Monday, September 9, 2013

Fall IN!

Ah, September. 
Back to school. Cleaning out closets to find the fall clothes that the kids haven't outgrown, setting alarm clocks for the entire family and creating the fire drill that is known as "the bus is coming!"

September is also start up time for many service clubs and organizations to kick back into full gear now that members and volunteers are no longer on vacation. Time is at a premium--there's just so much to get done--and a limited number of free hours left after soccer games, football games, band practice and church committees.

For the Chamber, September is turbo charge time. With so much happening here's a quick reference check list to help you navigate.

1. Register to attend the Chamber's Annual Meeting Breakfast
This morning event is a fun membership appreciation event.  A great opportunity to network over a gourmet breakfast buffet at Oakhurst!  THURSDAY September 26, 2013 7:30 am

2. Sign up to volunteer at Taste of Clarkston. Shifts run as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 8 pm. Give 2-3 hours, wear your business logo shirt and connect with other business leaders while you serve the community.

3. Get your registration in for the November EXPO. Earlybird discount registration is going on now--Save money by planning ahead.

4. Get your registration in for the October Bulls Eye Business Conference. Three keynote speakers will be at this multi-chamber event at the end of October. The agenda includes networking time--so you get the most out of this event.

5. Update your chamber profile at You can include a current photo, company logo, list of services, discounts and member to member offers when you log in to Members Only.

And take heart. It does get better once we move into October. The routine of a carefully scheduled family calendar starts to sink in--and we get an extra hour when daylight savings time changes.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Downtowns are important

As you read this list of why downtowns are important, I'm sure you'll nod your head in agreement.  Yes, we know much of this. And we tend to take it for granted.  
However, good downtowns don't happen by happy accident. They are carefully cultivated and need continual reinvestment.

Why Downtowns are Important

Downtown is a symbol of:
  • Community economic health
  • Partnership between the private sector and the public sector
  • Local quality of life
  • Community pride
  • Community history
Downtown is important factor for industrial, commercial developers, and professional recruitment.
Downtown serves as a good incubator for new small businesses – the success of tomorrow. 
Downtown represents independent business which:
  • Support local families
  • Support local community projects such as teams and schools
  • Keep profits in town (chain stores send profits out of town)
Downtown helps reduce sprawl by concentrating activity in one area.
Downtown is a major employer
Downtown infrastructure is a major public investment. Only healthy businesses in buildings assessed at full value generate taxes that give taxpayers a return on this public investment.
Downtown revitalized protects property values in surrounding residential neighborhoods.
Downtown rehabilitation work stimulates the local economy. Materials and labor for new commercial construction often come from out of town.
Downtown is the heart of the community and the site for government, arts, churches, and financial institutions.
Downtown is an important community space where members of all segments of the community can meet equally for parades, speeches, and other community events.
Downtown can be a tourist attraction and is the location of a community’s unique businesses and buildings.
Downtown is where the arts and culture thrive.
--source Main Street National Trust for Historic Preservation

As we begin exploring the resources associated with Main Street Oakland County (the first County participant in Main Street National Trust for Historic Preservation in the nation, joining in 2000), the Chamber is interested in helping the City of the Village of Clarkston and the Hamlet of Davisburg participate in these programs.  We are asking what we can do better.

The City of the Village has 100% occupancy, nationally recognized restaurants, some great unique entrepreneurial shops--do we really need Main Street?

I believe that answer is yes.  Firmly and unequivocally. And here's why:

Let's start with what Main Street REALLY is all about.

Main Street utilizes a 4-point process that includes:

Organization--Organization establishes consensus and cooperation by building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in the commercial district. By getting everyone working toward the same goal, your Main Street program can provide effective, ongoing management and advocacy for the downtown or neighborhood business district. Through volunteer recruitment and collaboration with partners representing a broad cross section of the community, your program can incorporate a wide range of perspectives into its efforts. A governing board of directors and standing committees make up the fundamental organizational structure of volunteer-driven revitalization programs. Volunteers are coordinated and supported by a paid program director. This structure not only divides the workload and clearly delineates responsibilities, but also builds consensus and cooperation among the various stakeholders.

