Chamber Notes

CHAMBER UPDATE

Of comfort zones and jumping out of them!

by on Oct.22, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

I’m not a super adventurous kind of athlete.  I actually *really*, *really*, *really* hesitate to use the word “athlete” to describe me at all.

Full Definition of ATHLETE

:  a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina

Examples of ATHLETE

  1. Athletes from around the world will be competing at the Olympics.
  2. She was quite an athlete as a child.

Origin of ATHLETE

Middle English, from Latin athleta, from Greek athlētēs, fromathlein to contend for a prize, from athlon prize, contest

First Known Use: 15th century
Not me.  I am more like the Energizer Bunny … I just keep going but not anything remotely resembling “elegant” or “graceful” or looking good during or afterward.  In fact, this is me:
Stilllookpretty
So, for me to get out of my comfort zone with what I’m doing for my workouts is pretty hard.  I’m thinking most of you who are working through the process of lifestyle change are the same, right?
Well, beginning this week and for the next 8 weeks,  I am not only stepping out of my comfort zone but am leaping about 3 counties out of my comfort zone.  Led by the amazing Kari Merrill,  Group Fitness Director at Western Racquet , 25 amazing women (and, well, me)  are taking part in the “Metabolic Meltdown AMPED UP” program.  It is 8 weeks of hard core fitness, fun, sweat, support and HOMEWORK.  Holy.Bears. the homework is intense.  Like scary intense.
But, I need a change.  A push.  My Fitness Energizer Bunny batteries, after nearly 3 full years, are running down and they need to be changed out.  I know this will be so hard, but it is what I need.  So, if  like me:
  • you are feeling stuck …
  • feeling like you are no longer making progress …
  • feeling like your get-up-and-go for fitness has gotten-up-and-left …

 

then I encourage you – no I challenge you to jump out of your comfort zone!  There are a zillion different things you can try … add weights, use the Arc Trainer instead of the Treadmill, do a class, try heated yoga, play racquetball, meet with a personal trainer.  Whatever you have been doing, just do something different and new and scary. You can only get better and more healthy.  And if you hate it, you will have other choices to try.

Here is the motto for the rest of 2014:
traininsane
Let me know what you do!
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Balance – Not just for gymnasts and yogis

by on Oct.15, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

healthy-balance

I struggle with maintaining balance, also known as sanity, when it comes to my fitness and nutrition.

I really get in the zone sometimes and am on track with eating clean and working out dirty (don’t take that wrong, I mean getting sweaty and really getting it done!).  Other times, not so much.  And then?  GUILT SETS IN.  I don’t give up, but I definitely don’t feel good about myself and I beat myself up over it.

However, living healthy means living a life that is in balance.  Maybe for you balance is being very ordered and always eating healthy foods, working out and doing all of the prescribed things for being healthy each and every day. That is perfect for you and I congratulate you.   For me, not so much.  For me being in balance means I have to regularly remind myself that life is, well, life.  And life means my schedule won’t always allow for me to workout as I’d like to and that I don’t always take the time (carve out the time) to prep and plan so I have healthy, filling foods at the ready in order to eat as well as I know I want to.

It also means sometimes I just go ahead and have chocolate and wine for dinner with a handful or two of Lay’s Kettle Cooked Salt & Vinegar chips.  I acknowledge it, log in and know the next day is a new day for me to do the right things.    More often it means I have a few bites of dessert or snacks or a glass or two of wine and include it into my daily log.  I can do so and not go over my allowances for the day so I feel good about my bottom line.  Now, yes, I know.  Doing so isn’t the best choice for good training and optimal health, but it is fine to do so now and then.  Balance for me means I don’t live a life of denial and discontent because I’m not enjoying things I like.  I don’t do it every day.  But I do it.  And that is part of living a healthy lifestyle and as well as a balanced one.

I don’t want to be old and in ill-health and unhappy about it; but I also don’t want to be young, in good health and making everyone around me miserable because I am such a nag about my choices … and theirs … while also making myself manic with guilt.

So, balance means finding a middle ground between doing everything like you are supposed to and doing ALL the WRONG things all the time.  Let me know your progress and how you find *your* balance.

 

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Time away is healthy too

by on Oct.08, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, COMMUNITY EVENTS, FROM THE PRESIDENT

When is the last time you took a vacation from work?  As in didn’t call in, check voicemail?  As in didn’t check email?

When you did, was it a long weekend?  A full week?  *gasp* 2 weeks?!

When was the magical mystery time you took?  A year ago?  2?  Longer??

