Small Business Networking

A new year brings new resolve to kick it up a notch, no matter what area of your life needs kickin’!  Small business owners struggle more than most in this economy because we don’t get a paycheck unless business comes in the door.  So, in the door we go to drum up new contacts at networking events.

I joined a new Italian group last night in NYC.  I went for fun and wound up meeting some great people.  This morning I wonder if I made the most efficient use of my time networking at the event.

There are so many scenarios.  Say, for example you attend a social networking event…’re in a very crowded room and you do not know a soul.  What do you do?  First of all, bravo for even attending!  Second, screw those who say you need that 60 second elevator speech to introduce yourself.  You are not a walking business card, nor does anyone at a social event want to speak with a billboard, yet you all know why you are present.

Small business networking

Image: photostock /

Here are my top 3 tips for “working the room” at a crowded event:

1.  Ask for introductions – this only works if you know someone. Have your “contact” introduce you to whomever and then you’re on your own. Engage the person with questions about them before you start blabbing about yourself. “What brought you here tonight?” Then springboard from there. You cannot have this formulaic rhythm in your head.

2.  Speak about yourself but leave them wanting more – here is where your 60 second speech comes into play.  If you have just met someone, do not speak on and on about yourself.  It’s boring, even if they are laughing (they may be laughing at you or nervously because they want to escape)  Alter the conversation with their thoughts, cultural ideas and interests.  Steer absolutely clear of religion and politics unless you never want to see their business.

3.  Know your “networking” style – There are two styles in my opinion.  There are those who love to really walk the crowd, shaking as many hands and meeting as many people as possible.  I much prefer connecting with a few people during the evening and having at least a 15 minute conversation with them.  They remember you if you engage them.  If you shake hands and just collect cards, I can almost guarantee that no one there will remember you in 2 weeks much less two months when their need for your services may first arrive.

Anyone who has read this blog long enough knows that my Dad greatly influenced my business style and when I started my own practice he bought me a copy of Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  I guess after being on the air for 20+ years, Dad still thought I needed help communicating.  LOL

Anyway, Covey suggests the “principles of empathic communication.”  Seek first to understand in order to be understood.  Everyone filters their thoughts and expressions through their own agendas and priorities.  Until you can grasp that their goals may not be the same as your endgame, you will not be successful at meeting their game and growing yours.

Buon anno a tutti and may we all have a more prosperous 2012

Westchester attorney guides you through NY Small Claims Court

I sat in court yesterday watching people’s lives unravel: who was being evicted…..who was owed money……who was losing his license!  These are sad times we live in and going to court to enforce your rights can be intimidating for the uninitiated.  I will confess that many attorneys even suffer from “Black Robe Syndrome” but they never let you see them sweat!

So, how can you, as an individual, get what you’re owed without paying a fortune in legal fees?  New York has made Small Claims Court relatively easy and this Westchester attorney is offering you a very rudimentary guide to key points in navigating the judicial waters.

1.  Get friendly with the local court clerk.  Their office is usually located at your local town or village, even city, hall.  Each clerk runs his or her office differently so ask questions and they will tell you exactly what they want and how they want it.  Basically, they will give you a one-page form to fill out and charge you a small filing fee ($10 if claim is $1,000 or less and $15 if it is over $1,000 in towns and villages and slightly higher in the cities) to serve that notice on your opponent.

2.  Who can sue?  Anyone 18 years old or over can sue someone for money damages only in a Small Claims Court in New York.  You must file the claim in the town/village/city where the defendant resides.  In the case of a business, if it is a corporation, it resides where its corporate office is located.

Westchester attorney Lisa Fantino3.  How much can I sue for?  In the towns/villages you can sue up to $3,000 and in the cities, you can sue up to $5,000.  So, if you are a landscaper and a client owes you $3,899 you would have to forgo $899 in order to sue them in Small Claims Court; however, what’s your alternative?  You are not going to file a Supreme Court Action for such a small amount of money.

(NOTE:  You can bring a commercial small claim against a corporation for up to $5,000)

4.  How long will it take to resolve?  Small Claims Court is generally a court of quick resolution.  Unless it is the summer, you will likely get a court date within a month of filing the action and a decision is generally rendered in court if both parties show up for a hearing with support for their respective positions.  However, if the claimant does not show up on the court date, the case will be dismissed and if the defendant does not show, the judge will hold an inquest and evaluate evidence presented before rendering a default judgment for the claimant.  Even if you prevail, an absent defendant can still appeal a default judgment.

5.  What should I bring to Court?  If it’s an accident claim, bring photos, receipts and any other evidence to indicate damage caused and claimed.  If it’s for an outstanding debt, bring any relevant paperwork such as contracts, receipts, bills of sale, even emails or other correspondence to show the agreement between the parties.

Finally, be aware that even if you win in Small Claims Court, you still have to collect the judgment!  Of course, this is just a quick guide and each claim is different.  If you are unsure, it is always best to consult a lawyer.  Your local Court Clerk can provide you with a state pamphlet offering greater detail about the Small Claims Court process and the NYS Court system offers an online guide as well.

Still Gray over Grey Market Goods in Omega Case

In a country where the first sale doctrine has been at play for more than 100 years, you would think an enlightened Supreme Court would uphold such longstanding precedent.  Yet, I have learned to always expect the unexpected.

A 4-4 ruling in Omega S.A. v. Costco Wholsesale Corp., 541 F.3d 982 (9th Cir. 2008) this week leaves a very gray area over grey market goods.  The case involved the Omega watch company’s ability to basically control the pricing of its goods in the after-market by riding the coattails of the Copyright Act and they prevailed in the nation’s high court, much to my surprise.


Image: renjith krishnan /

The watches are made overseas and sold overseas at a  much cheaper price than they retail in the US.  An unidentified vendor bought them overseas and sold them to  a New York company, which in turn sold them to Costco for distribution in California.  Although Omega authorized the foreign sale, it claimed it did not authorize the importation of those same watches into the U.S. and claimed copyright infringement of its logo under 17 U.S.C. §§106(3) and §602(a).  Costco, on the other hand, cross-moved under 17 U.S.C. §109(a) arguing they were protected under the “first sale doctrine,” which allows a purchaser to transfer a lawfully made copy of a copyrighted work without permission from the copyright holder.

The “first sale doctrine” was established more than 100 year ago in Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339 (1908) and it was later codified in the U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §109.  In Bobbs-Merrill, a publisher sold a novel with a statement on the first page indicating that no dealer could sell the book lower than $1.00.  R.H. Macy & Co. ignored that and sold the book at a discount after buying it wholesale from an authorized distributor.  The high court sided with Macy’s stating that the Copyright statute protected the rights holder’s “right to vend” and multiply the work but it did not afford it greater protection than set forth in the statute by allowing the holder to limit future resales.  This case of first impression set forth what was subsequently codified in 17 U.S.C. §109 as the “first sale doctrine” and has been subsequently upheld by SCOTUS numerous times.

The 4-4 split (Justice Kagan sitting this one out because of her stint as US Solicitor General) was issued without an opinion so we don’t know why any of the justices voted the way they did, nor does the decision clarify control of  so-called “gray market goods.”  What is clear, however, is that manufacturers now have a wider port to dance through when trying to control the pricing of goods made cheaper overseas and sold at inflated prices in the US.  Why would anyone pay $2,000 for a watch anyway?