Promotion takes many forms, but the goal is to create a positive image that will rekindle community pride and improve consumer and investor confidence in your commercial district. Advertising, retail promotions, special events, and marketing campaigns help sell the image and promise of Main Street to the community and surrounding region. Promotions communicate your commercial district's unique characteristics, business establishments, and activities to shoppers, investors, potential business and property owners, and visitors. 

Design means getting Main Street into top physical shape and creating a safe, inviting environment for shoppers, workers, and visitors. It takes advantage of the visual opportunities inherent in a commercial district by directing attention to all of its physical elements: public and private buildings, storefronts, signs, public spaces, parking areas, street furniture, public art, landscaping, merchandising, window displays, and promotional materials. An appealing atmosphere, created through attention to all of these visual elements, conveys a positive message about the commercial district and what it has to offer. Design activities also include instilling good maintenance practices in the commercial district, enhancing the district's physical appearance through the rehabilitation of historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction, developing sensitive design management systems, educating business and property owners about design quality, and long-term planning. 

Economic Restructuring--
Economic restructuring strengthens your community's existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base. This is accomplished by retaining and expanding successful businesses to provide a balanced commercial mix, sharpening the competitiveness and merchandising skills of business owners, and attracting new businesses that the market can support. Converting unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property also helps boost the profitability of the district. The goal is to build a commercial district that responds to the needs of today's consumers.

Some of these things are already being done well in Clarkston.  We can thank  the thoughtful guidance of our historic district commission and certain key business leaders.

Davisburg has unique infrastructure issues that will take longer to address, but there is a passion for preservation in Davisburg too.

If things are good in Clarkston right now?  Why change?

As Stephanie, from Essence on Main, recently told me, "During this two and a half minutes of good economy we need to do what we can to make sure we are in the best business position possible."

Never leave resources on the table
I have a philosophy that you never leave resources on the table.  Main Street creates a group of resources that are dedicated to support business.  These resources include dollars, but they also include expertise, volunteers, training and creating staunch advocates for SHOP LOCAL businesses.

Every community can benefit through collaboration and consensus building
I also argue that the process of Main Street--the focus on organization, collaboration, consensus building, involvement, engagement and transparency-- benefits  every community that utilizes it.  

We don't have to be afraid of Main Street
Main Street is NOT about converting residential homes to businesses, creating cookie cutter downtown templates or trumping community will. Remember-- Main Street is organized under the auspices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Main Street does NOT give away jurisdiction and power to the County or another non-profit.  The City Council, Historic Commission, Planning Commission still all ordinances are still in place.

We are ready for Main Street
What Main Street DOES do is help us create an ideal vision for what Clarkston (and Davisburg) can be--and the tools to help get there.

Main Street is volunteer driven.  It is not big government. 

I believe in the power of dedicated volunteers.  I believe that shared vision is an essential part of creating not only a great downtown, but a great community.  I believe that we can be more than we currently are.

Monday, April 30, 2012

You may be a hoarder.

Are you a hoarder?
Between reality TV shows, articles in magazines, newspaper headlines about the latest cat lady--one would think that there is an epidemic of hoarding behavior in our country.

So . . . are YOU a hoarder?  Let's take a quick quiz to find out.

1. At networking events do you collect business cards?
If you answered YES
Surely you know that collecting things without thinking about the purpose and usefulness of the item can be an early sign of hoarding.
If you answered NO
Why are you going to networking events?  When you leave a networking event without any cards, either you already knew everybody in the room or you were just there for the coffee.  And I ask you--is that effective networking?

2. If you are collecting business cards--the key is what you do with the cards, are they in a drawer or box on your desk? 
If you answered YES
Not only do you need to worry about hoarding behavior, I would like to point out that these business cards become  Schrodinger's Cat.  When you open the box--maybe there's business in there or maybe the business is dead.
In any case--the point is . . . well . . what IS the point.  So you have a nice collection of business cards.  Are you expecting them to go out and do business for you?
If you answered NO
I'm intrigued . . . what are you doing with your cards?

