WorkWise: Backing into the right market

culp@workwise.netJanuary 20, 2013 

Whether you own a start-up or a business you bought, you might find that a market you haven’t been serving is more advantageous for your business. Be alert to this happening. The market speaks to you through other people and business analytics.

Patrice Rice, CEO and founder of Patrice & Associates Inc. in Dunkirk, Md., had been in IT and sales recruiting for several years before she learned through networking that the hospitality industry also uses staffing companies. Her source mentioned a major family-style restaurant chain that uses more than one agency. She jumped on the lead and has since placed more than 1,500 people there.

Bob Shirilla, co-owner of Simply Bags in Canfield, Ohio, buys and sells tote bags online, most of which are imported and all of which his company embroiders. The onslaught of big brands online greatly affected his prior line-up, both in terms of Google ratings and free shipping. The ratio of visitors to sales slowed down. Meanwhile, he started to receive larger orders from corporations and for events and weddings. This growth, unlike that at Patrice & Associates, occurred organically.

Shirilla was backing into a market a second time. Some years ago, when his brick-and-mortar business struggled against large retailers, he held a going-out-of-business sale. “We couldn’t sell all of the blankets; so we put them on the Internet,” he explains. “They sold the first day. We sold more and more and more and more and thought, ‘The Internet may be the way to go.’”


Rice investigated the hospitality industry for market viability. Meanwhile, she had clients to serve. She hired new recruiters for the new market and didn’t renew IT and sales contracts when they expired. She gradually shifted existing employees to placing in hospitality management. Shirilla began gathering and downloading logos, digitized, into his embroidery machine while utilizing SEO to get the word out.

Both business owners accepted competition. “I wanted to be the best,” Rice says, “to keep up with the growth and manage it. I didn’t want to bring on too many accounts.”

“We had to learn how to do the digitizing,” Shirilla remarks. He also joined a trade association to increase his capacity to fill significantly larger orders.

“Once I found out it was a viable market for recruiters,” says Rice, “I switched industries 100 percent. It was just chance. It was the day that changed my life, because this industry is a recruiter’s dream.

“The industry is the largest in the private sector,” she continues, “second only to the federal government. It’s not really affected by the economy. People may not stay at a five-star but they’ll go to Denny’s. Food is here to stay. Fewer people are packing lunches. There’s a lot of movement. This is the only industry I’ve ever worked in where two jobs in five years is considered good stability.”

While Rice might not seem to be as lucky as she presents herself – she was networking, listening and in high gear when she heard about a new market – she also did do her own due diligence. Shirilla does the same thing at Simply Bags on almost a daily basis. He watches for new buying trends by digging into Google’s and Bing’s analytics. “In e-commerce,” he notes, “that’s your way of listening to the customer.”

Shirilla advises business owners to “pick the shovel up and move into the next market or you’ll go out of business. You have to have products for the right people. Then you have to bring the right people to them.”

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at © 2013 Passage Media.

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