Change Is Gonna Come

Sarah O’Connell

Wouldn’t it be nice if things always stayed the same and we old dogs didn’t have to keep learning new tricks?  But unfortunately, things don’t happen that way.  I think more often than not, changes, while hard to push through at first, end up making our lives more efficient. We’ve seen a lot of things changing the past couple of years with small businesses.  

Social Media

                Of course, we know that social media evolves almost daily.   Remember MySpace, then Facebook?  Now Instagram and Twitter are where it’s at, and although we seem to be slow adopters up here, businesses need to know how to use these platforms to keep up.  The same thing is true when developing a website.  We have to make sure it’s mobile-friendly.  I only look up a business once or twice on my phone, and if they haven’t gotten with it, I probably won’t go back.  Posted hours?  Check.  Menu if a restaurant?  Check.  Quick response to a message?  Check.

Cybersecurity   

                If you do business with the federal government, you already know that cybersecurity rules related to the Defense Acquisition Regulations System have been heavily tightened.  As for doing business with the government, just the process of registering as a federal contractor in the System for Awards Management has gotten more complex; new and existing businesses now have to send a notarized letter by snail mail(!) to the General Services Administration confirming the authorized Entity Administrator.   

Data Protection

                The new General Data Protection Regulation concerning data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) is being implemented this year. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas. The GDPR aims primarily to give control to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.  It is going to impact any U.S. company doing business with counterparts and customers in Europe.

Taxes 

                No one is exactly sure how the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that took effect in 2018 is going to affect individuals and small businesses, but we’re going to be finding out pretty soon.

                The main effect on small businesses, the mom and pops and DBAs, is the same one that’s going to benefit individuals in that the individual tax rates will be lower, leaving business owners presumably with more money in their pockets.  At the same time, some traditional deductions will be disallowed. 

                At the SBDC, we try to keep up with all these changes as best we can so we can give our clients the most up-to-date information as possible.  We’re currently revamping our Entrepreneurial Training courses to expand on some of these areas, particularly social media and taxes.    We rely on our guest presenters who are professionals in these fields to bring our participants timely information.  Of course, any individual business can also contact us to try to find out how they will be impacted because they may be getting conflicting answers from the internet, from friends, family and other business owners.  We can access our research network in Albany or our statewide network of advisors to assist.

                We like to say that our Entrepreneurial Training Courses help would-be and existing entrepreneurs learn the necessary steps to building and growing a stronger business. Both the seven weekly sessions of the class held on the Jefferson Community College campus or the online version are coming up in early October.  If you are interested in learning more about the courses for yourself or a family member, please give us a call or check out our website at http://watertown.nyssbdc.org.

                The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties.  For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu.   St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu.

Sarah O’Connell is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at SUNY Jefferson Community College. She is a former small business owner and lifelong Northern New York resident. Contact her at soconnell@sunyjefferson.edu.

Making Connections: An Introverts Guide to Networking

Jessica Piatt

Many professionals find networking to be a daunting, treacherous endeavor.  It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and at times, painful. There will always be those who have a natural talent for working a room, namely extroverts who thrive in social interactions, but for others networking in a room of strangers can make one feel phony or inauthentic.

As an introvert, I find it all a little overwhelming but in the last year I have found ways to make networking not only successful ventures but enjoyable ones! Here are some ideas on how any north country professional (introvert or not) can embrace networking just as I have:

Change Your Attitude

Networking events are an opportunity for growth and discovery. Treat them that way! All too often we set ourselves up for failure by approaching networking with dread and pessimism.  Now, if you’re an introvert, you can’t simply will yourself to be extroverted. But when you shift your perspective from viewing it as a chore to seeing the near infinite possibilities, you take control of the narrative and attain the opportunities networking offers.

Be Purposeful

Now that you’ve changed your attitude, set an intention for the event.  Sure, expanding your professional network is a great start but it can be broad and a bit scary. Try simplifying your intention.  Replace “expand professional network” with “make a meaningful connection.” By clarifying your intent you’ll enable yourself to have more natural interactions with those around you. Start small, find a familiar face, perhaps someone you have met before, but only briefly, and work on further establishing your professional relationship.

