“This is my 20th year owning Suffolk Security,” said Paul Romanelli.
When he started, he was working with “some seriously older technology.”
But today, he said, that’s not the case, as everything is IP-based or cellular-based.
“I haven’t hooked an alarm system to a phone line since 2006. So the technology has changed quite a bit and there is a significant amount of disruption in our business now.”
There are companies like SimpliSafe, which sells self-installed alarms, and you can find such alarms in places like Costco and Best Buy, too, Mr. Romanelli said.
The reality is, the do-it-yourself market came about primarily because about 25% of homes have alarm systems, so everybody asked, ‘How do we get to the other 75%?”
A big portion of that is people who will never buy an alarm, or maybe they want to buy online, or, they don’t trust somebody coming into their home, he said.
There’s a lot of new technology, he said, and he even brought an example, an alarm sensor from Honeywell that can be self-installed and is also portable, so someone who lived in an apartment, for example, can take it with them. The device also can work through Amazon’s Alexa app, he said.
“It’s all app-based, so if you have your phone with you, you don’t need a keypad anymore. It’s the reality of what we’re seeing today. But we still do a significant amount of standard, conventional alarm systems, and there’s a good chunk of costumers that trust and want an adviser to come in and make suggestions for them.”
He said his office “is in constant training mode” as there are always new technologies. Mr. Romanelli said his company was even chosen for beta testing of a new alarm system for Honeywell, one of only about a half-dozen companies in the country that helped beta test Honeywell products before they were released.
Nancy Messer of BNB Bank, formerly known as Bridgehampton National Bank, said larger banks have been ahead of the game in technology.
“But we have to face this challenge…you want a banker you can speak to,” she said. “What we’ve done is we’ve partnered with technology companies that can offer us a better way to serve small businesses to get their loans through quickly.
This year the bank will operate a portal where customers can apply online and submit all the documentation for a quick process for small businesses.
“The small businesses out here cannot wait for the bank to move at a glacial pace,” she said.
Ms. Messer said that with larger customers, “I think it really is important to have somebody local, who you can come and speak to. I think it’s important for smaller businesses too, but to be able to do it more quickly, and spend their time not sitting with me, but going online and getting that stuff quickly.”
Ms. Messer said it’s a misconception to think that BNB and other smaller banks don’t have the products to compete with large banks like Chase and Bank of America.
“But we do, and we’ve been able to provide everybody with treasury management products and online banking and paying their bills online,” she said. “We have mobile banking apps. So I think that helps all of the small businesses out here, especially in season, when they really need money, and they need access to that money, and they don’t have time to come running in here to see us. That’s what we’ve been working on at the bank, and I think we’ve done a really good job.”
Yvonne Lieblein of Port of Egypt in Southold was one of the panelists. (Credit: Randee Daddona)
Yvonne Lieblein, a Greenport native, is a marketing specialist and, as of recently, the general manager of her family’s business, Port of Egypt marina.
She started working in Bruce’s Cheese Emporium when she was 14, she said.
She recalled the competition that began to form in the 1990s with the emergence of Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.
“It wasn’t the internet yet, but it was competition,” she said. “I think that’s the essence of what the local experience was then — and is now — is that sense of connection you have with your customer,” she said.
It’s important to be authentic, she said.
“We just have access to so much more information now on how other businesses do it, which is great. I can give us ideas,” she said. “Working in a small business is difficult and stressful and challenging, but it’s also awesome.”
One thing Ms. Lieblein recommends for businesses is to work together with other businesses, which several Greenport stores already are doing.
She cited First and South, a bar and restaurant on South Street, and One Love Beach, a beach and outdoor lifestyle boutique.
One Love Beach wanted to encourage people to go paddle boarding, so they held paddle boarding events on Tuesday nights, and afterwards, the paddle boarders would go to First and South.
“Now, First and South benefits because they have a community coming on Tuesdays, and One Love Beach benefits because more people find out about paddle boarding,” Ms. Lieblein said.
Likewise, she said, Clarke’s Garden would sell bouquets at The Market on Front Street.
The Market also worked with Times Vintage, a clothing store, on its 30th anniversary celebration, benefiting both businesses, she said.
“It doesn’t have to be an event, just a cross promotion that benefits you,” Ms. Lieblein said.