Quote of the Week #3

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
–Henry Ford

I feel like this quote speaks for itself. What does it mean to you? Leave a comment with your answer!

Every Tuesday, here on My Chamber Connect, you can look forward to the Chamber’s Quote of the Week. To contact the Chamber call (231) 796-7649 or send an e-mail to info@mecostacounty.com


Quote of the Week #2

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
-Stephan R. Covey 

By actually understanding what a person is saying, you will be able to pick up on what they’re not saying.  You will suddenly notice clues as to why they’re being a hesitant buyer rather than a disinterested buyer. This can help you determine what to do next and to act accordingly. Doing so will impress them, help you build a better relationship and, hopefully, establish a loyal customer.

Every Tuesday, here on My Chamber Connect, you can look forward to the Chamber’s Quote of the Week. To contact the Chamber call (231) 796-7649 or send an e-mail to info@mecostacounty.com

A Message from Your Director (July 2014)

Summer is finally here! While most of us welcome the season with open arms, there are a variety of variables that some business owners must contend with, such as school schedules, the economy, the weather, politics, road construction, and competition, to name a few. All of these forces could have a negative effect on businesses, especially if your target market is college students, for example. Successful business owners know that the key is to stay ahead of the curve; being able to adapt to changing market conditions will ensure that the tough times are not detrimental to your business. Here are some tips for increasing sales during your slower months:

One way to increase sales and bring new customers to your sales base is by adding new, complementary products and services. A great place to start is reviewing the definition of your business. A surprisingly simple way to build a list of new products or services is to ask your customers what else they might buy from you if your business sold it. A few friendly conversations with customers and staff will likely get you more information than thousands of dollars spent on professional customer surveys. Be sure to ask how much they would want to buy and how often to get a sense of whether the demand would be great enough to warrant the additional costs of building up this area of your business. Be sure that your staff is knowledgeable as well; they should be having these conversations too, not only to gain insight in to what your customers need but to properly explain your current offerings to them also.

Another option is to explore new market niches – look for alternative customers that may use your product for something other than what you originally intended. Find an unmet need in your industry – is there something you keep hearing your customers ask for that you don’t have? It sounds obvious, but customers will tell you what they want if you will only take the time to listen. And the good news is that if you can find a way to fill that need, breakout sales are virtually guaranteed.

Use the Internet to sell your goods or to promote your services. Many small businesses limit their sales reach and distribution to on-site, over-the-counter sales, but e-commerce can enhance your market reach, customer base and sales volume. In addition to the standard brick-and-mortar sales front, consider selling from a website, from an online storefront, a blog or from a printed catalog.

Align Your Products and Services With Popular Values and Trends. You may be able to align your company brand, products and services with local festivals, sports teams, known tourism sites, etc., to piggyback on their advertising, promotions and branding. This type of branding can enhance the reputation and credibility of your firm and hype your sales.

There are many ways to adapt, invigorate and position a small business for a breakout to the next level of sales growth and profitability; it takes owner vigilance, awareness and creativity. It also tends to be the fun part of the business as well as its best chance for continued growth and success. In the business world, the only constant is change. Adaptation and delivery will certainly lead to greater prosperity.

Quote of the Week #1

 “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
–Chinese Proverb

Starting a large project is daunting… especially when you know it will take a lot of time and effort. However, you cannot let the mindset of “It’s too late now,” or “I will never finish this,” take control of your actions and ultimately, your life.

If not now, when?

There is never going to be a better time than now. Right now. Think about your short and long term goals. Think about the first step in achieving those goals and do it. Today.

If one of those goals is to get more involved in your community, meet new people, network your business, or just get out of the house then I’m inviting you to come out to the Business After Hours at Gypsy Nickel starting at 5:00pm on Thursday, June 19th.

If you’re more of a morning person, we also have a Rise & Shine on June 26th, which is being hosted by the Mecosta County Historical Museum (129 S. Stewart Street, Big Rapids) starting at 7:30am.

Is your goal is to spend more time with your family? Every Tuesday, Kids eat free at Bob Evans and on June 20th there is the Big Rapids Irish Festival. Anyone still needing tickets will need to contact Tyler Schuberg at Schuberg Insurance Agency, Inc. at (231) 796-5881 or tyler@schubergagency.com.

Whatever your goal may be, be sure to start it today. Deciding to go to an event, or simply writing down the ways to accomplish your dream is a great first step. One year from now, you will be wishing you started one year ago. Don’t let that time slip away.

