Business Savvy, growing your business, Marketing

TOP 10 Benefits in Joining Your Chamber of Commerce

As a business owner, there are many benefits to joining your local Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of a Chamber is to provide educational and networking opportunities and to help businesses participate in community events which will help expand the local business economy.

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But here is a warning. You can’t just simply join the chamber and expect magical things to happen overnight. You will only get out of your membership what you actually put into it. Which means as a member you need to participate. Your participation in your chamber actually impacts the overall success of the chamber as an organization but also that of your community.

TOP 10 Benefits in Joining Your Chamber

  1. Discounts – You can receive discounts on everything from ski passes, office supply purchases, travel, shipping services, gym memberships, prescriptions, health and wellness, media advertising, and more.
  2. Services – Generally include access to business publications, roundtable discussions, industry briefings, magazines, programs,  leadership opportunities, business resources and more.
  3. Partnerships – Provide you with an opportunity to partner with other members, businesses, groups, and organizations to successfully grow and network your company and it’s offerings.
  4. Marketing and Advertising – Many times you’ll be offered discounted or free advertising once you become a member along with opportunities to have a link on the chamber website. Chambers offer a tremendous amount of advertising and marketing for businesses.
  5. Advocacy – Your chamber and the leaders within your community work together to advocate on behalf of the business community helping to protect your business and provide additional growth opportunities and incentives.
  6. Education and Training – Seminars, business workshops, webinars, small business resource events and more. You can find training on topics like a business startup, financing, human relations, insurance, payroll, QuickBooks, leadership, marketing, social media, taxes, employee engagement, and more.
  7. Economic Development – Your chamber is highly involved in growing your local community and therefore generally works with other organizations to increase the local economy and bring additional businesses into your community.
  8. Database and Leads – Chambers usually provide a membership list to members, which can be used to help market your business and services to other members. Larger chambers generally offer a leads group to help businesses find and gather solid quality leads.
  9. Events – Annual events like a chili cook-off, fall festival, BBQ, Rodeo, gala, awards ceremony, business after hours, open houses, concerts, and more. These are all terrific places to meet and great, rub elbows with fellow business professionals, and spread the word about your business. These are great marketing events too.
  10. Networking – I saved the best for last. This is the core component of any chamber and truthfully any business. The saying goes, “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”. Take advantage of as many events and opportunities as you can through your local chamber. The chamber is for your benefit and sometimes you have to stop working in your business, and actually make time to work ON your business.

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So get out there, get those business cards and flyers ready, test the 30-second elevator speech and most importantly make time and INVEST in your business. Your chamber membership is generally a tax write off and it’s a wise investment to help grow your business.

 

 

Tina Holtz is a serial entrepeneur who owns and operates a boutique virtual assisting and business advisory firm, Executive Business Services, LLC. She has more than 20 years experience in business development, business management, operations, sales, marketing, and procurement. Tina values building relationships and is passionate about helping business owners reach new heights. She provides a vast array of support services to business owners, entrepreneurs, professionals, and executives.

 970-989-8047 or email at tina@execbusinessservices.com

www.execbusinessservices.com

Business Savvy, growing your business, Uncategorized

4 Ways to Save In Running Your Business

chaching

I have found over the years that as business owners are consumed in running their business, often times they don’t know about potential money saving opportunities that are available.

As a Virtual Assistant providing business support services, it’s my job to stay up to date on the latest and greatest techniques, softwares, programs, and…. money saving opportunities that can increase my clients bottom line. Because I am based in Colorado these top “3 Ways to Save” mostly apply to Colorado companies, however most states do have similiar programs available.

Cost Containment Certification

This is a cost savings opportunity available to all businesses in The State of Colorado who pay for Worker’s Compensation. The State rewards businesses who implement a proper safety program that meets the following criteria:

* A safety policy statement
* A safety committee or coordinator
* Posted safety rules
* Consistent safety training
* A designated medical provider
* Claims management procedures
* Once a company receives certification, your workers’ compensation insurance carrier,           will apply a discount to the policy at the next renewal period after certification. A 5                 percent discount is applied to companies with:

* An experience modification rating
* Lower frequency and severity of losses for the most recent policy period      as compared with those from the previous policy period.
* If the company is not eligible for an experience modification rating: The      discount depends on the accident experience during the 12 months                before the renewal date. Discounts are awarded on the number and cost      of accidents and range from 2 percent to 10 percent.

