Category Archives: Chamber of Commerce

Business Team

Creating A Balanced Team

Let’s play a little mind game, OK? I want you to close your eyes and imagine only the following. You have answered an ad for help wanted. The ad was intriguing, the pay they offered was very competitive, but they never said what the job entailed. When you arrive at the interview, the person you are introduced to escorts you into a room with just an overhead light, a desk and a desk chair. The top of the desk is covered with piles of papers and folders, just in stacks.  Your instructions are simply to sort the piles. When you are done, you should have an idea what the job description should be.  The person exits the room and closes the door.

As you look at the papers you realize that there are everything from recipes on cards, to accounts payable receipts, clipped newspaper articles and stuffed folders without labels. Here’s the one and only question I want you to answer.  What is your instinctive methodology? In other words, do you start to make piles of all like items, a pile of recipes, a pile of folders, and a pile of newspaper clippings?  Or do you start to look at each piece and begin to put the puzzle together as they seem to relate?

Know the answer? Good. Then please read on.

There is no correct answer, by the way. If it seemed natural to you that you begin putting the like items in separate piles to begin the first phase of the task, you are most likely what is referred to as a “Container”.  If your initial impulse is to start piecing the puzzle together with investigating each piece of paper, you are referred to as an “Expander”.  What’s important here is that you need both Expanders and Containers to run a business.

The Containers are your organized, task oriented employees. They implement the ideas and plans of the Expanders. If you just have idea people, but no one to implement the ideas, you have creative chaos. If you only have those implementers, but no new ideas and strategies to be developed, then the ship runs smoothly, but it goes nowhere.

If you are a one man operation, it is of utmost importance that you understand whether you are mostly a Container or an Expander. If you recognize that you are an Expander, then you should begin to look for sub-contractors that will be your creative force. They come up with you ad campaigns, design your t-shirts, and handle your social media.  If you are the creative force, then sub-contract a bookkeeper, someone to come in once a month to do your filing, someone else to maintain the premises, so that your best energies are spent doing what you do best.

If you are now trying to expand your internal staff, this is even a more urgent exercise. Take the staff you currently have and put them through this same scenario. Let them tell you who they are, don’t just use your judgement of them from what you’ve seen so far.  Once you’ve identified the number of Expanders and Containers you have on staff, you have a better idea what to look for when adding to the team.  Maybe you have a position open that you recognize will need an Expander, but you already have too many Expanders on staff. It’s time to move your people around. Put the creative force behind the idea pool and the implementers in the “get it done” pool. Now what position do you have open?

It’s all about the balance. Consider it “Business Yin and Yang”.

Back to Grow

Photo Courtesy of Scott Michael Anna

What We’re Thankful For in 2017…

2017 has been a year we’ll never forget in Blairsville-Union County, and we have so much to be thankful for! This year, we’ve had record numbers of visitors to our area (thanks, in part, to the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse in August), a continued increase in ribbon cuttings, and healthy growth overall in our area. None of this would have been possible without the support of the incredible community that is Blairsville-Union County!

As we approach Thanksgiving this week, we’d like to encourage everyone to take time to enjoy your family and friends and, in the spirit of the holiday, truly reflect on everything you have to be thankful for. No matter what your station in life may be, we are all truly blessed in so many ways. With that said, we at the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce would like to take a moment to publicly thank our leadership board, our staff, our members, our city and county officials, and our community for another amazing year. Each and every one of you make us proud to call this place home, and we are truly grateful for a community in which we truly look out for one another.

On behalf of all of us at the Chamber, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Business of Making Memories

We were nine adults, sitting around the backyard fire pit, drinking real hot cocoa topped with fluffy marshmallows. As the late autumn breeze became chillier, the hostess left us to rustle up blankets for each of her guests. We threw them around ourselves and instinctively wrapped up in them like they were our cocoons.

Someone sighed and said “Oh, this reminds me of summer camp in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie over 50 years ago.” For the next two hours we exchanged memories of our childhood camp experiences. Though we had raised a dozen children between us, not one of us mentioned the recollections we had of their experiences. Our own camp memoirs were so rich and tangible, even a half century later, we couldn’t stop sharing. Eventually the fire burned to just ambers and we regretfully ended our journey down memory lane.

When deciding to open a business here in Union County, you will ask yourself a myriad of questions. Can I make a living out of what I’m most passionate about? Is this something I think I can be absorbed about for the next several years?  Why would people choose to do business with me instead of who they’ve been doing business with in the past? Where can I open my business that is affordable and will draw the most traffic?

