By Ira Berkowitz, SU ’82
Before I start, let me tell you the important stuff about me. I graduated from SU in 1982. My wife graduated from SU a year after me. Our daughter graduated from Newhouse in May of this past year and our son will be class of 2014. At our wedding, 9 of the 12 in the bridal party were SU grads and we are still very good friends with all of them (well, almost all). Oh, and our dog’s name is Cosmo. Questions?
SU Class of '82! From left, Zeta Psi fraternity brothers Mike Solondz, Jeff Pappalardo, Ira Berkowitz,and Dave Grossman
In 1992, after 10 plus years of working in the TV commercial production business in the big city, I left that world for life in the world of graphic design and print advertising in suburban New Jersey. The business I was going to be a partner in, Monarch Graphics (now Monarch Communications), was an existing business that was spending more money than it was taking in. The owner needed somebody to market the company, as that was not really her strength. It was going to be my job to go out and sell, sell, sell.
My first order of business was to alert everyone I knew about my new career. My thinking was not everyone shoots TV commercials for national advertisers but anyone who had their own business needed some sort of graphic design and/or printing. I put together a mailing list (remember, this is before internet and emails) trying to think of everyone I knew who owned a business or worked in a business that could use graphic design services.
Many of the folks I reached out to were contacts I had made at SU or alumni I had become connected with since I graduated. That first mailing list included my roommates from junior and senior years, fraternity brothers, classmates and many local NY/NJ alumni I had met over the years.
One of the first things I noticed as I became more involved with my new business and the business community outside New York City was the amount of networking opportunities there were. Chamber of Commerce meetings, formal and informal networking groups, social and religious organizations, all offered me the opportunity to promote Monarch and our services. This was very different from my life in the high profile, high-speed world of New York City advertising. You didn’t really network as much as you socialized.
Being out in “the burbs” gave me a chance to learn about life in small business America. From the day I left SU, I had worked on national advertising accounts with major 6 figure budgets for one 30-second TV commercial. Now I was looking at projects with budgets in the thousands, sometimes even in the hundreds. I knew that I had to build long, sustainable relationships with my clients so that as their businesses would grow, so would mine.
And here I am, almost 19 years later. New technologies such as voicemail and email have made person-to-person networking even more important to my business.
You can tweet, you can text, you can send emails, but the best way to close the deal is getting in front of your clients and potential clients. I use social media to open doors and keep those doors open but I still make sure that when I am working on a piece of new business, that I get to see the client in their work environment. If I am going to help advertise and market what they do, I better understand it and get a first-hand look at it.
In those 19 years since I left the business world in the big city, SU alumni have proven to be a great resource for my business and me. My client list today includes my roommate from my last 2 years at SU, a contact I made at an SU golf outing a couple of years ago, people I have worked with and met through my involvement with the local alumni club, and others. Since July 2005, I have been president of the local SU alumni club, SUNNJAC (that’s www.NorthJerseyOrange.org if you are interested). This has given me very high visibility in the local SU community and has generated many leads and referrals for my business. As a matter of fact, Monarch’s two newest clients are both SU grads; one is an active participant in our club’s monthly business-to-business breakfasts, which is how we met and how he came to utilize the services of my company.
In the spring of 1982, when I graduated from SU, if you had told me that Syracuse would be such a big part of my business and personal life, I probably would have laughed – but I’m not laughing now. So here’s my lesson for anyone who is at SU now or is an SU graduate and is looking for ways to promote themselves and/or their business: Your networking opportunities don’t begin the day you leave SU. They begin the day you first arrive and, if you’re smart, they will continue for a long, long time.