Find Common Ground

Okay, so you’ve changed your attitude and you’ve set your intention for the event. Now what? Find a common interest! This tiny trick might seem simple but, trust me, it can go a long way. Think about how your interests and goals align with those of people you meet. This can help you forge meaningful connections that yield collaborative initiatives and long-lasting working relationships.  When your networking is driven with intention and forged over common interests it will feel more authentic and meaningful. Bonus, it will also make you more memorable to others in attendance!

Bring a Friend

The next time you register for an upcoming social/networking event, invite a friend to tag along. You don’t always have to go at it alone. Having a friend or coworker by your side can make large networking events less intimidating.  You might just find you have a connection in attendance worth introducing your friend to

Networking is a necessary component of success in any career. It can lead to career opportunities, a broader knowledge of your surrounding community, improve the scope for innovation, professional advancement, and so much more. When you change your perspective, begin to have purposeful interactions, find common ground with others, and use the resources already available to you, you will find networking isn’t so daunting after all. Perhaps you’ll even come to embrace it.

JESSICA PIATT is the marketing director at the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce. You can contact her by calling 315-788-4400 or by emailing jpiatt@watertownny.com.

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SYDNEY SCHAEFER / NNY BUSINESS
Anita Seefried-Brown stands outside the Alliance for Better Communities office.

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Why Homeownership Matters

Lance Evans

June was National Homeownership Month which recognizes the value of homeownership and its positive impact on families, communities and the nation’s economy.   An annual celebration, it allows a time to celebrate and promote the American Dream of homeownership and identify the many benefits of owning that roof over your head.

                “Most consumers know that homeownership is among the most sound investments an individual can make to begin building their personal wealth. However, owning a home is not just in the best interest of the homeowner. Homeownership provides social stability, builds communities and is a driving force for the national economy,” said Richard J. Wood, St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors president.

                Surveys back this up.   Recently, the National Association of Realtors released its Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey for the second quarter.  It showed that a high number of Americans, 75 percent, believe that now is a good time to sell a house, while 68 percent think it is a good time to buy.   The survey also found that a majority of consumers believe prices have and will continue to increase and that homeownership strengthens our nation’s communities.   In fact, two-thirds of consumers said that homeownership strengthened communities a great deal. Only 10 percent responded “not really.”

                Below are some of the benefits of reaching the American Dream:

  • Social stability: Improved educational performance, lower crime rates and improved health are a few social benefits linked to homeownership. “Homeownership allows households to accumulate wealth, which opens doors to more engagement in communities through volunteer work, involvement in social activities and electoral participation,” observed Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors President Vickie Staie.
  • Strong communities: Homeowners tend to stay in their homes longer than renters, dedicate more money to improve their home and are more engaged in enhancing their community. Mr. Wood added that “homeowners are often more invested in their home and their surroundings, which leads to stronger neighborhoods and communities and increased interaction between neighbors.”
  • Economic force: Being a homeowner also has a positive local and national economic impact. That is because homeownership creates jobs through remodeling, landscaping, lawn service, furniture and appliances, home improvement and real estate services. When a home is sold in the United States, the income generated from real estate-related industries is over $20,000 and additional expenditures on consumer items is about $4,500, which aids the economy.
  • Brings families together: Along with being more involved in their communities, homeowners are often active and connected to their own families. Family dinners and game nights at home could mean a more-connected, happier family.

                Ms. Staie remarked that “home is where people make memories and feel comfortable and secure.  Celebrating homeownership is an opportunity to reiterate that anyone who is able and willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a home should have the opportunity to pursue that dream and enjoy the many benefits that come along with it.”

                For more information about buying or selling a home, visit www.slcmls.com (St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors) or www.nnymls.com (Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors).   Both list the member Realtors in our area.


                The Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors recently launched a new version of its public website.   This is the first major overhaul in several years and brings new functionality to the search for a property in our area including the ability to search listings by a variety of methods including map tools, filtering by geography and features, searching by listing agent, etc.   Users can also access the websites of area school districts, read real estate news, and find many helpful links. 