Every Tuesday, here on My Chamber Connect, you can look forward to the Chamber’s Quote of the Week. To contact the Chamber call (231) 796-7649 or send an e-mail to info@mecostacounty.com

Staying Organized & Getting Things Done


Life is very busy and it seems that there is never enough time in the day to accomplish everything we would like to, right? You have your job, your children, your church, your charities, soccer games, and the list goes on and on. I, myself, for example, currently serve on 13 various Boards and committees on top of those directly associated with the day to day operations of my job. I attend a lot of meetings and still keep up with my house, my yard, my dog, my friends, my health and my family – does this sound familiar?

A business owner recently asked me how I manage to get everything done and if I could offer any tips on time management and completing tasks efficiently – so I thought that perhaps this is a topic that others may like to hear about as well. These are the tips and tricks that I use, they may not work for everyone but I have found them very effective.

In my opinion, the most important attribute of efficacy is organization. I find that keeping a list of everything I need to do assures that I don’t “drop the ball”; I jot down every little task that needs completed. If I’m in the middle of something and receive a phone call asking me to write a letter, for example, I add it to the list so I don’t forget because I may have 10 more things to do before I actually get that email sent and I don’t want to forget any one of them in the shuffle. Ideally, I would take care of the email at that very moment but that is not always possible.

My ‘to-do’ list is an all-inclusive, dynamic document, with items being added from a variety of origins. There may be member requests, phone calls, emails, walk-ins, tasks that need to be completed weekly, monthly or annually or tasks that I acquire at meetings. I star items that I need to accomplish at the top of the agenda for each meeting and those items are then moved to my ‘to-do’ list. I take 5 to 10 minutes each day to update my list and make sure that everything from the last meeting attended has been added. I then color code the list as tasks get finished or delegated out. In my case, pink means that it is completed, yellow means that I have turned it over to someone else in my office and green means that I have done due diligence and “the ball is now in the other parties’ court”. This method is very effective because I can quickly glance at the list and see what is still “untouched” – those are the things I try to tackle first each day.

Another way I stay organized is that I try to clean out my email in-box every day. I read my emails, tend to all imminent issues, add the others to my ‘to-do’ list and then move that email to a folder or delete it. I apply this same concept to postal mail; I open it, put bills in one pile, checks in one pile, requests in another, etc. I enter all of the bills in to QuickBooks and then file them in a “Bills to pay” folder so I can easily pay them at the end of each week; the checks are also entered in to QuickBooks and entered into a “Receivables” folder so they can easily be deposited each week and everything else is tended to almost immediately; this keeps my physical in-box cleaned out as well. This concept applies to my voice mail box too – I return calls, add items to my list or otherwise handlethe matter and delete those messages too – the less clutter, the more organized I feel.

If there is a large project coming up, I keep more than one list; I have my “master to-do” list but may also have a shopping list, a packing list or a variety of other lists as well. I don’t want to boggle my mind trying to remember all of those types of details so I put them on paper and free up my mind for more productive thoughts.

Another beneficial attribute of efficiency is your ability to save time. Continually look for ways to save time by cutting down or eliminating the major time wasters from your life at work or home. Only then will you have enough time to work on the goals that are central to your success and happiness. Stay focused.

Another tip I would give is to be sure to schedule time for yourself – I block out my vacation time at the beginning of each year to ensure that I don’t schedule anything during those times; it is critical to your well-being and your productivity to be able to recharge occasionally – you will only increase your effectiveness by decompressing and coming back rejuvenated.

Different methods will work for different people and we would love to hear any tips that increase your level of productivity. Please send any suggestions that you would like to share and we will communicate them to our members! Now, back to work!

A Message from Your Director (May 2014)

We have all heard about the importance of honed leadership skills, right? There are articles, books, speakers, classes and retreats dedicated to the topic. We know that, to be good leaders, we need to communicate well, be able to delegate, have integrity, treat people with respect, be creative, and if our goal is to be a great leader, we need to be able to inspire and evoke passion. A much less discussed topic is what great leaders do not do, so we thought it would be beneficial to share that side as well.

Some of the actions that leaders want to avoid are obvious, for example, you wouldn’t expect to see a great leader whining, making empty threats or deceiving people. Nor should leaders be closed-minded, or grandiose in their thinking. Great Leaders do not ignore the truth, they are acutely aware of their reality; they do not let their own egos get so overinflated that they think their own magnificence alone can make things happen, they do not act like dictators and they do not make commitments that they cannot keep. Great leaders never say “It can’t be done”. If there is any task worth doing, they will search until they find a way to make it happen.

Leaders don’t wait for other people to do things for them. Nothing stands in the way of accomplishing their goals, certainly not excuses. They are people of action. However, they do understand when it is good to be patient and when it is time to go forward. They also understand the value of delegating. No one can do everything all of the time; delegation is vital to great leadership. They just make sure that those to whom they delegate can actually get the job done.

