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Catalyst PDX: That’s a Wrap!
A few weeks ago, Kinesis hosted Catalyst PDX — our annual summit bringing together visionary leaders to share ideas, explore emerging trends, and catalyze growth and impact. Our theme this year was Design the Future: Over a memorable and energizing two days, we met dozens of owner-run businesses looking to move into 2023 with a spirit of creativity and innovation.
As we kick off the New Year, we’re reflecting on some of the incredible insights that came out of our time together.
Act I: Departures
When thinking about Designing the Future, it’s easy to get wrapped up in opportunities: What’s possible? Where are we headed? But often, we leapfrog an essential part of the conversation: What should we leave behind? What do we need to let go of, in order to make room for what’s next?
This can mean conceptual departures, like letting go of our need for perfectionism or fear of failure — or more literally, it can mean realizing that a product line or business practice has reached its expiration date. In this panel, we explored how to identify and abandon what’s no longer serving us:
- Grovemade Co-Founder and CEO Ken Tomita saw record growth during the pandemic — but in a completely new market segment. That meant having to let go of his old sales approach and business development model. When natural tensions arise with a new direction, he’s found that humor is a great tool to ease discomfort.
- Amber Kelel, Director of Business Development at Systems West Engineers, is letting go of so-called “best practices.” She has realized that they are ephemeral — so rather than looking for the new “real” one, she holds things more loosely. What works well today may not tomorrow.
- Anna Madill, CEO of Avenue, shared that she is letting go of white supremacy principles and business-as-usual — which requires self-inquiry, unlearning, bravery, and a willingness to go against existing structures. Her advice? Double down on uncertainty and embrace audacious goals.
Our panel of visionary leaders (left to right): Ken Tomita, Anna Madill, & Amber Kelel
Act II: Creation
Parting ways with the “old” can be uncomfortable when you don’t yet have a “new” to replace it with. That’s where imagination comes in. Creativity is where we find differentiation and potential, and helps to make ambiguity energizing. In this session, we heard from visionary leaders who are charting new paths forward and proving that another way of doing business is possible.
- David Nichols, Co-Founder & CEO of Loupe sets aside time & money to experiment, and then bets on ideas that don’t have an obvious ROI (e.g. why buy an expensive robot dog?) but could have a massive impact and open up whole new possibilities if they do work out. His recommendation: Don’t make just one of those bets — keep betting.
- Liz Reisch Picarazzi, Founder of CITIBIN shared the ups and downs of entrepreneurship: around the same time that her product was praised in one big publication, another featured it as a failure. She’s engaging both the product users as well as the team in listening and learning.
- Belle Iskowitz, President of Pratt + Larson offered the metaphor of the mosaic for her work on the business and its culture. It isn’t one thing, and many efforts can seem small in the moment, but looking back you can see that the whole has been transformed.
- Brian Keyser, President of G4 Kegs emphasized how seeing the humanity in everyone has been key in overcoming challenges together. He’s changed his hiring philosophy from “Who can I get for this salary?” to “Who do we really need in this role?”
- Tricia Salcido, Owner & CEO of Softstar Shoes discussed building culture with an emphasis on family and play. Not only do they host regular play dates where people can create and have fun, they also have a giant slide in the middle of their production floor — not at a Silicon Valley tech startup, mind you, but a manufacturer in small town Oregon.
- Chris & Diana Hutchinson of Trebuchet Group talked about the idea of consulting as a “with” activity — not something they as the consultants do to you, or deliver for you, but are creating together, and how that looks in practice.
- Ryan Wines, Founder & CEO of Marmoset sees culture as an environment that must be consistently cultivated. Drawing on wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh, “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce.”
Act III: Engagement
In order to let go of the past and design the future, we need engagement — from ourselves as leaders, from our team, and from our clients and partners. To close the day, we broke into smaller groups to discuss engagement through each of these lenses.
Some folks had experience to offer around the effectiveness of different leadership styles, while others reflected on whether surveys are the best way to measure employee engagement. In one breakout session, there was a rich discussion about when to let go of a client — and where to draw the line between "difficult to work with" versus actively harming your business.
Keep the Conversation Going
There were so many fruitful conversations and intriguing questions posed that it would be impossible to capture them all here. Thank you to everyone who brought your perspective and made the day so engaging! We couldn’t have done it without you. And if you missed out this year, don’t worry! There are still plenty of opportunities to get involved with our Catalyst Community:
Each month, we invite business leaders to join us for a roundtable discussion centered around a pressing topic, inspired in part by the insights from the summit. We call them Catalyst Labs, and they’re a dynamic space where you can share lessons learned, or even workshop your next big idea. Interested in joining a future Catalyst Lab? Sign up here to be notified about our next event.
2023 Catalyst Summit
And of course, we’re already gearing up for next year’s Catalyst PDX event! Tickets sold FAST this year, so keep an eye out for details so you can claim your spot early.