“Not Retirement- Redirection”

JUSTIN SORENSEN / NNY BUSINESS
Gail and Daryl Marsh spend some time with their alpacas at Home Again Farm in Theresa.

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Your PTAC Counselor and Their Services

Amber Stevens

Before taking you on a journey through a typical day as a PTAC counselor, I’d like to preface this with a brief explanation of what “PTAC” stands for, and why, if you’re a business owner, you may want to consider giving your local PTAC office a call.  PTAC, the first of many acronyms you’ll find throughout this article, stands for Procurement Technical Assistance Center.  It is a designation given to over 3oo offices nationwide that provide cost-free assistance to U.S. businesses who participate, or have the potential to participate in the government marketplace.

    Something that is crucial to keep in mind here is that the government buys just about everything!  Are you a small business selling a product or service?  If so, chances are high that some form of government, whether on the federal, state or local level, could potentially have a need to buy what you’re selling some day. They just don’t know it yet.  According to USASpending.gov, a Department of Treasury website that tracks federal spending and contracts, more than $9 billion in federal contracts were awarded to New York state companies or organizations throughout fiscal year 2016 alone.  An additional $1.4 billion were awarded to subcontractors in the same year.  These are significant dollar figures representing a market that simply should not be ignored due to the perceived complexity of doing business with the government.

    With the continual expansion of Fort Drum’s infrastructure over nine years ago, came the apparent need for a regional PTAC in the north country, and with the help of organizations such as New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC) and Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization (FDRLO), a PTAC program was established at the Greater Watertown-North Country (GWNC) Chamber of Commerce in Watertown.  North Country PTAC is now one of eight regional centers located in the state, and assists close to 600 clients across 11 of the most northern counties in the state.  Federal funds awarded to firms located within this 11-county territory have reached just over $3 billion year-to-date in  fiscal year 2017 making up for just 3 percent of the $99 billion in federal funds awarded across New York state so far this year.

    All PTAC programs are unique in their own way and ours is no exception, as it is one of few in the country whose host organization is a Chamber of Commerce.  Not only is the GWNC Chamber the largest business association in the north country, but its close proximity to a military installation makes it an ideal host for the North Country PTAC program and a one-stop shop for all your business needs.  It Is important to note that although there are many benefits to becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, there is no membership requirement to receive the free and confidential services provided by the North Country PTAC program.

    A PTAC counselor’s job is to act as a resource to businesses in pursuit of government contracts at federal, state and local government levels.  On any given day, this could mean conducting one-on-one counseling sessions where they are assisting clients with registrations and certifications, determining their company’s readiness to sell to the government, or advising businesses how to go about finding, pursuing and managing government contracts. Clients are also encouraged to sign up for the PTAC’s Bid-Match service, an electronic tool available to all businesses that will help them identify bid opportunities by sending email notifications when the client’s products and/or services match requests for proposals (RFP’s) posted on online bid board sites.

    In addition to one-on-one sessions, North Country PTAC coordinates and provides classes, training seminars and online webinars to provide the critical training and in-depth assistance our local businesses need to compete and succeed in defense and other government contracting.  Throughout 2016 the program sponsored 35 networking and educational events with a focus on a variety of contracting topics including, but not limited to Veteran Owned Business Certifications, MWBE Certifications, new acquisition procedures, specialized solicitations, federal contracting and many more.

    Although assistance is targeted toward small businesses, especially veteran-owned, and woman- and minority-owned enterprises, large businesses can benefit from PTAC services as well by participating in trainings, and with help identifying qualified subcontractors and suppliers.

    Your local PTAC Counselor is not only meeting new people and learning new things every day, but is required to be an expert on all things related to government procurement.  Although it is a challenging role that requires a solid understanding of stringent government standards and complex contract requirements, it’s fulfilling to know that the efforts put forth by the North Country PTAC program do, and will continue to, boost economic activity in the north country by helping local businesses navigate contracting processes.

    North Country PTAC helps create jobs and drive economic benefits in our community.  In 2016 alone, North Country PTAC increased its broad base of capable suppliers and enhanced competition by providing over 500 hours of counseling time, created or retained over 9,000 jobs, and added 92 new clients to its database.  The overall database stands at 591 active clients.

    If you own and operate an established business located in the north country, you are eligible to become a client of North Country PTAC.  To do this, you can go to www.northcountryptac.com, click PTAC SINGUP at the bottom of the page, then complete and submit the online application form. 

                Feel free stop by or call the PTAC office located within the GWNC Chamber of Commerce between 8a.m. and 4:30p.m. Monday through Friday at 1241 Coffeen St., Watertown, NY 13601 or 315-788-4400.

The Trails to Economic Upswing

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUSINESS
Lynette Lundy-Beck stands near the Seaway Trail in Chaumont where a new informational kiosk about the trail and the village of Chaumont was placed recently.

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A River between us and the largest population in Canada

Sarah O’Connell

By Sarah O’Connell

Every spring, the Ottawa Travel and Vacation Show attracts over 17,000 people to explore destinations; St. Lawrence County was among them. Caribbean, African, Canadian, U.S. and East Asian destinations handed out brochures, provided tastings and talked with people, spreading awareness, ensuring their destination was top of mind in the traveler’s decision-making process.

    The St. Lawrence County booth included a display on the expanded Ogdensburg International Airport, which caught the eye of many. They were very interested in the low-cost direct flights, the opportunity to clear customs at the border and fly a domestic flight to their final US destination.  For many of them, Ogdensburg is closer than Ottawa, so price and convenience are selling points.  They were interested in the opportunity to spend the night before they flew, to take advantage of park- and-ride opportunities, have a nice meal and then do their shopping on their return drive.  Likewise, they were excited to hear that you can now get to Baltimore from the Massena Airport.

    It was interesting to talk to Canadians about what brings them over the border, what discourages them, and what excites them. Like many of us, Canadians are very sensitive about their dollars. Given the current value of their dollar, they still expressed their continued visits to shop for groceries, gas up their vehicles, and take advantage of discounted retail shopping and shipping! Not everything is cheaper, but some things still are.  The year-round Vermont ski area exhibiting next to us had a sign that read ‘Canadian at Par’. I asked them how maintaining that promise has impacted their business. He said that Canadian customers are too important to their company, they need to continue that loyalty and offering that commitment is the best marketing message they can send.

    Some expressed concern over discrimination at the border, while others mentioned ease. People were especially excited about golfing here, the price and ability to get tee times.  Nearly every rack card promoting cycling was taken. The wide shoulders, minimal traffic and beautiful scenery is desirable to them.  They were interested in the diversity and affordability of live entertainment offered through Ogdensburg Command Performance, the Orchestra of Northern New York, Community Performance Series at SUNY Potsdam and all of the festivals going on. They expressed that the closeness made it possible to take a drive to explore new places.  Several families were thrilled by the idea of a short drive with the kids to get away, and feel like they are ‘in a different country’. Robert Moses State Park in Massena  with the soon-to- be- open Nature Center, the Eisenhower Locks, Hawkins Point Visitors Center, campgrounds and cabins, trails and safe cycling all sounded idyllic as a summer escape from the city.

    Approximately 40 percent of Canada’s population lives within 200 miles of our border. In St. Lawrence County, we have two international bridges (Prescott-Ogdensburg and Cornwall-Massena).  What an opportunity?

5 Reasons Why No One is Visiting Your Website

Joleene Moody

You want more sales. More visitors to your website. You want people hungry for your product to eat right out of your hand. As you sleep, you imagine your email list growing and growing, with an email open rate larger than your biggest competitor. You have everything you need to achieve this: the website, the perfect opt-in, a high-demand product, everything.

    Or doooo you?

    If your traffic is nil and your numbers on Google Analytics are making you cry, you need to find out why, most ricky-tick. Based on past clients who have struggled with this very issue, we have compiled the top five reasons why no one is visiting your website, and what you can do to turn things around.