All of these are important considerations, yet one of the most important questions seldom gets asked. Will my business make memories for my customers? Because if their experience with you is memorable, they will continue to do business with you and they’ll share that experience with everyone. If your yarn shop is completely off the beaten path, but the alpaca, whose fleece are used to make your yarn, are available to your customers to pet and feed, they will drive miles for that experience. They’ll take pictures, post it on social media, most likely with a link to your FB page, and now they are using these memorable experiences as free marketing for your business.

I know, you are thinking, “I want to open a window washing business. How do I create a memorable experience for my customers?” All recollections don’t have to be pleasant. Taking before and after pictures of some of the worst windows, then sharing them in a “thank you for your business” card will be all they need. After the windows are clean, they might not remember what they looked like before. You can remind them how awful they were and now they can experience sunlight streaming freely through them, once again. They’ll also remember your effort to let them know how much you appreciate their business and will now have two extra business cards you taped on the back of the photos to use when referring you to their neighbors. If you are washing windows on the second or third floor, ask them to use your cell phone take a picture of you up on the ladder. Post this pic to their social media page and yours, thanking them for helping your business “reach new heights.”

The Blairsville-Union Chamber of Commerce offers great think tank sessions throughout the year, where local entrepreneurs, just like you, gather to discuss their ideas. Make us part of your journey to opening your business. Oh, and if your takeaway from this article has you dreaming about opening a camp just for adults here in the mountains, we bet you’d have great success.

Back to Dream

http://www.visitblairsvillega.com/explore-blairsville/solar-eclipse-2017/

Eclipse Recap

Remember the eclipse? It’s hard to believe that Blairsville-Union County got national news coverage and had thousands of people flock to our area for a once-in-a-lifetime lunar event, but here we are! For many of us, August 21 probably felt a little chaotic with all of the visitors and events going on. Now that the moon dust has settled and no one can find the eclipse glasses that they scrambled to buy at the last minute, we can take a step back and see just how big this experience was for our community. Here’s a quick look at the Blairsville Eclipse Experience by the numbers:

  • Over 15,000 visitors
  • 18,655 Glasses Sold
  • 2,820 Shirts Sold
  • 4 events Hosted by the Chamber: Astronomy Night, Totality Tailgate, Moon Over Meeks & Viewing at the IP
  • Nearly $4,000 raised for Civic Clubs and the Recreation Department
  • Estimated economic Impact: $200,000+

Who knew that a couple of minutes in total darkness would have such a bright impact on our community?

http://www.visitblairsvillega.com/explore-blairsville/solar-eclipse-2017/

Blairsville Has You 100% Covered for the Eclipse

On Monday, August 21st, a once in a lifetime experience will occur in the US. For the first time in 99 years, a Total Solar Eclipse will be crossing the country from central Oregon through South Carolina in a 70-mile-wide path. Fortunately for us, Blairsville is in the path of totality and we will experience 1 minute and 58 seconds of totality! Don’t settle for less than 100% coverage for this incredible lunar experience!

We’ll be celebrating this incredible event all over Blairsville-Union County leading up to the eclipse, with several viewing parties and other events that will be taking place on August 21. Here’s just a taste of what we have in store (you can find the totality of our eclipse events here).

Sunday, August 20th

Astronomy Night
3 – 4 pm, Union County Fine Arts Center
Admission is $3 per person or $1 with a Union County School ID.

Learn about the Total Solar Eclipse and everything you will experience during the totality. Astronomer David Hearn will be providing a well-rounded overview to educate and prepare you for the Eclipse.

Event sponsored by North Georgia Technical College, Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce, and UC Schools.

Monday, August 21st

Meeks Moon Party
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Meeks Park

Spend the day at Meeks Park with your friends and family. Bring your chairs or blankets. Food trucks will be onsite for your dining pleasure.  

Sponsored by Habitat for Humanity of Towns/Union, Union County Recreation Department, and the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce.  

Viewing @ The IP
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM EDT, Blairsville Industrial Park

Enjoy a clear unobstructed view of the sky surrounded by stunning mountains. The Viewing at the IP will feature plenty of parking, food trucks, music and a perfect location to enjoy this once in a lifetime event! Bring your chairs/blankets.

Sponsored by the Union County Rotary Club and the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce.

Totality Tailgate
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM EDT, Union County Schools Fine Arts Center

Join your friends and neighbors for a viewing party at the Union County Fine Arts Center. This is a fun way to experience this once in a lifetime event with your community! Bring your chairs/blankets or tailgate from your vehicle. Food trucks will be available for your dining pleasure.

Sponsored by United Community Bank Junior Board, Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce, and UC Schools.

