26 Actionable Ideas from skucamp to Kick-Start Your Growth

18 min read

Now is when the real work begins.  

Over the past few days in sultry and sizzlin’ New Orleans, over 130 open-minded entrepreneurs gathered in the art deco glamour of the Ace Hotel to deep-dive into topics to help grow their business.

The essential purpose of skucamp is to inspire action. The community aspect of everyone coming together, to catch up, to meet new friends, to draw inspiration from one another, is a crucial part of the skucamp experience but, implementing what we learned is the single most important experience of skucamp.

Many of you took copious notes and formulated your own action plan but for those that want a few additional ideas (and even for those that did not get a chance to attend), as is our custom, we’ve put together a list of recommended action items you can take immediately to kick-start changes in your business.


Mike Michaleowicz / The Pumpkin Plan: How to Grow a Colossally Successful Business


Mike’s session was all about the quality of our clients, not the quantity. There were many critical takeaways from Mike’s session, here are three we thought were essential:

(1) Join groups or associations where your best customers gather. “Just appear, be there again and again in front of your best community. Prospects trust you more the more frequently you are in front of them,” said Mike. Action: Analyze your top ten customers’ titles, are there similarities in their profession? Marketing? Communications? HR? Ask your best customers about groups they are a part of and join an association that aligns with their profession or organization and appear there frequently.

(2) Start a drip-marketing campaign to your best customers. “The ordinary entrepreneur,” Mike said, “focuses on the weakest customer, the extraordinary, colossal entrepreneur focuses on the strongest customer.” Over-cater to your best customers. “Most business owners saturate,” continued Mike, “by giving their key customers attention at sporadic times, but colossal farmers water about 15 times a day; quenching is constantly serving.” We’ve written about drip-marketing campaigns before, which can take multiple forms (email newsletters, handwritten notes, promotional campaigns), for tactical how-to’s, check out Ruth’s presentation and action items below.

(3) Get in front of your best customers by the end of 4th QTR and ask three critical questions. “Colossal growth comes from delivering a unique offering to your top clients and systematizing your entire process,” said Mike. “An ordinary entrepreneur believes better is better. A colossal entrepreneur knows that different is better.” How do we become ‘different?’ We begin by seeking answers from our best customers. Mike suggested three critical questions you can ask:

  • What am I doing right? The customer won’t just tell you what you do right; they will also reveal how they judge you. Knowing this judgment, you’ll know what you need to do better.
  • What is wrong with my industry? Don’t ask, “What am I doing wrong?” because customers will rarely tell you the truth or can rarely think through the intricacies of the process to advise you well, instead ask, “What is wrong with my industry?” Knowing this will help you learn how to differentiate yourself from the competition.
  • What vendors do you depend on? Knowing the vendors your customer depends on will tell you who they trust and why, shedding light on their priorities and preferences and giving insight into what is most important to them.


Jake Malishkevich’s / Easy Over Everything: Simplifying Your Sales Process.


Jake talked about how the most important person at the sales table isn’t your client but your salespeople. “The client’s perception, through your salespeople via their confident expertise will directly impact whether or not they buy.” Empowerment creates confidence which strengthens customer trust. Jake emphasized that creating easy paths for salespeople leads to easy experiences for customers. A few key action points you can take from Jake’s session:

(4) By the end of 4th QTR, interview each of your salespeople about the steps in the sales process (and if you’re ambitious, each of your support team members). Review the steps and ask where there are bottlenecks, where the process can be simpler. Ask your team how much power they have over making a decision when it comes to each step in the sale. “A salesperson’s confidence will only be as high as their ability to make a decision,” said Jake.

(5) An easy action but one that will help spark your imagination: Review your favorite customer experiences. Who are they? Your favorite restaurant? Supplier? Next time you purchase or visit, document what touchpoints impress you throughout the process. Use this information to contrast your customer’s experience with your company and your selling process.

Jake’s presentation in PDF format.