1) Your Branding is Lackluster

Branding is often misunderstood. Ask someone about their brand, and you might hear them talk about their logo. This is because the traditional definition of branding is based on the color, shape, size, and font used to create a logo.

    But my friends, branding is so much more.

    While the logo is certainly an element of your brand, it isn’t the end-all, be-all. Branding is how you are able to control the way people think and feel when they see your logo or hear your company’s name. That means when they visit your site, they need to be pulled in by your message and your mission. One should know within five seconds of landing on your home page what it is you do. If this isn’t happening, your branding may be out of sync. Maybe even non-existent.

    Clear, crisp branding also makes you stand out like an expert. If you were to visit a website that lacked character versus a website that pulled you in with plenty of character, which site would you peruse?

    Get clear on your branding and invest in the change. The sharper you look, the more traffic you’ll see.

2) You’re Not Blogging

I saw that eye roll. I see it quite often, actually. Business owners think blogging is for the birds. Some are under the misconception that blogging is a complete and total waste of time.

    But what if I told you that a single blog post could be your ticket to a sale?

    Blogging is a highly encouraged form of inbound marketing that uses targeted content. Targeted content is the kind of content internet users seek when they sit down with Google. For example, if someone Googles the term “need website visitors,” Google will send out a bunch of bots to find legitimate, purposeful content that matches that search.

    By writing blog posts with targeted content, you’re essentially opening the door to your website to invite people in. The more you blog, the more you become BFFs with Google.

3) Your Website is Clunky

Think about the way you navigate a website when you land on it. You see the home page first, look for the menu bar second and click on your desired location third. Sometimes you might see an image you want to click on, so you head over to it. Other times you might get distracted by an opt-in, so you sign up for the offer and move on.

    No matter where you go or what you might get distracted by, the website you land on should be navigable at all times from all angles. It should be easy to look at and easy to search.

    If your website is poorly designed, doesn’t load quickly, and gets people lost almost immediately, you’re compromising one of the most important pieces of your business.

    The truth is, you have approximately seven seconds to grab the attention of your visitor or they’re gone. They’ll zip back out into cyberspace to find a website that is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and doesn’t look like a fifth-grader built it.

    Your website is most often your first impression. If it’s clunky, your visitors will think the work you deliver is clunky, too.

4) You’re Not Sharing on Social Media

Social media can be a bear. With so many social channels to choose from, it can be overwhelming for some. As a result, we resist sharing and eventually give up because we think it does no good.

    I encourage you to not give up.

    Creating a presence on social media takes time. But even if you have a small following, sharing and engaging with others is the secret sauce to your success. Start by choosing three social channels that resonate with the work you do. Decide to put a few hours a week into posting your content. But coupled with this, decide to like, share and comment on others’ content.

    Make friends with others. Play nice. Build relationships. If you stick to this strategy, you’ll soon discover that many people out there are on your side and happy to share your content. Before you know it, your Google Analytics numbers will increase, and you’ll be a happy camper.

5) You’re Using the Wrong Keywords

Keywords are tricky. We get it. Over the past 10 years or so, the use of keywords in web content has changed. Site builders used to use a method now dubbed as keyword stuffing, where they would stuff the same word (or series of words) over and over again into as much content as possible all over the site.

    Google won’t let you pull this stunt anymore. That’s why using long-tail keywords to help narrow down a search is where it’s at. This is because these keywords are associated with more qualified traffic.

    For example, thousands of search options will pop up if you use the words “cake maker.” But if someone is searching for a cake maker in Virginia, using keywords in blog posts like “cake maker in Virginia” will knock other prospects out of the way and shoot you to the top of a Google search.

    Using keyword research tools is helpful, too. Don’t go it alone.