Have a boat? Lake Nottely, with its 4,180-acres will be an ideal place to enjoy the eclipse. Three marinas, which will all host events, will have boats and jet skis available to rent. With ¾ of our county protected by US Forest Service land, almost every location you can find in Blairsville-Union County offers wide open spaces for viewing with a stunning mountain backdrop.

The Blairsville Eclipse Experience is presented by North Georgia Technical College – Blairsville Campus in partnership with the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about the eclipse and to locate viewing parties and other local events, visit the official Blairsville Eclipse Experience website. Blairsville Eclipse Experience safety glasses and commemorative t-shirts are available at the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. Glasses are $2 each and shirts start at $13.

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Preparing for Social Media Lift-Off, Part 1

You are just a few days away from opening your business, and the punch list seems to grow. It’s late at night, and you can’t sleep. You rise, grab a hot cup of tea, and open up your laptop. It just dawned on you that you need a Facebook page for your business.

Though it is never too late to take such action, you can certainly take steps to avoid this situation.

Let’s rewind the scenario.

The calendar indicates that your scheduled launch date is in three months. Your business plans are just starting to take shape. It’s 6am on Saturday morning, you’ve risen early and the kids are still in bed. The hour is peaceful and quiet, except in your head. The clattering of ideas for preparing for your business adventure is making such a racket. You decide to open your laptop and prepare to begin executing your marketing plan by taking the first bite of the social media elephant.

This morning you are going to focus on which platforms of social media you are going to use to market your business and create your brand. Let’s start by looking at local businesses and seeing where they are having the most success.

The little country store out near the state park has nearly 7500 followers on Facebook. How is that possible? They post something nearly every day, not necessarily about their business, but by their business. They typically post three videos a month, and they average 1500 views each.

Impressive.

You are not opening a country store, but you are launching a service business, one with several competitors in the tri state area. You now search them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. You look for the following:

  • How many followers do they have?
  • What are they posting about?
  • Are their posts mostly internal (company-based) news, blog posts and articles; mostly external news, blog posts and articles; or a mix of both?
  • What’s their brand voice?
  • How often do they post?
  • How many likes/comments/shares do they get per post?
  • Do they run any polls, contests or fun games with their brand?

Today you’ve done your research, and you can now decide which social media platforms you want to set up on before your launch in 3 months.

Saturday morning, one month later.

Now it’s time to design your guidelines for your social media do’s and don’ts. As you grow, you won’t have time to be the only one posting for your business. This is the time to iron out what your plan is and how it is to be executed, so you are prepared to hand it off when the time comes. Your social media helper will be able to follow the method to secure your branding in the ways that you have intended.

Begin designing your guidelines by asking these questions.

  • Does your brand refer to itself as “we” or “I”?
  • Are any words off-limits?
  • Does your brand have a political leaning? How comfortable is your company with offending followers of a different political leaning?
  • Will you respond to comments and how often? We can’t impress on you enough how important this decision is when you begin the social media marketing journey. How do you respond to reviews, even negative ones? What tone will you use to address negative comments? (There will be haters. It’s a public forum after all.) Are you apologetic, is your policy to address or ignore? Just as importantly, how quickly will you pledge to respond to positive remarks and reviews?
  • If your social media account were a person, what would he or she do for fun? How would he or she talk? What wisdom do they want to impart? Do they have a pet or another animate object that can be the business mascot?

Here at Blairsville-Union County Chamber of commerce, we analyze our social media impact every single day. We look forward to sharing your business with our followers. Stay tuned for Part #2 of our preparation list. Are you getting excited about making your dream come true?

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

A few months ago, as you were on your way into town, you noticed that your neighbors had two pickup trucks in their driveway with three workmen entering the house with boxes. You didn’t slow down to read the logo on the side of the trucks, lest they think you a nosey neighbor. By the time you came home that night, the trucks were gone. What you did notice that evening was a yard sign indicating that “A Walk on the Woods” was proud to announce they were installing new wood flooring in your neighbor’s home.

A couple evenings later, while walking Goliath, your 150 lb. mastiff (he being the main reason you even have to consider pulling up the carpeting and putting down wood floors), you happen upon your neighbors. He’s pruning his bushes, while his pregnant wife is sitting in the shade, supervising. You remark that you couldn’t help noticing the sign in their yard, and you wondered if they would recommend this business, and more importantly, would they use them again. The neighbor chuckles and tells you you’re the 5th neighbor who has stopped to ask him this same question. He indicated they were going to ask the flooring manager for a commission.

