The folks who run The Garden, the site of some of basketball and hockey's greatest achievements (not to mention a few of wrestling's golden oldies) hosted Inc. Business Owners Council: Greater New York along with some thirty entrepreneurs. And boy, did they put out the red carpet: luxury suites to watch the Knicks play the Hawks, a fine spread of food and wine and some of that ol' Knick magic, John Starks, the legendary basketball player himself, joined us for some fun.
The evening began in the MSG "presentation center" where we luxuriated in a stunning replica of a soon-to-be-built luxury suite with fireplace, fine finishes and a living room that's bigger than mine at home!
Then we moved into a main presentation hall where Norm answered the question on everyone's mind: What's business going to be like in 2010. For an hour, he shared with us his keen sense of strategic thinking along with a healthy dose of wisdom and more than a healthy tablespoon of sass.
First, the business sector should be at least 100 years old. Like his storage business, he doesn't want to have to teach people why they need his product. He wants to sell into an existing marketplace.
Second, find a business sector that sits on the edge of technology. Then go about using technology to differentiate, find a competitive advantage and win business from competitors.
Third, find a niche within your business. In other words: don't follow the crowd. Norm shared his own telling example where--a year and a half ago, during the height of $4 per gallon gasoline, Norm sent a letter to all of his customers telling him why he WASN'T adding on a fuel surcharge. He then went on to send a copy of the letter to all of his competitors' customers to give them a glimpse of what was like as a customer of Citi-Storage. The new business he won with that campaign more than compensated for the losses created by the rise in gasoline prices.
Norm was full of pearls of wisdom about the future but perhaps his most staunch and comforting revelation was this: the bad economy will eventually end. Perhaps not in 2010 but soon. The business environment will improve. Credit and confidence will flow again.
In light of that, Norm encouraged all the business owners in attendance to refine and sharpen their business skills, focus on developing talent within their organizations and treat their customers like princes and princesses.
Norm, if it's royalty you want, then you got it: you are the king! Thanks for sharing your perspective and being generous with your time.