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A Mayonnaise Jar, Golf Balls, and Two Cups of Coffee…

A long time ago, I read a story that I have referred to often over the years. I’ve also changed the words a bit to keep it relevant to me personally. Every once in a while something triggers me to read it again.

Last week, our community layed to rest a man that has meant very much to his family, friends, and community. He left us way too early and will be greatly missed. Fond memories of my friend and local businessman (and golfer) Jerry Houston inspired me to share this with you this week. I’m sure others are bearing crosses that we know nothing about and for those who are feeling as though the load is more than you can handle, perhaps this story will help lighten the load a bit. When things in your life seem almost too much to handle; when 24 hours in a day are not enough; remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee; author unknown.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes." The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. "Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions -- things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. So...Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. "Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand." One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend”.

Remember, the coffee is always on at the Chamber! I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Visions of Vacations Dancing in our Heads

L.M. Montgomery, best known as the author of the Anne of Green Gables series said “I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.”

June is a wonderful, generous month where the days are sunny and hot, roses are in full bloom, and strawberries are ripe for the picking. School is out, summer camp begins, youth sports are in full swing, and vacation fantasies start flitting around in our heads.

Webster’s Dictionary defines VACATION as a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation. The idea of travel and recreation was once a luxury of wealthy people alone. In the Puritan culture of early America, taking a break from work for reasons other than weekly observance of the Sabbath was frowned upon. However; when a religious movement began which encouraged spiritual retreat and recreation, the idea of breaking from work periodically took root among the working class and the modern concept of vacation was born.

 

With the school year drawing to a close, June marks the beginning of vacation season. However, the thought of planning a summer vacation causes many people to break out in a cold sweat. Furiously trying to balance their vacation budget, finding a place to go that offers something for everyone, plus the decision of who to include in their plans can be a pretty daunting task. Not to mention the agony of dealing with the “Are we there yet?” backseat chorus.

Because of fluctuations in the economy the last few years, we’ve invented a new term called “staycations” wherein we take vacation time from work, but stay at home instead of traveling. Staycations are low cost, relaxing, and can be wonderful bonding time for the family if you structure things correctly.

While recently picnicking with my kids and grandkids at Percy Priest Lake, I looked across the water and announced that instead of going on a family trip to the beach in July as originally planned, we were going to stay at the cabins at Nashville Shores and spend our days at the water park and ropes course. The grandkids jumped up and down with glee and my kids said “Well, that could work.” Unfortunately, I said this as a joke since I had already reserved (and paid for) a beach house. But this did plant a seed that a staycation could actually be a lot of fun and could possibly save a lot of money.  

I googled staycations and came up with the following list titled “How to Know When You Need a Staycation:”

  • You and your partner have had at least two arguments about how much your vacation is costing
  • You promised you’d help your daughter re-paint her room - two years ago
  • You’ve spent so much time on the road, your neighbors call you “the visitor”
  • The patio furniture you bought last spring has never been used
  • You stay awake at night stressing out about planning your family trip
  • Your kids have never seen your own city’s major sights
  • The forecast for everywhere affordable is cold and rainy, except for where you live, which is sunny and glorious
  • The last time your family spent a Saturday together at home was the day you brought your children home from hospital
  • You promised your mother-in-law she’d be invited to the next family vacation

And last but not least:

  • You need a vacation to get over your vacation.

Robert Orben, a comedy writer and speechwriter for Gerald R. Ford said “A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” I guess the key to a great staycation is not checking chores off your “To Do” list at home, but in making plans to get out and do things. In our area, there is a lot you could do to make a stay at home vacation blissful. For instance, you could ride the train downtown and visit some of the museums, get together with friends or family for a cookout, schedule a massage, go horseback riding, take a family hike or picnic at one of the local state parks, go to a water park, enjoy a yoga class, spend the evening at a Sounds game, or enjoy one of the area’s many art or music festivals.