And why shouldn’t they get one? Their yard has been used to house a billboard for the flooring company’s business. That billboard, all 24×36 inches of it, cost the flooring company $25. Installation of the sign took 30 seconds. Seven days later, as they had promised to do when their client agreed they could post the sign, they came back and removed the sign. When they came to pick up the sign, no one answered their knock on the door. They left a “thank you” card and a bottle of wood floor cleaning liquid. The bottle of cleaner had a sticker on the back with the flooring company’s logo, their contact information and a quote that expresses how much they appreciate referrals.

About a month later, you are in the parking lot of your favorite fast food joint. You realize that the truck parked next to you has the “A Walk on the Woods” logo, along with their phone number. There’s also a little camera icon, and the words “shoot me with your cell phone, and call us when you need us”.

“Wow,” you think. “This is much easier than writing their number with my finger in the dirt on the trunk of my car.”

“A Walk on the Woods” has invested in their marketing wisely. First, they came up with a creative name that most people will not only remember, but will likely share the clever moniker with others.  Secondly, they invested $25 in a yard sign for each of their installers to carry with them, installing them on the customer’s lawn. They secured permission to do this in writing at the time the customer signs the agreement to purchase.  Then, they not only make sure that they are there to pick up the sign at the end of the seventh day, but they add a token of their appreciation, which of course, also has a sign on it. They’ve also invested wisely in moving billboards, having vehicles with their logo and contact info, and even ensuring that potential clients will take that information home with them via their cell phones.

Yesterday, you drove by that same neighbor’s house. This time there were pink balloons on the mailbox, signifying that there was a baby girl born to the lovely young couple. Standing in the yard was a large wooden cut out of a stork. Hanging from its beak was a basket of pink silk flowers. At his feet was a yard sign that read, “Amy’s Flower Pot just delivered this baby girl a welcoming bouquet”.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

Looking for more great ideas to grow your business? Check out our schedule of workshops on our website at  http://www.visitblairsvillega.com/blairsville-union-county-chamber/chamber-programs/

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customer service

Growing Without New Customers

Most small businesses spend more energy and expense trying to enlist new customers than they do trying to retain those who have already chosen to do business with them. Depending on what industry you are in, research indicates that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5% to 25% more costly than keeping an existing one.

But how does a business grow by focusing on retaining the same customers? The answer is by focusing on growing their goods and services for their existing customers. Let’s take a look at Apple. In 1976, when they first introduced their computer technology, they targeted the graphic art industry. Around the world, graphic artists would only own a “Mac”. Next came the Apple printer, the Apple Powerbook, the IBook, the IMac and within 25 years there were ten generations of the IPod. At 32 years they introduced the IPhone and then the IPad.  

Granted, those original graphic artists haven’t been the only customer base for this zillion dollar company, but most of those original customers are still buying that brand exclusively. From the very beginning Apple kept a record of every customer who bought their product, and continued to give them the customer support they needed to win their loyalty. Once they secured that allegiance, they then had a base to sell each new product and service, year after year. That has led to generation after generation.

As a small business owner in our mountainside community, securing loyalty is just as important to your growth as it has been to Apple. Every customer that does business with you, or even inquiries about your goods and services, should become part of your business family. You should secure their email address and any other contact information they will share. If you can’t get their birthday, then note the date they first did business with you and email them a Happy Anniversary card, for they joined your business family 1 year ago, 5 years ago and before you know it, 25 years ago.

Though some industries have found loyalty programs (buy 5 cups of coffee and get your next beverage purchase free) to be quite beneficial in customer retainage, most small businesses can secure that same loyalty by treating their customers like family. Keep in touch. Share good news. Let them always know how much you appreciate their business. Always thank them profusely when you know that they have referred business your way. Reach out to them if you know they are at a crossroad in their lives, such as sickness or other devastating challenge.

Keeping this database also gives you the opportunity to track your churn rate, or those customers that no longer do business with you. By understanding who has left the fold and why, you’ll be better able to serve your loyal customers and your new clients. You will begin to understand the roadblocks of your business and you can begin to unlock the value of your product to more customers.

Your client database is where you first introduce new goods and services. How does a small business grow their goods and services like Apple? By listening to the needs of your satisfied customers as well as understanding why some customers have left you, you’ll be able to identify how best to grow and develop. If you clean carpets, but you are asked often if you can clean and repair leather furniture, you now have a direction to grow. If you install white picket fences, but find that your past customers’ only dissatisfaction is that they can’t find someone to pressure wash, paint and repair them, there’s an additional service on the horizon. If you serve a mean grilled cheese sandwich, and your servers tell you that they often get asked if you serve tomato soup or chili with that sandwich, it’s time to consider adding these to your menu.