Rod Brown / Building a Company to Last and a Life to Love


Legendary mentor, Rod Brown, CFO at MadeToOrder, Inc. made a presentation that was so rich that it received a standing ovation from the audience. Rod chronicled his career from winning to losing to winning and losing again, it was a journey of relentless recovery, not only personally but professionally. Through his journey, Rod emphasized a few key action points that helped him:

(6) Read, read, read. “If you’re not reading on your career, I can’t tell you what a loser you are,” said Rod to audience laughter. But to Rod, it’s no laughing matter. During one of the skucamp sessions, Rod saw that an attendee in the audience was reading a business book, he grabbed the business book, brought it to the front of the room and asked the attendee to come to the front to reclaim her book; in it, rod stuck a $20 bill in the flyleaf, congratulating her on reading to sharpen her mind, Rod emphasized, “you will always earn more when you read.” Action point:  Start a monthly book club within your organization or among a few peers in your local market or post in the commonsku community feed that you would like to start your own skucamp-inspired reading group.

(7) Research your publicly traded top clients or prospects: Rod had a unique suggestion for anyone who has a publicly traded company as a customer: visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and look up your top public client’s annual report (known as a 10-K). Why? Rod has unearthed a trove of intel on prospects and customers, use their public information to mine for critical insight into company and prospect initiatives.

(8) Increase your financial intel: In Rod’s session, one of the difficult and yet insightful glimpses into his success was the various methods Rod used to finance his business and build value. Prior to the event, Rod shared with us a list of financial terms, review these terms from Rod’s presentation as a way to familiarize yourself with his talk again (you can review these alongside Rod’s presentation below).

(9) Claim Your Raison D’être: One of Rod’s key takeaways was around the idea of building a life beyond business that gives back richly, building a life that you love. Rod contributes his time to helping build homes in the poorest regions of Mexico and in helping feed and support albino orphans in sub-equatorial Africa; Rod calls this (in addition to his family) his raison d’être (reason for being). Can you name your raison d’être? Is there a cause or contribution you can make that will richly reward your life but also give back to the community? If not, consider making a 2019 goal to claim and live your raison d’être.

Rod’s presentation in PDF format.


Catherine Graham / Building a High-Performance Team


Catherine Graham’s presentation on how to build a high-performance team covered many powerful tips and insights into both recruitment and onboarding. I love how Catherine’s session challenged us to think through specific details that we normally process too quickly, critical components to hiring and onboarding that force us to crystallize our vision and purpose for the roles we are trying to fill.  

Catherine talked about the five key areas in a distributor’s business: product selection and curation, education and ideation, order creation, production and shipping, and invoicing and billing. Through Catherine’s workshop she talked about three elements of a job posting which consisted of the sections: “About Us,” “About You,” and “About the Job.”

Since many distributors spend so much time responding to deadlines and taking care of clients, a few ideal action points would be to:

(10) Institute a 360° Review Process One of the most beneficial review processes available is a 360° review process that gathers feedback from managers as well as peers and gives the employee a glimpse into how their work is viewed across the entire organization. Create an annual 360° review process by writing questions that will reflect, not only performance review, but what matters most in the role, (considering how the role contributes to the momentum of those “on the bus,”) and include questions about core values and areas for improvement.  

(11) Since 45% of employees feel they get no leadership development and that their current skills will be inadequate in 3 years, review with your team their career goals and ask where you can help with educational resources or on-the-job opportunities to stretch their skill development.  

(12) Why is it awesome to work at your organization? Answering this critical question will touch on the most fundamental aspects of your culture and will provide mission direction for you and your team. Caryn Kopp said that “sales is situational” and so is recruiting. Take the time to craft this response now so that you can formalize this insight and, make it memorable for you and your team, so that you can make it easier to communicate when you need those words the most.

Catherine’s presentation in PDF format.


Bill Petrie and Kirby Hasseman / So You Suck at Content Marketing – It’s Time to Suck Less


Bill and Kirby covered a lot of territory in their session on content marketing beginning with the principle that we are in a “give first economy,” and focused on the four C’s of excellent content, that it should be creative, consistent, consumable, and courageous. To help kick-start your action from Bill and Kirby’s session:

(13) Create one vehicle that you can use to start your content journey. Determine whether this is a blog, a podcast, a newsletter, or a video series. Once you determine your vehicle, break your content goals down into attainable tasks and timelines. If it’s a blog you wish to create, determine the type of content you want and set a six-month production goal. If it’s one newsletter a month, or one video series every two-weeks, create a content calendar and begin the work with just one vehicle. You’ll find that one content initiative leads to another (for example, a blog will also help jump-start your emailed newsletter initiative). Since Gary V says, “Every single one of you is a media company,” now is the time to start becoming one!

