Monday, April 30, 2012

Growing Your Business: Kick It Up

Here's the latest in our series from Carol Ritter of Carol Talks: Kick It Up.  Specifically, this one deals with how to accelerate your marketing efforts - it's an interesting concept.  Enjoy!

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Growing Your Small Business in 2012- Grow Your Business - Kick It Up

I’m sitting on an airplane flying to Florida to speak and then take some time for R&R. Even though I selected an aisle seat, when I got to the desk to check in I learned the airline gave me an unconfirmed seat which meant I had to pay another $15.00 confirm the aisle seat.  I wondered how I ended up with an unconfirmed seat. Then she explained that the “fine print” on the reservation stated that the seats were not confirmed.  Does this sound like a scam or a kicked up marketing strategy to drive more revenue to the airlines?  You decide!

I’m not a special case, just need to have an aisle seat because since I was a child I have trouble sitting still and I don’t want to annoy the other passengers by crawling over them, bumping into them or maybe even spilling my drink.

Shhhhh, it’s time to listen, the flight crew is about to announce the launch of a new airline credit card.  If you sign up today you will get 40,000 miles, which in layman’s terms amounts to two free roundtrip airline tickets, which go into affect the first time you use the card, even if you only spend a dollar.  The interesting part of this is that the last time I flew you got 20,000 miles for the same deal.  Oh my goodness, they kicked it up a notch.  Should I do it? I don’t want another credit card, but I would like those free tickets.  That’s the dilemma we all face when offered a kicked-up deal.

What about your business?  Have you ever kicked it up a notch?  Do you give your customers options that entice them, peak their curiosity or maybe even give them an incentive to say to their  friends, “Did you hear about the fabulous deal at XYZ business?”  The power of word of mouth, it’s so simple and so necessary for you to be successful.  The word of mouth epidemic is possibly the most important piece to a revenue generating business.  You may want to try a new idea or strategy to kick your business up a notch. What do you have to loose? If you fail consider it a glitch or a bump in the road and get up and try again.

How about you Kick It Up a Notch, today! Design a kicked up marketing strategy to start your very own word of mouth epidemic today.  The Tipping Point, my favorite book, is a must read for any business that wants to be successful. Pick it up today!

One another note, how about outlawing the “fine print”? Don’t notice it, can’t read it and it’s used as an excuse to give the consumer bad news

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 strategies provide leadership with bullet proof ideas for recruiting MORE MEMBERS, MORE MONEY AND BETTER LEADERS. www.caroltalks.com 610-442-4545

Daily Briefing, 4/30/2012

Good morning everyone, and a happy Monday to you all!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In national news, this will be a big week for the economy with reports to come out on manufacturing, cars and employment.  We have one Chamber event today: Sole Mio is holding a Grand Opening.

And that's it...really...slow news day.  Have a good one, and we'll see you later.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Guest Blog Post: The Benefits of Coaching and Mentoring in the Workplace – The 3 Rs

Today's Guest Blog Post comes to us courtesy of Diane McAloon of Penn State Lehigh Valley and is on the importance of having good coaches and mentors in the workplace - something I am sure we can all agree with!  Diane McAloon is Assistant Director of Continuing Education at Penn State Lehigh Valley.

Enjoy the entry!
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The Benefits of Coaching and Mentoring in the Workplace – The 3 Rs
The more I speak with managers, supervisors, training and development leaders and executives, the more I hear about organizations that claim their “most valuable asset,” their people, “just don’t get it…!”
When I ask if they have considered coaching, instead of managing, their teams, more times than not I get the “tell me more” glance and have the opportunity to share my reasons for strongly supporting coaching in the workplace - what I call the 3 Rs:

Relationship Building
Coaching and mentoring in the workplace can occur on a peer-to-peer level or as part of the leadership development skills portfolio.  It involves the supervisor and employee mutually defining work-related strengths and areas that should be developed.  Interpersonal conversation, self-disclosure, empathy, understanding, and recognition all come into play in peer-to-peer mentoring and transfer interactions away from the keyboard and toward face-to-face conversation.  Skilled workplace coaches know how to integrate positive attitude and team spirit into defining and achieving objectives.  All parties learn how to build and enhance their skills while, at the same time, they are on the job, increasing productivity and workplace success.

React and Recover
We work in a react-and-recover environment.  Each day we are given the opportunity to react to such forces as customer feedback, market trends, and financial challenges.  A workplace that promotes creativity and problem solving through open conversation and empowerment is able to react quickly, learn the lessons, and recover by creating a resilient and flourishing environment.  Coaching and mentoring are pivotal factors when building a thriving environment where productivity and competency reign.

Retention
A positive workplace is good for the individual and vital to workplace morale.  Longstanding coaching practice lends itself to lasting behavioral change, employees grow stronger and are open to delegated tasks and increased responsibility.

Organizations that implement coaching/mentoring strategies normally see increased accountability and productivity, improved customer satisfaction, ownership in the decision-making process and a sense of pride, all of which result in higher retention rates and a solid talent management program.

The 3Rs highlight the benefits of workplace coaching, in addition to sound management practice. The struggle is making coaching and mentoring a sustainable culture in the workplace versus becoming the latest great idea.

To go beyond the 3Rs and to learn more about coaching and mentoring in the workplace, please join us at the Best Practices in the Workplace Conference, May 19, at Penn State Lehigh Valley.  We will provide the opportunity for you to learn more about your personal style as a coach and leader, define proactive ways to improve the work environment and uncover ways to integrate values, coaching, and mentoring into the performance evaluation and the business plan.  For more information and to register:  www.lv.psu.edu/bestpractices.