                St. Lawrence County Board of Realtor members have a new tool to assist them in working with clients.   The Association recently signed on with ZipForms, a provider of digital real estate forms.   ZipForms allow agents to seamlessly integrate and manage all the documents needed for a transaction from listing to the closing.   These can be shared with clients, customers, other real estate professionals, loan officers, and attorneys.   The documents can be signed electronically, also. 

LANCE M. EVANS is the executive officer of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. Contact him at levans@nnymls.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.

A Healthy Organization For Healthy Communities

ALYSSA COUSE

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County is recognized for its community involvement in many different capacities. However, one theme seems to intertwine them all: healthy communities.  From out to pasture to on post, CCE Jefferson promotes overall wellness throughout the county.  If you aren’t yet familiar with our office, you can find educators in the areas of agriculture, youth development, nutrition, military life and parenting.  When you hear the term “health,” fruits, veggies and exercise probably come to mind, but social and mental health are also important to overall wellness and successful communities. 

Nutrition and Parenting

                In addition to teaching healthy cooking classes and bringing healthy recipes to area schools, the CCE Jefferson Nutrition Program helps other organizations to become healthy workplaces.  Through the Adopting Healthy Habits Community Coalition, wellness policies are developed and changes are implemented to make grabbing a nutritious snack or being active in the workplace a possibility.  If you are interested in getting your organization started, check out the Adopting Healthy Habits page on http://ccejefferson.org/nutrition/adopting-healthy-habits

                The nutrition and parenting departments also interact with families on a daily basis.  Whether it be financial stress or tension within the family unit, educators provide direct assistance to help these families get the most out of their money and their relationships.  For example, Eat Smart New York (ESNY) is a free and completely confidential program that teaches shopping on a budget, meal planning, food safety, etc., to ensure better physical health.  In addition, parenting courses are offered to improve the mental and emotional state of local homes. 

4-H

                4-H youth development is also making health a focus of its programming.  After all, health is one of the H’s! (head, heart, health, hands). As an agriculture educator, I was invited to attend one session during the 4-H afterschool farm-to-table unit. The program began with a healthy snack (varies by day, but usually includes milk and fresh fruit options) and a few minutes to unwind after the school day.  The group had been working on an extensive food web showing how food and other products, such as leather goods, make it from farm to consumers’ homes.  That particular day, the lesson focused on dairy products.  I brought the ever popular wooden milking cow and discussed as much about lactation, cattle nutrition and benefits of consuming dairy products as their attention spans could handle.   The session finished up with the students making their own butter!  This is just one example of how 4-H members are educated about healthy choices and where their food truly comes from.  Other programs, such as    4-H Yoga for Kids, not only teaches kids a new skill but also actually gets their bodies moving!

Agriculture

                The agriculture and food systems department focuses mostly on the health of Jefferson County’s plants, animals, and ecosystems to support the production of wholesome local foods and successful farms.  The health and well-being of the farmers themselves is a growing (pun intended) priority within the industry.  With low commodity prices, increased expenses, and lack of rain, farmers need help now more than ever.  To help with the social stress and even depression that has come with the economic downturn, CCE offices all over the state are connecting producers with resources such as NY FarmNet, transition plans, and even crisis hotlines.  NY FarmNet is a Cornell University program that provides financial counseling as well as personal counseling for struggling farm families.  How can you help the health of farm families? Support them by simply buying their products: milk, cheese, yogurt, fruits and veggies, meats and whole grains.

                There is no escaping healthy habits in this office either. A centrally located healthy snack center makes it easy to choose nutritious snacks like carrots, almonds, or cheese versus chips or sweets. Many staff choose to spend their breaks going for a walk around the block or participate in a monthly challenge.  For example, a challenge might be who can make the most trips up the stairs in a work day.  Just yesterday, we had a six-member team of afternoon break walkers! Even the bathroom stalls are plastered with flyers for physical or food challenges. Staff members also share their heathy habits on the CCE Worksite Wellness Facebook page.  Whether it is hiking with the family, a Zumba class, or kayaking, here you can see how staff practice what they preach…. even after hours!

