Professional Development

Knowledge Is Power

knowledge The Chamber is a rich resource for growing your network, tapping into professional development programs and mastering the right tools. The Chamber produces many roundtable discussions and learning sessions to educate business professionals on current trends in management, marketing, sales and technology. 


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Movers & Shakers

This portal provides insights from executives who “make things happen.”  Meet innovators from companies throughout Southern New England who share tips that can help you succeed.  Read the stories here.

Best Practice Videos

Pick up an idea or two by seeing how your fellow business professionals are solving problems. Start learning here.

Development Articles

The 7 habits of highly effective remote workers

Article sponsored by Regus

Our new report Managing at arm’s length shows that almost 50% of professionals across the globe now work remotely for half of their working week. It’s become the norm to collaborate with co-workers who you have never met face-to-face.

Here are 7 methods to make a remote team more productive:

1. Check in with everyone multiple times per day

Wherever your team are, daily meetings can keep you united and working towards one goal. You must make sure your manager, and other team members, trust in and understand what you’re doing.

2. Use technology to build trust

Try keeping a group chat window or webcam stream open all day. It helps your team to discuss as they would if they were working side-by-side, asking questions or opening ideas up to the floor. Alternatively, an automated micro-reporting system allows everyone to share small progressions – when one person finishes a task, the group gets an alert. This keeps everyone in the loop, and lets them benchmark their own productivity against their peers’.

3. Give every team member the opportunity to use professional workspace

Everyone needs a quiet, calm workspace, which isn’t always possible at home. Having a separate work place, and getting away from the distractions of home will boost productivity for remote workers. Regus Businessworld can provide this at a fraction of the cost of a fixed office.

4. Keep strict work processes and targets

To stop people becoming isolated when they’re working remotely, strict operational processes are vital. Things like signoff procedures, quality control checkpoints and daily targets should always be kept sharply in focus. Consider drawing up new job contracts to help people understand that these processes must be embedded in everything they do.

5. Meet up in person

Once or twice a year, get your whole team together for a face-to-face meeting. It could be a company away day, or a strategic planning session. Find the meeting place that’s most convenient for the whole team rather than forcing everyone to fly to head office.

6. Build a team spirit

Organize a weekly online gaming session, host a regular quiz night via Skype, or simply use instant messaging for socialising as well as business. Crucially, your remote team should never be strangers.

7. Organize one-to-one meetings

One of the key arguments against allowing remote working is one of managerial trust: according to Managing at arm’s length, 54% said that management are worried about how remote workers spend their time. Arrange frequent one-on-one meetings with your manager, and your direct reports to review productivity, report on your successes, hear feedback and define your next set of goals.

Marsh & McLennan Agency launches an “Affordable Care Act” microsite

To help people navigate the affordable care act, Marsh & McLennan Agency announces the launching of their "Affordable Care Act" microsite.    This resource offers businesses a useful tool when wading through the various aspects of Health Care Reform.  Marsh & McLennan Agency created this portal to assist their clients through the health care protocols and generously offered to share this resource with their business colleagues at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

Affordable Care Act Resource Center:  http://www.mmaaffordablecareact.com/

This site hosts a plentitude of up-to-date information/legislation, deciphering what it means, tool-kits, checklists, data, resources, etc.

Key Considerations for a Logo Redesign

Article sponsored by American Printing

A logo is the most visible graphic representation of a company, displaying a unique brand identity through colors, fonts and images. It provides an anchor for the visual elements and typography used in all other marketing materials. An established logo associated with an excellent product or service carries goodwill and brand awareness, which translates into increased mind share and sales. However, if your logo has low recognition or a dated look, it's time to consider a redesign. An ineffective logo communicates a lack of professionalism and competence that could drive your prospects to a competitor.

A key step in the redesign process is to ensure that your professional designer understands your business. Explain your unique selling proposition, where your product falls on the quality versus price spectrum, and who your competitors and target customers are. Share your plans for how the logo will be used beyond business cards and stationery; this will allow the designer to create a logo that is appropriately scalable. If your logo relies on gradients, reflections, or other digital effects, consider how it will look embroidered on a shirt or imprinted on a promotional item. One test is to look at your logo in its simplest form. Can it hold its own in black and white? Digital enhancements can be added for specific applications.

Incorporate the latest logo trends with caution. The challenge is to look contemporary without becoming quickly dated. There's no single formula for creating an effective logo. Consider the recent Microsoft, Olympic and Starbucks redesigns. Microsoft unveiled its first new logo in a quarter of a century last year, adding a splash of color and a graphic element to its name. Similarly, the new Olympic logo spells out Rio 2016 and uses the yellow, green and blue of the Brazilian flag. Contrast that with the latest Starbucks logo, which uses only one color and no reference to the Starbucks name or coffee. The green, twin-tailed mermaid represents the brand's personality rather than the product, proving that a logo doesn't have to be literal.

If logo redesign is important to these marquee brands, then it's certainly something for your business to consider. However, there's the risk of alienating loyal customers. If a corporate giant like clothing retailer Gap—which recalled its redesigned logo after a single week of social media backlash—can get it wrong, then you can too. And the price of a logo redesign is more than just the cost of the image; it's the expense of rolling it out across your enterprise. Test-market any changes with your target audience before embarking on a full-scale logo redesign. 

