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jrwalker333
01-24-2008, 04:45 PM
Have any of you professional business owners considered being a member of the Better Business Bureau, or Your Chamber Of Commerce??? *I am asking this because about 15 years ago I was with a previous business I owned a member with our BBB and I felt for the fees, annual membership. It was not worth the cost. *However, recently I haved checked with joining two of our area Chamber Of Commerces and it seems they have alot of valuable resources available as well as tremendous savings on various programs. *One that got my interest was the ability to save 85% annually off my Workers Compensation premiums. *That is huge and would more then pay for the annual fees. *Also would have considerable market exposure and other valuable resources for us. *What do you all think any Members with any feedback appreciated, or any non-members considering joining or people like me just on the fence and weighing the benefits verse cost associated?http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Thanks.

Steve
01-24-2008, 07:25 PM
When you were a member of the BBB did they have monthly get together meetings?

I thought the Chamber of Commerce was more about bringing local business owners together while the BBB was a business reliability rating service.

jrwalker333
01-24-2008, 10:45 PM
Hi Steve, You are correct when I was with BBB all they did was provide information to consumers about your company and if by chance there was a complaint about a company, they if you had not already resolved complaint would try to mediate the claim. *We were a member for several years no complaints no disputes but yet we were paying around 400.00 per year for membership just to tell potential clients that we were a member. *Today I currently don't belong I dont think it is worth it. *All it *does is *give you bragging rights to say your a member or use there logo on your stationary. Not being *a member potential clients can still contact them and get same information about us (they just inform them we are not a member so what?)

The Chamber you are again correct more networking with other business, member discounts etc.

Steve
01-25-2008, 06:37 AM
My take on this is the BBB is there, if you want to pay for the bragging rights, then do it. Otherwise think about this. This topic has come up in the past and each time I like to ask the business owner who posted it, "when was the last time a customer turned you down because you weren't a member of the BBB? Or when was the last time you asked a customer how they found you and they said through the BBB?" I am guessing the number would be zero to both.

I do think other organizations are really a good thing to take part in. Letting people know who you are, that you are real, that you are approachable, that you are a good guy/gal, all these things can be accomplished by joining local groups.

All to often it seems most business owners don't schmooze. They just want to focus on doing their work. They don't want to meet people, in fact, more often than not, I hear from a lot of business owners how they can't stand people.

So all of this may or may not be the case but ultimately it takes more energy to go out and meet people than it does to not, so for that reason alone, most business owners won't do it.

Why not join all these local business groups. The great thing about it for you is that each person you meet is a potential customer in two ways. They most likely own a home and own a business! On top of that they most likely know more people they can refer to you for assistance!

Have you ever been a member of any community organizations before? What's your take on them? And if you haven't, what's your view on why you haven't?

jrwalker333
01-25-2008, 09:07 AM
Hi Steve,

The BBB questions you asked are good. In part to answer your question in the past I have not heard a customer tell me they would not use us because we were not a member . However, there has been a few people potential clients that did ask me why we are not a member. Also last year we had over 40 inquiries about us to the bureau that is why the BBB tried to get me to join again (no complaints) just inquiries, so my question would be I guess to answer part of yours. Could those have been potential Commercial Prospects pre screening for consideration/ calls we will never get??

Small group organizations are great and I have tried a few community involvement etc sponsoring a sports team providing uniforms etc. Fun to do and beneficial but generated minimal sales. I have not done that though in past several years I guess mainly because of lack of interest and not a whole lot of sales generated either. But great points I will probably try to do that again this year ( just relocated to new area about 45 miles from my previous core of business) service area and now I am in a small tight community ( great advice) I will try to get more involved at least in our local community again.

Steve
01-25-2008, 09:28 PM
Quote[/b] ]Also last year we had over 40 inquiries about us to the bureau that is why the BBB tried to get me to join again (no complaints) just inquiries, so my question would be I guess to answer part of yours. Could those have been potential Commercial Prospects pre screening for consideration/ calls we will never get??

I have heard other business owner tell me similar things they have heard from someone trying to sell them membership into the BBB. I just don't know what that really means for the BBB to say we had 40 inquiries about you? On one side it sounds like there could have been 40 potential customers asking about you? Did they ever explain what and inquiry consisted of?

Quote[/b] ]Small group organizations are great and I have tried a few community involvement etc sponsoring a sports team providing uniforms etc. Fun to do and beneficial but generated minimal sales. I have not done that though in past several years I guess mainly because of lack of interest and not a whole lot of sales generated either.

