Tag Archives: business growth

Making the Most of Your Local Chamber of Commerce

I was just out doing some research for topics for upcoming presentations and I found this article.  I know, I know it may seem self-serving but I found it really interesting … read on ….

JoAnne Berg is a trusted business advisor with over 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur, CFO/COO, and CPA/advisor to closely held businesses. Read her blogs at The Art of Small Business. Her newest venture is Peer Coaching Network, Inc., which provides affordable training and peer based group coaching to small business owners. Follow her on Twitter @JoAnneBerg and Facebook.

Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? If so, are you getting your money’s worth? If not, what are you missing out on?

Chambers exist to serve their members and help them to be more successful. They are supported by membership dues, which are usually based on the size of your business. Your dues are tax deductible as a business expense.

Most businesses benefit in some way from membership, and small businesses often benefit dramatically from the power of joining together with their peers in this way. Here are some of the things that local Chambers do for the business community, along with a few suggestions for getting the most from your membership.

Government Relations

Chambers represent the viewpoints of their members in front of governments and advocate for their business interests when necessary. Your dues support the efforts that the Chamber makes on your behalf to make your community a better place to do business. This alone is a reason to become a member! If you’re interested in getting more involved, most chambers have a Governmental Affairs committee that members can join.

Be sure to attend Chamber forums and events featuring political candidates and elected officials. You’ll often have an opportunity to meet them, ask questions, and perhaps even give them your opinion about important decisions that impact your business.

Networking

For many of us, it’s important to be visible. Chambers sponsor social events and networking groups that are designed for members to meet and do business together. If your business depends on local-business generation, this is an opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up. Even if your customer base is not local, the connections you make can be an invaluable source of local goods and services for your business needs.

Also, check out your Chamber’s Ambassador Committee if you’d like to have a built-in opportunity to welcome and meet new members.

Advertising

When you’re a member, you’ll be listed in the Chamber directory, but your opportunities for promoting your business don’t stop there. Chambers have websites, newsletters, newspapers, brochures, and more. They sell advertising in most of these, and you have to be a member to advertise. The costs are generally modest, and if your target market includes other Chamber members, the ROI can be fantastic.

Education

Many Chambers really shine in this department. Training yourself and your staff can be expensive, but it’s important to keep up with new developments and continue improving everyone’s business skills. Chambers offer classes, workshops, and seminars, taught by member professionals, at a low cost to members. These professionals go out of their way to do a great job since their community reputation is at stake. Recent topics I’ve seen include social media training, patents and trademarks, OSHA regulations, sexual harassment training, human resource issues, tax law changes, etc.

Referrals

Businesses and residents that are new to a community frequently call the local Chamber of Commerce for referrals for the goods and services they need. Guess what? If you’re not a member, Chamber staff can’t refer you. Take the time to get to know the staff of your local Chamber, and make sure that they have the information they need to send business your way.

Committee Membership

Volunteering to serve on a Chamber committee that fits your interests or expertise creates leadership opportunities, helps you become better known in the community, and can help position you as an expert in your field. For example, I served for many years on my local Chamber’s Business Resource committee, which was a great source for business leads and ultimately led to a seat on the Chamber Board of Directors. In addition to the Governmental Affairs, Ambassador, and Business Committees, many Chambers have Education Committees, and if you’re interested in green business techniques, many Chambers are now forming Green or Sustainability Committees.

Every Chamber is different, and there may be other opportunities in yours that I haven’t mentioned here. If you’re not already a member, I encourage you to find out more, and if you are a member, take another look at what your Chamber offers. You may be pleasantly surprised!

 

 

4 Marketing Resolutions to Make This Year

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?

 

 

May Day … oops!

No, I didn’t take yesterday off, I just oops’d!  I thought I had a post ready to go for yesterday, and well, the day got away from me!

But!  Back with it today.  Today’s post is both a story and a lesson!  Here at the Chamber, we talk to and work with businesses of all sizes and types; many are start-ups and others are businesses that go through challenges.  While our primary organization role is to foster community & economic development, we do everything we can to give advice, support and resource lists and almost naturally become somewhat invested in their success.  It can be emotional on all of us when things don’t go according to the original plan!  Today’s guest article is written by one such member, David Rovinski.  If you are a regular reader of Chamber Notes, you may recognize David’s name from his former company, Fluidity Business Planning Group.    He has recently ended Fluidity and begun a new venture … no.  Wait.  I’ll let David tell you his story in his words with a postscript from me!