Choosing Partners for Your Business – A Guide to What to Look For

Article submitted and written by Tony Kubica and Sara LaForest, Kubica LaForest Consulting

Partners should be selected for what they can bring to the business with respect to Human Capital, Social Capital or Financial Capital.

Too often business partnerships are developed for all the wrong reasons:

  • We’re friends, we went to school together and it would be fun to go into business.
  • We have such a great working relationship in our last job; it can certainly work just as well in our own business.
  • You’ve been such a great boss, of course I’d like to go into business with you as your partner.
  • As a husband and wife team we will do great together in business after all we have a great marriage.

None of these reasons, in and of themselves, is a reason to select this person as your business partner, whether a start-up company or a growing business that can afford to hire staff. Unfortunately, far too often, these are still the reasons why people form partnerships.

Can it work, yes it can. But it can only work if the partner has value to bring to the table. Unless they have value that is accretive to the business, the partnership is not only a financial drain on the business, but very often can be an interpersonal drain as well.

Consider the value partners can, and should, bring to the business:

Human Capital

  • Does this person have skills that are unique and important for business development and growth?

Social Capital

  • Does this person have connections?

Financial Capital

  • Does this person have capital to invest or access to capital?

Let us look at each of these capitals in more detail and frame how each can benefit the business and a partnership.

Human Capital is about skills and talent. What does each partner have that is not part of another partner’s skill set? Sure there can be overlap, but too much overlap is redundancy.

Businesses need these skills:

  • Managerial experience
  • Experience with a previous start-up(s)
  • Content skills based on what product or service the business will offer
  • Technical
  • Financial
  • Sales

While this list is not exhaustive, it is indicative of the type of skills needed to run a business. When selecting your partner(s):

  1. Inventory what you bring to the table
  2. Define what skills and talents will be necessary to start and/or grow your business
  3. Identify where the gaps are between your skills and the needed skills
  4. It is within these gaps that the “job description” of your partner resides.

One efficient way of doing this is to make an organizational chart of what is required when your business is up and running (and growing) and look for boxes with no names in them.

Social Capital falls into the category of who do you know and who do you know who know people that can be helpful to the business. We are in a connected world, and connections – or should we say, meaningful connections – are a great asset to your business.

Social capital can help with finding people who:

  1. May have the skills and talents you need for your business
  2. Know people who may have the skills and talents you need to grow your business
  3. May be potential early stage buyers for your product or service
  4. Are well connected and can help you get the word out about your product or service
  5. Can help find you money

Social capital is important. Connectors are important because in a highly connected world that’s shrouded in a veil of economic uncertainty and a sea of sameness, it is sometimes a challenge to get people’s (read – buyers) attention. And one way to break through that is through meaningful connections.

Financial Capital. We have all heard that cash is king. And, it certainly is. No cash, no business. It’s as simple as that. So access to cash and the ability to manage cash is important.

But often times we find that some business owners believe that “if I only had more money, if I only could get the tax break, the business loan, the line of credit, I would be able to grow my business”—perhaps but not necessarily.

If you don’t have:

  • The people with the right and complementary skills and talents to grow the business
  • The connections needed to find people, buyers and money

Then money may just delay the inevitable.

So if you are seriously considering a partnership, look at what each person can bring to the table.

If all the partners essentially have similar skills, the probability of success is not high. And a further disruptive factor is when more than two partners essentially have the same skills.  And the results: costs go up, and infighting inevitably starts as each person wants badly to justify their existence in the partnership.

If on the other hand, the partners have different skills to bring to the business, the probability that this partnership will work is much higher. For example, one partner has managerial skills, another technical skills and the third a strong social network

When you complete your organizational chart to help define what your business needs, you are likely to come up with different skills. The point is to ensure that there is minimal overlap of skills in your partnership and that the skills brought to the partnership are the ones needed to grow your business.

Tony Kubica and Sara LaForest are partners in Kubica LaForest Consulting www.kubicalaforestconsulting.com

 


Keeping Good Tax Records: A Case Study of What NOT to Do

Article sponsored by Kahn, Litwin, Renza Certified Public Accountants

The importance of keeping thorough and accurate records can't be emphasized enough. If you have incomplete or no records and get audited by the IRS, it can cost you valuable deductions.

A new Tax Court case illustrates what happens when adequate records are not kept throughout the year.

Facts of the case: For the tax year at issue, Mohammed A. Rehman was employed for approximately five months at a health insurance benefits company. A Long Island, N.Y., resident, Rehman worked as a marketing outreach representative. He left his job and became a self-employed securities trader and later created a limited liability company for the business.

The IRS disallowed many of the deductions on Rehman's tax return for expenses he claimed to incur as part of his employment and his self-employment. The tax agency also rejected other deductions.

The expenses and the reasons for disallowance for some expenses are detailed in this chart:

Deduction

Taxpayer Claim

Tax Law

Tax Court

Medical expenses

Rehman suffered from back pain and sought medical treatment. He claimed he paid a doctor $20,000 in cash for back surgery.

In addition, Rehman claimed approximately $2,500 for bridgework from a dentist.

He did not have records or receipts for the medical/dental care.