Daily Briefing, 4/27/2012

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

Attorneys for the Governor have requested a 30 day extension to respond to lawsuits filed by Bethlehem and Hanover Townships against the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone.  Senator Pat Toomey has been named as the Chairman of the Senate Republican Steering Committee.  The investigation against the Secret Service has expanded, with the government now looking into allegations that the Secret Service hired strippers and prostitutes in El Salvador, before the President's visit there.  The U.S. House of Representatives passed a cyber-security bill yesterday, despite the threat of the President's veto.  Spain saw its credit rating downgraded by the S&P yesterday.

And that's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll see you later today.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Daily Briefing, 4/26/2012

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

In Bethlehem, Mayor Callahan unveiled a $3.2 million plan to upgrade the city's historic downtown.  In Allentown, City Council will begin hearings tonight to fill another vacancy.  In Lehigh County, primary turnout was a mere 18%.  The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation has said that they plan on hiring a new CEO in late May.

In national news, Newt Gingrich is now expected to formally drop out of the Presidential race.  The US Senate voted yesterday to give the post office $11 billion to pay down its debt while simultaneously delaying decisions on post office closings. Gas prices are falling and it looks like they will continue to do so.

Today is a busy day in Chamber world, with three events: a free mixer at Saucon Valley Medical Center & Sacred Heart Living, a breakfast on doing business in the City of Allentown and a LeBEAM "Storage Warz" event.

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Primary Day resources

As you are likely aware, tomorrow is Election Day.  It is a primary, which means that only registered members of a political party can vote (with the exception of special elections, in which non-affiliated voters can cast a ballot).  As such, we wanted to give you a few resources.

First, any questions on voting in Pennsylvania?  Visit this site.  Please note that the recently passed voter ID law will NOT be in effect in this primary, but in the 2012 general election.

Not sure where to vote?  Click here to look up your polling place.

Want to learn more about the candidates?  Make sure to check out the 2012 Voters Guide, a join Morning Call and League of Women's Voters Lehigh Valley publication.

Or, do you just want a quick list of who you're going to be voting for?  The list of candidates is below.  Remember - GO VOTE!  Our democracy depends on you!



President

US Senate
Pennsylvania Attorney General
Pennsylvania Auditor General
State Treasurer
6th Congressional District
15th Congressional District
17th Congressional District
29th Senate District

  • Brian Rich (R)
  • David Argall (R-Inc)
  • Tim Seip (D)

131st Legislative District
132nd Legislative District (currently held by Representative Jennifer Mann, who is not seeking reelection)
133rd Legislative District
134th Legislative District (currently vacant after Doug Reichley's election to Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas)

Things are a little confusing here.  There are two elections.  First is the special election to determine who will fill the remainder of Doug Reichley's eight-month term.  The candidates for that are:


Then there's the primary for the actual 2012 election.  Those candidates are:


135th Legislative District

136th Legislative District
  • Robert Freeman (D-Inc)

137th Legislative District
138th Legislative District
  • Marcia Hahn (R-Inc)
  • Leslie Altieri (D)
183rd Legislative District
  • Julie Harhart (R-Inc)
187th Legislative District


Daily Briefing, 4/23/2012

Good morning everyone, and we hope you had a great weekend!  Here is today's Daily Briefing on this slow, slow Monday.

In national news, good news: gas prices have dropped for the first time since December.  In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy came in second place in the Presidential elections, forcing a run-off against Socialist Francois Hollande on May 6.

Folks, I swear, I'm not being lazy - that's just it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A look at the Valley's Commercial Real Estate market

As you may have noticed (the Express-Times and Morning Call both provide great coverage), the Chamber held its annual Commercial Real Estate Outlook Awards luncheon yesterday (for a summary of the tweets from the day, check out #CommRE).  We always like to summarize the events, so here's a look at what was discussed.

First, the awards themselves:


The focus here is obvious: the impact of arts and the non-profit sector on community & economic development, a connection that is often forgotten.
Next came the speakers.  First was Lou Pektor of Ashley Development, who spoke about his own struggles in the marketplace (I believe his exact quote was that he had shown "how to turn an opportunity into a disaster"). What Lou did discuss, specifically, was the growth of the Valley region, which had gotten the attention of funders in New York - this made development dramatically easier since it opened up new sources of funding and credit.  Lou also was a source of optimism:  "The amount of (market) activity that we are seeing...us unprecedented."

Next came Lee Butz of Alvin H. Butz.  Lee had his business in South Whitehall but moved it into Allentown and is a very forceful and eloquent advocate for the cities.  According to Lee, "There is not a person in this room whose future is not tied to the future of Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and Phillipsburg."  That was met with applause.  Lee also spoke of the controversial NIZ district, noting that the district had the opportunity to be a massive boom to the Valley and help everyone, if it was done right...and by right, Lee said that he meant developed for the benefit of ALL, not just a few.

Next up was the Pennsylvania Secretary of Community & Economic Development, C. Alan Walker, who spoke of the redevelopment and diversification of the Valley and its economy.  "I have to say, this is not Billy Joel's Allentown," said the Secretary.  He spoke of what made the Valley so successful: geographic location, a high quality of life, skilled workforce, multiple colleges and a sense of regional collaboration.  

Closing us out was Doug Frederick of the Frederick Group, who gave some info on the actual state of the market.  Double digit vacancy rates continue in our office market, though the rates are falling in industrial.  Retail is doing the best, with decreasing vacancy rates and increasing rental rates.  In total, Frederick said that, "The statistical data suggestions that the recovery is occurring, but not robust...the outlook is hopeful."

If you were there and have anything you want to add, fire away!