You’ve probably guessed this is not a good thing if you haven’t taken time away.  But, don’t feel bad.  1/3 of Americans say they take vacations less than once every couple of years or never!

Here are reasons you should:

  • Vacations Promote Creativity: A good vacation can help us to reconnect with ourselves, operating as a vehicle for self-discovery and helping us get back to feeling our best.
  • Vacations Stave Off Burnout: Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.
  • Vacations Can Keep Us Healthy: Taking regular time off to ‘recharge your batteries’, thereby keeping stress levels lower, can keep you healthier
  • Vacations Promote Overall Wellbeing: One study found that three days after vacation, subjects’ physical complaints, their quality of sleep and mood had improved as compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacations.
  • Vacations Can Strengthen Bonds: Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong, helping you enjoy the good times more and helping you through the stress of the hard times. In fact, a study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages.
  • Vacations Can Help With Your Job Performance: As the authors of the above study suggest, the psychological benefits that come with more frequent vacations lead to increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job.
  • Vacations Relieve Stress in Lasting Ways: It should come as no surprise that vacations that include plenty of free time bring stress relief, but research shows that a good vacation can lead to the experience of fewer stressful days at least five weeks later! That means that vacations are the gift to yourself that keep on giving.

I’ve been taking a lot of extended weekends for my vacations this year and then took a whole week at Labor Day.  Wow!  Was that fabulous!  My brain and body felt so much better when I returned.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  I remember years ago, I took my kids to Jamaica.  We had no phone, no internet, very little TV.  We swam, walked and read books.  However, it took my 15 year old daughter and I about 3 days to de-jitter and it was late on day 4 before we felt relaxed.  So, if you can – take more than just a 4 day weekend.  You don’t even need to go anywhere.  Just disconnnect and turn your brain off.  I typically take vacation at the Christmas holidays and hang out at home.  Wonderful time with family and resetting me for the new year.

Everyone will thank you!

If you are looking to get away, you should join us tomorrow night – Thursday, October 9th at our Chairman’s Gala.  Click HERE to register and for info.  As if Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett, Greater Green Bay Convention Visitor Bureau President Brad Toll Cvb and our 2014 Award Presentations weren’t enough to entice you to attend our Chairman’s Gala this Thursday at the Swan Club at Legends in De Pere? Well, there is an *awesome* door prize package that you must be in attendance to win.

Prize package: 2 Night Stay at the Heidel House Resort & Spa, Champagne and Chocolates delivered to your room, $100 Dining Credit and $200 Evansong Spa Gift Card! 

Hope to see you – but, if you are on vacation?  I’ll understand and applaud you!  Let me know how it was!

 

 

 

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Short attention span

by on Oct.01, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

I am a tremendous multi-tasker.  I am doing more than one thing at a time, most of the time.  I also have a very short attention span.  Which means I get bored pretty quickly.  I have talked to lots of people who do as well and they tell me that is why they don’t stick to an exercise program.  I completely understand!  *hand up* me too!  I don’t even take the dogs on the same route each day for their walk!

I’ve been pretty successful over the last 3 1/2 years at keeping boredom at bay by doing the following:

  • I’m very fortunate with my fitness club.  Western Racquet has a set class schedule but the content of the classes are always different.  (Other than Step class for which the choreography is the same for the month and it just takes a while to learn it … fortunately for me!)  They also add/drop classes depending on demand/response. But, finding classes that aren’t the same over and over is helpful.
  • When I can’t get to a scheduled class, or when I’m out of town, I have found MyFitStation on Facebook as well as mydreamshape.com.  They post a monthly workout calendar and each day is a different workout.  They are all planned out so I don’t have to do so, but they are varied without me having to figure out my own plan so I don’t get bored or frustrated.  Pinterest is also a great source for workouts you can do on your own.
  • I occasionally throw in something completely different to change it up.  Like Belly Dancing or a bike ride or something.  Just a curve ball to make it feel new.  I am thinking of going back to racquetball again and I haven’t tried that in well over 20 years!
  • While I, in general, like it better when I work out with other people (a friend or in a class), sometimes I just like to put the ear buds in and tune out the world. I hop on the elliptical or the Stairmaster and read while I work out on the machine.  That also takes my mind off how hard the workout is since I’m without the encouragement of a class instructor.
  • I have had a few personal training sessions and while I’ve enjoyed those workouts; I’m just not sure that is something worth it for me for either the workout value or for the cost value.  I sort of feel, well, a little picked on with most trainers!  The two I’ve worked with recently haven’t made me feel like that at all and I’ve benefited from their coaching in how to do some exercises correctly that I hadn’t been.  I think that will prevent me from injury and also give me the best benefit from the work.  So … jury out for me on personal training but if you need a push or a jump or a little snazz it up … maybe try it!

