Over the River and Though the Woods!

While spring, summer and winter are all magnificent seasons, fall has always been my favorite. My Birthday falls right before Halloween and rather than being frightened by goblins and ghosts, some of my fondest memories are of party decorations and cupcakes in orange and black and little green toothless witches in pointy hats showing up with prettily wrapped packages. On Halloween we ran through the neighborhood shrieking with laughter dragging pillow cases, heavy with sugary treats.

In the Midwest, agricultural capital of the world, fall marks the end of summer, changing landscapes and the much anticipated harvest. Over the rivers, through the woods and as far as the eye can see stretches a veritable feast of breathtaking colors. Cool, crisp chilly nights, the smoky scent of burning wood billowing from chimneys and the sound of leaves rustling in the wind confirm the upcoming Holidays with family get togethers and time honored traditions.

On the subject of families, it’s interesting to note that both Obama and Romney have pandered to families during in their campaigns. It’s tempting to buy into the notion that everything in America will get better if he replaces Obama. Romney, of all people, should know that in business, making staff changes at the top won’t do a bit of good if the system remains broken.

The one thing on which both candidates seem to agree is that individuals and families alike are struggling. And, not just from the effects of a poor economy. Trying to cope with the ever-increasing complexities of life including the consequences of perpetual changes in technology, non-stop connectivity and too many demands is driving us all mad. And I do mean mad. Is it just me, or is the number of people who crack up and end up shooting innocent people increasing?

How can we restore a sense of balance and regain our footing when the world seems to be spinning wildly out of control? We can you know. It’s as simple as pushing a reset button.

Here’s how my friend Terri Rae pushed my reset button. For my Birthday, she treated me to the opening of a new play from Theatre Now at the Lowry Lab (360 St Peter St., St Paul, MN, 55102) titled “Over the River and Through the Woods”. Written by Joe DiPietro and directed by Robert Marcus and Shelli Place, the play’s cast consists of two sets of grandparents who gather every Sunday with their twenty-something single grandson for an Italian dinner.

John Marshall Berard is pitch perfect as Nick Cristano, the frustrated but dutiful grandson. Marshall Hambro is superb as Frank Gianelli, the wizened and resigned Italian patriarch. Gini Adams is so utterly believable as the lovable Aida Gianelli, you want to ask her for an Italian recipe! Robert Marcus delivers a rock solid performance as the long-suffering but generationally-challenged Nunzio Cristano. Lynne Vannelli delivered a warm and touching portrayal of Emma Cristano. As the gracious and lovely but assertive Caitlin O’Hare, Asha Menina’s performance was as delightfully fresh as homemade pasta!

When Nick announces to his grandparents that he has been offered a promotion and will be moving away, it sends them into a tail spin. Not willing to let him go, Emma concocts a clever scheme involving a blind date with Caitlin, a pretty young nurse.

Clearly annoyed by his family, Nick barely conceals his irritation when he’s with them. They’re loud, hopelessly out of touch with technology, constantly giving him unwanted advice and their simplistic philosophy of “family, faith and food” drives him absolutely nuts.

When Caitlin shows up unexpectedly for the blind date Emma has arranged, Nick is  mortified by the way e Aida keeps pushing veal on Caitlin after she’s told her repeatedly that she’s a vegetarian. No ace at picking up on social queues himself, Nick ends up blowing it with Caitlin by the disrespectful way he treats his grandparents.

Watching the play, I was struck by the similarity between Nick’s reactions to his family’s misguided efforts to help him and my own reaction this past year when my family and friends tried to help me through a particularly rough patch. Doesn’t everyone have at least one family member who drives them nuts?

This exceptionally talented ensemble deftly transported me away from my own complex world full of anxiety and uncertainty into a warm and comfortable room where my feet felt firmly planted on the ground. Here, I was comforted with the knowledge that loving families and deep relationships are the key to restoring balance in a topsy-turvy world.

By the end of the play when Nick’s grandfather Frank says, “Tengo Famiglia!” Roughly translated, it means, “I have a family to support”. I left the theatre repeating that phrase as if it was a chorus and with a peaceful certainty I hadn’t felt in years. You see, the currency of love, unlike money, never loses its value. It gives us the courage to make significant sacrifices for one another, endure separation, heartbreaking loss, weather life-altering change and transcend adversity in spite of our differences be they generational or otherwise.

So, if you want to push your reset button, you better hurry because “Over the River and Through the Woods” only runs from November 1-18. Ticket prices range from $10-$20 with special periodic discounts. Go to www.theaternow.org for more information or email info@theaternow.org

Events-images-Theater_now4

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Susan Fronk, Twin Cities Chapter
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Continue Leave a Comment November 5, 2012

Marketing RESULTS 2012 – September 26, 2012 Metropolitan Event Center

 

Although most experts would agree that the fundamental principles of marketing have not changed. However almost everything else about how to attract and keep customers has including the best media, message, technology and tools to reach the target audience. Join us for a day of practical, easy-to-implement strategies and techniques for getting marketing results.

The focus of the day is to help you meet your marketing goals and objectives with practical strategic plans and actions. You will take away insider tips from leading experts on the most effective strategies and techniques for branding, public relations, trade show exhibiting, event marketing, networking and social media as well as keys to igniting your passion to fuel business success and increase profits.

The Seminar s& Workshops will also feature breakout networking opportunities while a select group of leading-edge firms offering marketing support services and products such as Software Development, Graphic and Display, Advertising Specialties and Technology firms will be exhibiting their products and services. Exhibitors will have experts no hand  to answer specific questions about transforming ideas into reality.

“We are thrilled to bring a select group of leading marketing and business experts to share their experience and wisdom at “Marketing RESULTS! 2012” says “MagicBrad”, event creator, event marketing expert and author of the book Alchemy: The Shifting of Perception in Life and Business. “This event will change the paradigm of marketing as each speaker has agreed to lift the veil and share detailed; actionable information that attendees can immediately implement to quickly grow their businesses.”