Taxpayers are permitted deductions for expenses paid during the tax year for medical care (for themselves, spouses, or dependents) to the extent they exceed a percentage of adjusted gross income.

For 2013, you can claim an itemized deduction for qualified medical expenses to the extent they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). If either you or your spouse will be 65 or older as of December 31, 2013, a 7.5 percent-of-AGI threshold will apply.

The court was convinced Rehman received care for back pain. However, it added "there is nothing in the record beyond his own testimony to indicate how much he paid for that treatment or in what year he made any payments. His testimony about amounts allegedly paid is implausible and unconvincing." Rehman testified he couldn't produce documentation because the doctor "disappeared."

The same testimony was given about dental work ... no receipts and the dentist couldn't be found.

Charitable contributions Rehman deducted a charitable donation of $5,500 to an individual resident of India. The IRS disallowed the write-off and the Tax Court agreed. While taxpayers can deduct contributions to qualified charitableorganizations, donations toindividuals are not allowed. Since Rehman could not prove that the individual he provided a contribution to was authorized to accept donations on behalf of a charitable organization, he was not entitled to a deduction.
Unreimbursed business expenses as an employee

Rehman deducted the expense of traveling to and from clients' homes while he was an employee.

He also deducted the cost of traveling to and from restaurants to eat lunch.

You can deduct "ordinary and necessary" expenses incurred in carrying on a trade or business.

If you are an employee, you may be able to deduct expenses only if your employer does not reimburse them.

Some work-related transit expenses are generally not deductible. For instance, expenses for commuting between the taxpayer's residence and the place of business are generally non-deductible personal expenses. (There are exceptions for deducting commuting costs but Rehman did not prove he qualified.) He also did not show that his employer did not reimburse expenses so he was not entitled to deductions.
Meal expenses as an employee The taxpayer deducted the cost of buying lunch during his workdays as an employee It is possible to deduct 50 percent of the cost of lunches as meals and entertainment expenses if a taxpayer is eating with a customer or client and the meeting is directly related to the conduct of a taxpayer's trade or business. Since Rehman ate alone, he did not meet the requirements to show that the lunches were related to the conduct of his business. Therefore, they were non-deductible personal expenses.
Meal and entertainment expenses while self employed

On his Schedule C, Rehman claimed a $2,387 deduction for meals and entertainment and a $7,490 deduction for travel.

He produced a log that labeled all "lunch" entries as $10. For all entries labeled "Travel" the amount was $14. He testified that each $10 entry was a restaurant bill and each $14 entry was taxi fare from his apartment to the restaurant and back.

As stated above, it is possible to deduct 50 percent of the cost of lunches as meals and entertainment expenses if a taxpayer is eating with a customer or client and the meeting is directly related to the conduct of a taxpayer's trade or business.

A "contemporaneous" log should be kept to record expenses on or near the dates of client and business-related lunches.

There was no evidence Rehman's lunches were related to his business, the court stated. Also, a deduction is not allowed for meals and entertainment unless a taxpayer properly substantiates: the expense; time and place; business purpose, and business relationship between the taxpayer and the person(s) entertained.

The court did not believe the log was kept as the expenses were incurred. "It appears that Rehman prepared the log in one fell swoop long after the dates in question," the ruling stated.

Travel/ meal/ entertainment expenses in Las Vegas

On his Schedule C, Rehman claimed some travel, meal and entertainment expenses incurred during three trips to Las Vegas for conferences related to his work.

He testified he gambled at night.

You can claim deductions for travel expenses that are reasonable, necessary, and directly attributable to your business.

If the trip is undertaken for both business and personal reasons, travel expenses are deductible only if the primary purpose of the trip is business.

Other than Rehman's testimony, the court noted "there is nothing in the record to show that the primary purpose of the trips was business-related and not personal."

Although he showed announcements for conferences in Las Vegas at the time, he did not prove he attended them or that they were ordinary, necessary expenses for his business.

Office in the home Rehman claimed a deduction for the cost of utilities in his home, a one-bedroom apartment. He testified that he used the living room -- one room of three in his home -- exclusively for business purposes. To deduct any expenses attributable to business use of a home, you must use a portion of the home "exclusively" for business.

"Rehman supplied no information about the layout of his apartment that could make this assertion seem credible, and he was not a credible witness," the court stated.

Since he could not show exclusive use, his deductions were denied.

Supplies The IRS disallowed $3,763 of supplies deducted by Rehman. He produced a list of expenses showing the date purchases, a description and the amount spent. A taxpayer can deduct the cost of supplies if the cost is an ordinary and necessary expense directly connected with his or her business. Rehman's list did not show that the supplies were related to his business as a securities trader, the court stated. Therefore, he is not entitled to deduct the expenses.

The above chart only shows some of the deductions that were disallowed in this case. Rehman was also denied some write-offs for advertising, legal costs, educational expenses, books/magazines and business gifts. (Rehman v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2013-71)

The moral of this story. Don't leave the important matter of documentation to chance. Don't try to re-create expense logs at the end of the year. Don't think it is not possible that the IRS will ask you to prove your deductions.

However, with organization and guidance from your tax adviser, you can maintain tax return records that will stand up to close scrutiny from the IRS.

