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9 Quotes on Growth From Leaders of Young, Hot Companies

I recently attended the The Next Web Conference in New York City, where 1,500 people networked with and listened to some of the most innovative tech companies and thought leaders. I left with some powerful new knowledge and look forward to the next one in Amsterdam in May.

Here are nine strong takeaways from a variety of the speakers, which I think entrepreneurs could benefit greatly from:

1. It's amazing that in building businesses today, we have the fortune to build communities. Fifty years ago that wasn't the case. It's an opportunity and responsibility. -- Jake Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of General Assembly

Businesses no longer exist in a bubble. A company is made of the people who support it -- both in and outside the company. Don’t underestimate the importance of building communities around the brand.

Related: 4 Ways to Balance Company Rules With Values

Entrepreneurs are able to directly connect with consumers, and that’s powerful. Take interactions with customers and potential customers seriously. Use social-media conversations to get feedback, improve the business and find groups of people who believe in the business and its larger mission.

2. The reason our community is successful is because it brings true value to members. The community started organically from users. Then we saw we could nurture it to really make it grow. -- Vered Raviv Schwarz, COO of Fiverr

Building a community isn’t the same as advertising. To build a community, bring people together with similar beliefs, interests, needs, problems, etc.

The community may need nurturing through events, promotions, engagement exercises, etc. Pay attention to what the community members want, understand what is helpful and interesting to them and then help provide it.

3. The community is driving itself. We make sure to hug it. -- Danielle Strle, director of product at Tumblr

Customers are everything, so appreciate them. Answer questions, respond to feedback and thank them for their loyalty. Meet their needs and give them the love and support they need.

Consider suggestions from customers on ways to improve the product or service. Host forums, chats and other events that show customers the business is listening and cares about their thoughts.

4. Set goals that get people pissed because that puts their backs against the wall and makes them think of ways to actually do it. -- Matt Epstein, vice president of marketing at Zenefits

Goals should be challenging, not safe. When faced with a seemingly impossible or demanding goal, the best people in a company will step up to the plate and find a way to achieve it. The more challenging the objective, the more the team will need to innovate, think in new ways and work hard to get it done. Put the pressure on (within reason) and watch the team rise to the occasion.

5. Growing is about finding the next big trick up your sleeve every six to 18 months. Do this by trying a bunch of stuff at once to see what works. -- Epstein

Growth requires new strategies all the time to differentiate the company. “Purple cows,” in Seth Godin’s words, are necessary to set a company apart and get noticed, which is crucial for growth. Successful strategies will be noticed by competitors and copied, which means every six to 18 months, a new one should be thought of and implemented.

Related: 4 Reasons Employees See a Bleak Career Path and Quit

6. Do only what you do best. -- David Glickman, CEO of Ultra Mobile

Every entrepreneur has strengths and weaknesses. As the head of the company, identify and use those strengths. Everything else should be delegated to others.

7. It is always about the people. -- Glickman

People are the backbone of any company. Give employees the tools they need to succeed and provide them with resources to continue to grow and learn.

Give up control and allow the team to help shape the company. Encourage them to share ideas, give  feedback and start new projects. Be extremely picky and deliberate about who is hired. Only hire A players.

8. Great employees come from referrals from other employees. -- Jesse Middleton, vice president of product innovation at WeWork

Current employees are the best source for finding quality talent. Build a strong referral culture to bring in new A players. Encourage employees to refer friends with incentives such as bonuses and personal thank yous.

Take each recommendation seriously, and always accept referrals even if there are no open positions. Empower employees to become recruiters by keeping them updated on open positions, job descriptions and talent metrics.

9. Thinking is something people don’t budget for enough. -- Jason Fried, co-founder and CEO of Basecamp

During the day, entrepreneurs often tackle the routine tasks needed to keep a business up and running. But at night, for many, the mind is free to wander, work on new ideas, start projects, create and innovate.

Related: 3 Simple Steps for Company Goal Setting