A Family Focus On Business: Relph Benefit Services serve the north country

From left to right: Jack Gorman, John Bartholf, Bob Relph Sr, Fred Tontarski, Bob Relph Jr, Mike Wiley stand together at the site of their newly built office in 1989.

[Read more…]

Setting Goals In Life And Business

Kristen Aucter

“A goal is a dream with a deadline” – Napoleon Hill.  

Goal setting is one of the most important life skills you can have to help accomplish whatever you put your mind to. One of Henry Ford’s most famous quotes is “Whether you think you can, or you can’t – you’re right.” Here are some reasons why goals are so important in our lives:  

1- Goals help you be who you want to be. You can have all the dreams in the world, but you if you fail to act on them, how will you get where you want to go? When you know how to set goals, and start going after them, you will be creating a new path of action that can take you step by step towards the future you deserve, and more importantly, the future you want.  

2- Goals stretch your comfort zone.  

in pursuit of your goals you may find yourself talking to more people, attending new events, joining different associations, enrolling in unique training workshops or many other activities. Pushing yourself past your normal comfort zone is the fastest way to grow and have life satisfaction.  

3- Goals help boost your self-esteem and confidence. When you set a goal, and follow through, you have proven to yourself and others that you’ve got what it takes to get things done. Goals not only increase your confidence; they also help you develop an inner strength. 

4- Goals help you rely on yourself. Don’t let the people around you decide your life for you. You can take charge of your life by setting goals and making plans to reach them. Once you get into a goal setting habit you will notice that you feel more assertive and independent. People around you may also start to notice your presence. Goals enable you to turn the impossible into the possible.  

5- Goals improve your mindset and help you move forward. Moving towards a positive direction is much better than doing the same thing but moving backwards. The momentum you will gain is a real-life energizer.  

6- Goals leads to empowering emotions. Studies have shown that people who set and reach goals are readily performing at their best and are generally satisfied with their life overall.  

Goals utilize a proven concept such as the SMART system from fitsmallbusiness.com for creating attainable goals. 

    Whether it be in your personal or professional life, breaking down seemingly hard to achieve goals into small, manageable and practical steps will give you the ability to turn your “someday dreams” into real-life accomplishments. 

Learning The Trade

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY BUSINESS
Inside the mechatronics lab at the Lewis County Jefferson Community College Education Center in Lowville.

[Read more…]

What Will Happen To Our Cows?

Jay Matteson

Being good environmental stewards is in everyone’s best interest. Clean water, clean air, clean soils are critical to life. Every industry and person should conserve our natural resources and reduce our impact on the environment, especially our climate. Let’s be clear, our climate is constantly changing. As most are aware, there is a huge debate about how much is caused by humans, to what degree natural systems cause the changes, and even to what degree our sun impacts climatic cycles. In the end, the hysterical arguments and claims damage the ability of people and industries to work together, calmly, to clean up our environment and make the world a cleaner place to live for our grandchildren. It seems sweeping bold claims and major pieces of legislation are the way, instead of common, sensical, reasonable steps forward that allow for people to adopt, adapt and embrace. 

    In the New York State Legislature there is legislation, the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), that is intended to make New York State the leading state in adopting climate change legislation. The CCPA requires a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. By 2050, the CCPA sets a standard of zero greenhouse gas emissions within New York state. Let me say that again, within thirty years, greenhouse gas emissions will be eliminated within New York state, according to the legislation. All sectors of our economy, including agriculture, are targeted. 

    In thinking about this initiative, I immediately am concerned for our dairy processing companies. Natural gas is important to our food processing industry. How will these companies operate their plants, which employ about 300 people in Jefferson County alone, if they cannot use natural gas? Thirty years is not much time to identify new technologies that can replace natural gas in food processing. How will these companies afford transforming to new technologies? We use trucks, trains and planes to transport our raw products and value-added goods across the nation. Will we tell companies you can’t license fossil fuel powered transportation in the state but if transportation comes in from outside New York state, we allow it? Will the cost of production be driven so high in New York that these companies will shutter their plants here, possibly moving to other states? If New York causes companies to move their operations to other states where the regulatory impact is less, have we created a false utopia? Whereas, supporting research and development, and rewarding good voluntary environmental stewardship efforts, might keep business in New York state. 

    What about our cows? Many of us have heard or read about efforts to regulate cow flatulence. Will our livestock be targeted in the CCPA? Will livestock be allowed in New York state? Cows do emit greenhouse gases. I’m not aware of any filters that can be placed to control dairy air. 