Our list of presenters includes:

Bill Herman – Emcee

Kim Eisen – “Say It to Sell,” How to authentically get more clients falling over each other to work with you.

Mike O’Neil & Lori Ruff, LinkedIn Rock Stars – “Jump Start Your LinkedIn and Social Media Presence”

Ron Eccles, Tradeshow Education Group ltd—Denver, CO – “Effective Exhibiting”

Magic Brad, The Marketing Alchemist – “Unveiling the MAGIC of Marketing with LIVE Events”, Turn LEADs into GOLD!

J.Marie Fieger, Nemer-Fieger Advertising and Marketing – “Cause Marketing: It isn’t Corporate Philanthropy”

Monica Kenton – “The Money Factor”,  Ignite Your Brilliance – Your
Path to Passion and Profit.

You’ll go home ready to make things happen after learning how to…

• Leverage LinkedIn
• Qualify Leads in 60 seconds
• Leverage Participation in Events
• Maximize P.R. (Public Relations)
• Put PASSION in your PITCH!
• Discover Your Target Audience
• Know your ROI before going in

10% of your investment in yourself goes towards helping others in the community!

ONLY $147

SEPTEMBER 26, 2012
Metropolitan Event Center
5418 Wayzata Blvd (I-394 and Xenia exit)
Golden Valley, MN 55416

RESERVE YOUR SEAT today at:
www.MinneapolisMarketingRESULTS.com

If you would like to exhibit or be considered as a presenter for future events contact “MagicBrad” at 612-242-6468

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Susan Fronk, Twin Cities Chapter
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Continue 2 Comments September 7, 2012

America and Other Stories Worth Telling

Mike Clough, State Director

Mike Clough 1949-2012

Did you enjoy your 4th of July Holiday?  While I usually enjoy this Holiday, my mood this year was more somber than celebratory. For those who did not know, Mike Clough lost his long battle with cancer on April 6, 2012. Adding to my inclination towards reflection is the relentless bombardment by the media with stories hyping the disastrous state of our current economic, social and political woes. One can only hope that the awful sound of doomsday predictions being launched like rockets between political opponents didn’t detract from the fireworks. Its enough to make one wonder if the great social and political experiment called America is failing and our story is nearing its end.

Still, I refuse to give up hope for the fulfillment of the grand vision outlined by our forefathers. Sure there are discrepancies between what the founders intended and the reality of America’s story. But, this is a story worth telling.

The bones of all stories include the beginning, middle and end. Of these three, what we remember best is the end. The stories most worth telling contain fundamental truths about the human struggle to survive and triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds. Truly great stories have the ability to catapult us beyond our current level of understanding and alter what we believe about ourselves and the world.

America’s story was and still is about freedom. However, the free society described in the Bill of Rights requires that its members bear a heavy burden of duties and responsibilities. This is as it should be. The longer I live, the more I realize that anything worth having carries a steep price. But, while everyone wants life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not everyone is willing to pay the price.

Today, as I reflect on America’s story, I am reminded of other stories worth telling – like the one about Earl Michael Clough.

Earl Michael Clough, or Mike as he preferred to be called, was the son of a Seventh Day Adventist preacher. Much to his father’s chagrin, Mike rebelled and did not follow in his father’s footsteps with regard to the practice of religion. However, he did win his father’s respect as a salesman. Ironically, my own father used to say that the best preachers were just great salesmen.

When Mike was just a boy, his father would drive him to nearby towns and sit in the car grading papers while he walked door-to-door selling pencils. On the application for the job of selling pencils, Mike wrote “under 65” in the blank where it asked for the applicant’s age. Of course, this happened so many years ago that it wasn’t illegal for an employer to ask that question.

Before long, Mike was out earning his father, which wasn’t too difficult since preachers and teachers are typically not paid very well, unless you consider the fact that Mike was only 12. He ended up being the top performing sales representative in the country.

As Mike matured, success did not come nearly as easily. In retrospect, he realized that as a youngster, he had an unfair competitive advantage over the competition that he referred to as the “cuteness” factor. When his prospects would see this adorable young man dressed up in a suit and carrying a briefcase, they reacted immediately with positive emotions. Mike represented all that we hold dear and revere in our capitalist culture; an insatiable drive to succeed.

Hidden costs of the American dream

Perhaps Mike’s early business success left such an indelible impression on his psyche that it defined him. Like many entrepreneurs, Mike had a fierce drive to succeed which led him to start several companies, some more lucrative than others.

A key component of Mike’s success was an intense thirst for practical knowledge and an even greater appetite to see it implemented. Although he did not think of himself as a “geek”, he was usually ahead of his peer group in leading changes that improved business results. While serving as a senior executive in a large corporation, he brought the first computers into the company.

While his extraordinary talent for influencing people, early adoption of technology and single-minded dedication served him well over the years, Mike encountered the usual setbacks, distractions and detours.

Sadly, it was Mike’s single-minded dedication to be well liked and become wealthy that impoverished his life. One of the things Mike used to say was “you can’t get the heat without chopping the wood”. While this philosophy served him well throughout his career, he neglected to apply it in his personal life.

Like Willy Loman from Arthur Miller’s Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “The Death of a Salesman“, Mike spent his entire life pursuing the American Dream and was only 63 when he died. To salesmen like Mike and Willy, the American Dream meant being well liked and attaining material success. Tragically, Willie and Mike’s obsession with success consumed them, leaving precious little time or energy for anything else. Perhaps the reason we find the play so compelling is because there is a little bit of Willy Loman in all of us. However, unlike Willy, Mike was actually well liked by many and did achieve success. Even more significantly, before he died, Mike recognized and admitted his mistake. To me, that was his ultimate triumph.

 What do you want more than what you say you want?

