Archive for October, 2008

Holiday party places in Chicago

October 22, 2008

A few weeks from now the trees along Michigan Avenue will be bright with lights and the store windows will glisten with holiday gifts.  Every restaurant and hotel will be brimming with revelers enjoying their company parties.   The best locations are booking right now!  This year, plan ahead to have a great holiday event.   Is your company the type to linger over 6 courses with wine pairings or more likely to order cold beer and pizza?  No matter your tastes, the holidays are a time to celebrate and appreciate the people who make your company run all year long.

If you like the old swanky classics, Rosebud’s Ballo Restaurant offers a wine room for private parties accommodating up to 30 guests.  Located at 445 N. Dearborn, Ballo is the ideal juxtaposition of a great Italian restaurant and fun-loving nightspot. The beat of the music, sparkling disco ball and plasma screens covering the walls set the party mood inside this unique space, converted from a 50’s diner.

Chicago’s new glamor scene is at David Burke’s Primehouse inside River North boutique hotel, The James, at 616 N. Rush.  Dinner highlights include steaks dry-aged in their onsite salt cave and dishes like the spicy “angry lobster”.   The “cheesecake lollipops” are the notable dessert.  After dinner, everyone can relax in the J Bar, with deconstructed cocktails like the signature “James” served in a glass coated in a raspberry candy shell.   The innovative dishes, modern design elements and video art installations will give your guests great memories.

Enjoy the stunning views of the Chicago River and city skyline and hold your celebration at Fulton’s on the River, 315 N. LaSalle. They offer seven distinctive spaces for private events including the plush “Murdoch Lounge” for a casual event or cocktail party, the “Main Branch Room” with windows overlooking the water or the “Riverfront Room” with access to the outdoor veranda.

Hub 51, named for its location at 51 W. Hubbard, has a lounge called “Sub 51” on its lower level that doubles as a private-party space.  This popular new restaurant from Lettuce Entertain You creatively blends entertainment, nightlife, and dining with fun nuances like quirky comments on the menu and the beer tap in the hostess booth.

 For a sophisticated affair, hold your event at the Courtyard Marriot – Magnificent Mile .  The chefs and staff of the chic restaurant, Viand, will cater your party in an event space in the Marriot or in Viand’s private wine library.   Colleagues and guests from out of town or the suburbs will find it convenient to stay overnight at the hotel and indulge in the great holiday shopping on Michigan Avenue.

 

Why not call your favorite place and see if they provide rooms or menus for special events – most do! Restaurants like Shaw’s Crab House offer party menus featuring shrimp, lobster, seasonal crab dishes, sushi and regional oysters on the half shell.   La Madia at 59 W. Grand has a private wine and pizza tasting room for you and your guests to enjoy their artisanal pizzas and their full global wine list.  Creative and festive options abound in Chicago!  Wherever you go this season, raise a toast to each other to recognize your accomplishments in 2008.   Happy holidays.

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Essential business tools

October 17, 2008

This week celebrates the 25th anniversary of the first commercial wireless call.   It happened in Chicago at Soldier Field on Oct. 13, 1983.  Bob Barnett, former president of Ameritech Mobile Communications called the grandson of Alexander Graham Bell who was in Germany at the time.  The phone was a Motorola DynaTAC 8000X which cost $4000, weighed 1.75 pounds and was 13 inches long.  Today the Apple iPhone 3G costs $200, weighs 4.7 oz. and is 4.5 inches long.  The exploding market for business technology gives us faster, cheaper and easier tools every year.  These gadgets can be fun for personal use and invaluable work tools.  Take a look at the current market to see if there’s something new out there to help your business grow.

Wireless technology means we don’t have to be tethered to our desks when we need to get work done.  Mobile phones have come a long way since that first wireless call at Soldier Field, and the Blackberry has become the quintessential business phone.  The new Blackberry Storm features touch screen navigation and offers video recording and playback – a great tool for recording an event that your colleague or customer has to miss.  Whether you use a Blackberry or another mobile phone, use Bluetooth technology for hands free and secure wireless communications.  Bluetooth headsets make it possible to talk while driving, typing or working with cumbersome documentation or plans.   Wireless Technology also allows you to access your desktop from anywhere.  Not confined to “hotspots” anymore, broadband access is everywhere.  Verizon and AT&T offer you access to their wireless networks via a card that fits into your laptop.

Check out the large array of new web based applications.  These will allow you to create and share files on the Internet, instead of using a server housed at one location.  Google Docs offers a free word processor and spreadsheet creator.  If you are familiar with MSWord and Excel you’ll find them very easy to use. 37signals.com provides low cost web based business software including file storage and project management.  Their innovations are exactly what a mobile or decentralized work force needs for effective collaboration.