There is no one way to keep records. In fact, the IRS states on its website that "you may choose any recordkeeping system suited to your business that clearly shows your income and expenses." However, in a few cases, the law does require certain records and imposes requirements. For example, with respect to travel, entertainment, gift and listed property expenses, a taxpayer must generally substantiate records with:

1. The amount of the expense.

2. The time and place the expense was incurred.

3. The business purpose.

4. In the case of a business entertainment or gift expense, the business relationship.

5. For listed property, a taxpayer must establish the amount of business use and the amount of total use.

For more information about tax recordkeeping, consult with your tax adviser. There may be ways to substantiate your deductions that you haven't thought of, and there may be a way to estimate certain deductions (the "Cohan Rule") if your records are gone due to, say, a fire, theft or flood.

The Three Capital Requirements for Business

Article Authored By Tony Kubica and Sara LaForest, Kubica LaForest Consulting

It is commonly known that a business needs capital to succeed. And while this is true, what we have found is that many entrepreneurs, particularly microentrepreners, have a limited definition of capital. They define it as money.

There are, in fact, three types of capital that are essential to consider when forming and growing a business, and they are:

  1. Human capital
  2. Social capital
  3. Financial capital

When these three types of capital are considered, leveraged and working together, the opportunity to successfully grow your business improves dramatically. Where you ideally want to be is at the intersection point of human, social, and financial capital.

Human capital is essential to start any business. Simply, if the individuals starting a business do not have the knowledge, skills, and expertise to start and run a business, the chance of success is slim. The lack of appropriate human capital is one of the reasons for early stage business failures.

The specific type of human capital needed will vary with the type of business you are starting. However, there are some general requirements that all businesses need regardless of the specific product or service offered:

  • General understanding of what it takes to run a business in your sector
    • Such as, if you are in the service business (i.e., financial consulting, wealth management and so forth) what you are really in is the sales and marketing business. You can’t deliver what you don’t sell.
    • Management experience
    • Sales and Marketing
    • Content expertise
    • Operational expertise, including use of appropriate or required technology
    • Financial literacy
    • Industry knowledge, including its peculiarities and nuances

The probability that any one person would have all these skills is very low. So starting a business requires a clear understanding of what human capital will be required to start and then to grow the business.

One way to anticipate this is to create an organizational chart of what tasks need to be done in your business (based on your purpose and your strategy) and what skills are required to do these tasks. Compare that to what you already have (through you and the people you may be working with to start your business). The gap between what you have and what you need provides a road map for who you need to hire or outsource and when.

Social capital is your network, your contacts, people you know who know people. We are in a highly connected world today, more so than ever before. This brings tremendous opportunity if you are in the game. If you are not, the struggle to succeed could be overwhelming.

So what are the benefits of social capital?

  • Helps you identify human capital, the people you need to help grow your business
  • Helps you identify funding sources or perhaps be a funding source
  • Identifies and introduces you to potential early stage customers
  • Enables you to be an early stage customer
  • Helps get the word out to your network’s network about you and your business

John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” He wrote this in the 15th century. And truly, when you are starting and growing a business, being an island is anathema to your success.

Financial capital is the capital we think about most when starting and growing a business. Cash is the lifeblood of the business. You can’t run a business without cash. But on the other hand it’s hard to get cash if you can’t run a business.

That’s why we put financial capital last. To get money you need human capital and social capital first. When you have those, and if they are credible and effective, your chance of getting financial capital improves.

Let’s look at some of the common places where you can find financial capital.

  • Personal savings
  • Personal and business credit cards / lines of credit
  • Customers (advance payments – buying your product)
  • Friends and family
  • Crowdfunding
  • Banks
  • SBA Loans
  • Angel investors
  • Private equity
  • Venture capital

One of the most common sources of capital for business start-ups is personal savings followed by credit cards. In other words, many businesses self-fund. When you self fund the need to human capital and social capital may not appear to be that necessary. And in the beginning, it’s not. But as you grow, it becomes critical.

Once you move beyond self-funding, the need for human capital and social capital are essential. No one will be interested in loaning you money if you do not have the human resources to run and grow your business. It is too risky.

And without social capital you will be missing a very important avenue for contacts, recommendations, introductions, and simply having the word spread about you and your business.

So as you think about running your business, remember the three capital requirements and work for equal representation – or a balanced approach – to sustain you and position you for growth. And if you are planning to start a business in the future – start building your capital base now, and remember – it is much more than just cash.

Tony Kubica and Sara LaForest, Partners in Kubica LaForest Consulting, are Business Growth Advisors, Executive/Performance Coaches, Speakers and Authors. They specialize in a high touch, personalized approach in helping entrepreneurs and executives improve their business performance and accelerate their business growth. Visit their website: www.kubicalaforestconsulting.com and follow their blog www.yourbusinessgyroscope.com

Copyright 2013 Kubica LaForest Consulting




                  
Can Your Business Survive If You Could No Longer Manage It Tomorrow?
Article provided by:
Tony Kubica and Sara LaForest, Partners of Kubica LaForest Consulting, are Business Growth Advisors, Executive/Performance Coaches, Speakers and Authors. Visit their website at www.kubicalaforestconsulting.com

How much time do you spend thinking about business exit planning?

If you're like many of the small business owners we meet - not much. That's okay as long as you don't care about supporting yourself and your family when you retire or leave the business, and if you are not attached to what happens to the
business, your employees and your customers after you leave. But in truth, the business professionals and small business owners we meet do care.

