Category Archives: Small Business

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How To Set Good Quarterly Goals

If you are a business owner, or a decision maker at any level of a business, you understand the need to set attainable goals for the year. In fact, you probably already set your 2018 goals before the end of last year. A great way to make lasting headway toward meeting your yearly goals is to make quarterly goals. Here are some tips for making measurable and realistic quarterly goals:

Take A Good Look Back
A great place to start is in the recent past, the last quarter. Examine both the highs and the lows your business experienced, since both success and failure can be great teachers, as a way of figuring out what to keep doing or do differently in the next quarter. Great questions to ask are “What made this go so well (or go so poorly)?”, “What can we do differently to prevent this outcome (or maintain this success) in the future?”, “How can our experiences this past quarter push us toward our annual goals?”

Get Your Priorities Straight
Figure out what goals are most important to achieving your larger-scale mission. Make a list of everything you would like for your business to achieve in the coming quarter. Then, go through the list and mark each item as a first, second, or third priority. After that, assign each of these priorities to a specific person (or people) on your team.

Keep Everyone Accountable
Establishing accountability for yourself and your team members is crucial to meeting your quarterly (and larger scale) mission(s). Make a weekly breakdown of who is supposed to achieve what and how. Hold meetings to measure the progress and create a visual (like a chart or graph) illustrating how much of each objective has been completed. This way, you and your team can see the progress being made and identify trouble spots while there’s still time to make corrections.

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Entrepreneur Success: Panel Built

Blairsville-Union County is the perfect place for your business and family to thrive with an ideal location and business-friendly environment. Hear why local business Panel Built, Inc. continues to choose Union County for their home.

Learn more about starting or moving a business to Blairsville-Union County at www.visitblairsvillega.com/business/.

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In Business with Your Kids

Lots of aspiring entrepreneurs come in pint size packages. Children have ideas about building a better mousetrap, and as adults, we have a tendency to pat them on the head and remark about the cleverness of their idea. What would happen if you explored that idea with your child?

Here’s what one family of four did as a summer project. Their 9 year old daughter had made a portable herb garden out of recycled materials for her end-of-year 4th grade Science project. Her Mom saw a good deal of potential in the project. She knew that kids are great at cut and paste, so with a little extra training, they could be taught to assemble. They began by recycling 16 ounce green tinted plastic soda bottles. They then purchased a $25 bottle cutting tool from a large online retailer.

Next, they invested in old barn boards that they purchased for a song from a local online yard sale. They purchased herb seeds and potting soil and took a box of Dixie cups and began their herb plantings. Dad did the cutting of the plastic bottles as well as cutting the barn wood in appropriate size pieces. The two youngsters were in charge of the planting, marking, and care of the herbs in the Dixie cups. Mom then sanded the backs of the boards, added a hanger, and attached the cut bottles in a decorative fashion onto the boards. When the plants were at a healthy size, Mom and the kids replanted them into the bottles on the boards. They went to their local Farmer’s Market on Saturday and sold out that day. They were now in the portable herb garden business. Customers went crazy for the idea of hanging this rustic barn wood on their back porch, and having an herb garden all ready to go.

Mom kept track of the time invested, as well as the material costs. The four of them had 68 hours into the project, including their day at the Farmers Market. Their material costs were $89, including the cutting tool. That day they sold the 50 portable herb planters that they brought to Market, at an average price of $18 each or a gross profit of $900. With a net profit of $811, it was as if each of them made $12 an hour for their efforts. Now imagine how the ideas started flowing as they headed home that evening. How could they expand this concept? They say the children had the best ideas, and were so invested in the project it was hard to get them to focus on their schoolwork again, come fall.

When considering what business you want to develop, don’t just consider how much time it will take away from your family, but more importantly consider how you can engage the family in the process. The learning experience will only be exceeded by the strengthening of family ties as you take on the new challenges together. Your children will also begin to develop the skills to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Our Chamber is proud to annually host the “Youth Leadership Union”, whose mission is to develop the knowledge and leadership skills of young people in our County so they may confidently become our leaders of tomorrow.  For more information about this program, visit our website.