Bill and Kirby’s presentation in PDF format.


Caryn Kopp / Path to the Cash! How to Find Revenue Faster


As salespeople, as creative people, we want creative license, we want to be spontaneous, but what I learned from Caryn is that we should do the meticulous work of crafting every message and every touchpoint so that we not only give ourselves rails to run on, but we also gain the confidence to go off script when necessary. A few action points from Caryn’s session is to refine your target audience and formulate your messaging:

(14) One of Caryn’s workshop exercises was critical in helping distributors determine their unique value proposition by creating their “Gap Sales Message.”  Anybody can ________. But not everyone can ______ for example, _______. Gap messaging is the difference between what anyone can say about their product and services, versus what you can say that would cause that prospect to feel you have more value. Spend some time completing this exercise and codifying it into your purpose statement and then practice. “Language + delivery = outcome,” said Caryn, “it’s both what you say and how you say it.”

(15) Once you know your UVP, you can then consider your ideal customers: those who will willingly pay, who have an urgent need, and those to whom you have an obvious solution. Create a list of your top twenty prospect companies and determine ten of which fit into this category. “If you get target right,” said Caryn, “a lot of the other things are easier.” Then formulate an action plan for reach-outs and follow-ups but remember, “80% of sales are made on the 5th to 12th contact” and the number one reason why sales don’t close is because of a lack of timely and effective follow through.

(16) “Next step: date and time.” Caryn has had customers print this statement as a reminder to always ask a prospect or a client at the end of a call or email exchange to determine the next step, and then get a date and time on the calendar for follow-up. It’s a simple action point, but one that is important: print this statement out and pin it on your wall and over-communicate this phrase to your team. This simple, small discipline will help unlock even more opportunities with both customers and prospects.

(17) Identify your closer. Who is it on your team that loves to find new clients and close new deals? These personalities are different than the farmers and nurturers who love to service accounts. One of the most difficult aspects in this business is to continually develop a prospecting pipeline and part of the challenge is one of roles: no one is clearly defined as a closer for your business. Identify who your closer is and reimagine their compensation and their role to continually develop new leads.

Caryn’s presentation in PDF format.


Melissa McCauley / Inspirational Merchandising for High-Impact Sales


Visual merchandising is how you represent virtually everything about your brand, from catalogs to virtuals, trade shows, storefronts, and merchandise. My favorite quote from Melissa’s session was, “so you aren’t creative, not an excuse. Start putting the pieces together. My success in all of this has been nothing more than a good job at connecting a bunch of dots and putting those pieces together.”

Melissa walked through the refinement process as they rebuilt their visual merchandising, emphasizing consistency and cohesiveness, but also paying close attention to lines of symmetry with colors and logos.

(18) Revitalize your brand: Review all of your branding, from your website to your newsletters to your self-promo campaigns and catalogs. Take snapshots of each and lay them out on a board and review them with your team. Look for inconsistencies and clutter. Determine ways you can simplify your branding by streamlining design and simplifying colors. “Since everyone is judging,” said Melissa, “you should use the visible to get to the invisible” and remember that “content ain’t shit unless the picture with it looks good.” Engage a few of your most creative friends that are outside of the industry to give you honest feedback about your collection and begin to reinvent the look and feel of your visual merchandising. Most of all, be YOU not THEM and you will attract your tribe!

Melissa’s presentation in PDF format.


Ben Taylor / Website Makeover: Transform Your Site into a Lead Gen Machine


Ben Taylor’s session provided a host of tools you can use to transform your website. If you haven’t downloaded and filled out his website checklist, it’s a goldmine of rich resources and analytical questions to help amp your site results.

