John Hafford of DesignLab, Rick Levasseur of 5 Lakes Lodge, and Sean DeWitt of Our Katahdin addressed a group of State Legislators, including myself, back in January. During lunch in a pine paneled room at the Northern Timber Cruisers snowmobile club in Millinocket – at an event curated by the Maine Development Foundation – they made a good case for rural broadband expansion, and maybe made fun of each other a little bit too. In a nice way.
Derek Volk is president of Volk Packaging Corporation, a Biddeford-based maker of custom packaging. He’s also the author of ‘Chasing the Rabbit – a Dad’s Life Raising a Son on the Spectrum‘, about raising a child with autism.
This episode was a lot of fun to do, with a discussion of both business in Maine and adapting the workplace to the needs of employees. Derek and the entire company have remained leaders in this area and are to be commended for it.
Of note is that Derek’s son Dielawn Volk is now offering autism coaching services. This is a brand new, and I think very innovative service. It’s suitable for both prospective employees or for prospective employers. An initial 1/2 hour consult is free. You can get started here, at the YouTube Channel.
I very much enjoyed my conversation with fellow podcaster Ben Sprague. In addition to hosting The Maine Show, a podcast which features entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the State, Ben is a Bangor City Councilor and VP of Business Development at The First (a Bangor-based community bank).
Ben is a much admired city councilor with excellent perspective and an interesting background. His podcast is highly recommended. It was a great pleasure to have him on the show. Here’s the episode:
Kerem Durdag, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Maine Technology Institute, gives his impassioned take on Maine’s business community, in what I think is one of my best episodes. Envision Maine, pitch contests, Department of Economic and Community Development, FocusMaine, you name it, we talk about it.
And, you (and I) get to figure out how to say ‘Kerem Durdag’.
Cheers and enjoy!
Hey, so I had some scheduling mixups with a couple recordings, and I didn’t get anything recorded with a guest, so it’s just me this time, with Five New Year’s Insights for Maine Entrepreneurs. Some of you may know that I cofounded a company called CorrectDeck, which reached 30MM in sales and 75 employees, so I learned a lot of this stuff then, or also as part of being acquired later, working for a big national company (a large roofing company called GAF).
- The trade show starts when you get to the airport. When you’re at the gate and you’re heading to the big trade show, odds are pretty good that someone else on that plane is going to that same show, and they could be a customer. I met one of my best prospects at the gate in Philadelphia for a flight to New Orleans – we just started chatting. He was the president of a large company and I would never have gotten to him at the show, when he would have his guard up. We keep in touch to this day. I’ve met people on the airport shuttle too. If it’s a big show, odds are half the people you see are going there. Once they’re on the show floor with their name badge on, they’re much less likely to make a true connection with you.
- Be authentic. I’m in green building and sustainability. I have a passion for it and really try to live it, driving an eco-friendly car and adding all kinds of energy efficiency measures to my house, recycling, carpooling, etc. It’s a field where you really should walk the talk, and I’m known for that, but I screw up once in a while. Once on a connecting flight to a trade show, I saw an influential reporter I know getting after me, and she sat up front. I expected to see her when I got off the plane, but she wasn’t there, so after the long day, I skipped over the more eco-friendly hotel shuttle and just grabbed a taxi. I saw Katie later at the show, and she said, “I waited for you on the shuttle – I figured you’d be there”. Busted.
- Hire for character, not for skills. You can teach skills, but you need someone who will show up during a snowstorm, figurative or literal. At the same time, be wary of people who have too much passion for your company and have no life outside it – they can be likely to think they are extensions of you, the owner, start trying to guess what decisions you would make, and cause problems with your other employees. (That kind of person should find something outside of work to pour their excess energy into – maybe you can help with that.)
- This one is from Ken Priest at Kenway: in an absence of information, people always assume the worst. For example, if someone asks you to do something, and you get right to work on it but don’t tell them, they’ll probably figure you’re not working on it. If you’re the boss, it’s even worse. You need to overcommunicate. It can seem odd, but you need to keep saying the same thing over and over. You can figure on you need to say it 7 times in some kind of public way for it to be heard. If you hear it come back around to you, then you know you’ve succeeded.
- Maine branding is free. Use it, build it, uphold it. Generations of hardworking, practical, no-BS Mainers before you have earned this for your company. It works everywhere – for aeronautics, food, and medical, for payment systems, you name it. Imagine if your company was in New Jersey – what perception would your customers have of you out of the gate? (Maybe that you were secretly operating a chemical waste dump, and that was really how you made your money.) So you know know that your customers expect this Maine authenticity, steadfastness and ingenuity of you, and live up to it. Of course, this can be a knock, too – your customers, and even you yourself, might perceive that your company will remain small and unlikely to be a national player. But you can sneak up on them.
- Lastly, if they lob you a softball, hit it out of the park. Maybe you’re on the radio or on TV. You’re expecting a tough question. Instead, they ask, why is your product so great. Well, bring it. Don’t hold back. Also, if you’re given a hard question, don’t be afraid to pause or repeat the question. It gives you time to think and formulate a good response.
That’s it! Write to me on the facebook page if you are interested in doing something with the show. The next episode will be some excerpts from the recent Envision Maine conference, including a presentation by David Shaw, founder of Idexx, who just doesn’t give a damn about the traditional rules of giving a talk at a conference, so it’s going to make a great episode. Next up after that, I’ve got a full recording of last years $30,000 Launchpad pitch contest, which is two hours worth of kickass pitches that I’m currently editing down, just in time for the opening of this year’s contest. If you’re getting ready for that, be sure to subscribe so you can kind of get into the do’s and don’ts of pitching as you see it.
And is so often the case for people who give advice, I am about to give you the advice that I really need, which is: don’t be afraid to be awesome!
As you may have figured out by now, I just tool around with my Zoom H4N hooking it to soundboards and if I get something good, I publish it here. And I think I got something good this time, especially if you’re a supply chain wonk like me. (I also do in-person interviews with Maine entrepreneurs).
Anyway… there is much that is interesting in the concept of getting food to market, especially a just-in-time item like broccoli florets. And Bill Dubay, former CEO of Curran Co. (and current CEO of Baxter Brewing) is an expert on getting food to market. With more than 100 employees and located in the Biddeford Industrial Park, this is a dynamic business that outperforms those with longer supply chains, by providing quicker service that reduces supermarket’s costs.
Thank you to the Maine Real Estate and Development Association for allowing me to record this talk. If you own or are looking to own (or lease) commercial real estate, you should get involved with them.
Justin Chenette is a high-energy social media and digital advertising executive, as well as the State Legislator representing Saco. He’s in a new role at the Journal Tribune (a Biddeford and Saco based newspaper).
Justin shares high-value tips on building your brand, particularly by using cause marketing in conjunction with a comprehensive media plan.
Brought to you by my new business Hellocycle: hassle-free guilt-free recycling. Listen to the podcast for an offer code for a substantial discount.
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