The event kicked off with a welcome message from founder Paul Long, followed by an address from Congressman Denny Heck. From there, speakers Mike Michalowicz, Elisa Hays, and Barry Long gave their presentations.

Content-wise, the annual South Sound Business Summit offered attendees as strong an event as ever. Even though it was all done virtually via a series of videos, the event having been transitioned to online in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.

“Last year, we had a room full of 200 (people),” said Long, senior vice president of banking for Timberland Bank. “This year, it’s a little different. … But, just like being a business owner, sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches.”

Heck followed, beginning by thanking viewers for attending in a safe manner before shifting his thoughts toward business: “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. You hear it over and over again, but it’s true. They create two out of every three new jobs in this country. Here at home, they are the lifeblood of the South Sound.” Helping those businesses survive in any way possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, Heck said, is vital. Rental assistance and stabilizing the mortgage market are two items Heck said he currently is focusing on.

Mike Michalowicz

The event’s three speakers came next, kicking off with Michalowicz, an author, former business columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and an entrepreneur who had launched three multimillion-dollar companies before he turned 35 years old. Michalowicz’s more than 50-minute-long presentation focused on “Eradicating Entrepreneurial Poverty.”

“How do you make your business permanently profitable?” Michalowicz asked upfront, following with personal and historical anecdotes that he seamlessly tied into the focus on his theme and providing answers to his profitability question.

“The problem (is that) profit is a leftover, it’s a last consideration,” he said “When is the last time you (prioritized) something last and it actually happened? For most businesses, we are just selling to support expenses. We stay stuck in that cycle.”

Elisa Hays

Michalowicz was followed by inspirational speaker, consultant, and author of Letters to My Daughter, Elisa Hays. Hays began her presentation by asking the virtual audience if they had ever had such a bad day in business that they’d felt hit by a truck. Certainly, with the economic impact of COVID-19, many currently are feeling this way, Hays posited.

While this common expression can be rather cliché, it was quite literal for Hays, who, in March 2014 was hit by a 15-ton semi-truck as it barreled along in the snow outside Wichita, Kansas, at 65 miles per hour.

Using her personal trauma as a primer, Hays tackled the topic of leadership by recounting the painful events that led her to develop her Living Five Rules strategy as she recovered from myriad injuries. “When life hits you like a truck, that’s when you get to learn who you really are,” Hays said.

At the conclusion of her 35-minute video, Hays brought her rules into sharper focus by relating them back to the current economic crisis. “We all feel hit by a truck, but if we play the long game, do the hard thing, ask more and tell less, actually care, and remember it’s really not about (us), then we will get through this together.”

Barry Long

Like Hays, speaker Barry Long related a life-changing injury — a motorcycle accident at age 22 that left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down — and the lessons he learned from it to today’s current moment. The first of these, he explained, was learning how to be vulnerable enough to ask for help, and that doing so does not mean that you are weak or burdensome.

“When you ask for help, you’re incorporating someone else’s strength with your own,” Long said. “This situation we’re in right now, there are so many of us that need help, and we’re not weak for asking for it, we’re actually stronger.”

Long also encouraged the virtual audience to focus on what they can control, especially in this moment when the world feels especially chaotic. Instead of dwelling on all the things that can derail goals, he asked listeners to take the journey as it comes and “stop and think about your thoughts, because when you are aware of your thoughts, you can change them.”

Even the event’s expo was held virtually, with detailed information, pictures, and videos from each sponsor featured at the bottom of the event’s web page. South Sound Business was one of the event sponsors. Michalowicz, Hays, and Long were sponsored by Timberland Bank, the Port of Tacoma, and Evergreen Business Capital, respectively.

One of the benefits of the virtual format is that tickets will be sold through May 31 and then the summit can be watched online in its entirety through Aug. 1. Event proceeds are earmarked for the nonprofit Washington State Small Business Development Center.

More information, including information on tickets, can be found at