If you have your worker’s compensation insurance through Pinnacol, they provide you with a workbook that walks you through the process as well as providing sample forms. I’ve helped several businesses with the set-up process of their Cost Containment Certification and it can save at a minimum of 5% on your worker’s compensation premiums and more. I had a client saving 13% annually on their premiums.

Enterprise Zone Tax Credit

The State of Colorado provides a range of tax credits available to businesses that are located in what they call Enterprise Zones. You can click on this link to see if you are located in one of these zones, http://choosecolorado.com/doing-business/incentives-financing/ez/. Here are some of the available credits.

EZ – Investment Tax Credit: Providing businesses a tax credit of 3 percent for equipment purchases.

EZ – Job Training: Companies that implement a qualified job-training program for their enterprise zone employees may claim an income tax credit of 12 percent of their eligible training costs.

EZ – New Employee Credit: A tax credit offering businesses $1,100 per new job.

EZ – Agricultural Processing: A tax credit of $500 per new business facility employee may be claimed by business adding value to agricultural commodities through manufacturing or processing.

EZ- Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone New Employee: Offers $2,000 total per new job for new businesses located within an enterprise zone.

EZ – New Employee Enhanced Ag Processor Credit: Businesses located in an enterprise zone may be eligible for a credit of $500 per new employee, if the business is an agricultural manufacturing or processing business.

EZ – Health Insurance: Offers businesses $1,000 per insured job available for the first two years in state enterprise zones.

EZ – Research and Development Tax Credit: A tax credit for businesses up to three percent, based on the increase of a company’s research and development expenditures within an enterprise zone during the previous two income tax years.

EZ – Vacant Building Rehab: Allows owners or tenants of a building in an Enterprise Zone that is at least 20 years old and that has been completely vacant for at least two years to claim a tax credit of 25 percent of the cost of rehabilitating the building for commercial use, up to $50,000.

EZ – Commercial Vehicle Investment Tax Credit: Offers businesses a state income tax credit up to 1.5 percent on commercial trucks, truck tractors, tractors, or semitrailers, as well as associated parts. Learn more.

EZ – Contribution Projects: Enterprise Zone (EZ) Contribution Projects encourage community participation and public-private partnerships to revitalize EZs. EZ Administrators may propose projects for EZ Project status to implement the economic development plan of that specific EZ. EZ Administrators work with their communities to bring forward proposals that meet the economic development needs, result in job creation/retention and business expansion, and have the support of the community. Colorado taxpayers may earn Colorado income tax credits by contributing to targeted efforts. Learn more.

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Save Energy, Save Money

Throughout the U.S., everyone is interested in saving energy and money. Many local and state governments are offering programs that provide rebates, tax credits, and more. In my area, our county has a group called Garfield Clean Energy. They offer free walk through to business owners, and will help design an energy plan for you, provide coaching, and connect you with contractors. Rebates are available for up to 50% of a cost of project that will save energy according to your energy plan developed. For more information visit, http://www.garfieldcleanenergy.org/com-rebates.html

Complete an Office Systems Audit

Having an office systems audit or analysis completed takes an in-depth look at where you spend money within your business and provides an opportunity to analyze where savings can be implemented. I personally take it a step farther and look at potential increased revenue streams that might be left untapped.

Generally you review your company as a whole; your business structure, products and services offered, your target market, goals, overall efficiency, expectations, employee morale and turnover rates, training, safety, expenses, sales volumes and reports, marketing strategies, a thorough review of policy’s and procedures, processes, softwares, weaknesses, strengths, exit plan, procurement, contracts, and your future outlook.

Savings and increased revenue are almost always located in an Office Systems Audit and with the New Year coming, this might be a terrific resolution to start your New Year off with a bang.

Tina Holtz is a seasoned business professional with more than 20 years of experience in business development, business management, sales, marketing, and procurement. She is the owner of Executive Business Services, LLC and provides virtual assisting and business support services to business owners, entrepreneurs, professionals, and executives. You can reach her at 970-989-8047 or email at tina@execbusinessservices.com – www.execbusinessservices.com

 

Business Savvy

A Loss of Respect

I have to say that I am so utterly shocked these days in the lack of respect that potential employers have for applicants who apply for their open positions.

Recently my husband has had to start looking for a new job, and for the last two months he has applied over and over again for multiple positions with multiple companies, only to never hear from them, EVER! Not a phone call, not an email, not even a letter. We sit here wondering if any of these employers are ever going to call or what happened with his application. Was it even received?

