Small Business Summit Offers Businesses Opportunity to Network, Learn and Grow

Small Business Summit Offers Businesses Opportunity to Network, Learn and Grow
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and Regent University co-sponsored the Small Business Summit on October 2, consisting of two keynote speakers and six breakout sessions at The Founders Inn and Spa in Virginia Beach.

The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and Regent University co-sponsored the Small Business Summit on October 2, offering businesses the opportunity to network, learn and grow. This half-day summit consisted of two keynote speakers and six breakout sessions at The Founders Inn and Spa in Virginia Beach.

The Chamber strives to develop and improve the quality of life in the region through its programs and services. It is vital for the Chamber to host events that will benefit small businesses and enhance their ability to succeed and grow their business.

(from left) Dr. Paul Bonicelli, Executive VP, Regent University; Bryan K. Stephens, President & CEO, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Helen Dragas, President & CEO, The Dragas Companies and Honorable Alan Krasnoff, Mayor of ChesapeakeThe day kicked off with a continental breakfast and a keynote address delivered by Marc Willson, Consultant with Virginia’s Small Business Development Center. Willson brings 35 years of experience in reshaping retail, restaurant and tourism-related small businesses. He shared tactics needed to discover the ideal customer, how to reach the correct market and addressed several burning questions that keep many business professionals from reaching their full potential.

“Mediocrity does not cut it,” said Willson. “You have to be better than you have ever been before because the internet has moved the power to the consumer.” He continued, “You have to give something nobody else can give them - customized, personalized customer service.”

He concluded, “Small business is the lifeblood of this planet and it is so important that we support them and keep them alive and flourishing.”

Attendees chose between three breakout sessions. “Small Business Health - How Health Reform Affects Small Business” was presented by Steve Keogh, Regional Sales Manager, Optima Health. Keogh has more than two decades’ experience in group insurance, health care, technology, consulting, and sales/relationship management. He discussed the new health reform and what the new guidelines mean for a small business. “Are You in the Business of Being an Exceptional Business?” was presented by Kevin Neff, founder of the KPN Group. He spoke about the importance of incorporating “old school” philosophies with “new school” technologies, and how, if done right, can lead to exceptional business results. Lastly, “Leading Small Enterprise Success” was presented by Dr. Gary Oster, Professor of Leadership and Innovation at Regent University. Oster’s presentation discussed the importance of being a good leader with a clear vision and what leadership techniques will actually promote company success in the long run.

After a short break, attendees were able to choose a second breakout session. “Money Got You Down? – Demystifying SBA Loans” was presented by Michael Austin, Senior Vice President of Fulton Bank. Austin has more than 30 years’ experience in regional small business lending. He cleared up the confusion surrounding current SBA loan programs and taught attendees how to maneuver the borrowing process and assured that banks are motivated to award SBA loans. “This Class Ain’t For You - Unless You Have Employees” was presented by Robert J. Barry, Member of Kaufman & Canoles. Barry emphasized practical advice on negotiating the maze of laws, regulations small business employers confront, how employment law problems can hurt company morale, and the importance of being proactive and avoiding problems before they arise. “The Misunderstood World of Small Business Marketing!” was presented by Dr. Greg Stone, MBA Program Director and Professor of Marketing, School of Business and Leadership at Regent University. Stone’s presentation examined how to start with the right purpose and build a service-based marketing program. He explained how people often misunderstand marketing and how poor marketing activities can hurt a business’s brand and disrupt the operations.

The Founders Inn and Spa provided a delicious buffet lunch to all attendees and the final Keynote Speaker, Helen Dragas, President & CEO of The Dragas Companies, delivered her address. Dragas has helped shape the region for more than 40 years, building quality homes at affordable prices. As a board member at the University of Virginia, it has been her desire to ensure affordable excellence for the long run.  She spoke to attendees on her standards of leadership in times of adversity, discussing how not only to run a business effectively, but how to shape the community.  

“Leadership necessarily means confronting and working to solve important issues, often and typically in tumultuous times and in conditions where there are few opportunities for study or reflection,” said Dragas. She continued, “Value these difficult times because they reveal our hot buttons, but personally and organizationally they inspire us to serve, they help us to grow stronger and they teach us invaluable if painful lessons.”

She concluded by saying, “There are times when leaders may feel very isolated, where we have fingers and sharp criticisms pointed at us…we really never stand alone, we have our faith our family and our friends, each one of us has our support system.”

To conclude the event, best-selling author Kevin Neff conducted a 45-minute Q&A session for attendees who had further questions regarding marketing for their business. Beyond answering several questions, he had giveaways to include: a copy of the best seller, "The Secret to Winning Big," who he co-authored with Brian Tracy; a copy of his book, "Got One or Get One, the Business Lie that is Keeping You Broke!" and "Create Your Own Marketing Hot Rod" product, which contained a book, a CD of the transcript and a practice module.

“Starting off the Small Business Summit with the Small Business Development Center is a must do, said Ty Swartz of Chief’s Touch Consultant. “I always think SBDC has some of the best people in business and they’re at the price I can afford - and that’s free!” 

“I have pages of notes,” said Grace Alegre of Visionary Productions. “Because my husband and I are in the video industry, it was amazing to me how much emphasis there was on video, especially during Marc Willson’s keynote and Kevin Neff’s breakout session.”

“I enjoyed both of my breakout sessions,” said Sandra Purvis of Conquering QuickBooks, Inc. “They’re all saying the same thing, ‘it’s not status quo like it was, you really have to change’ and I agree.”

Swartz continued, “The networking at this event was great too. I made three or four solid contacts that I have already set appointments with next week.”

Thanks to sponsors: Regent University (Co-Presenting); Optima Health (Gold); and Adams Outdoor Advertising (Silver).

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