A Message From our Director

As many of you know, I adopted a baby last year; his name is Kason Thomas and he is the highlight of my life… well, he just turned 1 on July 14th and he wants for nothing so in lieu of gifts at his birthday party, I asked that everyone write a letter to 18-year old Kason and I will give them to him, unopened, at that time.  I sat down to write my own letter and once I finished, I thought “many of these things relate to business as well” so I decided to share parts of my letter with you in hopes that you may find a refresher useful in your business and in your everyday life…

Page 2 of my letter starts like this:
“As you go through life there are going to be many challenges and difficult times… it is that way for everyone. I hope that you not only recognize that in others so that you are able to understand that everyone has their own “cross to bear”, but also that you always know that difficult times are temporary – everything always works out exactly as it is supposed to. When you are confused, in pain, angry, or scared, just stay positive and do what our heart and your conscience tell you to do. I trust that you will try to make the correct decision – the one that allows you to maintain your integrity always!

As you go through life, your reputation, your education, your dignity, and your word are the most assets you have. If you are true to yourself and earn the trust of those around you, you will be revered as a leader, someone others can look up to and respect. There are going to be times when telling the truth, or doing the right thing, is the hardest thing to do – you will need to make these decisions knowing that for every action there is a reaction and consequences. I hope you always try to do what is good and just.

I hope you are completely comfortable with who you are – love whom you want to love, hang out with people that challenge and encourage you – surround yourself with people that you make you the best version of yourself and accept you just the way you are – you are your best self!

There are going to be jealous people, mean people, people that stab you in the back, people that don’t pull their weight, people that wish you harm – keep your head held high and continue to be your best self; you will always win in the end if you continuously take the high road.

Be Grateful! The world doesn’t owe you anything. Appreciate everything that people do for you – show them that you appreciate them! A “Thank –You” goes along way. Send hand-written cards, it is a lost-lost art means a lot to people!

Be confident! Take risks! Stay humble! People don’t like cocky people – you get more bees with honey that with vinegar. Let other people take credit, even if they don’t deserve it, give thanks for all things, appreciate what you have and give back whenever you can, without expecting anything in return… do it just for the betterment of the community, church, non-profit, or whomever you are helping.

Work hard! Nothing is going to come free in this life – you can have anything you want and you can become anything you choose with enough perseverance and hard work. Put your mind to something and do it! With the end-result in mind, work backwards to make it happen… all things are possible!

Love freely! Don’t be afraid to take risks. There is greater reward with greater risk, Take a leap of  faith when you need to – go into this world knowing that you have the support of a loving family and that you are amazing!

Make mistakes! Know that mistakes are inevitable; everyone make mistakes, it is only natural. People will not remember what happened but they will remember how you reacted to it. Pick yourself up, apologize when necessary, and admit when you’re wrong – then move on to the next amazing thing, having learned something and growing intellectually.

Take the lead! Don’t be afraid to speak up – be a leader; people like direction and are often waiting for someone to take the lead – take advantage of that and do more than is required of you so you can float to the top of any situation – this philosophy will serve you well in life.

My main wish for you is that you are happy – love your life and appreciate the beauty in the small things – make the most of everyday!

I’ll spare you the rest of the letter as it is mainly sappy, mom stuff. Have you considered having everyone in your family writing letters to your child for the future? I expect that some of these people will not be around in 18 years and I am happy to be able to give this gift to my son. I hope that you enjoyed reading excerpts of my letter.

As always, if there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask.

 

7 Ways to Use LinkedIN to Grow Your Small Business

7 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Small Business

Grow your small business with LinkedIn by using these seven proven tactics.

There are nearly 30 million small businesses in the United States, but only half of them will make it past five years. To ensure your small business is in the successful half, we encourage you to capitalize on the various ways LinkedIn can evolve your business.

With LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, you can generate leads, produce sales, and hire top professionals to fuel your growth. Here are seven ways to grow your business using LinkedIn:

1. Create a LinkedIn Company Page

We’ve found that LinkedIn members are 50% more likely to buy once they’ve engaged with your business on LinkedIn. But they can’t connect with you if you don’t have a LinkedIn Company Page. According to Forbes, only 57% of companies have pages. The remaining 43% are missing out on a free opportunity to generate leads, talent, and, ultimately, revenue.

