring company will underwrite the cost of your attendance. This may include the costs of lesson materials, lodging and three (delicious) meals a day.
“This is not for everybody…”
PS27 Ventures clear warning claims that their Leadership Week is ‘not for everybody’, and most attendees would agree. This is an intense, weeklong workshop lasting roughly 12 hours a day, for entrepreneurs, founders and owners to step up, stay open minded, and learn something. Dedication, passion and willingness is an absolute must before you even consider applying- else it’s likely you will drop out by the second day. Having been to several conferences and seminars, there is no truthful comparison to PS27 Leadership Week. Sure, it can be grueling. Yes, it will be frustrating. It is clear the main objective is to train, teach and provide entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools to reach a level of success they desire and wish for- but, utilizing the tools provided to you in the real world is up to you.
With a wide array of local and national powerhouses backing this event; including, among many others: Morgan Stanley, Black Knight Financial, and Fidelity, Leadership Week takes full advantage of its resources and supplies you with material in all forms with one goal: to be successful. If you operate on another continent or if you’re just a few miles away from the headquarters in Jacksonville, PS27’s Week of Leaders will cater to you.
The management team of Custom Design Partners attended 2018’s Leadership Week. I’ll touch briefly how each day went.
Day One: Yoga and Productivity
My original thought: why am I up at 8am to rotate my hips and lunge my thighs? Personally, I am extremely familiar with yoga and meditation. My mother is a part-time yoga instructor and I meditate by necessity (roughly 30 minutes every morning- don’t judge- try it yourself and it becomes a healthy addiction). Hillary McDonald of FreshJax spoke to the teams about healthy lifestyle and wellness, which included the aforementioned yoga and meditation exercises. Honestly, I’m biased when speaking about personal wellness- it’s been a concrete element of my morning routine for 2 years. Even four days later, teams are heard gossiping that Hillary’s class should start each and everyday of Leadership Week.
Productivity. My team is productive. We know we provide the best results. “Just ask our clients” we repeated among ourselves. The class was ‘Profits Productivity’, taught by Jenna Waites of Waites Ventures. Coming in skeptical, we left wanting more. As a Day One class, Jenna Waites administered a thought provoking and personable module with the core focus: reducing our wasteful hours and focusing on our profitable hours. After realizing that we may (MAY!) have wasteful hours during our day, Jenna did a fantastic job at analyzing our daily work schedules. Trimming the fat, referring daily work annoyances, and, most importantly, identifying the most productive + profitable time block of our day, our week, and our month. The only issue we have with Jenna is that she left too early. Please come back.
Day Two: Communication and Sales
One could say one of the most important key concepts to creating a successful company is ‘effective leadership communication’. A corporate buzzword or a compelling strategy to close clients and land contracts. Mark Vickers was the group’s main speaker at PS27 Leadership Week Day numero dos. Vickers is a certified world class speaking coach, personal mentor, president of ‘Speaking is Selling‘ and yada yada yada, etc, etc. Needless to say the guy knows his stuff. We started the day presenting our pitches to the room of other PS27 Ventures teams and critiquing each other. Which was often awkward, uncomfortable yet thought provoking. Vickers coached each team individually and gave personal advice on why and how they could improve. The 15 different companies in the room in completely different industries, Mark helped draft the perfect pitch for each.
After lunch (Taco Tuesday), each team pitched their companies for a second round and the improvement was noticeable. Going into the day we believed there was no reason for having public speaking skills geared towards potential investors, as most of our meetings are done in a more intimate and personalized setting. However, our whole team learned some extremely valuable concepts from Mark’s workshop that we will carry into future meetings. The takeaway for us was education for the long term. Sure, 99% of our clients are referrals. And referrals make us a decent sum of money. Our question after Mark’s session: what does the ecosystem look like in 3, 6, 10 years from now? Let’s start practicing for it today.
Day Three: Team Building
At this point, we are obviously starting to curve our skepticism. We’ve learned much more than we originally thought, and it’s only been two days (8 hour days, but who’s counting?). We find ourselves getting together after each module and drawing up gameplans based on the information we retained that so far. Maybe PS27’s Leadership Week is working?
Kesler & Company’s Dawn Lemasters spoke throughout the day. We were given the official Myers-Briggs personality test. Not a knock off or a customized variation. It’s true- our team has taken variations of Myers-Briggs several times throughout the last two years. We laughed, we shared, but, we never put the missing pieces together. Dawn’s expertise with real world (and recreations of real world) exercises gave us an “Aha!” moment. We are skeptical folks. We take personality tests for fun. However, the extensiveness of the results allowed us to compare our personality types so we can build the ultimate synergization between our team. Our brief example: I am terrible with confrontation. Maggie (our lead account manager) is far above average with direct and honest feedback. Perfect! Maggie fires our lazy intern and I don’t have to do anything- easy! It will take several weeks, likely months, before we all learn our strengths and weaknesses, our pros and cons, our abilities and incompetencies.
Day Four: Learn From The Best
Personally, I believe Day Four was my favorite of the week. Aside from the open bar and delicious food near the end of the evening, attendees had the chance to meet with professionals called “Speedy Services for Startups”. Each table had 20 minutes with 1 or 2 business professionals geared toward assisting startups, including: patent attorneys, HR consultants, business insurance, and small business bankers (Hancock Whitney, Abel Bean Law, Montoya Financial Strategies, and Conceptual HR Solutions). I wish I had 2 hours, instead of 20 minutes, with each of these professionals. The amount of information they individually gave us was invaluable.
During the afternoon, the infamous “Shark Tank” went underway, with a $5,000 prize- among potential funding from outside investors. There were a fantastic group of companies pitching their startup, including MyLabBox and Docity. Check out BizJournals for more information (and the winner!) of PS 27’s Shark Tank winner.
The day ended with the keynote speaker, Anthony Jabbour, CEO of Black Knight Financial. The party continued with an open bar, delicious food, music, and a fantastic meet-and-greet with fellow Jacksonville business owners who attended. The event officially ended around 7pm, but we found ourselves staying until 11pm having a great time with everyone else, and saying our goodbyes to businesses located outside the state (or country, for that matter!).
Is Jacksonville’s Leadership Week Worth It?
Coming from a bunch of skeptical, doubtful and cynical individuals: it’s worth it. My mother and grandmother always taught me “You can always continue to learn. You don’t know everything”, and they are both right (sadly, for me. I know it ALL!). If you have the golden ticket and are offered to go to PS27 Leadership Week…
Leadership Week was conducted by dedicated and professional staff. Check out their summary video below: