Business & Economy
Schilling Supports Small Business Tax Break PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Andie Pivarunas   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:43

Washington, DC – Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17) released the following statement in support of H.R. 9, the Small Business Tax Cut Act, which he cosponsored when it was introduced today.  The bill grants a 20 percent tax cut to small businesses with less than 500 employees:

“As a small business owner, I know firsthand the challenges of creating jobs and meeting a payroll in the face of overwhelming government regulations, paperwork, and uncertainty.  I came to Washington to help end this uncertainty, remove barriers to private-sector job creation, and make it easier for fellow small business owners to grow their  businesses and create jobs.  

"This bill will allow job creators to keep more of their money, invest it in their businesses, and retain and create more jobs so families can more easily put food on the table and gas in the car.  We all want to see fundamental tax reform, bring down tax rates, broaden the base, and close loopholes, but this is an opportunity for us to work together and help small businesses right now.  I hope folks in the Senate and the President will work with us on advancing this pro-jobs, pro-growth policy.”

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Governor Quinn Visits Belgium to Boost Jobs, Exports PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:34

Trip to Support Illinois Tourism, Trade and Business Investment

 

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – March 21, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today departed on an economic and jobs trip to Brussels, Belgium where he will seek to expand Illinois trade, tourism and business opportunities. In addition to participating in several events organized by NATO in advance of this spring’s summit in Chicago, the Governor will address a trade conference sponsored by the European Union (EU) to strengthen ties between Illinois and Europe. He will also host a business roundtable with current Belgium businesses that invest in Illinois, potential investors, and business leaders and associations.

 

The trip builds upon Governor Quinn’s aggressive goal to double exports by the end of 2014, and is the first gubernatorial trade mission to Europe in 13 years.

 

“We want the world to know that their trip to America starts in Illinois,” Governor Quinn said. “We’ll showcase Illinois’ tremendous economic assets before an international audience and we’ll bring back more trade opportunities, tourism and business investment to Illinois.”

 

Governor Quinn will begin his visit by opening the Chicago Exhibit at the NATO Headquarters to promote Illinois to the world in advance of the NATO summit being held in Chicago May 20-21. Later that day, he will deliver remarks at the EU Transatlantic Conference, hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce, where he will focus on opportunities to grow European Union and Illinois trade. Governor Quinn is committed to expanding Illinois’ international trade and helping businesses bring more products to global markets.

 

In front of the conference featuring high-level officials from the EU and the private sector, the governor will discuss the benefits of increasing trade with Illinois and the key role exports play in economic growth. Other keynote speakers at the event include EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United States. The EU is an economic and political partnership between 27 European countries.

 

Also during his visit to the European capital, the Governor will host a business roundtable, where he will sit down with current Belgian investors, potential investors, and business leaders and associations from Belgium and Europe to discuss opportunities to increase investment in Illinois. He will conclude the day with a dinner hosted by the U.S. ambassador to NATO where he will encourage attendees to come to Illinois in advance of the NATO meeting in May and stay late to explore our state’s many visitor attractions.

 

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and Europe, where representatives from 27 EU member states reside. In addition, the city is home to the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament. Significant decisions on trade and investment are made in Brussels, and working groups such as the TABD (Transatlantic Business Dialogue) and TEC (Transatlantic Economic Council) are both extremely active in the city.

 

The European Union and Belgium are both key trading partners for Illinois. Illinois was the first U.S. state to establish a foreign office in Brussels 44 years ago in 1968. In 2011, Illinois exports to the EU grew by over 27 percent, totaling nearly $11.5 billion. Belgium is Illinois’ ninth largest trading partner, receiving more than $1.65 billion worth of Illinois exports in 2011, a 42.7 percent increase over 2010. Top industries include industrial machinery, vehicles and chemical products.

 

European companies’ investments in Illinois are the largest from any region in the world, with countries such as the U.K., Germany and France serving as top investors. Countries within the European Union have 723 firms with 3,476 locations in Illinois, employing more than 183,137 Illinoisans. Some of those companies include Siemans Industry, T-Mobile USA, Deutsch Bank, Philips Electronics, Chrysler-FIAT SPA and Volvo Group of North America to name a few.

 

More information about Illinois trade and business opportunities can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website at www.illinoisbiz.biz.

 

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Stop Wasting Time in Meetings! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:31
Expert Offers Tips for Meetings that Get Things Done

Technology is constantly speeding up the pace of business: Decisions once delayed for weeks are now made in seconds thanks to internet communication. Computer analytics puts real-time market information at our fingertips.  Transactions can occur anywhere, any time.

Logic holds that businesses that can’t keep up will be left behind.

“Just to keep pace, businesses must develop organizational agility, and it’s absolutely critical if they want to do more than just survive,” says Mike Richardson, author of Wheel$pin: The Agile Executive’s Manifesto: Accelerate Your Growth, Leverage Your Value, Beat Your Competition (www.mydrivingseat.com).

Organizational agility is being able to move quickly and decisively, and one of the biggest obstacles is unproductive, time-wasting meetings he says.

