Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grow Your Business: Don't be Late for a Very Important Date

Here's the latest entry in our Grow Your Business series, as always, from Carol Ritter of CarolTalks.  Enjoy!
Vacation was coming to an end and I wanted the last day to do all my favorite things.  Go to the beach, eat seafood, take a bike ride, play with the grands and get my healthy drink, THE RED BARON.  This isn’t any old drink, it’s a drink packed full of beets, apples, pineapple, oranges, vitamins and minerals.  I arrived at the famous juice bar at 8am and they were not open.  People started to gather and by 8:15 we were are questioning  whether they would open at all.  The crowd began to protest, “I want my Energy Elvis, I came to get the Love Potion, I heard about the delicious Happy Monkey, a drink loaded with bananas and chocolate.”  As we all started looking out over the streets I recognized a young man dragging himself into work, as he sauntered by us, a woman asks angrily, “what time do you open?” He replied, “right now.” That was not the answer she wanted.  “I was told you opened at 8am.” “We do but I don’t have a chef, I have no money in the register and I’m waiting for staff to show up.”  He let us in, began to serve water to us all and then the fun began.  People were complaining, “I wanted your gourmet breakfast sandwich, what’s going on?”  Enough was enough and the people started to exit to find breakfast elsewhere.  All of a sudden the staff showed up, the chef, two waitresses and guess who was the latest of all, the owner showing up at 8:40am.  They scrambled, they hustled, they kicked into high gear to fill all the orders.

In your business, are you willing to loose clients due to tardiness?   Do you create an environment that makes your customers feel like they are the most important person in the room?  If you are the boss, do you set an example for your staff?  Can you expect to be successful if your staff and you show up 40 minutes late?  Do you make promises you can’t keep?  Are you late for the most important date a date with your customers?

The end of the story is the waiter gave me the delicious RED BARON for free, the breakfast sandwich was to die for and our waiter was feeling a bit embarrassed.  But, is this acceptable even if you have a fantastic menu and people line up to visit your establishment every day?  As a business owner our reputation is everything, there is always someone sitting around the corner waiting with a bigger and better menu than you.  Don’t be late for that very important date, it could cost you much more than a few customers.

Carol is an accomplished professional speaker, coach and educational consultant specializing in remarkable leadership, outrageous fundraising, million dollar marketing, and building organizational alliances throughout the country.  Carol’s innovative e leadership with bullet proof ideas for recruiting MORE MEMBERS, MORE MONEY AND BETTER LEADERS. www.caroltalks.com 610-442-4545

Daily Briefing, 7/31/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Lehigh Valley's unemployment rate jumped in June, hitting 8.5% after reaching 8.1% in May.  A possible regional police department is in the works in the Slate Belt.  In state-wide news, the General Assistance program that provides cash to 70,000 Pennsylvanians ends this week.  In national news, a review by Politco shows that up to five million voters can may be affected by Voter ID laws.

That's it for now - have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Five business mistakes you might be making

Survey's show that 50% of small businesses fail within five years.  It's tough out there, and owning a small business is no easy challenge - we salute all of you who are willing to take the chance on running your own business and make it big.

So, what can you do as a small business?  Here are five mistakes that we've seen our businesses makes - and some tips on how to avoid them:

1.  Ineffective marketing - or none at all:  In most cases, word of mouth alone will not carry your business through this tough economy.  You have to market your business and set aside a percentage of your profits to do so.  There is no magic bullet; some marketing venues work better than others (though I am personally biased towards Facebook Ads and Google AdWords), but you have to make sure you market your business in order to be successful.

Solution:  After consulting with experts, develop a marketing plan that best suits your businesses needs.  If you don't think you have the expertise to do so on your own, consult with a marketing professional.

2.  Poor record keeping:  This can come back to bite you - particularly if you have any legal or financial trouble.  You have to keep good financial records, not only to ensure that you are complying with the law, but to make sure that your business is making a profit!

Solution:  Track everything and invest in small business accounting software.  If you don't have the time or are scared of making a mistake, hire an accountant.

3.  Letting the marketplace pass you by:  Remember when beepers were all the rage?  Or how about renting movies?  Or when everything was .com?  The point is this: the marketplace changes.  If you don't change with it, your business may fail.  Also, and this is painful to say, sometimes the market simply no longer needs your product, be it because of new technology or a changing economy.

Solution:  Make sure you have access to publications and data that can tell you if your market is on the upward or downward swing and adjust accordingly.  Also, try to keep objective about your markets success - if it is possible.

4.  Expecting immediate results and success:  This is just plain silly.  Any successful small business operator will tell you that there is no such thing as instantaneous business success.  Small business owners have to be in it for the long haul and set their goals accordingly.