After all, the point of a vacation is to unplug and spend quality time away from all the daily distractions which typically keep us from truly enjoying each other’s company. With a little bit of advanced planning, and some disciple, a staycation could be the best vacation you’ve ever taken! So, look out kids - in 2014, Nashville Shores, here we come!

 

 

 

 

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The Community Is On A Roll…

Each week I have the opportunity to use a few words to share my thoughts with our community. I hope you enjoy reading this column as much as I enjoy writing it.

As I was thinking about the very important role that each of us play in our Community, I began to liken it to that of a bicycle or other tire with spokes. You may be asking yourself what in the world they have in common, but when you stop to think about it there are many similarities. Obviously the bigger you are the bigger tire you need to get you around. The bigger the tire, the more support you need and the more crucial each spoke becomes. And the more tires used to pull the same load, the easier the load is to carry. Granted, in the Old West a wagon might have only needed a dozen spokes. But, thinking about how large we are getting, how many people now depend upon us, the speed at which we are moving, I would suggest to you that we need really strong and reliable tires.

Our (Chamber) tire is made up of nearly 600 strong and reliable spokes (Member Businesses) and we are all working towards a common and united cause; to make our community a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family. Other tires needed to help us achieve our mission might include such things as; the school system, our youth sports, our Senior Citizen Center, our local governments, our many churches and other places of worship, our neighborhood associations, and the list goes on and on. As like most other tires, we need to keep it filled with air; in our case that is an array of valuable programs and services which help our customers to keep moving forward. As like any other tire, when the air gets low the load seems heavier and in some cases can literally grind to a stop. Looking forward, there are a lot of great folks evaluating our current assets and opportunities in order to be as prepared as possible for the future growth which is sure to follow.

At the Chamber, our leaders, volunteers, members, and staff are also preparing for the future with even more programs and services being put into place for the benefit of the entire community. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, questions or concerns, you are encouraged to share your ideas. Call, email, or even better yet, stop by to let us know what you think we can do to make sure the tire stays full.

The Chamber of Commerce is working hard to make sure that all of the tires in the community are working together and pulling the load in the same direction. We have to help insure that there are enough people pulling the wagon in the desired direction in order to make it as smooth of a ride as possible. Each of you is making a huge difference in your community by supporting the Chamber of Commerce and our member businesses. Your past, present, and continued support are crucial. Together we are going places that none of us could go alone. And as for the Chamber Tire; well, we are really on a roll…I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Coppertone Days

I had an awesome Mother’s Day sitting in my porch swing talking to my youngest daughter for about three hours in the morning and then meeting up with my youngest son and my oldest daughter and grandkids for a picnic at the lake that afternoon. We had a great day of fresh air, sunshine, laughter and stories.

At the end of the day, I was extremely happy, but terribly exhausted. I also had a horrible case of sunburn on my face, which looked as red and tight as a juicy, ripe tomato. Plus, it was painful! I felt feverish and just plain “blah.” And you know what? Several days later, my nose peeled! I don’t remember peeling from sunburn since I was about 12 years old. Remember those old Coppertone billboards - the one with the little girl on the beach with her dog? Those were promoting suntan oil/lotion, not sunscreen. And as a kid at the beach, I remember many summers where my shoulders would literally blister and then those blisters would ooze and pop. It’s horrifying to think about that now!

I’ve been much more careful in my adult years about applying sunscreen. I’m not sure what happened on Mother’s Day except maybe I just didn’t realize how fragile my winter skin was or how strong the sun was on that particular day. We’ve had so much rain this spring that it was glorious to spend the day in the sun. But, I felt totally convicted when I read an article a few days later stating that May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. This was like a kick in the pants!

According to the article, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime, even though this lifestyle disease is highly preventable. What preventive measures can we take? Seek the shade during mid-day hours when the sun is strongest; don’t burn in the first place since a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he has five sunburns at any point in life; avoid tanning beds since UV radiation from tanning machines is known to cause cancer and the more you tan indoors, the higher the risk; cover up with clothing, which can be your most effective form of sun protection - the more skin you cover, the better; use UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 15 every day, higher for extended outdoor activity and remember to reapply if swimming or sweating; and last but not least, examine your skin periodically to check for suspicious moles.

