A Backpack Journalist – covers the INC 500/5000 Conference & Inc. Joining Forces Military Entrepreneurs Mentoring Fair


“Force multiply” is a commonly used military term referring to an action such as the training of a program or concept;  a best practice that allows for easy sharing among groups such as platoons, brigades. When we refer to one of the Backpack modules as being able to “force multiply” between staff and youth, it translates to the sharing of knowledge and easy use by all, making it cost effective tool and return on investment!  Sounds like a business transaction?

As we walked the INC 500 Conference, my first thoughts were that here is the perfect example of “force multiply” except no platoons here, but an audience filled with experienced business people from all over the United States and they indeed were sharing best practices!  “Force multiply” lives in the world of INC 500 5000 Conference and business.
A Backpack Journalist “Reporting Interns”, Quincy Winder (Ft. Gordon YCA) and TeJuna Share (USAR) and myself, spent 3 days at the INC 500 5000 Conference and Awards Ceremony at the Gaylord Convention Center, National Harbor Washington, DC.   Our “real world experience” began first with an invitation to attend the Joining Forces/INC Magazine Military Mentoring Day.  In conversation with INC Magazine, an invitation was extended for our Backpack Team to continue and attend the INC Conference as the list of presenters and speakers included our own – Gen. (ret) Stan Chrystal and a host of other business CEO’s who had achieved significant  business successes.  What an experience ahead of us!  NOTE:  A Backpack Journalist strives to make sure our Interns have as many “real world experiences!”
Quincy and Tejuna were tasked with attending business sessions, taking good notes and whenever possible interviewing the speaker or the CEO.  What follows are some of the highlights.  While they interviewed, I followed along and took photographs of the action!  So we have collected a combination of photo stories, quotes, and best practices to share.  Technology was everywhere!  Here too are URL’s and web addresses that will provide further information on programs that support military veteran’s start-up and ongoing businesses.
Thanks to the INC staff and to the CEO’s at the INC Conference and the exhibitors who welcomed our team of Backpack Journalist in to share their stories and advise.

INC. & Joining Forces Military Entrepreneurs Mentoring Fair
Veteran/Spouse Owned Applications:  130 applied/90 accepted by INC. and 75 RSVP
INC. CEO’s:  74 answered!  NOTE these CEO’s gave up tour of DC or a day of Golf to mentor and spend time at the Reagan Center.  Lunch was provided!
Other Sponsors include Career Builder –  http://www.careerbuilder.com
The Kauffman Foundation – http://www.uepkauffman.org
INC – http://www.inc.com


Courtney McNeese, Event Planner for INC Magazine with Linda Dennis


Reported by:  Linda Dennis Program Manager A Backpack Journalist
Where did this idea come from?  Each year when INC 500 5000 holds a conference, they set aside one day before it begins and participate in a Service Day.  Last year they went to the Boys & Girls Club.
Courtney McNeese, the Event Planner for INC, shared how the idea came about with me.  She quickly explained that she had been home one day and happened to watch Oprah.  Oprah’s show that day featured “Joining Forces”, and in the commentary – Oprah mentioned that she did not know anyone who was in the military.  Courtney then began to realize that since 911, so many lives had been affected; however she too did not know anyone in the military.  From this inspiration, Courtney went to work to assemble a plan.  What came out of this was the “Inc. Joining Forces Military Entrepreneurs Mentoring Fair”.  INC 500 5000 – staff immediately all engaged and supported this plan!
Talking about giving back!  With the unemployment now for some returning veterans high and upwards to 20%, this INC Mentoring Fair was a not just a “service day” but a major contribution to our Military and their family members who attended.  More to come from INC in the future as the response was terrific on all fronts!
INC. /Joining Forces Military Entrepreneurs Mentoring Fair  – Reagan Building, September 21, 2011
Reported by Quincy Winder, YCA Fort Gordon & TeJuna Sharpe, USAR
A Backpack Journalist Interns