Solution:  Make your goals realistic.  Do not have yourself as in the black in six months; it most likely won't happen.  This is why people who like instant gratification have such difficulty in business.

5.  Relying too much on one adviser:  Most of us has that one special person who helped make them who they are today: a boss, friend, coach, family member, etc.  This is, of course, necessary in order to succeed.  That being said, you cannot rely too much on one person; their advice may be biased or incorrect. More to the point, its always good to have a variety of outside perspectives to help make sure you are hearing the most information possible.

Solution: Assemble a "kitchen cabinet" of friends, family and paid advisors to give you the best information.  Always try to hear multiple points of view on business issues so you can make sure you are hearing all sides of a possible decision.

Any other tips?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 7/30/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Morning Call is looking for nominations for the best workplace in the Valley.  A new sinkhole on 5th street in Allentown displaced eight families.

That's it - sorry, slow news day.  Anyway, we'll be back later.  See you soon!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Guest Post Post: A free marketing opportunity for Chamber Members

We always like to help our members connect - that, of course, is largely what The Chamber is here for.  As such, we have a great offer from HitCrowd, a new Chamber member, that is looking to test and expand their marketing tool.

HitCrowd is an intelligent marketing assistant for local businesses. Our platform lets businesses easily manage all of their digital marketing needs in one place -- Adwords, Yelp, Foursquare, Google Local, etc. -- and saves them money by optimizing for industry, location, and consumer patterns. We provide actionable data by tracking customers from each channel to point of decision.

Additionally, for the business owner who does not have the time or know-how to manage each of these channels but still would like to utilize its power and maintain control, our application pushes them smart campaign recommendations which the owner can approve, ignore, or modify at will. These recommendations are based on the business' profile -- business objectives, location, customer demographics, and competitive landscape -- which is built from an initial consultation and aggregated data in the area.

Upon launch in the coming weeks, HitCrowd will be introducing the recommendation engine. At that time, we'll be able to help local business owners run all sorts of powerful marketing campaigns including online advertising (via Google, Microsoft's Bing, and Yahoo), loyalty promotions (through channels like Yelp and Foursquare), and web branding (such as building their mobile website and claiming their presence across a number of high traffic channels). Additionally, we think it is incredibly important that businesses understand the results of their actions. Thus, we provide a month-end report that highlights the performance of each campaign.

Finally, members of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce receive their first month free of subscription and a custom built, mobile website for their business.

For additional details or to sign-up, please visit www.hitcrowd.com.

Daily Briefing, 7/26/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

JPMorgan has agreed to pay the Bethlehem Area School District $1.4 million as part of a settlement in regard to bond swap deals.  Ann Marie Ganchoso withdrew her application for Lehigh County Executive, leaving the list at four.

In state-wide news, the trial to determine the legality of Voter ID began yesterday.  Meanwhile, Penn State's insurer, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, is looking to deny coverage to Penn State.

In national news, the rules for the three Presidential and one Vice Presidential debate have been set.

We have two Chamber events today: an Open House at Lincoln Tech and a Young Professionals Mixer at Staybridge Suites.

That's it for now; have a great day, and we'll be back later!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff

You've probably heard this phrase a million times so far this year - and you are going to hear it a million more.  Prepare yourself for the buzz word of the back half of 2012: the fiscal cliff.

Okay, let's start with the basics - what is the fiscal cliff?  It's essentially two things:

  1. The expiration of the "Bush Tax Cuts" - across the board.  This means that every tax bracket will see their taxes return to the pre-Bush era.  Essentially, it's a tax increase.  President Obama is calling for a one-year extension of the cuts for anyone making $250,000 or less, while Republicans are calling for an across the board extension.  
  2. Sequestration.  As a result of the Super-Committee's failure to come to a consensus on spending cuts, $1.2 trillion in defense and discretionary spending cuts will be enacted over a ten year period.  Congress could, of course, revise the spending cuts, but we've all seen just how functional Congress is these days, so right now, that isn't likely.
Meanwhile, Congress needs to pass a spending authorization measure by September 30, or the federal government shuts down.  

Both of these things are good for the United States' long-term deficit reduction efforts, but bad for the economy right now, given its shaky state and the constant debt and austerity issues in Europe.  

So, what happens if we jump off the fiscal cliff?  According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, if we do go off of the cliff, the US will enter a recession in the first half of 2013, with the GDP dropping 4% - but, if everything is extended a year, the economy will grow 4%.


Daily Briefing, 7/25/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority voted yesterday to not sell Queen City Airport.  Hanover and Palmer Townships voted to withdraw from their lawsuit challenging the Allentown NIZ.  In state-wide news, Penn State's credit rating may be downgraded in light of the Sandusky scandal.  Natural gas prices have jumped 70% over the past three months.

