Conference attendees aim to make connections that work

This year’s Sussex County Today and Tomorrow Conference — an annual conference held in Georgetown that gathers more than 300 Sussex County business owners, educators and others interested in meeting their peers and discussing county issues and successes – had a theme of “connections that work.”

Michael Buoni, program coordinator for Academic Challenge, held at Delaware Technical Community College’s Owens campus in Georgetown, brought the theme home when he mentioned that Shaun Tyndall, the keynote speaker for the event, and owner of the Inclind Inc. Web design firm in Georgetown, was an Academic Challenge program graduate.

Buoni sad he surveyed the students leaving the program and found that only 35 percent were planning on making Sussex County their home after college graduation.

“They didn’t feel that their job was here,” he explained. “But the jobs are here, and they don’t know they are here. They need to know that, and we need to connect them – in essence, to find another Shaun Tyndall.”

He explained that Academic Challenge encompasses nine school districts and 400 students and is the “only thing like it in the U.S.”

“The students come through and, by the end of 10th grade, they have half of their math and English credits for college,” explained Buoni. “By the time they graduate high school, they have 31 college credits.”

When asked by a member of the audience about the non-academic part of getting ready for adulthood and knowing which jobs were out there, Buoni challenged audience members to come and talk to the students, to let them know of all types of opportunities that await them after graduation, whether they be manufacturing-based, healthcare-focused or entrepreneurial in spirit.

When Tyndall spoke, he explained that he had founded Inclind during college. He explained that “attracting visitors beyond this county is most of what I do.”

He also went over several steps he said people must take to ensure success in a virtual world — whether they have a traditional brick-and-mortar presence, as well, or not.

“It takes a lot of time to be successful in the virtual world. With Facebook and Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, you are not going to do what you have to do in an hour a week. You have to be realistic about that.”

He explained that user experience is “No. 1,” whether it be a Web site experience, an experience on the phone system or receiving an invoice. He mentioned challenges that he had had with clients, and things he did to change user experience – things he said affected the bottom line.

For one real estate client, Inclind tracked Web use and noticed that people were shopping for trips and looking at prices, but when it came time to book the trip, they were forwarded to an outside Web address, and many were not following through with the purchase.

They made changes to include the purchasing part of the process “in-house,” and sales doubled in one year.

In addition to user experience, he emphasized that the world is smaller and more competitive than ever and, with the right people and the right education, business owners have endless options.

“We have had inquiries from New York, Chicago and London in the past three months,” he said of his prospective clients. “It doesn’t matter where you are located. What matters is that you are educated enough to understand your options. The people you surround yourself with will influence your success.”

To listen to any of the presentations or hear any of the other speakers from the event, which include manufacturing business owners and hospital CEOs, visit the conference Web site at