By Jim Lambert
Union Catholic’s fifth annual Business Networking Luncheon at the Shackamaxon Country Club on Thursday provided a look into how technology is affecting businesses and included interesting insights from students.
A packed room was welcomed to the luncheon by Union Catholic Assistant Principal Dr. James Reagan Jr, and Union Catholic Principal Sister Percylee Hart, RSM, followed with her opening remarks.
Dr. Reagan then moderated a very illuminating panel discussion with UC students Bobby McGuinness, Kate Fuhrmann, and Nick Mehno, who discussed what they buy, how they buy, and what draws them to buy.
Award-winning business reporter Joe Connolly, whose timely and entertaining business vignettes have aired on WCBS 880 AM for decades, then took over the podium as he moderated a panel discussion on “Making Technology Work For Your Business.’’
The panel consisted of Lou Leonardis, a Partner and Branding Creative Director for Trillion, Joseph Perona, President & CEO of JV Transportation Consultants Inc., and Natalie Tortorello, the Chief Operating Officer at Our House, Inc.
Connolly was very impressed with how the event went, and was especially excited about what McGuinness, Fuhrmann, and Mehno had to offer.
“This was great,’’ said Connolly. “I took notes on what the students said and I’m going to do stories on WCBS reporting on what those students said because they are smart, well spoken, well educated, and model citizens who I want to quote and publicize on the radio. They represent the new customers, and I’ve been to so many meetings about how to reach millennial customers, so it was so refreshing when Dr. Reagan told me that they had the idea to do this. I think you could take this panel on the road.’’
Perona, Tortorello, and Leonardis all commented on the great job done by McGuinness, Fuhrmann, and Mehno.
“That’s a tough act to follow,’’ said Perona.
“It’s always interesting to hear from the next generation,’’ said Tortorello.
“It’s something to learn from,’’ said Leonardis. “Obviously the students are buying on demand at a very convenient time, so business owners need to be aware of that and see how we can position our business if it’s relevant to that audience on how they could potentially maybe rework their website to allow a purchase or a transaction to happen quickly and easily.’’
McGuinness said the event was a great experience.
“It’s an honor to be part of this and exciting to be up there and experience this,’’ said McGuinness. “And to have people ask me questions and share my thoughts was a great feeling.''
McGuinness said it was also great to do some networking.
“We learn about networking in business class, but we don’t get to really experience it and build connections,’’ said McGuinnes. “A day like this gives us an opportunity to see what it’s like and build our network.’’
During the event, Connolly asked Perona, Tortorello, and Leonardis how they use technology to help their businesses.
“My truck drivers go to stops and they have a tablet, so when someone signs for the freight they have a proof of delivery,’’ said Perona. “My customers know immediately that it was delivered. That’s how I compete. It’s real time. My customers can track their freight on our website anytime. They can see when it leaves my terminal in Elizabeth and see when it will arrive at their location by tracking my GPS. That’s how technology comes into my business.’’
“Our House serves adults with developmental disabilities, and the technology we are talking about with the consumer also applies to the business side on the back end,’’ said Tortorello. “We have a fleet of 105 vehicles on the road and we have 300 staff that drive every day, so safety is a huge issue for us. So we installed trackers so we get an alert if they are speeding or in a location they aren’t supposed to be in. We aren’t looking at technology just from a customer standpoint, but also from compliance and safety. There is more than just the customer side of it, but also the business need side of it.’’
Leonardis said the better your website is, the better your business will do.
“Your website really needs to be working hard for your business,’’said Leonardis. “It needs to leave the right impression, and needs to work on phones and tablets. That’s all kind of a given nowadays. But it’s the very succinct message or your headline or tagline that’s going to draw people in. The same thing with the visuals. Make sure you have nice photography and design. It should be easy to flow through the website. It should be efficient and simple.’’
Mrs. Susan Dyckman, Union Catholic’s Director of Development and Donor Relations, was very pleased with how the day went.
For the fifth UCBNL, we decided to do things a little differently,’’ said Mrs. Dyckman. “We gave attendees the unique opportunity to hear directly from several UC students, representatives of Gen Z, who are the customers of today and tomorrow about their purchasing habits. Panelists admitted that Gen Z was a tough act to follow, but Joe Perona of JV Transportation Consultants, Natalie Tortorello of Our House, Inc., and Lou Leonardis of Trillion Creative, offered valuable insights into how they make technology work for their businesses.’’
Mrs. Dyckman praised Connolly and the business people who attended, and thanked the sponsors of the event.
“Joe Connolly of WCBS Newsradio, the panelists and the business people who spoke from the floor gave us great food for thought,'' said Mrs. Dyckman. "I hope everyone took home some gems that help them to grow their businesses. I offer a special thank you to our sponsors: Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce, MassMutual Tri State, RSI Bank, Landover Cooling Tower Service, The Showcase Magazines, Shackamaxon Country Club and WCBS Newsradio 880.’