We have two Chamber events today: our Small Business Council is having an event at the Apple store in the Lehigh Valley Mall, and our East Penn & Western Lehigh Chambers are having their annual Iron Pigs Night.

And that's it!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Daily Briefing, 7/24/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Lehigh County, six of the seven commissioners have proposed withdrawing from the bicounty Health Department.  A dispute over $2 million in billing between Allentown and its sewer signatories is going to an arbitrator.  In Whitehall, construction has begun for a new Golden Corral.

In state-wide news, as we noted yesterday, Penn State was hit with severe penalties as a result of the Sandusky crimes and subsequent cover-up, including a massive $60 million fine and loss of bowl games.  Governor Corbett has said that no tax money will be spent to pay that fine.  The lawsuit over Voter ID will be argued in front of the Commonwealth Court on Wednesday.

In national news, a new survey shows that, for the first time in five years, home values have risen.  According to a report from the General Accounting Office, the debt ceiling fight cost the United States government an extra $1.3 billion in added borrowing costs.

We have one Chamber event today: a benefit from our Women's Business Council for their scholarship programs.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Penn State Penalties

Yesterday, the Penn State statue to Joe Paterno came down; today, the hammer fell.  In a 9am Press Conference, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the penalties against the Penn State program as a result of the Sandusky child molestation and subsequent cover-up.  As was rumored, Penn State escaped the "death penalty" of having its football program stopped.  But, also as rumored, Penn State's punishment was, indeed, unprecedented.  Here are the various penalties that Penn State must pay:

  • $60 million fine.  Fortunately, the fine must go towards an endowment that will fund victims of sexual abuse.
  • No bowl games for four years.
  • Loss of 40 scholarships over four years (ten per year).  Normally, Penn State was able to award twenty-five scholarships a year; that number will be only fifteen.  
  • All Penn State wins from 1998-2011 were vacated, as we Penn State's two Big Ten titles during that time period.  As a result, Joe Paterno is no longer officially considered College Football's winningest coach - that honor revert's to Bobby Bowden.
  • Players may transfer from Penn State immediately, and without penalty; furthermore, any incoming freshman who signed a letter of intent with Penn State is now released from that letter, should they choose to explore other options.  
The NCAA did consider the death penalty for the program, but declined to enforce it, with Emmert noting that “Suspension of the football program would bring significant unintended harm to many who had nothing to do with the case."  Indeed, the economy in Centre County largely revolves around Penn State and football; such a penalty would have devastated the region.

Daily Briefing, 7/23/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

As noted by the Morning Call, the Lehigh Valley economy receives a significant boost as a result of a very active arts community.  In Bethlehem, the city is considering forming its own public water and sewer authority.

In state-wide news, the Joe Paterno statue at Penn State was removed yesterday.  Sanctions against the Penn State football program will be announced early this morning; while the football program is not expected to receive the "death penalty" that would kill the program, very severe sanctions are expected, including a $30 million fine.

In national news, James Holmes, arrested in the Aurora, Colorado shooting massacre, will make his first court appearance later today.

We have one Chamber event today; a live Business Matters interview and reception with Jim Cawley, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Membership of the Penn State Board of Trustee's

In the wake of the Sandusky scandal and related cover-up, the Penn State Board of Trustees has come under increasing scrutiny.  The Freeh report blasted the Board, noting that the Board had not been forceful enough to stop Sandusky and blamed their "secrecy and lack of action" for allowing the crimes to continue.  Just today, word came that Stephen Garban, the former Chair of the Board, had resigned his position as a result of the crimes.

The scandal has brought new focus to a rarely examined governing board and serves as a word of caution to anyone charged with corporate or non-profit governance.  But, many questions remain about the actual Board of Trustees, what they do, and who they are.  Here are some answers:


  • Selection of a University President.
  • Selection of major university goals.
  • Review and approval of annual budget, including tuition hikes.
  • Keeping the residents of the Commonwealth informed of the status of the University and its role in terms of educating Pennsylvanians.  
  • Maintaining and development of relationships between PSU and key stakeholders in the Commonwealth and the United States.
  • Day to day management of the University is delegated to the President of PSU, with the Board still having power to make recommendations.  


  • Five trustees ex-officio members, including:
    • The President of the University
    • Governor of the Commonwealth
    • Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture
    • Pennsylvania Secretary of Education
    • Pennsylvania Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources. 
  • Six trustees  appointed by the Governor
  • Nine trustees are elected by the alumni
  • Six trustees are elected by organized agricultural societies within Pennsylvania
  • Six trustees are elected by the Board of Trustees from the business and industry endeavors

Daily Briefing, 7/20/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

According to the Chairman of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority (Tony Iannelli, The Chamber's President & CEO), Queen City Airport cannot be sold due to restrictions from the FAA.  Northampton County Council has voted to ban engaging in future swamption bonds.

In national news, a mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado during the premier of Batman has left 14 people dead and another 50 injured.  For the first time, the Pentagon is allowing U.S. service members to march in their uniform at gay pride parades.  Gas prices are on the rise again.

We have one event today: the Phillipsburg Ole Towne Festival.

And that's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where's your website?

A look at our Chamber member database inspired me to write this blog entry.  Of our nearly 5,000 members, a staggering 22% do not list websites for their business.  I suppose that's not TOO bad compared to the average stats (as of 2011, about half of all small businesses didn't have one, an appallingly high number), but those numbers are still far higher than they should be.  Consider the following:

  • 78% of Internet users conduct product research online.
  • 40% of US smartphone owners compare prices on their mobile device while in-store, shopping for an item. 

Heck, this doesn't even touch Social Media, which a favorite topic of mine, and how it can dramatically increase your sales.  And this also says nothing of mobile websites, which is growing even more critical, given that by 2015, a majority of web traffic will be from a mobile device.

Multiple studies have shown that having a website increases sales for a small business; it really is that simple. Of course, for those businesses that have a website, the numbers still aren't great:
  • 60 percent of small business websites don’t have a phone number listed on the home page
  • 75 percent are lacking an email link on their home page
  • 66 percent don’t have a contact form to enable consumers to request information.
  • 93 percent are not mobile-friendly.
Simple things matter.  For example - don't put your name or contact info in a graphic form on your website - instead, put it in text so it can be picked up by Google.

We also tell folks to get a professional to design their website, as it looks better and can help your business more.  It's always great to save money, but sometimes a greater expense equals more revenue.

Regardless, please, make sure your business has a highly functional website if you want to survive today!

Job Opening: Discover Lehigh Valley

Hi everyone - we have one job opening today, from our friends at Discover Lehigh Valley.  As always, if you have a job opening and are a Chamber Member, please E-mail it to me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.


Discover Lehigh Valley is looking for a full-time Communications Manager. The Communications Manager shall be responsible for assisting the Executive Vice President in the daily responsibilities of promoting Lehigh Valley through Discover Lehigh Valley. Under the direction of the President, Executive Vice President and Director of Marketing, this person will assist in formulating and implementing public relations and social media strategies to successfully further the mission of Discover Lehigh Valley.

This person must be highly proficient with computers and have a working knowledge of software programs (such as Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Outlook and others), e-marketing, SEM management, and social media technology skills. This person must be visionary and possess excellent written and verbal skills, an understanding of Lehigh Valley and an enthusiastic personality.

The individual in this position must hold a valid driver’s license and be able to operate a vehicle for transportation to job related functions and events. Minimal travel and overnight trips may be necessary.
If interested, submit resumes to Kim Lilly, Executive Vice President at kim@DiscoverLehighValley.com.

Please include salary requirements and references. For more information about this nonprofit organization please visit DiscoverLehighValley.com.

Daily Briefing, 7/19/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Allentown, Mayor Pawlowski formally released the details of the possible lease agreement of Allentown's water & sewer system to pay for its unfunded pension liability.  Pennsylvania's new voter ID law was explained at a forum at Muhlenberg College yesterday.

In national news, it appears that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be the keynote speaker at the Republican Convention in August.  The Romney campaign also says that they will announce their Vice Presidential pick after the Summer Olympics.

We have one Chamber event today: our Signature Network Event (and free!) at blue Grillhouse in Bethlehem.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Grow Your Business: Leadership Rocks

Here is the latest in our Grow Your Business series from Carol Ritter at Carol Talks.  This one is Leadership Rocks and is about...you guessed it...leadership.  Enjoy!

OMG, OMG, OMG, another day at work,  and it’s Monday, I can’t do anything right and I’m trying so hard to please the boss/leader/CEO/President or whoever is ‘IN CHARGE’! I remember serving in a leadership role for a statewide organization many years ago. I believed that my service would change the world a bit and make it easier for parents to be involved in their children’s lives.  The leader at the time generally started most meetings by telling his board that he was ‘IN CHARGE‘.  His  other favorite line was, “you need to know!”  He then launched into an oratory about what he believed we needed to know (most of it we didn’t need to know; it was over the top bragging about self ).   I remember sitting there thinking ‘what kind of a leader is this?’ - he’s all about self  and doesn’t much care about the mission or the team.  What’s an person to do??  

There is nothing more fulfilling than working with a leader that rocks.  A leader who sets a great example.

