“Have I told you lately that I love you?”
Zipcar founder Robin Chase ended her closing keynote speech at Thursday’s New York Times Small Business Summit with the question – which a customer once e-mailed her – to drive home a message echoed throughout the day’s speeches: Entrepreneurs must respect and interact with their customers, especially now on social-media websites.
Attendees, who were mainly business owners, left the summit with applicable tips from high-profile executives but mostly remembered speakers’ overarching beliefs about actively using social media, failing and doing what feels right to them and society.
The executives also threw in a few jokes with their advice. Lisa Price, founder of beauty-product company Carol’s Daughter, used a metaphor to describe running a business while raising children.
“You keep juggling everything and you try not to drop the baby,” she said, inciting laughs from the more than 500 attendees.
Using social media
BusinessNewsDaily surveyed more than a dozen attendees, who all said social media was the hot topic at this year’s conference at Hilton New York in midtown Manhattan.
“I’m learning I need to focus on all aspects of business, including social media,” said Neal Bass, director of sales at GC Marketing Services and an aspiring business owner.
Morning panelist Cynthia Rowley, a popular fashion designer, partnered with location-based mobile application Foursquare this year to launch a new line of dresses. It's just one example of how a good chunk of profit can come from online, Price said. If a business doesn’t have time to use social media, then hire an intern, she recommended.
David Liu, CEO of media company The Knot, encouraged the attendees to not just use social media to market their businesses, products and services but also to use it as a new way to mingle with customers.
Business consultant Kevin Costello was surprised to hear speakers talk about making mistakes and failing.
“You often only hear the success stories,” he said.
Chase from Zipcar, for example, once spent half an hour crying after making a pricing blunder. She told attendees to be honest and always admit to their mishaps.
“I believe I’m successful because I continue to ask myself, ‘What am I doing wrong?’” said New York Times blogger Jay Goltz, whose custom-frame shop grew from a low-earning store in the 1970s to one of the largest of its kind in the U.S.
Doing what’s right
Speakers stressed the importance of being socially, ethically and environmentally responsible.
“Don’t just be good at your craft but be a responsible human being,” Price said. “Be good to the community.”
Chase agreed, adding that entrepreneurs should surround themselves with similar people.
“Hire people who share your values,” she said. “Trust them and they will want to work with you forever.”
To see read more comments from the summit, go to Twitter and search this hashtag: #openNYT.
Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer Brian Anthony Hernandez at Bhernandez@TechMediaNetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter (@BAHjournalist) and become his friend on Facebook (BAH Journalist) to interact or stay updated on news about small businesses.