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Photo courtesy of Jacksonville University - Economic Roundtable of Jacksonville panelists were (seated, from left) Robert Brigham, Economic Roundtable president; Don Capener, Jacksonville University Davis College of Business dean; Jennifer Levinson, P...
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Mar. 27, 201312:00 PM EST

Miller, McManamon, Levinson share entrepreneurial stories with Economic Roundtable

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

As an Olympic gymnast, Shannon Miller was pretty much on her own.

She was part of a U.S. team but in reality, Miller was working all by herself when she was out on the balance beam or in another event.

"You kind of withdraw and learn how to rely on yourself," Miller said Tuesday at an Economic Roundtable of Jacksonville event.

However, when she started her own business – Shannon Miller Lifestyle – one of the key lessons she learned early on was that she couldn't do it all herself.

"It's okay to rely on others," she said.

Miller was part of a panel discussion on "The Role and Impact of Entrepreneurial Business in North Florida" at the luncheon held at Jacksonville University's Davis College of Business.

The other panelists also started their own businesses but their companies provide help to other small businesses. Pat McManamon is co-owner and operator of Sandler Training in Jacksonville, which provides sales and sales management development services, and Jennifer Levinson is a co-founder of Ponte Vedra Beach private equity firm Palmetto Capital.

McManamon also stressed the importance of asking for help when needed, "the willingness and the ability to be vulnerable and be humble."

McManamon spent 17 years in "corporate life" working for major companies before he started the Jacksonville affiliate of Sandler.

One of his early lessons was the importance of establishing a brand identity. He found it difficult to have people take his calls when out on his own.

"We opened up the business and, boy, were we in for a rude awakening," he said. "I thought they were returning my calls (in his corporate life) but they were returning my company's brand."

Levinson's background was in finance, but she learned that everyone in the organization is responsible for promoting the business.

"Everyone has to be a sales person and everyone has to be a sales leader," she said.

Levinson has been watching businesses grow her entire life, starting with a defense services businesses built up by her father.

"I kind of grew my entrepreneurial spirit as a young child," she said.

Among the lessons Levinson learned were the benefits of taking risks and of being persistent. She also said new businesses shouldn't expect instant results.

"I think patience is a key virtue to have," she said.

Miller also learned lessons as a child that she applies to her business career. As a gymnast, she discovered the importance of setting goals.

"If we don't know where we're going, then we're just kind of floundering," she said. "Never set limits to what you can accomplish."

Although she was a very successful gymnast, Miller made mistakes along the way but she learned to own up to her failures and move forward.

"When you're starting a small business, you're going to make mistakes," she said.

McManamon also said not to be afraid of mistakes.

"Failure is a positive thing if what you take from it is a lesson," he said.

The panelists were asked if Jacksonville is a difficult place to start a business, and the moderator did agree that Jacksonville is unique in some ways.

"It's a very tight-knit community. That was a key observance for me when I moved here," said Amy Ruth, vice president of operations at staffing agency Incepture.

However, the panelists also see Jacksonville as a good spot to operate their businesses.

"I think it's still a hidden secret," said McManamon.

"Our brand or our image has not been illuminated enough."

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