Not the Worst Way to Spend a Day

I am always in tune with what is going on in my community. It may be a political campaign, the inauguration of a new business, a charity ball, or breaking ground on a new building. All these things affect the citizens and I like to be in the know. I had heard that a once open grassy field was going to become a modern office park. It would provide opportunity for employment. I was totally in favor. A friend was also interested in this field, but for an entirely different reason. He wanted to go there to do some metal detecting and asked me to come along. Why not, I thought. I had never done this before nor had a clue as to what it entailed. It was time to learn something new.

He told me he would explain everything on the way. It would not be the worst way to spend a free day. He showed me the detecting device and how it worked. Any novice can learn to do it. This was encouraging but I said that I preferred to watch. Okay, he answered, watch and learn. I was curious as to what he would find. Who ever goes to this field? He said that it used to be used as a picnic and fair grounds years ago. Heavens knows what was left behind. Coins easily fall out of pockets. Rings and bracelets come off fingers and hands. There is definitely a possibility for discovery. It is fun to see what happens.

As he operated the metal detector, a new way for “panning” for gold, he offered some advice. I will give you five tips that will help propel you into the status of a pro, but if you want some more, visit Finding a Fortune.

  1. Read the instructions for your device so you can properly set it to the right “sensitivity” for gold and coins. It is also called “discrimination.” A bench test is mandatory.
  2. If you find a “lode” don’t give up after one object. There may well be more at this site. It happens all the time.
  3. Roam about freely to cover as much territory as possible. Remember why you are here. No doubt it has a history of success for coin shooting, the name of the game.
  4. Inspect your booty so you know what else might be in the area. If you find, jewelry, can you see the carat mark. If coins, what are the dates. Old ones may be quite valuable.
  5. Don’t over clean coins as you might harm the surface. Maintain the same condition in which it was found. Let your dealer decide.

After a long afternoon trek about the field, I noticed that my friend had filled a small leather pouch. This was how he liked to take his found objects home. The best of the lot was a gold watch believe it or not. Wouldn’t the owner miss it? Remember, he said, how long ago it might have been. No guilt!

Opening a Business?

How much should I spend on an exercise trampoline? This was the question of the day recently when I decided that I need more exercise and only had time to do it at home. They come in sizes suitable for the house with larger ones designated for the outside. I belong to a gym and that is a monthly expense, so the question of cost was not irrelevant. I ask the same thing when considering opening a new business. There are startup expenses including buying equipment, hiring staff, choosing furnishings and a basic décor, not to mention supplies and odds and ends. It is the business man in me to treat all endeavors the same way.

Thus, before selecting the final choice, I did my research as I would for any new enterprise. I looked at the varied alternatives and competitive prices and read all about the various models which was when I came across this page: Trampolines are not all alike. They can be mini, small, and regulation size (if you are lucky enough to have this much space). They are round or rectangular and come in different colored frames. Materials vary from hard rubber (for safety purposes) and lightweight aluminum.  I wanted to be sure I got a good price for a unit that was well-constructed, durable, and portable. I didn’t want to do much assembly so this service would have to come with the delivery. If I used a local supplier, I could count on this option. Time saving and cost effectiveness go hand in hand every time. As a business consultant, I have helped many young entrepreneurs. Now it was time to give me a piece of my own advice. What was my conclusion? Wait for the reveal.

My first act was to talk with a friend on Facebook who owns a fitness club. He had to go through the process of analysis when buying his various trampolines. He must have a checklist of features and considerations. He told me to read about the different manufacturers and compare reviews. This helped a lot. When a customer is not pleased, they tell you why in carefully chosen words. It was important for my friend’s business because he could not afford to make any mistakes, nor to buy trampolines that would break easily when used by a large client. He said you want to buy something suitable for most anyone. Consulting the weight and height chart is the best way to choose a strong model. Many purchasers have made the error of buying something for children or teens. They are typical users, but in my case, it would be an average adult.

When opening a business, customer need is primary and I applied this principle to my new trampoline. It was a good object lesson that worked very well. My choice was a mid-range brand known for quality and reliability. The materials are tough and destined for years of usage. My friend agreed when he saw my choice and told me I would not regret my sound decision.

