Kermit Wallace has lived in the Poconos since 2002. He currently works in New York City in the technology field, and has over 20 years of experience in operations and project management. A member of the Pocono Entrepreneur LinkedIn group, he spoke to PBJ about the job outlook, startups, and how PBJ can help businesses in this unique economy.
When did you join Pocono Entrepreneur?
I joined Pocono Entrepreneur in 2009. I’ve been an area resident since 2002.
Why? What do you hope to get out of being a member?
I was looking for a way to connect with people in the area who have similar interests (in business) and hopefully learn from them and share what I know. There are a lot of smart people in our area, but many of us spend so much time going back and forth to work in areas far from where we live that I hoped this would be a good way to take the time-crunch out of the equation and make quality connections with people.
Tell me a little about your job. Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
I’m the IT Director for a national law firm that’s based in downtown Manhattan. In that role I’m responsible for all of our computers, telecommunications and other technologies. I think good entrepreneurs, the ones who have the skill, the personality and the commitment, are few and far between. I do have business interests outside of my job, so in that way I do consider myself an entrepreneur but I know I’ve still got a lot to learn.
Have you ever worked in the Poconos?
No. I’d love to, but the one main challenge I hear from most people who commute out of the area is that the pay in the Poconos is nowhere near what we make in NYC. I know that’s true for me.
Do you think there is a trend towards more people starting up their own business? Why?
I do. With the general economy in the state it’s in, the job market simply won’t support the number of people who are looking for a way to make a living. If you’ve got a good idea and can execute it, starting a business is a great option. There are other ways to be independent as well, whether it’s in sales or in a consulting role. Those types of work take a different mentality than just working at a job.
What do you think are the 3 key elements to success in a startup?
A good (or preferably, great) product or service. A consistent system to market/produce/sell it. A ‘customer service’ attitude. If any one of those is missing, success isn’t going to happen. If the product/service is not good (or desirable) it’s not going to be bought. If there isn’t a system that can be repeated to get it in front of people and acquire new customers it’s nearly impossible to build up the volume to be successful. Finally, if the right attitude isn’t there to work with the customer they’re not going to want to buy from you – maybe somebody else, but not you.
How long before an entrepreneur is considered successful; that is, how many years in business would be the hallmark of success?
One of my favorite sayings is “every day above ground is a good day”. I think every day that you can work your business is a successful day. There’s statistics out that show something like 90% of all new businesses fail in their first 5 years. So would six years be considered a success? I don’t believe you can pick a number or timeframe like that as there are so many factors that play into whether or not a business is sustainable. If you’re growing and learning, every experience and every day has value.
How can PBJ be of more help to entrepreneurs- what topics or businesses should we cover?
The businesses that are successful often are in front of a wave. PBJ can help by providing information or events where people can find out about new technologies, new opportunities – especially local ones, changes to existing laws and regulations, etc. Those are all areas that the smart folks among us can take advantage of.
I think you’ve got to be open to possibilities. It might be tough to put in so many hours each day working towards a seemingly far-off goal, but the payoff is there.
Kermit Wallace can be reached at www.kermitwallace.com.