Updated: December 9, 2013 10:27AM
Scott Albanese made a promise I didn’t think he could keep, but I was wrong about Northwest Indiana’s own “candy man.”
The founder of Albanese Confectionary in Hobart boldly stated that his goal on Wednesday afternoon was to be short and sweet, pardon the pun, while giving his keynote speech at the 22nd annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards.
He also hoped to make the strongest impact regarding business development to the 300 guests at the event, held at the Radisson Hotel. Better known as “E-Day,” it was hosted once again by the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center.
Albanese, who founded his highly successful company 30 years ago, delivered on both of his promises.
Just before he went on, I mentioned to the guests at my table that public speakers typically — and annoyingly — talk way too long, and usually about themselves.
“And then in 1983, I ... blah, blah, blah,” they often blather on, losing the audience’s attention along the way. Albanese did no such thing.
For the first time I could remember, I was hoping a public speaker would say more, not less, about his insightful message: How to best develop a business.
Plus, it echoed what I’ve been telling my audiences for many years.
“Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more powerful than customers telling your story,” he told the audience of business-minded suits and skirts.
Exactly, I thought.
He told the audience he was there “to show you what 30 years of a minimalist’s life” had shown him were “the two basic building blocks for any business.”
Albanese didn’t prattle on about profit margins, labor costs or bank loans. He explained the power behind storytelling, something I’m convinced still works wonders with all of us, even money-mandated business professionals.
Tell us a story. It’s a timeless yet timely concept that’s as old as the hills we once inhabited. Sure, these days our community campfire may be the warm glow from an ever-burning computer screen, but the idea is still the same.
From Shakespeare to “C.S.I.”, tell us a story using a complication-resolution scenario driven by narrative hooks. It’s the main reason I often begin my columns in storytelling form.
Albanese knows this and his number-one suggestion for business development reflects this criteria: “Telling your story with passion,” declared the two jumbo screens that flanked his podium.
“When you tell your story with passion, that story is also your strategy and your mission statement,” he told the crowd. “Where have I been, who am I now, and where am I going. As a CEO, you must be in charge of your own story.”
This is how to best nurture a company, by sharing your story, your vision, your dream with others — one passionate retelling at a time. No one knew this better than the storytelling businessman-turned-millionaire-genius Walt Disney, noted Albanese.
“He had to convey his dream in a story over and over again,” Albanese reminded guests.
By doing this, you don’t have to row your dreamboat all by yourself. You can steer it while others, such as investors, bankers and workers, have their paddles in the workplace waters.
“We talk in stories, we think in stories, and telling your story to others is critical in business,” said Albanese, who started his candy company with just $10,000 and a strong vision.
Today, it’s worth more than $130 million with two million visitors making a pilgrimage to his sugar-coated factory on U.S. 30, the former site of soybean crops.
Albanese’s second mandate for success is just as timeless as his first one — “Helping others” — though it’s rarely mentioned in the cutthroat business world. Here, he noted Abraham Maslow and his famous “Hierarchy of Needs.”
Running a successful business isn’t only about helping yourself to profits, but helping your customers and employees, he insisted.
“Too often we don’t involve our employees in the decision-making process,” he said.
Seconds later, Albanese bounded off the stage to rousing applause, reaching both of his goals for the event, which honored 10 region professionals.
“This is not the best or easiest of times to start a business,” said Jim Jorgensen, who co-hosted the luncheon ceremony.
Yet this is the calling of true entrepreneurs who believe so fiercely in their vision that they turn a blind eye to naysayers and even a tepid economic climate.
Here is the list of honorees from the event, each who “told their story” in video form, created by last year’s E-Day award winner Wade Breitzke.
Andrea Pearman of Diversified Marketing Strategies in Crown Point: Women in Business Champion.
Gerald Bishop of Gerald M Bishop & Associates in Merrillville: Small Business Advocate.
Roxanne Perkins and Jacqueline Woods of Delicious Deep Freeze in Chesterton: Minority-Owned Business.
Desila Rosetti of Organizational Development Solutions in Westville: Woman-Owned Business.
Brad Hindsley of Spire Catering and Event Planning in LaPorte: Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Kelly Jackson and Jennifer Cowger of North Star Services in Dyer: Emerging Business of the Year.
Robert J. Flude III of Martin Binder Jeweler in Valparaiso: Family-Owned Business of the Year.
Leon Dombrowski of Accucraft Imaging in Hammond: Entrepreneurial Success of the Year.
Peter Nau of Hammond Machine Works in Hammond: Small Business Person of the Year.
Pete Peuquet of Chester Inc. in Valparaiso: Lifetime Achievement Award.
Congrats to the award recipients and for more on this issue, listen to my “Casual Fridays” radio show today at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.LakeshorePublicMedia.org .