Daily Briefing, 4/20/2012

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

The Morning Call looks at the Democratic primary in the 17th Congressional District between Congressman Tim Holden and Matthew Cartwright.  At the Chamber's Commercial Real Estate Outlook Awards yesterday, it was noted that the commercial real estate market is slowly improving.  Pennsylvania's unemployment dropped slightly in March, decreasing from 7.6% to 7.5%.  Penn State paid the estate of Joe Paterno $5.76 million after his death.

We have one Chamber event today: an event on building your pipeline by the Small Business Council and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Daily Briefing, 4/19/2012

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

In NIZ/Arena related news, LVEDC endorsed the NIZ funding stream yesterday, while South Whitehall voted to join the lawsuit against it.  The Morning Call takes a look at the two Democrats who are facing off to run against Gary Day in the 187th Legislative District.  Meanwhile, WFMZ takes a look at the two Democrats who are hoping to run against Charlie Dent.  In national news, three Secret Service agents involved in the Columbian prostitution scandal are leaving the agency.

We have two Chamber events today: the launch party for our INside Allentown guide and our Commercial Real Estate Outlook & Awards Luncheon.  If you aren't going to be at the lunch, make sure to follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #CommRE.

And that's it for now!  Have a good one, and hopefully we will see you at the Commercial Real Estaate event today.  See you there!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

This Week With Tony: INside Allentown

We have another This Week With Tony, featuring Miriam of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce, Mike and one of the largest cardboard props we've ever featured on TWWT.  Miriam wanted to make sure to give a plug to her INside Allentown guide and its launch party, this Thursday.

As always, This Week With Tony is sponsored by our friends at M&T Bank.

Daily Briefing, 4/18/2012

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

The Morning Call takes a look at the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation's search for a new CEO.  The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority voted to work on a $1.1 million project to expand the Queen City airport, despite potential efforts to sell it.  The preliminary budget passed by the Easton Area School District yesterday raises taxes by 2.2% and cuts 70 positions.  The Berks Lehigh Regional Police department will dissolve by the end of 2012.  The Morning Call takes a look at how federal grant cuts are affecting local non-profits.  Ocean Spray officially broke ground on a $110 million plant that will result in an extra 165 jobs.  The Valley housing market is on the upswing, with pending home sales hitting their highest level in two years.

We have two Chamber events today:  The Easton & Phillipsburg Chambers are holding a speed networking event, while the Small Business Council starts its Spring Golf League.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Business lead generation

Business leads are the lifeblood of any business, particularly B2B.  Any business that relies on a professional sales effort must have a constant source of new, fresh leads, or you go broke.  It's as simple as that.  Of course, actually generating the leads is a completely different story.  How do you generate new business leads? Here are a few tips:

1.  Check the papers:  I always look at the papers for new business openings; the Call's Retail Watch column is a great source of new businesses.  Additionally, the East Penn Business Journal will periodically run a list of new business incorporations - this can be a great way of seeing who will soon be opening shop in the Valley.


2.  Face to face networking:  Face to face networking remains an exceptionally powerful way of meeting new people and clients.  Networking itself is a topic for many, many other blog entries, but fortunately, if you are a Chamber member, there is no shortage of events that you can attend.


3.  Free stuff:  There is a reason that you always see ads that advertise free time or products - they work.  Every business has the opportunity to give away something free, so ask yourself: what can you give away?  It obviously can't be something that will be too expensive, but it should be something that gives potential customers just a taste of how good you are - and leaves them wanting to do more business with you.


4.  SEO and a Call To Action:  Your front door is no longer your physical location; its your website.  If you are a dry-cleaner that lives in Allentown, you want to make sure that when someone Googles "Dry cleaning Allentown," you pop up first.  From there, you can use what's called a "Call To Action," which is a brief form that you want your visitors to complete.  It should have an enticing message (Want more info on how we can save you money?) and be BRIEF (name, phone, E-mail).  As soon as you get a CTA response, QUICKLY call back.  Conversation of a lead to a sale decreases if you wait on calling back.

Daily Briefing, 4/17/2012

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

LANTA broke ground for a new maintenance garage in south Allentown yesterday.  Yesterday's temperature hit 90 degrees, setting a new Lehigh Valley record. In national news, Rick Santorum has declined to endorse Mitt Romney.  The U.S. Senate rejected the Buffet Rule that would have placed a 30% tax on all millionaires.  In testimony before Congress yesterday, a GSA official took the 5th amendment while answering questions about the GSA conference in Las Vegas that cost taxpayers $800,000.  Jim Yong Kim has been named the new President of the World Bank.

And that's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll see you later!

Monday, April 16, 2012

2012 INside Allentown Guide Launch Party & Mixer

Do you like free parties?  Go-karts?  Allentown?  Networking?

If you answered yes, we hope to see you at the 2012 INside Allentown Guide Launch Party & Mixer!


Please join Mayor Ed Pawlowski and members of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce as we present our 3rd Annual INside Allentown guide.

The Launch Party of the INside Allentown 2012 guide  - This guide gives you a tour of Allentown and all the wonderful people and assets we have to offer.  Now in our third edition, INside Allentown features articles on Happy 250th Birthday! - the story behind Allentown’s anniversary, International Soccer, Dining Different – the diverse tastes of the city’s eateries, Keeping It in the Family– tales of kinship and commerce, Community Focused People, Made in Allentown - products crafted with local pride, Steak Sandwiches, The ‘Berg View – students discover Allentown and The City’s Art & Soul – a look at creativity and culture.