Job Fair

The Joplin Chamber of Commerce supports community development. A large part of this is recruiting new businesses. Most are happy to join as it affords most a wonderful networking opportunity. If an enterprise wants a presence in the city, becoming a member is a must. It is also open to individuals who may be self-employed.

Any Chamber of Commerce has special responsibilities. After members join, they can attend meetings and vote on important local issues. Seminars are available on topics of mutual interest including business development and personal growth. The job market is covered and what one can expect today in terms of health care plans and other benefits. New businesses can be counseled on starting a viable program on a group rate basis.

Among its many duties, a Chamber of Commerce may be contacted for information on a specific type of business. Let’s say a homeowner is looking to remodel his or her home and needs a reputable contractor. The organization can provide a list of approved contacts. This is somewhat like the Better Business Bureau with the exception that the names are on a short list and may be limited to members. Both referral services are known to be trustworthy.

This makes a Chamber of Commerce a go-to network of businesses in a given city or town as well as a source of information on jobs in the area. Every organization is different, but I know that my group posts jobs and helps counsel applicants on interview techniques. It is therefore no surprise that I recently attended a job fair at a local high school for my own company. I had acquired significant training as a Chamber member. I can talk about my career and what else is around in the same field. I also can discuss how to dress and the proper demeanor for an interview. Young people in particular are very ignorant of the unspoken rules.

It is best to enquire at the time you schedule an appointment, but if you are in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a professional appearance. I dressed the part at the fair to show what I am talking about. This means a business suit: shirt, pants, tie, and leather closed-toe shoes. It means a recent haircut and no tattoos showing or piercings. A good accessory is a business backpack suitable for most positions. A formal briefcase is optional, but it is not required. I personally feel that a nice leather or canvas bag in black or brown will suffice.

Visitors to my booth at the job fair always ask what a typical day at work is like. I walk them through my day and throw in advice about getting along with the boss and your colleagues. No one will last for long if they are argumentative or belligerent. Keep your emotions at home, I say. Control your moods and always exhibit a positive attitude. Don’t leave work early and avoid long lunches. Succeeding is simple if you do your work well and on time.

Possible Expansion

Community service is the name of the game in my world. As a member of the Chamber of Commerce I serve various roles as needed. From time to time, I am proud to be asked to counsel new businesses in town. Interesting things can come from this kind of work. For example, recently I went with a few fellow members to meet with the owner of a local sporting goods store. As he was a well-established enterprise, he didn’t need particular help although he was planning on opening a second location across town. This was not why he wanted to get together. He had a different purpose.

It turns out that he was more concerned about how to donate some cleats to the youth soccer teams in the county. He asked us to help him identify these teams and take care of the transfer of the goods. We would be delighted of course. We welcome the participation of regional businesses in the community. Usually, we have to go around and ask. This time it was a voluntary act, making our job that much easier. We welcome the kindness of our business owners.

After the arrangements were concluded, we were given a tour of the store. We all love sporting goods and each of us zeroed in on their favorite item. It was a basketball for one, a local team jersey for another, and for me it was soccer cleats from Top Corner Magazine. One look and I was mentally back on the field running with abandon to make a score. I had given up the game long ago and apparently I really miss it. As we departed, we were all nostalgic about our own youths and vowed to get together to watch a game or two. Since we had different preferences, we would go to a variety of athletic events until we were all satisfied. The outing to the local store to secure a much-needed donation turned out to be a boost to our social lives.

We get so busy that time slips away and we don’t take time for recreation, either as a participant or a spectator. We realized the dearth of variety in our lives and were ready to begin our new mutual program. We couldn’t wait for the next scheduled date. When we reassembled in the man cave of one of the most avid members, we were in the best of spirits. He happened to have a lot of sports memorabilia and we spent considerable time comparing notes on our favorite moments from the past. I love it when nostalgia yields a more exciting present. We were pumped to start watching.

The end result was a fulfilling day of camaraderie, sports talk, good eats, and more than one round of beers. Take a tip from me, call the guys in your life and get the same thing going. It was fun and a great way to relax and pass the time.

