The Oakland County area has an abundance of opportunities for existing businesses and new ventures.
When the going gets rough, the entrepreneurial spirit gets creative and resourceful.
The Oakland Press has gathered upcoming events, news and links to help business owners and professionals succeed.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Salvation Army Thrift Stores accept year-end donations until midnight, Dec. 31

The Salvation Army Southeast Michigan Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) is seeking year-end donations at the nonprofit’s 34 metro Detroit thrift stores. Donations will be accepted until midnight, Dec. 31 to receive a 2013 tax receipt, and it’s as easy as driving through the donation line at any of The Salvation Army local thrift stores.
All donations to The Salvation Army are tax deductible.

All 34 metro Detroit Salvation Army Thrift Stores will be open until midnight on Dec. 31 for last minute 2013 tax year contributions.

Donations of gently used clothing, accessories, housewares, furniture and toys can be dropped off at your nearest Salvation Army Thrift Store donation center. With convenient drive-up, drop off sites supporters don’t even need to get out of their car. Salvation Army Thrift Store representatives will be onsite to move contributions from vehicles to the stores.

NEW YEAR’S DAY:  As part of the annual New Year’s Day Sale, all 34 metro Detroit Salvation Army thrift store locations will offer 50 percent off clothing, as well as hourly spot sales across several departments, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1.

For more information and specific hours, visit www.salarmythrift.com or call 313-965-7760.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Automation Alley Global Economic and Industry Outlook is Jan. 30

Automation Alley, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the East Michigan District Export Council, will host Global Economic and Industry Outlook for 2014 and Beyond, featuring international business experts discussing the shifting dynamics of globalization. The event is 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 30 at Automation Alley Headquarters, 2675 Bellingham, Troy.
The event will cover how companies can best position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities and challenges of doing business overseas. It will feature case studies from company executives, who will share their firsthand insights about the industries and countries or regions around the world where growth opportunities for small and medium-size companies are particularly strong. Registration begins at 8 a.m. The cost is $20 for members and $40 for nonmembers in advance. Register at www.automationalley.com or call 800-427-5100.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

ACE technology business conference set for Jan. 30

The 14th annual Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship, (ACE 2014) conference will be held Thursday, Jan. 30 at Burton Manor in Livonia. It is regarded as a prominent technology business conference and is known for its education and engagement of innovative entrepreneurs in the bioscience and technology industries.
ACE provides innovators, business leaders, and entrepreneurs of the Great Lakes region the opportunity to connect, network, and learn with one another. The conference will host a variety of informational forums focusing on start-ups, one-on-one consulting meetings with industry leaders, and panels highlighting innovation in the state’s urban areas and financing strategies. The event will also include an elevator pitch competition, in which innovative start-ups will compete.
For more information, visit www.ace-event.org.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to excel, not repel at office holiday parties

Submitted by Dottie DeHart, DeHart & Company Public Relations,DeHartandcompany.com


Office holiday parties can be tricky. Talk too much about yourself or have too many cocktails, and the party can turn into a missed opportunity if not a disaster. It doesn’t have to be that way, says Andrew Sobel, coauthor of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others. Go in armed with a few power questions, and you can leave the party having created and strengthened key relationships.

“The first step to not being the lonely loser is not drinking too much. Alcohol makes your inhibitions and common sense come tumbling down, and it vastly increases the chance that you will say or do something that’s at best silly or at worst truly regrettable. Second, don’t worry about being smart or clever—go prepared to ask thoughtful questions.”

As Sobel shows in his book, the most underutilized strategy for building relationships, getting to know others more deeply, and exercising influence is asking what he calls power questions. These are questions that get to the heart of the issue. They help you engage with others more deeply. They uncover people’s passions. They give people new perspectives on their challenges. Here are some question suggestions:

Questions about work. What was the most fulfilling experience you had this year? 
What do you think is the best part of working here? The worst part? 
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
How did you get your start? 
Questions about goals and challenges. If the foundation of relationships is trust, the engine that moves them forward is helping others reach their goals and confront their most challenging issues. You can do this, however, only if you understand what the other person’s needs are. So ask questions like:
So what’s on your agenda in your work for next year? Any particular projects or initiatives you’re focused on? 
 If you had a couple of extra hours per week outside of work, how would you spend them?