What does that say about a business or company? What does that do to a company’s image? It is crucial for businesses to remember that even when going through the hiring process, applicants are still consumers who may use their products or services, or know someone who might. Treating people poorly or with lack of respect in any capacity is just poor business. People talk and people will remember anytime something negative happens to them. Trust me, it’s not worth the risk of giving your company a black eye.

If you place an ad seeking applicants for an open position within your business, every applicant deserves a response, period. Even if it’s an automated email response that notifies the applicant that their application has been received and that someone will respond within a specified time frame.

Another suggestion is that if you have 32 applicants and you know that only four are being considered, it would be best to send a letter or email to the applicants who are not being considered that you appreciate their application and interest within your company, but that you have chosen a candidate that you feel best fits your needs at this time. Once you have chosen the applicant that fits your needs, every other applicant deserves notification that the position has been filled. You may even want to offer to keep their resume on file for future openings and offer them the option. I have found some of my best employees by going back through previous applicants and giving them a second chance.

I hired employees for one of my past employers, and I took a lot of pride in the fact that I contacted every applicant with an update on our hiring process. I had a position where more than 70 applicants applied, but I took the time to contact each one of them and it really built a strong reputation for my employer and myself and provided a glimpse of our true professionalism.

I am not sure why the rules of the game seem to have changed over the last decade, and why no one takes the time to treat each other with respect and professionalism, but everyone deserves to know where they stand, especially when they are applying for a job that will support and sustain their livelihood. Nothing is more concerning than that part of your life and the not knowing if you are being offered a job or not.

I guess I see it like this, if you have a car and you need it serviced and you call 10 different service providers and you never hear anything back from them, what does that say about their company? The same thing can be said for a business who handles the hiring of employees.

Take the time and be appreciative that someone was willing to apply for a position within your company. You will get better applicants and additional referrals when you seek future candidates.

Miss Executive-Tina

business growth, Business Savvy, growing your business, Marketing, Social Media/Online Marketing, Virtual Assisting

Outsourcing 101

So what is outsourcing you ask?

Well some people actually think that it means that you are sending your work overseas to some foreign company for cheap labor and non English speaking representatives, and although that is a possibility with some firms, that’s definitely not the case with your typical virtual assistant or virtual assisting firm.

Traditional VA’s offer outsourcing as a business service for busy professionals who struggle with a variety of situations, like time management issues, possibly lacking the specific skills or confidence with certain business tasks, or just find themselves in a position where their not ready to bring a staff member aboard to perform these duties. That’s where a well trained VA comes in.

Teamwork
Photo Courtesy https://www.workquotes.net

Outsourcing is available for pretty much everything and anything business related. A majority of small businesses already hire a group of professionals outside their business for the usual services, like an attorney, accountant, business advisor, etc. and your VA should be part of this team.  VA’s have the ability to outsource an enormous amount of business tasks. Common ourtsourcing duties include social media services and management, data entry, basic administrative needs, public relations, data maintenance, research, scheduling, purchasing, business development, marketing, training, and much, much more.

Outsourcing provides business owners with a very unique tool. Imagine that you want to get involved in the social media gold rush but you’re intimidated by the internet and all that technology stuff, and you’re probably working hard on keeping your customers happy and fulfilling their needs. Lets face it, when in the world are you supposed to have the time to start a facebook page and keep up with the content updates? More than likely, you know it’s something you should do, but it’s the least of your worries at this point.

However, in this situation it would be in your best interest to meet with a VA and review how having a social media outlet presence could help your business gain revenue and what specific methods should be used to get you there to accomplish your goals. A VA can set your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and website pages up for you, review them with you, and then once you develop a strategy, the VA can manage them on your behalf as often as you need. Your VA can also incorporate a nice professional weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletter that will keep you in constant contact with your clients. The key to keeping your clients is to remain in contact and to be seen as an informative source, rather than a pesky business who just wants to make a quick buck. Set the stage, be the leader in your market by being the go to source for what your clients need.

teamwork
Photo Courtesy http://www.carrie-persichini.blogspot.com

 

Something that is always in the back of my mind when I go to the vet clinic with one of my animals is that I think how nice it would be if my vet actually could notify me when my animals are coming due for their booster shots or their annual checkup.  I have 4 dogs and 3 cats, and trying to keep track of when they are all due for shots is a nightmare, but what an awesome service that would be for the vet to provide and I can guarantee you that there would be in increase in revenue for the vet if they had a VA who could incorporate this into their business. The same can go for any business, a dentist, doctor, chiropractor, eye doctor, service station, etc.