Over the past 3 years, I have taken up the challenge of starting my own business and have realized many things.

First off, when you start a business you are excited for the challenge and opportunity to make it a successful business.  You create a business plan with products and services that you feel are marketable and profitable leading to success.

Over time, you realize that your assumptions on: the market opportunity, target customers, and ability to realize sales quickly, can all be in question.  The struggles of a new business, low operating capital, and a small marketing budget can make “hanging in there” challenging.

I believe it is critical to provide a service that is marketable.  It  is necessary to look honestly and clearly at your services and make adjustments along the way.

I have recently started a new business called Business Growth Resources, LLC, that is focused on business development services that provide solutions to business growth problems.  Prior to this venture, I was focused primarily at writing business plans for new businesses seeking financing, or existing businesses looking to expand.

What I found out over time was that the need for a business plan for financing was secondary to what banks look at.  Personal financial statements, cash on hand, personal investment, and collateral are a major part of getting a loan.

Thus recognizing the demand for a business plan was limited, the need for strategic planning, new  product development, and growth strategies was in greater demand for businesses looking to grow.  This is what Business Growth Resources, LLC is now offering businesses in the area.

Looking at your new business honestly, recognizing shortfalls,  identifying market opportunities, and having the courage to make changes for long-term growth is scary but can be rewarding and on the path to future business success.

Hope you enjoy some insight on starting and growing a small business.

I “like” David’s story, not because of his challenges, but because it is so REAL.  Many, many entrepreneurs end up on the same path as David but a good percentage either don’t recognize where the path leads in time to make a course correction or recognize it but are just unable to adjust.

We’ll check in with David from time-to-time, both as interest and in thought that others can learn from his experiences.  I’d love to know what you think and what your experiences have been with business growth and patterns.

 

Heart@Work – Protege

Inspiration (in-spuh-rey-shuhn): An influence that motivates.

Diana Gustin’s inspiration was her son Drew, who has been diagnosed with Down ’s syndrome. Gustin use this as motivation to start her own company Heart@Work, to employ adults with disabilities to produce gourmet popcorn that is sold through retail locations, corporate gifts, and fundraisers. However, it doesn’t stop there, Heart@Work also provides vocational and education training for its employees. Heart@Work also is a one of the companies of that is participating in the Green Bay Packer Mentor-Protégé Program.

Administered by AFF Research LLC  of Green Bay,  the program enables established businesses with emerging businesses. Through the 12 month term, the minority- or women-owned businesses will be given specific tools, business exposure, training, materials and resources that cannot be easily attained.

Before the participants were ever chosen, Gustin approached the application process with a nothing ventured, nothing gained-attitude. She felt as the program would not be as beneficial as one would think; however, when Heart@Work was paired with Eli Swanson, Jason Hunt and Chris Hussin from Boradman and Clark Law Firm in Madison, the benefits were immediate. With the three attorneys and the Board Members believing in the mission behind the company, and having the confidence in Gustin, it was all she needed. The acceptance from her peers gave her motivation to do more with her company and remember that she is not only doing this for her son, but for mentally challenged children’s and adults across the nation and world.

During the program, the protégé is required to outline a specific goal that they hoped to accomplish during the year, along with how the company measures the success of those goals and the commitment to a monthly meeting with the mentors to follow-up on the process. This requirement was a great lesson for Gustin, as it helped her with defined and focused goal setting.  In addition, her mentors provided legal advice and support in areas that Gustin would never have though to focus on.   Most importantly, Gustin says the sincere enthusiasm and support toward  her mission and product kept her energized and moving forward.

As her company mission does for people with disabilities, she feels the Green Bay Packer Mentor-Protégé Program does for small businesses. It provides the support that enables small business to grow to its full potential. For Heart@Work and the inspiration that is behind it, it will continue to be inspired and continue to inspire others.

Growing & Developing Small businesses: The Power of Mentoring

Last year, DPACC member AFF Research began administering a program with the Green Bay Packers organization, in a partnership with local business development leaders, has established the Packers Mentor-Protégé Program to foster business growth, economic development and job creation in Brown County.

The program, now in its second year, matches mentor companies from the Green Bay area that can provide technical, managerial, financial or other guidance to protégés seeking to improve their competitive standing. The mentor-protégé relationship requires at least a 12-month commitment.