Questions about others’ passions. We have many activities going on in our lives, but usually we each harbor just a few true passions. If you can discover someone else’s passions, you’ll be able to connect much more effectively. Here’s how to do it:
Tell me about your favorites. What’s your favorite movie of all time? Favorite restaurant? Favorite book you’ve read in the last couple of years? Favorite way to relax? 
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but have never been able to get around to it? A sport, a hobby, an event, a challenge, a trip, whatever? 
As you think about next year, what are you most excited about—at work or at home?

Questions to learn more about them as people. Ask people about themselves. The more you learn about them, the more you may find in common, and the more you’ll understand what makes them tick. 
How do you like to spend your time? 
When you were younger, how did your family spend the holidays? What are your plans this year? Where did you grow up?
 If you hadn’t gone into (business, law, banking, medicine, teaching, etc.), what do you think you might have done?


“Of course,” notes Sobel, “there are also questions you shouldn’t ask and things you shouldn’t say. And it can never hurt to go over what not to say before heading out for your party.”

Here’s a sample of the most important questions not to ask:
Appearances. “Unless you know the other person very well, do not make remarks or give compliments to a member of the opposite sex about their appearance or dress,” cautions Sobel. “It’s not appropriate and it could be either misleading or at some level offensive. Compliment them instead on their abilities and accomplishments. Period.”
Intimate Details. “Don’t ask someone who isn’t a pretty close friend about intimate personal details,” says Sobel. “A general question like ‘Do you have a family?’ is okay, but not questions about girlfriends or boyfriends, divorce, dating, romance, sex, and so on. You get the idea. Everyone has slightly different tolerances and comfort around going into subjects like this, and you need to err on the side of caution.”
Tipsy Revelations. “Don’t have a few drinks and then confront someone abruptly with your pent-up emotions,” advises Sobel. “For example, don’t say, ‘You know, I just feel like you don’t like me very much!’ or, ‘I want to be your friend.’ At best it might be cute, but most likely it’ll be embarrassing for both of you.”
Light of Day. “Always apply the ‘light of day’ test to your behavior,” says Sobel. “If someone reported your conversation and behavior the next day to your boss, your family, or a client, would you be embarrassed in any way? How would they feel about pictures or videos of those moments if they were posted on Facebook?”

Sobel is coauthor along with Jerold Panas of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others (Wiley, February 2012, ISBN: 978-1-1181196-3-1, $22.95).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