Start getting creative and think of ways to increase your bottom line and contact a VA to start implementing these services for you. Trust me, the investment is worth every penny and then some.

 

All the Best,

Miss Executive- Tina

Business Savvy, Marketing, Social Media/Online Marketing

Keeping in Touch

So you’ve decided that you’d like to stay in touch with your customers more often and you’d like to do something more effective compared to snail mail, postcards and generic marketing emails that they may never read. Maybe you’ve been thinking about taking the plunge and trying the new so called online marketing techniques that everyone’s been talking about but you’re just not sure where to start. I can help. 🙂

I can tell you from my own personal experience that there are ALOT of methods out there but I’m going to review a few of my most favorite techniques. When you implement these methods you want to ensure that you commit 100% in order to see results.

planFirst start with a plan. Like anything you need to understand what you hope to achieve and gain with your new plan and what your objectives are going to be.

Do you simply want to inform customers of specials and new product updates or do you want to simply build relationships and strengthen them by providing helpful information, tips, and just simply keeping in touch? It’s proven that the more your customers see valuable information from you, the more likely they are to do business with you. They will see you as a trusted source. The key here is the word VALUABLE. The information needs to be worth their  while, information they find intriguing or helpful to them. Then you can start putting your plan into action.

I suggest that you start with an email marketing campaign by using a program like Constant Contact, www.constantcontact.com, or MailChimp, www.mailchimp.com. Both of these are online services where you can choose from hundreds of templates including newsletters, coupons, postcards, etc. The templates are very user friendly and match any color scheme you may have. They have hundreds of pictures in their stock galleries for you to choose from as well, so you can make your emails look extremely professional in a matter of minutes. You can then easily import your email addresses from your computer into the program, where your email addresses will then be stored for future campaigns. Simply add new email addresses in and start building your list.

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You can start your email templates months in advance, save them, and work on them when it’s convenient for you, in addition to being able to set timers and schedule the exact time of delivery for when you want them to be delivered, such as 7am on Friday morning, or 4pm Monday afternoon. You can send holiday greetings and cards and pricing specials or notifications anytime.

When you send your emails, always abide by anti spam laws and the email policy’s of your email marketing provider, there are strict laws regarding spam and junk mail. I always provide an opt-in and opt-out attachment in all emails and have a link in all my emails for automatic signup to my email campaigns and newsletters. I also ask my customers to forward the emails and newsletters if they feel someone else might find the information useful. I use these tactics for what I call soft selling techniques. My goal isn’t to push the customer into purchasing or buying from me, in fact most of my newsletters have nothing in them relating to my products. I actually provide them with helpful tips, tricks, and information they might need. For instance if I sell automobiles, I wouldn’t include any sales information in my monthly newsletter. Rather, I would provide articles on how to keep your vehicle running in cold winter months, how to keep your vehicle protected from sun and UV rays, and infromation on the best rated tires in the industry. I might include tips on how to get the best fuel mileage and how to repair chips in the paint. If I owned a laundromat, I would focus on telling people about the newest laundry detergents, or stain removing products, and provide tips on how they can get stains our of their clothes. If you operate a veterinary clinic, then tell your customers the importance of vaccinating your pets, provide a calendar of pet related activities in the community, review common pet problems, and the proper way to clip pet nails etc. You get the idea.

paperless postAnother wonderful program I have used in the past is called Paperless Post, www.paperlesspost.com. This service is also online and is a virtual card company. Rather than spend the money for mailing actual invitations or cards through mail, and never knowing if your intended recipient received it, you can literally create a highly professional invitation, thank you, or holiday card, with a matching envelope through Paperless Post, and then write your content, change fonts and colors, add pictures, logos etc. Upload it all, attach an RSVP and then simply upload your email contacts for whom you want to send the card to and schedule delivery. Once your emails go out, it tells you when it was sent, when it was opened by the receiver, and they can immediately click on the link in the card to rsvp. It’s that simple! I have used this for large Open House Events and for sending Holiday Cards and Thank You Cards with huge success. You can track your responses and then re-send the card or invite anytime if your recipient still hasn’t opened the card. The tracking results are so helpful and allow you to be highly efficient.

I also highly recommend getting involved in social media and blogging. I am a firm believer that if you commit to engaging in social media and you continuosly update it several times per week, this will result in higher sales and engagement with your customers. Remember the goal is to build relationships which will eventually lead to business.