One of the most successful business coaches I ever met used to tell his clients that what they wanted more than what they said they wanted was the chief cause of all the misalignment in their business and personal lives. No matter how vehemently we might express our convictions, values and goals, it is our deepest longings, especially those we have yet to acknowledge, that determine our destiny.

One example of this type of misalignment is a person who claims to care about the environment and preserving our natural resources but fails to take the time to recycle. While this person may cite valid reasons for not doing so such as not having a recycling service, the truth is that it is simply not important enough or they would do it. In other words, they are expecting to get the heat without chopping the wood.

In what areas of your life are you expecting get the heat without chopping the wood?

Necessary endings and new beginnings

Many of life’s endings are necessary. Just as the early Americans were compelled to end the Tyranny of British rule, I have come to believe that death is often the only recourse in response to the tyranny of diseases like cancer. If you know the anguish of standing by helplessly while someone you love suffers, you may be able to understand how death can be a necessary and welcome ending.

My perspective on death changed after living in Arizona for a number of years. One the most profound gifts I took away from that experience was a deep and abiding respect for the values, beliefs and practices of Native American Indians.

Dying and endings are not viewed the same way in traditional Native American cultures as they are by most Americans. In the natural world, whenever something that was living dies it is recycled into useful matter necessary to ensure the longevity of other life forms. It is all part of the interdependent and dynamic cycle of life.  Contrary to the beliefs held by many of us from Western cultures, death is much more than a tragic loss. It is a vital component of what is needed to sustain the universe.

Another belief held by many Native Americans is that you must put back what you take. And, though Mike did not realize how “Indian” some of his philosophies were, he used to say, “you should produce as much, if not more, than you consume”.

Mike’s stated commitment and behavior were in complete alignment when it came to helping businesses succeed. He was one of the most professionally generous people I ever met. As a result, there are thousands of small business owners and professionals around the world who have benefited from his efforts. In this way, Mike’s story is a long way from ending.

Recently, I was reminded of how a person’s story continues after they die. Anyone who knew my late husband, Ron L. Fronk, appreciated the significant contributions he made during his lifetime. His professional speeches, seminars, books, audio-tapes and products have enriched the lives of people all over the world. Ironically, it was something that he did for fun that is making a difference today.

Although Ron was one of the most self-disciplined people I’ve ever met, allowing himself few indulgences, he did enjoy playing golf, smoking an occasional cigar and brewing his own beer. My daughter Molly and her husband Greg so enjoyed Ron’s beer when they came to visit us in Arizona that when Ron died in the fall of 2003, I gave his beer making supplies to Greg. Since then, he’s put it to good use.

This spring, inspired by the spirit of American heroism and individuality represented by the US aviators of World War II, Greg and Molly launched “American Sky Brewing Company”.  The couple were also inspired by family members who served like Molly’s grandfather (my Dad), who served as a Tailgunner in the Navy during World War II and Greg’s grandfathers, who served in World War II and others who served in Viet Nam.  And, as was mentioned earlier, Mike Clough was a member of the Special Forces during the late sixties. Their company slogan is “Let Freedom Pour”.

American Sky Brewing Company has a taproom located at 1510 Swasey Street in Hudson, Wisconsin with an aviation theme. The company also distributes their beer to area restaurants, bars and liquor stores. One of American Sky’s signature beers is called “Tailgunner Gold”, crafted from Ron Fronk’s original recipe. Since it’s inception, they have added numerous beers including “Amber Salute” and an India Pale Ale called USA IPA. You can follow American Sky Beer on Facebook.

So, what happens after the end?

Now that I have outlived two husbands, both of my parents, a brother, a sister, two sets of grandparents, most of my aunts, uncles and others too numerous to mention, I feel qualified to share some of my observations about this subject.

No matter what you may believe about what happens when someone dies, the impact they have had on others lives on.  You see, like freedom, love carries a steep price. On a relation-ship; when someone you love dies, the course you’ve been on suddenly makes an abrupt turn towards a place you never intended to go and from whence you can never return; Life without the person you loved.

The difficulty in adjusting to this new place depends on how big of an impact they had on your life.  The space in my life where Mike used to be is cavernous. Kind of like the one left by the icebergs when they receded from the place we now call the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

You may have noticed an absence of MainStreetChamber events and articles these past few months. My intention is to continue to serve the Minnesota business community. To that end, I am in the midst of a strategic planning process which more than likely will result in some repositioning. Please check this blog and/or your email for upcoming announcements.

Even though Mike died on April 6, 2012, it has taken me quite some time to be able to write about it.  Each and every day, I wake up to the reality of life without Mike. One of the more challenging aspects of this new life is how to sustain the goals, objectives and activities and MainStreetChamber without him. Now, I must perform my own work as well as his. And, because I do not possess Mike’s myriad talents, many of the tasks he performed are not being completed on time, if at all.  My hope is that those of you who have sent emails, tweets, texts or called will understand and grant me patience.

Start with the end in mind…

In my work as an organizational change consultant, I learned the importance of Steven Covey’s recommended approach in his wildly successful book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Habit number two is to Begin with the End in Mind.  Covey asserts that we must vividly imagine the kind of person we want to be, the kind of life we want to lead and the success we want to achieve before it can become reality.

Is the person you are today who you want to be? Is the life you are leading the one you want? Are you achieving the success you desire? If not, start by creating a detailed mental picture. Hold it in your mind for several minutes each morning after you wake up and each evening before you go to sleep.

A dear friend of mine, Mark LeBlanc, is someone I consider successful both personally and professionally. Mark teaches business owners that in order to achieve success they must develop the discipline of focus, consistency and building momentum for long term growth and results.

Mark has been a game-changer for literally thousands of small business owners and professionals in the course of his career, whether in his live presentations, coaching or his books, Growing Your Business and Never Be the Same, inspired by his 500 mile walk across Northern Spain.