Stop by the Launch Party at the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix located at 649 South 10th Street, on April 19th from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. and pick up your complimentary copy of INside Allentown.

Pick up your free copy of INside Allentown at the Launch Party or at the Allentown Chamber Office.

Launch Party and Mixer April 19 at the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix from 530 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Daily Briefing, 4/16/2012

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

The Express-Times takes a look at the upcoming special election between Ryan Mackenzie and Patrick Slattery in the 134th Legislative District.  As a result of the warm weather, you can expect Lyme disease to begin early this year.  Speaking of warm weather, its going to get into the upper 80s today.  In national news, Congress is set to vote on dueling tax plans proposed by both Democrats and Republicans.

We have one Chamber event today:  the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce is presenting their 18th Annual Spirit Award.

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

Guest Blog Post: Keys to effective networking

Today's guest blog entry comes from Darnell Davis of Evolution Magazine.  As you can see from the graphic, Darnell is running the upcoming Women in Business and Leadership Conference and has a very timely blog entry below - Keys to effective networking.  Read on for more!
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Recognize the importance of networking

Networking can and will increase your share of the market. When done properly networking can help you gain ideas, provide work opportunities, and just an overall better perspective on business. Ask any successful business person and they would emphatically tell you that networking is a vital skill to have if you're looking to grow your business.


Aim to become visible

I often say that people don't know what you do until you tell them. And in this day and age where there are literally thousands of new entrepreneurs, you have to stand out from the rest. By all means you need to let others know that you exist and that your product or service has value. Look for interesting events to go to; clubs, associations, meetings, seminars, conferences, presentations, breakfast briefings, lunches, or start your own networking club (which I have had success in doing). In addition take advantage of the massive amount of people located in the various social networking sites. No one will promote your company better than you. Use some if not all of these options to let people know that you are here in that you are ready to add value.


Treat all events as networking

A good friend of mine who is a business coach often tells his clients to remember that you are always networking. You should treat every event, every time you go to the grocery store, eating at a restaurant as if it was in networking opportunity. Doing so will always place you in a position to add value to some one's life with your product or service. People do business with those whom they know, like, trust. Generally, taking advantage of every networking opportunity will put you in the position for someone to get to know you begin to like you and ultimately trust you with whatever their need.


Build your relationships

If people do business with those whom they know, like and trust. Build being effective relationships with your new and old contacts are imperative. Relationship building is not the going to lunch, it is not the late-night outings. Rather, it is the steady stream of open communication between you and the contact. To me building on relationships is a slow and steady process where you or showing your value. Showing how you can create value in the relationship will fortify it and allow them to get to know you a lot better. As a result it will begin to like you more because they are seeing the value that you are bringing to the table. Because of the value they will begin to trust you simply because your position is not of selfishness rather, it is one way you are giving of yourself to ensure the success of someone else.

Be organized
                     
This is the most important part of effective networking. Your ability to follow-up is is crucial to effective networking. This is simply known as follow-up and it is vital to the success of your business. There are many tools that will allow you to create lists, file business cards and the fellow your marketing base. I would suggest the investment into a great customer relationship management system or software. A good CRM program will allow you to follow-up with greater ease. Organizing your contacts and proper follow-up will allow you to put your best foot forward and separate you from others.

Networking tips can help you maximize your time while building relationships that can lead to joint ventures.  You only get to make a first impression once... so stand out, bring your ‘A’ game. Networking is about building relationships that can ultimately lead to potential joint ventures, in real estate and otherwise.

•    STAND OUT!

Use curiosity to gain attention. People will go to untold lengths to scratch that itch: 'Sorry, that’s classified', wear a crazy t-shirt with your value proposition, pass out buttons that are irreverent but funny like Dustin Mathews with his 'Are you Dirty?' buttons that market his speaker newsletter 'Dirty Talk'.  Or make it easy to follow-up with you with a site like Dustin Matthew's (what would REALLY be cool is to hand out business cards with a link that says 'IMetTony.com' at a seminar event, and have a pre-loaded PERSONALIZED video welcome message that is tailored to attendees you JUST MET at the event…that people, you hand out your card to, can watch on that website after the event when they go home!).

•    Stay Present in the Here and Now

'Stay present' is a term in Personal Development. Minimize your distractions by not scheduling any outside appointments. I feel certain most of you have lives so keyed-up, hectic, and jam-packed with activities that... truthfully... you only have a fraction of your attention to give to any one thing at any one time. Fight that instinct. Stay present! When you’re networking on the look out for potential joint ventures then THIS is where the money is TODAY, right now, right here.

•    Decide What You Want to Accomplish Before you Step Foot in the Room!

I use the '5-5-5 rule' at seminars. No, that's not for Domino's pizza delivery. I look to discover ‘5’ income and lifestyle-increasing concepts or strategies to apply immediately in the next two weeks. I look to find out from presenters or other attendees ‘5’ books to read to grow as a person and an entrepreneur in the next 90 days. And most importantly, I look for ‘5’ people to follow-up with in the next two weeks so that we can work together this year.

I say anything beyond that is icing on the cake!

Whatever you look to accomplish, be specific and plan it out!

•    Bring Your 'A' Game!

Lots of organizations can give you networking opportunities on a local scale, but few can connect you with like-minded entrepreneurs at the highest level. If you get the chance to attend high-level networking events then make sure to bring you’re 'A' game!

•    You're Where the Fish Are! Fish…

If you’re outgoing, passionate, friendly, and a good listener, I can definitely tell you that it’s possible to meet someone who might strike up a friendship with you and gladly agree to become apart of your network or a potential JV partner just about anywhere.

•    Take Full Responsibility for Your Success!