5 business expenses to never skimp on


Charlottesville, VA —The ability to stretch a budget is a survival skill, especially in the cash-strapped early days of starting a business. Business owners are always looking for new ways to save money. But here’s the real question, says Sean C. Castrina: "Are you being cheap about the wrong things?"
“If your goal is to cut costs at any cost, you’re heading into dangerous territory,” says Castrina, author of 8 Unbreakable Rules for Business Start-Up Success (Champion Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-989-10456-2, $14.87, www.newbizcoach.org). “And too many entrepreneurs don’t just wander into Cheapskateville—they set up shop there.
“Avoiding unnecessary expenses is one thing; becoming a fear-driven perpetual penny-pincher is another,” he adds. “Too many people can’t see the difference. And that’s too bad, because ‘cheapness’ can hurt the value of your product or service, or the efficiency of your business, both of which will drive customers away.”
Having started more than 15 companies in industries including direct mail, home services, property management, retail, and more, Castrina knows just how tough it is to write checks to employees, vendors, landlords, banks, etc. when your hopes, dreams, credit, and livelihood are at stake. Yet making those checks too skimpy can cost you big down the road.
 “Subject every prospective cost-saving measure to this litmus test: What are the possible short- and long-term effects of this decision?” he advises. “Will it save my business money without negatively affecting profits? Sometimes, the answer is ‘no.’”
Here, he takes a look at five penny-pinching sins that are costing your business:
1. Paying employees the bare minimum. Excessive tightfistedness on payday sends a very clear message to your employees: “I place a low value on you and what you do for my company. I don’t see you as a person with talents and unique abilities, but as a debit on my monthly expense report.” And that, Castrina points out, is the kind of message that sends skilled employees running for the hills, costing you money in lost productivity, turnover, and customer dissatisfaction.
“Yes, some low-skill positions can be filled by just about anyone and shouldn’t come with a high salary,” he comments. “But if you have experienced, efficient employees with a high level of expertise, you need to compensate them fairly. Quality employees can make or break your company. Ask yourself: Would I want this person working for the competition? If not, pay them well and keep them on your team indefinitely.”
2. Using an in-house bookkeeper. According to Castrina, too many small business owners do bookkeeping in-house. Why is that a problem? First, he says, many boss-designated bookkeepers don’t completely know what they’re doing. For instance, they may use unnecessarily broad headings or classify items incorrectly. Sooner or later, your accountant (or worse, the IRS) will charge you to correct these mistakes, saving you nothing.
“The larger problem, I’m sad to say, is that it’s easy for an in-house bookkeeper to steal from you,” Castrina says. “It’s happened to me and to many other small business owners. Now, I’m adamant about hiring a third-party bookkeeper who reports to me directly. I ask my staff to leave this contractor alone, just as they would an IRS auditor.”
3. Skimping on legal services. Castrina recalls going through a touchy legal matter several years ago. When he described the matter to an older business colleague, his colleague had this to say: “Your attorney is a nice guy, and he’s good with general matters, but for this situation you need a killer. You need someone whose name strikes fear into the heart of opposing council!”
“I took my colleague’s advice because I knew he’d been in my shoes,” Castrina says. “And I’m so glad I did! The matter went away quickly and was some of the best money I ever spent on higher-priced billable hours. For general matters, I like hiring young, new-to-their-firms attorneys whose rates are low and who are really trying to earn my business. But for matters in which your company’s survival is at stake, hire the best lawyer you possibly can.”
4. DIYing branded materials. “You have one chance to make a good first impression.” We’ve all heard this advice our entire lives, but too often, business owners forget it…often, to their detriment.
“We’ve all encountered a business that made a poor impression because their employees weren’t wearing uniforms or because their signage wasn’t professionally created…and don’t even get me started on forms, business cards, stationery, and websites made with ‘do it yourself’ kits!” Castrina says. “The fact is, customers are always going to judge businesses by their covers. So if you want to be paid like a great company, you need to look like one.”
5. Relying on word-of-mouth marketing. Have you ever heard of Budweiser? This, of course, is a ridiculous question. Everyone has heard of Budweiser. Among (many) other things, the company produces an endless stream of expensive, Hollywood-quality commercials just to remind consumers of the well-established fact that it sells beer. The point is, no matter how successful they are, great companies are always trying to communicate with and attract potential customers.
“If I hear one more small business owner tell me that he or she believes in ‘word-of-mouth marketing,’ I may scream!” Castrina comments. “Don’t get me wrong; customer referrals are very powerful and can really help drive your business. But I’ve never owned or worked with a company—even those with A+ BBB ratings—that owed more than a third of sales to word-of-mouth business. The fact of the matter is, if you try to save money by not budgeting for marketing, you’ll save your way right out of business. You simply must spend money to attract customers.”
 “Here’s the bottom line: In business, you get what you pay for,” concludes Castrina. “If you try to skimp on something that affects the experience your company offers consumers or that compromises its ability to run efficiently, your efforts will probably backfire. As an entrepreneur, it’s good to be frugal…but it really doesn’t pay to be cheap.”

About the Author:
Sean C. Castrina is the author of 8 Unbreakable Rules for Business Start-Up Success(Champion Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-989-10456-2, $14.87, www.newbizcoach.org) and the soon-to-be-released 8 Unbreakable Rules for Small Business Dominance. He is also founder of newbizcoach.org. Castrina offers a two-day seminar in Charlottesville four times per year that will take an aspiring entrepreneur from dreaming to leaving with a business ready to run.