If you don’t already have one, create a LinkedIn Company Page. Personal profiles don’t have the same marketing, advertising, and recruiting features as Company Pages, making them less effective at promoting your business. As you create your page, think about the kind of impression you want to create among potential customers and employees. This will help you select the right photos and messages to use on your page.

For a step-by-step guide on how to create an above and beyond Company Page, view our LinkedIn Company Page Best Practices.

2. Promote Your Company Page

Once you have a Company Page, announce it to your clients, employees, and personal network. This will help you gain your first followers, who in turn will help to promote your Company Page on the content you post to it.

Promoting your page on other platforms or via email is also a great way to grow your audience. Here are some simple ways to get the word out:

● Announce the launch of the Company Page on your personal LinkedIn profile
● Encourage employees to follow the Company Page by making it a part of your onboarding process—Social Media Today reports that content shared by employees receives eight times the engagement as brand shared content
● Link to your Company Page in the footer of your marketing emails or newsletters
● Embed a Company Follow button onto your website so visitors can easily follow your LinkedIn Company Page

3. Share Content Regularly

The more you post, the more people you can potentially reach and convert. Best-in-class LinkedIn Company Pages are consistently updated to ensure that visitors have plenty of new content to consume and share.

To get started, try posting at least once per week. It’s not uncommon for companies to post three or more times per day. Post whenever you have something worth saying. Posting consistently shows Company Page visitors that your company is active on LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn’s Company Page analytics to see your top performing updates, your best times to post, and which members of your audience are the most engaged. With this information, it’s easy to make data-driven decisions to optimize your Company Page content.

In addition to posting often, here are a few more stats to help you boost engagement:
● Posts with links receive up to 45% more engagement
● Images see an incredible 98% increase in engagement
● Posts that have relevant “best-of” lists get almost 40% more amplification

When a post gets good engagement, consider promoting it to a wider audience with LinkedIn Sponsored Content. Take the Sponsored Content Tour and discover how Sponsored Content amplifies your best content.

4. Showcase Thought Leadership

Seventy nine percent of buyers say thought leadership is critical for determining which companies they want to learn more about. To get started with thought leadership content, try to provide a unique perspective on your industry, product, or organization. Sharing your opinion on the future of your industry or creating a definitive guide on your product are just two ways to demonstrate your expertise and position your company as a credible partner.

For more ideas and advice on expanding your brand’s authority, download our Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership to learn more.

5. Target Sales Prospects

LinkedIn has over 500 million users to date. That may seem like a lot to sort through, but LinkedIn also provides you with tools to identify and target your ideal audience.

LinkedIn members are more likely than other social media users to keep their profiles up-to-date, making it easier for you to find the right people. Use LinkedIn profile data to search for LinkedIn members based on geographic location, education, experience, and even connections. Once you’ve found prospects using the search feature, visit their profiles. Their endorsements or recent profile views might surface additional qualified prospects, too.

For more ways to reach your ideal audience, learn how to advertise on LinkedIn.

6. Build an All-Star Team

LinkedIn has helped 75% of job switchers make informed career decisions, making LinkedIn a top recruiting network. What are candidates looking for when making those decisions? Our research shows that 66% of candidates want to see company culture over everything else. To take advantage of this preference, consider enhancing your Company Page with a LinkedIn Career Page.

Career Pages allow you to target audiences with a personalized look into your company, culture, and jobs. They give you dedicated Life and Jobs Tabs on your Company Page that attract and engage relevant professionals.

In addition to creating Career Pages, encourage employees to share job postings and “day in the life” content as well. This gives visitors a genuine idea of what it’s like to work for you and adds to your authenticity. If you have a few employees who lead the pack in sharing content, consider linking them to your Company Page’s Life Tab. Their shared articles and recent updates will automatically populate, providing visitors with up-to-date information. Watch our video below on how to use the Life Tab to attract the right talent for your company.

7. Hire Freelancers

You’ve probably had an employee who took on a task outside of their domain. You might have even done it yourself a few times. While the effort is commendable, learning on the fly can also be detrimental.

Fortunately, finding the right talent for the task at hand isn’t as tricky as it once was, even if you can’t afford the salary of a full time employee.

LinkedIn ProFinder enables you to post your projects, receive free proposals, and hire trustworthy professionals all in one place. ProFinder will even pair you with local professionals to ensure you have the best freelance experience possible. With 172 professional services available on ProFinder, it’s easy to find the perfect professional for any task.

