The words came out of my mouth before I could stop myself.
Vince Stamey, our CEO, missed Sage Summit this year because of a scheduling conflict. (His kids were off being national champions again with their rifle team. Woo-hoo!) When he returned, he asked me if I had learned anything from the classes I signed up for at Sage Summit. I quickly responded, “No, but …”
Vince raised his eyebrows in that way that he does, and I knew I had spoken before thinking through my answer. (If you know me, you’d know this is typical.) As much as I tried to explain myself, the babbling that came out of my mouth sounded so lame. I knew there was some truth to my answer, but it wasn’t the whole truth.
I learned a ton in Brian Webb’s Twitter 201 class and Greg Tirico’s class about using social media to gauge interactions. The First-Timers lecture was also well worth my time. Why in the world was my first inclination to say no?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the past few weeks. I came to the conclusion that it was the Catch-22 of being a first-time participant and realizing the world of opportunities that I missed, only because I did reach out and connect with people during my week at Sage Summit. Also what tripped me up was the specific part of the question: “the classes you signed up for.” I realized that I learned so much more outside of the classes that I signed up for than I ever could have dreamed.
First of all, an unexpected (but happy) change of plans threw a wrench into my session schedule. I found out after I arrived that our customers Jann Guthridge and George Koerner of Triangle Suspension Systems were now going to speak during four sessions on Sage Inventory Advisor instead of just one. This was an incredible honor for them, and I wanted to make sure I went to all of these sessions to support them. That left me removing a few of my sessions, including “The Female Brain,” which Alicia Anderson invited me to attend.
I also realized that I narrowed my search too small when I was signing up for sessions. Being the marketing director for Practical Software Solutions, I dutifully searched for marketing sessions. It wasn’t until I was chatting with one of my fellow Endorsed Socialites, Robert Wood, late in the week that I realized I wanted a “do-over” for my schedule. I had been following Robert’s tweets while he was in one of Ed Kless‘ sessions, and when Robert and I happened across each other afterwards, he told me about a couple of Ed’s other sessions that I missed out on. His classes may have even been tagged as marketing in the catalog, but I didn’t think some of the titles I saw were relevant to me at the time. I won’t make that mistake again.
Then there was our annual in-person customer meeting. We had 25 customers attending Sage Summit, and nearly all of them were able to come to our meeting. There were also several Sage executives in attendance. Joe Langner, the general manger of mid-market solutions for Sage, spoke to our customers, and to his credit, he took some very tough questions from the crowd. Again, there I was, learning about what our Sage ERP and Sage Construction and Real Estate customers needed to know from Sage, what their concerns for the future were, and how they responded to the answers they got.
One of the most important things was learning about our customers as the people behind the e-mail or telephone, and not just from a business perspective. Jann and George were constant companions during the week, and we became great friends. I’ll never look at a glass of orange juice in a restaurant the same way. (Kanban!) On Wedensday’s Night at the American History Museum, I hung out with sisters Monica Stancik and Melinda Wiley from Nashville Wire Products. We had a great time, and Monica was nice enough to snap this photo for me during the festivities. I’m pointing at the exact platform in Salisbury, N.C., where I had boarded a train to get to Sage Summit, only the photo on the wall was from 1927!
In our business, we talk about Return on Investment a whole bunch. In the months leading up to July, Sage sends out e-mails to both partners and customers about the ROI of Sage Summit, and how it can benefit your business to attend. The interesting thing is that the Sage HRMS division often speaks of Return on Employee Investment. After attending my first Sage Summit, I really think the event is more ROEI. I feel like I came back a better employee for Practical Software Solutions.
So to answer your question Vince, what I learned at Sage Summit is the difference between intelligence and wisdom, the difference between learning from a book and learning from living. I didn’t learn as much from my classes as I did from my experiences at Sage Summit. But it was one of the most educational weeks of my business career, for sure.