If you have trouble sticking to a workout schedule, it may not be you or even the specific workouts – you just may need some change up.  I know I would never have last 3 months let alone 3 years if I did the same 3 or 4 workouts all the time.  *ick* You know what they say about variety?  Well, it is the spice of your fitness life too.

Have a great week!

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Back to it – do you ever really leave your habits?

by on Aug.27, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

Back to it – do you ever really leave your habits beyond or do they just get put in a drawer to rear their head when you get lazy or life gets in the way?

For me, they have been in a drawer.  (if you have come to this post from the newsletter, this is the video from the newsletter, so if you watched it there … skip down!)

3 1/2 years ago, I made a decision to get healthy.  I was pushing 50 pretty hard and knew that  if I didn’t get healthy very soon, it was going to be more and more difficult if not impossible to do so.  In January of 2011, I started a program hosted and ran by  Prevea Health and Western Racquet & Fitness Club called Executive Edge.   It is a 12 week program designed to encourage corporate and community leaders to LeadWell by setting a positive example of health and wellness within their workplace. Each participant achieves a baseline score by undergoing a fitness and biometric health assessment.They then have 12 weeks to improve both both fitness and health scores. Winners are awarded for Best Overall Score and Most Improved in both Men’s and Women’s Divisions.  My first year I was very very very close to getting “Most Improved,” but I missed … though that wasn’t why I joined the program.

By the end of year one, I’d lost 12 pounds and whole mess of inches.  When I had my annual physical that summer, my biometrics were off-the-charts improved, so much so that my doctor asked me what I had done to make such a change. I told her she wouldn’t like it– no pill, no patch, no fad. I counted every calorie that went into my mouth and I moved into Western Racquet Club.  My cholesterol had dropped over 50 points, my resting heart rate had dropped, my BMI dropped from obese to just .1 above the  healthy range and I had gotten physically stronger than I had been in my whole life.  But I wasn’t done.

Since my goal weight was to lose 40 pounds and to get my bodyfat down into a very healthy lean range, I decided to join Executive Edge for the 2012 year as well.  It went well and I had great gains in strength, flexibility, endurance and in all of my health criteria. By the end of 2012 had lost a total of 30 pounds. I was working out regularly, not like I did during the Executive Edge program of course, but working out regularly at least 6-7 workouts per week.  Sometimes, when I worked out I did 2 workouts in a day, say yoga and then a strength or cardio class, but I was working out very consistently.  I would see people I hadn’t seen in a while and they would literally stop in their tracks (often with their mouth hanging open in shock) because of the difference they saw in me.  I had lost over 50 inches overall – I still wasn’t at my goal weight, but I really didn’t know if my goal weight was even correct or not.  I was seeing & feeling muscles I never had before. I can actually touch my body and feel my hip bones,  my pelvic bones and my ribs without pushing in.  Sometimes, when I wrap my arms around myself, I expect to have them stop, but they keep going because I am smaller.  A lot smaller.  It still surprises me.

You might have thought I had the whole habit change thing down, I know I did!

Unfortunately, life has a way of being – well – life.  So between stress and life, and life and, well, stress, I put back on 9 pounds from my low in November of 2012 and that was in addition to the 8 pounds I still wanted to lose.

Some people, when they get under lots of stress, lose weight.  NOT ME.  I would make it great through the initial stages of some major crisis or Ice Age or something because my body releases lots of cortisol and decides to not burn many calories!  Truth in advertising though, I do have to admit in addition to my workout schedule changing from 5-9 workouts a week to  3 or 4 workouts a week; I wasn’t eating as I needed to and had been doing.  As in:  I didn’t always eat breakfast and I didn’t eat a real dinner, I would just snack and have a couple of glasses of wine most days.  So my food choices changed which of course changed the mix of what I had going on with my metabolism.

I also wasn’t sleeping well.  Sleep is one of those funny things that you don’t think would make a difference to your health, but it does in a major way. What I’ve discovered is that when I sleep well, my entire system works better.  I know you experts out there aren’t at all surprised, but for those of us layman, that doesn’t always make sense.