LinkedIn vets all the professionals on the platform to ensure they are qualified and leverages your network to find freelancers your connections have used, so you’re never in the dark about who you’re hiring.

By using freelancers, you’ll get access to outside perspectives & broad experience of professionals of all kinds, from creating websites and designing logos to managing your books or crafting your marketing strategy. Plus, with none of the management overhead of a full-time employee, you can focus solely on the job at hand.

May’s Member of the Month is Mecosta County Habitat for Humanity

 

Habitat for HumanityMecosta County Habitat for Humanity is well known in the community for building homes and changing lives. In 1992, a group of local individuals interested in eliminating poverty housing in Mecosta County came together to form MCHFH and since then partnered with local families to build 31 new homes in Mecosta County.

A few years ago the MCHFH Board of Directors, following the lead of Habitat International, made the decision to increase their impact within the Mecosta County community. Along with the traditional new home construction program the Board recognized that many current low-income homeowners needed assistance with critical home repairs that they found themselves unable to afford. The Board began focusing on incorporating a program to address that need and in 2016 launched the Brush with Kindness to addresses critical home repairs needed by existing low income homeowners unable to fund urgent repairs when they unexpectedly arise.

The program incorporates the same Habitat/Home Owner Family partnership model as the new home construction program based on need, willingness to partner and the ability to repay. The driving Habitat philosophy is to offer a hand-up not a hand-out and just as the new home construction builds, Brush With Kindness projects are initially funded by MCHFH and the partner family commits to repay the affiliate through affordable payments.

Since launching the Brush with Kindness Program in the spring of 2016 many applications have been received and new applications are submitted regularly. Some of the projects completed and in the pipeline include: wheel chair ramp construction; roof repairs/replacements; furnace replacement; exterior repairs; window replacements; interior water damage repairs; and insulation and weatherization projects.  The number of families assisted annually will depend on the size and scope of qualified project applications, the availability of volunteers willing to assist in these projects and the availability of financial resources.

Mecosta County Habitat for Humanity has also been able to expand in outreach through the affiliate ReStore located at 18387 Northland Drive (north of the Big Rapids Airport). Since opening in 2012 the ReStore has become a wonderful resource for the community by offering new and gently used donated home construction and home improvement materials, furniture and housewares at affordable prices. The store is able to pick up larger items from donors at no cost. The proceeds from the store go toward helping to fund all of the programs of the affiliate.

Habitat for Humanity was founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have an affordable, durable place to live in dignity and safety and MCHFH is committed to recognizing and addressing the areas of need in Mecosta County. For more information, please visit mecostahabitat.org.

A Message From Our Director – March 2017

As you probably know, your business success depends largely on marketing. People won’t patronize your business if they don’t know about it, right? The marketing umbrella covers market research, advertising, public relations, promotions and sales.  Your business may offer the best products or services in your industry, but without marketing, your potential customers would not know about them. Without marketing, your sales may crash and the longevity of your business may be at risk.

You know your products and/or services.  You know your target customer, and you know your price points.  Know where to sell to maximize your marketing effectiveness. Younger customers are more likely to shop using a smartphone, shop on a website, and pay with PayPal or a credit card.  Older customers might prefer to shop at retail outlets.  A marketing strategy helps you determine if a particular magazine, newspaper, radio station, social media site, or other website fits into your selling plans.  Advertise with a combination of media outlets to reach the maximum number of potential customers.

Steer yourself towards profits and business growth.  With a good marketing plan in place, you control your sales.  A good plan identifies specific goals for advertising efforts, explains sales to be expected, and estimates when results should be noticed.  Reaching measurable milestones indicates an effective marketing plan.  Based on results, you can determine to stick to certain sales strategies or revise your plan.

If you would like to talk with someone about creating or improving your marketing plan, the Chamber has resources available to you! Give us a call and we can get you set up, free of charge!  As always, if there is anything else we can do for you please don’t hesitate to ask!

2016 Wrap Up

Pictured above L-R: 2017 Chamber President Jeffery Godfrey, Chamber Executive Director Jennifer Heinzman, State Representative Phil Potvin

2016 is just about in the books for the Chamber and what a full year it has been!  As we look back over the last 12 months it is hard to believe all that has taken place. Was it all in one year?