They care a lot - they just haven't done much about it yet.

Unfortunately, many business owners believe that their business will just dissolve when they exit, and don't believe or understand that their business could havevalue for sale.

Two Reasons Your Business Can Have Value After You Leave the Business

1. If you setup your business so it can be sold at a later date, then your company can help grow the acquirer's business by allowing them to add a new service or product line to their business or by enhancing an existing service/product line

through the addition of your company.

2. If you are a thought leader in your industry and if the business does not rely on you for operations - then your business has value as your competition will want to remove you as a competitor!

Now, we know what you are thinking... "But, I'm not ready to sell my business. Why do I have to think about exit planning for my business now?"

Here's Why Exit Planning Is Critical For Your Business Now - And Why You Should Not Delay Thinking About Exit Strategies...

An exit plan better prepares you (the business owner) for the inevitable transition of your business - whether it's expected (intended), unexpected or the result of undesirable circumstances that can and do arise.

Most business owners we talk to understand the voluntary exit (even if they are not currently planning for it). And they also understand and fear an involuntary exit. What is less discussed, but a looming reality like the proverbial albatross
around your neck, is the unexpected exit.

An unexpected exit may be triggered by a biological event such as:

* You die

* You become ill or disabled
* You're too old to effectively run the business

Due to the sensitivity of the topic, many small business owners and business professionals simply avoid the biological aspects in their exit planning. As a result, they are left to deal with the muddle of unknowns amid the highly
emotional and sometimes financial losses of an owner.

Now That You Know Why You Need to Have An Exit Plan in Place - Here Are Your Next Steps...

Regardless of whether the exit event is planned (the sale of the company, leadership succession of an employee or family member) or not (a biological event), at some point there will be an inevitable transition.

So we ask again, how much time have you spent thinking about and formulating an exit plan that considers not only the planned exit options, but also the unplanned exit possibilities?

To start thinking about it, we suggest you start with one key question: Can your business continue if you could no longer run it tomorrow?

If the answer is yes - then you are well prepared for a sale or for a biological event. If your answer is no because the business relies either solely or primarily on you for sales and key operational activities, you are not a very attractive
acquisition target. And should a biological event occur, sustaining the business will be a serious challenge.

Clearly, we recommend that regardless of where you are in your business life cycle (start-up, or nearing the end of your tenure with the business), you should be working with a business consultant to create your business exit plan.

While formulating an exit plan will require some "frontloading" in time, the benefits of your effort will payoff by:

• Allowing you to control and better manage the exit

• Helping you to maximize company value
• Minimizing tax implications
• Establishing multiple exit options which mitigate unknowns and negative unexpected circumstances (i.e. serious injury/disability, death, divorce, disagreement/owner deadlock, etc.)
• Better enabling you to achieve business and personal goals
• Reducing stress and anxiety due to prior planning and defined expectations
• Insuring business continuity

Now, is the time to start planning your exit strategy!
10 Essential Employee Engagement Steps that Drive Results

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and the RI Society for Human Resource Management and RI SHRM Chapters presented a credited seminar that reinforced the notion that an engaged workforce is the “secret source” that drives business results.  The practices and outcomes associated with an engaged workforce offer businesses a cultural transformation that can stand the test of time in both economic booms and recessionary times.  The forum challenged attendees to look at their company's greatest asset --their employees--as a key ingredient for advancing innovation, motivation and company messaging.

Bob Kelleher, founder of The Employee Engagement Group delivered the forum’s keynote, providing tangible examples of productive leadership drivers that can change the course of a company’s bottom line and its public image.  One of those drivers is the adoption of workplace flexibility policies, which was explored in the second half of the seminar by Lisa Horn, Senior Government Relations Advisor, Co-Leader,Workplace Flexibility Initiative.  Lisa led a best practices panel discussion with recent local recipients of the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility.

To view Bob’s presentation, click here.

360 Corporate Benefit Advisors was the Presenting Sponsor.

 

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Article sponsored by Fitness Together Providence

As New Year’s resolutions gain popularity this time of year, many jump on the bandwagon of losing weight, getting fit and living a healthier lifestyle. While we all can benefit from making these types of positive lifestyle changes, most resolutions fizzle out, unfortunately, before they even have a chance to settle in. So, why does this popular annual pastime of making New Year’s resolutions tend to result in failed attempts, false starts and lackluster efforts?

Well, actually, it’s quite simple.

● Resolution season brings colder temperatures and limited daylight.

● The start of the year is filled with busy life, work and family schedules.

● Doing what you’ve always done is a lot easier than trying something new.

So, what can you do to jump over these common resolution hurdles and finish strong in the quest for resolution success?

Commit to Getting off the Couch and Out the Door

The first step to accomplishing your health and fitness resolutions is to back your goals with a real commitment to succeed. You can’t wish your way to a healthier, leaner, more fit, stronger you. You have to make a real commitment that includes a support structure and lifestyle change focused on meeting your overall health and fitness goals.

One way to create a deeper level of health and fitness commitment is by working out with a group of friends or peers. As the temperatures hover around freezing and the temptation to cuddle in front of the fireplace instead of going to the gym burns strong, it is a lot easier to get yourself off the couch and out the door if you know someone is waiting to workout with you at the gym. This same peer-driven motivation to get you out the door on a cold winter day can be advantageous to your overall fitness when you workout in a group environment as well.