    Of equal concern in considering this important issue is how will sweeping new regulations impact our average citizen’s finances. I read some reports from environmental advocacy groups about how jobs will be created because of the CCPA. Certainly, some will. The real question is how many more jobs, that the average citizen needs, will be lost because companies cant keep up with regulations and mandates? If people cannot afford to feed their families and have a reasonable quality of life, the last thing they worry about is the environment. There are very few people that will live like hermits so they can be good environmentalists. 

    As I began, so will I end. One of my favorite books is Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac. Aldo is regarded as the father of conservationism. The book has much wisdom about how the environment works. It is wise to do everything reasonably possible to minimize our footprints on this planet. As big and wild as it may seem, it is still the only home we have. But we humans are here, and we must measure how we impact each other in the things we do and the regulations we pass. 

20 Questions: The State of Health in NNY

NNY BUSINESS
Jefferson County Public Health Planner Stephen A. Jennings.

[Read more…]

The Experience Economy: An opportunity for business

Brooke Rouse

Summer always brings people out; locals, snowbirds, visitors. It’s an exciting time to enjoy our great outdoors, art, culture, events and more. Some people have the gear, the know how and the ability to experience a lot of what is available, and others don’t – partially because they can’t access the opportunity. 

    You may find yourself saying, “I want to paddle that river, but I don’t have a boat, or really want to own a boat or have a place to store it. But I’d really like to go out on the Grasse River.” You may hear about the bike paths and ATV trails and say ‘Hey – I want to try that’, or attend an art festival and say, ‘Wow – I would love to try painting again, with a little instruction.’ Business is about finding solutions, the solution here is the ability to create and offer an EXPERIENCE. 

    The Experience Economy is growing by leaps and bounds, year over year, with the most significant growth in the 18-34 year old population. Still 50 percent of this audience is 45 years or older. This is an opportunity. The term Experience Economy was first introduced in 1998 as an argument that “businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product: the “experience” (Pine & Gilmore). 

    Online shopping has become the number one threat and concern to many retail establishments and brick and mortar businesses and attractions. Business owners are constantly seeking ways to stay competitive in the retail market, typically honing in on tremendous customer service that equates to an EXPERIENCE that cannot be found online. Organizations like the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg have increased their focus on experience, not only for a museum tour, but for the unique opportunity to do yoga in the gallery or learn how to paint. Increased awareness of the museum through events and experiences has ensured greater exposure in new markets and a stronger relationship with patrons. 

    St. Lawrence County has welcomed two new ‘Experience Businesses’ for recreation this year. Seaway Outfitters in Ogdensburg rents bikes, SUP boards, kayaks, rollerblades and offers ATV tours. Grasse River Adventures offers fully guided and outfitted hunting, camping, hiking and canoe trips. This type of service allows people to experience things they may not get to otherwise, reduces risk, and allows for adventure without the hassle. These experiences can be booked on the internet, but are offered and experienced here, on the ground by local businesses. 

    Experience comes from and is shared by passion. Allow yourself to pursue local experiences…if there is not a business offering it, consider creating one or recruiting a friend of family member to do it. Business development assistance is available by local Chambers and Small Business Development Centers. 

    As the Tourism Promotion Agent for St. Lawrence County, we are constantly marketing (and bragging) about our tremendous opportunities to discover things here that even locals don’t know about. We are always seeking more opportunities to refer a business to make the experience happen for visitors and residents. 

Leadercast Live Comes to NNY in 2020

Kristen Aucter

For anyone who had not heard, on May 3rd, Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, Lewis County Economic Development and The Human Factor hosted Leadercast Live at the Tug Hill Vineyards. Leadercast Live is the largest, single-day leadership event in the world and we were able to be a part of it as the only location in New York state outside of New York City. The various speakers provided unique insight on their take of leadership. Many of the participants stated that they took away more from this day than what they had expected to, myself included. The theme of “Building Healthy Teams” was intriguing to many people and hinted at more than just how to lead a team and we were not let down. 

    Dr. Caroline Leaf was one of the speakers for the day. A cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in communication pathology specializing in neuropsychology, Dr. Leaf spoke on the importance of mindset and explained “you can’t always control what happens to you, you can always control how you react.” Something that most of us have heard, but while in the midst of day-to-day activities seem to forget. Her suggestions, when finding yourself falling into a negative mindset, were to take a few moments to re-evaluate, focus on the positive aspects of your life, and identify the accomplishments that you have made so far. According to her, the ability to self-regulate your thoughts can have long-lasting impacts including increasing your overall creativity, efficiency, and productivity. If you breed negativity that will be all you show to the world. Challenge yourself to instead choose happiness so you can be a beacon of light to those around you. 