Agriculture Gearing Up for the Event Season

 

Jay Matteson

   Warm weather is on the way! At least by July the snow will be gone and it’ll be time to get outside. If you visit www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com and click on the calendar tab at the top, you’ll be taken to our calendar of agriculture for Jefferson County and Northern New York. Here are a few of the many events, found on the website, which you can look forward to in 2017.
     On April 21, the annual Jefferson County Agricultural Development Conference will take place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Watertown. From 9 to 10:45 a.m., Chris Lorence from Christopher A. Lorence PR & Marketing Services will provide a workshop on advanced use of social media for marketing and advertising in agriculture. Mr. Lawrence will take course participants on a journey exploring how to use social media for advanced advertising of products and services offered by farms and agribusinesses. The workshop is free, but participants must register in advance due to limited seating capacity.
     Following Mr. Lorence at 11a.m., Christine Watkins, executive director of Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation, will provide a presentation on the environmental stewardship efforts of our agricultural industry, highlighting the tremendous work and expense our farms put forward to maintain and improve the quality of the environment in which we live. Mrs. Watkins presentation will be geared both for the public and farm community. Following Mrs. Watkins there will be a light lunch for conference participants. During lunch, I will present my annual overview of our agricultural industry report, discussing the challenges and highlights from 2016 and looking forward into 2018.
     Our keynote presentation at the Agricultural Development Conference will feature a panel presentation from Nichole Hirt and William Stowell. Mrs. Hirt is the agricultural program teacher from Indian River High School and Indian River FFA advisor. Mr. Stowell is the South Jefferson High School agricultural teacher and FFA advisor. Together Mr. Stowell and Mrs. Hirt will look at agricultural education in our local area and across New York State and share with our audience their thoughts on how agricultural education in our classrooms relates to workforce development in the agricultural industry and the challenges and opportunities we face.
     While the Agricultural Development Conference is free, advanced registration is required by April 14. Those interested may register by calling 315-782-5865 or emailing coordinator@comefarmwithus.com.
     On Saturday, May 6, Old McDonald’s Farm Agricultural Education Center near Sackets Harbor will open its doors for the season, weather permitting. If you have not visited Old McDonald’s Farm, it is a real treat. As one of the largest agricultural education centers in New York state, it is a fantastic place to take your children to have fun and learn about agriculture. Visit their website at www.oldmcdonaldhasafarm.com.
     Planning has started for the Jefferson County Dairyland Festival and Parade on Friday, June 2. The festival kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Dulles State Office Building on Washington Street in Watertown. The festival is geared for children ages pre-school through sixth grade. The festival includes interactive exhibits, displays and demonstrations related to our dairy industry and agriculture. Schools may register their classes by visiting www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com and clicking on the festival link on the right hand side of the home page. Classes must register to attend before May 5. The second part of the exciting celebration is the Dairy Parade which kicks off at 7 p.m. The parade lines up at Watertown High School and proceeds down Washington Street, ending at the State Office Building. The judging stand is directly in front of the State Office Building, where our Master of Ceremonies provides live narration of the entire parade. The parade is full of exciting and fun entries, including marching bands, HUGE farm equipment, fire trucks, live animals, floats, youth groups and businesses. Anyone wishing to enter the parade may also visit www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com and follow the directions on the festival page. Entry forms must be submitted by May 22. The parade is a “points parade” for local fire departments. At 8 p.m., the Jefferson County Dairy Princess and her court will dish out free ice cream sundaes in the Dulles State Office Building for everyone as long as supplies last.
     There are many more events, activities, workshops and meetings that may be of interest to you. Check the calendar on our website to keep track of what is happening that you might be interested in. There is a lot to do in our great agricultural community!

Jay M. Matteson is agricultural coordinator for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. Contact him at coordinator@comefarmwithus.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.

