#007 Denver, CO /

Owner Camp

The only thing missing are the drinks by the pool.
Serious discussion in a chill resort setting at Owner Camp 002: Palm Springs.

Successes to share. Sorrows to drown.

Running a digital agency is tough. Like many of us, you probably didn’t study business management in school, and you sure as hell don’t have an MBA. Truth be told, you probably consider yourself a designer, developer, or strategist who is now inexplicably running a business.

How did that happen?

Now, you spend your time in the jungle (often without a machete) closing deals and managing payroll and cash flow, all the while searching for the magic bullet that’ll let you focus on the things that really matter. You know, things like keeping your people happy and honing your business strategy. It’s a lot to focus on.

Until a couple of years ago, the only opportunity you had to commiserate about the dirty details of running your shop was yelling in someone's ear over the deafening din of a conference happy hour.

Wouldn't it be nice just to get the eff away for a few days to recharge your batteries and talk to your peers? Your real peers?

You're not alone. That's why we created Owner Camp.

Silverbullet Land
The Great Divide will be our backdrop as we enjoy the best that lower downtown Denver has to offer. Photo by Sheila Sund

#007 Denver, CO

For our last Owner Camp of 2014 we decided to get high, as in a "Mile High." That's right, we're going to Denver, Colorado. From September 17-20 we will work and stay at The Brown Palace, close to the heart of Denver's fantastic "LoDo" neighborhood. We'll have three days to get a lot of work done and explore one of our favorite places on the planet.

Over the course of three amazing days, we’ll work through the trials, tribulations, and yes, the victories of running a business. Yeah, it will be work, but it won’t feel like work—more like therapy. You’ll expand your professional network overnight and make some great new friendships in the process. From the opening happy hour to the closing dinner, you’ll be sharing, learning, and laughing. You’ll come away incredibly energized with ideas you can start implementing in your organization immediately.

Registration Includes

  • Four nights accommodation at The Brown Palace from 9/17 to 9/21
  • Happy hour reception on 9/17
  • Fully catered lunch and snacks on 9/18 & 9/19
  • A suite outing to watch the Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field on 9/18
  • An amazing group dinner on 9/20
  • Free time to take in the sites and amazing beers around Denver
  • Shenanigans

Quick Logistics

  • Arrive on Wednesday 9/17 in plenty of time for a 5 PM happy hour
  • Leave on Sunday, 9/21

Attendance Requirements

  • Seating is limited to 32 people, and ten spots are reserved for returning alumni
  • You must own or manage an organization with 10+ full-time, salaried employees
  • No more than two attendees per company
  • Registration is by invitation only—to be considered, send an email with your request and qualifications.

"At Owner Camp, we're not just attendees, we're contributors. Everyone participates, everyone shares, everyone advises. Most importantly, everyone celebrates the sometimes-trying life we've chosen as founders. There's no other event I've been to where I felt so much camaraderie and support."

"Owner Camp is the ultimate opportunity for an agency owner to take a deep dive reality check on the entire landscape of their business. To find yourself in a safe position with like minded, brilliant peers who all are willing to share and learn from each other - nothing could be better. You'll find yourself walking away from the event feeling so focused, yet overwhelmed and anxious to take action on all the ideas and thoughts you just consumed."

"As a business owner we spend most of our days questioning and second guessing the decisions we make. We are often doing things for the first time and there isn't a lot of precedent for what we do. It is easy to feel alone. Going to OwnerCamp is a lot like that Blind Melon video where the girl in the bee suit finally finds her people. You are amongst your own. OwnerCamp lets entrepreneurs come together and speak honestly about what's going on in our industry and our businesses. It is an unique and valuable experience. Oh and dancing in a bee suit is also fun."

"Owner Camp is one of the most valuable experience an agency owner can have. You're mind will explode with new insights and inspirations."

Through owners in a room and you'd be amazed how much they listen and share.
Listen, we have fun, but the whole reason we go is to share ideas, listen to what others are going through, and offer our own experiences.

