New Year’s Resolutions for Your Business

It’s that time of year… when we’re all striving to be our best and many of us have set up New Year’s Resolutions to help us along!  Some years I make resolutions, some I don’t.  2010 brings my 20th high school reunion, though, so I’ve got a bundle of them.

But this is the first time I’ve ever considered whether our members make resolutions for their businesses.  2009 was pretty dismal for some and I think we’re all looking forward to 2010 bringing bigger and better things. What can we do to help make it a year to remember for all the right reasons?

  1. Promote Your Business Regularly and Consistently. This is the year to bring your marketing plan back up to speed in order to take advantage of the growth ahead.  Whether it’s print advertising, social media, or simply getting new brochures / flyers, prices are still lower than the norm and you may be able to lock in a great rate.
  2. Buy Local. How does buying local help your business?  Well, it helps every single one of us by broadening the tax base and increasing employment opportunities for residents. Those residents are then able to purchase your goods / services.  A win-win!
  3. Schedule Time. I had to throw the Manatee Chamber in there somewhere, right? Networking works. As does volunteering for a Committee / Task Force that will be working to improve our area.
  4. Develop New or Enhance Current Skills. There are many classes and seminars available to broaden your knowledge base. Make the most of your opportunities in the coming year.

I’m sure there are plenty of other areas in which you can set goals / resolutions.  Take a few minutes to set up your plan for 2010. And try to keep them!

URL Shorteners… and Malware!

I saw an article online the other day, although I can’t remember where, and it started my wheels turning.  Then, today I saw back-to-back posts on Mashable (an online social media guide) that Google and Facebook have come out with their own URL Shorteners or are about to do so.

First, you may be asking me what a URL Shortener is.  Basically, it’s a web tool that really caught on due to social media.  It takes a long website link – say http://www.manateechamber.com/rfp-tool.aspx – that would take up 35 of your 140 Twitter characters – and makes it teeny tiny.  For instance, that web link might become http://bit.ly/8FMNZ4.

But it poses an interesting issue.  It makes it much easier for you to click through to a site you normally would not visit.  You don’t know for sure where that bit.ly link is taking you.  And since Malware developers are among the trickiest individuals around, you can bet they’re taking advantage of this opportunity.

So please be careful clicking on links… especially shortened links like the above.  Keep your computers and your personal information safe!

Experience China in 2010… and Take in the World Expo

The Manatee Chamber of Commerce is offering an amazing trip to China September 1st through the 9th, 2010! The trip is priced at a low $2,000 for Chamber Members and $2,300 for non-Members to enjoy nine days of basking in Chinese culture.  With fantastic meals, 4- and 5-star hotels, incredible shopping and more. All tours are with an English speaking guide.

Join the Chamber, business leaders, members, and friends for a once in a lifetime all-inclusive trip that will leave you breathless. I went myself in October of this year and had the opportunity to meet with several American companies doing business in China as well as American / China Chamber of Commerce officials.  It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Come see all the beauty and culture that China has to offer as you experience ancient and modern Chinese wonders. This will be a timely, unforgettable experience for you and any guests. The trip will satisfy all different types of vacationers… from sightseers to adventurers and even those wanting to learn about Chinese business opportunities.

The trip will take you to Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.  You’ll also spend one half day at the 2010 World Expo!

Mark your calendars for an orientation meeting on April 6th, 2010 at 5:30pm in the Manatee Chamber’s Lakewood Ranch Office at the McClure Center.  More details to follow regarding the trip and this meeting.

For additional information or to make your reservation, contact Bob Bartz at 941-748-4842 ext. 112 or email BobB@ManateeChamber.com.

Buy Local Week

LocalQuotes4U Online Bid ToolA week or so ago, I posted an “event” on Facebook. This isn’t a normal event with people getting together and food being served. It’s an online marketing event to help promote our buy local initiatives and LocalQuotes4U in particular.

As we enter the holiday season, it’s important to remember how much buying local does for our community. According to a study by Florida TaxWatch, for every $100,000 Floridians spend online with out of state companies, we lose a local job. In 2008, Floridians spent more than $11 billion online and 112,000 jobs were lost.

