Wonderful 2022 USASBE Conference

Raleigh NC January 6th – 9th, Hosted by ECU and NCS (Eastern Carolina University and North Carolina State University).  So fitting that this year’s USASBE (U. S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship) should be held in the research triangle of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill North Carolina, a hub for technology and biotech companies.  It is the new home of our sister organization NACCE (National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship) on the campus of Wake Tech and the Brian Hamilton Foundation whose mission is to train incarcerated peoples into entrepreneurship.

It was another spectacular gathering of the best in the field sparkled by self-made keynoters as down-to-earth as your barber or beautician.  These gatherings have taken a terrific turn since Julie Shields became permanent Executive Director two years ago, the quality of breakout sessions, attraction of top tier entrepreneurs, and a noticeable broadening from research only.  Last year your editor went through an epiphany from one breakout by Eric Koester on Content Entrepreneurship, and this year he met his Godfather, the ECU grad who endowed one of the best entrepreneurship school in the country, Fielding Miller.

He was my personal centerpiece having combined a brilliant financial tech startup with a belief in the life changing capability of entrepreneurship.  Fielding went to work for a bank right out of ECU when investment rental houses became vacant, his wife’s employer hadn’t paid health premium, and she became pregnant.  Needing more income, Fielding changed to stock brokerage where he became the company’s most successful salesman.  That field led to a creative pay model of annual fees vs. trade commissions.  In 1996 he started Captrust targeting companies and institutions to help the with newfangled retirement plans called 401(k)s.

Today Captrust based in Raleigh is one of the largest U. S. wealth-management firms with 470 employees in 37 locations managing $278 billion in client assets.  He got a summer job on a loading dock moving furniture, and decided college was a better option.  At ECU he met his future wife, Kim.  His firm could help negotiate better deals with money managers than employers.  It helped that retirement was shifting from traditional pension plans to 401(k)s which put more investment decision-making on individuals.  Such accounts now total more than $4.5 trillion in assets.

As he explained in his down-to-earth manner entrepreneurship is the major force to solve society’s problems.  Not only do entrepreneurs create most jobs, they are major problem solvers.  His recent examples during COVID-19 were cousins who re-engineered nasal swabs (the only two were overseas), conversion of a bottling plant to hand sanitizers, and Maco medical who seized the opportunity of a need for lab testing to grow ten fold in revenue.  Fielding then shared his vision of how another university could develope an entrepreneurship school like Miller at ECU -The Miller School is the one endowed school of entrepreneurship in No. Carolina and ranks 47, marking its second year in a row on the Princeton Review of the top 50.

Exposure to Fielding was special.  He is undoubtedly a true, blue entrepreneur who sees solutions, believes in self-employment, and embodies the mindset.  As former serial entrepreneur, your editor felt kinship with him in that we both wanted to give back, give others the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship.
Two other special takeaways from the USASBE conference -the close link to emotional skills to success and how to increase experiential activities in the classroom.  It is common belief these days that learning by doing is the best way for students to acquire the startup process.  More than one breakout session gave examples as suggestions all designed to get students engaged. The panel above gave a wonderful presentation of emotional skills for success.  Among them are quick use of 5 minute videos to show an exercise, and then stop the video to do the exercise in class.  Acting out a story for which there are guides but great freedom to interpretation -name a game, each student does a version, a sequential story begun for the student to complete, and Toyota’s five why’s -what the customer is saying about the product.

The emotional role in entrepreneurship is a personal experience for myself.  At my height of insurance agency success, I got a serious medical condition more than likely caused by stress, a pituitary tumor.  Although benign, it was a serious surgery to my lower brain, caused a life adjustment (sold my business), and gave realization to the importance of work-life balance.  A study published in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal found that emotional intelligence was a stronger predictor of entrepreneurial success than general mental ability.  It brings a better understanding of the needs, feelings, and situation of others, to better manage their own emotions and understand others.  Such entrepreneurs are more aware of their strengths and weaknesses.  Not only do they know when to say no, but they are also not afraid of change.

No doubt had I had some exposure or training in emotional skills, I would have delegated more, been less work and more life balanced, and enabled to continue growing my largest book of business free from a major endocrine condition.

A USASBE annual conference is extremely beneficial, and I would never miss an annual conference nor the learning that comes from it.


for the second year in a row.

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