(19) Get rid of that generic, product search-driven site (now!) and start looking into a content management system for your web identity. Converting your site from a “same as everyone else” to a unique experience that reflects your individuality is one of the key starting points for differentiating your brand. Make a goal to have your new site launched by January 1st!

(20) A key factor Ben covered was identifying your audience. One of the chronic challenges in this industry is generic websites that try to sell to everybody instead of building a vision and a voice that speaks to a specific somebody. During Ben’s talk, he mentioned the Hubspot mapping tool for developing your brand’s persona. Review your top ten buyers and begin to think through your ideal buyer persona then visit the Hubspot tool to learn how to create your custom persona so that when you begin to build your new site, you’ll know exactly who you are speaking to.

(21) “Every brand is a lifestyle brand.” Another quick and simple step is to visit BenTaylorTalks.com and download Ben’s checklist for building a more valuable lifestyle brand.

Ben’s presentation in PDF format.


Ruth Verver / From Passive to Passionate: Converting Customers Into Raving Fans


Ruth Verver gave a fantastic, tactical presentation on how to take VIP customers and transform them into passionate advocates. For the promotional products industry, using promotional products campaigns is one of the easiest ways to differentiate, celebrate, and excite your customers, a few key action items:

(22) Identify your VIP customers and plan out four touchpoints, four exceptional promotional campaigns a year, one per quarter. The key with these campaigns (as per Ruth’s examples) is to not merely create a self-promotion campaign, but to craft an experience and build a collection that moves the buyer’s imagination. One easy way to kick-start your campaign is to review the skucamp swag collection and pull a few ideas that would be relevant to your audience. Begin now to work on your 4th and 1st quarter campaigns!

(23) Build a customer loyalty program by celebrating non-traditional holidays. I love this idea from Ruth and we would use it often in our distributorship as well. Brainstorm with your team on all the non-traditional holidays that you could celebrate to build mini-campaigns to surprise and delight your customers. Of the campaign ideas that Ruth mentioned, these were some of the most significant: Thank you campaigns using cards from Warwick publishing, “whoops” gifts for when there is a mistake on an order, new customer gift, client anniversary gifts – our industry should never cease to surprise, delight, and amaze our customers with our medium.

Ruth’s presentation in PDF format.


Everything Turns Around: Living With and Leveraging Adversity


Craig Morantz has been through a series of massive wins, stunning setbacks, and he’s still relentlessly pursuing the next adventure. Through Craig’s storytelling, we were eyewitnesses to the emotional roller coaster of having it all and losing it all. Craig’s story, though deeply personal, was a good opportunity for all of us to reconsider the wins and losses in our own history:

(24) Think through -better yet, write down, -perhaps on your own blog- your story of a personal failure and how it shaped who you are today. What lessons did you learn that remain deeply impressed upon your mind and how do they impact your world tomorrow?

(25) Be less of an asshole. The room lit up with knowing laughter when Craig flashed this slide. And there’s not much detail to add to this action item except that it’s worth noting that we can’t be perfect, but the least we can do is strive for being less of an asshole.

(26) One of the great experiences a biographical speaker can go through is being forced to recall these events and to crystallize their meaning in context of today’s work and tomorrow’s opportunities. Here’s a big challenge: Maybe you’re one of our next speakers at a future skucamp or commonsku event or a guest on our skucast. Want to share your story? If you have a story to share (and everyone has a story to share), share it with us. Email me and let me know. We’d love to join you on your journey and share your experience with other entrepreneurs who can learn as well.

Craig’s presentation in PDF format.


From the feedback we’ve received so far (publicly and privately), skucamp has had a profound impact on inspiring change in the hearts and minds of the industry and radically reimagining how we can build better businesses. We can only say that we are simply proud to have facilitated such an amazing exchange of open-minded professionals, peers who know that the person sitting next to them has as much to teach as the person from the stage.

We’re proud to learn with you, grow with you, and continue to encourage success, one simple story and one actionable idea at a time. 

And if you enjoyed all the learning and camaraderie at skucamp, join us at skucon on January 13th, we look forward to seeing you there!

commonsku is an effortless business management platform that empowers you to process more orders and handle more business. Learn more at commonsku.com.

Also published on Medium.