“They start late, run long, and don’t achieve much,” he says. “But meetings are the backbone of an agile business.”

He offers these tips for developing agile meetings with traction:

• Map your meeting: Create a standing agenda and a master spreadsheet with tabs relevant to each agenda item with the expected inputs, throughputs and outputs. That way, the meetings are easy for the chairman to run because everything is crystal clear.

• Set the mood: Set the tone for the energy level by playing a video or music. You can tell a story, read a quotation, or be unpredictable and create a surprise factor.

• Spark creativity: Frame the purpose of the meeting as a question: How do we best …? Questions get the human brain thinking more quickly.

• Document the action live: Instead of taking notes, editing them and distributing them afterward, save time by capturing everythingelectronically in real time. You can project action items for all to see during the meeting, and keep them in a master spreadsheet hosted on your server for easy access by all.

• Time-box everything: Meetings should last 45 minutes, from 5 after the hour to 10 minutes to the hour. Allot time for each agenda item and especially for presentations. Get people used to the fact that you will guillotine anything which runs over.When you challenge people to figure out how to get things done in the time allotted, you will be amazed at how they can.

• Leverage the wall-space: Wall space is one of the most underutilized assets in your business.  Have the standing agenda on the wall, creative problem-solving frameworks, your core values, key elements of your strategic plan, inspirational quotations, etc., all in a format large enough for you to refer to during the meeting.

• Generate input: Have everyone take a minute to write down an idea relevant to the agenda item. Go around the table and allow each person to share his or her idea, or break into pairs or triads to discuss the ideas and report back. (Remember to allot time for each step of the process.)

• Get fast consensus: Once the options are on the table, facilitate the group toward fast decisions with statements and questions like: “I’m leaning toward this …”; “Does anyone have a violent objection to that … ?”; “Can everyone get behind that?”; and then move them into fast action:“How would we best do that?”

“Agility is the ability to be constantly looking for opportunities to move forward toward goals while planning for problems,” Richardson says. “It’s being able to capitalize on fleeting opportunities, rebound from problems and make decisions on the turn of a dime.”

That doesn’t happen in businesses where executives and workers are bogged down by burdensome systems, procedures and time-wasting meetings stuck in minutiae, he says. Instead of shooting forward when they press on the gas, they go into a futile wheel$pin.

Creating agile meetings is one big step toward creating an agile organization which is in traction.

About Mike Richardson

Mike Richardson is president of Sherpa Alliance Inc., a management support business and a chair with Vistage International, a global collaborative of CEOs. He holds an MBA from London Business School and is an adjunct faculty member at the University of San Diego Business School. A former Shell Oil petroleum engineer and board member overseeing three automobile dealerships, he led the Aerospace Division of  Spirent PLC in Britain

 
Do Businesses Know What Their Customers Want? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 23 March 2012 11:50
Research Shows 90% Do Not

What customers value most changes constantly, and the pace of change has increased exponentially with the economic recession, says marketing/management expert and best-selling author Jaynie L. Smith.

“The businesses who become relevant by addressing what customers really value at any given time will be the first ones out of the recession,” says Smith, whose newest book, Relevant Selling (www.smartadvantage.com), is now available.

“One year ago, people were looking for financial stability in companies they were purchasing from because of all of the business closings,” she says, citing surveys conducted by her company, Smart Advantage, Inc. “Now, on-time delivery outranks that because so many businesses cut back their inventory during the worst of the recession. With demand increasing, customers have more difficulty getting what they want on time.”

Smith’s company analyzed more than 150 customer surveys to learn why customers buy particular products or services from particular companies. It’s an essential practice for any business owner during any economic cycle, Smith says, but most don’t do it. Her analysis of 10 years of double-blind customer market research for more than 100 businesses revealed that, 90 percent of the time, most businesses do not know their customers’ top values. They are often shocked to learn what is at the top of the customers’ value list.

Smith offers these tips for getting to know your customers – and potential customers – so you can deliver what they want and adjust your sales and marketing message to become more relevant.

• Customers are usually looking for “how” things are sold, not “what.” For most products, there are any number of suppliers. If someone wants to buy a camera, a doorknob, a car, they can drive to the nearest store or order from the first company that pops up on Google. But they don’t. Why? Because there’s something else they value more than the product itself. It may be product durability, the company’s reputation for customer service, or safety features. “If you don’t value what you bring to the customer, they won’t value it either,” is Smith’s mantra.  Very few companies know how to effectively articulate what differentiates them, so price often becomes the tiebreaker.

• Understand that existing customers and prospects usually have different values. Smith’s company research analysis shows that 70 percent of the time, customers and prospective customers differ in what they most value. When that happens, your message to customers should be different than your message to prospects.  Very few companies make this distinction in sales and marketing messaging. Existing customers may have come to depend on your top-notch help desk. It’s what they’ve grown to value most about your company. Prospective customers haven’t yet used your help desk so they don’t know how essential this benefit is yet.