Research indicates that the presence of others around you during a workout session and the effects of competition can have a positive influence on your exertion and fitness performance levels. ]he dynamics and high energy of working out in a small group setting with a handful of peers and a seasoned personal trainer can push you to work harder than you could have ever imagined, allowing you to enjoy overall improvements in your body’s health and fitness levels.

By incorporating a group fitness routine into your New Year’s resolution goals, you become a part of something bigger than yourself – an environment that is packed full of fitness commitment, motivation and encouragement.

Call in the Accountability Troops

Many New Year’s resolutions fail because people embark on the journey alone and let other items on their life calendar take priority over their goals. Set yourself up for resolution success by wrapping your goals with a strong support system that includes the right professionals and tools to do the job wisely and successfully.

By enlisting the help of a certified personal trainer, you will receive a customized workout that aligns with your body, ability and health/fitness level, as well as your New Year’s goals. A study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that those who worked out with personal trainers resulted in greater individual strength, workout intensities and exertion levels during an exercise session. Personal trainers are not only a great resource for holding you accountable to showing up for your workout, but also ensuring that you engage in a valuable workout session that benefits both the mind and body.

Another way to keep yourself accountable to health and fitness goals is by physically scheduling your weekly workouts into your personal, family and professional calendars. If you view your workouts as a serious appointment and dedicate specific time to a physically fit lifestyle, you will be less likely to skip your workouts when life becomes busy.

Furthermore, industry reports continue to find evidence that you don’t have to spend your entire day in the gym to reap the most benefits from your workouts. Short-term, high intensity workouts have been found to be a time efficient and effective approach for burning fat, increasing fitness levels and improving overall cardiovascular health.

Out with the Old, In with the New

The same old workouts and lifestyle tendencies will yield the same old results. If you are committed this year to reaching new levels of physical fitness, it is important to change up your approach by combining a can-do attitude with new workout routines focused on measurable strength and conditioning goals.

It’s important to remember, though, that physical fitness is an ongoing process that doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of making rash decisions like cleaning out all of the food in your pantry or exercising seven days a week when you have rarely made it to the gym once a week, set yourself up for success by identifying incremental benchmarks (going to the gym three times a week, running a mile without stopping, bench pressing 100 pounds, etc.) that can help keep your overall fitness goals within reach and within perspective. This approach will keep you on the path to reaching new physical fitness levels throughout the year and provide you with the opportunity to celebrate your successes along the way.

By pushing aside old barriers and incorporating new lifestyle behaviors centered around commitment, accountability and positive attitudes, you are well on your way to investing in a healthier body and happier you for the New Year.

The certified personal trainers at Fitness Together will design workouts tailored to your specific fitness level and will push you just hard enough to turn your goals into life changing results.

Contact Fitness Together Providence at 401-369-7660 to learn more about how to look better, feel better and perform better this New Year with one-on-one personal training or PACK small group training.

 

QR Codes Are Everywhere!

Article sponsored by American Printing


These days, QR Codes are all the rage. These 2D mobile barcodes, which look like black-and-white checkerboards, are everywhere. From electronics packaging to movie posters to products at the supermarket, QR Codes give consumers immediate access to coupons, video, sweepstakes offers, and other marketing content, using their mobile phones.

Who's using QR Codes? Everybody!

As of November 2012, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that smartphones were in the hands of 53% of U.S. mobile phone owners, and comScore found that, as of December 2011, 20% of smartphone users had scanned a QR Code. JiWire's "Mobile Audience Insights" (2012) reported almost identical numbers — 18% of mobile users scanned a QR Code during Q4 2011. This represented 53% of the mobile users who knew that their mobile device had a QR scanner.

QR Codes are on business cards, posters, and point-of-purchase displays. They are on retail shelves and the product tags of everything from lawnmowers to watermelons. Scanning these codes has become routine.

Here are four reasons to add QR Codes to your print materials:

1. QR Codes provide an immediate response mechanism. As soon as your message catches their eye, consumers scan and view. There is no delay between the interest and the response.

2. They capitalize on today's mobile culture. One-third of adults are now mobile-only. They have no landline in their homes at all (National Health CDC/NCHS National Health Survey 2011). In addition, 61% of consumers access the Internet via smartphone (Accenture 2012). It's the way people live, work, and shop.

3. They are highly trackable. QR Codes provide tracking for print media, even those such as billboards or magazine advertisements, that are not otherwise trackable.

4. They turn static media into interactive media. Let your customers see video, read customer reviews, download coupons. Print becomes a two-way medium.

If you've been looking for the right time to get involved with QR Codes, that time is now. QR Codes are an inexpensive, highly effective way to connect print and mobile technology.

Got questions about QR Codes? We've got answers. Give us a call.

Improve Response Rates with a Compelling Sales Letter

Article sponsored by American Printing

A well-written sales letter addresses the interests and concerns of the recipient and persuades the reader to take action, making this a profitable element of your direct marketing package. Consider each of the components.

