CEO Vince Thomas shares his thoughts on attending the Ernst and Young national award competition
On November 8-14, 2011, Billhighway’s CEO Vince Thomas attended the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year National Award Competition in Palm Springs, California along with over 2,300 of the world’s top CEOs, entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Describe your overall experience. Was it different than what you had expected?
My overall experience at the event was incredible. When I first got there, I didn’t know what to expect. It was amazing just to see the caliber of people and brands in attendance, but to see how they were all mingling together was very cool. There were no boundaries between leaders of companies by industries or size of their businesses. We were all there to learn from each other. The speakers far exceeded my expectations. There were over 100 speakers, but the ones I saw were particularly great included Wayne Gretzky, Troy Aikman, Michael Dell of Dell Computers, and former President George W. Bush. Bush’s speech stood out to me the most with his views on current world events. While the room we were in was pretty small and intimate, his thoughts were compelling.
The amount of information and ideas that were shared over the four days was huge, but the quality of information was even more incredible.
It was interesting to hear Wayne Gretzky compare sports to business. He joked that the biggest difference is that in business you have the “7am meeting” where in sports you work at night, basically implying that there isn’t much of a difference. With sports you have the same components as business – team, goals, communication- and the companies that function efficiently (like sports teams) are the ones who win. I found this relevant since I have always thought, as a business person, we are just like athletes in our profession. The biggest difference for me is that we don’t get a 3 month off season.
What do you think Billhighway shares with the other companies that were nominated?
Generally speaking, the companies in attendance were the businesses that are always innovating and on the cutting edge of creation. They’re constantly moving forward and coming up with new ways to move their products and businesses forward. That being said, it was nice to be in the company of these organizations because I hold Billhighway to the same standards as we move forward. It’s great to be recognized and even in on some level competing with the Groupon, LinkedIn, Red Ventures of the world. These companies are extreme game-changers of their industries, so it’s an honor to be put in the same category.
It was very interesting to talk to leaders in several different industries that all had common goals. When you think about it, most great businesses are interested in the same major areas of scalable growth, customer service as a differentiator and of course being financially viable to make an impact that reaches beyond the board room.
How has winning the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year regional award and attending the National Entrepreneur of the Year Awards event changed your goals for Billhighway? Has it made you look at things differently?
Attending the national event and winning the regional award confirmed that Billhighway is on the right path to becoming significant in our own way. Many of these companies have changed the way their industries do business and have helped a lot of others along the way. That’s exactly what Billhighway is here to do- radically help nonprofits change how their finances are managed leaving them more money and time to focus on their mission.
When you’re in the company of ridiculously successful people that take risks with their business and live without limits, it makes you take a step back and view your own company’s goal with an even brighter light. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn how our business can someday become a larger enterprise while still maintaining our core values.
Other lessons learned throughout this experience?
Companies with traditional corporate cultures seemed to be the minority, which was refreshing. It was clear that the leaders at this event loved what they do and were truly passionate about their business. I’m excited to go to future Entrepreneur of the Year Award events to continue learning and meeting great people. Next year I’m bringing more people with me!
Any advice for the winners, Jeff Weiner and Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn, as they move on to the world competition in Monaco?
My advice to them would be to treat it like a celebration, rather than a conference. Take the time to enjoy your win. You can always go back to the conference.
To learn more about the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year National Award Competition, click here.
To watch a video of the competition highlights, click here.