This is a very interesting topic. When you reflect back on your businesses and the seminars you have gone to, what's your view on building goodwill within your community? Does the amount of goodwill you have within your community allow you to charge more for a service than a competitor? Does getting involved with your community allow you to build this goodwill level? What's your view on this?

jrwalker333
01-26-2008, 03:37 PM
The BBB did not supply me with information pertaining to inquiries, just stated we had over 40?

The community involvment question: I think that the small community that I presently just relocated to that it would help to be very involved (Ex: Sponsor a few sport teams etc. )this may help you within the community to gain local awareness as well as help establish a new client base. I am not sure though if this would allow you to charge a few more dollars then the competition. Previously, the area I moved from we had a very good overall awareness and even though I have relocated we will keep our presence known throughout that area and try to stay involved to some degree within that community for our loyal customer base we had developed there.

Steve
01-26-2008, 09:02 PM
Rich,

When you look at the other lawn care businesses in your area, how does their community presence compare with yours? Do they do more or less? Do they do anything that stands out?

Also do you know if any of the owners are in the Chamber of Commerce?

jrwalker333
01-27-2008, 09:19 AM
Hi Steve, I am not sure to answer your questions,companies our size probably rarely do community programs, the largest companies in our area, I would say have some involvement. I know about, and they are usually the local suppliers of products in our area . Two I know for sure have some involvement size range they do is the first company is around 2 million in sales annually and the other probably 25-50million plus sales.

The chamber again The really big companies are in and most my size are not.

Steve
01-27-2008, 12:02 PM
Quote[/b] ]I am not sure to answer your questions,companies our size probably rarely do community programs, the largest companies in our area, I would say have some involvement.

My view is, envision where you want to be. Act the role. Then assume the role.

In other words, go out there and be the lawn care ambassador in your community. Talk about lawn care issues. Fertilizer issues. Carbon footprint issues. Environment issues. Be the green man. The person everyone knows to go to to ask advise on this stuff from.

Do presentations on such topics in your community. To home owner associations.

I think the more outgoing you are in this manner, the more attention you will get and the larger your business will grow.

What's your view?

jrwalker333
01-27-2008, 08:12 PM
Steve, more good information, after reading your last post I thought of another company that I know of In our area a nursery center as well as landscape contractor and everyone is always talking ( customers frequently about him) he is on the radio I think some weekend mornings as well as tv slots. I rarely have listened to him although some of his recommendations have been accurate but yet others (way off) not sure his overall background but you are right alot of people view him as the lawn expert ( his company though not one of the larger ones here)

Steve
01-27-2008, 09:58 PM
Isn't it kind of amazing when you talk and think about these different things and then you realize competitors may be doing it and using it to their advantage!

What if you became the go to guy. The resident expert. The mayor or the town council could call on you to speak of give them advice on certain topics. You could write a column for the paper on different topics.

You could add all of this to your website in your press area.

Then talk about reassurance. All of this content would blow new customers away and they would be willing to get on a waiting list to be serviced by you.

Ultimately, how much of success in any field is about the leader doing that service? How much of success is about the leader actually selling the service?

Look at Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin companies. He doesn't even know how to fly and yet his Virgin Atlantic airways is very successful. Why? Because he is a great salesman!

What's your view on that?

jrwalker333
01-29-2008, 10:12 AM
Quote[/b] ]Ultimately, how much of success in any field is about the leader doing that service? How much of success is about the leader actually selling the service?

Look at Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin companies. He doesn't even know how to fly and yet his Virgin Atlantic airways is very successful. Why? Because he is a great salesman!

What's your view on that?

Hi steve more good thoughts, I am not sure on the first two questions. I would personally think that not to many leaders do the actual service after maybe initial start or idea, and probably dont sell the service or product either. As I am sure you know most of our successful CEO, COO, and executives do not know much about there product or service but what does make them very successful within their positions is their ability to (surround themselves with key people that all possess the talents and creativity and knowledge), to make the organizations thrive they are successful because of the talents of others, who they put in key positions that have the ability to complete the corporate mission with the team then they have the brainstorming crew to accomplish their mission and or goals.