When you point your finger to someone else, literally the physical metaphor is that there are three fingers pointing back to you. Try it. We are where we are as a sum total of all the decisions we have made and the actions we have taken to that point. If you don't like where you are, realize now that blaming other people or circumstances is a victim's mentality.  Choose again.
Winners take full responsibility for their success.

Let your networking activities help you accomplish your goals.  Implement these networking tips and begin to see your relationships build.  The perfect contact(s) for a joint venture is out there.  Will you be present and ready to connect in a meaningful way?  Your success depends on it!

The JOBS Act

Intern Mauri is back with another very well-written entry on the JOBS Act that was recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. Enjoy!
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On April 5, President Obama signed into legislation an act that could prove crucial to small business startups in the near future. Called the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS Act, this new bill has been touted as a “pro-entrepreneur” piece of legislation that will make it easier for small businesses to raise capital. The JOBS Act also relaxes certain securities regulations to give companies a longer length of time before they must go public. The act received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, including backing by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Sen. Casey (D-PA) as well as Rep. Charlie Dent and Rep. Tim Holden.

Some highlights of the JOBS Act include:

·         A crowdfunding provision that will let startups raise capital from individual investors through Internet platforms like Kickstarter, IndieGogo and other online funding tools. Entrepreneurs will be able to raise as much as $1 million annually under this provision. This opens up new avenues for individuals setting up new businesses who previously might have relied solely on lines of credit, second mortgages or other means to launch their ventures.

·         Increases how many investors a company may have before being required to register with the SEC as a public company from 500 to 2,000 shareholders. This gives new businesses the opportunity to build not only revenue but also sophistication within their industry.

·         Lessens some regulatory and disclosure requirements for businesses designated as “emerging growth companies.” These are companies that have been public for no more than five years with less than $1 billion in yearly revenue, no more than $1 billion in debt and have floated less than $700 million in stock.



What this means for the job market has yet to be seen; the SEC has 270 days to put the law’s changes into place, so nothing will happen for a few months. However, some sources including Forbes.com are already predicting the law will result in more new companies being founded, which hopefully will result in the need to hire new staff. Supporters, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have called this Act the “shot in the arm” for small businesses as the country rebounds from the recent recession. On the other hand, critics worry that the new bill’s deregulatory measures whittle away at important protections that have been in place for more than  80 years.

By the way, even though the SEC is required to accept public comments once it proposed the law’s changes, the Commission has announced that it will accept feedback from the public before it official proposes the law’s requirements. Here’s the link to register your public comment on the JOBS Act.

http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/jobsactcomments.shtml

The SEC has also put together a series of FAQs for more information on the JOBS Act’s provisions.

http://www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/guidance/cfjumpstartfaq.htm

How do you see the new law impacting small businesses and/or job creation? Will the JOBS Act provide the boost small businesses need to impact the economic, or is it all just hype? Let us know!

Daily Briefing, 4/12/2012

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

Lehigh County commissioners voted to reject a labor agreement that would have included 2% annual pay increases.  The state legislative reapportionment commission met yesterday, and by a 4-1 vote, approved new House and Senate legislative maps.  A new report has Pennsylvania has generating the second highest casino revenue in the country.  In national news, some analysts believe that gas prices have peaked (here's to hoping!).  North Korea yesterday attempted to launch a military rocket; the launch failed.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What Distinguishes The Chamber


At our Buy Lehigh Valley Expo yesterday, we ran into quite a few businesses that were not Chamber members but expressed interest.  Over and over, we got the same question: What distinguishes The Chamber?  What makes you different?

It’s a question that every businessperson should ask.  There is no shortage of networking and business groups and cliques out there, and our members will tell you what makes Chamber membership one of the best investments that your business can make.

Here are a few things that distinguish The Chamber:

On Every Main Street:  The Chamber, when taken as a whole, is the biggest business networking organization in the Lehigh Valley. We are a combination of more than twenty autonomous chambers, councils and committees.  This means that we have dedicated groups on every Main Street, in every community; from Bangor to Bethlehem, Alburtis to Allentown and everywhere in between.  Our twenty-five staffers and five office locations (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Phillipsburg and soon Nazareth) means that we are in or near your community and available to help your business.

Valley-wide Community Exposure: This means that you get the intimate networking environment that you would expect with any small group or chamber while having access to valley-wide business-to-business networking and marketing opportunities, public policy initiatives, exclusive, money saving member benefits, training and programs and community development initiatives.  No other organization can help you grow your business the way The Chamber can.

Marketing:  Chamber members have access to more than $5,000 in marketing products and services at zero extra cost to you.  This includes items like free ads in the Morning Call, Express Times and select Nassau Broadcasting radio stations.  Joining this Chamber means you get listed on our website, in our print directory and on our Social Media.  There are countless ways that any Chamber member can gain exposure to the entire LV business community, and we’re always happy to talk more about them (visit this website or E-mail mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org to learn more).

(Putting Money) On Every Main Street:  The Main Street Lehigh Valley Foundation is The Chamber’s 501c3 arm.  It raises money that is then awarded to projects in downtowns throughout the Valley.  The Foundation also supports The Chamber’s award winning Borough Business Revitalization Program, a private-public partnership that works to revitalize the Main Streets of the seven communities that have chosen to be part of this program (Alburtis, Bath, Bangor, Catasauqua Coopersburg, Hellertown and Pen Argyl).  We do more than cheerlead; we work to help make revitalization happen by steering private dollars towards a public benefit.

