April 2016: Commerce Corner

Six ways colleges impact local economies

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

The north country is fortunate to be home to many institutions of higher education. Many businesses in college towns feel the ebbs and flows of a “semester-based business cycle” and periods of particular peaks during move in, move out, graduations, family weekends, reunions and sporting events. The influx of students and their families, as well as a constantly revolving pool of faculty and staff, presents challenges and tremendous opportunity for the local economy. Here are six ways that colleges help to drive the local economy: [Read more…]

December 2015: Commerce Corner

Give the gifts of local this season

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

Gift-giving is a traditional part of the holiday season for many. Some are overwhelmed by the shopping experience; others plan throughout the year and carefully select each and every item. In many parts of our rural north country, retail is limited and travel to larger areas or online shopping becomes a necessity. [Read more…]

October 2015: Commerce Corner

Growth opportunities and cautions

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

At some point in the life of your business you will approach the question: Should we expand? Should we grow our business? The many economic development agencies in the region hope you do get to this point, and hope you will seek us out for assistance. If, or when, that question pops up for you, here are a few things to consider in the way you grow and the strategy and approach to how, when, where and what you end up doing. [Read more…]

September 2015: Commerce Corner

Make a successful seasonal transition

Columnist Brooke James

Columnist Brooke Rouse

Fall brings beautiful colors, holiday preparations and harvest season. It also brings shorter, cooler days that signal it is time to prepare for hibernation. In the north country, we know that hibernation, given our long winters, is not a productive option. Business trends and cycles, as well as time and weather-dependent projects, may help direct fall planning for a successful seasonal transition. Being aware and strategic now may lead to your most successful year yet, whether you are a new entrepreneur or a veteran business owner. [Read more…]

August 2015: Commerce Corner

Advance your networking skills

Columnist Brooke James

Columnist Brooke James

In business and in leadership it is so important to develop professional relationships, whether it is with colleagues or customers. One aspect of developing a personal connection is by remembering and recalling a person’s name. How many times have you said or thought, “Wow, he remembered my name,” and been impressed. How many times have you approached someone thinking, “I know this person. Why do I know this person? What is their name?!” And then you are on the spot and must reintroduce, or avoid names all together.

People feel special when you know their name, and if you are trying to develop yourself as a leader and as a company that provides excellent customer service, take note of the following tips.

Name associations

At the time you are introduced to a new person try to pay close attention to their name, not just their face. As soon as possible, try to identify a word using the same letter or sound as their name that will help you remember that person. It may be an identifying word, such as blue-eyed Bill or crazy hat Kathy, or something random that connects to their personality, like fishing Frank. You can add any descriptive word to the name, such as Michigan Sally or Toyota Robin, or think of someone you already know well with the same name: “Cynthia, like my neighbor.” Try to play with these tricks to see what works for you. When you leave the person, try to repeat that name in your head and picture their face.

Write it down

If someone gives you his or her card, find the first opportunity to write the name of where you met them, and topics of conversation or associations that you made with them. For example, “NNY Business 20 Under 40 Luncheon, Watertown” and the date. And then “daughter at Cornell,” “loves to can peaches,” and “follow up on 2015 visitor statistics.” Any little details that will help to remind you of the individual person. This will also help you to remember the person when you look back through your cards and follow up with a personal greeting: “It was great to meet you at the marketing meeting last spring. I hope your daughter is enjoying her senior year at Cornell.” This will make you appear to have a great memory and will actually be helping to build your memory of the person. If you have a customer service management program or a contact book or online database, type in the business card when you return to the office and send a follow-up email, especially if it is a good lead. Immediate connection will help in the long run.

Research and be ready

Before you attend a meeting or a conference, look over the invite list if available. Do some research on the people attending through company websites or social networks like LinkedIn. If you can find out more about them or find a profile photo and have face recognition in advance, you are more likely to remember their name and can focus on meaningful conversation when you meet in person.

The awkward reintroduction

Everyone has the experience of not remembering a name when faced with an already-introduced person. If you know you are bad with names and have not yet perfected the above tips, here are a few ways to turn the situation around.

Bring a “wingman”; in this instance, think of this friend or colleague as the “social butterfly,” “networking” kind of wingman. Prep your partner ahead of time by admitting your weakness and ask that they be forthcoming with their handshake and name when you introduce them to people. This is your chance to hear the name when they respond. When you depart that conversation, be sure to use the person’s name — “Great seeing you again John” — and then practice the above tips to solidify it in your brain for the future.

Alternatively, if you are flying solo, just be brave and reintroduce yourself: “Hi, I’m Brooke from the chamber. We met at a previous meeting. What is your name again?” By reintroducing yourself, they are thankful and will kindly appreciate your reminder.

If you know names are a weakness, the best way to improve your skills is to put yourself in as many practice situations as possible. Networking is really important in today’s world, where word of mouth and personal connections go a long way. One great place to practice is through business associations such as chambers of commerce where networking events are hosted frequently.

Brooke Rouse is executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Promotion Agent. She is a business owner, holds a master’s degree in tourism and is a former SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center Advisor. Contact her at brouse@stlawrencecountychamber.org or 386-4000.

Foster loyalty in non-family employees

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

You may have observed quality of service and success in many family-owned and operated businesses; a sense of commitment and desire to provide a great product or service by the staff. The question however, is how do you develop employees to be as loyal as your family? [Read more…]