Not a Morning Person

I am not a morning person. How about you? I can say that definitively. I am so jealous of people who pop out of bed at the sound of the alarm ready to roll for the day. I always have early morning meetings and it is a real struggle to get there on time. I do have an alarm but my body insists on turning it off immediately and then rolling over and going back to sleep. It is the bane of my existence.

I complain a lot and finally a friend recommending a different kind of alarm that is more pleasant and effective – a wake up light from I am giving it a try. It is inexpensive and comes in all kinds of models. I want one that syncs with my cell phone so I can program it as I like before bed. A few simple buttons and I can have a rainbow of colors, a morning sunrise, natural sounds like waves, birds, and waterfall, and more. I can still wake up to a radio or an alarm but they are too jarring for me. This wake up light system is designed for people like me who resist starting the day. We need something gentle yet provocative enough to stir you awake.

I think this is the perfect solution to a lazybones life. I expect to make my meetings on time, if not a bit early. I have to overcome my old reputation. There is important business at stake and I want to become more reliable. It is more than part of my job; it is a full-time career being a member of the Chamber of Commerce. I waited a long time to join and have never regretted a moment. We work on behalf of our town and the development of new business. It helps support the economy and well-being of the residents. Many companies join their local chapter to network or as an obligation, but I am more active and play an important role. I initiate proposals and gather votes in support of them. I know everyone and their individual concerns. Likewise, they recognize mine.

Given the importance of events in my day, I now make every effort to be alert and alive. I want to be the best I can be and the wake up light helps in this regard. I am no longer irritable and grumpy come seven o’clock. I open my eyes with anticipation of what is going to happen today. This mood of optimism and joy infuses the coming hours. The sunrise simulation is the best choice on the wake up alarm and it works wonders. It is natural, beautiful and a lot like being in a fantasyland. I recommend it highly if you have trouble in the morning due to disturbed and restless sleep or too much on your mind. Anxiety is the worst culprit when it comes to healthy sleep. But there are a few remedies you can try.

Increased Peace of Mind

You can’t be too careful when it comes to self protection. This fact stares you in the face when reading about home invasion or mugging statistics. There has been a lot of publicity lately about self defense and personal security. Maybe it is because the statistics are formidable and due to public outcry and the need for a remedy to rampant criminal acts. Many of the assailants and robbers are drug addicts, homeless, ex-inmates, or psychotic making the choice of retaliation very critical. If the thief carries a weapon, it makes de-escalation techniques of prime concern. Meanwhile, I think about my office building and wonder if the current system is adequate enough. I will have more peace of mind once I find out.

I talk with the maintenance supervisor and ask for a tour of the various parts of the security system including the light sensors. I ask if they are in the best locations and if thought has been given to this necessity. He told me that there were only a few, that the budget did not mandate more. I froze. This is not acceptable. Now it was time to approach the building manager or owner. We have to install many more. They are incredibly effective so why skimp. It was a big oversight. Who on earth was their consultant? I will take it upon myself to make recommendations after walking around the building and touring the lobby area. I assume it will be obvious where to put the new sensors after reading I have agreed to be present when the security company arrives. They assure me that it is their job to know about placement and the technician was shocked that the current system was so inadequate. They were not the culprit he maintains. I can see that he is on the defensive.

I spend the weekend in the office building to test the new sensors and ask some Facebook friends to role play being intruders to see how far they can get before the alarm sounds. I want to know that the police or security company patrol car will come in seconds. I see that it works well and I am satisfied. I encourage readers to get involved in their own self defense precautions. You never know if someone will want to work nights or weekends. They should be allowed this privilege and not have to fear for their lives. Some buildings have an automatic turn-off system for the ceiling lighting to save on utilities. Just the same as the AC system. There should be a way to activate at least the lobby where most thieves or vandals will enter.

The first thing Monday morning, take it upon yourself to check on your office security. As your colleagues to join in to protest a non-existent system. It may be modest due to budget constraints. Remember, you can’t spend enough on personal safety. Incidents can happen anywhere, even a supposed locked building. There are always ways to get in.

