Sail conference keynote will focus on taking action

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John Spence is big on taking ideas and turning them into action.

Spence, who will be the keynote speaker this week at Sail America’s 2012 Industry Conference in Newport, R.I., wants to give executives practical ideas they can implement in their businesses when they leave.

“A lot of times people come to these things, get excited about all kinds of ideas, but then they get home and say, ‘How do I do this?’ ” Spence told Soundings Trade Only.

That’s why, after his keynote speech, he’ll drill down with businesses in more intimate breakout sessions.

“And I’ll be available after this to follow up and help them with individual questions,” Spence said.

Spence was named CEO of an international foundation directed by Winthrop Rockefeller at age 26 and has since owned several small businesses.

He travels and advises companies around the world, including Microsoft, GE, IBM, AT&T, Merrill Lynch and Verizon, and is a guest lecturer at schools that include Harvard, Stanford, Cornell and the Wharton School of Business.

He reads more than 100 business-related books each year, and has written two — “Excellence by Design” and “Awesomely Simple” — that have received accolades.

Spence said his keynote speech, “Running and Sustaining a Highly Successful Organization,” focuses on six things that can help business owners control the market in a down economy.

“What can you focus on to keep your business viable during a downturn?” Spence said.

In his exhaustive business analysis, Spence has identified patterns that apply to each successful business during a downturn.

He has outlined six points that businesses need to make focal points, ranging from excellent staff to understanding the market and customer. Then he’ll drill down to give a nine-step process for execution.

“I try to boil everything down into a few key steps,” Spence said. “I’ll give businesses an outline.”

“I’ve got some real strong feelings on this,” Spence said. “I was working with several large boat companies when the recession hit. We have overcapacity. When you’ve got that much capacity, you have to figure out what your niche is, differentiate your product and home in on that space. A lot of companies want to be all things to all people. You’ve got to be highly specialized, and you’ve got to differentiate yourself from competitors. I don’t believe [the boating industry] does a good job of either one of those things.”

Spence will deliver his keynote speech on Tuesday from 9:25 to 10:25 a.m. in the Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina ballroom.

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Reagan Haynes

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