Sunburn looks bad, hurts, peels and inflicts wrinkle-inducing damage, which I certainly don’t need at my age! But mistakes happen, just as it did to me on Mother’s Day! The best defense once this happens? Get out of the sun! Sunburn tends to sneak up on us and can take a few hours for symptoms to develop - a touch of pink now may turn into a big problem later. Slather on a moisturizing lotion to soothe the skin after a cool shower. Drink extra fluids and take ibuprofen for a couple of days. Lastly, vow to do better and be more careful.

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Who Knows You?

There was a time when folks who were looking for a career change or employment opportunities were fond of saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. To some degree or another that was often the case I would imagine. I’d suggest that even that is becoming obsolete and not nearly as relevant as it once was.

To many, it seems that the new adage is now more along the lines of “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you?” To that end, the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce is initiating a new program to help connect those seeking employment with those who have employment opportunities to offer. This program is open to anyone who wants to increase their circle or network of people (valuable contacts) who “know them”. This program is called Chamber CareerWORKS and is our latest effort to help connect people and increase the chances that someone will know you.

For those seeking employment, you are welcome to join us on the first and third Tuesday of each month. The program is compliments of the Chamber and a service we are providing to our friends and neighbors to increase the chances of finding employment in our community. These meetings will last about an hour or so and will be held in the meeting room at Courtney’s. The breakfast is “Dutch Treat” to help keep the cost to a minimum. For planning purposes and to assist our facilitators, we are asking for an advance RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Keep in mind that if your schedule will allow, you are welcome to attend each and every meeting.

The more people you meet and get to know, the more people that will know you! Simultaneously, we are now posting employment opportunities on our Chamber Connect page on the Mt. Juliet Chamber Website. These postings can be found under the Latest News tab on the drop-down menu bar. Keep in mind that this is a brand new program and is going to take a reasonable amount of time to become as useful and beneficial as we hope. If you do not find what you are looking for the first time you visit, please check back again soon. If you are a business owner in the area I’d like to extend a personal invitation to you to post your employment openings. There is absolutely no cost and all we ask is that once the position is filled that you let us know so we can remove the posting. Hopefully this will become a beneficial community employment resource. In order to make this program as useful and beneficial as possible, we welcome your comments, ideas, and suggestions. I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Service Opportunities Abound…

There are many, many different things that go into determining the livability and quality of life in any community. One thing that comes to my mind is the strength and vibrancy of our local service organizations and civic clubs. These can range from non-profits providing for the needs of friends and neighbors, to those whose passion is protecting our pets and natural resources.

United Way of Wilson County provides funds and services to dozens and dozens of local agencies and organizations alone. I have long felt that we are a very blessed community due in large part to the hundreds and hundreds of individuals who give unselfishly to support these organizations. All work hard to use those resources for the benefit of others.

On top of that we have a large presence of our younger residents volunteering and serving others (and lots of times some serving up some great pancakes at their fundraisers too!) with their involvement in Boy & Girl Scouts. Just as we like to see new shopping, dining, and retail businesses open their doors and welcome us with perhaps previously unavailable products and services; it is equally as exciting to see new service opportunities in our community.

Most of us have grown up knowing of the Lions Club and the great work they do not only in Mt Juliet and Wilson County, but in many foreign lands around the globe as well. I would imagine many of us have generously donated our used and no-longer-needed eye glasses so that the Lions Club could then refurbish them for those less fortunate.

We are fortunate in MJ to have two Rotary Clubs and two more in Lebanon. Their mantra leaves no doubt what their mission is; “Service Above Self”. Rotarians and the great work they do have left an indelible mark on our community and that work continues today. Another service club in Mt Juliet is the Exchange Club. The Exchange Club is sponsoring (with the help of the Veteran’s Club and Del Webb) what promises to be an awesome event in MJ on Flag Day in June. I can’t wait to see what hundreds of American Flags look like when they are all flying proudly in row after row after row right in the heart of town!

