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.

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‘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.

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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.

               

Is Your Business Planning (ahead) For A Successful Transition?

Michael Besaw

Across the north country region, family business owners are debating their future, and determining how the business they’ve worked diligently to create, will transition after they retire – is it letting a younger family member take the reins, or having a business valuation to prepare for an open market sell, or maybe moving to an employee-owned model; these are the complicated decisions that business owners in the north country are trying to navigate.

The ‘Need for a Transition Strategy’ estimates that more than 10,000 businesses in the Adirondack north country are owned and operated by Baby Boomers, who are planning to retire in the next few years in what has been referred to as the “silver tsunami”. Closure of these businesses means loss of services and tremendous loss of employment. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of businesses nationally have an exit strategy planned. This is where the inspiration came from for the Adirondack North Country Association’s “Center For Businesses In Transition” (CBIT) — a collection of public, private and nonprofit partners working together to provide the training, resources, and connection to existing services to support a business in creating their transition strategy, as well as matchmaking services, in an effort to match the newer generation of aspiring entrepreneurs with a business already established in the north country.

How Community Liaisons for the CBIT are helping
Transition planning isn’t often mentioned when passing a business down to the next generation, whether it’s family members or exploring less traditional transition options such as employee ownership models. In the north country region, there are community liaisons in Ticonderoga County, Franklin County, Hamilton County, Lewis County, and St. Lawrence County who are making the effort to connect with transitioning businesses to help them understand the process and how to plan for it. These individuals have been chosen for their understanding of area business and involvement in their communities are part of their county Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Agency, or the Small Business Development Center (SBDC); ensuring the sharing of resources, information and objectives.

Workshops Planned for Transitioning Businesses and Entrepreneurs
A top priority of the CBIT is helping businesses connect the dots to the resources available for transitioning. To accomplish this goal, the CBIT is holding monthly workshops across the north country from April to August. Each workshop covers an element of transitioning planning or the process of purchasing a business, including “Business Transitions Overview: Where do you start?”, “Preparing to Sell Your Business”, “Transitioning to Worker Ownership”, “Intergenerational Family Transitions, Creative Solutions & Alternative Structures”, and “Entrepreneurs: Taking over an existing business”. Registration and the date/time for the workshops are available online at www.adirondack.org/CBITWorkshop Series, or on the St. Lawrence County Chamber’s website www.SLCchamber.org.

Using the latest technology, the workshops will also be live streamed at “Viewing Parties” to offer a level of convenience to both businesses and entrepreneurs who are unable to travel to workshops out of their county. Workshops will also be recorded so that interested business owners can view them at their convenience and as needed in the future.

The Real Deal
Transition planning can take up to five years, and it’s never too early to get started. North Country business owners looking to transition their operations to new owners or a new ownership model, as well as aspiring entrepreneurs looking to take over an existing business, can contact the Center at transitions@adirondack.org or 518-891-6200 for more information or to be connected with a community liaison in your county.

Let’s work together to keep businesses in the north country and continue to grow the beautiful region that we all love to live, work and play in!

Michael Besaw is a native of Massena, and the Assistant Director/CBIT Liaison of the St. Lawrence County Chamber.

From Pasture to Pint

SYDNEY SCHAEFER / NNY BUSINESS
Andrew, middle left, and Blake place, middle right, pose for a portrait with their children Collin, 4, left, Aurora, 2, right, and Isobella, less than a month old, at their goat farm, Hidden Pastures Dairy, in Glenfield.

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Turnovers Are For Breakfast, Not the Workplace

KRISTEN AUCTER

One of the biggest issues facing employers is the rate of turnover. Employers are coming to realize that more often than not a quality work environment is high on the list of priorities to the average employee. Turnover is fairly common for all businesses but can have a massive impact on an organization. Turnover is disruptive, costs money, and impacts employee morale. While the financial cost is difficult to measure, effects can include things like increased workloads, overtime expenses, and reduced productivity that is often found with low employee morale. That isn’t even including things like recruitment costs or the time and money that are put into training the new people. Turnover will never be 100 percent preventable but we can at least try to manage it better.