About the Book:
8 Unbreakable Rules for Business Start-Up Success (Champion Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-989-10456-2, $14.87, www.newbizcoach.org) is available from all major online booksellers and at http://newbizcoach.org/shop/.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Meijer imparts holiday fashion advice

Holiday celebrations are in full swing, and fashion advice is coming from a surprising source. The Meijer Style Team has designed fashion pieces that will help customers celebrate in style. The Grand Rapids-based retailer also has dedicated web space for fashion trends and advice on the company website, at meijer.com/style/
“We want the Meijer customer to know that we are serious about offering the most up-to-date fashion in our stores,” said Lynn Hempe, group vice president of softlines for the retailer. “Our buying team is very fashion savvy and we are now able to pair their talent with expert style advice from Mariana to make sure our customers have the best looks this holiday season.”
The Meijer Style Team is led by Hempe, and includes the softlines buying team and input from fashion advisor, Mariana Keros, who has tracked the nation’s hottest fashion trends for more than 20 years. Keros began supporting the efforts of the Meijer team in July of this year.
The Meijer Style Team offered plenty of options to add sparkle and shine, including the infusion of Lurex yarns that add sparkle to sweaters or shimmer to feminine chiffon blouses. Rhinestones and metallic detailing are also great ways to add interest to fabrics and accessories.
Cozy sweater dresses, vibrant color and chunky textures also play a prominent role in this season’s holiday fashion. Comfortable knits and flannels are also top items for every member of the family.
Here are the top 10 holiday wardrobe must haves that can all be found at your local Meijer:
1. Sweater Dress: For the office, party and play. Pair with leggings or tights, boots or high heels.
2. Gem or Beaded Embellished Sweater: Any shape or design.
3. Longer Length Chunky Cardigan Sweater: Cozy and stylish.
4. Feminine Blouse: Popular in vibrant colors, ivory and black.
5. Short Bootie or Riding Boot: Belting, straps, buckles and metal detailing make this footwear fun.
6. Chunky, Jeweled Statement Necklace: For work and special occasions.
7. Plaid Flannel Shirt: In new colors – a perfect pairing with jeans.
8. Evening Clutch: Embellished to sparkle and shine.
9. Pea Coat: Updated versions that offer style and warmth.
10. Knit Accessories: Make sure hats, gloves and scarves are brightly colored and display elements of shimmer and shine.
The Meijer Style Team that will help customers easily go from the office to holiday celebrations:
·Change your daytime boot to a dressy shoe, such as a high heel or a beaded ballet flat.
·Add a statement jeweled cocktail ring.
·Add a beaded or sequined cardigan sweater.
·Layer your wrist with multiple jeweled bracelets and cuffs.
·Change to statement drop earrings in bright jewel tones.

For additional advice on in-trend holiday fashions and ideas from the Meijer Style Team, visit Meijer.com/style.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Can mindfulness raise your net worth?

Submitted by Ginny Grimsley, News and Experts Wesley Chapel, FL, www.newsandexperts.com 

