Tag Archives: chamber

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!



Time passing …

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.




Womens Health & Leadership

This week is National Women’s Health Week.  It started on Sunday and is celebrated through May 18th.

National Women’s Health Week is a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. It brings together communities, businesses, government, health organizations, and other groups in an effort to promote women’s health and its importance. It also empowers women to make their health a priority and encourages them to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases:

  • Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.
  • Get active.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet, and texting while driving.

Monday (the 13th) was “National Check Up Day,”  a nationwide effort, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, to:

  • Encourage women to call and visit health care professionals to schedule and receive checkups; and
  • Promote regular checkups as vital to the early detection of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health illnesses, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions.

Yes, it was yesterday, but if you are a woman and haven’t either already had, scheduled or getting your head around getting scheduled for your annual check-up, do so today.  If you are a man, encourage the women in your life to do so.  Women often serve as caregivers for their families, putting the needs of their spouses, partners, children, and parents before their own. As a result, women’s health and well-being becomes secondary. As a community, we have a responsibility to support the important women we know and do everything we can to help them take steps for longer, healthier, happier lives.  This isn’t about martyrdom ladies, it is about being in a position of good health in order to take care of those who depend on you.  This is the rationale behind being on your oxygen mask before you help those around you put theirs on.  You can’t help anyone if you are unconscious, ill or dead.

This is also about leading.  Women are often the leaders in their families.  (sorry guys … just true)  They are usually their heart and nerve center of their families. I remember hearing the phrase, “if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and not understanding it.  But it is so true!  In this case, if the caregiver isn’t well, she can’t provide care to anyone.  Taking care of our own health is the first step in leadership.

This week also kicks off our Path to Leadership, our summer personal leadership development series.  Tomorrow morning at Rennes Health & Rehab Anna Steinfest from U.S. Bank and AFF Research and Cassie Schuh from Zaptastic Professional Coaching will kick-off the series with sessions on Personal Leadership Philosophy and Personal Leadership Brand.    This series is designed to help improve and grow the participants personal leadership and I’m very excited!   Every group I’m in, both personally and professionally, often focus on leadership; but most people aren’t trained in leadership or in growing their own leadership skill-set and ability.  When I typed “personal leadership” into my Google search, it returned 776,000,000 results!  I’d say it is an important topic!  I have multiple books in my office, in my home, on my Nook, on my computer and on my Kindle app about leadership.  Two of the final classes I took last year to (finally) finish my Bachelors Degree had the majority of the classes dedicated to leadership:  definitions, lessons in good & bad leadership and how to improve as leaders.

Be a leader in your life.  You can join us to learn in our very hands on sessions of the next 3 months, you can read some great books or attend the myriad of leadership courses available online and in person.  Hand-in-hand with that education, however, is making sure you are fit to lead (thanks Prevea and Western Racquet!).  And you have to be healthy to do so.

So .. focus on leadership.  Focus on learning.  Focus on taking care of yourself.  You can’t lead anyone anywhere worth going if you don’t!

A Friday Favorite Returns … Linkapalooza!

Today ends the first full week of blog posts I’ve done in a LONG time!  So, to celebrate, indulge myself and to clean out my “Read Later Fast” and Bookmarks folders … today is LINKA-PALOOZA!

Let’s start with some business information links:

  • On the State of Wisconsin site is a Business Wizard that covers licensing, permitting and regulatory requirements as well as some links to Federal sites.
  • On October 28, 2011, the President issued a challenge to government agencies to think beyond their organizational boundaries in the best interest of serving America’s business community, and start thinking and acting more like the businesses they serve. He directed the creation of BusinessUSA, a centralized, one-stop platform to make it easier than ever for businesses to access services to help them grow and hire.  It has TONS Of information on it!!

A few more related to safety – yes my theme for the week!

20 Online Project Management Tools to Boost Productivity

Five Ways to Use Your Social Profiles for SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Two that were interesting:

The world population clock – check out us compared to China and India

And these two are because it is Friday and laughing will make the day go by faster!

First, I’m a HUGE Golden Retriever fan and I love this Golden trying to train his tiny human

And, finally, I am *such* a Sci-Fi Geek Girl. I adore this!!

I hope you had a great week and have a fabulous weekend.  Don’t forget to tell your Mom or those who are like a Mom to you how much you appreciate her!



Financial Fitness

Yes, dear reader … I’m behind again!