We have just finished up another wonderfully successful Holiday Gala. There are not enough thanks in the world to show how much we appreciate all of the committee members, volunteers, sponsors and businesses that donated to our event.

The foundation of the new Chamber/CVB Welcome Center is being poured as we speak. Another huge thank you to everyone who has already donated to the capital campaign, making our new building a reality.  The Welcome Center is going to be an eye-catching addition to State Street and will allow both the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and the Chamber to serve an even greater number of visitors and residents of our area. We can’t wait to show everyone around our new home this spring! If you are still interested in donating to this exciting project, call the Chamber office at (231)796-7649 and ask a staff member how to get involved!

You may have heard that members of the Chamber staff had the opportunity to meet with Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow as she made a stop in Big Rapids as part of her Small Business Tour.  It was an honor to spend time with the senator as she met with local business owners, discussing the current state of small business, as well as the future of politics with regards to the country’s most recent election.

This year, the hard work that has been happening at the Chamber was recognized by the Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals as The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce was honored to be named Outstanding Chamber of the Year.  Board Members and Chamber staff attended the awards ceremony, which took place in Ann Arbor at the breathtaking University of Michigan Football Stadium.  While at “The Big House,” the group was able to tour the facility, visiting the locker room and even had the opportunity to go on to the field itself.

Because of the Chamber’s achievement, at our recent Gala, State Representative Phil Potvin presented the Chamber with a proclamation from Governor Rick Snyder. This proclamation recognizes the dedication and hard work from the Chamber which led to the Outstanding Chamber of the Year Award.  The proclamation will find a great home on the wall of our new building.

The goal of the Chamber is to promote the quality of life through the economic, educational and cultural development of Mecosta County. We are working to achieve this through many new projects, as well as our ongoing efforts.

The Chamber has partnered with the CVB, The City of Big Rapids, Mecosta County, The Jaycees and other community members to form the Mecosta County Trail Alliance. The MCTA is working to help our local communities gain Pure Michigan Trail Town Status, which will help to encourage commerce and tourism within the area.  This effort will begin with Big Rapids, followed by surrounding communities.

Your Chamber of Commerce continues to grow and is looking forward to 2017!  We continue work on our annual events, such as the upcoming Taste of Mecosta, the Community and Family Expo, the Glow Run, the Pioneer Group Chamber Open, the Dam Festival, the Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival, and so much more!

Your Chamber is stronger than ever, but we cannot do it without you and we encourage all of our members to get involved with the activities we have going on all of the time.  Take advantage of the networking opportunities found at Business After Hours and Rise and Shine events.  Volunteer your time to join a committee, helping us to organize all of the great programming and events that the Chamber offers!

Your Chamber staff wishes you and your family a happy and safe holiday season.  We will see you in the new year!

Simple Fall Marketing Ideas

Fall is upon us, and with the changing weather, comes a change in spending habits. Summer is over, students are back to school, and consumers are already planning ahead by saving for the holiday season (which will be here before you know it!) With this in mind, a change in your marketing strategies may be in order. Here are some simple ideas to freshen up your business’ marketing plan for the changing season.

sporacio-cherry-fall-20071.Host an Instagram photo contest. 

Fall is a gorgeous time, when the colors of the leaves change and people are outside at sporting events, fall festivals, pumpkin patches, cider mills and more. Why not challenge your customers to share their best fall pictures with you on Instagram? Or if your business features some fall specific items (i.e. pumpkin spice, fall decor, etc.), challenge customers to share photos of themselves using your products.Be sure they tag your business in the photo.  Those that do so, receive a special discount or incentive from your business.  Be sure to be specific about your promotion, and include any conditions or restrictions, as well as a clear end date for your promotion.

2. Utilize your local media outlets.

Fall high school sports are beginning now as well. Many local media outlets use this time to feature specific local teams on posters, game programs or local radio broadcasts. Contact your local newspaper and radio stations and check out what options they have available to you. You could be included on media that is utilized throught the entire season.

3. Donate to local auctions.

Many organizations use this time of year to organize their big fundraising events.  Often times, one of the big portions of the event is a silent auction.  Create a gift basket, highlighting products available at your business, or donate a gift certificate for a service that you offer. Be sure to include your business information and logo, so that even if someone bids on your item but doesn’t win it, they know where to find it to purchase it themselves.  This is a great opportunity to help a local cause and to promote name recognition of your business within your community.