Taking a Trip around the New Office Park

I enjoy my position in the community and the contacts I make as a member of the Chamber of Commerce. I consider it to be a form of public service which I value a great deal. Members of the Joplin chapter are often asked to appear at special events either individually or as a group. Weekly commitments are the usual state of affairs. It is part of the responsibility. They may entail a ceremony, the promotion of a charitable cause, or a political appearance. While there are variations each year, often you are required to attend an opening of a business or the inauguration of major new construction.

An office park qualifies most certainly as it is a new development project that will affect the economy and the overall health of the community. Recently my job led me to the official mayoral recognition of the site. There were many officials there other than members of the Chamber of Commerce. We were joined by the Rotary Club, the councilman for this district, a couple of judges, and the state senator. Frankly I was impressed by the event since it was an office park and not a hospital or library.

After a speech by the major and a few handshakes with the developer and builder, we were invited to tour the site and view the progress to date. We wore hard hats, just like you see in commercials or movies. Men in yellow hard hats and business suits. Fortunately, it wasn’t muddy as we had been experiencing a long drought. I find construction to be interesting given all the trades that are represented. Each has its own unique skills. At this point in the buildout, it was mostly framing and beams.

Almost at the end of the tour, I left the group behind to wander and survey the scene. It was not advised, but somehow I had missed the warning. As I walked toward the group about to exit to head to the parking lot, I clumsily tripped over something like this – an extension cord that was plugged into a welder. It should not have been there, but it was. Frankly, it was my own fault for being errant. I was miffed and embarrassed, but the only thing that was wounded was my pride.

I quickly slunk away like a cat with his tail between his legs. I tried to reach my car as fast as I could. Unfortunately, a member of the press was right behind me. He had videotaped the entire incident. A chill ran down my spine. Was he going to put it on the Internet? I asked. He said that it wasn’t to harm me but that watching a man in a hard hat and suit trip was really funny. My embarrassment returned full force. He saw my chagrin and felt sorry for me because he added that he would think twice about it. I shook his hand, thanked him, and sped off. Whew!

Make Your Locale Appealing

In an earlier blog, the issue of the benefits of using green construction was discussed. The broader issue asks the question of how does a town make itself more appealing to both businesses and people, creating an environment where both will want to start or relocate their business. After all is said and done, the appeal will be created by the people currently living in the community. Let’s take a look at some of the specific reasons why this is true.

What type of businesses is the town trying to attract? High tech businesses require people who have high tech skills, and if the supply of workers is not adequate for the demands of a new or relocating business, it will not move there. Yes, financial incentives from the local government can encourage a move, but any business has to be able to justify its costs for starting or moving its business for the long term. Therefore, it must consider the long term prospects of available labor and expansion of its business within the area.

If the town prefers not to attract high tech businesses, then the skills available must match with the required skills of the new businesses. There are a number of reasons a town wants to restrict population growth, but that will come at a bottom line cost in dollars and income to the local residents. For example, residents may be willing to drive an hour to a more populated a d congested area to work and take home the higher wages offered. But when it comes to radically changing the lifestyle of the town to add a new business there is considerable resistance. This is another reason the current residents play a critical role.

Area crime rates are a significant factor. A new business will also include new residents, and businesses do not want to invest in a potentially unsafe environment. Crime is a factor that is directly controlled by the residents of the town. This is a statement not often agreed upon, but regardless of the reasons for a high crime rate a business will be unlikely to move there. As an example, Missouri has largely avoided awarding casino licenses for the purposes of increasing revenues to towns. While there are benefits, the money made is largely confined to a few businesses and the state government. What accompanies the casino business is an attraction of people from all over the state and country who are not personally invested in the town the casino is located. Crime rates often rise because the actual customers are not concerned with the reputation of the community.

Finally, one of the biggest problems with appearance is the town failing to recognize it is much like preparing for a first date. You look your best and are on your best behavior. A business that visits a town where the streets are dirty, people are seen standing around on the street during working hours, and a lack of traffic flow are detrimental to the appearance of the town. Many towns wait for desperate times to come before seeking new businesses, with the result that their appearance suffers. So do not wait to begin making your town appealing but always seek to attract new businesses.