Presentation: Before the first word is read, your sales letter has already made an impression. Consider the size and weight of the paper, typeface selection, use of color, line spacing, and frequency of indents and bullets. A friendly photo can humanize the piece, but overly glossy graphics can get the letter tossed as “junk mail.”

Headline: Grab attention with a prominent headline to compel the recipient to keep reading. Use a testimonial quote from a marquee customer to build trust.

Salutation: The best sales letter is ineffectual if you haven’t acquired a valid mailing list of targeted customers. Personalization doesn’t end with addressing your customer by name. Leverage your database to insert information about the customer’s sales history and preferences throughout the letter.

Body of letter: This is your pitch. Offer a solution to the reader’s problem. Give real examples to sell benefits, not features. Sprinkle “you” and “your” throughout so the customer understands his or her needs come first, not your desire to sell something.

Close: Spell out what the reader needs to do next (e.g., request additional information by completing the enclosed reply card, order now). Insert a guarantee to establish credibility. Since all sales letters contain a call to action, it’s easy to test the response rate to determine which version works best in converting readers to buyers.

Postscript: The second most read part of your letter, after the headline, is the P.S. Mobilize the reader to act now (e.g., order in the next 30 days and receive free installation).

How long should the letter be? As long as it takes to define the offer, overcome objections and ask the reader to take action. Those who aren’t interested won’t read page one; those who are will read every word.

One of the key advantages of a sales letter, as with all print marketing, is that it has staying power. Give the reader a reason to post the letter on the refrigerator or bulletin board. An auto repair service might include the top 10 tips for winterizing your vehicle, or a sporting goods store could enclose a season schedule for the local team.

Lastly, be prepared for success. Correlate the volume of your mail drop to the highest projected response rate. Make sure you can fulfill the deluge of new orders your sales letter will surely bring.

 

Alex and Ani to open professional development center

By Rebecca Keister 
PBN Staff Writer

Jewelry designer Alex and Ani LLC will open a professional development center in a Weybosset Street building it has purchased. The location will also house a new retail location will open in late August, CEO Giovanni Feroce told Providence Business News.

“We are often asked about how we are succeeding. Giving as we’re growing is embedded in how we go about doing business,” Feroce said. “We thought the time was appropriate since we are rapidly growing…that since we do this training anyway, we’d offer it to the public as well.”

Alex and Ani University, which will open at the Weybosset Street location when some building work is completed, will aim to help organizational leaders and members “rethink what it means to be human at work in the 21st century,” according to Feroce.

Courses will include the ‘New Language of Leadership,’ ‘Attitude & Emotional Intelligence,’ ‘Self-Identity & Meaning-Making in the Workplace,’ and ‘Rethinking Retail.’ Feroce will instruct a course called ‘Reality Management, running an agile organization in today’s business climate.’

Alex and Ani purchased the building at 159 Weybosset St., which formerly housed American Apparel, for $3.3 million.

The university will be located on the building's top three floors. There also will be a rooftop deck. The bottom two floors will be house an Alex and Ani retail store and a Teas and Javas location. Alex and Ani recently began running the coffee shops.

Mediapeel Inc., which will be renamed Seven Swords Media, will also be there. The company, which Alex and Ani bought last spring, is relocating from Lincoln.

“[The new building] will create jobs form the street level all the way up through our media company into the university,” Feroce said.

The Teas and Javas store will sell wines from Sakonnet Vineyards. Alex and Ani announced Thursday that it purchased the Little Compton vineyard for $8.45 million.

Article courtesy of PBN http://www.pbn.com/Alex-and-Ani-to-open-professional-development-center,69110?category_id=89&sub_type=stories,packages


Take Charge of Your Professional Development

Tips for helping yourself grow, even without your company’s support

 

By ALEXIS GRANT

August 17, 2011

 

It's easy to get complacent about professional development when you're employed. If you already have a job, why should you go above and beyond to improve your skills, especially if it's not required by your company?

But making an effort to help yourself grow professionally will help you succeed, both in the short term and in the long term. And if you don't learn new skills and acquire new knowledge and experience, you're likely to fall behind your peers, which could be detrimental when you look to change positions.

 

"If you don't [focus on professional development], you won't be marketable in your field in five years," Alexandra Levit, author of New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career, wrote in an email. "In this [employment] climate, you always have to be looking ahead to what is going to be required in your potential next role."

 

Levit recommends focusing on transferable skills that are relevant across a variety of industries and positions. That way, even if you can't use them now, they'll likely come in handy later.

 

Taking charge of your professional development has become even more important since the recession, because some companies no longer have the funds to help employees grow beyond their basic duties. And since employees tend to have shorter stays with companies than they did years ago, companies may not see the value in training an employee they could lose. Of course, employee-retention experts say that's exactly why companies should offer professional development: because it helps them keep and cultivate their best talent.

"Companies have less resources to do professional development because as they've cut back, everybody's down to muscle and bone," says Rusty Rueff, career and workplace expert at Glassdoor.com, a website that offers insight into careers and companies. "You have to take control of your own development ... and find ways to make it happen."

 

Here are 10 ways to help yourself grow professionally even without the support of your company:

 

1. Take a class. Just because you're no longer in school doesn't mean the classroom is off-limits. Plenty of universities offer classes for adults, often in the evening so you can attend around your job schedule. Online classes are another convenient option. Take a class on a topic that's relevant for your job, or learn about something that's totally unrelated for a change of pace. Either way, you're growing, which is the over-arching goal.