So, I got to just a few weeks ago and seeing my 52nd birthday coming really soon – in November.  That has always been a goal point for me.  Don’t ask me why “52” is a big deal.  50 wasn’t, but 52 just seems like … I don’t know … less ahead than behind?  I can’t explain it, it is just a big deal for me and I decided I really wanted another push.  About that time, I was having a meeting with the marketing team at Prevea since they are the title sponsor for our upcoming Live Healthy Brown County Health, Fitness, and Lifestyle Expo, September 27th & 28th at the KI Center in Green Bay. I mentioned Executive Edge during the meeting.  On the way out of the meeting, Brian Lani, VP of Marketing for Prevea, asked if I wanted to be in Executive Edge again, it was starting the next week (last week!). I told him yes, he got me in contact with Brenda and within an hour I was scheduled to begin the 2014 session.  This is an unusual one in the timing as they are normally  the first four months of the year. But this is good timing for me – great timing in fact!

Last Tuesday, I did my initial assessment.  The initial assessment was, shall I say, not a happy time. But!  It really showed me where I am right now.  More than just knowing the scale number is higher (which I knew) and that my new smaller clothes are tight (which I knew), but what is happening inside my body.  My cholesterol is up, not into the unhealthy range – my ratios are still good but my bad cholesterol is higher than it should be; my resting heart rate is up as is my blood pressure, again neither of them are in the unhealthy range but they are up for me and that is unacceptable.  My body fat percentage is also up – which is an indicator of not just the weight increase but also the loss of lean muscle mass I had built up.  All of the things that I wanted to fix – and did fix – have gone the other way.  Those annoyingly patient and tenacious bad habits!

My goal this time  through Executive Edge is to win.  It isn’t like a race where I can see my competitors on the track, so it is really just a massive push and commitment to myself and if I get to my goals and still don’t win, I will be beyond thrilled.  But, I am a bit competitive.

Now all that said, I’m still in the healthy ranges on everything so the gains I made through changing my bad habits for better ones and creating a new lifestyle over nearly 3 years weren’t lost or for naught. I have nothing going on that would cause any medical professional concern. Well, other then my BMI and my body fat percentage.  Even those are very close to the healthy range. I am in a much better physical place than I was before I started this four years ago. The physical condition I am in now is miles ahead of where I was all through the first part of this century. In fact better than it was through most of my life back to my teen years.  But the fact remains, this it is not where I wanted to be – or where I want to be.   I don’t particularly care about BMI per se, it misses everything about body frame size, which of course plays a huge part in calculating healthy weight for a person; but, even if I ignore that number, I’m still not where I need to be and I know it.

I know I am going into my heavy health care years and the time in my life where things may start to go wrong.  Well, let’s face it, will start to  go wrong.  The body is a machine after all and mine is getting up there in miles.  So, now is the time.  Now is the time to fix it.  So I am.  We just finished week one of Executive Edge and I’m down 1.8 pounds, though I realize I haven’t been drinking nearly enough water to push through all the extra exercise I’ve have been doing and the good eating I have been doing.  I also have a very sore muscles. I’ve done some very hard workouts this week and last Saturday I was part of a Partner Play training session led by Kari Merrill, an amazing trainer and woman as well as the Group Fitness Director at Western, and three other great women. It was the hardest hour I have ever spent working out in my life.  Thanks, Kari, Vikki, MarLynn & Amy!

So my focuses are: maintaining the exercise schedule I have been doing this last week (3 strength training workouts a week, 3 cardio training workouts a week and 3 yoga workouts a week; staying within my calorie allowance by eating good food; getting enough proteins and potassium; and getting good quality sleep.  Strength, cardiovascular improvement and flexibility; proper portion control and food choices along with quality, plentiful sleep. I know those are the keys to long-term good health and reduced risk of injury.   Oddly enough, you would think with as much as I’ve been working out I would be exhausted.  But, I have had a terrible time sleeping this week. I think it is my body adjusting to all of the changes.  Last night, I slept 8 hours – that was exciting!

I invite you to join along with me.  You don’t have to be on the crazy train like I’m on, doing 9 workouts a week, but I encourage you to do what you need to do for yourself.  The national recommendation from ALL of the experts is a minimum of 5 days a week, 30 minutes minimum of good active exercise per session.  Eat fruits & vegetables, eat whole grains, eat good healthy fats (a non-fat diet is not healthy either!) a low and healthy fats diet is very appropriate.