Here are some traits to look for:
1. The leader that ROCKS is constantly learning, growing and learning from their team
2. The leader that ROCKS is willing to use the better idea rather than their own
3. The leader that ROCKS is willing to let go and let others accomplish their goals
4. The leader that ROCKS inspires others to see the value in reaching the mission
5. The leader that ROCKS puts self aside and others first
6. The leader that ROCKS is flexible and willing to change course for the greater good
7. The leader that ROCKS has the ability to discover the gifts and talents of those around them and even more willing to let them use those gifts to fulfill the mission

Are you a leader that ROCKS?  If so, keep up the great work and you will see great results.
Or, are you an employee working for the “IN CHARGE” type of leader?  Generally, they don’t change so you have two choices, number 1 change yourself to adapt or number you may want to brush up the resume today!

Carol is an accomplished professional speaker, coach and educational consultant specializing in remarkable leadership, outrageous fundraising, million dollar marketing, and building organizational alliances throughout the country.  Carol’s innovative e leadership with bullet proof ideas for recruiting MORE MEMBERS, MORE MONEY AND BETTER LEADERS. www.caroltalks.com 610-442-4545

Daily Briefing, 7/18/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Allentown, the city is looking at privatizing its water and sewer systems to fund its massive pension debt.  In Whitehall, Golden Corral Buffet will start construction of a new restaurant at the Lehigh Valley Mall this Monday.  The Easton Area School District laid off another six teachers, its third round of cuts.  Lehigh Valley Hospital and Saint Luke's each had hospitals that made it onto the U.S. News and World Report's annual list of best hospitals.  The City of Bethlehem approved a new zoning code yesterday.  Sands Casino in Bethlehem earned the most on table games of any casino in Pennsylvania last year.

In testimony before Congress yesterday, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, noted that economic activity is slowing in the U.S and that employment growth was slowing as well.  According to published reports, Mitt Romney has narrowed his possible Vice Presidential selections to three: Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN).

We have one Chamber event today: our Greater Northern Chamber is having their annual picnic.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Find us everywhere!

How well connected are you to The Chamber on Social Media?  Find out by following us below:

The Chamber:  https://www.facebook.com/TheChamber
Allentown Chamber of Commerce:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Allentown-Chamber-of-Commerce/360532304761
Bethlehem, PA:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bethlehem-Pennsylvania/118071324676
East Penn: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/East-Penn-Business-Council/117269558315
Easton Area Chamber of Commerce:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Easton-Area-Chamber-of-Commerce/316362431781
Greater Northern:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Greater-Northern-Lehigh-Chamber-of-Commerce/172189832823468
Hamilton District:  www.Facebook.com/HamiltonDistrict
Hellertown: http://www.facebook.com/#!/hellertownlowersaucon.chamber
LeBEAM Chamber of Commerce:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/LeBEAM-Chamber-of-Commerce/166037966771964
Main Street Lehigh Valley:  https://www.facebook.com/MainStreetLehighValley
Phillipsburg Area Chamber of Commerce:  https://www.facebook.com/PhillipsburgChamber
Small Business Council:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Small-Business-Council-of-the-Greater-Lehigh-Valley-Chamber-of-Commerce/113377605350490
Southern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Southern-Lehigh-Chamber-of-Commerce/153270231381456
Women’s Business Council: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Womens-Business-Council/109399793926
Young Professional Council:  https://www.facebook.com/TheChamberYPC

The Chamber: http://www.twitter.com/GLVCC
Downtown Bethlehem Association (Bethlehem, PA):  http://twitter.com/#!/dwntwnbethlehem/
Hamilton District:  http://www.twitter.com/HamiltonMainSt

The Chamber:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=675857&trk=hb_side_g
Women’s Business Council:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4127625&trk=group-name
Young Professionals Council:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4418235&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

Daily Briefing, 7/17/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Allentown School District has settled a lawsuit alleging that it did nothing to stop the sexual assault of elementary school students, by an older student, for $825,000.  Bethlehem Township voted to end its lawsuit against the Allentown NIZ as a result of changes to the state law that made its challenge moot.

In state-wide news, Moody's downgraded Pennsylvania's bond rating, citing concerns over the sluggish economy and growing pension costs.

That's it for now; have a great day, and stay cool out there!  See you later.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Daily Briefing, 7/16/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

Lehigh County Commissioners have signaled their desire to get more involved in federal funding decisions next year.  Another storm knocked out power to about 6,000 Lehigh Valley homes late last night.  In Easton, the city is looking to plug a $500,000 budget hole with a new commuter tax and other cost-saving measures.

That's it about it today; another slow Monday.  Stay cool out there, and have a great day!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Yes, you CAN take a vacation as a small business owner! Here's how.