Back to Dream

 

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Creating Fiction and Converting it to Reality

You’ve just finished reading a book of fiction that you were so engrossed in; you just couldn’t put it down. You later wonder how the author created all the characters, the twists and turns, identified the emotions with such depth, she made you weep and laugh, fight for the underdog and kept you guessing as to the ending with every single page.

Writers dream their stories, usually while they are writing them. Rarely do they know where the story will take them. What they do have is a theme. And then they begin to develop characters, sometimes over years of note taking, or maybe just on their way to taking and picking up their kids from school. Waiting in the car line, they can’t stop thinking about these characters; very much like you’ve been imagining the start of your business.

So, let’s take your business that you’ve been envisaging, and let’s write its story. It will be fiction, but based on how you imagine it. Your characters will be you, your family (because they will be impacted every day), your imaginary staff and or collaborators. There will be the people who help fund you (try not to look as the banker as the villain), possibly a landlord, as well.  There will be sales people coming out of the woodwork, so write about the ones you want to deal with. Now, don’t forget to create the kind of customers you want to do business with, who you believe will want to purchase your product or hire your service.

You should have several pages of a legal pad or your word processor filled already with characters. Now try telling the story of how you begin, playing close attention to the details. If you haven’t designed a business plan for your dream, google “businesses plans” and use the outline for your trade type as a guideline to creating your story. What’s most important is that you continually use your dream, your business as you want it to be, as the basis for your story.

Take it through the startup, the first real triumphs, and the disappointments, as well.  As an example, if you start a seasonal business where you and your team go into customers’ homes and take their boxes of Christmas decorations and set it all up, everything from outside lights to the ornaments on the tree, you may find yourself writing about how well received this service is, keeping you and your staff so busy that you realize that there won’t be time for you to set up your own Christmas tree, buy one gift or bake a batch of gingerbread cookies with your family. In business, there are always trade-offs.

You can take the story as far as you would like, but you probably will find yourself cutting from the fiction and heading to reality. You’ll start to fine tune the dream, laying concrete business plans, opening new avenues of possibilities to a line of services that can help your customer base many more times a year than just Christmas. You’ll begin to investigate the options you have for funding, you’ll research the answers to the questions that will arise as you go through this exercise, like the time you googled “pitfalls to a commercial lease”.

The likelihood is that your story will never be published as just that. Yet it very well could be the one important exercise that leads you into converting your dream business into reality. And don’t forget that here at the Chamber of Commerce, we’re a cast of characters just waiting to be an integral part of your success story.

Back to Dream

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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

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Blairsville-Union County Wine Country

One of the things that makes us one of the best-kept secrets in the Southeast is our fabulous wineries. As an American Viticultural Area (AVA), our area has the same designation and soil quality as prestigious wine communities like Sonoma and Napa Valley. But it’s not just the soil that make Blairsville-Union County’s Wine Country so special, it’s also the hard work and attention to detail of the wineries in providing their guests with unique experiences as well as exceptional wine. Come and see for yourself…

Learn more about the wineries and distilleries in Blairsville-Union County here.

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Holiday Pilgrimage

Southern Tree Plantation Inc., a family run business located 5 miles south of Blairsville, is a 60 acre Christmas tree farm located in Union County. Southern Tree Plantation has been growing Christmas trees for over 30 years. During that time many attractions and additional activities have been added to the plantation. Wagon rides, farm animals, a children’s train ride, marshmallow roasting, maze, playground, crafts, and concessions are some of the attractions and activities available for the public to enjoy while cutting or choosing their Christmas trees.

