Sage Summit Chicago: Richard Branson, Evan Carmichael and The Startup Van

Published · 5 min read

It’s 5am and after only 5 hours of sleep I’m wondering if I should try for another hour before heading to McCormick Place for the first official day of Sage Summit. Then I remember that I’m not registered yet, I want to get a good seat and I need to draft a blog post for Sage in the UK so I roll over and start typing into my iPad.

A couple of hours later my post is emailed to The Sage UK team and I jump on a free bus to the convention, grab a pass with my real name on it this time and make my way into the hall to see if I can wangle a meet and greet with Richard Branson who is speaking first with Stephen Kelly the CEO of Sage. Incredibly I’m successful in this endeavour and I’m buzzing as I head for my seat with the social media team just in time for the main event. This month I’ve shaken hands with the Queen at Buckingham Palace after winning a Queen’s Award for export and now I’ve just met Richard Branson. Unbelievable.

The show starts with a bang, including Stephen Kelly beating away on drums with a team of drummers Stomp style. The energy in the room is electric. Richard Branson is an inspiration and his can do attitude is a great lesson for us all. His Virgin Galactic project is incredible and his philanthropic work through Virgin Unite resonates with the audience. Afterwards Sage’s work through their Sage Foundation is screened in a short film and is similarly inspiring. Their sponsorship of the Invictus Games this year is a particular highlight for me.

I then duck out of the main hall for a quick interview with @carolmassar and @corytv at Bloomberg radio which is broadcast live throughout America. The interview goes well and the presenters invite me to see them in New York next time I’m over. Afterwards I say a quick high to my friend and fellow Sage Business Expert Janice B Gordon. She’s here speaking, mentoring and promoting her book Business Evolution.

Sage Summit 2016

I’m getting really hungry and as I only have $8 left as part of my personal challenge to survive the week in Chicago with just $45, I’m holding out for the free lunch which technically starts at midday. I bump into Youtuber and Entrepreneur, Evan Carmichael, whose stomach is rumbling louder than mine. To avoid further stares from appalled delegates we head towards the canteen to see if they are open early. Evan has such a huge fan base with an incredible 366,714 subscribers that he keeps getting stopped along the way for selfies. Lunch, when we finally get there, is a grilled toasted cheese sandwich with a Cuban tomato bisque.

Whilst eating Evan tells me about his new book, Your One Word. His word is Believe and the book is about finding the core word that has meaning for you and truly inspires your business and team. His team is so into ‘believing in entrepreneurs’ that one of them even has the word ‘Believe’ as a tattoo on her arm. Impressive commitment from his staff there. I decide I must have words with my awesome team back in the UK on return. I wonder if I can get them to the same level!

After lunch I catch part of Evan’s talk on raising finance for your business. He’s also speaking on marketing on Thursday. Try and catch him on the stream on the Sage Summit website at 11:00 Chicago time as he is brilliant to watch. Next up is another seminar to hear my friend Gemma Price from @SuperFoodMarket speak on women in business. I met Gemma at Downing Street last year and her business growth story is absolutely phenomenal. Check out her blog.

Afterwards I hang out with Gemma and Sage executive Nick Goode. Nick has also been through the core process and is an inspiring guy to spend time with. The two of them are speaking on the ABCs of Social Selling. I watched them run through the prep of their talk and it’s definitely not to be missed.

Sage Summit 2016

Nick is EVP of Product Management in the UK and is working on a team that has developed an amazing Bot called it’s like a Siri for managing your accounts using Facebook Messenger and is very cool. Last night I got a short demo from Kriti Sharma the developer and it was amazing to see what she has done in such a short space of time and how easy and intuitive it is to use. Sage are rocking their tech development at the moment.

Later that day I have the good fortune to spend time with branding expert Sasha Strauss from Innovation Protocol. He’s an outstanding communicator and really gets to the heart of what brands are about. He’s a very experienced teacher at top universities like Stanford so he’s also really good at leading you through the concepts in a way that is easy to understand and take on board. I learn a lot just watching him in action. Take a look at his videos online. He’s quite brilliant.

It’s the end of the day at the Summit so I drop by to see Graham and Mark from The Start Up Van. I love these guys. They have a great energy and are passionate about supporting start-ups and getting businesses seen through great videos online. Take a look at the two funny clips I did with them at their pop-up shop in London recently.

I also get the chance to catch up with Everest conqueror, adventurer and all round top bloke Justin Packshaw who I met in New Orleans last year. He’s raised around £20 million for good causes and is an ambassador for the Sage Foundation and works with the Branson philanthropic projects. He’s got a fantastic book called Arctic Enterprise – North Pole which he is signing near the main entrance at the Summit on Wednesday at 2:45pm Chicago time.

Sage Summit 2016

We head out to the European get together at trendy bar restaurant ZED451 after the show and as I’m down to my last $8 Justin hooks me up with a free ride in a cab. At the party we get the chance to catch up with President of Sage Europe, Brendan Flattery, who is as welcoming as ever. I also bump into Mark Fehling from MFIT Consulting an ecommerce site in Germany who is a Sage customer from Germany that I met at Sage Business Index event at the Gherkin in London way back in 2012.

Finally we dive into a fun Uber to meet up with the Sage Social Media crew and some Sage Business Experts at a steak house Gene and Georgetti. Despite Chicago being the centre or the US meat industry I forgo the option and stick to my usual vegetarian fare. It’s a fun night with lots of interesting conversation from some great people.

I need to get a good night’s rest as I’m speaking on Wednesday morning at 11:00 Chicago time and sharing the Looking Back from Perfect exercise that changed my life and helped me to reduce my working week by half whilst doubling my income. You can see the slides here.

We head home for midnight and I collapse into bed wondering why on earth I agreed to join Justin and Stephen Kelly for a run at 5:45 in a few hours’ time. I dream about the possibility of meeting Gwyneth Paltrow and Zoeey Deschanel in the morning and pass out with a geeky smile on my face.

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