Fighting for you in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C.:  The Chamber has staff specifically dedicated towards advocating for businesses with policymakers.  The Chamber is not a partisan organization; we advocate for pro-business policies.  We are active on a variety of fronts, including working against obtrusive government regulations and over-burdensome health care reform, fighting for lower taxes and for desperately needed transportation improvements.  Being part of The Chamber means that your voice will be heard in by those in government.

Any questions or items you want to add?  Please let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 4/12/2012

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

A group of developers is meeting today to discuss possible legal action in relation to the NIZ in Allentown.  Lehigh County Commissioners questioned the role of their solicitor in a lawsuit by the Lehigh County District Attorney to remove Controller Glenn Eckhart from office.  In state-wide news, a Judge has issued an injunction that prohibits parts of the recently passed Marcellus Shale law from going into effect.  In national news, George Zimmerman was arrested yesterday and charged with second degree murder in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin.

We have one Chamber event today: a mixer at Florence Italian Grille.

That's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll be back later.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Daily Briefing, 4/11/2012

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

In Allentown, the city has offered a possible settlement to surrounding townships that are suing over the NIZ.  Meanwhile, the NIZ Authority held its first meeting yesterday.  Whitehall Township approved the start of a planning process for MacArthur Road.  Rick Daugherty and Jackson Eaton debated for the final time before the 4/24 primary; the winner faces Congressman Charlie Dent. In Easton, Mayor Panto is proposing a new commuter tax to fund pension costs in the city, which will double next year.

In national news, the big story of the day was Rick Santorum's withdrawal from the Presidential race, essentially guaranteeing that Mitt Romney will be the Republican Presidential nominee.

We have one Chamber event today, and its a big one: our Buy Lehigh Valley Expo.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Five Social Media management considerations for your business

I was drawing up a Social Media plan for a Chamber member the other day; as you can imagine, each plan is different, but this particular organization had many questions on the management of their Social Media outlets.  They had many questions along these lines, and they were all very good questions that showed that the business was really giving a lot of thought to their Social Media planning process.  Below are the five considerations I shared with them in terms of Social Media management:

1.  Who will manage?  If the answer is "an intern," try again.  The person managing your Social Media must be a professional and must know how to properly operate Social Media and integrate your companies marketing message.


2.  What sort of professional development does that person need?  You would never hire someone for marketing that wasn't trained in the field; the same applies to Social Media.  That's not to say that you need someone who has formal training - you don't - but you must make sure that the person has the knowledge (classes, skill set, technical know-how, etc) and resources (computer, reliable internet connection, program like Hootsuite if necessary) to be succcessful.


3.  How much time does that person have?  Most small business cannot afford someone to do nothing but Social Media - indeed, at The Chamber, I wear many hats - just one of them is Social Media.  As such, you have to determine about how much time someone will have, on a daily/weekly basis, to update your Social Media.  From there, you can determine how in-depth of a plan you will be able to execute.


4.  How will critical comments be handled?  Trust me when I say that it's better to develop a strategy for handling critical/insulting comments ahead of time, rather than when a comment comes in - you may get angry and flustered, and that cna lead to a less than ideal response.  Know how to handle critical comments ahead of time!


5.  How often will performance be evaluated?  Since Social Media is so new, some companies fail to properly supervise or evaluate the execution of their Social Media plan.  Don't fall into that trap.  Just like any other facet of your business, Social Media requires constant supervision and tweaking if your plan is to be successful.

Those are some of my thoughts - what are yours?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 4/10/12

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

A Morning Call story notes that Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham and Bethlehem Councilman Bob Donchez are each considering a run for Mayor of Bethlehem.  The Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Authority will be holding its first meeting today.  Speaking of the arena, Mayor Pawlowski says that a possible deal is in the works to end the lawsuit over it.  The amount of Lehigh Valley homes for sale rose 3.2% in March, and prices increased as well.

In national news, the federal government has proposed new rules that would help homeowners avoid having their homes foreclosed.

And that's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll be back later.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What political campaigns can teach businesses

You can't turn on the news these days without hearing some story or other about the upcoming 2012 elections.  When you think about it, its truly remarkable how much political campaigns have evolved in the past 100 years; from front porch campaigns (in which candidates rarely moved from their front porch to campaign) to the expectation this year that President Obama's campaign alone will raise an astonishing $1 billion.

Political campaigns, at their finest, are well-oiled machines with a laser-sharp focus on their goal: winning an election.  In that sense, businesses have quite a bit to learn from political operations.  Here are a few lessons:

1.  Plan for the future:  Compare President Obama's 2008 campaign and Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign.  Each had at least this much in common: proper planning.  Obama & Romney both were establishing operations in future states months ahead of their rivals, and as a result, were better equipped to handle the future.  Similarly, ask yourself, how are you preparing for the future?  Are there challenges coming down the pike that your business needs to face?

2.  Consistent messaging:  The best campaigns have great messages.  Ronald Reagan: Morning in America.  Barack Obama:  Change and hope.  What is your businesses message and how can that be applied to getting more customers?  What do you want customers to take away from your business?  Great service?  Competitive pricing?  Innovative products?  And how are you deploying that message?

3.  Technological innovation:  Google Barack Obama or Mitt Romney and paid ads, purchased by each candidate's respective campaigns, are the first thing that appear.  Google keywords are hardly revolutionary, but they are absolutely necessary in a campaign of this magnitude, so ask yourself, how are you taking advantage of modern technology?  This might mean paid Google/Facebook advertising, but it means something different for every business.  Regardless, you have to make sure you are keeping on top of the latest technological trends.