The topics that interest you the most

Our attendees determine the discussion topics at each Owner Camp. We start with a wide range of ideas and whittle them down to the most popular. Discussion topics from previous Owner Camp events include:

  • Managing growth — Do you have a short/long term plan?
  • Tracking profitability and time — How do you do it? Do you even bother?
  • How do you build additional revenue streams — What are the pros and cons?
  • Time management — What's the best use of an owner/founder/CEO's time?
  • How do you groom your active client list? — How do you find the right mix?
  • Hiring & retaining talented people — How do you find them, and how do you keep them?
  • Legal stuff — Contracts, IP issues, leases, etc.
  • Sales cycles — How do you manage sales cycles and cash flow?
  • Communication — Both internal and external. How do you improve?
  • Company culture — Can you "make" one, or does it "happen?"

"If you run an agency and get invited to Owner Camp, you'd be crazy not to attend. It's some of the most intense, focused, insightful knowledge sharing you'll ever come across. As agency owners we rarely get a chance to share and learn from each other, especially in a group—Owner Camp is that chance."

"Part crash-course industry-specific MBA, part visionary brainstorming, part group therapy and 100% action-packed, Owner Camp is a breathless rush of recommendations, narratives and cautionary business anti-patterns (the latter so you don't have to find out the hard way!). 32 pages of immediately-applicable handwritten notes are my tangible testimony to how much of a quantum jump this experience is giving my organization."

We shoot all elephants.
Sharing experiences, learning from others at Owner Camp 004: Captiva Island, Florida.

We shoot all the elephants

Discussions are open, honest, and frank and everyone participates. Everyone! Owner Camp is not about a single person standing in the front of a room, presenting while you scribble notes. Owner Camp is a series of moderated, candid conversations. Discussions are open, honest, and frank. There are no elephants in the room, because we shoot them dead, together.

One of the things you'll quickly discover at Owner Camp is that no matter how unique you think your experiences are, there are several people who have gone through the exact same situations. Comparing notes about how each of you dealt with these situations is truly eye opening.

No one at Owner Camp is there to tell you what to do or how to do it, but we guarantee you'll walk away with perspectives that will allow you to make more informed decisions.

"Owner camp is a unique opportunity to be able to come together as a group and pool collective knowledge and experiences to help each other grow and learn as leaders. I left feeling incredibly inspired, motivated, and excited about applying the things I learned, as well as the beginning of many new friendships with people who understand what it takes to do this day in and day out."

"I've never been to a comparable gathering where I'm surrounded by nothing but my peers, talking candidly, collaboratively, and smartly about the issues we all face as small creative shop owners. I returned home with new friends and dozens of new ideas. It was a weekend-long shot in the arm."

Owner Camp goes all night, even at the Dentention Bar.
Drinks and hilarity ensue after hours at the Detention Bar, McMenamins Kennedy School at Owner Camp 001: Portland, Oregon.

Where strangers become buddies

Perhaps the best thing about Owner Camp is that our attendees are from diverse backgrounds and industry niches, offering perspectives well outside of your immediate circle of influence.

During the event, we’ll begin to forge lasting relationships that eventually serve as an ongoing support system. You'll retain access to this dialog long after the event. Owner Camp offers an ongoing forum where you can regular maintain contact and provide advice, trade stories, and share successes well after you part ways.

Our Owner Camp 007 class will be augmented with service professionals and consultants who provide business advice you can immediately act upon.

As if that wasn't enough, we’ll truly have a great time together. Laughter is the best medicine, and we’ll all be buzzing from the dose Owner Camp dishes out.

"We had no roadmap going into building or running the shop. Just a set of values and desires. Shop Talk validated much of what we were thinking and doing. Seeing the challenges others were having and sharing our own shared challenges was rewarding and helpful. It was also inspiring to hear about some methods for different parts of running a creative business from different types of shops."

"As a small business owner, Owner Camp was the most helpful gathering I've ever been a part of. The frank open discussion and trust between all the participants was incredibly insightful. I came away not just inspired, but with solid new ideas I could immediately put to use."

Greg Hoy and Greg Storey at McMenamins Kennedy School at Owner Camp 001: Portland, Oregon.

Your gracious hosts

Greg Hoy and Greg Storey run Happy Cog, a digital design studio with offices in New York, Philadelphia and Austin. They are both very handsome, they love extravagant dining experiences, and they like to wear their shirts untucked for comfort and agility.

Over the last five years, the Gregs and Happy Cog founder Jeffrey Zeldman have grown the agency from one full-time employee to 32, with a clientele ranging from non-profits, to higher education institutions, to some of the top brands in the world.