And remember to always let the Chamber know of your growth, as well. We want to share your evolution with the community.

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Launching from the Mountain Tops

You may have been dreaming about your new business for the past twenty years, but in order to launch that vision successfully, there are certain steps to cover.

Revising Your Business Plan. Ok, we are assuming you’ve created a detailed business plan. Before you execute that plan, it’s time to share it with experts in the community in order to get their valuable feedback. Chamber staff, a CPA, a loan officer, a retired business owner and a Rotarian will ask you questions you hadn’t previously considered. Now, before you launch, go back to your plan and revise your goals, your expectations and your finances.

Are You The Expert? Fixing lunch boxes for your kids over fifteen years of their schooling does not constitute expertise in operating a sandwich shop. If you are recognizing that you need an expert, start to consider a coach/mentor, a partner or an employee with significant experience and knowledge.

Put It To The Test. The first days, weeks and months are critical to your reputation. You need to refine your model before you hang that “open for business” sign. Talk to people who might be your customers before you launch and get their views and opinions. Let them “taste test” and “test run” your menu of products services. If your list of services includes cleaning bird feeders, and no one indicates they’d likely use that service, nix it from your list. (Now, did you find out what services they would take advantage of that are not on your list?)

Where’s The Bullseye? It’s essential that you have identified, understand and know how to reach your target market. Who is likely to buy your product or contract for your service? How do you best reach these potential customers? How often are they likely to take advantage of your service or repurchase your product? Where are they procuring that product now and what do you need to do differently in order to secure them as your client? The success of your launch hinges on getting customers right out of the gate. You need to accurately project who they are going to be and understand what drives their decisions to purchase. Your starting marketing message needs to convey to them how your offering differentiates from your competition, and what benefits they will receive as your customer.

Identify Your Cash On Hand. “Potential” capital doesn’t count on day one. Ask yourself, will the cash on hand take me through the next six months of expenses without any additional revenue? Is there enough to cover the projected costs of my marketing plan? Will I be able to financially replenish depleted inventory in that period of time?

Are All Your Ducks In A Row? Is your accounting system up and running including your POS system? If you’ve hired employees, are they versed on your entire product line and services? Even if they are in charge of housekeeping, once they are out in their sphere of influence and they mention they work for your business, people will ask them questions. Be sure they have the answers. Is your website fully functional? Is all of your initial marketing in place? Do you have all the proper licensing? Have you considered and taken appropriate action to limit legal and tax implications?

Become a Member of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. Our Chamber staff is here to help assure that your business isn’t just launched, but that it successfully soars.  

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Spring Festival Season 2017

Spring has finally sprung and so has festival season in Blairsville-Union County! With the warmer weather upon us activities abound in these here hills. 

Make sure you don’t forget Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 14th. Several restaurants around town will have specials so you can treat your Mom and make sure she knows how important she is to you. Later that week on Thursday, May 18th the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce hosts their annual Buy Local Extravaganza! This is an opportunity for Union County businesses to showcase themselves and to remind residents how important it is to Buy Local. The event will be held at North Georgia Technical College with FREE parking, FREE admission, and something for every member of the family to enjoy from 4pm-7pm.

Saturday, May 20th features an Armed Forces Day celebration in Downtown Blairsville at 11am. In the afternoon, enjoy the sounds of the flamenco guitar as only Curtis Jones can play them at Paradise Hills Winery. End your day perusing classic cars at the Cruise In on the Square hosted by the Blairsville Cruisers. This is a great way to enjoy the Downtown Blairsville area dining around town, shopping at the stores, and enjoying music in a lively atmosphere!

May wraps up with the 2017 Blairsville Arts, Crafts, and Music Festival! On Saturday, May 27th and Sunday, May 28th from 10am to 5pm, downtown Blairsville will be bustling with arts and crafts vendors, delicious food, an endless amount of musical performances, quaint shops to visit, restaurants to sample and the friendliest people in the mountains! Saturday morning there will be a Memorial Day Parade at 10am and immediately following will be the first annual North Georgia Bed Race benefiting Habitat for Humanity. It is going to be a hoot and a half, y’all!

For more outdoor fun consider exploring a waterfall, visiting Vogel State Park, or hiking up to Brasstown Bald – Georgia’s highest peak! The Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce is happy to help build you a custom itinerary. For local area information, lodging, and additional upcoming events please stop by The Welcome Center located in the Union County Community Center at 129 Union County Recreation Road, or call 706-745-5789, or visit us online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGa.com.