Steve
01-30-2008, 09:18 AM
Rich,

As you were at these marketing seminars run by lawn care operators who built pretty large businesses, did they offer any suggestions on how to add to your staff? How to add talented people as well to your management staff?

jrwalker333
01-30-2008, 10:22 AM
Hi Steve, they did not really focus on that, but if you listened between the lines so to speak ,you will see that is how this guy in paticular has grown his business with different sectors of key people like ( starting a marketing data base, names for sale new home owner etc mailing list services etc) key person was offered position with his firm to develop his part of the business came from Americalist companies. ( right there is the brains behind the mission with new feature added to his company) the other guy came from background with the vanity number etc. My personal experiences throughout life I have always realized that it is the people you surround yourself with can be the keys to your success or then again your dimise. The quality of people within any organization from the low paid entry level to the top executives or the key to the overall success of the business, however alot of the fortune 100 companies lose focus on that and think they are the only reason they are successful ( not what I would think) Ex: When you go to Wal-mart first initial shopping experience can be met right at front door or exiting store (if it is a negative person, gloomy etc, what type of impression does that leave you with your overall experience of the store or company or when you go to check out and there are 25 registers and only 2 open and twenty people in line. It is not the greatest concept, for the upper executives to think that it is all about them ( they are just the behind the scenes people that cordinate the mission) I am a regular shopper of Wal-mart, however I have left many times with frustrations from waiting in long lines and or having to use there stupid self scanners, (wow that is customer service check out and bag yourself) ridiculous, just an example many chain stores are all the same they have at least in my personal opinion RUINED CUSTOMER SERVICE STANDARDS!!! Then again your business back to topic is all about KEY PEOPLE that includes all of your staff not just the top few. They are the ones that deal with your customers daily.

Steve
01-31-2008, 06:17 AM
Rich,

When you reflect on your previous experience, which was tougher, hiring your first employee or having to hire and manage a second crew?

Which was the bigger jump for you, do you feel?

A lot of small business owners get stuck at both points and I was wondering what advice you had on this.

jrwalker333
01-31-2008, 10:14 AM
Steve, to answer your question, I do not really think that I struggled with either. If I had to pick one I would say it would have been probably , hiring and managing the second crew. Although, even hiring your first employee can be somewhat difficult. The best advise I can give is first off you will never find an employee that is going to have the standards that you personally as the owner of the business would have, the common interest is not the same. You will however find a few great employees. The hardest thing for me as I am sure with many is the hiring and managing of the second crew, primarily this is because the loss that you feel of being able to provide your customers with the superior level of service that you would personally provide. This however is going to be difficult, ( a necessary evil that you must overcome) in order for you to grow the business you will have to (trust your employees, at least to some degree) and learn to be a good delagator. The other common mistakes that I have made is never hire for an immedate spot out of pure necessity. Be cautious of hiring immediate friends, and especially family members. Sometimes those can be the worst mistakes for you to make. The key to finding good employees is to always be looking and to always be interviewing because you never know when that (perfect) employee may come around.

Steve
01-31-2008, 10:42 AM
Quote[/b] ]The key to finding good employees is to always be looking and to always be interviewing because you never know when that (perfect) employee may come around.

How do you suggest doing this? Should you always be advertising that you are hiring?

If you found someone you thought would be good and didn't really have a spot for them at the moment, would you hire them anyway and make a spot?

jrwalker333
01-31-2008, 11:05 AM
Steve, about advertising, for hiring or open positions. If you have a shop (store front) you could always have a sign up to draw in potential applicants, you could also have a referral program for your employees (refer a friend). *I don't mean to necessarily advertise in news papers that obviously can be expensive. *The other thing is when out and about in my day if I see someone anywhere working that I feel would possibly be a good fit maybe offer them a business card and ask them to call you if they ever consider a different type of work field. ( I am not saying go to your competitors) go to the gas stations, convenience stores, pharmacy stores, restaurants like Wendy's, McDonalds, etc, you would be suprised. In the past some of my best workers came from restaurants and have never done lawn care ever before. * Also, when I used to be in Management Retail chain and Big Box stores I personally was recruited this way for some of the top companies in the world (ex) Wal-mart offered me a co-store manager position to start, my own store within 6 months and I was working at Kmart at the time. Recruited by a District Manager and Super Center Manager price comping and Head Hunting.

I don't think that I would hire just to get that person if I already had a great crew, but if I did not have that great of a crew you bet,I would make a spot and move into when someone else cut their own throat and dropped the ball and I would have a trained replacement on staff already.

Steve
01-31-2008, 01:49 PM
That is pretty fascinating stuff! So you actually were offered a job while you were in Kmart working! Were you blown away by that? It makes you wonder how often this goes on!