New Business Advisor Advances Online Marketing Strategies

Jennifer McCluskey

Brick-and-mortar stores looking to revitalize our downtowns sometimes overlook the power of the internet in bringing in new customers. I have seen several stores in the north country that don’t have a solid website or engaging social media. If this is the case for your shop or business, it might be time to think about improving your online presence. Think about this: If a tourist drives by, will your pizza place pop up on their smartphone when they are looking for lunch? If not, your local Small Business Development Centers can help you bring in more tourists and more locals, too, by assisting you with your online marketing strategy.
     At the SUNY Canton SBDC, we have a new business advisor who is doing just that. Her name is Renee Goodnow and she is working with small businesses in St. Lawrence County to help them improve their online and social media presence. The position was funded through a grant from the Alcoa Foundation, which is looking to help small businesses in the region expand their services beyond brick-and-mortar stores into e-commerce, where they can reach a significantly larger customer base.
     Renee has a background in industrial design and has also helped run a local small business, so she comes to the SBDC with a wide range of skills that she will use to assist business owners in meeting their internet marketing goals. Renee can assist with website design, the revamping of an old website for a more modern look, and also help you learn how to market the site to reach more customers. For those of you who would like a website or a stronger social media presence, but don’t have the time to do it yourself, Renee can help you get connected with a local web developer who can be a long-term resource for your business.
     Renee can also connect your business with local resources in the community, such as photographers and videographers, who can improve the way your business communicates visually with the world. She can help you craft your message and your brand by helping you communicate what is unique about your business. She can also help with logo design, or hook your business up with a local company for logo and other branding designs. Just as with the rest of the services the Small Business Development Center provides, there is no charge for this assistance.
     Renee can meet with you one-on-one and can assess your needs. Some of the ways she is helping clients already include:

• Working with several business owners to help them develop their first websites.
• Talking with business owners about setting up and marketing their business Facebook pages.
• Helping business owners decide which social media outlets are right for them and how to maximize their presence on each.
• Logo development.
• Assistance with creating compelling photographs and videos for marketing.
• Teaching business owners how to rank higher on search engines through search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.

     Renee also will be setting up free training at different locations around the county to help business owners learn how to better market themselves online. The first training in January about social media marketing, presented by Molly Williams from Railroad Productions, was a great success drawing over 30 business owners who learned how to use Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets to better share their voice and their brand with customers. The second training in March, with co-presenters Nate Lashomb from the Massena Chamber of Commerce and Jason Hendricks from H3 Designs, also drew a wide variety of business customers and covered a lot of information about web design and search engine optimization.
     If you are interested in developing your social media presence, brand, or would like to have Renee assist your business in improving your online presence, you can contact her at the Small Business Development Center at SUNY Canton at (315) 386-7312 or via email goodnowr@canton.edu. Keep an eye on the SBDC’s Facebook page to find out about more upcoming trainings. The Watertown SBDC at Jefferson Community College also has many resources available to assist your business with your online presence, and can be reached at 315-782-9262.

 Jennifer mccluskey is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at SUNY Canton. Contact her at McCluskeyj@canton.edu. 

People’s Will Propels Nonprofits

Rande Richardson

Nonprofit organizations across the north country provide services and enhancements to our quality of life that government can’t, won’t or shouldn’t provide or for-profit entities can’t offer without losing money. There are additional various constraints on nonprofits that create challenges to what we desire to have them reliably do to build strong communities for us all.

     That is why nonprofit organizations must raise funds, plain and simple. When communities believe an organization’s work and mission is important and valuable, they respond positively. Most of our area nonprofits successfully exist because the will of the people had demanded it and inspired a type of sacrifice that ensures that their ability to continue to make a difference is maintained.             

     For nearly half of my life I have been fortunate to help raise funds for causes I believe in. The region is blessed with many who have done the same for various projects, initiatives, programs and organizations. Anyone who has asked someone for money knows that the emotions range from elation and joy to terror, rejection and defeat. I often look for shining examples of citizen philanthropy to motivate and sustain me. There is one I keep going back to that deeply touches me each time I see it.

     A few years ago, CBS News told the story of young Myles Eckert. Nine-year-old Myles found a $20 bill in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Maumee, Ohio. While his first thought was to buy a video game with his surprise find, he quickly changed his mind.

