Local Speakers Give Sound Business Advice at B2B Expo
By Gary Kauffman
The 1st annual B2B Expo and Conference held on Oct. 19 at The Foundry at Rae’s Creek included presentations by six local speakers and panel discussion interspersed with the typical networking with vendors. All but one of the presenters were local business leaders.
“We wanted to add educational information for businesses at the event,” said Neil Gordon, founder of Buzz on Biz. “We also wanted to let people know that we have many great business minds locally.”
The speakers were local business leaders who had expertise in a variety of fields. Former Brigadier General Jeff Foley served as the keynote speaker.
Other speakers were Jeff Annis, Advanced Services for Pest Control; Amy Kilpatrick, president and co-founder of Nspired Networking Enterprises; Eddie Kennedy, owner of Great Deals on Furniture; Brian Mattingly, founder of Welcomemat, from Atlanta; and Rick McMurtry, director of the University of Georgia’s local Small Business Development Center. The panel discussion consisted of Mattingly; Kim Romaner, president of Transworld Business Advisors; and Kevin McCarthy, director of SCORE-Aiken.
Following is a synopsis of each speaker’s presentation (Foley’s presentation will be presented in a separate story in the future).
Jeff Annis, Advanced Services for Pest Control
In more than 40 years of business, Annis said he has learned that if a business owner is having trouble hiring and retaining quality employees, it’s their own fault.
“Great employees leave bad employers,” he said. “The bad employees stay.”
That’s because, he said, most companies have no hiring system, instead hiring anyone who is breathing, and then have no training program.
The best leaders lead with great values: integrity, responsibility, forgiveness, compassion, loyalty, courage and fortitude. In his own company, Annis has always subscribed to an “open book” management system where he shares all of the company’s financial information with his employees.
“We don’t just show them the financials, we teach them the meaning of the financials,” he said.
He said that core values are the standard of a good company.
“Core values are 10 times more important than what you did yesterday,” he said.
To hire good employees, he said a company must define why an applicant would want to part of their team. He said potential employees can be graded A, B and C.
“We hire only A players,” he said. “We let the B and C players go ruin the companies of our competitors.”
Amy Kilpatrick, Nspired Networking Enterprises
Kilpatrick explored networking at a deeper level than shaking hands and exchanging cards at a business mixer. She said developing a team of people who can refer people to your business is the key. It is a strategy that she said increases revenue and eliminates cold calling.
“I am 16 years cold-call free,” she said. “I hate cold calls.”
But developing a referral team requires some homework. First, the business owner or entrepreneur must decide who their ideal client is.
“You’ve got to know before anyone else what you’re looking for,” she said. “You have a choice to ask for a client base or to ask for an ideal client base. It’s not about having a Rolodex of clients but having a Rolodex of clients that make you money.”
Once you are crystal clear on who you are looking for, the next step is to develop a team of eight or 10 referral partners. These partners know the basics of who you are looking for so that when they meet someone who might fit your ideal client base, they can make the referral.
“I’m not asking my referral partner to be on my sales team,” she said. “In fact, I don’t want them to make sales for me. Their job is just to get me to the prospect.”
This type of referral system leads to more opportunities with ideal clients, which leads to a higher close ratio and the opportunity to make more money.
Brian Mattingly, Welcomemat
All companies desire loyal customers, but Mattingly said the challenge is finding the ones who will be the heartbeat of your business. He spoke about the “coupon illusion” which some companies use to bring in new customers.
He said that while coupons and deep discounts can attract customers, and in some cases work well, there are long-range implications, such as customers who will never pay full price.
“Their loyalty doesn’t lie with the business but with the deal,” he said. “Loyalty starts with finding the right consumer group.”
One such group are people who move to a new area. Mattingly said they are five times more likely to become loyal to businesses – in fact, studies show that 40 percent of people who move even change their toothpaste brand.
People who are going through other life changes such as marriage, divorce, births and job changes also often develop new brand loyalties. Rather than reaching them with coupons and discounts, Mattingly suggested gifts.
“When someone is going through a life change, think how you can give them a gift with no strings attached,” he said. “It’s the power of reciprocity. Gifting builds brand loyalty.”
He advised cross marketing across all media.
“Don’t fall for the trap that there’s one magic bullet,” he said. “It all works together.”
Eddie Kennedy, Great Deals on Furniture
Entrepreneurs and small business owners are often resistant to change, but Kennedy said change is a fact of life. Using his own company’s experience, he spoke about the importance of adapting to those changes to continue to be successful.
“You have an idea of what you want your business to be, but in reality it’s not going to stay that way,” he said. “If you’re not willing to move with it your opportunities may pass you by.”
Because the world is full of copy cats, he said it is important to continue to adjust to maintain a difference from competitors.
“You have to be relevant to the customer but you want to be different from everybody else,” he said. “As a small business owner and entrepreneur you have to be willing to change and you have to be willing to restart.”
Rick McMurtry, Small Business Development Center
McMurtry explained how the SBDC can help people start small businesses or grow their small business through several programs and individual counseling.
“We spend a lot of time with clients to make sure they understand what their business is about, what their market climate is,” he said.
He added that the SBDC has access to a lot of resources that the average person doesn’t have because of their affiliation with the University of Georgia and the Small Business Administration. Best of all, he added, it’s free to their clients.
Among the services the SBDC offers are marketing and sales analyses, website analyses, financial analyses and developing financial and business plans. They also work with all area banks, so they can help create a financial plan that has a high approval rate for loans.
“We do lots of everything,” he said.
Panel Discussion with Kim Romaner, Brian Mattingly and Kevin McCarthy
The panel fielded questions about the differences between starting a new business from scratch or buying into a franchise.
Romaner said that one challenge for many entrepreneurs is underestimating the amount of capital it takes to start a business, which often leads to an inability to grow.
Mattingly, who has franchised his start-up business, Welcomemat, said that franchising mitigates those risks, but that it still takes hard work to make it successful.
Franchising gives entrepreneurs a network of people to discuss problems with and to share best practices with.
“When you’re out there by yourself you’ve got to figure it out yourself,” Romaner said.
McCarthy advised that even when starting a business on their own, an entrepreneur find four people in similar businesses who aren’t competitors to use as an advisor network.
Romaner added that buying into an existing business can give a jump start to an entrepreneur similar to buying a franchise.