Over the next 12 weeks, I will be sharing my journey, my struggles, my frustrations – I will also be sharing links and great information to help you, wherever you are.  I hope this helps and you will check back to see what is going on.  I encourage you to subscribe to our Live Healthy Brown County newsletter.  I will add a link to this week’s edition at the bottom of this post.  If you want to subscribe, there is a button to do so in the newsletter.  We will get you on the list.  It has articles for information & education, a healthy recipe of the week,  runs and walks coming in the Greater Green Bay area (some outside the direct area as well)  to get you and your family outside and active while we still can here in Northeastern Wisconsin.  It also includes volunteer opportunities.  I will spend a post in the next several weeks about the importance of volunteering.  It is all part of your mental/social health and those are key to good health as well.

Until next week … have a great week – a great healthy week.  Live healthy!

PS  If you like the LHBC newsletter and are new to it, you can catch up on previous editions HERE

 

 

 

 

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SBA Loan Fee Reductions Help Small Business Owners Nationwide

by on Feb.25, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

Happy Tuesday!

In this week’s SBA e-news I found this article.  I’m all about saving money and helping businesses be successful, so I hope you will both find this of interest as well as helpful.

In order for small businesses to remain viable in a recovering economy, access to capital must remain an SBA priority.  At the same time, applying for and getting a commercial loan involves certain costs that may make borrowers think twice before making that commitment.

Often times, small businesses that need loans with smaller dollar amounts –$350,000 and under- are usually either just starting or in their early stages. Attention to the bottom line is paramount at this critical time, and a lack of adequate financial resources may become an obstacle to growth.

Mindful of this situation and consistent with our mission to help small businesses start, grow and succeed, SBA recently introduced two initiatives aimed at eliminating certain borrower fees, thus making it cheaper and easier for small businesses to obtain much needed financing.

One of the initiatives, launched at the end of fiscal year 2013, set borrower fees to zero (0) on all 7(a) loans $150,000 and under originated on or after Oct. 1, 2013. This initiative is among SBA’s latest efforts to make sure we’re reaching more business owners and entrepreneurs to help them to tackle the next challenge in their businesses.

The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s primary program to help start-up and existing small businesses obtain financing when they may not be eligible for conventional business loans .  In just three months after its implementation, fee elimination on loans $150,000 and under have saved small businesses nationwide more than $5 million. A small business obtaining a $150,000 loan now saves more than $2,500 in fees, which can be used for other business expenses.

The SBA has begun a similar effort to help small business owners who are veterans. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, SBA launched the SBA Veterans Advantage initiative, which has zero borrower fees on all loans $350,000 and under made through this program.  This program is expected to yield significant savings for veterans looking to start or grow a business.  Of all SBA loans made to veterans during the last 5 years, 73 percent were below $350,000.

In the first 10 days (Jan 1 – Jan 10) this initiative saved veterans business owners almost $179,000.

While it is still too early to gauge the impact these initiatives will have on the success of small businesses, the initial numbers seem to indicate that savings will be significant.

These two initiatives are in place through the end of the current fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2014.

For more information about SBA loan programs and services or to find an SBA lender, visit www.sba.gov, or the SBA District Office nearest you.

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4 Marketing Resolutions to Make This Year

by on Jan.14, 2014, under CHAMBER UPDATE, Guest articles

I’m catching up on email as the snow falls here and I wait until 2pm to close the office and head home during a storm break.  While reading my Small Business Administration newsletter, I found an article that read as if I wrote it!  Since I didn’t, I’m snerching it for today’s blog post and sharing it with all of you.

Here is the bottom line:  you must market your business.    YOU.MUST.MARKET.YOUR.BUSINESS.

This post is from Rieva Lesonsky  The “I” referenced below is she (Rieva) not me (Cheryl). Ms. Lesonsky is an expert, Ms Detrick is a learner!  She is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She’s been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades.

If there’s one area of operations most small businesses can stand to improve, it’s marketing. As a small business expert, I get more questions about marketing than any other aspect of business—and it’s been that way for the last 30 years. Since the New Year is all about improving oneself, how about making some marketing resolutions for your business? Here are four to consider.