Leaders don’t let the fear of failure stop them. The average leader will fail many times before he or she succeeds. They are undaunted by failures and view them as golden opportunities to get closer to their goal. Leaders understand that failure is not the end of something hoped for, but a chance to learn to do it better next time.

Great leaders have a variety of personalities and styles. They do not strive to become a copy of someone else. Individuality is important to leadership. While strong principles are important to the integrity of leadership, so is their unique vision.

Leaders never stop learning and growing. I will shamelessly promote our leadership program now… The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce offers an annual leadership program entitled “Leadership Mecosta” and registration is now open for the 2014-2015 class. The program lasts 9 months, participants meet one day per month and enjoy an overnight opening retreat. This is an exciting program, with an incredible heritage and benefits that will last a lifetime.   If you’re a new or existing leader, a business owner, or someone who just wants to learn more about the MecostaCountycommunity, this program is for you. If you believe that your business or organization would benefit from the strengthening of your employees, send them too! After all, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” – Jack Welch.

Scott Barger, Executive Director of Cran-Hill Ranch, will be serving as the facilitator for the leadership program; Scott is also a Special Appointment Professor atCornerstoneUniversity,Grand Rapids, teaching in the MBA and MM Graduate Programs teaching courses such as Leadership, Organizational Behavior, Management, Marketing, Entrepreneurism andTeamBuilding.  Scott owns his own consulting business, working with businesses, non-profit and government agencies throughout theMidwestregion as well as developing organizational boards and mentoring and coaching several management executives; he is also a certified DiSC personality profile facilitator for individuals and corporate settings.

We are thrilled to have Scott facilitating this year and are excited about the direction of the “Leadership Mecosta” program! If you are interested in registering or would like more information, call the Chamber at 231-796-7649 or visit us at mecostacounty.com.

Exceptional Customer Service. Keep them coming back!

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You’ve heard the old adage: “A happy customer is a return customer” and when you’re in business, the more return customers you have, the better, right? Are you doing everything in your power to keep them coming back? When you think about your last dining out experience, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Hopefully, you remember a delicious meal. What about the last time you went in to a store to purchase something you had been wanting? You probably remember the options that were available, the prices, the quality and those types of details, correct? When is the customer service you received your first thought? Customer service is usually noteworthy when it is really good or really bad. Many times customers will not return to a business if they were treated poorly, even if they were happy with the products offered.

Business owners know that the attitude of their employees is vital to the success of their business but I would like to reiterate some of the best practices that can benefit not only business owners, but anyone in a service profession or anyone that works with other people; let’s face it, there aren’t too many jobs that don’t cater to other people in one way or another.

I have already mentioned attitude; customers appreciate a friendly employee that is willing to help them without excuses or negativity. One of the most important aspects of customer service is listening to what the customer wants, really listening. If a customer wants something specific, help them find it, if they don’t know what they want, help them figure it out. If they are just there to bounce ideas off someone that is skilled in a specific area, discuss it with them – even if they are not there to buy at that moment, your willingness to help will stick with them when they are ready. If a customer purchased an item or a service and has an issue with it, help them resolve the issue upon their return – how you or your employee handles those types of situations are the interactions that people talk about and those instances can determine if that employee is a return customer or not. If you have an employee that acts in a manner that is offensive, the customer may tell their friends, family, post their experience on social media sites or a host of other outlets that can do major damage to your business and / or your reputation. Word of mouth is everything in the service industry.

Another aspect of customer service that is very important and often overlooked is the turn-around time it takes to resolve an issue for a customer; customers want to feel that they are a priority and people are very busy so they don’t have time to wait on a solution, they may just move on to another company that is willing to help them in a more timely manner. Returning calls has a direct relationship to dependability and dependability is the cornerstone of good customer service.

People’s expectations regarding courtesy vary. Learn to take your lead from your customers. Quiet, reserved people tend to appreciate a more reserved and dignified sort of service. Loud, spirited people often like to know that the person they are dealing with understands them. Use good judgment always, but be ready to stretch a little to make your style better match your customer’s expectations.

These are just a few customer service suggestions that can improve your customer’s experience; if you would like to hear a nationally acclaimed, best-selling author speak on the subject, please join us at The Holiday Inn on April 19, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. to hear from Tony Rubleski on the topic “Exceptional Mind Capture Customer Service – Referral magic: How to keep your customers coming back again and again”.

The cost to attend the event is $25.00 for Chamber members, $35.00 for non-Chamber members and $10.00 for anyone with a valid student I.D. Please contact the Chamber for more information @ 231-796-7649.

And smile. People like when you smile.