4.  Time management:  In the best campaigns, not a moment of the candidate's time is wasted.  Candidates schedule's are finessed down to the second and divided, as necessary, between fundraising, events, speeches, etc.  Your business and your time has to be run the same way; after all, any business has a million things to do and not enough time to do it.  Time management is a critical facet to the success of any business, and not being able to manage your own time will certainly lead to failure (or at least stunted growth).

These are just some initial thoughts - what are yours?  Let us know in the comment!

Daily Briefing, 4/9/2012

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

In local news, the Express-Times takes a look at the race between Rick Daugherty and Jackson Eaton to determine who will become the Democratic Nominee in the 15th Congressional District.  In state-wide news, Mitt Romney has purchased $2.9 million in TV time in an effort to win the state.  In national news, the economy gained 120,000 jobs in March, less than expected and less than in the past three months.  An AP story takes a look at the massive cost of student loans and how it is potentially endangering the economic recovery.  Rick Santorum is taking another day off of the campaign trail to spend time with his sick daughter Bella.  Mike Wallace, the veteran 60 Minutes reporter, died yesterday at 93.

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Guest Blog Post: Making 4G LTE Technology Matter for Your Business

We have a guest blog post today, courtesy of Harry Martin at Verizon Wireless.  The blog entry is very timely - it deals with 4G LTE technology and what it means to your business.

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Making 4G LTE Technology Matter for Your Business

You’ve no doubt heard the term, you’ve most likely seen the flurry of advertising touting 4G LTE. But what exactly is 4G LTE and more importantly what are the benefits to your business?  4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the 4th generation of wireless broadband networks, and in the case of Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network, offers:
  • Faster data rates and reduced latency enabling you to connect at speeds faster than typical cable modem high-speed internet options so you can do things like conduct real-time security camera monitoring.
  • Enhanced user experience with applications like Fuze Meeting, providing a high-definition, rich multiparty video experience that’s 10 times faster than 3G. You can also send high-resolution pictures via email or take advantage of Skype’s video calling capability to communicate seamlessly with customers and vendors at these same higher speeds.
·         Mobility, which means having a reliable, fast Internet connection on-the-go and being able to do things you could once only do from a wired desktop computer. Imagine the benefit mobility brings to helping you keep that all-important edge on the competition
·         Global adoption, which means in the future, customers will be able to travel from country to country using the same device. More than 130 wireless carriers worldwide have chosen LTE as their 4G technology.
·         Breadth of Coverage is probably one of the most important factors in determining whether 4G LTE will matter for your business. Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network spans the U.S. and is available today in 203 markets, covering more than 200 million people – that’s six times larger than the nearest competitor’s 4G network.

Additionally, with 4G LTE, companies can empower employees to work from the field with the ability to access internal files everywhere, through tools like cloud based services. For example, a doctor can use his 4G LTE enabled tablet, such as the new Galaxy Tab 7.7, to pull up patient charts while walking down the hall with his colleague. Within seconds, he can seamlessly update and save changes to these documents on the hospital’s main server. This kind of mobile reliability and power can increase efficiency, organization and productivity.

Professionals can also take advantage of new personal assistant apps for 4G LTE Android smartphones that can schedule meetings, send emails, place calls and more all through voice command. One that I would highly recommend is the SpeakToIt personal assistant.  This all-inclusive app was named among “Top 10 Android Apps of the Year” by the New York Times. An excellent app for the frequent traveler, Cluzee includes a travel planner to help book hotels and transportation, as well as check flight statuses.  Jeannie and Vlingo are also strong alternatives to manage busy schedules with a 4G LTE android device.         

By understanding the needs of your business and exploring all that 4G LTE can potentially offer, businesses can truly Live The Excitement and reap the many benefits provided by an advanced mobile technology like 4G LTE.


Harry Martin is director of advanced wireless data for Verizon Wireless for the Philadelphia tri-state region. For more information on apps and smartphones, visit www.verizonwireless.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Unemployment in Pennsylvania - where do we stand?

New jobs numbers were released today, and they showed more good news - 209,000 private sector jobs were added to the economy in March.  Interestingly enough, about 100,000 of those jobs were created by small businesses (companies with 50 employees or less).  The numbers were slightly below forecasts (217,000) and below last month (230,000).  125,000 jobs must be created every month in order to keep the unemployment rate steady, so the numbers continue to eat into our national unemployment rate.

So, here's an interesting question: where does Pennsylvania rank in terms of unemployment?  Good news: of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania has an unemployment rate of 7.6%.  In February, the national unemployment rate was 8.3%.  Comparatively speaking, though, Pennsylvania remains in the bottom half of states in the country, with the 28th best employment rate.  The five best states?  North Dakota (3.1%), Nebraska (4%), South Dakota (4.3%), Vermont (4.9%) & New Hampshire (5.2%).  The five worst?  Nevada (12.3%), Rhode Island (11%), California (10.9%), North Carolina (9.9%) and Washington, D.C (9.9%).

Incidentally, the Lehigh Valley's unemployment rate continues to improve, with unemployment hitting 8.1%.

Daily Briefing, 4/4/2012

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

In Allentown, City Councilman Frank Concannon has resigned after a series of absences.  Highmark Blue Shield has opened a retail insurance store in Lower Nazareth.  Revenue at the Bethlehem Sands increased nearly 20% compared to the same time last year.  Mitt Romney won primaries yesterday in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Wisconsin.  There is now a three week gap before the next primaries, which include Pennsylvania's.

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This Week (without) Tony - Buy Lehigh Valley Expo!

Marta and I just shot another This Week With Tony - on this one, we talk about our upcoming Buy Lehigh Valley Expo on April 11.  As always, This Week With Tony is sponsored by our friends at M&T Bank.  Enjoy!