His support of small business and MainStreet Chamber, with no thought of gain has been incredibly valuable to me and to Mike.  When I needed a favor for MainStreet Chamber, Mark always said yes.  For that reason, I strongly urge you to become familiar with his work and best business practices.  You can reach Mark through www.SmallBusinessSuccess.com.

Mark started a foundation to support young entrepreneurs and gives $3,000 grants each Fall to aspiring and deserving entrepreneurs under 30.  If you know one, encourage them to apply for a grant.  To honor Mike’s memory, please consider making a contribution.  Call Mark at (612) 339-4890 for a grant application or more information on how you can support this worthy endeavor.

The rest of the story

Like America itself, Mike sometimes fell short of his ideals, but that did not diminish the enormous impact he made while he was alive. As a matter of fact, one of the most profound contributions Mike made during his lifetime had nothing to do with business. During the late sixties Mike was a member of the Special Forces and served as a medic in the army. His job was to administer medical care to the injured and dying soldiers who were willing to pay the steep cost of freedom.

Someone once said that the average life expectancy for medics during that time was seven minutes. So, you can guess how amused I was when Mike, who had seen more blood and guts within the span of a couple of years than most people see in a lifetime, told me the most harrowing experience he could recall was when he delivered a baby on a helicopter.

I wonder if Mike could have imagined that the story he intended to create with his life would be the one people would tell. The story Mike was trying to create was about a serial entrepreneur. He probably didn’t give much thought to the parts of his story that I would feel were worth telling. He must have known that I would tell his story because I am a writer. However, In addition to being Mike’s business partner, for those of you who didn’t know, I was also his wife.

Thanks to people like Mike, my father, Greg’s Grandfather and millions of others who have paid their fair share of the cost of freedom, America’s story is a long way from being over. However, if we hope to fulfill the lofty vision of our forefathers, we must step up and do our part to ensure it.

In summary, I would encourage you to be mindful of the impact you are having on those around you – positive or negative and to make sure the story you are creating with your life is the one you want to be told because it will be. Perhaps it will be a loved one like me, a colleague or a customer. But, your story will be remembered and told by someone. The question is will it be worth telling.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about America, Mike Clough or the lasting impact others have had on your life in the comment section below. Or, you can email me directly at susan@susanfronk.com.

For information about me, feel free to visit my profile on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/susanfronk .

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Susan Fronk, Twin Cities Chapter
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Continue 37 Comments July 6, 2012

Are Networking Events Really Worth Your Time?

This is a special guest post by Ingrid Kollmann, State Director for MainStreetChamber Northern California.

MainStreetChamber Small Business Owners NetworkingNetworking is not about handing out business cards and telling everyone what you do.  It’s about asking questions and seeing how you can help and serve people.

When people say “I don’t get anything out of networking events, I have gone to them, handed out business cards and I’ve gotten nothing”, we have to go back to the first rule of networking.  Remember, it’s not about you, it’s not about what you get; it is about what you give.

So if you’re going to events to get, you might as well not go because you’re going to be right. If you say you’re not getting any business from them and they’re a waste of time, you’re 100 percent right.  When people say I’ve tried networking and it doesn’t work, you are 100 percent right for yourself because that’s your belief system and we’re probably not going to change that. Yet there are hundreds of small business owners that show up for MainStreetChamber™ events because they have the giving attitude and do receive a lot from those to which they give and serve.

Networking is, through the Law of Reciprocity, a system in which you help others reach their personal and professional goals, knowing that in return you will be helped in reaching yours.

How to get the most out of networking events: 

  • Rule #1.  No one cares who you are or what you do! You are not that important.
  • Networking is a sport and that sport is a marathon and not a sprint!  (Relationship building can take anywhere from a couple of weeks, to months and sometimes a year or longer.)
  • Where applicable, get all the eating and drinking over and done with BEFORE networking (leave hands free to shake hands and write on the back of business cards)
  • Act as the host, stand by the registration table or entrance and greet everyone coming in (it gets you very well known at the event as people believe you organized it)
  • Mentality of working a room: I am going to see how many people I can help tonight!
  • Show up early and stay late (that’s what real professional networkers do)
  • How to dress: Dress as you want others to perceive you (If you’re an auto mechanic, don’t wear a 3-piece suit.  If you’re a business professional, don’t wear flip-flops and shorts.  Make sure your shirts have all the buttons on it and your belly doesn’t show.)
  • Write important details (territory, type of preferred client, age, income, etc.) on the back of each card collected.  (Later when someone asks you if you know someone who could (fill in the blank), you can be the hero and refer him or her to those contacts.)

In closing, remember The Law of Mutual Exchange. Money is always the result of service.  Take your satisfaction from service; constantly seek to expand and improve it.  Our success is measured always in the quality and quantity of service we render. Money then is never an end, never a means.  Always it represents service only, for it is never more than a medium of exchange, and we can no more stop it coming our way when we are rendering service than we can start it coming our way when we are not rendering service.  No service that you perform can possibly go unrewarded.

As our valued reader, what are your thoughts about networking and reciprocity? Please place your thoughts in the comment section below.

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MainStreetChamber, http://mn.mainstreetchamber.net
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Continue 1 Comment March 25, 2012

Legislature Acts to Help Brick and Mortar Retailers

This could be the most significant bill passed for small business this decade
By Buzz Anderson

LegislatureEver lost a sale to an internet retailer that is not required to collect and remit sales taxes?   A lot of hometown brick and mortar retailers have lost customers to out of state online suppliers since they don’t include the sales tax in their pricing. Not only are brick and mortar retailers required to charge sales tax, they also have to collect and remit the sales tax at the end of each month which is costly and time consuming.

Rep. Greg Davids has introduced House File 1849 which simply states that anybody who sells to residents in the state through the internet, must also remit sales taxes on the transaction to the state of Minnesota.

If the proposal becomes law, it could enrich state coffers by $100-$200 million per year. The bill is likely likely to be included in the major tax bill that will be passed by this year’s legislature.