     Myles’ father, Army Sgt. Andy Eckert, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq just five weeks after Myles was born. So, when he spotted a uniformed Lt. Col Frank Daily in that restaurant that day, he was reminded of the father he never knew. Something within him compelled Myles to forgo the video game to give a gift that was greater than himself and so much more than $20.

                Myles wrapped the $20 with a note that read: “Dear Soldier, my Dad was a soldier. He’s in heaven now. I found this $20 in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It’s your lucky day! Thank you for your service,” signed, Myles Eckert, a Gold Star Kid. Not only did that gift forever affect Lt. Col. Daily, as the story became known, others were motivated to do the same. Individuals, organizations and businesses came forward, wanting to be part of the example Myles set. As requested by the Eckert family, gifts were directed toward Snowball Express, a nonprofit initiative providing support to children who have lost a parent during military service.

                On the way home from Cracker Barrel that day, Myles asked his Mom if he could visit his Dad. The image of Myles, and his footprints in the snowy cemetery, hugging his father’s gravestone with an American flag in the foreground, is one that is permanently etched in my mind. I am continually grateful that he showed us how a gift of kindness can not only help others but can inspire many more to do the same. In so doing, we are also reminded to keep our hearts and minds open to supporting each other and the organizations that help ensure the same spirit is perpetuated. Myles gave a gift much larger than $20. He showed us how it’s done.

                The Community Foundation feels strongly that part of its mission is to introduce concepts of civic responsibility, not as a mandate, but as part of the joy of a fulfilling life. In addition to its Youth Philanthropy program, which targets high school students, there are plans underway to explore engaging elementary and middle school students in similar ways. It will help nurture the kind of thinking that has helped make our region great. It will help sustain the nonprofit organizations as reliable providers of useful community programs and services. It will determine what type of community we have, and what values and traditions we uphold. As we all look inward and consider, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” Myles very clearly helped answer that question.

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. 

Building the North Country Economy

Sarah O’Connell

The American economy has changed greatly over the last half century, and we’ve seen a lot of those changes right here in the north country.  Most of our paper manufacturers have closed down, national chains have changed the faces of our downtowns and our many small dairy farms have merged into just a handful of large agricultural enterprises.   Our largest employers now are the military, the hospitals, the various levels of government and educational facilities.

                So what happens when someone doesn’t fit into one of those types of businesses?  Maybe they decide to start their own business.   Every year we at the Watertown SBDC talk to around 700 would-be entrepreneurs.  Of those, many just want to kick around an idea or need some basic assistance with getting the business set up. Others decide to go forward and obtain a startup or expansion loan. 

                Many of the small businesses we work with are what the U.S. Small Business Administration calls “nonemployer” firms, meaning they are a one-person operation with no employees.  We could call them “starter businesses” – usually they are quicker and less costly to start, and also to close.  The median age of a nonemployer business is six years, about four years less than an employer business.

                Furthermore, startups are less likely than established businesses to create jobs, again because during those crucial first five years, the new business may be just struggling to find its place in the market, much less adding employees.  Less than half the jobs created by startups still exist after five years, while expanding, older businesses account for 60 percent of small business job creation.   The share of employment that microbusinesses (those with fewer than 10 employees upon start up) contribute has declined over the past 30 years – from 15% in 1978 to 11.6 per cent in 2011.  (SBA.gov).

                With all that being said, small businesses are very important to the local economy.  Besides providing employment for a local resident, new businesses may bring new ideas to the area.  They can provide support services or products that free up larger employers to do what they do best.    Small businesses also generate tax income through self-employment, payroll taxes and sales tax collection.  They can also be more reactive and flexible to market trends. Just look at the rise of the craft beverage industry in our area,  or ethnic restaurants and small niche shops; I think they make our community a more interesting and enjoyable place to live than large metropolitan areas that are just lines of chain store after chain store.  

                How about lawn care providers, plumbers, small contractors, or snow plow operators (shout out here to my guy Mike!)?    Small hardware stores, bakeries, crafters, web designers, our local news sources, and professionals like lawyers, insurance agents and accountants are here to provide us with their goods and services; they know their community and may even be our neighbors.

