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In First Person: The Inc. 500 Conference

Michele and Bob Dufresne having a little fun at the Inc. 5000 Conference in September 2011.

My husband Bob and I were thrilled to make Inc. magazine's 2011 list of the top 5000 list of fastest-growing companies and that we got to attend the Inc. Conference and Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. While I have attended many conferences for teachers, this was my first business conference. I feel so new to the world of business and entrepreneurship, but I was amazed that I found so many connections to teaching while I was there. Here are some of the connections I made:

1. Build trust.

Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, Inc., discussed the importance of building trust with your business team. Only when there is trust between the leader and team will ideas truly flow. As I listened to Patrick, I thought how the same is true for teachers and their students. For learning to take place, it is essential for teachers to build a trusting and safe place for students to learn in.

2. Position yourself as successful—it will lead to success.

Real estate expert Barbara Corcoran told us delightful and funny stories about how she presented herself as being knowledgeable and successful and it became reality. The same is true for the students I have taught. I believe telling children they are smart and good at things will lead to them believing in themselves and achieving success.

3. Connect with social media.

Gary Vaynerchuk, a wine seller and social media expert, gave us many amusing examples of how our culture is shifting and social media is changing marketing forever. Business owners, teachers and parents need to embrace this change, as our children are already very comfortable with it. We need to find ways to connect to our students through social media. (And I am going to try to update my Facebook page more often!)

4. Be socially responsible.

Seth Goldman of Honest Tea echoed thoughts we have at Pioneer Valley Books about the importance of socially responsible business practices. Scott Harrison took his beliefs a step further as founder of charity: water. His story of how he went from a nightclub promoter to building an incredible non-profit organization that brings clean water to people in developing nations was mesmerizing. I have promised to give up my birthday this year in support of his cause. As educators, I believe we must help children grow up to be socially responsible.

Overall, we had a great time! We met some wonderful people and came back full of many great ideas. Thank you to all our fans who have helped us get to where we are today.

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