HB 1776: Legislation to eliminate property taxes

According to a review of state between 2004 - 2009, Pennsylvania has the 16th highest property taxes in the nation.  Property taxes are of critical importance to your school district, municipal and county governments; indeed, they are usually the main funding source.  Opponents of property taxes have long argued that the taxes are inequitable as they do not tax someone based on what they spend or can afford, but on the property that they now own.  Proposed legislation in Harrisburg would change that.

HB 1776, or the Property Tax Independence Act, would eliminate property taxes in Pennsylvania.  To make up for that revenue, income tax in PA would rise from 3.07% to 4%, and the sales tax would increase from 6% to 7%.  Sales tax loopholes would be closed on some food items and medications.

Supporters of the legislation say that money not spent on property tax could then be used to purchase items and thus create more businesses and jobs.  Given that property taxes tend to be highest in urban areas, this could be a boon to urban redevelopment as well.  Opponents of the legislation question whether or not it would still give governments enough funding to operate.

This legislation has NOT been endorsed or opposed by The Chamber, but if passed it would absolutely have a huge impact on taxpayers and businesses.  What are your thoughts?

Daily Briefing, 4/3/2012

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

Lehigh Valley unemployment dropped once again, sinking to 8.1%.  In state-wide news, Governor Corbett has announced that he is seeking to privatize the Pennsylvania lottery.  In national news, today is the date of the winner-takes-all Republican Presidential primary in Wisconsin.  The head of the federal General Services Administration, Martha Johnson, has resigned after holding a lavishly expensive GSA conference in Las Vegas. Some Republicans in Congress have begun to discuss bringing back earmarks.

And that's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll be back later today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Is Traditional Marketing Dead?

The always awesome Intern Mauri is back with another very interesting blog post on a subject that we certain discuss very frequently here - traditional vs. new marketing.  Is traditional marketing dead?  I don't think so, and neither does Mauri.  Read on for more.
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Is Traditional Marketing Dead?
                We’ve been blogging a lot lately about the importance of various types of digital marketing methods. New media technologies, especially social media initiatives, have taken off in the past few years and have really put a new face on the marketing industry. During the past few weeks we’ve told you about many of these, from the continued importance of email marketing to ways that small businesses can use social media to promote their products or services.
                All this talk about what’s new in marketing, though, really begs the following question: is traditional marketing dead?
                What better place is there to get the answer to this question than to someone who works with Chamber members every day? "Traditional marketing is not dead," Gina Martens, our director of Member Relations, told me. "Creating heart connections and evolving relationships by earning trust is the only way I know how to do business."
                Experts agree that we shouldn't put the final nail in the coffin just yet. In a survey conducted last May by Business News Daily, resulted showed that 77 percent of small businesses who responded still use print advertising, with 53 percent still using event marketing. However, 73 percent of respondents reported that they use social media tools to promote their businesses. While social media is clearly on the rise, businesses are still using the same methods they’ve always used; they are coordinating those traditional efforts with social media marketing to create an even bigger impact.
Local marketing and public relations professionals agree with this tactic. Tracey Werner, owner of Blabbermouth Communications, considers social media a marketing method that complements traditional marketing. “I see social media marketing as another, newer form, of marketing, used in tandem with other methods,” she said. However, she agreed that traditional marketing methods continue to remain important for a business. “I think traditional marketing methods are tried and true and still have their place in any comprehensive marketing plan."
Mike Drabenstott at Spark, a full-service public relations and marketing agency in Bethlehem, explains why we shouldn't ignore the consistent value of traditional marketing methods. "Social media needs to be part of an integrated plan," he explains. "As pervasive as it seems to be, not everyone uses it or uses it frequently -- especially older people and technophobes. So it's important to use traditional methods for reaching a broader audience."
In fact, Drabenstott's own experience reflects Business New Daily's survey. "Direct mail is actually on an upswing in both use and results," he adds. "Media relations is still essential to provide third-party credibility and clout. And even traditional space advertising still has a place for mass-market products to realize frequency of message and to reinforce brand awareness."
Our own Mike Schlossberg, VP of Member Relations and Applied Technology/resident social media guru, weighs in. “Despite being a Social Media advocate, traditional marketing isn’t dead; not yet, anyway," he says. "Take The Chamber, for instance.  We still run a print newsletter, Connections, that goes out once a month, and I’d argue that it remains our most impactful method of communication in terms of building event attendance and awareness.”
Incidentally, as I'm writing this someone has shared with me a study by Cornell University that found in-person events, including meetings and conversations, to be more effective than virtual events in terms of capturing attention, evoking positive responses, and creating and maintaining business contacts. The key is to create sustainable relationships. Let's go back to our Marketing Director, Gina Martens, for one final word on the matter: "We need to truly understand the needs of our customer so we can better serve them," she explains. "This is how relationships get started. From there, not only will you WIN the business, but referrals and repeat customers will follow -- leading to superior revenue results!"
While it’s important to stay on top of marketing trends, doing what works best for you and your customers is always the best solution. Who knows your customers better than you? Reach out to them on their terms, and you'll never go wrong.


Daily Briefing, 4/2/2012

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

District Attorney Jim Martin has said that Glenn Eckhart is ineligible to serve as County Controller as a result of state law.  Easton's Peace Candle is in need of about $30,000 of repairs.  In Bethlehem, Route 412 is set for a major expansion near the I-78 interchange.  In state-wide news, seven communities are suing Pennsylvania over the recently passed Marcellus Shale law, saying that such a law is unconstitutional.

We have one Chamber event today: first Monday at the Holiday Inn in downtown Allentown.

And that's it for now!  Have a good one and we'll see you soon.