The Mentoring Fair opened with a short introduction of Dawn Halfaker, Halfaker Associates the keynote speaker,  by Jane Berentson, Editor of Inc.  Ms. Berentson gracefully began with a short reading of Dawn’s biography, and sitting next to me was Ms. D.  (Linda Dennis, Program Manager for Backpack Journalist).  Quietly, Ms. D leaned over to me and commented:  “Well, I was here in this building several years ago when HBO premiered the Wounded Warrior Movie.  Dawn was one of the warriors featured!”  Note: this was missing from her bio; however what was in Dawn’s bio described a successful business woman with a small business serving our country and in 2007, her business was named Inc.’s Perspective Provider of the Year.  So Ms.D met her and knew before INC has recognized her.  “See what you can do” Ms. D commented.
Dawn attended West Point and played AA Basketball for ARMY!  She graduated as a military officer in 2001, and of course after 911, said Dawn: “Everyone knew things were going to change”.  She served as a platoon leader and deployed to Korea.  Following 911, she trained at Ft. Stewart for Military Police and was deployed to Iraq in 2004.  Her days as a platoon leader were spent in Combat Raids, with over 100 in a few months.
Her life dramatically changed on June 19, 2004.  On patrol, as she was riding in the lead Humvee, they were ambushed.  During her description of this ambush, the large room that about 150 was sitting in and having lunch became quiet.  Dawn was poised throughout her presentation.   We all admired her courage just for being able to share this with us.  It was intense just hearing about the loss of her arm, and her lost days and then waking up at Walter Reed.  The last thing she remembered on that day in June, was hearing helicopter routers, and Dawn said “my faith completely unknown to me at the time”.
“I was struggling to accept and come to turns of this new reality”- Dawn referring to being in the hospital after finding out she had lost her right arm. “I was dwelling on everything I had lost, my arm, my platoon, not being able to get married, hold my kids, and I thought my life was over”.  Dawn celebrated her 25th birthday in Walter Reed.
Dawn’s recovery at Walter Reed provided us with insight into the importance of the support from family and friends and the overall rehabilitation experience itself.     She spoke of walking in to the physical therapy room and seeing other more wounded than she, for example learning how to walk.  Their families close by cheering them on. This was a turning point for her and she spoke of two special people, both wounded warriors who had been there for her, Danielle Green and Roy Mitchell.  “Both Danielle and Roy inspired me that I could do anything in time”.
“After recovery, you can do anything. It takes time, courage, and determination.” Dawn said.  The big decision she made was to accept medical retirement.  Most difficult was facing transition out of the military and it was hard for her to accept it. Although she knew it was the best decision she felt like she was “giving away her self-purpose. Community of military is very important to me”
“Sometimes it takes death of a dream to realize your destiny.”  Dawn was no longer a soldier.
Dawn today runs Halfacker Associates and she is still serving our country by providing technology solutions and consulting for Department of Defense security matters.   Her common sense advice included:
“You need to focus on what you are good at!”
Ask yourself:   Does it make money?  Is it fun?”
She continued with build your business and your brand using social media externally. Connect with Facebook, twitter, MySpace!  Relationships are important.
Dawn’s word of the day was “focus”.  Focus on revenue producing activities.  Take your talent and a have a strategy in mind.  Think and plan it out.   In everything you do, leverage out that value. Resolve-letting nothing get in your way.  And in closing:


Dawn’s recommendation for a good book:  Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.
Next the CEO’s and the veteran and spouse owned businesses began to visit with the CEO Mentors.  The CEO’s changed twice during the mentoring session, bringing further benefit to the military entrepreneurs there!
Tiffany Black, Senior Producer, INC.com facilitated each session and in closing she commented to us that she was pleased to see the mention of the use of social media to build a business, and enjoyed watching the rotations between the mentors and mentees!  “It was like watching speed dating and it looked like lots of fun and  well educational”  Note:  Tiffany later during the INC Conference also lead a session on Social Media and sat down with us one on one!  We learned a lot and especially how to plan our Tweeting.
We had the chance to have a one on one with a CEO and Mentee!  Both were very enthusiastic about the day’s events.  Mentor and Mentee-
Mentor, Steve Richard is the co-founder of Vorsight Company in Arlington, Virginia.
Steve learned about business to business sales early on,  and loved it.  Now he teaches others how to sell, generate opportunities and “by the way, he says, “I rarely use powerpoint in training!”.  All live instruction.  With the economy down, actually his work is in demand, as businesses are looking for a better way to sell!  He referred to people as either farmers or hunters.  Hunters- seeking new opportunities, crazy for demand, always trying to find a new way up, looking for money constantly, will never have money problems.  And, then there are the Farmers- steady and stable and they like the surrounding they are in.  Interesting comment from Steve:  “I only like to talk to entrepreneurs, because they understand the exactly the struggles it takes to run business.”