Click on H. H. F. 1849,  to view the bill.

You may also want to let your legislator know what you think. If you aren’t sure who your legislator is, go to http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/ and enter your home address. Sending your Senator and Representative a note letting them know how you feel can impact whether or not this bill will pass and become law.

So what are your thoughts about this bill? Share your comments with us.

About Buzz
Buzz Anderson grew up in his parents small business in southwest Minnesota.  He is a graduate of Mankato State University  and served 8 years in the Minnesota legislature. He served as President of the Minnesota Retailers Association from 2001-2010.

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Buzz Anderson,
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Continue Leave a Comment March 7, 2012

Success May Be Just A Tweak Away

Business success may be only a tweak away!In working with numerous business owners and being involved in several turnarounds over the course of my career, I have found that many are seeking a large magic bullet or a major overhaul to turn their business around. In most cases, I have found that major changes are not necessary. The good news is that, in most situations, all that is needed is a simple tweak here and there to turn a business around. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Accounts Receivable
Some business owners experience problems collecting the monies due to them from customers for products/services they have provided. I don’t need to tell you about the problems this can cause to your cash flow. Not only do small business owners not enjoy the task, they fear that aggressive collections will drive customers away. The truth is that it can. But a simple tweak here and there can turn things around.

A simple change in credit policy can make a world of difference. The first step is to check your prospective customers’ credit worthiness. If they have a questionable or negative credit history, you should require a deposit of at least 50% up front. I have learned through experience that a bad customer is worse than no customer, just as a bad deal is worse than no deal. Assuming that your standard terms are that payment is due in 30 days, the second step is to price your products and/or services at a level that allows you to offer a meaningful discount (the carrot or reward) if the invoice is paid quickly (10-15 days). The third step is to charge a substantial fee (the stick or penalty) for late payment. And finally, the fourth step is to make sure the customer understands your payment terms prior to placing the order.

With a few simple tweaks, you have laid the foundation to motivate the behavior you desire. You will find that some customers will pay early to take advantage of the discount and most will pay on time to avoid the late fees. Should you have to negotiate a settlement to get paid, you will be negotiating from a higher number rather than a lower number, netting you a larger settlement. And should you ever have to take a client to court to get paid, you will be suing for a much larger amount than without these tweaks.

Sales
Securing more sales from your sales reps can be as simple as tweaking their compensation plan. I say this with caution as making changes to a rep’s compensation plan can be demoralizing and have the opposite effect. However, setting it up correctly from the beginning of their employment can prevent the need for further changes.

Direct sales people are compensated on results more than any other employee. The reason for this is that their results impact the well-being of the business more than just about any other employee. For this reason, it is important that a business hire the most effective sales people they can recruit. However, I can’t count the number of times that I have been told by a business owner that they cannot afford the really good sales people. I always find this puzzling, since a sales rep’s compensation should be tied directly to their results. What in the world could be better than paying a rep $200,000, $300,000 or even $500,000 per year assuming they are making the sales to justify it? Just imagine the revenue they would be generating! Of course, it is the salary business owners feel they have to pay that concerns them. What if they pay a large salary to attract the really good sales people and then don’t secure the sales? This is certainly a legitimate concern regardless of how small or large a company may be. Yet again, a few tweaks can make a big difference.

The first step is to develop a compensation plan that will attract good sales people and not put the owner in the poor-house. The best overall compensation plans which I have used are based upon a quota that includes a lower base salary with a great commission opportunity for those who produce results. This might include an overall opportunity of $120,000/year at 100% of quota based upon a salary of as little as $2,000/month (20%) and commissions of $8,000/month (80%) based upon achievement of 100% of quota (less for underachievement and more for overachievement). Of course the key is to determine how much revenue they need to generate to justify this level of compensation and that becomes the quota. If they generate 125% of quota they would earn 125% of the $8,000/month commission ($10,000) and if they only generated 75% of quota, they would be paid only 75% of the $8,000 commission ($6,000). If you need to offer a larger opportunity to attract the level of sales person you feel you require, simply raise the quota to justify the larger opportunity at 100% of quota.

Naturally, quotas must be realistic and at a level you are confident a good sales person can achieve. If it is just “blue sky”, your employment offer will be rejected or once the employee figures it out, they will feel that they have been taken advantage of and you will lose a good sales person. As the years go by, there is no need to change the compensation plan. All you need to do is adjust the quota which is expected in every organization. You may also wish to sweeten the offer by including a short ramp-up that includes some sort of guaranteed commission during the first 90 days or so while they are filling their sales funnel. This will help them get by with a low salary while they are getting started.

The second step is the presentation of your offer. I always prefer a written offer as it is a great opportunity to spell out the details of the offer and expectations while giving the business the opportunity to word it in such a way as to make it the most compelling. It also gives the prospective employee a feeling of professionalism and security.

The third step is to wordsmith the offer. Just a little tweak here or there can make the offer far more compelling. Using the example above, which sounds better? “We offer a base salary of $2,000/month and commission of up to $8,000/month” or “We offer a $120,000/year opportunity at 100% of quota, comprised of 20% salary and 80% commission. Overachievers earn more and underachievers earn less.” Again a little tweak can make a big difference. Chances are some tweaks you decide to make can make it sound even more compelling.

Summary
I could easily give you many more examples if time and space permitted. You are probably familiar with the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” The same holds true for solving business problems. It doesn’t need to be overwhelming or require a major overhaul. In most cases, minor tweaks are all that is needed to solve most business problems. You may only be a few tweaks away from success! Allow me to leave you with a couple of thoughts. We don’t trip over mountains; it is the molehills that cause us to stumble. Managing the little things make the big things happen.

As fellow business owners, do you share this view or do you feel differently? We would love to hear your thoughts. Simply leave your comments below. Our members will appreciate it.

