More than 1,000 business leaders, many arriving from outside San Antonio, are attending the ScaleUp Summit 2017 at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter, which started Tuesday and concludes on Wednesday. In the opening session, local real estate developer and philanthropist Graham Weston and Build Group co-founder Lanham Napier talked to the group about their experience scaling Rackspace into the $4.3 billion company it became.
Both Napier and Weston discussed their decision to provide unparalleled customer service and ensure that the phones at Rackspace were answered in three rings.
“It’s hard to fulfill that operationally, but the words ‘fanatical support’ were billion-dollar words,” Weston said.
“We wanted to take the shackles off and put the customer in charge,” Napier said.
Opening the summit was Verne Harnish, author of the book Scaling Up and the founder of Gazelles International, a global executive coaching association of independent, professional business coaches. Harnish pointed out how service companies like Rackspace need to brand what differentiates them from other service companies. Rackspace’s “fanatical support” became their brand and an essential element in their growth as a company.
Business experts Robert Cialdini, Bob Anderson, Chris Zook, and many others will round out two full days of presentations at the summit. The speakers, networking, and breakout sessions target midmarket companies ranging from $5 million to $500 million in value interested in growing at an annual rate of 20% or more, according to the Gazelles website. The assorted tools, resources, and coaching are designed to help teach companies how to pursue this goal of growth, or “scaling up.”
Harnish shared some impressive business numbers for Fortune global 500 companies that reflect this growth: average profit of 5.4%, average $412,000 revenue per employee, and average $22,400 in profit per employee.
“Many companies start up, but few scale up,” Harnish said.
The first break during the summit provided attendees an opportunity to network, as many were away from their busy businesses to attend the sessions.
Geekdom’s director of programs Dax Moreno noted that the summit came at a time that represents a “tipping point” for San Antonio’s tech ecosystem.
“You have Geekdom members who are now talking seriously about growth and are interested in learning what it takes to achieve that growth,” he said.
About 950 attendees traveled from outside San Antonio to attend the summit’s two days of sessions, according to the event’s organizers. An additional 85 participants are from San Antonio, with 50 of those coming from Geekdom.
The average summit ticket price was $1,700 per person. Geekdom subsidized the block of tickets for its members to allow them to attend the summit at no cost.
“We saw this as a strategic opportunity to invest in the strategic ecosystem members,” said Geekdom CEO Lorenzo Gomez. “Once the summit announced it was coming to San Antonio, we had to seize the opportunity and give our members the gift of knowledge.
“Not everyone may be ready for this level of knowledge,” Gomez said. “But now this core group of Geekdom members will have the common experience of attending this summit to share.”
Shari Davies, vice president of Conference Direct and a partner with Harnish, chose San Antonio because it ranks in the top 20 destinations for a large-scale meeting. The last time the ScaleUp Summit was in Texas was last October in Dallas.
Many were seen taking notes on what it takes to grow a company to the level that Rackspace has achieved. Former Rackspace CEO Graham Weston stayed at the summit the entire day, taking the time to talk to many Geekdom members.
“I have never seen so many important members of the tech community in one place for so long,” startup strategist Drue Placette said. “It shows how focused our community is on scaling up while doing right by its people.”
“I think everyone who is coming to the conference today is trying to find their own path,” Weston told the audience. “We need to learn from others.”