Mentee: Christene Schaaf – www.c.s.photography.Inc
Christene’s husband is military, and she has had a tough time finding a job each time they relocated.  As a spouse of a military man serving, she felt dependent on her spouse, like she had no identity. After just having a baby, something “clicked”. She decided to do something different.  She loved photography and had made it a hobby.  Now with her baby she found that she became quite good with photography and used it to decorate their home and received a lot of positive comments from friends and family.  She has had her company for two years, and incorporated for one year. She did not take out loans to start her business, but borrowed money from her parents and she and her husband’s savings account.
C&S Photography incorporates photography into the interior design of a home. She specializes in families with newborns and taking them up to the 1st year. Her photography takes the place of pictures the family would purchase in a gallery or at retail, and has much more meaning!  Her photographs are found through the home, and especially in the nursery area.
Christene shared with us her thoughts prior to coming to the INC 500 5000 Conference.  “I was overwhelmed with caliber of people.  I am trying to put a finger on what to take away from it.  There is so much to learn!  And, I am humbled when they talk to me! :
So what did her Mentor advice!  Steve did not hold back!  Identify different approaches with customers.  With most of her photography work, referral related, Steve immediately saw a problem that would be easily solved in order to build her business.
Use Social Media such as Facebook and You TUBE.  Network in unconventional places such as “Mom Groups or Mother’s Morning Out”.  Do parties and brainstorm with friends.  Host mini holiday card parties and take pictures of friends as examples of her photography work!   With her goal of building her photography business and her husband’s military career, focus on military spouses as one customer base.  Channel opportunities could include local businesses who offer family style and baby products.
INC also brought to the Mentoring Fair, one of their popular Columnists:  Norm Brodsky.  His keynote included no nonsense advice.

  • Keep up to date on all technology and buy the best for your business
  • Find a niche and keep a competitive advantage

And, our favorite, “Never be afraid to ask!”  And more importantly – from Norm’s Dad:  “there’s a million dollars underneath your shoe!”  All this translates to just keep a simple sense of observation.  There are opportunities everywhere.
He shared his story of how he started Citi Storage.  He is an attorney and had a courier business in New York when one of his customers’s called and asked:  “Do you provide cold storage for records?”  He immediately went to work checking on other storage facilities and learned that it was a good business, he had the trucks and so he went to picking up records for storage.  He just recently sold the business and the number was so large that he kept talking about the “Zeros”!

Later at the conference, we ran into Norm and he spent more time with us as we shared with him what Backpack Journalist was all about!  Thanks to Norm and his family for closing out our attendance at INC 500 5000 Conference with a family presentation on how to become successful entrepreneurs!
There were many keynotes at INC 500/5000 Conference, but our favorite was General (RET) Stanley McChrystal.  He ended his keynote with a comment to the audience that will remain with our Backpack Team forever:  “you can dislike the war – but don’t forget the warrior!”

General (RET) Chrystal’s presentation was focused on leadership and sharing of the experiences that he had a military leader for our country.   There were so many “leave-behinds”.  Much directed to his leadership skills and advice to us.  So what is “Plywood Leadership”?  Leadership that is sticks together!  (Think how plywood is made – in thin layers of wood and held together with glue!)   The thin layers of wood are symbolic of a team of people and the glue – is leadership!
Some of the high notes and great pieces of advise from his presentation included:

  • Trusting is important. “Trust one who has been through it”
  • Scars are signs of experience. (Sgt. Duke, Vietnam Veteran – was mentioned as a trusted aide!)
  • People, who are leaders in today’s society, went through the obstacles and overcame it, and that’s how they have gotten there – “experiences”.
  • To become a leader you have to be a follower first!
  • In order to get help, you have to trust someone that has been through it all
  • Do not fear change, be ready to enhance and exploit it.  Hard, but necessary.
  • Do not fear new opportunities – take them and run with it.
  • It’s all about winning – you must define winning so everyone with share a common view of success.
  • Align your strategy- so everyone is going in the same direction.  Think of all chipping away at the same place on a tree – i.e. “Chipping Bark” – when cutting down a tree!
  • Foster and force communications- “The heart beat that gives life to the team.”
  • Discipline and prioritize- doing what you say is important
  • Build relationships- it’s about trust, and from this build the network that is key.
  • Discipline and prioritize the effort
  • Give to get.

Pictured on his slides was his headquarters in Afghanistan.  He was surrounded by a plywood palace!  We could see the walls in his office and meeting rooms were made of plywood.  He commented the only fear that they had was an open flame! Here he held teleconferences with his team around the world and again – commented:  “Communications is key for our team”.

His resignation was addressed with dignity.  We heard him recount his decision to resign and why.  “The context of the article in Rolling Stones was a bit incorrect.  What was important to me was what was best for my country, so I resigned.”  It should be noted that an Inspector General investigation cleared General McChrsytal of any wrong doing.    Today General McChrystal serves on the Yellow Ribbon Fund board and continues to serve his country by working with the White House on the Joining Forces program and the McChrystal Group, a consulting firm.