Sitting down with the intention of stilling one’s mind and body is no longer the sole province of hippies and Eastern medicine aficionados, says leadership expert Stephen Josephs.
Nike, 50 Cent and the Marine Corps all embrace the benefits of mindfulness meditation, he says.
“The benefits of mindfulness meditation do not exist in a vacuum; mindfulness meditation not only lowers your blood pressure, it also offers a host of other positives, including increasing business acumen,” says Josephs, who has coached executives for more than 30 years and recently authored the new book, “Dragons at Work,” (www.DragonsAtWork.com).
“It sharpens your intuitive business sense. By relaxing your body, breathing evenly, and paying attention to the present moment, you notice things you might otherwise miss. Paying exquisite attention is the key to staying real, and daily meditation builds that capacity.”
The benefits of a calm and focused mind are ubiquitous; Josephs offers tips for business leaders.
• If you’re faced with what looks like an enticing opportunity, don’t just do something. Sit there. Breathe quietly and let the fear and greed subside. The easiest way to fool yourself in a deal, negotiation or transaction is to let your thinking stray from what’s happening and get seduced by a dream. It could be the dream your counterpart is spinning for you or simply the dream of results, good or bad. Like most people, you have probably experienced moments when you knew something – a business relationship, an investment – was going south, but you hesitated to act because you didn’t have facts to support your intuition. Sometimes, your intuition knows something that your logical mind does not.
• Pay attention to what your body is telling you; you may be expressing signals that your logical mind is slow to notice. In a psychological study titled “The Iowa Gambling Task,” researchers gave subjects the task of making the most money possible by choosing cards from four decks. Unbeknownst to the subjects, the decks were stacked. Some were “good decks” (producing winners more of the time) and some were “bad decks,” (producing losers). After about 40 to 50 picks, most subjects caught on to which decks produced winners and losers. Their bodies knew something that their rational minds had missed. After about 10 picks they began to produce physiological symptoms of stress when their hands reached for the bad decks. If you’re not paying attention to those subtle signals, your innate wisdom is inaccessible.
• Meditation develops emotional balance and a better business mind. If you’ve never meditated, try it! Start small by simply sitting still and keeping your eyes closed for five minutes. Feel the weight of your body in its sitting position. Try to simplify your thoughts to basic things, down to the subtle sounds of the room, your breathing. Mindfulness meditation does not require extensive study in ancient traditions. Notice the difference after only five minutes; you will feel more relaxed. Later, try it for 10 minutes, and then longer. Do your due diligence in that state of mind. The equanimity that will sharpen your acumen is also the source of your happiness in life. Don’t trade it for anything.
About Stephen Josephs: With more than 30 years experience as an executive coach and consultant, Stephen Josephs, Ed. D, helps leaders build vitality and focus to make their companies profitable – and great places to work. His doctorate at the University of Massachusetts focused on Aesthetics in Education: how to teach anything through art, music, drama and movement. Josephs is particularly interested in the intersection of business performance, psychology and mind/body disciplines. His new novel, "Dragons at Work," tells the story of a tightly wound executive – a fictionalized case study of coaching that produces fundamental changes in a leader. Josephs has also co-authored "Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery in Anticipating and Initiating Change" (Jossey-Bass, 2006) with Bill Joiner, which shows how certain stages of psychological development affect leadership.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Auburn Hills chamber hosts annual Silver & Gold awards

The Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Silver & Gold Awards Holiday Brunch, Friday, Dec. 13, at the Crowne Plaza in Auburn Hills. The program, held from 10:30 a.m. until noon, honors business leaders in the areas of innovation, leadership and community involvement. It also recognizes volunteers and supporters of the Auburn Hills Chamber.

There are three hosted Silver awards this year, including: 
• Crittenton Home Care Community Builder Award: Commends the member who is noticeably involved in supporting the goals and values of the Auburn Hills community.Finalists: Genisys Credit Union, Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Michigan and Baker College Auburn Hills.
• Dbusiness Emerging Leader: Celebrates an individual who is making significant contributions to their field and showing great promise within the business community. Finalists: Joseph Byers of Lake Trust Credit Union, Julie Jurmo of Oakland Community College, and Jackie Bove of Palace of Auburn Hills
• Oakland University and OU Inc. Innovator of the Year: Applauds the company providing the best example of innovation through cutting edge technologies, processes or products. Finalists: Munetrix, FEV, Inc., and Marposs Corporation. 

The Gold Awards, sponsored by the Palace’s Come Together Foundation, are given to key members and volunteers for outstanding service and support of the Auburn Hills chamber. Finalists include:
• Ambassador of the Year: Debbie White of ITT Technical Institute, Katie Ackert of Reliance One, John Fawcett of 
Trinity Wealth Advisors
• Best Taste of Auburn Hills Restaurant: Lelli’s Inn of Auburn Hills, Hilton Suites’ Great American Bar & Grill, Palm 
Palace
• Most Enthusiastic Golfer: Jerry Bammel of B2B CFO, Bernie Sinz of Hirotec America, Pete Auger of City of 
Auburn Hills
• Volunteer of the Year: Susan Suter of Sound-Wave Music & Arts, Ralph Engle of Engle & Associates, Karrie Marsh of City of Auburn Hills
The Board Member of the Year will be announced by the Chamber’s Chairman of the Board.
Tickets are available at $25 for members, $35 for non-members, and $15 for Chamber Board and Ambassadors. Add $5 to each ticket after Dec. 5. Event sponsorships are available for $400, which includes eight tickets and event signage. For more information, visit www.auburnhillschamber.com or call 248-853-7862.