Archive for November, 2008

Give thanks by giving back

November 26, 2008

volunteer

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the number of volunteers in the Chicago area is down by over 15% this year.   That’s the bad news.   The good news is that 2008 isn’t over yet!  Celebrate this season of giving by volunteering your time for a worthy organization in our community.

Visit the volunteer matchmaking site at the Community Resource Network to find an opportunity that connects with your individual interests or skill set.   Search by keyword, location or both to find the right fit.  Their database represents a wide range of organizations and immediately gives you all the basic information you need to shop around for a cause that inspires you. 

Food is a large part of our holiday traditions.  For those that don’t have enough, this is a particularly difficult season.  Two wonderful institutions supply Chicagoans in need with food year round.  On the north side, Lakeview Pantry distributes over one million pounds of food each year to individuals in that neighborhood.   On the south side, the Greater Chicago Food Depository distributes the equivalent of more than 95,000 meals every day.  Both of these organizations offer ways to assist them in their efforts and directly improve someone’s life.

Expand your social and business network by participating regularly with a club that offers a variety of volunteering programs and events.  One Brick is a volunteer organization that takes the planning out of your hands and lists upcoming events on a web calendar.  You can join them for as few or as many activities as you want and there is no charge to attend.   They usually tack on dinner or drinks after their events making it a good way to give while also enjoying some community time of your own.

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Follow your heart’s desires by reaching out to a known cause that has always meant something to you.  Love animals?  Volunteer for the Anti-Cruelty Society.  Opera fan?  Volunteer with Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Fascinated by architecture?  Reach out to the Chicago Architecture Foundation.   This city is filled with worthy non profits offering a vast array of missions for you to nurture.  Find the one that excites you and try volunteering for one fundraising or outreach event.  Then, if you feel satisfied, you can join their continuing efforts. 

In spite of the economic outlook, plan something meaningful with your family and friends for the holidays.  This time of year is for reflection and celebration.  Do the very best you can to enjoy every minute of these next few weeks.  Chicago has plentiful opportunities to give back to our community and it won’t cost you anything.   Give back this year and feel grateful for what you have.

Don’t let the forecast slow your business down

November 21, 2008

 rainstorm

With the gloomy economy threatening to stretch into 2009, business owners are shifting gears.   Decisions are being put on hold, spending reduced, hiring frozen.  But, what if you are in the midst of starting your own business?  If you’ve moved beyond the dreaming and the planning stages, you may not want to restrain that momentum.   Luckily, achieving success in a slow economy is possible if you remain attuned to the unique dynamics of the market and adjust your plans accordingly.  Finding additional funding as well as ways to reduce spending in non-essential areas will help you succeed.

The first thing you should do is revisit your business plan.  Make sure your financial projections are realistic considering the stringent credit market and increased competition for venture capital.  It’s best to assume you are going to need more money than you previously thought, because customers may take longer to attract.  Experts estimate you will need 2-3 times the amount of money to fund your start-up in this economy.   All avenues should be pursued in depth including equity, debt and government financing.

Certain long term goals may need to be modified into short term solutions that keep overhead costs down.   Consider using freelancers instead of hiring full time employees.   Allow yourself flexibility for the future by not locking yourself into long term contracts.  The Suites Collection has shared furnished offices that can accommodate your needs for dedicated or flexible space.  Included services such as internet connections, telephones, faxes and copiers mean you won’t have to outlay cash for equipment or enter into service agreements with support technicians. 

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Strengthening professional relationships will bring significant benefits at this time and won’t cost a dime.   Touch base with your peers and customers to find out how they are doing and listen to their experiences.   This social initiation demonstrates confidence and signifies your potential.  Instead of hiring a business consultant, reach out to a mentor or an experienced professional in your field.  This is a way to get a little free advice or maybe to learn from another’s mistakes.  SCORE offers free career counseling for start ups and small businesses from experienced entrepreneurs and seasoned executives. 

Sometimes you have to roll with the punches.  It’s good to practice patience and optimism and trust that eventual success is in your hands.

“Over the years, the U.S. economy has shown a remarkable ability to absorb shocks of all kinds, to recover and to continue to grow. Flexible and efficient markets for labor and capital, an entrepreneurial tradition and a general willingness to tolerate and even embrace technological and economic change all contribute to this resiliency.”