A locally owned business is more likely to produce income, jobs, tax receipts and charitable donations for a community over several generations. Supporting local businesses preserves the economic diversity of our community and the unique character of our neighborhoods.

Please join us the week of December 1st as we shift our shopping local and promote the LocalQuotes4U Tool. This tool enables residents and organizations in our area to request bids on their products and services. It saves them time and money while supporting local businesses. If we all use this tool, it will help save and create jobs in our community.

Visit Buy Local Manatee on Facebook to stay “in the loop” on future buy local initiatives and events!

BBC Scam Alert: Census Taker or Con Artist?

With the 2010 U.S. Census process beginning, the Chamber’s Better Business Council warns consumers to be cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft.

There have already been reports of some census related scams emerging, with people impersonating census workers to solicit funds and try to obtain personal information from unsuspecting consumers. 

Here are the facts: 

  • Legitimate census takers will wear a badge and carry a black canvas bag reading “U.S. Census Bureau”.  The badge is not a photo ID, so ask to see a driver’s license to validate his or her identity, and never invite anyone you don’t know into your home! 
  • Census workers will never solicit donations or any other types of payments. 
  • The census taker will be gathering information such as name, address, age, gender, race, and may ask for basic financial information such as salary range.  They will never ask for Social Security numbers, bank account information, or credit card accounts. 

Mailing of the official postage paid census questionnaires begins in mid-March 2010, and these surveys do not ask for a donation. Only those who have not responded to the second questionnaire will receive a follow up from the census bureau between April and July of 2010. The workers may contact consumers by telephone, mail or in person at home – but will never contact anyone by Email, so be on the lookout for Email scams impersonating the census, and never click on a link or open any attachments that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

How to be a Star Employee on Social Media

I came across this article via Twitter and, of course, it prompted a blog post!  The news is full of stories about people who were fired from or lost the opportunity for a job because of their behavior on social media sites.  Super cautious never hurt anybody, though.  I think it was Kevin McNulty with Netweave Social Networking (during his seminar for Chamber members earlier this year) who said, “If you wouldn’t feel comfortable putting it on a billboard while your mother was filming it for the news, don’t post it online.”

Post Work Stuff During Work Hours, Family and Friends After Work
Ever since email became prevalent, people have used it for personal needs during work hours. And it’s pretty hard to get caught.  The same is not true of social networking because of the time stamp.  It’s so easy to get engaged in conversations, photo viewing, and the like.  It’s a struggle to keep a strong work ethic with so much temptation at your fingertips, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Always be Positive About Your Work / Never Criticize Your Manager or Management
I was on Facebook the other night and saw a post from an old high school friend who lives in another state.  His status update was something to the effect of, “I’m so tired of working for the devil.  It may be time to decide if I should stay at this job of eight years just to draw a paycheck or if I should get out of this horrible place and be happy.”  I was shocked!  I’d read about such happenings but had never actually seen one so blatantly stated.  I peeked at his employer (couldn’t help myself, really) and then did a facebook search.  Not only does his company have a fan page, but at least a half dozen people who work there are on his friends list!  Any one of them could pass that on.

So consider this your friendly reminder.  Whatever is put on the Internet stays there for life!  And you may think privacy settings are protecting you, but there are definitely ways around them.

Get Outside!

This beautiful weather always inspires me to get outside more. My husband’s an amateur photographer, so I just take my book and wander along while he photographs wildlife. It’s about the only way I get any fresh air!

Then yesterday, Terri Behling from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) brought in some brochures for SWFWMD’s new Get Outside campaign. The tri-fold brochure (which you can download at www.watermatters.org) showcases 54 different parks owned and operated by the District. It’s a great little cheat sheet of which parks have birding trails, allow dogs, offer fishing opportunities, etc.

Now I have more places to check out! Besides Robinson Preserve, which I have not yet made it to, I plan to work my way through the list and visit all of the parks in our area. They say that a simple way to boost your brain power and improve health is to get fresh air and I know I don’t do enough of that. And interaction with nature reduces depression, promotes, healing, sparks creativity, and even increases life expectancy. Win-win-win opportunity.

Walking through parks in the Florida winter weather is definitely my favorite way to get outside. Do you have a park recommendation for our area? What’s your favorite outdoor activity?