                So sure, you may find the Internet is quick and easy to search for something, order and pay for it electronically; it might even offer a cheaper deal than what you’d pay locally, and hey! – free shipping!    But at the end of the day, what is that doing to help your local economy?  If you want to support the north country economy, it starts with spending your money right here and creating growth and job creation, one local purchase at a time.

                For fiscal year 2015-16, the advisors at the Watertown SBDC serving Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego counties saw 735 clients, spent 5,174 hours counseling, helped them create 167 new jobs and retain 53 jobs and assisted 51 clients in obtaining financing for business startup or expansion in the amount of $15,166,933.

                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 Jefferson Community College. She is a former small business owner and lifelong Northern New York resident. Contact her at soconnell@sunyjefferson.edu. Her column appears bi-monthly in NNY Business.

Why It Pays To Be Honest in Business

Joleene Moody

I’m going to share a personal story here, one that actually destroyed me emotionally. But only for a moment. When it was over, it gave me exactly what I needed to be a better leader. If you’re interested in being the best version of yourself, listen up. This has to do with being brutally honest, even at the cost of making a fool of yourself.

     I write books for professional men and women. Self-Help and How-To, mostly. When someone who needed a book written contacted me, his professional stature intimidated me a bit. So much so, that when he asked me what it would cost to write his masterpiece, I fumbled and jumbled my quote horribly. So much so, that I severely undercut myself.  Severely.

     He agreed to my teensy price and we ended our call. I was devastated. What had I done? Why didn’t I say anything? How could I possibly move forward, knowing I would be making mere pennies, thanks to my fumbly foolishness?

I had a choice to make:

1) I could either move forward and write his book for peanuts, or

2) I could call him back and tell him I made a mistake.

     If I went with option one, I knew I would regret it and hate every step of the process.

If I went with option two, I risked making a fool of myself and looking unprofessional.

     After wrestling with both options, I decided to go with option two. I decided to be honest, even if it meant I might look like a fool. Here’s what I said:

     “Mr. Author, I owe you an apology. For reasons I can’t quite explain, other than I became flustered while talking to you, I severely misquoted you. I said I would write your book for X dollars when the truth is, I should have quoted you four times that amount. I am so sorry. I don’t know how it happened or what I was thinking, but I would be doing myself and my clients a huge disservice if I moved forward writing your book for what I quoted you. I am so very sorry. I am embarrassed and humiliated. I understand completely if you want to move on and find someone else to write this for you.”

     And do you know what happened?

     He said he would like to move forward with me anyway.

     Yes, I was as stunned as you are.

     Mr. Author told me he valued my work and appreciated my honesty. He could hear in my voice how terrible I felt and understood I simply made a mistake.

     After we hung up, I had an unexpected emotional release and I cried.

     I cried because telling this man I made a mistake was very difficult.

     I cried because the perfectionist in me was still beating me up.

     I cried because I was honest and it felt good.

     I cried because I realized, even if he decided not to work with me, being honest and standing in integrity felt better than any check in my hand would.

     Choosing to be honest is actually a gateway to freedom. Had I lied to him or myself and moved forward anyway, I would have actually done more damage than good. One lie leads to another lie, which leads to another lie, which in turn leads to another lie. My emotional release was my body understanding that, and thanking me for being true to myself and to Mr. Author.

     If you want to feel free, take the route of honesty every time. Looking back, I can safely say that even if Mr. Author told me to go fly a kite, I still would have felt free and safe because I told the truth. There were no stories to protect and no lies to continue to weave.

     Decide to be honest, no matter what. None of us is perfect. All of us make mistakes. Besides, look what happened when I told the truth. I ended up getting paid what I should have from the beginning. See? It really does pay to be honest.

JOLEENE MOODY is a freelance writer, blogger, and speaker who lives in Oswego County with her husband and daughter. Learn more at: www.joleenemoody.com