They started Owner Camp as a way to share their experiences of growing a business while learning from others who have done the same. They also use it as an opportunity to unwind while convincing their wives they're really doing work

Reach out and say hi, we love meeting fellow owners.

Greg Hoy @hoyboy

Greg Storey @brilliantcrank

Listening, sharing, asking during Owner Camp 003: Carefree, Arizona.
Listening, sharing, asking during Owner Camp 003: Carefree, Arizona.

Feedback from previous retreats

"I have the good fortune to attend many amazing conferences, but no conference comes anywhere close to having as much impact on our business and what we do as Owner Camp has. My only regret is that I didn't attend sooner."

"It was a phenomenal experience getting together with true peers to share the mundane pains and lessons learned, as well as the real excitement and joy of running a creative business. I now appreciate how many different approaches can succeed. And I feel like we have started a conversation that will continue long after the event."

"Attending Owner Camp will stand out as one of the highlights of my career as an entrepreneur. It's like getting an MBA in three days and a fraction of the cost. Sign me up again!"

"Owner Camp is an amazing event filled with smart people with one common denominator — we're all trying to run our businesses the best way possible. The opportunity to mix with others who have different approaches is invaluable."

"I went to OwnerCamp in a great place - happy with my team, my clients and my business - but I came back renewed with energy to make it even better. I can't begin to express how valuable the insights were that came from owners of other small agencies facing the same problems, and the solutions provided by the larger agencies who'd overcome those problems already. I'll be back!"

"Owner Camp was a defining experience for this growth stage of our company. I was thrilled to have direct access to the remarkable individuals and companies that have inspired our vision over many years. I expect to save tons of time and money from the lessons learned in just a few days."

"Getting to know and learning from the wonderful people and bright minds at Owner Camp was truly inspiring and motivated me to try new and different approaches back at Barrel."

"Owner Camp provided us with a rare and valuable opportunity to talk about real world problems and gain insight and advice from industry peers. A spirit of collaboration, encouragement and sharing created an environment where everyone felt comfortable and sincere. I'm left feeling more confident (that I'm doing some things right and have some great ideas on how to make improvements) and hopeful for the future (because it was proven to me that I work in a community of both brilliant and nice people). The exchange of ideas, suggestions, experiences and feedback was priceless and will inevitably shape my company and my "self"—for years to come."

"Never have I been in a room with so many industry thought leaders from businesses identical to ours, pouring out more relevant knowledge than could fit into the fattest "How to build a great digital services company" book. It's incredible valuable, actionable, and inspiring to not only listen, but be able to interact with all of the participants."

"Owner Camp was an immensely valuable retreat for owners of digital shops to openly and honestly share stories on the successes and challenges of their businesses. The opportunity to spend a few days with some of the smartest and most talented leaders in the industry was priceless. I walked away with so many ideas and strategies to help us run a healthier and more successful company."

"This was by far the best industry conference I've ever attended. Completely safe environment to talk about everything you've always wanted to ask, but never get the chance. I have renewed excitement for running our agency and an expanded network of peers who can both hold me accountable and continue to be a resource and sounding board well into the future.

"Owner Camp is hands down, the most important event I have ever attended to help improve myself and my company. Getting the chance to talk off the record, to a series of peers who are leaders in our industry is an unparalleled experience. While we do sometimes run into each other at other events, there is nothing like being with this select group for 3 days of focussed work ON your business time."

"Owner Camp is a first class event. It's always in a great location with luxury amenities. Topics are relevant to what I am working through in my business. Everyone is super nice and eager to offer insight from their experience. The post-conference Basecamp discussions extend the event and reinforce the sense of community that was established during the conference."

"Having attended multiple Owner Camps you'd think the experience would get repetitive. It doesn't. There is always something new you're dealing with and new attendees with great insights."

"You run a business, probably for the first time, you find that no-one quite understands what its like to run an agency. You find that maybe you have 1-2 friends to bounce those tough decisions off of, but you end up chatting with your spouse, sig other, mom and dad about a business they can't relate to. That was my story at least. Now take those 1-2 friends you trust and multiply it 15x and you get Owner Camp. You get a group of people who listen, but also provide guidance in an open format. You'll feel like there is a bit of a safety net for people who have gone through what you are going through, and that is invaluable. The calm, the "Oh, so I am not crazy" relief, just can't get a price tag."

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