And if that is not enough, there is more great news! As I write this there is a group of great folks working hard to start a new Kiwanis Club in Mt Juliet. Is now the time for you to consider joining a service club? Those interested in checking out the Kiwanis Club are invited to join them for lunch on Thursdays at Courtney’s. It is the perfect time to get in on the ground floor of a terrific club. These are but just a few of long list of wonderful organizations working hard every day to make our community so special.

 

For a list of local non-profit and information on how you can support their efforts, visit the Chamber website or email me. I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The Heart of the Matter

I read recently that “you can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” Apparently, Indira Gandhi originally spoke these words during negotiations over a border dispute in the early 1970s. When I read this quote on this particular day, it really stuck in my mind as a great motto for all of us in our everyday lives.

The book ‘Peace of Mind: Daily Meditations for Easing Stress’ mentions guests (twins) on a popular talk show who had cut off contact with one another. One twin related how her brother hadn’t talked to her for years even though they lived two miles from one another and they often passed each other on the street. On the show, the man told his sister that he stopped talking to her because he was mad at her about something and he wanted her to apologize, but she never did.

The author goes on to mention that staying angry at people, while it may not end a relationship, can severely damage your ability to connect with that person if you are not able to let go of negative emotions. While we can’t change the actions or behaviors of others that have caused us anguish, we can strive to reconcile the past with forgiveness in the present.

How can we let go of anger? Write a letter to vent your feelings, but don’t mail it. Or maybe simply remember good times with this person and identify their good qualities. Focusing on good instead of negative things can help you release your anger. If there is someone in your personal or professional life with whom you’ve experienced some conflict, be the bigger person and extend your outstretched hand, not your fist.

As far as I’m concerned, nobody says it better than The Eagles in their song The Heart of the Matter…“There are people in your life who’ve come and gone; they let you down, you know they hurt your pride; you better put it all behind you, ‘cause life goes on; you keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside; I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter; but I think it’s about forgiveness…”

 

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What’s Your “BHAG”?

A number of years ago I was attending a U.S. Chamber of Commerce program called Institute for Organizational Management at the University of Charleston in South Carolina. There were Chamber people attending from all across the United States. Sometime during that week I heard a speaker at the time ask that very question; “What IS your BHAG (pronounced bee-hag)?”. Needless to say there were a lot of bewildered looks from those of us hearing this for the first time.

He went on to explain that was simply an acronym for Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal. I believe that question is even more important today than it was back then. I’d also suggest that BHAGs are just as relevant in our personal lives, our professional lives, and they can also be especially important as we look at our community. If you have never heard of BHAGS, you just might be hearing more and more about them in the future because I feel very strongly that without them, we will look back someday and ask ourselves how we let these remarkable times slip away without realizing our true potential as a community. I do not know what your BHAGs are, but I do know that everyone ought to have a say in the future of our community.

Perhaps your BHAG for our community is that we are known as the “city of parks and greenways”, maybe it is a county known for “the highest teacher salaries in TN”, what about 40 city tennis courts instead of 4, what about a state of the art library that is the envy of the entire Southeastern U.S., maybe a new senior citizen center that is like no other around, or even an Olympic sized swimming pool with water slides and picnic areas, or how about something as basic as becoming the first 100% Handicap Accessible Community in Tennessee? The list goes on and on; each obviously has a price tag; maybe even two price tags if you consider the price tag of not having it.

What if instead of listening to all of the reasons we cannot have this or cannot have that, we started asking ourselves how we CAN have it! I would even suspect that if the truth were known, there are others who also share the same BHAGs. Maybe one of these days when you are enjoying your next morning cup of coffee or a sweet tea on one of these upcoming hot afternoons, ask yourself; “What IS My BHAG?” I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week! Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Wines and Prayers…

As we head into the Month of May and take a look at everything going on around us, a few things begin to emerge as VERY large items on the Chamber radar screen. Speaking of Wines…by now I am sure that you have heard a lot about the 10th Annual “A Toast to Tennessee” Wine Festival coming up on Saturday, May 11th at Nashville Shores from 12:00-6:00.