Promoting Green Construction

The environment is a critical consideration for any new business. A business that sullies the environment, whether it is through lowering the air quality or harming the local environment is neither good for the company or the people in the area. Ignoring this issue goes beyond just affecting the image of the company. It will significantly impact your bottom line, and can even result in the cessation of operations.

This is why Missouri emphasizes green construction techniques for every new business. We want you to succeed now and in the future. Good business benefits the company, the state, and the people of the state. The state has a task force committed to ensuring the best practices that benefit all Missourians. Here are several techniques used across Missouri to ensure new construction is safe and economical.

First, procedures and policies established by the state ensure that construction firms use the best available methods to minimize the impact to the local environment. This includes encouraging the creation of “green projects” that maximize the use of green construction techniques and prioritizing their approval through the building permit process. This extends to projects that are approved for federal construction.

The vast majority of new construction takes place at the local level. Construction firms not only employ local people, they have the greatest impact on the local business environment. For many new businesses, they are unaware of the importance of this reality. Missouri continues to advance local education programs for businesses to make them aware of the importance of green construction techniques, and provides resources where they can get more information and place them in contact with other local businesses that will assist them in implementing the standards. This is an area of paramount importance, as Missouri strives to significantly increase the number of Energy Star certified buildings across the state.

For the individual business, green construction can be said to have one or all of the following three broad purposes:

  • Being environmental friendly to benefit the community
  • Reducing the carbon footprint that results in significantly reducing energy consumption
  • Focusing on the return on investment for building projects

All of these affect the bottom line of a business, but in very different ways. Appealing to local citizens who want a cleaner environment in which to live would be a concern for businesses that directly serve the local population, such as restaurants and retail stores. Reducing energy consumption that results in a smaller carbon footprint will obviously save money, but has the added advantage of spending less money on energy, translating the advantage to the bottom line. Return on investment is a key incentive for drawing investment money and more business to an area. The increased investment will be converted into a higher standard of living for local residents who can then invest in green technologies to make their homes more energy efficient.

There are obvious crossover benefits from choosing green construction methods. Local businesses that clearly demonstrate a concern for the local environment will be a preferred choice compared to businesses that ignore the quality of life issue. Lower energy costs, however the result is achieved, puts extra money into everybody’s pockets. While a business may have a priority focus of one green construction benefit over another, it is almost certain to impact all three of these broad areas.

Creating Effective Incentives

Many towns do not realize they have a number of incentives for businesses that have nothing to do with money. Access to natural resources, which includes water, can be a huge selling point and incentive. But what many companies are looking for is a way to start or expand their business without the spectre of high taxes making a direct hit on their profit margin. This reality forces a town’s chamber of commerce to do some serious creative work.

Unless there is a specific Federal program that allows for tax exemptions for a business, there is little a local Missouri town can do about the impact of higher Federal taxes. On the state level, there can be a number of political interests that can be appealed to in order to relieve a new business from a portion of the state tax requirements. The exemptions are rarely allowed for more than a few years, but it gives a new business the opportunity to realize a profit and reinvest it into the business, creating more jobs and expanding its operations.

At the local level, there is far more control over the potential for creating an incentive package. In the vast majority of cases, county government will benefit from the addition of new businesses and is not likely to interfere with developing incentive packages in cooperation with the town’s chamber of commerce. Towns can create tax-free commercial and industrial zoning areas that will not require the business to pay property taxes if they agree to remain in the town for a specified period of time.

The most important factor in creating an incentive package to attract a new business is knowing what the major concerns are beyond saving money. A company whose management are ardent fishermen will look favorably on a location that has easy access to lakes and favorable fishing environments. Providing a free fishing and hunting license may not seem like much of an incentive, but most people know that often it is the little things that make the biggest difference.

Finding Strategic Locations

When you think about the State of Missouri, most people generally think about the city of St. Louis. It definitely is a place to start virtually any type of business, and with its large population, future business owners see it as the number one place to consider. After all, when it comes to brick and mortar businesses, it is all about location, location, location.

