PUNTA GORDA — In its eighth year, the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce’s “Hottest Business Day in Paradise” continued to attract record numbers of exhibitors and attendees Thursday at its annual Business Expo at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda.

The focus for some 1,000 attendees winding their way among more than 100 exhibits was on what makes businesses profitable and non-profit efforts excel — with county government support — in Charlotte County.

There was, of course, the lure of a myriad free handouts filling goodie bags with tchotchkes of almost everything imaginable, among an assortment of candies, pens, beer coolies, and innumerable chances to win all kinds of prizes, from world trips of a lifetime to, more likely, free services from more than 30 types of county businesses.


The exhibitors ran the gamut from health, law, insurance, construction, design, publications, finance, real estate, hotels, tourism, restaurants, sports, dental, assisted living, pest control, employment, cleaning services and many more.

Paul Polk, Charlotte County Property Appraiser, was there answering question, as he is every year. Roger Eaton, county Comptroller and Clerk of Courts, had an active booth. As did county Economic Development.

Leadership Charlotte Class of 2019 was there, as was the Salvation Army.

Expo chair Mark Martella said it was encouraging that many new exhibitors came on board this year, including SKYiGOLF, owners of Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club (formerly Bobcat Trail) in North Port, which will host a ladies professional golf Symetra Tour championship at the club, March 4-10.

Speed networking

Charlotte Chamber President Kathy Robinson was pleased as well, with many new members taking part, and with the chamber’s annual speed networking activities. That’s where attendees sit across from each other, and within a few minutes share business stories and strategies. She calls it “networking on steroids,” and a valuable adjunct to the chamber’s networking events throughout the year. Business success through networking, she said, “is what it’s all about.”

Business success

In a new venture this year, the expo included a “success panel” of five business leaders, discussing what made their businesses successful.

Brian Chapman Jr., Chapman Insurance: When hiring, “I look for personal attitude. Can and is this person willing to work harder to develop a product, regardless of age, young or old?”

Mike Bladorn, Monarch Direct printing: Interviewing job applicants, “It takes 30 seconds. Do they show confidence? Can they look me in the eye? It’s 75 percent attitude, 25 percent skill. I tell them they have to be outstanding or they won’t be here in six months to a year. I try to scare them out of taking the job.”

Marcia Cullinan, Michael Saunders Real Estate: Starting a business, “You need to do a ton of due diligence, have six months of pay in reserve. It’s not pie in the sky. Don’t expect to get rich quick.”

Keith Harper, Rescue Air, air conditioning: “If you tell a customer you’ll be there at eight o’clock, you better be there at eight o’clock. I like to help people. When I complete a job, I like to step back, look at it and say ’wow!’”

Denice Dull, Integrity Employee Leasing: “You have to care about what you do. “You have to have faith in your long term vision. You’re always going to struggle a bit.”

All five panelists agreed on one major aspect of business success: the importance of assuring a good family life, merging business at the office with a solid family life at home. As Chapman put it, “It’s gotta be good at home.”


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