The Takeaways From A Great (Not Just Good) Conference

The just-concluded Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference is flat-out my favorite business event of the year. I often call it “The Super Bowl of PR.” This year, in particular, was memorable.

For the first time, I served as Chair of the Conference’s Marketing, Media and Sponsorship Committee, which helped increase attendance, coverage and underwriting. Tanner Friedman had four clients speaking on the Conference agenda (all communicated extremely well). I emceed the “Mackinac 101” session for first-time attendees, featuring Henry Ford Health System President Bob Riney, political insider Debbie Dingell and WJR Radio’s Ann Thomas. And our client, Detroit Public TV, for the first time, produced dozens of hours of live coverage for TV and the Web of nearly all Conference sessions, making the event more accessible to the public.

But my big “takeaways” were from one of the Conference sessions. Author and researcher Jim Collins (most famous for “Good To Great”) lectured on lessons for Michigan business, based largely on his lesser-known book “How the Mighty Fall,” based on extensive research of companies that experience decline and even failure. As the co-owner of a business, it made me think about what we’re doing right and what we can learn.

Collins focused much of his talk on the five stages of decline all failing companies experience. It was a fascinating look at what they have in common – from the auto companies here in our backyard to PR firms that that struggled to change with their employees and/or clients.

One important trait of successful companies, Collins taught us, is how they stick to their values over the long-term. They use their values to hire people and to do more than create “to do” lists. They actually create “don’t do” lists of all the things that violate their codes.

For many reasons – from learning experiences to getting the real pulse of business and government to unrivaled networking to one-of-a-kind client opportunities to a whole lot of fun spending time with people I like and respect – “Missing the Mackinac Conference” is on our business’ “don’t do” list.