First Marion County Biz Expo draws more than 60

The Hillsboro Free Press Biz Expo was extended to Marion County this year and, according to organizers, was a success.

The first Biz Expo debuted last year in North Newton, sponsored by the Free Press sister publication, the Buyer?s Edge of South Central Kansas.

More than 60 people attended the round-table discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 10, in the Wohlgemuth Music Education Center on the Tabor College campus in Hillsboro.

?The Wohlgemuth Center was a perfect setting, having more than 20 Tabor College finance and advertising students attending,? said Joel Klaassen, publisher of the Free Press and an event organizer. ?We also had a broad mix of business and professionals in attendance.?

Tim Smith, nationally known business consultant from Allentown, Pa., was the presenter of the day-long seminar. He offered participants ways to retain and increase customer traffic in tough times while learning how to thrive and survive in challenging business times.

Smith spoke about communication skills, technology, generation gaps, interviewing, policies and procedures and other issues.

When it comes to technology, Smith asked how many business people text, use Twitter or a Web site such as Facebook or Plaxo in their daily routine.

In addition, he asked how people balance those things in their day-to-day operation.

?Are we getting away from ?.com? online learning, which was the big hit in 2001?? he asked.

Businesses need to take stock of their inventory and evaluate what is their ?bread and butter,? Smith said.

As an example, he talked about one seminar group that went bust after forgetting what its mission statement was.

?Twenty percent of customers generate 80 percent of revenue (in a business),? he said.

Smith also addressed generational boundaries and coping with differences. Keeping an open mind, he said, is a good thing in trying to understand people.

Smith said an applicant walked in 15 minutes late, showing up with a bag of food and a pop.

?He asked me if I would mind if we ate and talked,? Smith said.

As the conversation progressed, the young applicant asked, ?How do I get your job??

At first, Smith said he was offended, but after thinking about it, he realized the young man was simply asking, ?How do you get promoted within this organization??

Once Smith said he realized what the young person was communicating, he explained it would require doing ?this and that? to get his job.

Important to remember when dealing with that 20 percent of customers, Smith said, is making sure to give the best skills training to employees when dealing with those people.

?That might mean face-to-face communications, the telephone or technology (e-mail, texting, Twitter),? he said. ?It is whatever makes the most sense.?

Along with Smith?s presentation, the event included a mini-trade show with tables filled with information about various area businesses.

Joining the Free Press as Biz Expo sponsors in Marion were: Rhonda Toal, Avon; James Miller, Eagle Communications; Jim Baker, Baker Bros. Printing; Coleen Koop, Waddell and Reed; Chris Luce, Rocket Tech; Butler Community College; and Nick King of King?s Solar, Wind and Plumbing.

Natalie Hoffman, Free Press advertising manager, thanked the sponsors for their support.

?The Biz Expo was a great opportunity for local businesses to find out what they can do to set themselves apart from competitors in today?s market,? she said.

Klaassen said the only thing that could have been better would have been to have more in attendance.

?Since it was free information from a well-known national business consultant about customer service practices that would be sure to improve the skills of those who need it,? he said, ?I am a little disappointed more people didn?t make the effort to take advantage.?

Following Wednesday?s Marion County event, the second Buyer?s Edge Biz Expo gathered at Bethel College in Newton on Thursday with some 35 exhibitors taking part.

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