Interested in finding local foods? Check out the Local Food Guide:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.cce.cornell.edu/attachments/30623/2018_Local_Food_Guide_FINAL.pdf?1526321007

‘Uncertainties’ in Nonprofits Are Uncertain

Rande Richardson

One of the most frequent words used when discussing the future of nonprofit organizations is “uncertainty.” Nearly every week I hear speculation that the next generation won’t choose to support the work of nonprofits in the same way their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did. Others wonder whether the work and mission of some nonprofits will be relevant to those in line to lead them. While I remain optimistic based on what I see through the Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council, Young Professional’s LEAD Council and Youth Giving Challenge initiative, I believe that “business as usual” for some local charitable organizations may be turning the page on its last chapter.

                It would have been difficult to predict 25 years ago that the Syracuse Symphony would cease to exist after 50 years, but we all know what happened in 2011. While there were likely multiple reasons for this, one of them had to be the changing landscape and the growing disparity between the mission, its sustainability and those willing to support it.

                At the Community Foundation, we continue to look for opportunities to encourage and support the thoughtful consideration of nonprofit reorganization through mergers or other affiliations, as well as sharing of resources. Indeed, there have been successful examples of preservation of mission over entity, including the Teen Center finding sustainability under the auspices of the Children’s Home of Jefferson County or Meals on Wheels finding a natural collaboration with the Watertown Urban Mission. The Philanthropy Center now allows five nonprofits to share space and other resources, with one more expected soon. More of these will happen. Some organizations may even dissolve completely where the mission has become increasingly irrelevant or obsolete or another organization has found a more sustainable way to fulfill that same purpose.

                All is not lost, however. When I meet with charitably-inclined citizens looking to perpetuate their giving for a specific nonprofit, I will usually ask: “Is it the organization you want to support or is it WHAT THEY DO that you want to support?” There is a distinction. In most cases, the donor acknowledges that it is the work and mission they are supporting, not the organization itself. While they may be sentimentally or emotionally attached to the current provider of that work and mission, they recognize that it is the result that they want to see sustained through their gift or bequest.

                While community foundations exist to support diverse aspects of a region’s quality of life, what truly makes them unique is their ability to maintain appropriate flexibility and adaptability through something called “variance power.” In 1976, the Internal Revenue Service issued Treasury Regulations that endorsed and codified the variance power as an essential feature of community foundations.

                Back to the Syracuse Symphony illustration. Many years ago, a committed group of residents teamed up to raise funds to establish an endowment to support Syracuse Symphony performances in the Watertown area. That fund was entrusted to the Community Foundation, and through prudent management, has grown to nearly $700,000. Because of this, when the Syracuse Symphony officially dissolved, the Community Foundation’s governing body was able to deploy those funds to support live orchestral music performed by other groups. The charitable purpose endures as each year the fund supports performances by the Orchestra of Northern New York, among others. Recently, a donor created an endowment to support their church, with provisions for three other nonprofit organizations if the church should someday face an unforeseen end. The might and muscle of this variance power cannot be overstated, both for the purpose and the donor.

                I will always feel strongly that the best gift is an enduring one, and the future of the nonprofit sector will increasingly rely on that long-term support. As organizations shuffle, the sacred trust and stewardship of donors who want to see vibrant, healthy, happy communities must be positioned to do the most good, regardless of the organization doing it. If not for variance power, we run the risk of not only losing the charitable resource, but providing an obstacle for perpetuating legacies that can make a difference, despite the nonprofit landscape of the future.

                Remaining relevant in a world that, inevitably, will change, applies not only to nonprofit organizations, but also to the resources that are used to support them. Part of that relevancy includes providing an approach that balances the desire for specificity and the desire for thoughtful flexibility over time so the larger charitable intent remains intact. The standard for variance action is extremely high, however, when it is needed, its value to the donor, the nonprofit sector and the needs of our ever-changing community landscape is even higher.

Rande Richardson is executive director of the Northern New York Community Foundation. He is a lifelong northern New York resident and former funeral director. Contact him at rande@nnycf.org.

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