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What I Learned at the Dallas Small Business Series Conference

Updated: May 31, 2020

conference area

I was honored to be invited by the United States Chamber of Commerce to present marketing tips and recommendations to a few hundred small business owners in Dallas, Texas as part of their Small Business Series of regional conferences. Every time I travel to meet Ripl customers and speak at small business focused conferences, I return to the Ripl headquarters inspired and amazed by the entrepreneurial stories I hear on the road. This trip was no exception – I had the opportunity to meet numerous Texas-based business owners who were both inspired and inspiring.

The information I prepared for my keynote speech was focused on “Authentic Marketing in the Social Media Era”, and then I spoke about the importance of providing frequent ‘behind-the-scenes’ content and honest, personal updates about the reality of building an independent business. {If you would like to join me in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Phoenix later this year at the U.S. Chamber’s additional Small Business Series events, please do if you can!}

As usual, though, the best part about the trip was the chance to speak 1-on-1 with a variety of different small business owners during and after the conference. Here are a few of the things I learned meeting with so many different small business owners while in Dallas:

Small Business Leadership takes honesty, humility and guts

One of the things that made presenting my material at the Conference difficult was having to follow All-Pro Dallas Cowboy legend and current small business owner Darren Woodson. He spoke about the reality of building his own independent business where leadership requires hiring people who are internally “Compelled” to succeed. He was transparent about the fact that entrepreneurship is difficult at times for him, even though he’s had such prior success in his athletic endeavors. Two or three of the Dallas-based business owners who followed him in the panel discussion reinforced and repeated these points. I heard numerous people talk honestly about how they discovered the importance of being open to admitting the challenges and difficulties of being a small business leader. Several of the presenters at this particular event emphasized how it’s not always easy to admit that building a business is hard, time-consuming, late-night work… but that this gritty path is often required to ‘own the journey’ of entrepreneurship.

Small Business Owners wouldn’t have it any other way

In the afternoon last week, I hosted several Ripl customers for an intimate happy hour where I could hear about opportunities for improvement of our software and service from them. I do this when I go on the road so that I can get direct feedback about how we can improve the Ripl experience. At the end of the discussion I asked the group of entrepreneurs, “No matter how the last few years have been for you, would you go back to working for a big company or organization again?” Not a single person said that they would. Despite the grind, despite the challenges, despite the fact that big companies may provide better benefits or more secure and consistent income, every small business owner I met with said that they preferred being the captain of their own ship. As one of the leaders of a young software company myself, I can’t emphasize enough how inspiring it is to meet with a variety of people from different businesses, regions, and backgrounds who all confirm that the reward of being in charge of one’s own business exceeds the challenge and risk.

Small Business marketers and owners crave community

One thing I noticed at this conference in particular, which was supported by the local Irving Chamber of Commerce, was how kind and outgoing all of the attendees were towards me and each other. I got a clear sense that running your own business can sometimes be lonely and feel competitive, but that sharing time and experiences with other local business owners is really important. It cemented for me the importance of finding ways within the Ripl experience for our customers to connect, draw inspiration, and learn from each other. I think that we can facilitate more of this in our software platform for the hundreds of thousands of small business-people we have using our service. Seeing the joy in Dallas of those who were glad to acknowledge each other’s efforts and achievements reminded me again how much small business owners crave community with each other. We’re excited to do more small business community work here at Ripl.

Clay McDaniel

In short, the Dallas entrepreneurial community showed up in force and showed me how some things really are “bigger in Texas” – including ambition, kindness and humor. I can’t wait to hear more stories when I head to Atlanta in early June for the next installment in the Small Business Series. If you live in the greater Atlanta region, I hope to see you there!


Clay McDaniel

CEO at Ripl


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