Our presenting sponsor this year is once again TDS Telecom. We also wish to thank our other major sponsors; Mt Juliet News ~ Lebanon Democrat, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, CedarStone Bank, and A+ Storage for their generous support in helping to host this event; without the help and support of our sponsors, this event would not be possible.

This year we will have a record 25 wineries at the festival and ticket are going fast! Along with the wineries providing free samples of over 200 different award winning wines, there will be artisans, specialty food vendors, music, free seminars, food, free parking, and one of the most relaxing days you can imagine; all of this while leisurely strolling around beautiful Nashville Shores with new and old friends. This is one of only a few such events held annually in Tennessee where wine not normally available in wine stores will be available for purchase by the bottle or case.

Advance tickets are still available online at www.atoasttotennessee.com or by stopping by the Chamber of Commerce Monday – Friday 8:00-4:30. And of course, group sales are also available. Not sure what to get that special Mother’s Day gift? Problem solved; tickets to the Wine Festival will be a sure hit. If you really want to make it the perfect weekend, Holiday Inn Express has a selection of festival packages including rooms and suites. See you at the Festival!

And speaking of “Prayers”…are you on the guest list for the Annual Prayer Breakfast? If you have not yet made your reservations and you would like to join us; please order your tickets (id="mce_marker"5 each) online using the Chamber Website or call the office. This Annual Event will be held on Thursday, May 1st (this is recognized as the National Day of Prayer) at Cook’s United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00. Please bring a friend, family member, co-worker, or other special guest and enjoy a very uplifting and inspirational message from Former Wilson County Sheriff and noted Author, Sheriff Terry Ashe, who will be delivering our keynote message.

So whether your desire is enjoy a fine wine or you are simply need for prayer, it would seem that May is going to be just the month for you! I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week, Mark Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Twenty Five Years and Counting...

Do you remember what you were doing 25 years ago this month? Unless it was a time marked by something special or momentous in your life, it may have just been…well…1988. For me, it was a turning point in my life which would lay the groundwork for the many blessings, family, and friendships which I am so grateful for today. Yes, that was 25 years ago this month and my-oh-my how things have changed since then!

After managing the McDonald’s for two years, and working as a Cracker Barrel Manager for another 2 years, I decided to pursue business ownership. After an exhaustive search, I ended up purchasing a lawn care franchise. It was when I bought that business and before I even had my first customer that I was referred to the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce, which was then located in a far back corner of what was the inside mall area at the Valley Center (H.G. Hill Food Store) shopping center. Betty Stephens was serving as the Executive Director. If you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting her, add it to your “Bucket List”, because she is indeed a rare bird and your life will be richer for it. Her enthusiasm and passion for the Chamber was so contagious that I was hooked from the very first day. The Chamber is a great place to get involved and truly make a difference in your community.

In 1992 I was asked to serve as a board member. I was blessed to be joining a great group of community leaders such as Phil Smartt, Don Henderson, Drs. Mike and Peter Davis, Glenda Binkley, Phyllis Robinson, David Hinton, Sheila Wren, and many others. As the Board Chair in 1995, Phil Smartt asked me to follow in his shoes (an enormous job that I was humbled to even attempt) as the Board Chair in 1996. I just could not seem to get enough of this business and all of the great things that go with it. In the fall of 1998, when the opening to be the Director became available I decided to sell my business and work for the Chamber on a full time basis. We knew at the time that with all of the ground work that had been done by so many true leaders and entrepreneurs; our future was very bright. And while to some it would seem that the fruits we are enjoying today just somehow popped up in the last few years, those who know the whole story realize that as the old saying “We sit under the oak tree today because of the acorn that was planted years ago” is oh so true.