  1. I resolve to make a marketing plan. Many small business owners market haphazardly, throwing time and money at one marketing method and then, when it doesn’t pay off immediately, switching gears to the “next big thing.” This scattershot approach does nothing but waste your resources and leave you frustrated and frazzled, convinced that marketing doesn’t pay off. Instead, resolve to sit down and set goals for your marketing this year. What exactly do you want to accomplish—more leads, more sales closed, more inquiries? Once you’ve got goals on paper, figure out the marketing methods that are most likely to get those desired results. Finally, figure out how you’ll track results from each marketing method so you can see what’s really working.
  1. I resolve to market consistently. It’s easy to fall into the trap of marketing only when you’ve got the “spare” time for it (which often means “never”). Or maybe you market wildly right before your busy season, then do nothing for months on end. As a result, your sales pipeline slows down. Keep your pipeline full by marketing consistently all year long. That doesn’t mean you need the same level of marketing year-round—for instance, a toy retailer would obviously market more before and during the holiday shopping season than in, say, July—but it does mean you need some level of marketing all year. Create a marketing calendar that sets out what you’ll do each month and breaks it down further into weekly and even daily marketing efforts. Then put someone in charge of making sure it’s all carried out.
  1. I resolve to keep learning new things. Is your marketing stuck in the past? Advertising only in the print Yellow Pages might work if your clientele is solely seniors…and even seniors are increasingly going online to find businesses instead of letting their fingers do the walking. If you want your business to grow, you’ve got to keep up with the (marketing) times. Resolve to regularly read industry blogs and publications, attend networking events and conferences, and take webinars and seminars to learn more about new marketing trends and how they’re affecting your industry. Pledge to learn something new every month, and at least try some of it. Marketing is moving fast, and if you don’t keep up you’re going to get left behind.
  1. I resolve to do market research. Many small business owners see market research as something they do once—when starting their companies—and then never do again. But what happens when your market changes? The 20-somethings you might have targeted with your extreme sports company in 1998 are now in their 40s. Even if they’re still buying extreme sports products, the way you market to them needs to be different now from what it was then. Keep tabs on the demographics of your target market so you can adjust your marketing approach to changes in their incomes, lifestyles, media consumption habits and buying behaviors. Use both secondary research from other sources and primary research—that is, simply asking your customers what they want and need.

These four simple resolutions will make a big difference in your results—I promise.

What are your marketing resolutions for 2014?

 

 

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Time passing …

by on Oct.31, 2013, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

Oddly, the song that played in my head as I type the post title was Styx’ “Too Much Time on My Hands” and that does not fit at all!  Too much time though has passed since I last posted here.  Our other social media and day-to-day work has just taken all that time.  *

I don’t know about you, but on/near my birthday I have a tendency to reflect.  Not in a morbid or morose way, just in a “hmmm, where am I, where am I going, what are my current goals/dreams and where I am in meeting those I’ve held previously” way.  Tomorrow is my birthday and though I’m not anywhere close to social security age, but the information below from Hawkins, Ash CPAs caught my eye and actually made me chuckle due to the timing.

Deciding When to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits 
As you approach retirement age, you must decide whether to begin taking reduced social security benefits early or wait until full benefit retirement age (FBRA), or even later. In many cases, this decision will depend on factors other than trying to receive the greatest lifetime benefit from social security. Remember that while you have the option of receiving social security benefits as early as age 62, the eligibility age for Medicare remains at 65. So, although you may be able to replace a sufficient amount of your earned income with social security benefits beginning at age 62, you may not be able to adequately replace your employer-provided health insurance.

Even if you have sufficient funds to live on without considering social security, many people prefer to begin receiving benefits as soon as possible. For 2013, the benefits at age 62 are reduced by 25% of what they would be at age 66 (i.e., the FBRA); but, you will receive more social security checks if benefits are drawn early. In addition, drawing early social security benefits may allow you to leave tax-deferred retirement accounts untouched and growing for longer periods.

Another reason to receive benefits early is if you have children living at home. Children under age 18 (or up to 19 if a full-time student) may be eligible for benefits if you are also receiving social security benefits.

Furthermore, if you wait until the FBRA to draw benefits, it will take several years to reach the break-even point to make up for the years of payments that were not received.

Example: Receiving social security benefits at age 62 versus the FBRA.

Curt is single and plans to begin receiving social security benefits on his 62nd birthday in 2013 when his benefit, based on his earnings history, is $1,000. He will receive monthly social security retirement benefits of $750, or 75% of his benefit. Therefore, he will receive 48 benefit checks of $750 each (not considering annual inflation adjustments), a total of $36,000, by the time he reaches age 66 (his FBRA).

Curt’s benefit would have been $1,000 if he had waited until age 66 to begin receiving benefits. Therefore, it would take him 12 years (starting at age 66) before the additional $250 per month ($1,000 − $750) benefit caught up to the $36,000 he would have received between ages 62 and 66.

When the present value of future social security benefits is considered, it could be more favorable to start the benefits as soon as possible (if the money is going to be invested). However, if you are simply using early social security benefits to replace a similar amount of earned income, the short-term financial position will not be improved and the long-term outlook could suffer.