Initially, protégé companies were minority- or woman-owned businesses located in Brown County or on the Oneida Nation Reservation. The goal also is to reach veteran-owned and other small businesses with the opportunity to participate as the program develops.

Mentor companies must be established companies with the appropriate resources and the ability to commit to the program and the needs of the protégé. Organizations serving as mentors include Alliance Construction and Design, Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Schenck Business Solutions, Schreiber Foods, UnitedHealthcare and Wipfli.

The program is administered by AFF Research LLC (AFFR), Anna Steinfest, President/CEO, and overseen by a board of directors that includes John Hartmann, M.D., CEO of Visonex; Tammy Hawkins, Sourcing Manager, ROMO, Inc.; Lorri Kieff, CEO of Bay Area Consultants; David Martin, Business Development, H.J. Martin and Son; and Quasan Shaw, Business Development Planning Specialist, City of Green Bay. Consultants to the program include Jason Wied and Aaron Popkey, Green Bay Packers; and Greg Kuehl, Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District.

“We felt this would be a good opportunity to help establish a program that can help companies take the next step in their own business development,” said Jason Wied, Packers vice president of administration/general counsel. “We know many organizations in our area have the expertise to assist in developing the various skills needed by small businesses to grow and become more successful companies.”

AFFR assists their clients in designing and implementing comprehensive supplier diversity. They also provide guidance to entrepreneurs. AFFR has consulted in the field of supplier diversity for 10 years, and has worked on both the Lambeau Field redevelopment project and post-redevelopment projects.

Questions and requests for mentor or protégé applications should be directed to AFFR by telephone at 920-884-5006 or by e-mail aff@affresearch.com.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be profiling the first year’s participants and also doing before, during and after interviews with this year’s participants.  Stay tuned, I bet you’ll learn something useful AND be inspired.  Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to be a mentor or protege or simply pass the word.  At the very least, I think you’ll be fascinated by the journey and experience from both sides of the relationship.

How to Make Your Business Run Better and More Profitably

This week from Barbara Wold — don’t we all want this??

1.  Take action. Taking action will probably move you forward on some significant goal.
2.  Know your customers. Look back at the misses and successes of the last two
years and use that data to help you reassess your idea of your real customers/clients and prospects.
3.  Speak your customers’ language. Remember that you are not selling your products or services, you are meeting the needs or solving the problems of your prospects and clients/ customers; package and market your products/services in a way that addresses that need or problem.
4.  Some revenue is better than none. Don’t stall your success because you are afraid partnering will reveal your secrets to a potential competitor.  Find a Business Buddy, create a business partnership..
5.  Put it in writing. If you put the specifics of every agreement and arrangement in writing you will save yourself time, money, agony and broken relationships.
6.  Make marketing a priority. You should develop a schedule of marketing actions, put them on your calendar and carry them out — just as you would any product or service development and delivery for a customer/client.
7.  Avoid spending time “getting ready” instead of “doing.” If there is something you do not really want to do or are not comfortable with, there is the risk of avoiding it by getting trapped in the preparation phase.

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“In your quest for new and better ways to please customers, make sure you don’t overlook that very thing you already do better than anyone else.”
— Marc Compeau, business columnist, writing for Forbes

Reposted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips, bwold@ix.netcom.com. To occasionally reprint portions of this newsletter, permission is not required. To reprint more than one article, please contact us at 949-675-8845 or bwold@ix.netcom.com. If you received this from someone else and would like to sign up for your own complimentary subscription, bwold@ix.netcom.com.

Our 3 “R’s” of Economic Enhancement

I’m sure you remember the 3 R’s from school, yes?  Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic – yes I always thought that was funny in connection with education, but we won’t go there for now!

In the De Pere area, for our Economic Enhancement & Development efforts, we focus on a different set of 3 R’s.  Recruitment – Retention – Reinvestment. There are many schools of thought on business recruitment but one is “home grown entrepreneurship” – not trying to bring IN businesses, but bringing UP your own economy by growing businesses from your local pool of experts.

I found a review of a book on this subject called Ripples from the Zambezi that I find to be fascinating and hopefully someone out there will find it inspiring!  If you are inspired and are looking for a space to open your dream, call us at the Chamber, we have a buildings and business inventory to assist you find a location and team of volunteer experts to help you get going!

Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepreneurship, and the Rebirth of Local Economies

by Ernesto Sirolli, New Society Publishers, 1999

review by Peter Donovan

Many people wish to strengthen their local economies, reduce dependence on multinational corporations, build community by doing things, or achieve self-fulfilment through meaningful work. Yet these results are not coming easily or economically from the top-down, programmatic, and strategic approaches typically used by governments, economic development districts, and even by community groups, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations.

