Is your business in need of rebranding?

Has your business encountered extraneous variables that have forced you to re-evaluate your business model and/or your direction? Have you been asking yourself questions such as: “Is our brand still telling the whole story of who we are?” or “What is our brand saying about us?”

Has there been a change in the competitive landscape that has impacted your growth potential?

If you are feeling pigeonholed as something that no longer accurately defines you, it may be time to consider rebranding yourself.

The board of directors of the Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce has recently completed a 3-year strategic plan and is refocusing our attention to areas that provide more value for members. Generally speaking, the chamber has historically been an event-focused organization and we are looking to become more business-oriented. As the economic climate changes, we must adapt in order to stay relevant.

In the last year alone we have made several technological advancements with additions such as online bill pay, mychamberapp, a stronger social media presence, an electronic weekly newsletter and aiding in the county-wide certification process, to name a few. We will continue to advance in these areas but that is just a piece of the big picture. Of course, we will still run most of our events as they are great networking opportunities and who doesn’t like a nice day out once in a while?

While events are our primary funding source, next to membership dues, and are necessary to cover operational and program costs, we plan to use more of that money to provide educational workshops, offer speakers on topics such as the impending healthcare issues, customer service, marketing of your business, surviving in a global economy and any other prevailing legislative concerns.

With these and so many other changes taking place at the chamber, we felt it was necessary to reposition ourselves as an innovator, leading the charge for the long term interests of our member’s businesses. As part of the rebranding process, we felt it pertinent to give ourselves a new logo that articulates our new direction and sets the stage for what businesses can expect from us. The intention of our new logo is to evoke thoughts of advancement and progression. We also serve as an information hub for the area so the new logo represents direction as well. There are several cues hidden in our new logo that speak to people differently and that is what it is supposed to do. Loretta Heiney can be credited with the creation of our new logo and should be commended for the amount of thought and creativity behind the final product.


(Left: Old logo | Right: New logo) I challenge you to take a long, critical look at your current brand, including your logo and ask yourself if you are telling the story you want to be telling and will that story lead you successfully in to the distant future. Ask yourself, “If we were starting this business today, would this be the brand solution that we would come up with?” The answer may surprise you.


Dave Ramsey Seminar Notes – Entreleadership

I went to the Dave Ramsey “Entreleadership” seminar at Devos Place in Grand Rapids on September 10, 2014. There were 2 other speakers along with Mr. Ramsey and the information they presented was very useful and relevant; I will include their message in these notes.

Christy Wright, a certified business coach, started the day talking about the importance of identifying and managing your own personal anchors; for example, hers were: team first, collaboration and innovation. Every decision that needs to be made in her business is put to a litmus test, gaging if the outcome is in line with at least one of her anchors. This is useful when people ask you to do them favors, serve on boards, volunteer, etc. – if the activities they are asking you to participate in do not advance your business or your life, you need determine if it is worth it to commit the time and energy that could be spent with your family or improving your current situation. Just because someone needs you, it does not obligate you. Christy says that you don’t just have the right to say “No” sometimes, you have the responsibility to say “No” in order to have that irreplaceable time with your loved ones. Only you can be a good wife/husband to your wife/husband and only you can be a good mom/dad to your children.

The second speaker was Chris Hogan, the host of Dave Ramsey’s “Entreleadership” podcast on business and leadership. Chris spent his time discussing the importance of knowing the personality styles of your team. He recommends using the DISC program as a tool to identify the communication styles, the learning styles and the personality traits of each individual so that others will know how to work with them most effectively. In the Dave Ramsey organization, there are DISC reports outside of each employee’s cubicle or office and everyone is trained on reading the results; everyone knows the best way to approach everyone else. If you create an environment that allows your team to flourish, they will.

Dave Ramsey spent the afternoon talking about the fundamental principles for business success. He, too, talked about the importance of having a championship team and said that companies that have great teams did not get them by accident; there needs to be strategies and initiative in place that ensure you have an excellent team. He said that you need to awaken the possibilities in others – do you see their eyes light up when they talk about their jobs or projects that they are working on? Are they given the opportunity to be excited about what they’re doing? If they are not enjoying their work, what are you, as a leader, lacking? The philosophy that he lives by is: “Hand your negatives up and your positives down and around”.