    Every business should attempt to have some sort of strategy in place to keep employees. The following are a few ideas to start that strategy:

Saving Money

  • Do you have businesses in your neighborhood that are willing to trade with you? Is there a restaurant that would agree to employee discounts for your employees that frequent there? Network and make connections that could benefit your employees or employees on both sides.
  • Celebrate employee’s work anniversary with a check or savings bond.
  • Add pet illnesses to the list of approved uses of sick time.
  • Buy movie tickets in bulk and make them available at a discount to employees.

Valuable Time

    If there’s one thing organizations can often offer with the most gain with the least pain, it’s time off and flexible work schedules.

  • Give employees the option of working an adjusted schedule that helps them with family, school, or personal preferences.
  • Provide a once-a-month pass for a longer lunch hour with the understanding that the time doesn’t have to be made up later.
  • Give employees a free floating vacation day on their birthday.
  • Depending on seasonal workloads, add seasonal hours to your official benefits.
  • Open the office late or leave the office early on special days that show employees you care about their dedication to their families and personal lives too (First or last day of school, Halloween, Christmas Eve etc.)
  • If no face-to-face meetings are necessary and work can be done via laptop, establish a work-from-home policy one day a month.

Time off and having a say in determining their own work schedule can be a huge benefit for staff morale and employee retention.

Recognition

    Employees who are recognized for their contributions to the cause generally have higher levels of job satisfaction, are more likely to be motivated and exhibit better retention rates.

  • Just saying the words “thank you” goes a long way. Not a verbal appreciation type of person? Send an email. Copy the manager or supervisor to celebrate achievements up the chain of command.
  • Send monthly “Kudos Kards” to your team or department pointing out successes in the department.

Let your employees feel appreciated. The loyalty earned will take your business far beyond your wildest expectations.

Drive

    Studies show there is a huge connection between staff morale and retention.

  • Free coffee is pretty regular but how about adding water or tea in the mix? Offer healthy snacks in the break room.
  • A local chiropractor or masseuse might be willing to come in and do 10-minute chair massages for free in order to advertise their business.
  • A Free-the-Feet Friday can make employees feel right at home if work conditions allow for slippers or sandals; add a dollar amount that gets dedicated to a local non-profit.
  • Create a canine-friendly workplace – More and more companies are allowing dogs in the workplace. Companies that allow pets have reported a lower rate of absenteeism and a more productive environment.
  • Put your employee’s time first. Are there regularly scheduled meetings that confuse attendees and take up valuable time that could be used more efficiently elsewhere? Are you micro-managing when an employee has proven time and time again they are up to the task? It’s time to stop and consider that this might be sending a message to your staff that you don’t trust their skills and that their time doesn’t really matter.
  • Encourage employees to walk away from technology. Schedule a few 20-minute breaks a week to just spend time together and catch up. Form a group that would like to do a daily afternoon walk to get air and exercise.
  • Keep them happy with little things:
  • A note on their desk in the morning when they come in acknowledging a small scale success.
  • An incentive program that allows them to save up for time off or bonus pay.
  • Got Snow? Create a phone tree among your departments and allow for surprise no-snow snow days when the winter days really start to get everyone down.

Employees that feel appreciated and valued are less likely to leave their jobs.

Communication

    People like to know what is going on. Keeping employees involved and “in the loop” can help keep them satisfied. Organizations and business with open communication tend to have more loyal employees. When employee viewpoints are taken into consideration while making changes and adjustments they will continue to pay more attention to productivity and efficiency. A statement heard more often than not is … “I loved my job… just not my manager.”

  • When adding tasks to an employee’s workload be sure to ask them what is already on their plate and assist them on prioritizing what is there. Don’t expect them to read your mind.
  • How effective are your evaluation process? Most employees desire feedback on jobs done and again, including them in conversations when setting future goals will create ownership of those goals.
  • Try to keep employees informed of decisions early and explain your thought process so they understand where you’re coming from. While they might not necessarily agree with decisions made they will know that you put ample time into coming to the decision.