    Another speaker, Carla Harris, has led an extremely successful career on Wall Street and currently serves as vice chairman, managing director, and senior advisor at Morgan Stanley as well as being a talented gospel singer. In my opinion, her focus on leadership being intentional really stood out. We all know, more or less, that leadership is something that needs to continuously be fed, both in ourselves and in our teams. Being a great leader is not necessarily about being a great manager or director, but how you encourage and inspire others to be their best. It was very inline with another speaker Patrick Lencioni, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” 

    It is hard to summarize a full day of inspiration and motivation into a short article. The intention of Leadercast is to develop leaders that are worth following and the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, Lewis County Economic Development and The Human Factor are excited to announce we will be hosting Leadercast Live 2020 on May 7, 2020. The benefits of improving leadership skills within our teams, within our businesses and within our community cannot be stressed enough and we are committed to providing this opportunity to our region. If you are interested in being updated on Leadercast 2020 please feel free to email me at kristen@lewiscountychamber.org to be put on our mailing list. 

20 Questions: On The Trail To Successful Sales

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY BUSINESS
Matt Waite of Waite Motorsports speaks during an interview inside the store located in Adams Center.

[Read more…]

‘Side-by-Side’ in Business

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY BUSINESS
Tyler Spry, left, and his parents Amy, center, and Jack, right, pose for a portrait inside Watertown Power Sports located along Route 11 in Watertown.

[Read more…]

Adjusting Business Plan for Seasonal Changes

Jennifer McCluskey

Many businesses, especially here in Canton and Potsdam which have large college student populations, struggle with slower summer months.  Others in more touristy areas, such as near Higley or out in Clayton or Alex Bay, have the opposite seasonal changes.  A survey from Wells Fargo reported that 45 percent of business owners say they reliably have several times of the year that are faster and slower than others.  But no matter when your business’s slow season is there are many strategies for dealing with slower seasonal sales. 

    One strategy is to close up shop during the slow months. You’ll keep having to pay rent, but utilities, employees, and other costs will be gone or minimal.  This is the strategy that is often employed in some predominantly tourist areas.  However, if your product can serve locals as well, possibly staying open when everyone else is closed might lead to some small profits, or possibly large ones if there is an ice fishing derby or some other event. The Wells Fargo survey mentioned previously also reported that 62 percent of small business owners said they reduce their capital expenditures during slow seasons, and 43 percent said they reduce hours for their employees.

    Another strategy is to set money aside during the high sales months.  This is hard for many business owners.  Forty-one percent of business owners surveyed said seasonal differences make it more difficult to manage cash flow.  Planning can be difficult when you don’t know what’s right around the bend, or if you’re just barely making it during the better parts of the year.  If this is the case for your business, you may want to use your slow season to take a hard look at your financials and see if there are ways you can trim costs during the rest of the year so that you can be better prepared for next year’s downturns, or create a financial budget if you’re just winging it.  Make sure you are realistic with your cash flow projections for the future by having a good idea of past trends and sales in both slow and peak times. Update your forecasts regularly to make sure you are on top of any changes in trends.  Your SBDC advisor can help create and analyze projected budgets. 

    You may be able to delay some expenses until different times of year.  Talk to some of your vendors, for example your insurance company, to see if you could pay at a different time of year.  Even if they say no, I’m sure they won’t mind if you pay your bill ahead of time in the spring so that you’re all set when it’s due in the summer.  Another idea to improve cash flow during slow months is to collect a deposit from customers, for example half down and half on delivery.  This works especially well when there is a substantial gap between booking your service and service delivery. 

    Also, develop a positive relationship with your bank.  There are possibilities of obtaining a seasonal line of credit to get equipment and other items you need to get ready for your high season and then pay it off when the sales start coming in.  This could work well for something like a lawn care business which will need new equipment in the spring but won’t have money to pay for it until the summer. During slower times of the year, one in five business owners (21 percent) reported increasing their use of business lines of credit or business credit cards to bridge cash flow gaps. During busier times, two-thirds (64 percent) said they pay down debt or reduce their use of credit.   

    If you would like assistance planning for seasonal changes in your business cash flow, you can get in touch with your local Small Business Development Center office.  You can contact the SUNY Canton SBDC at (315) 386-7312, SUNY Canton SBDC at Clinton Community College at (518) 324-7232, or the Watertown SBDC at JCC (315) 782-9262 for free business counseling.  The Wells Fargo survey referenced can be viewed at https://wellsfargoworks.com/small-business-optimism-reaches-highest-point-in-a-decade.