But there are a number of other factors to consider that are critical when choosing a strategic location for a new business. Across the state there are many solid alternatives, so while perhaps they do not immediately come to mind, or maybe even unheard of, they are better suited for a business.

One of the other factors to consider is the average annual revenue per business. As it is said, numbers do not lie, and this factor is clearly an indicator of the success potential for any business. It basically takes the pre-tax revenues of the business and averages them over a five year period. This long term outlook and data is one of the most important features of choosing a location, and of starting or relocating your business.

Though this factor does not apply to all businesses, it is important for business that has a high rate of failure within the first two years, such as restaurants – the number of businesses per 100 people. This is an analytical measurement of not only the competition, but of one of the overlooked factors which is the labor force. It is not a matter of simply having large numbers of people, but having people with the skill sets you need within a specific geographical radius. The rule of thumb is a 45 hour commute is the maximum you want potential employees to drive coming to work. Missouri has an excellent highway transportation system, and its large number of open spaces throughout the state limit traffic congestion.

This leads us to the third factor, the number of businesses with paid employees. Another measure of the availability of labor, the hidden importance of this factor is the general economic health of the area. A large number of people who are getting paid translates to a large number of people who have money to spend, locally and online. The online factor cannot be ignored in today’s business marketplace. This measurement is particularly important if you are starting a local business such as a restaurant or supermarket.

Working with Expanding Corporations

Many people do not know that a large automobile manufacturer has hundreds, sometimes thousands, of subcontractors they use for everything from supplying the lug nuts for the wheels to creating the computer chips that make a new car energy efficient and meets regulatory emission standards. Every business will have a number of connections it needs to reduce costs, make the creation of a product or service simpler, and meet legal requirements. For example, every new business needs an accountant and a business attorney available to function normally.

When discussing the future of a town’s business community, it is critical it is able to identify business trends that will change the landscape of an industry and prepare to attract new businesses to the area. Expanding corporations often are an excellent target because they are looking in areas that have not been (over)populated with employees looking for just a job, but a locale that will only attract employees that are willing to grow with the company, and go where they are needed.

Identifying these growing industries early is critical for two major reasons. The first is that towns being considered to expand to are under consideration long before the issue is made public. The second reason is that a town can begin to prepare its people for the future opportunities and become a part of the business expansion.

A closer look at the first reason is essential to proper planning. A town must analyze the industries suitable for its location and resources. Opening a Walmart in a small town may appeal to local residents, but the store must have an adequate supply of low cost labor and a transportation infrastructure that will allow for the efficient and low cost delivery of its products. If these are not present, spending resources on pursuing an expanding Walmart business will be wasted. A sufficient and reliable power grid also must be available for the expanding business to be successful.

In contrast, a town that has abundant land and an acceptable power grid may be ideal for an expanding business looking to relocate its headquarters. Open spaces and reduced traffic congestion are significant advantages for companies who are looking to escape from its own success achieved in the dense populations of urban areas. However, a location near a large airport is likely a resource an international business would deem a necessity.

These are the more obvious options for a town to look at, but there may be hidden resources that would make a town particularly appealing to an expanding business. Every town must take the time to examine all of its resources that have the potential to attract an expanding business and connect them to a specific industry. Then a continuous analysis of that industry needs to be performed to identify future opportunities.

People are the most important resource a town can offer an expanding business. If the town is aware of the future potential for a specific industry, it can prepare the residents for employment through education and training programs that have marketable skills. Oftentimes towns lose their most valuable commodity – future generations – as children leave the town for higher salaries and greater educational opportunities. But the type of training and education to be made available does not have to be high tech or require an MBA.

Tim Allen, CEO of Apple Computer, was asked why the internationally popular iPhone was not primarily manufactured in the United States. He answered by saying that there were not a sufficient number of trained and qualified American workers who had the trade skills to assemble the phones. Whether you believe him or not, making the case that there is an overemphasis on getting a college degree and believing that learning a trade limits your income potential is not unreasonable. Working with expanding companies may provide the opportunity to develop the skills of residents to immediately begin working upon a business moving into the area.