2011-10-05 / Features

Queens College Hosts Forum On Small Business Survival

BY ADAM LOMBARDI


(L. to r.); Panel Moderator Joe Connelly of the Wall Street Journal and WCBS Newsradio 880 commentator, Queens College Chief Operating Officer and Vice- President of Institutional Advancement Sue Henderson, Queens College Dean of Social Sciences Elizabeth Hendrey and Queens College President James Muyskens. 
Photo Adam Lombardi (L. to r.); Panel Moderator Joe Connelly of the Wall Street Journal and WCBS Newsradio 880 commentator, Queens College Chief Operating Officer and Vice- President of Institutional Advancement Sue Henderson, Queens College Dean of Social Sciences Elizabeth Hendrey and Queens College President James Muyskens. Photo Adam Lombardi With a standing-room only crowd, award-winning Wall Street Journal and WCBS Newsradio 880 commentator Joe Connolly moderated a spirited discussion with the heads of four leading Queens entrepreneurial firms.

Connolly, who is known for his trademark instructive vignettes from routine business stories, according to New York Magazine, spoke candidly to the large crowd of struggling business owners, and those eager to network at Queens College. “It’s not what you get into, it’s what you get out off,” Connolly said in his initial remarks giving the attendees reasons to hope for the progress of small businesses in America.

Connolly began the discussion by questioning the panelists on how his or her business survived a shrinking ultra competitive economy. President of Allied Personnel Services and panelist Amparo Connors spoke of her business turnaround. Connors began providing customized placement services to her clients. A selfdescribed “Fiscal Hawk”, she “learned to do more with less”, while simultaneously renegotiating favorable terms to all of her expenses. Let’s make a deal, was her advice. But this was only one part of her new approach to doing business. Connors redefined her company. As a certified M/WBE, Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise she distinguished herself and her company, Allied Personnel - which is now the only remaining and independent administrative staffing service in Queens – above all of the competition.

Other panelists found success with pure optimism. Audra Fordin embodied the entrepreneurial spirit when she professed to the audience her ultimate goal to break the stereotype against women in the automotive business. “I said to myself, I’m going to change the automotive industry,” and as President of Great Bear Auto Repair and Auto Body, she cornered an untapped market. The secret, she recalled, was publishing a new interactive Web site with constant tweets and updates that people could follow to keep informed. Word soon spread, and the new social media presence helped select her audience and renew her distressed business.

Outlooks for future growth were slightly pessimistic, which was a sentiment shared by most panelists and audience members. “I don’t see growth,” said Connors, adding that businesses are finding better talent. But there is still reason for hope, replied Connolly, who instructed the panelists and eager business owners that demand is increasing, therefore we must ask ourselves, what can you do right now, not what can’t I do.

Not everyone present was a small business owner. Many students from Queens College like Economics major, Maria- Laura Arcos listened attentively to the discussion. Arcos, who received a scholarship from the Queens College Business Forum, said, “[The program] gives students like me an opportunity to meet new people, and you never know whom you’re going to meet next.”

Connolly ended the discussion with a few parting words of advice to help sail entrepreneurs through rough times, “Being passionate about what you do is the best sales tactic,” he said. The enthusiastic audience erupted with a round of applause.

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