• Use what you learn. If you find customers most value speedy responses when they have a problem, and your customer service department is slow, then fix customer service. Make sure to tell the customer service employees that customers have rated fast response time as their top priority. When you’ve got stats you can brag about – brag away: “98 percent of customer calls are returned within 30 minutes; 2 percent within 1 hour.” Now you’ve used that information in two valuable ways: to make your company more relevant to customers, and to let customers know you’ve got what they want.

• Invest in disciplined customer research. Research data collection costs have gone down 30 to 35 percent in the past few years and can now be affordable to smaller companies.  Double-blind customer market research is the gold standard and well worth the expense, but it’s not feasible for all companies. However, even a small investment in research can reap huge returns. Some less expensive and free alternatives to find out what your customers want include sharing the expense with an industry association; partnering with an organization that needs the same information or a peer that doesn’t compete with you; hiring a college intern; or creating an online survey using a free basic service, such as Survey Monkey.

About Jaynie L. Smith

Jaynie L. Smith is CEO of Smart Advantage, Inc., a marketing/management consultancy whose clients range from mid-sized to Fortune 500 companies. She consults nationally and internationally with CEOs and executives to help them define their companies’ competitive advantages.  Her first book, “Creating Competitive Advantage” (Doubleday Currency; 2006), is in its 11th printing and is consistently ranked in the top 1-2 percent on Amazon.com for marketing and management books. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from the New York Institute of Technology.

 
How to Be a Coupon Consumer – Without Getting Consumed By Coupons PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 19 March 2012 14:52
Expert Offers Tips for Easy Ways to Save
On Every Trip to the Market

More people than ever are clipping coupons for their supermarket trips, but they’re often not saving as much as they could, says Toni House, author of How to Reduce Your Weekly Grocery Bill to $85 Per Week – Or Less!.

"You can easily shave $5 to $20 off your weekly grocery budget with a minimal investment of time," says House. "Cutting your bill just $10 a week will save you $520 over the course of a year.

"Taking a couple of extra steps to ensure you can use all the coupons you clip will save you more money – and protect your investment of time in clipping them."

How can consumers take advantage of coupons without becoming consumed by them?

Let us count the ways!

• Learn different stores’ rules. Call the grocery stores that are convenient to you (near home OR work), ask these questions and write down the answers: Do you have double or triple coupon days? (If so, what are they?) Do you accept other stores’ coupons? Do you allow "stacking" coupons – using them on sale items?

• Seek coupons far and wide. The Sunday paper is always a good place to start, but most households also get coupons through direct mail. And you can find coupon deals at SaveYourMoneySaveYourFamily.com, Coupon-Lady.com and a host of other sites. If there are brand-name products you just have to have, try Googling the name and "coupon."

• Plan meals around your coupons. Say you have coupons for 30 cents off a box of pasta, half-off spaghetti sauce (a type you normally buy – not a pricey splurge!), buy-one, get-one canned mushrooms and $1 off a pound of ground chuck. Can you smell dinner simmering? For less than $4?

• Organize your coupons. An expandable folder, like you might use for taxes, is a convenient place to store coupons at home. You might organize it by product – frozen foods, snacks, meats, or by expiration date. If you’re going to do some meal planning around coupons, you might want a section for those. As you clip, sort the coupons immediately so you don’t end up with a big pile that never gets sorted or used. Clip the meal coupons together and drop them in either the meals section or, if you’re organizing by date, the date the first one is set to expire

• Save up to 30 to 50 percent with "shopping club" cards. Many supermarkets now offer "shopping clubs" that provide members with special in-store discounts. These are no-clipping-required coupons that never expire! Sign up for free and get a "membership" card that clips to your key ring. When the cashier swipes it, the discounts are applied to your grocery bill. Some stores have an associated website where you can log in while you’re planning your shopping list and see what discounts are available that week.

• Upload coupons directly onto your shopping club card. Stores that have a shopping club website may also post manufacturer and brand coupons there. Log into the site with your card ID number, then click on the coupons you want and they’ll load right onto your card! Instead of carrying coupons to the grocery story, you get your discounts when the cashier swipes your card.

• Organize your shopping club cards and coupons with your smart phone. If you shop at a lot of stores, you may be carrying around a lot of shopping club cards. Ditch the cards by loading them on a free club card organizer app available soon at saveyourmoneysaveyourfamily.com. You’ll also soon find a free coupon organizing app there. It will allow you to click on coupons online and load them onto your phone for the trip to the grocery store.

Planning ahead is the most effective way to use coupons. Since we know you would never dream of heading to the supermarket without a list -- because that’s a huge money waster – just match your coupons to your shopping list before you head out the door.

Be sure to check expiration dates, brand names and quantities on the coupon (if it says "8-ounce tub of lard," don’t grab the 24-ounce tub of lard!)

Imagine, if you save just $1 a week with coupons, you’ll have $52 extra at the end of the year. And then you can get that splurge spaghetti sauce – and the 24-ounce tub of lard!

About Toni House

Toni House has a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in business administration and was most recently the senior consultant and owner of an accounting firm. "How to Reduce Your Grocery Bill" is her second "Savvy Shopping" book. Her first was "Save Your Money, Save Your Family." Find her money-saving blog tips at www.saveyourmoneysaveyourfamily.com.

 
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