It's summer, and you know what that means: the beach.  Florida.  California.  Not your office.  Anywhere but your office.  Yes, its vacation time!

Now, that being said, for some small business owners, vacation time can be more stressful than running the business yourself!  My Dad ran a small business when I was a kid (this was an era before cell phones, of course) and I have very distinct memories of him sprinting off to payphones to check in on his office.  That being said, there are certainly ways that you can take a stress-free (well, at least a moderately stress-free) vacation as a business owner.  Here are some tips.

  • Find an employee to stand in your place while you are gone.  It needs to be someone who knows your daily expectations for the business.  Not sure if that person will be able to handle themselves?  Give them a test-run at managing the company/business for a day/half day
  • Similarly to above, make sure more than one employee is trained to manage while you are away.  These people should make your customers/clientele not even realize you are away from the workplace.  
  • Share your goals and plans of actions with your employees.  This isn’t specific to a vacation either.  Your employees should be given knowledge about your aspirations for the business and how you expect to get there.  Once your employees know your plans employees will know what it is specifically (short and long term) that you are seeking for your business.  
  • Unplug.  Really!  Check email less frequently and stop calling as much.  Remember, the less you check in, the more independently-motivated your employees will feel.  Furthermore, this can be used as a way of discovering which employees can be considered for future promotion

Anything else?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 7/13/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In local news, arbitrators ruled largely in the city of Allentown's favor in the contract dispute between the City and its firefighters.  Home prices and sales increased in the month of June.

In state-wide news, the Freeh report on Penn State was released yesterday, and the results were damning, showing that the school and almost everyone involved knew about the allegations against Sandusky and  worked to cover them up.

In national news, a drought is currently sweeping across the country, hitting over 1,000 counties.  In international news, China's growth rate slowed to its lowest levels since 2009.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Voter ID: What it is, what is acceptable and the current legal challenge

As many of you are likely aware, there is an ongoing controversy over recently passed legislation in Pennsylvania: Voter ID.  The Chamber has not taken a stance on the issue, so please know that this entry is completely informative and not meant to advocate one way or the other.

The Background
In March, the legislature passed and Governor Corbett signed Voter ID legislation.  The legislation requires that voters show acceptable forms of identification before casting a voting in an election.  Barring a successful legal challenge, Voter ID will be required in the November 2012 elections.

Proponents of the law argued that such legislation was necessary to protect the integrity of elections and reduce voter fraud.  Opponents argued that such restrictions were onerous and would only drive away voters - particularly those inclined to vote Democrat.  A recent report showed that approximately 758,000 (about 9%, though its as high as 18% in Philadelphia) voters do not currently have acceptable forms of ID.

Pennsylvania is now one of 33 states that requires ID.

Acceptable identification

Straight from the Pennsylvania Department of State website:

  • Photo IDs issued by the U.S. Federal Government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • PA Driver’s License or Non-driver’s License photo ID (IDs are valid for voting purposes 12 months past expiration date)
  • Valid U.S. passport
  • U.S. military ID- active duty and retired military (a military or veteran’s ID must designate an expiration date or designate that the expiration date is indefinite). Military dependents’ ID must contain an expiration date
  • Employee photo ID issued by Federal, PA, PA County or PA Municipal government
  • Photo ID from an accredited PA public or private institution of higher learning, including colleges, universities, seminaries, community colleges and other two-year colleges
  • Photo ID issued by a PA care facility, including long-term care facilities, assisted living residences or personal care homes

Those without appropriate ID will still be able to cast a provisional ballot; they will need to come back, in six days, and provide appropriate ID to have their vote count.

How to get an ID
Individuals without an ID can get one by visiting PennDOT's website.  They must provide:

A Social Security card AND one of the following:

  • Certificate of U.S. Citizenship
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Valid U.S. Passport
  • *Birth Certificate with a raised seal
PLUS:  Two proofs of residency such as lease agreements, current utility bills, mortgage documents, W-2 form, tax records

The legal challenge
Multiple groups, including the Pennsylvania ACLU, contend that the law passed by the Commonwealth blocks individuals from voting and are suing to stop the law from taking effect.  The Supreme Court has previously ruled that reasonable voter ID laws are acceptable.

Daily Briefing, 7/12/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

Pennsylvania steel is being used in the construction of the Allentown Arena, which could begin to rise as early as September.  After much debate, the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners voted to accept $1 million in federal grants.  PPL has been ranked #1 in customer service by J.D. Power and Associates.

In state-wide news, the Freeh report on the Sandusky scandal at Penn State will be released today.

In national news, for the 33rd time, Republicans in the House voted to repeal Obamacare.  Mitt Romney addressed the NAACP convention, where he was booed for reiterating his desire to repeal Obamacare.

