Companies are now realizing that it is better to win their customers than to impose themselves on them. It’s a strategy that works best for those who work with a goal.
So said “Leader with a Purpose”, a panel presentation of forward-thinking business leaders who addressed how businesses operate and evolve to meet the needs of their stakeholders – employees, customers, supply chains. , advisers and community – as COVID-19 continues to affect traditional business standards.
The virtual presentation was part of the fifth annual Middlesex County Business Summit.
The panel included Cordell Carter, executive director of the Aspen Institute, who served as moderator, as well as the following thought leaders:
- Lou Cooperhouse, CEO and President, BlueNalu;
- Monique Carswell, Director, Center for Racial Equity, Walmart Foundation;
- Gene Gurevich, Director of Policy and Business Development, Mobileye;
- Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership, US Small Business Administration;
- Sandy Castor, Director, Office of Business Engagement, Middlesex County.
Here is an overview of some of the themes presented:
Satisfy your customers’ goal
“Consumers today have a purpose,” said Cooperhouse, former director of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center. “They want sustainable products and commitment from the companies they do business with, that they are okay with that and that they are caring.”
Cooperhouse’s company, BlueNalu, aims to look after the supply chain of the seafood industry. He said seafood has never been in greater demand and this chain of supply was facing many environmental issues such as plastics and mercury in products and the treatment of water resources.
“We are working to bring healthy and humane methods to this food security,” he said.
Cooperhouse said business people are motivated by making a difference and delivering an edge.
“Technology certainly helps, but technology doesn’t do everything on its own,” he said. “For example, creating new ways of producing food, especially protein-based foods, is going through an incredible time right now, much like computers did when they first came on the scene in the 1970s. “
BlueNalu’s mission is to be the world leader in cell culture seafood, providing consumers with tasty, healthy, safe and reliable products that support the sustainability and diversity of our ocean.
“This is an unregulated business,” he said. “There is no material to help make this happen. We innovate it as we go. We want to be the world leader in this new category of industry.
Castor said residents need to be a part of the next step, regardless of the new normal.
“It is important that our county’s resources are inclusive because Middlesex is so diverse: 48% of our citizens do not mention English as their mother tongue,” she said.
Use the programs in place to help your underserved businesses
Cofield said the goal of the Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator program is to give underserved businesses in New Jersey and across the country an easier way to find out how the SBA can help them.
“We learned over the summer that 41% of businesses are not returning because of the pandemic,” she said. “This recovery is critical. Small businesses are the backbone of local economies. Local government is your partner.
Cooperhouse, former president of the New Jersey Business Incubation Network, said there are business incubators all over New Jersey that do a great job of mentoring early companies and helping them connect with venture capital groups. .
Cofield said being an enterprising businesswoman earlier in her career gave her a better understanding of what young companies are going through today.
“It wasn’t that long ago that small businesses weren’t able to get the financing that much larger businesses could get,” she said. “As a small business owner, you’re really starting from scratch. Being able to communicate with others can help you get the answer to that question you are asking yourself that will really move your business forward.
If you knew then what you know now
The panel was asked to look back a dozen years and offer something they now know that would have helped them back then.
“Many will tell you that balance in life is essential, but achieving balance, like work / life balance, is really not achievable – and that’s okay,” Castor said. “Don’t worry about it. Different priorities come in different ways and at different times, and you have to juggle that. Focus on things that are useful to you.
His advice is for young business leaders to find a sponsor, an advisor and a mentor.
“The sponsor will stand up for you publicly unequivocally and have the platform to do so,” she said. “The mentor will help you overcome the various life and work challenges you face. The advisor will give it to you directly, good or bad.
Cooperhouse said it’s important to “recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, surround yourself with great people, and treat those people with respect.”
“You want people who are not afraid to speak up about what they think can improve your business,” he said. “See failure as a way to learn, not as defeat. Life is made up of pivots.
Gurevich urged people to work on things they are passionate about.
“It will help you get through the tough times that require you to work a lot of crazy hours,” he said. “If it’s your passion, it won’t look like a job.
Cofield said that you will become more powerful being comfortable in your own skin.
“Aim higher, don’t do things aimlessly,” she said. “Find clarity in what you want and what you need. “
Carswell said, “You are what you consume. Be curious and attentive. Be open to learning from others. Be yourself. Show yourself as you are, your whole being.