  • – Ben Bernanke, US Federal Reserve Chairman

Workplace flexibility

November 12, 2008

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Certain sectors in our business community are evolving to become more and more virtual.  As this happens, the convenience of having a full time office with dedicated work space may no longer be cost effective.  If you telecommute, partnering with a professional office that will allow you to use their facilities and resources on an “as needed” basis can add tremendous value to your corporate image.

Securing flexible work space increases your ability to offer a full range of services to your clients.  Meeting at coffee shops or conducting conference calls at copy centers is distracting and unprofessional.  Especially if privacy is a concern for your clients, discussing their business in public is improper. 

Office business centers were created to meet the needs of entrepreneurs who want dedicated space and appreciate the value of shared services.  Now we are adapting our focus to meet the expanding needs of today’s mobile professional. 

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Located at the corner of Randolph and Dearborn, Theatre District Business Center is in a professionally appointed building near all CTA lines and public parking.   Directly across the street from Daley Plaza, the State of Illinois Building, City Hall, the County Buildings and Chicago Title & Trust, the center is extremely convenient for work associated with the courts or government.  Anyone who engages in business in the loop will enjoy its close proximity to the great restaurants and entertainment found within Chicago’s central business district.

We offer up to 16 hours a month of private meeting or office space for $300.  Your workspace will include high speed internet and it can be accessed anytime Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5pm. Use a private office for meeting preparation or to connect with clients when you are between downtown appointments.  Additional onsite services include use of copier, fax and secretarial support.  Mail and delivery receipt is also available.  Training and board rooms, which hold up to 50 people, are ideal for presentations or company wide meetings.   These can be scheduled for an additional hourly rate.

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Call Ellen Sadler at 312-762-9200 to set up a tour of your new office today!

Learn more about Theatre District Business Center.

 

The elevator pitch

November 6, 2008

elevator-pitch

Sometimes, all you have is 30 seconds to explain your business concept to a potential client or investor.   Nicknamed the “elevator pitch” because it lasts as long as the average elevator ride, this short speech should be given careful preparation and consideration.  Develop an engaging elevator pitch so that you will always be ready to sum up your product, its benefits and a little bit about yourself in a convincing and succinct way. 

A good pitch will include the listener as a potential recipient of the company’s services.  How could your product improve their life?  How might it address their concerns?   Make your concept relatable so your audience will feel invested.  Always keep an open mind for improvements to your pitch.  The language of business is constantly evolving so your words and ideas should seem relevant to the current business market at all times.  

When you are ready to craft the pitch, start by writing it down and revising the words until you find what feels right.  It can be up to 150 words and should last between 30-60 seconds (the shorter the better!).   This is not the same copy found in your business brochure or on your website; these words will be delivered in person so they need to be engaging discourse.  The written words can sounds stilted in conversation, so you’ll need to read it aloud to make sure it sounds natural.  You’ll also want to be as concise as possible since the average attention span starts to wander after 30 seconds.  

Here’s my elevator speech for “The Suites Collection”: 

  • “We operate business centers that provide private offices to individuals or small companies.  Our offices come in a range of prices and sizes to fit up to 50 people.   Staffing and technology systems are already in place – telephones, internet, fax – we provide it all.   Our receptionists answer your phone calls and you can access your office 24/7.  You won’t have high start up fees with us.  Do you know how much it costs to equip a modern office?  We’ve handled that so you can focus on what’s important to you.  And, you can be up and running the day you move in.   Unlike most of our competitors, we are a small business too, so, we can be nimble and respond very quickly to special requests.  Our tenants appreciate our personal touch and find a lot of value in all of the shared services.”  (142 Words, 45 seconds)

The day I drafted my elevator pitch, I met a businessman at a networking event who was looking to relocate his office to Chicago.  He had already visited some of our competitors.    It was the perfect opening for my speech so I launched into it and found that some of it seemed awkward when said aloud.  I had to revise several more times before I found something that sounded natural for me.  It does help to have the pitch written down because then you will have confidence that you are reciting the best version.  As always, practice makes perfect so run it by your friends and family for their feedback.   That will allow you to succeed in the all important subliminal part of your sell – showing your listener that you have confidence in yourself and that you know your product is superb.

Time your pitch with this convenient online stopwatch.