Thirty years ago, I would be typing this sentence into a display terminal just like the one pictured above.  Adjusted for inflation, it would cost me over $4000 to buy one of those today!  What’s next in the evolution of business technology?  Many Japanese have already replaced their wallets with their cell phones.  “Near Field Communication” allows them to make purchases by “beaming” money from their bank account to a merchant’s.  Computerized clothing is also on the way.  One button on your shirt collar will record your voice memos while another one will place a call.  Non-traditional wireless devices such as wristwatches with browsers on their “faces” and eyeglasses with built-in displays will project information to the wearer.  We will see many milestone innovations during the next decade.  Allowing time for new inventions to become affordable and more efficient is a good idea, but don’t get stuck using outdated equipment.  Keeping up with new business technology is a great way to keep your company current, flexible and efficient.

Develop a small business plan for success

October 8, 2008

The creation of a sound business plan is essential to your company’s success.  Not only is a plan necessary to obtain funding from banks or investors, the very act of developing it will enhance your ability to convey the good reasons your company should exist.  Even if you constructed a solid plan back at the beginning of your venture, you should continue to reassess it based on current circumstances and goals.  Experts agree that a well developed plan signifies your company’s strong foundation.

In order to write your plan as straightforwardly as possible, separate out the main components into sections.  These are the key areas you will need to analyze:

Product – What are you selling and how is it innovative?

Market – Who are your customers and why will they buy your product?

Finance – How much money do you have and how much are you going to need?

Examining these elements will force you to confront all of the small details that go into running a business.  Doing so will likely reveal many answers to questions you currently have about how your idea should be structured and pursued.  Throughout the life of your company, you may find that expanding the original plan can enlighten you when obstacles or surprises force you to make important decisions or to change course.

There are a host of free resources to assist you while you create your business plan.

  • Use the Small Business Administration’s interactive workshopto guide you through the practical steps of putting the document together.
  • Talk with experienced business owners who have already met this goal.  One benefit of working in an office business center, especially one where an atmosphere of congeniality is fostered, is that networking with other business owners allows you to gain from their expertise and advice.
  • Refer to other business plan examples.  Even though the examples may not be the same business model you propose, you can tweak certain aspects to conform to your own plan.

Once you’ve completed your work, don’t file it away.  Keep it updated so that you stay on top of current trends and future possibilities.  Maintaining an effective business plan means you are constantly in tune with your company’s position and always have a written plan for success.

Chicago’s Fall Festivities

October 3, 2008

 

Welcome this year’s fall season by enjoying the new batch of city events!  Even though the winters here linger the longest, we experience four distinct seasons of weather and Chicagoans really know how to celebrate them individually.  Fall in Chicago is symbolized by changing leaves, pumpkin patches and the Daley Plaza fountain turning orange.  Annual outdoor activities like the marathon and  skating help enhance the fall fun.

Even though the Daley Plaza market comes to an end on Oct. 2nd, the Federal Plaza farmers market at Adams & Dearborn continues through Oct. 28.  Walk through the market to gather fall’s final harvest, and then head to the Gallery 37 Center for the Arts on October 9th for their “End of Season” cooking class.  You will learn how to prepare fresh vegetable dishes that are particularly appropriate for fall.  The class is in their state-of-the-art professional training kitchen and costs $30.  Pre registration is required

On Friday, October 17th, Daley Plaza will transform into “Franken Plaza” for the city’s annual “Chicagoween” celebration.  Head over during your lunch hour to watch the antics of Midnight Circus, the high flying aerial ensemble of acrobats, contortionists and live musicians, with their incredible performing pooch.  See the full schedule for all the festivities including pumpkin decorating, scary movie nights and the Halloween costume parade.

Timed to coincide with the 2008 Presidential election, the exhibition “The Art of Democracy” is part of this year’s Chicago Artists Month.  This exhibit displays works by 60 printmakers whose art is concerned with democracy, social activism and political change.  Organized by the New York Society of Etchers it includes 25 Chicago-based artists who continue a tradition of using poster and print media as a vehicle for social advocacy and propaganda.  Located at the Loyola University Museum of Art, 820 North Michigan Avenue.  Suggested Admission, $6.

Cheer for the participants running the Chicago Marathonon October 12th.  This year’s race features Romania’s newly crowned Olympic women’s gold medalist, Constantina Tomescu-Dith.  Afterwards, congratulate them at the free post party in Butler Field at Columbus & Jackson.  The party has festival-like food and beverages, live music and entertainment.

At the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street, the 16,000-square-foot-Millennium Park plaza Ice Skating Rink offers one of the best views of Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue.  Skating on the rink is free and skate rental is available for $9.  The rink opens on November 12th and you can skate every day from 10am until 10pm, weather permitting.  Don’t despair at the thought of this activity requiring a big chill; the rink has its own state-of-the-art chiller system that can maintain the ice even in the event of unseasonably warm weather!  But, we probably won’t be that lucky.