So now is the time to ask ourselves that if we are a resident of our community, a business person and even a community leader, what will the oak tree of the future look like? I guess that will be determined by the seeds we plant today. If we are sitting on the sidelines hoping that Mt Juliet will be the type of community we are proud to call home, and are hoping that others will just do it for us, then perhaps we need to take a hard look at the role each of us can play. Let’s all commit to getting involved in the process (not sure how, call and ask me!) and help to make sure that when we are sitting under the oak tree in 2033 we can look back and know we did all we could to insure we are as proud as we can be. I’m available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week, Mark Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Do You Know What Google+ Is?

This week I presented Google+  to a lunch and learn session for the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce. Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus or G+) is Google’s social media network. I spent quite a bit of time preparing for the presentation as I have only been using Google + for the last 3 months or so and I was curious about what level of interest there was going to be.  Based on the lively group with many questions, comments, and feedback from my presentation, it is apparent that people are definitely starting to focus on Google’s social media network. 

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May I Borrow Your Rolodex Please?

While that may sound like an unusual question, it is one which should and does get asked quite often at the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has many benefits and often times they may be seen as intangible, which can make them seem as being too difficult and cumbersome to be of direct benefit. As an organization, we want to remind folks of ways they can take advantage of the Chamber. And this leads me back to the question; “May I borrow your rolodex please?”

One of the benefits which I encourage you to take advantage of is to use the contacts which are readily available to you. Most people who spend a few minutes at the office are very surprised at the amount of information readily available. I want to expand on how using your “Chamber Contacts” may be of benefit to you should you need help with issues relating to your local government.

The Chamber meets regularly and works closely with local government leaders on your behalf to discuss matters of concern. It is the belief of the Chamber that having regular and meaningful dialogue with our city leaders is beneficial to all concerned. Mt Juliet is governed by a City Manager type government. Mt Juliet has 5 elected officials; 4 Commissioners elected by district to represent approximately ¼ of the city and a Mayor elected at large to serve the entire community. This elected body then hires a City Manager or “CEO” to run the day to day operations. As Mt Juliet’s City Manager, Ken Martin and his team of department heads are a very valuable resource for helping local businesses and residents with matters of concern. City Leaders (both elected officials and non-elected officials) and Chamber representatives work together to make sure our local businesses are represented when dealing with issues which affect them. Sometimes these issues are relatively minor and can be resolved with a single phone call or personal visit to the right department. Other times the issues are much more involved and require a longer period of time and much more work to get resolved.

Whatever the situation may be in your particular case, I encourage you to use the “Chamber Rolodex” to help you whenever needed. One of those “intangible” benefits of having access to local decision-makers can be turned into a very tangible benefit when you are able to use this resource to help you in your time of need. Depending upon the matter at hand, it could be a City, County, or State issue. Whatever the case may be, we are happy to help you; all we ask is that you give us a chance to work for you. So of course the answer to the first question is…Yes, you certainly may borrow the Chamber Rolodex!

Anyone needing assistance is encouraged to visit us online for a complete contact list of important names, numbers, and direct email links. We are available 27/ at www.mtjulietchamber.com. See you right here next week, Mark Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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If You're Not at the Table, You're on the Menu...

I was recently at a Chamber conference and heard the old saying, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!” We all got a chuckle, but it really made me think about why people are asked to be at the table in the first place. What makes someone the kind of person who gets invited to the table? I asked some key people in my business circles and this is what they had to say:

  • Having something interesting to say. Don’t you relish sitting next to someone who always has something interesting to say? For most of us, an invitation to any table comes with some lead-time, so there is no excuse not to have some interesting topics in your back pocket. Even an introvert can do this!
  • Knowing what’s going on in your industry. People enjoy hearing about new, fresh trends and ideas. This boils down to staying curious and being open to new types of thinking and new ways of doing things. This is how you create a reputation of being an expert in your field, and become a person whom others seek out to hear about what’s coming around the corner.
  • Being genuinely interested in other people. People love to be asked what they think about things and what ideas they have. Those we find the most charming are usually those who have the ability to draw us out and make us feel special and interesting. When you purposefully listen, you create trust and rapport. People who create trust and rapport get invited back to the table.

