Seeking a winning strategy: Experts offer tips for business success at expo

National service, marketing and tech experts offer tips for success

From left, Charlie Freeman, executive vice president and chief revenue officer for the Orlando Magic, Mark Gerling, owner of Gerling Travel Group in Flagler Beach and John Subers, director of the Florida Hospital Flagler Foundation helped provide advice to attendees at the fourth annual Palm Coast Business Assistance Center Business Expo.

News-Journal photos/AARON LONDON

Nearly 200 Flagler County business owners took time Friday to hear from nationally recognized experts in customer service, marketing and technology.

The fourth annual Palm Coast Business Assistance Center Business Expo featured keynote presentations from Charlie Freeman, executive vice president and chief revenue officer for the Orlando Magic, and Sheila Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, the company that runs the Hammock Beach Resort where the expo was held.

With an overall theme of “Be In it To Win It,” the expo offered two main sessions, along with three breakout sessions, all aimed at providing advice for business success.

Freeman talked about his experience in the building of the Amway Center, the home of the Magic in Orlando.

In explaining the many and varied amenities the venue offers to enhance the fan experience, Freeman said customer service is at the heart of the effort.

“We really want to focus on the customer with curb-to-curb service,” he said, referring to the NBA team’s use of technology and big data to track fan choices.

The idea of technological tools to improve customer service was taken up by Tim Hale, co-founder of Flagler County-based high-tech firm Coastal Cloud LLC.

Hale said developments in technology, including increased broadband access, social networking, mobile technology and the use of big data, combine to give every business a chance to compete.

“These allow us as a small company to act like a big company,” Hale said. “The technology elements impact every aspect of the customer life cycle.”

Johnson focused on her experience creating the Salamander brand with an emphasis on customer service.

“Delighting your customers is the holy grail,” she said. “Every move we make is with our customers in mind.”

Joe Roy, area director for the Palm Coast Business Assistance Center, said attendance at this year’s expo topped the 150-person turnout for last year’s event.

“People are still signing up,” he said before the first session began on Friday.

In addition to the local business community, 35 students from Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast high schools were in attendance.

“I think this will be a really exciting day,” Roy said.

Michelle Brown, owner of the Flagler Beach Gift Shop, said she was attracted to the expo by the program.

“They have some fantastic speakers,” she said. “I’m always eager to soak up everything they’ve learned.”

For Helga van Eckert, executive director of the Flagler County Department of Economic Opportunity, the event demonstrated the vitality of the local business community.

“It’s great,” she said. “One of the benefits we have is our local businesses hearing from people outside the area and getting new perspectives.”

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