Mr. Ramsey said that the first step in creating a dynamic team is to take the time to properly interview potential employees. In their organization, they interview each person 15 times over the course of 3 months, with the final interview being a dinner with the candidate and their spouse. He said that you would be amazed by what you can learn from one single meal with the spouse. They put that much effort in to hiring people to ensure that they don’t have to do it again soon and to “keep the crazy out”. They require each candidate to submit an annual household budget as part of the process as well; if they need $60,000 per year to pay their bills and you are only offering $45,000, they are always going to be looking for something better. You don’t want dissatisfied employees from the beginning – that is not good for you, for them or for the organization.

Ramsey also stated that the five main enemies of unity in your organization are: poor communication, gossip, unresolved agreements, lack of shared purpose and sanctioned incompetence. Make sure that your team knows what their focus is, that they know where the organization is headed and let them be part of the process; this gives them ownership and a feeling of pride that will show in their work. Make sure that your employees are given the resources needed to succeed. Don’t grow faster that your infrastructure allows.

While there were many other great points, I cannot go over all of them here, but one of the most imperative tidbits from the day was: once you have your championship team in place, keep your focus on your customers and the profits will follow.

A Message from Your Director (September 2014)

Now that the primaries are behind us, attention has shifted to the November elections and marquee matchups between Republican Governor, Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, and Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters, running for an open U.S. Senate seat, Brian Calley and Lisa Brown, running for Lieutenant Governor, Judy Emmons and Fred Sprague vying for the 33rd District State Senate seat and Phil Potvin and John Ruggles running for the position of State Representative of the 102nd district, not to mention all of those running for local offices.

There are many issues currently looming over businesses, such as: government mandates, regulatory fees, taxes, minimum wage rates, roads, healthcare and free enterprise, to name a few. How do businesses thrive amid all of the legislation?

The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce recently formed an Educational Programming Committee that is responsible for tracking legislative issues, providing educational opportunities to our members, and advocating for business interests to our government officials. The first order of business for this group was to organize a Legislative Breakfast to give interested parties the opportunity to meet the candidates and hear where they stand on the issues that affect the business community inMecostaCounty.

All of the candidates, mentioned by name in the first paragraph, have been invited to the inaugural event. The list of those attending will be updated as confirmations are received. The event will include a breakfast buffet and will be held at the Holiday Inn on September 26, 2014 from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.; everyone is welcome – our goal is a community full of well-informed voters! Tickets are $15.00 and may be purchased at the Chamber office, on our website or by phone at 231-796-7649.

The Chamber is also currently immersed in the biannualMembership Drive, which will wrap up on September 18th at 5:30 p.m. at Cranker’s Restaurant and Brewery. If you are not currently a member of the Chamber and would like to be, please contact our office for more information, a complete list of the benefits we offer and a list of all the incentives offered during the drive!

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

A Message from Amanda Greenwood

Hello, everyone! My name is Amanda Greenwood, the Chamber of Commerce’s newest Administrative Assistant. Last month, you met Chelsey Bark, the other new Administrative Assistant. Together, alongside Jennifer, we hope to make your Chamber the best Chamber imaginable.

Before I tell you how we plan to do that, let me tell you a little about myself. I was raised in West Branch, where I graduated high school and worked for the City Hall, as the webmaster, for three years. I attended college at Grand Valley State Universitywhere I started my Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in French.

When I moved to Big Rapids, three months ago, I knew absolutely no one. I am very fortunate to have found a job, here at the Chamber. I have met countless, wonderful people who have pride in their community. I have learned so much about the businesses and history of this area (even though I still get lost driving around). When I see a business sign I can say, “Hey, I know that person”. Big Rapids feels like home already. Without the Chamber, I don’t think that would have been possible.

Now-a-days, it seems that most everything is done electronically. Keeping up with the times, the Chamber offers many electronic benefits. The first is your profile on our website. Every member has an online profile that is listed on our website and that is searchable by keywords. You can update this profile, at any time, by logging in to our website with the username and password that we gave to you upon joining. It is very important to keep this information updated because this is how we classify your business in our member directory and it is the contact information that we use when referring your business to someone. If at any time you have lost/forgotten your log-in information, please don’t hesitate to call the Chamber. We can get it to you within a matter of seconds.