As E. F. Schumacher observed in Good Work, we cannot expect to raise the wind that will push us to a better world. What we can do is hoist a sail to catch the wind when it does come. Ripples from the Zambezi tells the gripping story of how Ernesto Sirolli learned to catch the wind of passionate, skillful, creative, intelligent, and self-motivated entrepreneurs–the acknowledged powerhouse of the economy as well as of social change.

Sirolli’s experiences as a volunteer for the Italian government in Africa during the 1970s convinced him that “development” schemes were anything but. After absorbing Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered and the person-centered psychology of Carl Rogers, Sirolli put his radical, antidogmatic ideas to the test in rural Western Australia. Instead of trying to motivate people, he made himself available as coach and advocate for anyone who was serious about starting or expanding a business enterprise.

By treating economic development as a byproduct of personal growth and self-actualization, Sirolli was able to make a quantum leap in the effectiveness of business coaching, as well as create local miracles of economic development. He has devoted himself since to teaching committed civic leaders how to do what he has done.

“In every community, no matter how small, remote, or depressed, there is somebody who is scribbling figures on a kitchen table. If we can be available, for free and in confidence, to help that person go from the dream to establish an enterprise that can sustain that person and his or her family, we can begin to change the economic fortunes of the entire community.”

The strategy that Sirolli teaches to communities often involves a committed volunteer local board, who hires an “Enterprise Facilitator” who is then trained by Sirolli. The facilitator does not initiate projects or promote “good ideas.” He or she responds to the interests and passions of self-motivated people. Because no one has equal passion for production, marketing, and financial management, all of which are necessary for business success, and because people only do well what they care about doing, the secret of success and survival for a business of any size is to find people who love to do what you hate. “The death of the entrepreneur is solitude.” The facilitator and the board, with networking, help people form teams to advance their idea.

This is a strategy that is always followed in large business, but remains unusual in small business, where most people are still advised to write business plans singlehandedly, and to get better at what they hate. For example, farmers and ranchers whose inclinations and personalities do not lend themselves to marketing are often told that they must learn marketing skills to get off the commodity roller coaster.

Sirolli’s ideas are not just good. They are inspiring, inflammatory, they resonate–and they are based on 15 colorful years of failing and succeeding at hoisting the sail in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S.

The underlying philosophy has to do with empowerment rather than control. “A shift from strategic to responsive development can only occur,” Sirolli writes, “if we are capable of believing that people are intrinsically good and that the diversity, variety, and apparent randomness of their passions is like the chaotic yet ecologically sound life manifestations in an old-growth forest.”

The message is that bottom-up, person-centered, responsive economic development works–and if well understood and led at the community level, it works better than anything else. When a community can help motivated people succeed, the motivation spreads. “The future of every community,” Sirolli writes, “lies in capturing the energy, imagination, intelligence, and passion of its people.”

— Peter Donovan

Updated 21 April 2003
URL: managingwholes.com/review-ripples.htm

An opportunity for business growth …

… and seriously – who isn’t looking for that??

From our friends at the Business Assistance Center:

Spin-Outs and Spin-Offs

An opportunity for business growth

We’ve all heard stories of companies that have a team of people who created a great new technology, but for some reason, it wasn’t developed…. Or an idea was researched and developed but dried up on the vine in the process of everyday business… Or employees have a new product idea, but nowhere to go with it.

Learn how to jump the hurdle from concept to reality. Hear from several companies, entrepreneurs and investors who took good ideas out of a “parent” company and created innovative new businesses and exciting growth opportunities.

Panelists:
· Charlie Goff, President, New Capital Fund
· Amy Achter, Intellectual Property and Competitive Intelligence Leader, formerly Director of Outlicensing, Kimberly Clark
· Brad Schuler, President, Ro-Flo Compressors
· Bob Cool, Executive Vice President, Aurizon Ultrasonics, LLC, former Technology Champion at Kimberly Clark
Moderator: Kurt Waldhuetter, Northeast Regional Director, Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Network

There is no cost, but space is limited.  Please RSVP to Lisa Harmann at (920) 496.2110 or lharmann@titletown.org by Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Where & When
Aurora BayCare Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Center
1160 Kepler Dr., Green Bay
December 3, 2009
7:00AM-9:00AM