Many families make their annual holiday pilgrimage to choose and cut their own trees at the farm. In addition to finding a Christmas tree, customers enjoy browsing through the “holiday barn,” listening to their favorite music enjoying the sights and sounds of the season while sipping some hot chocolate. The “holiday barn” was created out of an 80 year old chicken house. Families can be found roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, taking the wagon and train rides, playing in the playground and maze or enjoying a variety of other activities available. Even Santa Claus has been known to drop by the “holiday barn.”  

From its early roots as a business, the Christmas season is still the highlight and most popular time of year at the farm.  Families travel from many miles away to make or continue their holiday traditions at Southern Tree Plantation. Over the years, the Plantation has expanded its services beyond trees and holiday attraction. There are also facilities available for large events to be held on the farm – perfect for company picnics, birthday parties, reunions, weddings, and other events.

Let us help you plan your holiday pilgrimage and other activities while you are in town by contacting the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce at 706-745-5789 or stop by our Welcome Center at 129 Union County Recreation Road located within the Union County Community Center.

 

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Happy Hallo-weekend!

In less than a week, it’ll be Halloween! Here in Blairsville, there’ll be costumes, candy, tricks and treats for the whole family. We’ll be celebrating the season all weekend long with festivals and other fun events all over the area. Here’s just a glimpse of what’s going on this Halloween, and the weekend before, in Blairsville-Union County:

Haunted Hayride
Enjoy Joshua Dream Ranch’s Spook-Tacular Haunted Hayrides. Have a spooky fun time and help yourself to some gooey s’mores.
October 27, 28, & 31, 8:00 PM – 11:00 PM

Fall Festival at Vogel State Park
Celebrate Autumn at Vogel with Hayrides, a Cake Walk, Duck Race, Storytelling and more!
October 28, 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Downtown Blairsville Outdoor Movie Night                                                                                                Bring the family downtown for a free movie night featuring Disney’s Hocus Pocus. A costume contest will be held before the show.                                                                                                           October 31, 6:00 PM – 8 PM

Halloween on The Square
Games, costume contests, and lots of trick or treating.
October 31, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

There are lots of other fun events happening at some of the local wineries, restaurants, and other businesses this weekend. Since, this is just a small taste of all of the spooky happenings coming up, visit us online for a full listing of Fall Activities and Events happening this Halloween and Hallo-weekend!

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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

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Living for the Long Weekend

Everybody loves a good, long weekend! With Labor Day coming up, we thought we’d give you a roadmap for how to maximize your fun and relaxation right here in Blairsville-Union County! Just a couple of hours from major Southeastern hubs like Atlanta, Greenville, and Chattanooga, Blairsville is the perfect place to unplug and unwind for a few days. Let’s get started!

Ample Accommodations
There is a wide variety of options when it comes to staying in Blairsville, from traditional hotels and camping options to resorts and cabins. Whether you want a rugged outdoor weekend of “roughing it” or a luxury experience complete with wine tastings and spa days, we’ve got you covered!

Explore The Greater Outdoors
Get outside and do something fun! Blairsville has more outdoor activities to offer than we have time to talk about, including hiking, exploring Brasstown Bald (Georgia’s Highest Peak), horseback riding, making a splash in our amazing lakes, playing in some of the best parks in the South (including Vogel State Park), and so much more. There is truly something for everyone to explore, from families, to couples, group trips, and beyond! Learn more about all of the outdoor fun you can have in Blairsville-Union County here.

Eat Better in Blairsville
We aren’t your typical little mountain town with two restaurants that both close at 6pm. Dining options here include some of the best Barbecue and Southern cooking you can find, but our thriving food scene also includes Cuban cuisine, Seafood, Italian, American, Greek, farm to table, and much more! If you like to eat, you’ll never want to leave. Find a complete listing of restaurants in the area here.

Celebrate with Us
There’s always something going on in Blairsville-Union County, with fun festivals and special events happening all year long – like the Mountain Heritage Festival happening over Labor Day weekend. Check out our Festivals and Events pages for the latest scoop on what is happening and where.

What are you waiting for? Stop by visitblairsvillega.com/tourism to start planning your trip to Blairsville-Union County today!