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Mike Clough, Minnesota State Director
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Continue Leave a Comment February 22, 2012

Give First; Expect Nothing in Return

In a recent article published in Forbes, titled “Today’s ‘G’ Generation: Replacing Greed With Generosity”, Scott Davis explores the anti-greed sentiment so evident in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The apparent cause for this cultural shift can be attributed to a number of high profile cases of corporate greed and world disasters in the last decade including 911, Hurricane Katrina and the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. The article credits the concept of “Generation G”, which stands for generosity, to one of the world’s leading consumer trend firms. When times are toughest, people place a high value on caring, empathy and generosity.

The vast majority of Americans have lost faith in big companies, the senior leadership of those companies and advertisers. Each year, three quarters of the employees in large companies report violations of laws and company standards. And, that’s just private industry. The media is full of stories about the latest scandal surrounding one of our politicians.

As our members know, our philosophy at MainStreetChamber is to give first and expect nothing in return. Make no mistake this is not just some flowery slogan promoting altruistic behavior, philanthropy or the practice of selflessly serving clients, employees and society. According to research, ego is a central motive for entrepreneurs. In fact, giving first without expecting anything in return may be one of the most self-serving things an entrepreneur can do.  But, before I expand on why this approach works, allow me to provide some background on the most significant factors that contribute to entrepreneurial success.

According to research, ego is a central motive for entrepreneurs. The true or rational egoist passionately loves the work as well as the process of building an organization and making it profitable. They are motivated to do what is actually in their own interest—that is, to do everything necessary.

In a study on “Entrepreneurial Motivation” conducted by Scott Shane, Edwin A. Locke and Christopher J. Collins published by Human Resource Management Review, entrepreneurship is not a profession for which people are naturally suited. It is a process. And, along the way, the entrepreneur comes face to face with any number of tough decisions, risks, obstacles, road blocks and/or detours. It is at these moments when many entrepreneurs self-select out of the game. Notwithstanding the role that numerous external factors play, it is the entrepreneur’s motivations that drive their decisions and ultimately determine their success.

The following motivations were identified in the study as having a significant impact on an entrepreneur’s ability to effectively advance through the process of starting, building, growing and sustaining a successful business:

  1. Need for achievement (the desire to improve something that exists or create something new)
  2. Risk taking (willingness to take moderate risks)
  3. Tolerance for ambiguity (sees situations without clear outcomes as attractive rather than threatening)
  4. Locus of control (belief that one’s actions or personal characteristics affect outcomes)
  5. Self-efficacy (belief in one’s ability to achieve a specific task – task specific competence)
  6. Goal setting (establishing objectives)
  7. Independence (taking responsibility for one’s own judgment over that of others)
  8. Drive (ambition, goals, energy and stamina, and persistence)
  9. Egoistic passion (selfish love of the work)

So, what does giving first, without expecting anything in return have to do with entrepreneurial motivations? Let’s look at each of them individually.

  1. Need for achievement – true entrepreneurs understand that in order to meet their goals they must demonstrate the value they can provide. By giving first, without expecting anything in return, they demonstrate their value.
  2. Risk taking – true entrepreneurs do not consider it risky to offer a certain amount of free advice, assistance, samples or trials of their products and services. Most marketers understand the power of giving something away because it sets in motion the law of reciprocity; which makes recipients feel obligated to return the favor.
  3. Tolerance for ambiguity – true entrepreneurs are at peace with the uncertainty that comes from giving with no assurance of a return. They are confident that even if they don’t get an immediate return on their investment, they have established themselves as a valuable resource.
  4. Locus of control – true entrepreneurs believe the action of giving first without expecting anything in return is a worthwhile investment in their personal and professional brand.
  5. Self-efficacy – true entrepreneurs are so confident in their ability to deliver high quality products and/or services that recipients will want to keep using it or will give them referrals.
  6. Goal setting – true entrepreneurs have specific and measurable goals in mind when they give first. Their goals include targeting certain companies and people to whom they are willing to give first.
  7. Independenc – true entrepreneurs have enough confidence in their own judgment to give first without expecting anything in return because they know why they are doing it.
  8. Drive – true entrepreneurs have enough drive, stamina, tenacity and persistence to keep on giving first without expecting anything in return until they have achieved their desired results.
  9. Egoistic Passion – true entrepreneurs are more than willing to give first without expecting anything in return because they love the work they do.

Networking at MainStreetChamber events gives you the perfect opportunity to practice giving first without expecting anything in return. Even though the primary purpose of networking is to meet the kind of contacts who can help you grow your business, it is critical that you focus more on what you can do for the people you meet than what they can do for you.

The best way to do this is to ask good questions. You must resist the urge to jump into your elevator pitch. If you demonstrate a genuine interest in the other person, they will be more inclined to open up and share more detailed information about themselves and their company. The more you learn about them the better job you will do in determining if you can help them in some way. The help you end up offering could be in the form of information, a recommendation or a referral to someone else who may be able to help them. This is a classic example of giving without expecting anything in return.

If the person you’ve been talking with happens to mention a challenge that your products and/or services could help them overcome, it would be foolish not to mention that your company could help them. However, this is another great opportunity for you to continue to build credibility and trust with this person by giving first and expecting nothing in return. Instead of launching into your sales pitch, why not suggest that you get together at another time to discuss their needs in more depth because although your products and or services help companies with issues such as those they described you want to make sure it is the right fit.

According to Scott Davis, Forbes contributor and Chief Growth Officer at Prophet, there are three core principles to keep in mind when giving:

  • Be authentic (i.e. be true to your brand and your core business)
  • Be relevant (i.e. make sure that what you do and say resonates with consumers and employees)
  • Be effective (i.e. make sure you make a measureable impact)

Many networking experts suggest you write notes on the back of the business cards you collect. I recommend that you bring along a notebook so you can take more detailed notes about the people you meet and the kinds of things you might be able to help them with. Then, whatever you do, make sure you follow up. Imagine their surprise when you contact them with the names of people, companies and resources that could help them. You may not ever do any business with them, but they will not forget you. And, that is worth a lot. Chances are they will recommend others to you.

