What Brain Drain? A Regional Business Success Story

Last week, you read about the perceived brain drain issue in our region, and what might be contributing to the loss of our skilled, educated workers who seek more opportunity elsewhere. I challenged the ‘woe is me’ mindset of many business leaders, government officials, and residents who are native to this area with a simple shift in perspective; to take a risk and stop clinging to the familiar. Specifically, to invest in a new outlook on the way business has “always been done before.”

The opportunity that exists for a revitalization of our area’s manufacturing industry is literally a click away. Many rural pockets of the United States share the same loss of industry as we do. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. What many business owners struggle to accept is the radical changing marketplace that has disrupted previously successful business models. What’s led to this dramatic change? Internet technologies and the growth of e-commerce. Both have had a revolutionary effect upon the business-to-business and business to consumer marketplaces.

Fear not. The revolutionary changes inspired by the Internet and e-commerce doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, it creates more opportunity for the rapid expansion of your business than you realize. Best yet, if you are a business owner who is ready to embrace a new future, there is a free service available to help you take your business to the next level.

This week, you will meet a business owner from our region who has experienced impressive growth in a short time, due to his willingness to expand his business’s web presence. By taking advantage of a free consultative service offered through the New York State Small Business Development Corporation at Jamestown Community College, this business owner was partnered with an e-commerce and internet marketing consultant who guided him through the entire process of revamping his online image.

Daniel Blixt is the president of WE Electric Motors – formerly Westburgh Electric. Specializing in the sales and service of electric motors and related products, his Jamestown-based operation has been in business since 1919. As the third generation leader of his family owned business, Dan began working with Curt Anderson, e-commerce and Internet marketing consultant at the Small Business Development Center. Their discussions about launching a new and improved company website began in September 2012, and WE Electric Motors’ new site went live in February of 2013.

According to Blixt, “The idea of getting an online presence and knowing where to start was pretty daunting. I was initially afraid to take that first step, because it’s scary when you’re thinking about changing your business model.”

However, Blixt quickly realized that the risk he took was well worth it. By changing his website into an interactive online marketplace, he was now able to expand his sales reach and volume beyond his wildest dreams. His first online order was from a new customer in New Zealand, and his second online order was for $9,000. This more than paid for the website and he instantly became a contender in the international marketplace.

Blixt’s goal was for his company to surpass $50,000 in new business via the Internet in 2013. This was not a problem. In fact, WE Electric Motors exceeded $120,000 in e-commerce revenue by the end of 2013, which reflected an overall sales growth of 19 percent from the year prior.

It’s safe to say that Blixt is now an e-commerce and Internet marketing believer.

“We have fully committed to our e-commerce site and social media to grow the business,” he said. “I project that total sales will increase 25 percent and website sales will increase at least 100 percent in 2014. The website growth has allowed us to hire one new sales person in 2013 and another in 2014 if things go as planned.”

When asked to share words of wisdom to other business owners in our region, Blixt says, “Get an e-commerce website, use social media and use technology to service your customers better. It’s about what the customer wants. You have to be willing to communicate where they communicate.”

View WE Electric Motors’ website at weelectricmotors.com

For more information about e-commerce and Internet marketing services through the Jamestown Small Business Development Center, contact Curt Anderson at 338-1024 or visit their website at jamestown.nyssbdc.org. The Jamestown Small Business Development Center serves clients throughout Allegheny, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.

Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a regional director and senior consultant with JL Nick and Associates Inc. She is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 15 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, non-profit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at ecipolla@jlnick.com or visit JL Nick and Associates’ website at www.jlnick.com.