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Chamber membership hears from small business panel

In 2008, the country was hit with a recession it has struggled to emerge from. Yet within the last three years, Williamson County has become home to 25 percent of the large companies in Tennessee.
Moreover, of the total companies listed with start-up hub Inc.5000, the go-to place for entrepreneurs and small companies starting or growing their business, Williamson is home to 24 percent. 
This was the focus of the September Williamson County Chamber of Commerce membership meeting Tuesday—titled “High Growth Strategies in a Low Growth Economy.” 
A small business panel made up of three local entrepreneurs with companies successful enough to be ranked in Inc.5000 addressed attendees.  
Michael Claudio, CEO of EHD Technologies, Shannon Farrington, CEO of W Squared and Ben Mankin, president of Mankin Media Systems talked about challenges they face, growing a business during a down economy and provided advice to chamber business leaders.
For Claudio, Farrington and Menkin, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right product. And, they say it was also about the courage to seize opportunities.
“We were blessed with opportunities,” Claudio told the group. “We had to adapt to some of the opportunities and bring in expertise when our expertise was lacking.”
EHD Technologies provides business products and services to industries that include automotive, electronic, power and energy and information technology. 
He credits EHD Technologies’ success with the values it has maintained since it was created in 2002 and included in the name – Excellence, Honor and Dedication. 
“It’s all about establishing a partnership with the client,” Claudio said. 
Farrington founded W Squared in 2005 to provide back office outsourcing services for healthcare information, information technology, payroll services, accounting, finance and IT services.
“During the downturn, a lot of our clients needed to look at ways to do what they do more efficiently and cost effective,” she said, recalling strategies employed when W Squared launched. 
 “We looked at venture companies intending to grow quickly; we didn’t expect to see a lot of entrepreneurs who could benefit and value our services.”
Menkin started his performance audio, broadcast video and theatrical lighting systems company in 2001 “in a spare bedroom with a laptop,” he said. 
“It’s been tough for us. Our model is built on long-term investment; it’s built on sage advice. It’s easy to start a company, the tractor pull is running the company.”
To stay on the track to success always fear the competitor, control the product and create an engine that provides “cool experiences with cool experts and look for cool customers,” Menkin advised.
Foster a culture of fun and hard work, Farrington added.
Create a culture people want to be a part of, a culture where the customer wants to work with you and people want to work for you, Claudio said.
“All business is not good business,” he added. “Partnership is two-directional. If the customer is not responding, it’s not a partnership. If it doesn’t fit, find another customer.”
The trio also offered this advice to budding entrepreneurs and those seeking to grow their business: Remember, nothing is new. 
They also urged attendees to find the best in the business and to be willing to be a mentee rather than a mentor. Also, the panel challenged listeners to do these four things:  pursue success beyond the money, follow a passion, hire great talent and share success with those who got you there.

Posted on: 9/18/2013


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