Friday, October 18, 2013

Premiere Chamber Summit: Networking and education - By Michelle Libby

The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce was looking for something to bring the business communities together this time of year, something that promoted businesses and educated its members, hence was conceived the Sebago Summit. The summit, held at Saint Joseph’s College on Tuesday, was a trade show for businesses from the region to put their best foot forward. The event was open to the public and business owners.
The day started off with breakfast and a keynote speech by Bill Diamond, who has created an impact with the businesses he started and with his political ties from representing Windham in the senate to his role as secretary of state. “This is the most exciting place to do business in the State of Maine,” Diamond told the group of attendees. He described the specialness of the region because the lakes region is a four season location, offering something for each season of the year. He has run six businesses from a security company to The Suburban News to a company that hires out CNAs and nurses to homebound people. His secret to success is to partner with local businesses and he noted the chamber helps businesses to network. The single most important thing for a business is “recognizing that you’re not alone,” Diamond said. 

Diamond would like to see this chamber be the most active chamber in the state. “I’m so excited about the potential.” 

The lunch speaker was author Jim Bouchard who challenged the audience to “Think like a black belt,” which is also the title of his book. He asked the business owners to think about what it means to be a black belt. It’s the mindset and discipline that makes one successful. 

“Success is the product of having enough. Enough spiritually, emotionally, materially in order to feel success,” he said. Spiritual is the stuff one can’t weigh. Emotionally is what you do when life hands someone lemons and materially is the money and things someone has. He also spoke about gratitude and saying thank you for what one has in life. 

Black belts also have focus. Focus is the process of letting go of distractions. “What’s more important than your customers? Nothing.” 

The subject of perfection came up and he shook his head. “Perfection is not a destination or a location, it’s is a never ending process.” 

Between each speaker, business owners spoke with potential clients and many local politicians were on hand to talk to constituents. Seven towns had booths set up with town employees willing to answer questions about growth and business in their communities. 

The final event of the day was a panel discussion moderated by Diane Dunton of Potential Released Consulting. On the panel were Mark Ouellette, president of Mobilize Maine, Peter Anania, Entrepreneur and Windham town councilor, Wendy Caisse, owner of Bucks Naked BBQ and Richard Dyke, chairman and CEO of Windham Weaponry and owner of 63 companies. 

“As leaders we need to be flexible and persistent in the face of change,” Dunton said. “Seventy-two percent of the American economy is based on consumer spending that puts them into debt.” 

Businesses biggest challenge is attracting work force, Ouellette said. Dyke said Government’s involvement in business. His advice was “know what you know and know what you don’t know. Stay away from what you don’t know.” 

“You need a plan or you’re doing your business a disservice,” said Caisse. She also said she learned to know her audience and the market. 

The strengths of the lakes region are interest and entrepreneurship, Anania said. The ability to collaborate and work together, said Caisse. Taking something abstract and making it practical for everyday use,” said Ouellette.

At the end, each panelist gave a challenge to the business owners in the room. “Everyone of you has a stake in economic development. Leave here inspired to help the region grow,” said Ouellette. 

“See all sides of yourself. If they are not aligning, then you are not moving forward,” Caisse said. 

“Think big. Don’t let someone say you can’t do something. Go for it,” Anania encouraged. 

“Don’t get discouraged,” Dyke said. We’re optimistic. Every day is an opportunity to be an optimist and if not today, tomorrow is another day, he said.   

Although the exact feedback and numbers have not been tallied, chamber executive director Aimee Senatore summed the event up when she told the group, “This has been an awesome first. Today has been a new beginning.”

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