We had De Pere at Dawn again this week which reminded me that I didn’t post notes from February’s event and I’ve neglected you!  It was a great duo of experts:  Chris Battle, Financial Advisor with NEW Wall Street, and Debra Verstegen, Commercial Insurance Advisor with Dickenshied Cravillion Insurance Services, gave our attendees some incredible information to help them be and/or get financially fit.

Chris Battle handled the financial side.  Some tidbits:

  • 40% max debt to income but based on stability of Job and income and length of time in job
  • 30% of debt is ok
  • Start putting money in retirement as soon as possible
  • Stock Market:  anticipating a 20% correction then it will go up again
  • Make sure your debt is manageable and you’ve got the lowest interest rate you can
  • Inflation will be coming – wages are starting to go up. Inventories are down because they are making fewer of their product
  • Housing inventories are very low
  • Age 50 is the catch up age for retirement account catch-up.  $5,500 per year and over 50 can put on additional $1,000 per year
  • You can put $13,000 annually into a Simple IRA as business owner
  • With a solo 401k can put $30,000-$40,000
  • Max out contributions into IRAs.  Roth IRA’s are a better hedge against future inflation and taxes because you pay the taxes along the way
  • Pay taxes on 401k based on how much you take out on an annual income
  • Check with employer to see if you can put money into in their plan in a Roth-like manner
  • If leave job, don’t roll into new employer’s plan. Roll into Tradition IRA then convert some or all into a Roth.

Deb Verstegen gave some great information of very important points of information around insurance for businesses.  I’ve loaded Deb’s presentation to Slideshare and the link is HERE. One highlight I really took away was the importance of knowing what your policy says about subrogation.

  • Verify your information in your policy.
    • Make sure it is right
    • Pay attention to details
  • Read exclusions – make sure you know before it is too late – “punitive damages exclusions” especially as business owner
  • Employment related practices liability – make sure you have this if you have employees. Don’t assume it is in your general commercial liability, it most often is not.

“Not Born for Ourselves Alone”

Author:  Chris Mead – Reprinted with permission from NewGeography.com via ACCE

A snapshot of the chamber world in the early 20th century

The De Pere Area Chamber of Commerce turned 125 years old on  February 1st this year and, while I didn’t know it at the time, the US Chamber of Commerce turns 100 years old today.  The following is a commentary from the magazine Chamber Executive published by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives organization (the national organization for people of my professional persuasion):

Most people are more interested in organized crime than in organized business.  Chambers of commerce do not often attract headlines except for the occasional, inevitable dust-up with a public authority.  For that reason, this April’s 100 year anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may pass without much public attention.  This would be a shame, as groups of companies have left their fingerprints all over the American civic landscape, and were busy even at the birth of Tom Donohue’s organization in 1912.

President William Howard Taft, who called the U.S. Chamber into existence, was a frequent visitor to local chambers of commerce.  He once joked that even towns without any commerce had a chamber or board of trade.  Indeed, during the Progressive Era these groups were proliferating wildly, and filled with excitement.

Behind much of the excitement stood a man named Ryerson Ritchie.  Starting in 1893, he turned the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce into the most dynamic civic organization in the country.  One of its hundreds of activities was to vet the charities that approached its members, a policy that eventually led to its introduction of fderated giving in 1913, which in turn led to Community Chests and the United Way.

Ritchie, whose personality was as difficult as his ideas were brilliant, moved rapidly from chamber to chamber, becoming something of a Johnny Appleseed of the chamber movement.  Soon dozens of business organizations were proclaiming, Ritchie-like, that they weren’t old-fashioned boosters and “factory grabbers” any more.  Instead they were civic transformers, improving education, city government, city planning, you name it.  The Boston Chamber of Commerce even had a committee seeking a cure for the common cold.

Chambers seized the innovations of commission government (initiated in Galveston in 1901 after the disastrous hurricane) and city manager administration (first set up in Staunton, Va. in 1908), spreading them into dozens, then hundreds, of communities.  These were seen as businesslike ways to improve the efficiency of local government.

City planning was the rage, too.  The Washington Board of Trade was a prime mover in setting up a commission that, among other things, got the ugly railroad tracks removed from from the Mall and helped set up the capital’s park system.  The Cleveland Chamber enlisted the eminent planner Daniel Burnham to help create the city’s Public Square.  And in Chicago, the Commercial Club and the Merchants Association united to fund and publish Burnham’s magnificent Plan of Chicago in 1909, considered by many to be the greatest achievement in this field for that era.