The Amarillo EDC and the West Texas A&M Enterprise Center is sending eight local entrepreneurs to represent our thriving business community at the INC. 5000 Conference & Gala in San Antonio in October. Each of the attendees has offered to contribute a blog about their experiences as an entrepreneur working in the Texas Panhandle. This is a guest post by Jacob Breeden, owner of Process Art House.
I have always been a devotee of pursuing experiences. From my earliest years and through today, I have sought out opportunities to explore life from new and challenging perspectives. It has not always led me down the best of paths, but in my failures I find I learn the more profound lessons.
In order to manage my failed attempts, as well as my successes, I decided a few years ago to put myself through the process I utilize in my practice as a studio artist after completing a large project or complicated journey.
As an artist, I am not nearly as interested in the objects created through my work as I am in the process and paths that led me to discovering these objects. (I don’t have the space to go fully into this concept here. It’s known as Process Art.) Working in this manner requires a tremendous amount of distillation. A concept or emotion must be fully expressed and then reduced down to it’s core.
In my work, this leads to developing objects that are attempts to create the same emotions in my audience that I experienced while creating them. In my experiences in the world outside of my studio, I try to take all that I have learned and narrow it all down to just one word.
One word that defines the nature of the journey. One word that can encapsulate the lessons learned along the path. It can be little complicated, but I find that this challenge forces me to absorb a lesson I might otherwise overlook.
We were recently given the chance to experience the Inc. 5000 Conference in San Antonio by the AEDC and the WTAMU Enterprise Center. It was a whirlwind journey, surrounded by the fastest growing companies in the U.S., held over a short few days.
As a crew of small business owners representing our fair city, we were given the chance to absorb new knowledge through panel discussions and workshops, to network face to face with CEO’s of billion dollar companies, and to meet with the next generation of corporate giants as they plant the seeds of their future successful enterprises.
Distilling this journey one word consistently rose to the top of the list.
It is a word we are all quite familiar with, yet have a hard time fully defining.
To me, culture is an abstract component that ties groups of people together in a concrete and real way. It’s a shared vision and mission that overcomes standard human feelings of separation and isolation. It is the glue that holds us together with the people we love the most and feel the most capable of being ourselves around.
As powerful as culture can be to connect us, it can be equally powerful in dividing us if we are not careful how we define it. From within the culture we feel safe amongst those we feel share our values. We feel connected. When we look outside of the culture we occupy, however, we have a natural tendency to see those outside of it as “other.” Our tendency to fear the outsider creates a sense of disconnect.
My work in my studio, as well as in my businesses, has always been about creating a culture that felt safe for everyone, regardless of who they are. More so, this work has been about exploring the process of creating a culture without trying to drive it. The immense difficulty of creating a safe space for culture to grow organically on it’s own is one of the most significant internal drivers I contain, and so I am often on the lookout for culture where it shows itself.
Culture was on full display, warts and all, at the Inc. 5000 Conference.
There was the positive culture that was represented by the stellar team the AEDC and Enterprise Center granted me the privilege of being a small part of. Supportive, open, engaged, and focused on the larger task of promoting our city, this crew worked tirelessly to facilitate meetings, support each other when needed, and offer advice and feedback throughout.
There was the overwhelming culture of modern business. Fast-paced, focused, growth-driven, highly energized and always chasing an angle. It permeated the conference from the breakfasts to the breakout sessions. You could feel the combined drive of the audience vibrating through the space.
There was the unfortunate culture of modern connectivity. Sessions meant for larger networking were filled with people looking at their phones or banging away on their laptops. You could see the inability of people to turn it off for a moment and be in the present space. This element of the culture was overcome, however, in the smaller and more intimate networking sessions.
There were many other cultures present in this unusual space.
The culture of celebration – of cheering on those who are doing the next big thing.
The culture of competition – proving to me why I should hire you and not them.
The culture of rapid pace – business is a move fast or die concept for many.
The culture of creativity – new ideas were embraced fully and often.
The culture of achievement – which was, in fact, the overall point of the conference.
I have been giving a lot of thought to what I gained from attending the Inc. 5000. When I settled on culture as my one word it opened a path that I am still following.
Amarillo has its own unique cultures at play. There are new opportunities to find the support we all seek in this place we call home. Whether you are an artist or a banker, in the oil business or crunching through the numbers of accounting, serving up legal advice or cold beers on a Friday night – we all belong to a culture we call our own. We can choose whether to let that culture divide us or unite us.
If Amarillo can find a way to unite itself behind a common culture of support, mutual respect, work ethic, compassion, growth, and creativity – all traits is does indeed have in massive amounts – then we as a city can grow and become something beyond our wildest dreams.
That is a culture I can, and will, support each and every day with all that I have to give.
Jacob Breeden is the owner of Process Art House, a consulting firm and gallery in downtown Amarillo.