Another factor to consider in taking retirement benefits early is the increased tax cost. With a smaller social security retirement benefit, you may need to work or draw on other resources to meet expenses. If the additional taxable income you generate exceeds certain thresholds, 50% to 85% of your social security benefits will be taxable.

You might carefully consider the long-lasting advantages of waiting until FBRA based on the following factors.

Life Expectancy: Your life expectancy may be the biggest factor in deciding whether to receive benefits early. By age 62, you should have a good handle on your own life expectancy based on your current health and the longevity of your parents. In general, 77 years might be a good cutoff point. If you reasonably expect to reach that age, waiting until FBRA may be a wise choice.

Shortening the Retirement Period: A significant factor in retirement planning projections is the length of the retirement period. For example, if you want to retire at age 62 and you have a life expectancy of 85, you have a 23-year retirement period to fund. By working past age 62, you are shortening the retirement period and lowering the amount of money needed to fund your retirement regardless of longevity.

The Earnings Test: If you are considering receiving retirement benefits before your FBRA but you intend to keep working, you must consider the earnings test. For 2013, social security benefits are reduced $1 for every $2 in earnings above the exempt amount of $15,120.

Replacing Lower-wage Years: Your social security benefits are calculated based on your highest 35 years of indexed earnings. If you can replace lower-wage years early in your career with higher-wage years after age 62, the benefit can be increased. This can lead to a greater benefit when you retire.

Inflation Adjustments: Social security benefits receive an annual inflation adjustment. By taking early benefits, your starting base for these annual adjustments is smaller. For example, if your benefit was $1,000, but you retired early and received only $750, each year you would miss out on the compounded inflation adjustment of that $250 in lost benefits. In other words, the gap between the early retirement benefit you receive and the amount you would have received by waiting will get bigger and bigger.

The Effect on Your Spouse: Your decision to start receiving social security benefits before reaching FBRA may also affect your spouse’s benefits. If your spouse does not have a personal earnings record, he or she will only receive half of your retirement benefit.

After FBRA: If you delay receiving benefits until after your FBRA, you will receive larger benefits because of the delayed retirement credit. You may receive a credit of up to 8% per year for each year you delay receiving benefits until age 70.

If you are able to wait, the delayed retirement credit can have a significant impact. In addition to the higher retirement benefit you will receive, you will also shorten your retirement period and increase your spouse’s survivor’s benefit.

 

 

 

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Affordable Care Act from De Pere at Dawn!

by on Sep.20, 2013, under CHAMBER EVENTS, CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

Good Friday afternoon everyone!   Hope this week has treated you well.

Today I bring you my promised post from last week’s De Pere at Dawn.  Getting the video parsed down and uploaded was a process.  *long process*.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the full segment from Daren Allen, the final presenter because there was a video failure.  We had part of it, but decided not to post only that segment since it was jarring.

I will post this with each presenter’s identifying information and a link to their PowerPoint presentation as well as the video link at YouTube (except for Daren).  In a future post, I will link to an upcoming edition of Wisconsin Eye featuring a town hall with J.P. Wieski that will have the most current information.

Summary statement?  Wow was it a great great panel.  “Best ever” in the words of one of our guests.  With no further ado:

Introduction section  (Cheryl Detrick, President/CEO De Pere Area Chamber)

Overview from the State perspective (J.P. Wieski,  Legislative Liaison/Public Information Officer from the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, State of Wisconsin)

Overview from business organization perspective (Lori Compas, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Business Alliance)

More details, yet still overview from insurer in Health Insurance Marketplace (David Grunke, Manager Strategic Accounts, WPS Health Insurance/Arise Health Plan)

And, MORE details, overview from insurer, Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative (Daren Allen, Vice President of Sales & Business Development for the Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative)

Long story short … on October 1st, go look. It will cost you nothing but a bit of time, may save you money and will satisfy your curiousity!

 

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On tap this week – health care

by on Jun.03, 2013, under CHAMBER UPDATE, FROM THE PRESIDENT

Yes, I hear the groaning.  While the last several years have been punctuated by the “health care debate,” the rubber begins to hit the road over the next 7 months.  Many of the components of the Affordable Care Act are already in place (timeline here) but in 2014 is the 800 pound gorilla – the arrival of the health care (insurance) exchanges for individuals.  They will technically begin operation on October 1st of this year, according to www.healthaffairs.orgStarting in October 2013, people without access to coverage through an employer, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program will be able to purchase health plans through health insurance exchanges for coverage taking effect in 2014. These new marketplaces are one of the Affordable Care Act’s key mechanisms for expanding affordable coverage.  

