Reflections from the New York Times – Small Business Summit

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By: Ari

Today I attended the Small Business Summit hosted by the New York Times and American Express. IMHO, the event was a great success. A packed house, great speakers and panel discussions as well as many networking opportunities for any entrepreneur.

The lunch keynote guest was Gary Hirshberg, Founder / CEO of Stonyfield Farm and he easily stole the show.

Gary’s fascinating story of how he started Stonyfield, the largest organic yogurt company in the world, is a must for entrepreneurs. How he and his team continue to grow the business while keeping all ingredients organic and local as well as putting aside 10% of profit for causes that protect the earth is truly inspirational and worth learning.

Here is a summary of some good business lessons from Gary and some of the other speakers. Good for any small business:

• The way to beat a big company: have a superior product and have your own USP (unique selling point) and do not compromise.
• If you don’t ask you don’t get: don’t be afraid to make a call or write an email to someone you think is to important or to busy
• Loyalty: trial, trial, repeat trial… you end up with a loyal customer: you will always make more money from a happy returning customer.
• Know your customer: try new products and get feedback from your customers. It is your best marketing
• Price right (low?): price low to compete. When the product is right and loyalty is there you will make up for any low margins by saving marketing dollars
• Use your imagination for marketing: trust your guts and try new things.
• Co-opetition: this is a phrase we used a lot in our space (telecom) whether it is cooperation with your small competitor to compete against the big guy or with your big competitor in areas you can fill in the gaps. This may be right these days more than ever before.
• You won’t be perfect but be open. Don’t hide anything from your customers and share your story with them
• Use the bad time to reflect on your business. Specifically for these times: understand your cash flow!
• Show respect for all those who surround you: customers, employees, suppliers, vendors… and family!
• Determination: Believe in yourself! You may not know what the future holds but you do know who holds it. In the end, you are the only one who will get you through.

Well, to many this list may be just another list and it may very well be just that but it is always good to hear it again and again. We all run so fast that we sometimes simply forget to stop for fresh air, reflect, and see if we are doing what we know we should.

As always, we at appreciate your feedback. Both the good and the bad.

Tomorrow… another event to tell you about.

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