3. Do you scan all of them into your database?
If you answered YES
Are you also making quick notes of how you met the person, or their business, to trigger your memory?  And are you throwing the cards out (or recycling) when you're done?  Or better yet--are you selecting a few key cards and passing them on to your network?
If you answered NO
Okay, seriously, I'm intrigued--WHAT are you doing with your cards?
Do you display your business cards as part of a collection--bragging about your latest acquisitions?  I'll grant you, some business cards ARE very creative.

Business cards can be the mulch that help you grow your business.  But NOT if you're storing the mulch in your office and not cultivating anything with them.

You're a hoarder if your piles of business cards are negatively affecting your quality of life.
You're an ineffective networker if all you have are a handful of cards from people you don't know.

Be an amazing networking and stifle the hoarding instinct.

Use the networking events to get to know people.
Use business cards to quickly gather contact information that you follow up on.  Put the information in your data base within 48 hours of a networking event.  If you don't do it right away--you will forget who the people are behind the cards.

Connect with your contacts on Linked In.  Check out their Facebook page.

Spend time thinking about how you can help THEM--and not just about how they can help you.

These are the keys to growing your business AND keeping the clutter out of your office.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Insider Tips for getting the most out of your Chamber membership

At a recent event, we asked Chamber members to give us their "Insider Tips" for getting the most value out of their Chamber membership.  Here's what they said.

"Attend as many events and activities as possible.  People need to get to know you, like you and trust you before doing business with you or better yet--sending you referrals."
Donna Bullard, Clarkston Brandon Community Credit Union.

"We're all here hoping to share and learn from one another.  It's amazing how quickly you make new friends with a common goal."
Denise Poniatowski, Divine Nutrition

"The more you get involved with the Chamber, the more benefits you will receive."
Ron DeLorme, Manage Max Performance Improvement

"Be patient.  Attend, watch and learn from others."
Nathan Sealy, Brass Ring Wealth Management

"Watch for visits from Teri Robinson, Membership consultant at the Chamber.  Her smiling face and current info on what's happening in the Chamber are great!"
Kimberly Dunahay, Divine Nutrition

"It's not just business you find at Chamber events.  We found Katie Marietta (Fitness and Aquatics Director) at the Taste of Clarkston!"
Tammie White, Deer Lake Athletic Club

"Use the membership list to make contact and introduce yourself.  Find out who handles decisions on your product/services and get connected with them."
Patty Gelsomino, Toshiba Business Services

and from the Chamber staff we have these additional tips:

Attend a Member Orientation meeting (held every 4-6 weeks).  You'll learn what programs, services and values you can access immediately to jump start your involvement in the Chamber.

Don't try to do it all.  Be strategic and selective about when and where you can participate in Chamber events, programs and projects.

Use your membership.  Like a gym membership, if you don't use it--you don't see the results.  

Involvement can mean reading your Advertising Advantage, checking out the website, following the Chamber on Twitter or Facebook, connecting on Linked in.  It's not just attending BOBs, Mixers and Women in Business events.

Write your business goals down.  Then think about why you joined the Chamber, what the Chamber can offer and what you can participate in.  Write down your goals for your Chamber membership and three things you will do in the next 30 days to help achieve those goals.  Make an appointment with yourself to review these goals and actions in 30 days--find out what works for you and do more of it.

Visit the website--you'll find lots of information on what's happening, business resources, information about other members.

Send information, press releases, photos, announcements to  She will help promote you through the website, eBlasts and social media outlets.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Time Saving Tips from our Members

"Combine your place for fitness and entertainment.  Find  a third place. Home, work and add a place for the whole family."
Katie Marietta, Deer Lake Athletic Club

"Pick 6 activities that you want to do during the day.  Prioritize them, then start on the 1st one."
Nick Hamp, Total Benefits System Inc.

