There’s a really great party going on outside my room right now.  There’s an open bar, the crowd is upbeat with a live band… and I’m in my room writing. Why? Because I’m overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and appreciation that I have received in the last two days — I had to stop and put down in words for you to understand what I have experienced at the INC 5000 Conference.

When the war first started, flags were flying outside of every business and home. People stopped military personnel and their families to say thank you, and many communities stepped up to support the military on the home front. I didn’t think this would last and would soon become old news; something no longer exciting for others to think about. 

I’m happy to say that I was wrong. The war has waged on for over ten years and people are still saying thank you to vets and families alike. If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you can see a bit of what I’ve been exposed to. This conference is geared towards the 500 fastest growing privately owned companies in the US, to empower, advise, and provide networking opportunities.

My mentor, Stephane Come, CEO of LCS Technologies

Last year, INC Magazine opened up a military sponsorship program for veterans and spouses with businesses. I applied to attend this year and was selected to attend. I had no idea what I was in for. I was assigned a mentor, a CEO of a multi-million dollar company, to help take my business to new levels over the next year. I connected with Stephane Come, the co-founder of LCS Technologies, an IT company in Sacramento.  This mentorship program is priceless. When would I (or any of these other small military businesses) ever have had the chance to meet such great minds? It isn’t something that happens very often and it’s all because INC truly cares.

Not only have we had the opportunity to meet with a mentor, we were invited to attend the conference as VIP’s, where INC has provided us special seating at events, networking events specifically tailed for us with people like Norm Brodsky, and unbelievable meals. I have never been treated so well.

We’ve heard from a number of speakers, but I’m going to highlight a few. We have sat through sessions listening to the great mind of Simon Sinek and the Power of Why. If you want to be inspired, check out his book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. He knows what it’s like to be in a warzone. He’s been there as a reporter and is able to paint a picture of our reality to others.

Have you heard about Charity: Water? They are turning lives around in third world countries by providing a means for clean drinking water utilizing 100% of donated funds. If you’re looking for a charity that does something truly wonderful, look no further than this organization.

Photo with Marie Tillman, the four Pat Tillman scholarship winners, and the INC 5000 selected veterans.

I’ve cried three times today. It’s been an emotionally charged day, taking in all of the passion and ingenuity these businesses have provided and discovered ways to harness their power into doing what I love.We heard from Marie Tillman, a military spouse who lost her husband in the war and started the Pat Tillman foundation, which sponsors veterans and their families for educational opportunities.

Every person I have met and talked with at this event has the utmost esteem for all of you out there. “You’re the ones we can learn from”, I hear.  “You and your families have sacrificed so much, I have the greatest respect for all of you”, and comments like this over and over again. I’ve connected with other business owners who aren’t in the mentor program, but who have generously offered their help to further our causes.

If you were ever in doubt that people believe and want to help our community, look no further. The love for our vets and families is so strong I am tearing up once again as I write this. One word sums up my feeling for these supporters of our great community:  grateful.