One of my favorite things, that the Chamber offers, is this newsletter. It reaches over 5,000 people monthly! Utilize our community calendar and member bulletin board by sending us information about your events and announcements. We’re more than happy to feature them. We also have the Member of the Month article, which you can enter to win by going to the monthly Business After Hours and submitting your business card to our drawing!

The benefits of the Chamber don’t stop there. New things that we are undertaking include our Member of the Week drawing, interactive and group texting, blogging, geocaching and the series of educational seminars with amazing guest Speakers! Stay tuned to our newsletters to get all of the details, of each project, as they get finalized. Great things are happing, and I’m very excited to be involved in bringing them to you!

A Message from Your Director (August 2014)

We are often asked questions like: “What exactly does the Chamber of Commerce do?” I know when I was first hired at the Clare Chamber – that was my first question on training day too… I knew that the Chamber hosted community events and offered phone books for those of us that didn’t get them delivered to our homes, but I had no idea what all the job would entail.

As employees of the Chamber, we serve in jobs covering most of the disciplines found in other small businesses – communications, finance, marketing, customer service and event planning; additional responsibilities include advocacy, providing educational opportunities, serving as an information hub for the community, acting as Public Notaries, etc. Our mission is to “promote quality of life through the economic, educational and cultural development of Mecosta County”.

In general, Chamber missions vary, but we all tend to focus to some degree on five primary goals: Building communities to which residents, visitors and investors are attracted; Promoting those communities; Striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate; Representing the unified voice of the employer community; and Reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks. We share a common ambition for sustained prosperity of our communities, built on thriving employers.

The Chamber, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is an “Association of merchants and businessmen for the promotion of commercial interests in their community”. Businesses join the Chamber by paying annual dues (based on the number of people they employee) and are, in turn, listed in our directories, on our smartphone app, linked to our website, referred to inquiring parties, offered business-related, educational opportunities, provided numerous networking opportunities and are given a variety of other promotional opportunities throughout the year, amongst many other benefits.

We do host community events and encourage businesses to participate in order to network and further promote their products and/or services to the general public. The Chamber also offers monthly Rise and Shine and Business After Hours events (informal socials) so that business owners and their employees can interact with each other and develop relationships outside the workplace.

The Chamber offers educational opportunities that pertain to businesses and seek to arm business owners with tools that help them thrive in an ever-changing economy. The Chamber partners with organizations, such as Connect Michigan, The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), to add value as well. SBAM provides all Chamber members with a comprehensive list of additional benefits, such as an on-line calculator to figure what the Affordable Care Act is going to cost them. SBAM also provides speakers that update our members on a variety of timely issues. The state Chamber acts as a voice for businesses in the political arena, amongst a wide variety of other things. Connect Michigan aided in the Broadband certification process and continues to provide insights into furthering our adoption and usage to ensure our members have the ability to compete in a global marketplace.

The Chamber has numerous committees that are continuously working to increase value for our members. Besides the committees that are in place for each of our annual events, we also have Ambassadors that serve as the face of the Chamber, an educational programming committee that organizes speaking engagements and political forums, a Leadership Mecosta advisory Board, separate sub-committees that are charged with completing specific portions of our strategic plan and several others.

The Chamber offers programs geared towards the community as well, one of the most popular being the Hot Deals. Hot Deals are on-line coupons offered by member businesses that anyone can access easily. Members are also encouraged to offer discounts to other members with our Member-to-Member program, which is basically the same thing but only offered to fellow members.

Because the Chamber works closely with so many different entities, the lines often become blurred in people’s minds as to which entity is responsible for which duties. For example, the Chamber does not function in the same manner as the Better Business Bureau; while we do offer credibility to businesses and occasionally field complaints, there is nothing we can do to handle conflict resolution, other than let the business know that we received a complaint and offer suggestions on ways to rectify the situation. We have been asked to serve as mediators in rare instances but would generally refer them to the BBB.

Another entity that is often confused with the Chamber is the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; while the Chamber is not specifically charged with attracting tourists to the area, we do assist in that endeavor because of the positive impact that tourism has on our community and our businesses. The primary function of the CVB is to bring people into the county and it is up to all of us to make their stay pleasant and entice them to shop, visit again or even relocate here.

The Chamber also assists with economic development prospects whenever possible but that is the primary focus of the Mecosta County Economic Development Corporation so many of those inquiries are referred to that office in order to be handled by someone that specializes in that area.