"Instead of making breakfast or lunch, stop in and have us provide you with a quick delicious healthy "meal" smoothie."
Kimberly Dunahay, Divine Nutrition

"Return calls while on the road (Hands free Blue Tooth only.)"
Nathan Sealey, Brass Ring Wealth Management

"Always have a plan for your day.  When you have your own business it's easy to get caught up in time wasters.  Make a plan and stick to it!"
Denise Poniatowski, Divine Nutrition

And here are some tips from the Chamber Staff

Sign up for auto-bill with the Chamber.  If you regularly attend BOBs, Mixers or WIB events, we can have you pre-registered for all these events.  You'll get a reminder email for the event so you can confirm you're still planning to attend.  If necessary, you can cancel that registration at that time, without penalty.  It's a great way to make sure we've saved you a seat at our events.

Eat that Frog.

Set goals weekly.  Assess them at the end of each week.  Evaluate what obstacles kept you from meeting your goals and what opportunities helped you reach your goals faster.

Be realistic about how much time it takes to do something.

Don't check your email every minute.  Set times at the top or bottom of the hour--or at a set point in the morning or afternoon--and then walk away from the inbox.  Don't let an incoming email of low urgency jump the queue for important things you have to do today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Best Advice a Mentor Gave You

At a recent Chamber event, we asked our members to share with us, the best advice a mentor every gave them.

"Lead by example.  Your staff with follow you."
Donna Clancy, Clarkston SCAMP

"It takes 21 days for something to become a habit."
Patty Gelsomino, Toshiba

"Never come back from a request empty handed."
Nathan Sealey, Brass Ring Wealth Management

"There are 3 things you need to do: See the people, See the people, See the people!"
Nick Hamp, Total Benefit Systems, Inc.

"When you have confidence in your employees capabilities you will seldom be disappointed."
Donna Bullard, Clarkston Brandon Community Credit Union

"What' easy to do is just as easy not to do."
Denise Poniatowski, Divine Nutrition

The Chamber staff had some additional tips:

"Don't post anything on Facebook that you wouldn't want your mom to see, because chances are, your mom's on Facebook too."

"Pay it forward."

"When setting goals, always include one that's a bit of a stretch--something you have only a 1 in 10 chance of achieving.  You never know what you can do until you stretch."

"Change is uncomfortable.  Lean into the discomfort--it means you're growing and learning."

"When listening to an unhappy customer--Remember to W.A.I.T.  Which means Why Am I Talking?  If you're listening .  . . you're not talking."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Insider Tips for the Clarkston Area

At a recent event, we asked Chamber members to share their insider tips for the Clarkston area.

"Use Pine Knob Road to get to DTE Energy Music Theatre."
Nathan Sealey, Brass Ring Wealth Management

"Check out the Back Court restaurant at Deer Lake Athletic Club.  It's open to the public and has great food!"
Tammie White, Deer Lake Banquet Center

"It's a small community.  Everybody knows everybody!"
Jason Ryan, Groupon

"When you network with good people, your business grows."
Denise Poniatowski, Divine Nutrition

Chamber Staff have a few recommendations too:

Downtown is very walkable.  It's the perfect after work or weekend route for meeting friends, taking the dog for a walk or exploring with your kids.

If you want a good seat at Concerts in the Park, come early (by 6:00).  As an added bonus, you get to hear the local talent pre-show.

The biggest parade on Main Street with the July 4th parade.  If you want a seat on the curb in the downtown area, you'll need to stake out your spot by 8:30.  However, you can find great spots at the start of end of the parade route up until the start time of the parade (10 am).

Look around.  Hidden gems like Via Bologna are tucked away--but they are well worth hunting out.

We love to dine outside. Now that the weather is nice, we look forward to eating outside.  Check out Mr. B's Roadhouse, Mesquite Creek, Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop, Dairy Queen, Via Bologna and more!

The Clarkston Historical Museum is located at the Independence Township Library.  Beautiful visual displays change on a regular basis.  It's well worth a stop by while you're checking out the latest audio book collections or DVDs.

The Spraypark at Clintonwood Park is a great place to take the kids.

We have a LOT of recreational options in the Clarkston area.  Between beaches, golf courses, the ski hill, cross country skiing, hiking, fishing, fitness trails and bike paths--our area also hosts a variety of fitness race events, 5Ks, fun runs and walk-a-thons.

Go ahead . . . show off!  Invite your friends and family to come see Clarkston.  Show off your own "insider tips" as you give them a tour.  We have lots to offer!