 

2. Teach yourself a skill. You don't always need structure or a class to learn something new. Pinpoint skills that are desirable in your line of work, and start practicing. Website-building or social-media skills are a perfect example, and they're desirable across the board. Jump into a project, and learn the ropes as you go.

 

3. Volunteer. "Because [nonprofit] organizations are so hungry for hands," Levit says, "you'll get the opportunity to master leadership skills you might not have the chance to practice otherwise." And, she adds, "you'll be doing it in a real-world environment, which makes the experience better than if you, for example, took coursework or training seminars."

 

4. Master an online tool. Even those of us who organize our lives via digital tools don't always make the most of them. The Web is full of free video tutorials on how to use networks like LinkedIn and Google+, as well as tips on organizing your Gmail life. Think about how you can increase your efficiency, and scour the Internet for resources to help you accomplish that.

 

5. Seek out people who are on the career path you aspire to. Ask them how they got to where they are. With a little effort on social media, Rueff says, you can easily find out who holds a certain position—or who used to hold it—and reach out to them. Especially if you stroke their ego a bit, people are often happy to talk about the path they took in their career, as well as what worked and what didn't.

Learn from their successes and mistakes.

 

6. Shadow a colleague. Find workers within your company who do something you want to learn, and stop by their office occasionally to ask questions, Rueff suggests. You don't need an official shadowing program to accomplish this, just your own initiative. "You will learn a lot by listening and watching, and a little bit by osmosis," he says.

 

7. Find a mentor. Take that find-a-successful-person goal one step further and identify someone who's willing to give you guidance and advice. Even if you don't feel comfortable calling that person a mentor, having someone to run ideas by who has more experience than you can go a long way toward helping you make the right decisions. The key here is that they have to have an interest in helping you.

 

8. Read. Devour books and articles and blogs within your niche, but also pick reads that are outside of your normal professional box, Rueff says. "Read things that are outside of your own industry and experience, and then stop and think about, how can I relate that and apply it to my business?" he says.

 

9. Attend a conference. Figure out which conference is most worthwhile for people who work in your target industry and go, even if it means using vacation time. Not only will you learn new skills, you'll also make new contacts. Emily Bennington, who helps new college graduates transition from the classroom to the workplace, advises researching who's going and connecting with those people on social media before the event, so you can arrange an in-person meeting and facilitate a stronger connection.

 

10. Don't neglect your "soft skills." Most of us know our weaknesses, whether we need to be more organized or do a better job of meeting deadlines or simply prioritizing in a smarter way. Putting effort into improving those skills will make you more marketable no matter what field you're in, says Joseph Grenny, an organizational-development expert and co-author of Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.

 

"Don't do it for your boss," Grenny says. "You're doing this for you."

 

Article courtesy of @USNewsCareers

http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2011/08/17/take-charge-of-your-professional-development




                  
Customer Retention is Key to Profitability

forumArticle sponsored by American Printing

In the words of Philip Kotler, arguably the world’s leading strategic marketer, “Good customers are an asset which, when well managed and served, will return a handsome lifetime income stream for the company.” The reality is that customers leave every day, for any number of reasons. They may choose a competitor because of price or dissatisfaction with your company, move away, or even die. It costs far less to keep a customer than acquire a new one, so it’s important to have a tactically-driven strategy for customer retention.

Plan and budget.

Customer retention is an essential marketing activity that must be given proper attention in your marketing plan and budget. Develop a comprehensive plan to nurture your customers that includes tried-and-true print as well as social media. Retention programs often have a better ROI than campaigns targeted at acquiring new customers.

Retention begins early.

Mail a thank you note after the first sale with a satisfaction survey. Provide an easy response form that captures the client’s product and service needs, as well as the anticipated date for the next purchase. This will provide valuable insight into your company’s strengths and weaknesses, and give you key intelligence regarding what it will take to retain the customer.

Personalize your message.

Print newsletters and postcards enable you to deliver a customer-centric message based on buying preferences or past purchasing behavior. Customized offers and targeted educational content create a personal connection. Invest in color printing and eye-catching graphics to effectively engage the reader.

Wake up dormant customers.

Re-establish the conversation and help former customers see why they bought from you previously — and why they should buy from you again. A “we haven’t heard from you lately” postcard is a low-cost way to re-engage. Let them know you appreciated their business and entice them back with a special promotion.

Create a competitive advantage.

Your most valuable asset is your customer list. Happy customers are open to up-selling and cross-selling. They don’t necessarily need special offers to continue to use your product or service because they’ve already accepted your value proposition. Plus, they attract other customers through word of mouth and referral programs.

Customer retention is a necessary, cost-effective and profitable element of your marketing strategy.

Through adoption of the right customer practices, supported by a thoughtful marketing approach, the goal of customer retention can be fulfilled.

Collaborations for Credit

GPCC has forged partnerships with organizations such as the Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants (RISCPA) and the Rhode Island Society of Human Resource Managers (RI SHRM) to provide content rich programming, dynamic networking and professional development credit opportunities for participants of industry and topic specific forums. Check out our Events Calendar for upcoming presentations.

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Email: chamber@provchamber.com
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