We have one Chamber event today: a free Grand Opening at Dr. TattAway.

And that's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Four great ways to keep track of your investments

If you are anything like me, you keep track of your stock investments on a somewhat regular basis.  Whether its weekly, daily, or you just have your eTrade account always open, its always good to see where your finances are at.

Here are a few easy and convenient ways to keep track of the money you invest.

1.  Twitter:  Yes, Twitter is actually awesome for tracking stock market investments.  How?  Go to search.twitter.com and type in $, followed by your stock quote.  So, say you are looking for information on PPL - go to the Twitter search feed and type in "$PPL" - you'll get tweets from people who have used $PPL in their updates, which many investment firms and stock brokers do when they share tweets and links that mention a specific stock.  This is a great way to get live news about the stock market.

2.  Google Alerts:  You can, for free, tell Google Alerts to E-mail you anytime that a company you have stock in is mentioned on the internet.  This can get time consuming...setting up a Google alert for "Microsoft" will result in you getting deluged with E-mails - but "Microsoft stock price" is a better idea and "MSFT" is probably even better.  For smaller companies, you may be okay with just the company name.  Regardless, this can get you news articles, blog entries, reports and more.

3.  Google Finance:  I love Google Finance.  It provides you with a wealth of information at no extra cost to you, as well as news.  If you don't like Google, check out Marketwatch or Yahoo! Finance.

4.  Discount brokerage account:  Many discount brokerage firms, like eTrade, will allow you to set up an account without putting any money in it (at least initially).  You can then monitor stocks of your choice and have access to a variety of reports and news items about them - and again, most of the time, you can do this without making an account deposit!

What other ideas do you have?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 7/11/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Lehigh Valley is experiencing a significant blood shortage; please, if you can, go donate blood!  The Easton Area School Board voted to make 18 layoffs in an effort to balance its budget.  Easton City Council decided to send the proposed Community Bill of Rights to committee to be revised after deciding that the current version was unenforceable and would lead to multiple lawsuits.

In national news, Mitt Romney may name his Vice Presidential selection earlier than usual.  More than 200,000 computers were kicked off the internet by the malware "DNSChanger" yesterday.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guest Blog Post: The Great Disgruntled

We have another great blog post from Carol Ritter of Carol Talks.  This one is on learning how to satisfy that angry customer that you just cannot make happy.  Enjoy!

Have you ever met someone that you just can’t please? No matter what you do, it is to big, too small, too hot, too cold, too hard or too soft.  Sounds like the tale of the Three Bears.  The porridge was too hot then it was too cold.  However, Goldilocks was satisfied with the porridge that was “Just Right.”  The chronic complainer. Is he or she shopping at your business and are you on a quest to please them?  STOP, LOOK and LISTEN.  It’s nearly impossible to satisfy the “GREAT Disgruntled”, but if the customer is always right, what’s a business owner to do 

I remember standing in line at a grocery store over 35 years ago.  The customer before me was buying a 1/2 gallon of milk, a pack of Tastykakes, a loaf of white bread and a head of white lettuce. Sounds like a typical grocery order in the 70’s.  It was long before grocery stores sold whole wheat bread, romaine lettuce, pre-roasted chickens and sushi.  It seemed like I was in line forever because complained the milk wasn’t cold enough, the Tastykakes were too expensive, she feared the bread might be stale and the lettuce didn’t feel right.  The grocery clerk began by defending all products, she was young and not prepared to give and explanation on why Tastykakes cost so much.  The GREAT Disgruntled at work.

Here are some tips.
1. Always try, try, try to be courteous and answer the questions
2. Ask for help from another employee if it gets to be too much
3. Identify the customer and tell your boss so all can discuss future strategies
4. Be patient and try to smile your way through it

Yes, the customer is always right but that motto doesn’t negate you from saying it’s just not worth it.  If you
have tried all these strategies and it just doesn’t work as a last resort you may have to ‘fire’ a customer, it’s just not worth the business.

In the meantime, enjoy all your other customers or just eat a Tastykake.

Carol is an accomplished professional speaker, coach and educational consultant specializing in remarkable leadership, outrageous fundraising, million dollar marketing, and building organizational alliances throughout the country.  Carol’s innovative e leadership with bullet proof ideas for recruiting MORE MEMBERS, MORE MONEY AND BETTER LEADERS. www.caroltalks.com 610-442-4545

Daily Briefing, 7/10/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

Power has been restored to most PPL customers in the Valley, and PPL says its remaining customers will have power back by the end of the day.

In state-wide news, another legal challenge has been filed against the latest Pennsylvania redistricting maps. Tuition will be rising 3% at state universities; the increase matches the rate of inflation.