This Thursday, June 6th, I will be attending an educational session sponsored by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, “Preparing for the New Normal Part 2:  Implementing the Affordable Care Act in Madison.  If anyone would like to attend and carpool, please let me know.  There is a $50 fee per attendee (link is the title), the ride will cost you nothing except 5 hours in the car with me!

However, according to an article in USA Today on May 30th, “Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have received HHS approval to create their own exchanges, and 15 states will work with HHS to run a marketplace, while the 19 remaining states will operate exchanges created for them by the federal government. Many states, particularly those with Republican legislatures and governors opposed to President Obama’s health care law, did not create exchanges.”  (Wisconsin was one of the states to not create an exchange.)  “Beginning in October, individuals will be able to do a side-by-side comparison of plans either through online state or federal exchanges. Insurers will not be able to charge more for or exclude those who have pre-existing conditions.

Insurers have submitted proposed pricing and plans, and, in the states that have released that data, there is a large variety of pricing. California’s premiums came in 50% lower than what had been projected, and in Washington and Oregon, people will pay less for premiums on the individual market than they did before the law, also called the Affordable Care Act.”

While we don’t know what the exchange will look like in Wisconsin, there was an additional option in the legislation: healthcare cooperatives.  The new cooperatives are an option that came out of the debate for “a public option” during the national discussion on this topic.

More from Healthaffairs.org: “The provision created what was originally a $6 billion federal fund–reduced by law in 2011 to $3.4 billion, and reduced again in January 2013 as described below–that would enable sponsoring organizations to apply for loans to create new health insurance cooperatives.

These nonprofit, consumer-driven organizations would offer health coverage–and possibly also care networks–through the exchanges under the same regulatory requirements imposed on private insurance companies at the state and federal level. The provision was incorporated into health reform legislation in the Senate, and became law when the Affordable Care Act was signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010. Under Section 1322 of the Affordable Care Act, CO-OPs will offer coverage through the exchanges primarily in the small-group market, which generally serves companies or organizations with fewer than 100 full-time employees, and in the individual market. Like other plans offered through the exchanges, CO-OPs must be ready for open enrollment beginning October 1, 2013. The law required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to distribute funds to at least one CO-OP in each state. But because of the most recent funding cuts, no more new CO-OPs will be established beyond the 24 that have already been created, at least for now (Exhibit 1).”

"Health Policy Brief: The CO-OP Health Insurance Program," Health Affairs, February 28, 2013.2013.http://www.healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/

“Health Policy Brief: The CO-OP Health Insurance Program,” Health Affairs, February 28, 2013.2013.http://www.healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/

 

Wisconsin got one of the loans.  The Common Ground Healthcare Cooperativebased in Milwaukee, will serve individuals and small employers in Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marinette, Milwaukee, Oconto, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Racine, Shawano, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, and Winnebago counties and any individual, non-profit or small business will become a member when they purchase health insurance through Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative..  There are, in fact, health care cooperatives already in Wisconsin, but this is not a purchasing cooperative, but rather an actual insurance company.   In answer to the question, “why will this work when similar concepts have failed?” According to their website, “Unlike other initiatives for small employers and individuals, Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative will not be contracting with an existing for-profit health insurance company to buy insurance and create a purchasing pool. Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative will be the insurance carrier and with its non-profit, member governed structure, Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative will provide quality plans that are affordable, coordinated, and responsive. Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative leaders have a strong vision for improving the health of members and for controlling the health care costs of its members which are the key factors to control premiums.”   Open enrollment will begin October 1, 2013 and coverage will become effective January 1, 2014. Enrollment will be continuous throughout the year so prospective members can enroll on January 1, 2014 or after.    The cooperative has been and will be holding education seminars.  The seminars are designed for individuals (under 65) without insurance, self-employed individuals, small business owners and nonprofit leaders. Topics for discussion include the new insurance  marketplace (exchange), subsidies for purchasing insurance, the individual mandate and other important issues. Each seminar is identical.  

I will be attending the June 12th session in Milwaukee and extend the same carpool offer as above.   I can’t find a fee for the session and the ride with me would be no cost (other than 4 hours in the car with me!).

I will report back here on what I learn and my thoughts if you can’t attend yourself (or just can’t bear to!).  Whether you plan to attend one of these sessions, or the one we will hold in the fall, I hope you will get yourself educated.  This is vital to you individually, your family and your employees.  Stay tuned…

 

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