The Small Business Expo: an inside look

Last week, the Small Business Expo danced through Big D. The event claims to be the largest B2B trade show, conference and networking event for small business owners and will hit many major US cities this fall and in early 2014 (See schedule here). Exhibitors included resource agencies like the Small Business Administration, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Small Business Development Center and more. One could find pretty much everything you need for your business at the Small Business Expo – from accountants to insurers and office furniture designers. We were there promoting Wasp Small Business Productivity Solutions for asset management, inventory control, time & attendance tracking and retail POS. In addition to the day-long expo, the event includes conference workshops and other breakout sessions.

Here’s what we learned after attending (and exhibiting) this year in Dallas:

1. Rules were made to be broken

Outside the expo hall, signs read: “Soliciting to Vendors Strictly Prohibited.”

The signs may have been posted, but that didn’t stop solicitations. There were participants and vendors en masse at the Dallas Small Biz Expo last week. Unless a vendor was stationed at their exhibit, it was impossible to tell who was selling and who was attending. All in all, this was a good thing: connections were made, networks were established and leads were generated. But since participation is free, we recommend skipping the part where you pay to exhibit.

2. Pie is good

I spent some time chatting with a representative from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “You should have seen an event like this 13 years ago,“ he remarked. The effects of the economic recession continue to impact small businesses nationwide. This raises an excellent point:

You can’t control the size of the pie, but you can control your slice.

Business Insider recently named the pie chart one of the most useless, ineffective ways to articulate data. I will now prove them wrong with an illustration:

Imagine that the pie chart below represents the economy. Your share of the economy, represented in red, includes roughly 1/8 market share.  (Pie charts are all about relativity.)

Now think about the effects of the recession, represented by the smaller, interior gray circle. This represents a smaller market.

pie-chart-1

During a recession, there is less pie to go around. However, your share is still proportionate to the market. That’s the beauty of pie.

You will feel the effects of the recession when there is a smaller pie. Everyone gets a smaller piece! But it’s important to remember that consumers don’t stop consuming during a slow economy – they make different choices.

They seek more VALUE for their money.

Work harder than ever to get in front of more customers during a recession. If you can gain – and retain – a few of your competitor’s customers (maybe they were afraid to budget for marketing initiatives this year out of fear and uncertainty), you might find yourself with a much larger piece of the pie as the economy bounces back. Exponential growth thanks to your proportionate market share.

And suddenly, pie charts are relevant again. Sorry, Business Insider.

The recession is simply an opportunity to capitalize on market share. What size slice of pie would you like?

3. Forget speed dating; speed networking is where it’s at

Like Speed dating, but for business. The Small Business Expo held “speed networking” sessions on the half hour of every hour. These 45-minute sessions aim to help attendees embrace the power of the referral. A stellar idea, in my opinion. We’re all busy.

Whether or not you attend the Small Business Expo, consider looking on meetup, LinkedIn or some other local networking site to engage referral partners and maximize the reach of your network.

4. Just dance

The “mascots” didn’t disappoint. On the Small Business Expo site, the event is promoted with virtual dancing businessmen. They showed up in real life to dance the day away. I hope they do in your city, too.

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Wasp Barcode Technologies is a barcode manufacturer that provides data capture and tracking solutions designed specifically for small business. While designed for small businesses, the same attributes appeal to departments and local offices of larger organizations. Wasp solutions are ready-to-use, right out-of-the-box and aren’t simply scaled down versions of complicated enterprise products. With Wasp Barcode, owners and managers will spend less time learning new products and more time running their companies.