In national news, Mitt Romney and the RNC outraised President Obama and the DNC by $35 million in June.  President Obama announced that he is seeking an one year extension of the Bush tax cuts for those making $250,000 or less.  A new survey shows that the past 12 months have been the warmest on record in the United States.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A closer look at Friday's jobs report

This past Friday, the June unemployment numbers came out - unfortunately, the numbers were not good.  According to published reports, 12.7 million Americans remain unemployed as the economy gained only 80,000 jobs, leaving the unemployment rate at 8.2%.  Indeed, the economy and jobs picture both seem pretty stuck.  Here's a closer look at the numbers:

  • Some sub groups with lower employment than the national average:  whites (7.4%) and Asains (6.3%), adult men (7.8%) and adult women (7.4%).  Other sub groups, however, performed much worse - Hispanics (11%), blacks (14.4%) and teenagers (23.7%).  
  • The number of those jobless for more than 27 weeks remained at 5.4 million, which is about 42% of the overall percentage of unemployed.  
  • The largest sector of growth occurred in professional and business services, which an addition 47,000 jobs added to that field (though 25,000 were temporary help services).
  • The healthcare sector grew by 13,000.
  • Manufacturing increased 11,000 in June, with an average of 10,000 in the 2nd quarter - compared to 41,000 in the first quarter.  These numbers correlate with others that seem to indicate that the manufacturing sector is slowing down
The numbers are not good and indicative of an economy that is showing little to no growth.

Daily Briefing, 7/9/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

A weekend storm knocked out power to thousands on Saturday.  Easton held its annual Heritage Day on Sunday.  Good news from a weather front, as it appears that the heat wave has finally broken.

In national news, President Obama is set to seek a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts.  The House of Representatives will vote on a repeal of Obamacare.

We have one Chamber event today: first Monday at Sangria downtown Allentown.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Job Opening

We have one job opening to report today - this one from our friends at DME Alliance.  As always, if you are a Chamber Member and have a job opening that you are trying to fill, please E-mail it to me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Sales & Marketing Associate (Technology, Entry-Level)

An immediate opportunity is available for an entry level sales and marketing associate to join a rapidly growing engineering services firm.  This is an excellent opportunity to start or expand a sales and marketing career in a dynamic work environment with clients on the cutting edge of technology. The person in this position will be engaged in building long-term relationships with our clients nationwide and developing marketing programs targeting our clients in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, R&D, food and chemical industries that we serve.  This is a full time salary position with secondary office management responsibilities.
Please email resume to personnel@dmealliance.com

Enjoy your holiday!

See you on July 9, and have a GREAT 4th of July!

Daily Briefing, 7/3/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

With the lawsuits related to the Allentown NIZ set to be withdrawn, the Morning Call looks at whether or not the arena can be built in time for the 2013-2014 season.  New polling data shows that the public is evenly divided on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold Obamacare.  Today will be another hot one, both in the Valley and across much of the country.

And that's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Unemployment in the USA, Pennsylvania and the Valley (Chart)

Our entry on school taxes last week got more views and comments than many previous ones, so we wanted to follow up with another relevant topic and accompanying graph - unemployment.  Take a look at the chart below that compares unemployment in the Valley with unemployment across the US and in Pennsylvania, starting in January 2008 and up to May 2012, the last month that numbers were available.

Okay, so what can we make of this chart?  A few points:

  • US and Pennsylvania unemployment rates are relatively smooth, while the Valley's tend to ebb and flow much more dramatically.  This makes sense; the Valley is a smaller geographical area, so when one large business opens or closes, it can have a more dramatic effect on the overall unemployment rate.
  • Pennsylvania has consistently had lower unemployment numbers than the country, something made even more impressive when you consider that Pennsylvania is a "rust belt" state that is supposed to still be struggling in its transition away from manufacturing.
  • In general, the Valley has had lower unemployment rates than the rest of the US, but higher rates than the rest of Pennsylvania.  Does this mean that it will take longer for the Valley to recover from the recession than the rest of the state?  And what exactly is causing this
If you have any insight we'd love to hear it from you; let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 7/2/2012

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

Highs in the 90s and storms are expected all the way through Thursday.  The legislation that would allow Allentown's NIZ to take other townships Earned Income dollars is officially over, with the new Pennsylvania fiscal code removing it; this likely clears the way for the withdrawal of most lawsuits and construction of the arena.

In state-wide news, Governor Corbett signed the 2012-2013 Pennsylvania budget over the weekend.  New reports show that former Penn State President Graham Spainer allegedly knew about abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky.

In national news, a new report shows that Chief Justice John Roberts initially voted against Obamacare and was set to strike the law down before changing his mind.

And that's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.