Top Five Suggestions for Social Media:

Twitter-www.twitter.com

Facebook-www.facebook.com

Pinterest-www.pinterest.com

LinkedIn-www.linkedin.com

Tumblr-www.tumblr.com

For more information on social media, visit my other blog posts.

Here’s to building relationships!

Miss Executive, Tina Holtz

Business Savvy, Business Start-up

2014 What’s Your Plan?

The new year is here. Have you actually sat down and made a plan for what you want to gain from your business this year? If not, then it’s time to do it or you never will. This is one of the things I find most often that business owners never get around to doing. You get so wrapped up in your business that you actually forget to set goals and make a plan for growth. How can you achieve anything if you don’t know what you hope to achieve? 2014

Do you want to add a new product line to your business this year? What is it? When do you want to implement it? How are you going to market it? What is your overall revenue projection? Maybe you want to increase revenue by 30%. How will you do it? What approach will you take? Will you increase your marketing? If so, how much and with what method? Will you add new personnel? What will that new personnel have to do to achieve your goals? Will you incorporate incentive programs? These are all questions many business owners are asking themselves but you fail to develop a plan to achieve it. Let’s change that and get you on the path to success for 2014!

bpI can’t stress enough how important it is to have a plan every year for your business. Alot changes from one year to another, sometimes even within in a few months. If you don’t have a business plan, step one is for you to make one right now. Make that your new years resolution. I’ve written alot of business plans over the years for a variety of companies, from start-ups to existing businesses and every time, the owners are amazed at what they read. They either look at the plan and think wow we’ve come a long way, or they think how did I get to where I am, or wonder why they are not doing better. The plan provides you with a snapshot of your business and is highly thought provoking. Some of the best ideas for business growth have come out of what is seen in the business plan. You can see first hand the success or failures of your business.

I am amazed everytime I see a business operating without a plan. Whether you are just planning to start a business or whether you’ve been in business for 12 years and still going strong, you should have a strong business plan. You’re in business to make money and to capture as much of your market segment as you can. The plan will help ensure that you’re doing just that and will help guide you to the next level and help keep you one step ahead of the competition.

A business plan is full of information. When it’s written well you should be able to really see your ups and downs, as well as your success and failures. You need to be honest and forthcoming when you write your plan, sometimes it’s not always fun, but sometimes it’s a terrific eye opener. goals

If you need assistance in writing a business plan or setting goals for your business for 2014, Executive Business Services can assist you in doing so. Feel free to contact me anytime.

Wishing you a prosperous new year!

Miss Executive, Tina Holtz

Business Savvy

Customer Loyalty, Keep’em Coming Back

Today customer service just isn’t what it used to be and business owners often wonder how they can compete and what they can do different than just offer customer service. Today, everyone says they offer customer service, and in most ads they’ll try to state how their customer service is better than everyone else’s. In the end I rarely see customer service anywhere! The term has been widely used for so long that it means nothing anymore. It’s been abused. What does matter is Customer Loyalty and keeping your customers happy so that they come back over and over again.Customer Loyalty

With the new wave of technology and the wide spread use of the internet, many businesses are happy with just a one time sale. Their customer base is so large, they don’t need to keep them coming back, but imagine if you could. Imagine how much better your business would be and how much more successful you would be overall.

You can set yourself apart by keeping your customers loyal. So how do you do it? You provide the absolute best service, bar none. I mean, you go the extra mile to make your customers experience the best. You don’t give story lines or make up excuses, and when they place an order, you under promise and over deliver.

Remember the old addage, the customer is always right. Well, their not always right and it’s ok to let them know when their not, when you do it the correct way. However, in the end the customer is the one who ensures you get a paycheck. If you chase them all away or develop a bad reputation, no one will come back and your business will be closed. The customer pays your bills!

I am a firm believer in providing the absolute best service and sometimes I over promise, but I still manage to over deliver. When a customer places an order and you tell them it will take 10-14 days to deliver, if you get the product early, then deliver it early. They’ll be thankful. If you make a mistake, always own up to it and be honest with them. Explain the situation and tell them how you’re going to fix it, DO NOT give excuses or place blame upon others.Customer Service

Its simple. Go above and beyond and the customer will do the same. They’ll be back over and over again. Set yourself apart and take care of your customers and they’ll build loyalty with you.

Miss Executive, Tina Holtz