Why not practice giving first at our next networking event? Each Monday, we send an email to members with a list of our upcoming events. They are also listed on our Upcoming Events page.

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Mike Clough, Minnesota State Director
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Continue 5 Comments January 17, 2012

SCORE Big In 2012

SCORE big in 2012Are you hoping to achieve better results in 2012 than what you experienced in 2011? Although hope and faith are certainly important ingredients for success, they are not a substitute for a good plan. And don’t forget the old definition of insanity: “To continue what you have always done while expecting different results.”

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any solid indicators that the economy is going to improve much in 2012. In fact, if our government doesn’t start making some dramatic pro small business changes, there are indicators that it could get worse. And even if it does improve, the experts are telling us it will never be the same as it was before it went south. So what’s a small business owner to do?

All we can do is focus on those things over which we have control. “We cannot change the direction of the wind but we can adjust our sails to reach our destination.” It sounds easy enough but when you are struggling to stay on course when sailing in rough waters, how can you adjust your sails?

The answer comes through continuing education and utilizing the many resources available to you. Allow me to highlight a few of them.

CEO FORUM
The CEO Forum is open for enrollment in January and new Forums will continue throughout the year.  The Forum provides roundtable opportunities to learn and share with your peers. Benefits for existing businesses regarding the Forum include:

  • Participate in professionally facilitated discussions on business issues
  • Receive feedback and advice on management, marketing, sales, finance and operations from other business owners
  • Opportunity to step back from day-to-day obligations and improve accountability to your goals and commitments
  • Exchange ideas and resources
  • Learn new approaches

Each participant will have a personal business coach. The dedicated coach will meet with the client on a regular basis, assess current business to prioritize, set goals and objectives with action steps to achieve.

The CEO Forum is jointly sponsored by SCORE and St. Thomas University and is targeted to small business owners with 5 to 20 employees. The cost to participate is a fraction of that charged by other roundtable/forums.

To enroll, contact the Minneapolis chapter of SCORE at minneapolis@score-mn.org or phone (952) 938-4570 and ask for Jim Handy.

THE SIMPLE STEPS FOR GROWING YOUR BUSINESS
The Simple Steps for Growing Your Business begins in April. It is a series of workshops and roundtables designed to provide a new way to connect with a group of under-served, existing businesses.  Minnesota SCORE chapters helped create 1,300 businesses in 2010 and over 65% of all SCORE assisted start-ups are still in business. The program is designed to help both current and new SCORE clients expand their business and contribute to the Minneapolis communities through job creation. The tools provided in this program are designed to assess, engage and mentor current small business owners so they can effectively implement strategies aimed at growth.

This low cost program is designed for small business owners or key executives who have been in business for one year, are fully committed to the business and want to expand. Experienced mentors provide one-on-one help to customize the growth plan. Roundtables meet to exchange ideas with a peer group of other small business owners. Finally, a menu of sales, marketing, operations, management and finance workshops (1 held every 2 weeks) focus on implementing strategies and plans.

To enroll for an April kick off, contact the Minneapolis Chapter at minneapolis@score-mn.org or phone 952 938 4570 and ask for Rick Barkley

MAINSTREETCHAMBER
Free membership and free networking events are just some of the benefits for small business owners. MainStreetChamber also offers a variety of continuing business education workshops, seminars, Lunch & Learns as well as Webinars. In addition, MainStreetChamber also sponsors continuing business education delivered by other credible resources including the two mentioned above.

The best way to ensure that you are notified of these events is to become a member of MainStreetChamber Minnesota and begin receiving our weekly newsletter, subscribe to our blog, like us on Facebook, join our LinkedIn group and/or follow us on Twitter.

So unless you want an encore of your 2011 results, you’ll need a better plan for 2012. As small business owners who wear many hats, it’s easy to get lost in the minutia. And it is ever so lonely at the top. I know because I have been there many times before. So why not take advantage of these and other resources brought to you by MainStreetChamber? It’s your business and your future… will 2012 be a better year?

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Mike Clough, Minnesota State Director
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Continue 3 Comments January 3, 2012

Nothing Focuses the Mind Like a Deadline

Meeting DeadlinesFocus is hard to achieve and even harder to maintain. This is mostly because of the tremendous number of distractions we face everyday. Small business owners become unfocused because of the myriad tasks, crises or opportunities that pop up everyday. Throw in a challenging economic climate and the focus challenge gets even worst. To combat this, you can employ one of the most powerful focusing methods I know – deadlines.

The Art of Setting Deadlines

Deadlines can be a scary thing. The original definition stems from a line around a prison which if crossed, would result in getting shot. Thankfully, deadlines today are not about life and death but rather about accomplishments on a timeline. Deadlines should be used to set a brisk pace of accomplishment but not a panicked pace of chaos. All deadlines should be rooted in solid business judgement and not thrown out just to have one.

Deadlines Are Not Goals

Every business has a set of goals and metrics it needs to hit. These goals are usually time sensitive and probably revolve around month, quarter and year end. Those dates are natural deadlines that you can use as both short term and long term yardsticks on your performance. The difference between setting a goal and a deadline  stems from the desire to achieve (goal) and having to achieve (deadline). Deadlines don’t take the place of goals – rather, they help you achieve your goals by getting tasks completed that are within your control. For example, lets say you want to increase your sales by 20% in 3 months. That’s clearly a goal since achieving that is somewhat out of your control. What’s in your control is the plan to increase those sales. Clearly, in order to increase sales, you need a plan and that plan should include deadlines.

