Panelists offered insights about mitigating risk, becoming customer centric and optimizing profits.

Symposium focuses on helping mid-sized New Jersey companies grow

For the fourth year, Rutgers Business School's Business Community Engagement Symposium brought together business owners, government agencies, higher education and private corporations in a thought-provoking discussion.

More than 100 business people attended Rutgers Business School’s annual Business Community Engagement Symposium to gain insights into protecting and growing their companies.   

In keeping with the symposium’s focus – “Generating profit for growth in uncertain times: Unique strategies for New Jersey’s mid-size companies” – three panels of speakers with expertise in law, marketing, government regulations and manufacturing provided advice about strategy, finding resources and avoiding litigation.

“Your contracts are critical,” panelist Carole White-Connor, a senior corporate counsel at T-Mobile told the audience during a discussion on mitigating risk. “Almost universally, business people don’t read them.”

Melanie Willoughby, executive director of the New Jersey Business Action Center, explained how her agency helps business people navigate the laws and regulations that impact their companies, from sales taxes and inspection fees to family leave.

Rutgers Business School professor Kevin Lyons.
Kevin Lyons, director of Rutgers Business School's Public Private Community Partnership program, makes a point during a panel discussion on optimizing profits.

Panelist Braun Kiess, principal of Partners2Market, discussed the strategy of growth hacking as part of a panel that encouraged business owners to become customer centric. And Jonathon Jaffe described how he differentiated his marketing business with a daily email poking fun at New Jersey news.

The four-year-old symposium is one way Rutgers Business School shares expertise with local businesses and helps to facilitate stronger collaboration among higher education, government, private corporations and entrepreneurs. This year, the symposium highlighted the services provided by the New Jersey Small Business Development Center, which has one of its regional centers housed at Rutgers Business School. Each of the panel discussions included a business owner whose company benefited from the services of the SBDC.

Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei.
Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei created the Business Community Engagement Symposium four years ago.

“We have a responsibility to support our community and the local companies,” Dean Lei Lei said, noting some of the training programs and other resources, including teams of MBA student consultants, that are available to help area businesses develop strategies and solve problems.

Rutgers Business School’s role in making social impact is among Dean Lei’s strategic goals. The symposium was created to harness the knowledge and expertise within Rutgers to foster economic development within Newark. As Master of Ceremonies Leon Fraser, a Rutgers Business School professor and executive education administrator, said during the symposium, when Lei became dean, she said, “We shouldn’t be an Ivory Tower.”

Rutgers Business School professor Leon Fraser organized the Business Community Engagement Symposium.
Master of Ceremonies Leon Fraser, a Rutgers Business School professor of professional practice.

Rutgers University Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor said this year’s symposium theme promised to add to the tradition of “thought provoking but practical dialogue.”

“Collaborative business growth, in my view is the name of the game, not zero-sum competition,” Cantor said. She offered Newark’s buy local, hire local, train local initiative as an example.

“This is the collaborative business growth strategy that I would argue can be the basis not only for equitable growth in cities and regions in New Jersey,” Cantor said, “but also can serve the interests of mid-size companies by increasing their market share and sales, boosting the talent pipeline to grow their employee base and solidifying visibility and reputation for long-term stability.”   

Rutgers University Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor
In her opening remarks, Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor said the symposium's 2019 focus would add to a tradition of “thought provoking but practical dialogue.”

Other panelists at the event included: Kenneth Zuckerberg, managing partner, Carlan Advisors, Sayed Ibrahim, CEO of Natural Beauty USA, Tom Olsen, owner, Lobster Life Systems, Kevin Lyons, director of Rutgers Business School’s Public Private Community Partnership Program, and Sarah Krom, CPA, Managing Partner, SKC & Co.

Keila Aramboles listen in the audience.
The symposium attracted nearly 100 people, including business owner Keila Aramboles.

Jim Barnoski, president of Sandler Training/Performance Selling was the lunch-time keynote speaker. Brenda Hopper, CEO of New Jersey Small Business Development Centers, gave a brief overview of the services the state’s network of 12 regional centers provide. SBDC regional directors, Elayne McClaine and Tendai Ndoro, served as moderators.

In the audience, Geraldine Keogh, chief executive officer of The Dessert Ladies Group, was among the small business people taking notes and soaking up the insights.

Keogh, whose company recently spun off a new business, said she planned to reach out to panelist Joan McGeough, chief marketing officer at The Dak Group for more advice about developing a growth strategy.  

“This was really helpful,” Keogh said as the symposium came to an end. “It reminds me of why it’s important to sometimes make the time to pull yourself out of the grind of the daily business.”    

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