Vincent Vicari is the newly appointed regional director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center, based at Bergen Community College in Hackensack. The Englewood resident leads the center's efforts to provide assistance to small-business owners and entrepreneurs in Bergen County.
Vicari said the center serves 400 to 700 clients annually. Vicari, 57, sat down with The Record to talk about his plans in his new role. The interview has been edited and condensed.
Q: Can you talk about the things you learned as a business owner?
There is no shortcut to success around hard work, due diligence, market research and being a resource to your clients or customers. When I was running a deli, in four months I was able to double sales. It's not rocket science. In food service _ cleanliness, presentation, being available and showing that you are taking on your business with passion. ... Many businesses are serving markets they didn't expect five years after they started. Be flexible, develop contingency planning and understand how to leverage finances.
Q: What kind of insight does being a former business owner provide? How is that helpful?
I always worked in places where there was high demand – personal and hourly demands. ... My master's thesis was on the evolution of retail organization, where I utilized a lot of my knowledge and experience from Sears and retail and my deli experience to really develop best practices in how to manage a retail environment. Many retail businesses come here, and it's really a pleasant place for me to work in because I know that sector very well.
Q: What are your goals for the center?
To increase my service region throughout the whole county and to utilize only the most qualified con sultants to assist businesses and to do more with less and to have a greater impact. I feel a sense of responsibility |to make the center grow to even |higher levels by joining more outside partners, by expanding our service region and leveraging high-quality resources that are already in the community.
Q: Do you have any specific plans in place?
We've created a partnership with a temporary office space rental place [Regus]. I plan to try to utilize that partnership to expand service throughout Bergen County. I plan to develop place-bound assistance at the Bergen [Community College] Regional Ac celerator [at the Meadowlands] in Lyndhurst and leverage other partners in order to expand the service area. ... I also plan to continue working through our politicians to communicate the value of what we do to |their constituents and to try to assure more support in funding when it comes to budget time. New Jersey has a lot |of financial issues, of course. ... Our funding needs to be improved in |New Jersey so we can provide more services.
Q: How does your adjunct position at William Paterson help your role as director?
Adjunct teaching is an integral part of connecting academics to the community, understanding and developing leads for the center. And it also helps me because every class is like a personality. ... The discussions that come up, and the subjects that are brought up, the information that is communicated during a class is invaluable to understanding every industry. So my retail background, my teaching background, working and teaching seminars ... all of those things add to a wealth of knowledge that any client, at no cost, gets the benefit of.
Q: How important is having a business education for a small-business owner?
Most people do not have business educations who are starting a business. They are very experienced in their field, but ... have been outsourced, [or] they've been let go for a variety of cost-saving reasons or replaced with younger, or less-expensive help. But they don't want to sit down and say it's over. They want to get back in the field and be productive as they were before.
But the problem they face without a business education is that they very easily take for granted some of the things that were done for them, like the building, the lights, the insurance, the human-resources costs, the payroll, paying taxes, all of the government reporting requirements. ... Without a business degree or without training in business, those things that were done, if not done, could be detrimental to a business. A good person who knows his skill may not be able to survive heavy tax penalties for not filing properly or fines for zoning violations or being shut down for some other issue.
Most people who start businesses are not from the business school, but yet, they come here, and they get the benefit of it.
(c)2014 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)
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Original headline: Setting a new course to help entrepreneurs
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