4. Hold a can drive event.

In keeping with the theme of goodwill, why not hold a canned food drive.  Offer your patrons a discount or special incentive on your services if they bring in a certain number of canned goods.  This could increase traffic to your business, and also help promote commuity goodwill. Be sure to be clear to participants where their donation is going. Again, you have a chance to benefit a local food pantry or shelter, and could inspire others to do the same.

5. Reusable shopping bags.

With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, why not get your business in everyone’s mind by offering a free reusable shopping bag with your business name and logo featured prominently on the front.  That way, as your customers make their way around town to make their purchases, they are carrying a little piece of your advertising with them.  In order to offset the cost of the bag, you could require patrons make a minimum purchase in order to receive the bag.

These are just a couple of simple ideas to make the most out of your marketing dollar and to help you make the transition from the sizzling days of summer to the cool, crisp autumn afternoons. How does YOUR marketing strategy shift from summer to fall? Share your ideas here. Happy fall!

 

2015 Annual Report

As we move in to 2016, I am proud to look back on all that we have accomplished in this past year! We have made great strides in implementing our three-year strategic plan, with this being the third year, we are now in the beginning stages of creating our plan for the next three years. We have continued our partnership with the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) to increase member value, advanced our members’ accessibility through the use of Mychamberapp, created an educational programming committee, continued our Chamber blog, offered several educational opportunities for businesses, which included hosting nationally recognized speakers, worked with the Small Business Development Center to provide one-on-one business training sessions, created a small business startup guide, created an employee / student relocation handbook, hosted several successful community events and improved referral services for our members – just to name a few of our successes. We would like to sincerely thank everyone that contributed to all of these events and activities! We could not do it without your support!

We are excited to see what 2016 has in store for us! Our plans, for the coming year, include: getting Big Rapids designated as a “Trail Town” to promote use of our trails and encourage tourism, in order to increase the economic impact, reestablish a SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives) program to connect entrepreneurs with mentors, bringing the Glow Run back, conducting a membership drive, surveying membership to gather input prior to developing the next strategic plan and creating a Chamber Promotions committee, among other things.

We continue to grow and our Chamber is stronger for it. We have an enthusiastic staff that is always looking for ways to improve our organization. Amanda Greenwood and Angela Cool are very dedicated and are always available and eager to discuss any needs that may arise. Looking forward, we will continue to create programs that will benefit our members and serve as an innovator for the business community. If you have any ideas or suggestions that you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact us, we are always here for you!

Let us know if you are interested in participating in any of our programs and/or events and as always, please let us know if there is anything that we can do for you!

We wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

2015 – A Year in Review

Events Held

9th Annual Taste of Mecosta County
8th Annual Community & Family Expo
Pioneer Group Chamber Golf Open
4th Annual Dam Festival
47th Annual Labor Day Arts & Crafts Festival
Bulldog Bonanza
30th Annual Holiday Gala

Membership Interaction

390     2015 Membership (Oct. 1, 2014—Sept. 30, 2015)
27       New Chamber Members
14       Ribbon Cuttings
17       Ambassador Visits
12       Business After Hours
12       Members of the Month
10       Rise & Shines
52       Members of the Week
6        Lunch & Learns
2         Educational Speakers
2        T.I.P.S. Classes (Training for Intervention Procedures)

New and Ongoing Projects

Legislative Breakfast
Speaker Series
Chamber Blog
Chamber Instagram & Pinterest
Chamber YouTube Station
Smart Texting
Membership Directory
Monthly Chamber Newsletter
Weekly Electronic Chamber Newsletter
Educational Programming
Relocation Initiative
Chamber Costa Rica Tour
Mini-MBA Program
Leadership Mecosta

Community Involvement

Big Rapids Elks
Friends of Ferris
Big Rapids Jaycees
Our Brothers Keeper Shelter
Big Rapids Rotary
Mecosta Area Committee
Broadband Internet Providers
Mecosta County Economic Development
Mecosta County Area CVB
Community Garden Project
Downtown Business Association of Big Rapids
Poverty Reduction Initiative
WISE
Project Connect
Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals
Riverdays
Mecosta County Habitat for Humanity
Remus Days
Big Rapids Rotary Club
Salvation Army of Big Rapids
Eagle Village