The ice sculpture fountain at NAWBO’s WBC opening reception at the Kentucky Derby Museum on Oct. 4, 2012

The National Association of Women Business Owners Women’s Business Conference kicked off Thursday in Louisville, Ky., with an excited group of about 600 businesswomen.

Opening keynote speaker University of Louisville professor, author and futurist Nat Irvin II, challenged their understanding of the world today and what is expected to happen in the very near future, warning that it’s no longer enough to be human if you want to succeed in business today — you need algorithms to remain competitive.

Success today also requires cognitive diversity, said Irvin, so you should seek to connect with and hire people who behave — and are at their core — different from you.

Irvin was followed by Babson College professor of entrepreneurship Patricia G. Green, who explained the power of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, for which she is the national academic director.

Green then moderated a discussion with 10,000 Small Businesses graduates Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns CEO Monique Greenwood and Earthen Symphony CEO Madhu Uday.

Greenwood and Uday said they have always seen great results from trusting their guts in business decisions. For Uday, that proved to be a challenge because her gut often had her operating in opposition to her parents and others around her. Still, she said, the struggle was worth it because her gut was correct.

They both emphasized the vital importance of learning to delegate tasks within your business if you want to grow. If you can’t delegate, then you can’t grow because you can’t possibly do it all, said Greenwood.

Greenwood debunked the notion that your business and your personal life are two completely separate entities, explaining that they have to jibe for you to see real success and happiness. “It’s important to have a life plan and make sure it marries with your business plan.”

After a couple of sets of breakout sessions — stay tuned for more posts on these and Day Two of the WBC — and plenty of networking time, the NAWBO women hopped on buses to head out to the Kentucky Derby Museum for an opening ceremony where they drank bourbon, learned about horse racing and had a chance to bid on fabulous hats in an auction to benefit the NAWBO Institute for Entrepreneurial Development.

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