In the past when you hired someone that was working at a restaurant, were they your waiter? And then maybe you asked them if they ever considered working in lawn care? Or how would you suggest approaching the topic?

jrwalker333
01-31-2008, 09:16 PM
Steve, yes I was working when I was approached by Wal-mart management and said that they would really like to discuss opportunities with me, said they had been in a few times and said they were very impressed with my overall work ethic and management style. I told them I would not discuss any opportunities with them while I was working they proceeded with giving me their card and they called me the next day and were persistent for me to come in so my next off day I did go in to speak with the district manager at his office,and they offered me a great position, however I declined to accept the job do to a serious family medical situation. This was one of three head hunters that approached me just while I worked at Kmart for a short period of time.

When I would ask people ,they could have been the waiter, waitress, cashier, host, anybody who I thought may have had the overall customer service qualities that I would look for. You can teach almost anybody a trade or a skill, However obvious customer service skills and the way one presents themselves is a talent they must master on their own. Conversation would just be brought up in a general friendly talk, no pressure by any means, maybe a compliment on their quality of work or by the way they presented themselves.

musician/lawnman
02-12-2008, 12:13 AM
I joined the local chamber of commerce right out of the gate, literally as I opened up for business at the begining of last summer, I figured It would be a great way to network, meet other business owner & possibly even pick up some commercial accounts, store fronts etc. *It took them about 40 days to approve the membership & officially induct my company into the chamber. *Which was fine, but by then I had I guess about 30 residential clients & 2 property managment companies that I picked up ( maintaining all vacant rentals ). *I was too busy to go to the meetings!! *They kept calling asking me to come so they could introduce me & I didn't slow down enough to go until December! *Crazy... *Right now I could go to meetings 3 days a week though! *haha. * oh well, that's how it grows I guess.

But still I have only recieved 1 phone call from someone that was reffered to me or heard about me through the chamber. I don't think I'll rejoin next year.

Steve
02-12-2008, 08:11 AM
Chuck,

Were there other lawn care business owners in the chamber along with you?

Do you have any thoughts on what % of those you met at the chamber could be potential customers?

Is this just a case of they don't know you well enough yet to contact you or refer you and that would happen over time?

Or what's your view?

jrwalker333
02-12-2008, 02:40 PM
Chuck, what type of fees did you have to pay ?? Here it is based on your business size number of employees (ex) under 3 employees first year would be $440.00 and goes up from there. I think over 100 employees like $1500.00 or so. I too was looking at it for networking and the exposure you get through their monthly news letter and they do a feature article here on you at your descretion of 100 words. They also will link their web-site to yours and you can offer a discount to other chamber business organizations and their employees. Also there is substantial discounts for savings on workers compensation etc. I thought seriously about joining we use to belong to our BBB, but I felt for their fees like yourself we did not get any new calls to justify their fees we had to pay. Here the BBB will still give potential customers information about us, but will clearly state that we are not a member. This could cause us to lose alot of calls at least that is what I am contemplating.

musician/lawnman
02-13-2008, 07:49 AM
Gopher-,
Yes there are other lawn services in there. *The truth is honestly it might work & generate more business if I had more time to devote to the meetings, business card exchanges etc. * Since joining I get all kinds of solicitations from other members in my PO Box & reality is I haven't even mailed out any myself. * So On second thought I really haven't given it a fair shake, *no real effort in & nothing gained out. * I did meet one gentlman who is vp for acompany that is a prop. mngmt firm for condo associations & I (so I was told after following up) was put on the email list to be informed when their condos go up for bid..... *Nothing yet though!

Rich,
*I belive I paid about $260 for annual membership Then an additional $25 for a 2nd listing in their directory ( so I'd be under both lawncare & landscaping ) *Like I said above it hasn't done a ton for me but it is an avenue to pursue business & I just haven't really pursued it much. *It does seem to add a level of credibility though when you tell potential clients that your a member. *Good luck & hope that helps!

jrwalker333
03-09-2008, 09:39 AM
Musician, Chuck,

Thanks for response sorry for my very late reply. I joined two chambers the first of March they offered me a dual chamber membership at a great rate. I also qualified for using a third party administator for discount on Workers Compensation (discount should take 85% off current rate). Now reviewing health care options with them. I have not been able as of yet to go to any of their meetings or events but I will plan on it asap. They have also linked our web-site to theirs and we can be spot lighted on a newpaper they put out and we are in both directories we also can showcase on their web-site a discount for all other chamber business members and their employees. I am working on some of the detail with that now and just have been really tied up with a direct mail that we just did. They seem to offer a lot more benefits of being involved, I guess I will see. You are right I have told a few people potential clients we belong to both chambers and their response has been good. Seems to them it differiantes us from non-members? At least in the views of a few, (Not as of yet in my opinion.)