Practical Deadline Setting

In order for a task to have a deadline, it must be achievable, given the resources within your control. If it’s not, then it’s just a goal. It’s important to distinguish between the two because the whole point of a deadline is that it needs to be completed by a certain date. To help you set deadlines and achieve them, consider the 4 step process listed below:

Step 1: Pick What’s Under Your Control

What we can directly control are prime candidates for deadlines. This is important because when you set a deadline, you need to have all of the tools and resources available to achieve it or it’s just a goal. Keep this in mind when you set deadlines – otherwise you will just get frustrated.

Step 2: Identify Tasks That Help Your Goals

A great way to set deadlines is to tie them to goals. As our example above showed, there are things that must be done in order to achieve a goal. From filing your taxes to sending out that proposal, these tasks are critical to complete quickly s they are appropriate for setting deadlines.

Step 3: Dedicate Time Each Day:

Once you set a deadline, you must be dedicated to getting it done. That means you have to work on it each and everyday. This is the beautiful thing about a task with a deadline – it should be only a matter of investing the time to complete it.

Step 4: Finish It No Matter What

A deadline means that whatever you are working on is time sensitive and must be completed by the deadline date. It’s important to adhere to this no matter what – even if it means staying up all night. Think about it this way, once your deadline task is finished, you can move on to other things.

Deadlines Will Help You Succeed

Part of the beauty of deadlines is that they force us to finish tasks. This may seem trivial but most small business people (in fact, most people) tend to put off tasks because they are too busy or don’t have enough time. By setting deadlines, these “I’ll get around to it” tasks get completed. Why this is important is that the success of completion builds on itself. Pretty soon, your goals are starting to get achieved because you are taking control of what you can accomplish. This, in turn, gives you more time to focus on your goals. Go ahead, give it a try. Set some deadlines and watch what happens.

About the Author: Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training, entrepreneur by nature and leader by endurance. His new site, EnduranceLeader.com combines two of his passions – leadership and endurance athletics. The main premise behind Endurance Leader is that by enduring through hardships and struggle, we can conquer anything. Jarie also used to be a SCORE counselor, where he helped over 200 entrepreneurs stay focused on what’s important. You can follow him on Twitter via @EnduranceLeader

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MainStreetChamber, http://mn.mainstreetchamber.net
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Continue Leave a Comment December 12, 2011

The Power of People

business networkingIt’s official. The Holiday season has arrived. Now that we’re past Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, my mailbox is overflowing with offers from retailers. And, for me, there is a definite theme to these offers. They are mostly from companies selling products and services related to technology. Technology has allowed these companies to track my internet search and buying habits which reveal my interest in products related to technology.

As a card-carrying techno geek I own a smartphone, iPod, iPad, HD TV, feature-rich universal remote controls and most of the latest technology. Since I bought most of it online, savvy retailers utilized analytics to profile me as a buyer of all things technical. And they would be right.

However, all of this got me thinking. As critical as technology is to building a successful business, it cannot replace the need for the human element. Technology does not purchase products and services; people do. Although Apple may argue with me, we do not have relationships with technology; our relationships are with people. Our strategic partnerships are with people rather than technology. For centuries, business has succeeded without a lot of technology. Yet, in the history of the world, I cannot recall a single business that has succeeded with out people.

For any business to grow and succeed, it needs people to buy products and services that are produced, sold, distributed and delivered by people. In addition, it needs brand ambassadors, strategic partners and relationship with people. And this is one place where MainStreetChamber™ really excels in helping our members. No one connects business owners more effectively than MainStreetChamber™. Our active members will testify to this at every turn.

It all begins by joining the Chamber. The good news is that there is no cost to join. If you haven’t joined MainStreetChamber™, you can do so by clicking here.

MainStreetChamber™ provides several online platforms where you can connect with other business owners, establish credibility and build relationships. You can also position yourself as an expert in your field and begin building relationships by commenting on (or publishing) articles here on our blog. You can join our LinkedIn group and become involved with our community there. You can like us on Facebook and participate in our Facebook community. You can even follow us on Twitter. Being active online can build your fame and credibility so that people important to your success want to meet you in person.

Of course, MainStreetChamber™ is most known for hosting off line events where business owners meet new contacts, identify prospective customers, strategic partners and suppliers as well as build relationships. Hundreds of small business owners gather regularly to network with one another to determine how each can help the other’s business grow and succeed. You might want to bookmark our Upcoming Events page.  We also email an events update to our members every week. If you are not receiving it, chances are you are not a member. To start receiving our emails, all you need to do is join – it’s free. Why not check out our last large networking event of the year; Tropical Holiday Business Networking Event. This may be the event where you meet the important contacts that will make 2012 much improved over this past year. As with all of our events, it’s free.

If your target market includes small businesses, you may want to showcase your products/services with an exhibit table at the event. This event is especially great if you are looking to build your pipeline for 2012 because hundreds of small business owners have already registered for their free ticket!

MainStreetChamber™ also provides continuing business education through webinars, workshops and seminars. In addition, we also promote important workshops and seminars hosted by other great organizations like SCORE Association.

In summary, as important as technology is, you cannot succeed without people. And, there is no better place to leverage the power of people than through MainStreetChamber™. I hope to meet you at one of our events real soon.

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Mike Clough, Minnesota State Director
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Continue 3 Comments December 4, 2011

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Member Kevin Dolan Says…

Just a quick note to thank you again for helping stage such a wonderful event tonight!

That 1 minute I spent addressing the room was worth several thousand dollars in potential new business.

I have never attended a better mixer in terms of learning and valuable business contacts made.

You did an OUTSTANDING JOB!!

I'm really happy I found your organization -- and I will tell everyone in business that I know about it.

Kevin Dolan
Client Cloning Systems
 

Member Sherry Buckley Says…

Thank you MainStreetChamber for the outstanding event tonight! The energy and synergy were awesome!

Susan Fronk's presentation was concise, to-the-point and informative and Mr. Gitomer was... interesting, entertaining, delightfully interactive and a valuable resource. All in all a very worthwhile evening. Thank you!

Sherry Buckley
Sherry Buckley 4U