Highly effective organizations rely heavily on communication to meet deadlines, produce products and encourage customers and clients to return.

    Create an environment where your employees feel valued and like they are a part of the success of the business. Allow them to take on new roles and responsibilities and grow their skill set to understand the business from a more holistic point of view. Obviously, not all of these ideas fit every work environment. There are deadlines and quotas to meet and customers to keep happy. But if you can find a few that might fit with what you have going on the results will more than likely surprise you.

 

Access to Quality Child Care Can Strengthen Our Region

Max DelSignore

There are many factors to consider when determining the quality of life in a prospering community. One of the key pillars to a thriving community is access to education.

    The education provided by north country school districts and higher education institutions remains robust as the needs of our region evolve. However, research shows the greatest and most critical development in young children takes place from ages of 18 months to age 4. More than 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before age 5. The availability of quality child care and early childhood development programs becomes a focal point for not only the healthy growth of local children, but the community as a whole.

The LEAD Council of the Northern New York Community Foundation is examining this community need more closely. The advisory committee of more than 20 young professionals recently launched its “LEAD Impact Grant Program,” which is designed to address strategic needs affecting residents of all ages in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. The Council representing the tri-county area researched the issue and convened with local experts to identify meaningful support in child care and early childhood development as a community priority.

    Many nonprofit organizations, school districts and local agencies offer support in child care and early childhood development. While some programs receive federal funding to operate, other agencies scramble to secure appropriate resources and staff to optimize their programming. A compromise in the quality of programs is likely to hinder the preparedness of children entering kindergarten and grade school. Children are not only challenged with fundamentals in education, but with development of cognitive and social skills as well.

    “It is a simple and an incredibly complex fact that a person’s earliest years set the stage for the rest of their life,” said Joanna Loomis, a LEAD Council member and director of provider strategy and transformation at the North Country Initiative. “The quality of child care services for any child, along with other factors that influence their early development such as housing, family relationships and nutrition, all intersect to inform not only that child’s well-being, but by extension, that of their community.”

    LEAD is an acronym that means Leadership, Engagement, Access, and Direction. The LEAD Council and the Community Foundation announced in February up to $25,000 in grant funding is available to tri-county nonprofit organizations with a mission to provide services and support in child care and early childhood development. The focus areas for this grant opportunity are programs, advocacy, accessibility, and opportunities to support staff through training and professional development. Nonprofits, as well as other publicly supported organizations, such as school districts and municipalities, are eligible to apply for funding. The application deadline is April 19, and grant awards will be announced in September.

    “Although our grant is not a fix-all, we felt strongly that we could make a significant impact in this field with the potential that our grant is a step toward overall betterment,” said Andrew Boulter, LEAD member and a lifelong Watertown resident.

    Across the country, advocacy for quality child care and early childhood development is building momentum. Some municipalities have built partnerships and initiatives into their strategic plans to focus on providing growth and sustainability to support early childhood development. Bruce Stewart, the executive director of the St. Lawrence Child Care Council, noted that raising awareness of the gaps in support is one of the north country’s greatest challenges. Recent results from the Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College reflects good or fair outcomes related to availability of child care in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. But local municipalities continue to evaluate feasible models to make improvements.

    “Child care and early childhood development should be thought of as infrastructure when it comes to community planning,” said Jennifer Voss, LEAD member and senior planner with the City of Watertown. “It’s an integral part of economic development. Parents who cannot find secure, affordable day care are not able to work outside of their homes. Child care is more than taking care of children, it’s a vital component to a community’s quality of life.”

    Investment in a child’s education and development begins well before the first steps into a kindergarten classroom. The LEAD Council and its “LEAD Impact Grant Program” will help continue the conversation and serve as a catalyst to augment support for optimal child care and early childhood development efforts in our region. As our communities evolve and grow it is important that we are mindful of properly nurturing our young children to give them the best chance to succeed in Northern New York.

 

20 Questions: A Vision for Success

SYDNEY SCHAEFER / NNY BUSINESS
Sarah Compo poses for a portrait at the Flower Memorial Library in Watertown.

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