How do you read a business contract … set up a succession plan … prepare for a cyber attack or a data breach … make sure you have the right insurance and the right benefits plan? These are just some of the questions owners and operators of manufacturing companies in the state bring to the New Jersey Manufactures Extension Program. And they were the impetus for a unique event Tuesday at the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park.
Speed Dating 4 Manufacturers — an event that gave manufacturers three 30-minute sessions with vendors from key areas — was the brainchild of NJMEP Chief Executive John Kennedy. Kennedy felt the event could bring companies together in a networking event that stirred collaboration.
“I get calls and emails constantly about issues,” he said. “‘I just got a $75,000 hit on my insurance, what do I do?’ ‘Who do I go to, to read a contract?’ ‘I have benefit issues, where can I find answers?’ “This event brought people from both sides together to get those answers.” And did it in a speed-dating style that Kennedy felt would spur conversation.
After an opening address on networking by Jack Killion, a founder/partner of Bluestone-Killion Consulting, the registrants participated in information sessions with the six presenting sponsors: Sobel & Co., PNC Bank, Brach Eichler, Connell Foley, Marsh & McLennan and Creative Work Solutions. Each session was followed with a quick networking session.
“I want to get manufacturing companies talking,” Kennedy said. “As an industry, manufacturers are too quick to say, ‘I don’t have time.’ We need to convince people to make time, because networking is so important.”
Mitchell Ouverson doesn’t need to be convinced. He was one of two representatives from Howman Engineering in Whitehouse, and felt the event was worth the trip.
“I got a lot of good information to take back on some accounting and HR issues,” he said.
The presenters were just as happy. “Knocking on the doors cold may work a bit, but I have to find other ways to meet people,” Bill Diana, a VP of sales at Marsh & McLennan, said. “We want to get the Marsh name out there, letting them know what we do, make it educational.” Diana felt the day was a success. “I’m going to come away with six good leads in 90 minutes,” he said. “And not only six opportunities to get new business, but six opportunities to network and get other business.”
The group got a lunch presentation on cyber-security by Bill Neville of Firestorm — and a promise that they’ll get a chance to meet again.
“I want to do this three times a year and keep changing them up,” Kennedy said. “Maybe one time it’s all about PR, marketing and business development. Maybe another time it’s about EDA and DEP and government agency issues.” The key, Kennedy said, is for manufacturing companies in the state to keep talking. “We need to teach people how to network and create networks,” he said. “And then we need to teach them to keep them alive. What good is it if we meet once but don’t keep talking?”