A common misconception is that the Chamber is a governmental entity but we are actually a 501 (C)(6) non-profit organization and while we work closely with the Downtown Business Association, various townships, cities and the county, we are not charged with public service tasks, our role is primarily promotion and advocacy for the business community.

There is an old adage in the chamber world: “If you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one.”  In all cases, the whole of a chamber of commerce is greater than the sum of its parts, programs, people and participants. The Chamber of Commerce is a catalyst…a common vehicle through which the mutual interests of all segments of the business community work together for the common good of the total community. The Chamber’s goal is the continued growth and prosperity of Mecosta County, and we do whatever is necessary to keep this area’s economic conditions such that people will be willing to risk their resources in the hopes of making a profit. Your success is important to the health of the entire community.

If you would like to be involved in any of programs or events, please contact us and as always, if there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask!

A Message from Chelsey Bark

Hello all! My name is Chelsey Bark and I am more than excited to introduce myself to everyone as the Chamber of Commerce’s new Administrative Assistant.MecostaCountyis where I have resided my whole life and I am fortunate to know several things about the area. I graduated fromChippewaHillsHigh Schoolin 2011. I then moved on toFerrisStateUniversity, where I am currently attending to work towards my Bachelor’s Degree in Business. I am looking forward to meeting everybody and to see what the future, here at the Chamber of Commerce, holds for me.

“If ‘plan A’ doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 other letters” –Claire Cook.You should always have a strategic back up plan for your business that can be implemented at any time. The way I see it, businesses have their “busy season” and their “slow season”. Some common variables that have effects on the type of “season” your business is having are Ferris class schedules, the weather and Grade Schools’ Summer Vacations.

This year’s long winter put a huge delay on the opening of our local, seasonal businesses. There were Golf courses who weren’t able to open until almost a month after their normal opening date, and I’m sure they weren’t the only business who ran into this problem. Ice Cream shops may have been slow because who wants ice cream when it’s freezing cold outside? Generally, people don’t wants to be outside in the frigid temperatures, so I’m sure the downtown businesses saw a bit of an impact, also.

What happens to your business when Ferris lets out? Or when the grade schools start their summer vacation? I know I sure see a difference when Ferris’ spring semester ends. The time it takes to maneuver through town cuts in half. This means that there is that many less customers visiting our local businesses. Are you prepared for it? If you aren’t, you could see a huge impact.

Even though schools, weather and Ferris are a few obvious impacts, let’s look at the bigger picture. Have you ever thought that a natural disaster, miles away, could affect your business? Or even the road construction, miles down the road?

Oil spills, hurricanes, tornados and several other disasters that happen in our country have impacted several businesses. Even though it may not impact your business directly, it may impact your neighboring businesses in some sort of way. Our lumber, energy, delivery, restaurants and several other have been affected in ways you may not realize. The lumber companies are receiving more business for rebuilds. This may show more in their corporate office, but it could mean there is a less of a chance our local business will receive an item they ordered. Even your own business could find it harder to receive goods you ordered. The energy companies send several of their workers to an area where the disaster hit. If something were to happen while their workers were away, they could run into a shortage of help. Delivery companies see a change in the price of gas, which means that they are spending more for their gas. Restaurants may see an increase in their price of fish if there is an oil spill. The fishing industry is put on hold when there becomes less of a supply. This means supply and demand will increase the prices. These are just to name a few of the affected businesses because I’m sure there are several others who are affected that we wouldn’t even imagine could be.

Road construction is a huge inconvenience this time of year. You are trying to get some place in a hurry and BAM! “Road closed”. Even though it is obvious that it affects us as a driver, it also affects the businesses too. If there is a reroute, the businesses that are along the reroute will see more business. However, the businesses along the route that is being worked on are going to see a substantial amount of decrease in their business. They won’t have as many people driving by their business and the consumer’s will go to the business that is more convenient to them.

Anything can happen at any time which could have results that impact your business. This is why a strategic plan for your business is a necessity. When the price you have to pay for your goods goes up, you lose a big part of your clientele or the weather just isn’t cooperating, you may run into financial problems for your business. There is no way to predict when or what will happen that will have an impact on you and your business. Having an alternative plan will ensure that these unforeseen occurrences do not have a devastating impact on your business.

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