What You Missed at Robert Herjavec’s and Doug Stephens’ Keynotes

April 1, 2015

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A Prophet and a Shark walk into a banquet hall…

No, that’s not the set-up to a corny joke (though there were plenty of laughs this morning). That was the set-up to a Tuesday packed with plenty of e-commerce and retail insight, as Catalyst kicked off its first full day with a pair of power keynotes from Doug Stephens (aka “The Retail Prophet”) and Robert Herjavec, star of ABC’s Emmy-winning show Shark Tank.

If you were unable to be there, here are a few things you missed:

Big Data

Stephens’ entertaining 45-minute keynote was entitled “Big Data and the Retail Revolution” and focused on the amount of data that retailers have at their fingertips to make informed decisions about their businesses. As everyone is aware — especially retailers — the amount of data available online today is mind-boggling. According to Stephens, the world’s data is doubling every 1.2 years.

As an example, he threw out some impressive numbers regarding Amazon’s Cyber Monday sales. On that single day following Thanksgiving, there were 423 sales per second on the marketplace. That’s 37 million transactions throughout the day.

Pretty impressive, huh? So what do we do with all the data from those transactions? What can we learn about buying behavior?

What this and other examples served to illustrate is that modern retailers now have the ability to ask big questions about their businesses. They can use data to figure out what’s driving consumers and sales. So naturally, retailers need to evaluate what questions they’re asking. And ultimately, how they can ask better questions of themselves and their consumers.

Big data, according to Stephens, changes the game. It allows for new ways of thinking about leadership. It allows retailers to follow up on a hunch. To take a leap and back it up with research.

His key message revolved around the idea that retailers should be “data informed” rather than “data driven.” They should use actual data to back up their own insights — not led astray by data that isn’t relevant to their business.

Above all, he said, don’t be afraid to innovate. Swing for the fences. Take chances. “If a new idea doesn’t scare you a little, it’s not truly innovative,” he emphasized.

If you’re not innovating, somebody else will.

You heard it from “the prophet.”

So go forth unafraid, retailers. With big data.

The Will to Win

Robert Herjavec took the stage next and his address touched on a wide variety of topics.

The successful (and energetic) businessman regaled the audience with behind-the-scenes anecdotes of his hit show Shark Tank, the rise of his cyber-security firm Herjavec Group and, of course, his current stint on Dancing with the Stars.

There were slides featuring Justin Bieber, disgraced former Toronto mayor Rob Ford and even the modest home where Herjavec grew up.

But the real message of his 45-minute chat was to inspire the current and future business leaders of the audience. He focused on the amazing “pace of change” in our society. With the rise of the internet, for example, the world has changed so significantly in such a short amount of time. And it will continue to change and innovate exponentially moving forward. Everything is connected (cars apparently have IP addresses now?) and everyone is connected as a result.

This connectivity affects the mindset of anyone and everyone trying to get a business off the ground

He wrapped up his talk by elaborating on 10 useful tips for business leaders. We won’t give away all Herjavec’s secrets, but he focused on the hard work that’s necessary to build any business worth building. He urged everyone to stay hungry and compete harder than your competitors.

“Nobody starts a business and says, ‘I want to be insignificant,’” he said.

In the end, he says, it’s about working hard, being nice and dreaming big.

Wise words from a Shark.


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