To make sure you always have a place at the table, whether that’s social, work, leadership or otherwise, ask if yourself if you’re demonstrating the types of characteristics of those who are sought after. If you’re not, then get out of your own way and start making changes today!

Ask yourself these questions: How have I demonstrated my strengths and capabilities? Are my communications skills, written and oral, as proficient as they should be? Do I have the ability to engage others and get things done? Have I established a strong personal brand of presence and competence?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you may be your own worst enemy. In today’s business world, you’re either moving up or moving out, so be sure to take the proper steps to always keep moving onward and upward. How do you do this? One of the best ways is to engage three mentors, one within your organization, one within your industry, and one completely outside of both, all with unique (and candid) insights on your core strengths and weaknesses. Another way is to profile the leaders you wish to model and then identify the gaps of your current abilities and where you would like to be in the future.

 

How are you staying off of the menu?

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Things My Cat Taught Me

Anybody who knows me will admit that I’m a cat person. I just don’t like dogs jumping all over me, licking my face and slobbering all over my hands. I prefer to sit quietly with a cat who, rather than invade my space, simply shares it.

Missing my old cat (Chloe) recently, I found myself looking back fondly and reminiscing about old times, such as the night (at about 10 weeks old) when she crawled out an open window and onto the roof only to find herself at a loss as to how to get back down. So, there I was in my pajamas at 10:00 at night, climbing up a ladder to rescue her. And another time when after being declawed, she jumped up into a chair only to slide down the side because she had lost her grippers. She looked at her paw with a quizzical expression on her face and shook it hard as if saying, “Why aren’t you working?”

Chloe met me at the door every day when I came home from work and never missed an opportunity to jump up on my bed to wish me a good morning. Looking back on the good memories prompted me to make a list of all the things I learned from her that can apply to everyone in their everyday lives:

Stretching is good for you

Wash your hands constantly

Purr when you’re happy

Enjoy a good nap every day

You’re never too old to play

Take time to sit quietly by yourself

Greet your loved ones when they come home

Brush your hair every day

Long nails aren’t necessary

Take time to sit in the sunshine

It’s funny how we can learn things from people and animals who are supposed to be learning from us. I guess if we keep our eyes open for these types of opportunities, there’s no telling what kind of wisdom we might glean from those around us.

Garrison Keillorhost of the public radio show ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ once saidCats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.”

Maybe the best thing my cat taught me was to give myself permission to simply enjoy the present moment without feeling guilty. That, and there is not enough masking tape in the whole world to really ever get all the cat hair off your couch.

 

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Not Sure Where to Start?

For those familiar with many of the resources available at the Chamber, this might a bit of a reminder. But for those who are unfamiliar with the wide range of services provided by the Mt. Juliet Chamber, I’d like to invite you to keep us in mind when the opportunity arises to help you. At the Chamber, we really do not make or produce particular “widgets” or have a cash register to sell products. At the Chamber, what we strive to do is to connect those with available goods and services with those who are in need of such; and of course we work to make sure that these transactions continue to grow. It is these transactions in any community that are the fuel that keeps the local economy running.

A very valuable service provided by the Chamber (available to everyone in the community) that I’d like for you to be aware of is how we can help you connect with your elected officials. The Chamber provides a weekly Legislative Update which includes a complete list of important bills working their way thru the legislative process at our State Capitol. These updates also provide you with direct contact information for those House & Senate Committee Members who will be deciding the fate of these bills. For those that are interested, these updates can save you a lot of time and are a great way to stay informed. The Chamber of Commerce is also a great place to start if you are just not sure where to look but know you need to get in touch with someone who can help. Depending upon where you live your issue may need attention from someone at the city or county level; or perhaps both. Our elected officials representing us at the State level are also very accessible and actively support our efforts to assist in providing opportunities for personal visits at open meetings hosted periodically by the Chamber. For those needing to contact your elected officials in Washington, that information is also available at your fingertips if you visit the Chamber’s website.

Sometimes trying to get in touch with the right person, or even knowing who the right person is for a particular matter, may seem like a very daunting task. Let us help steer you in the right direction. We would like to be your “connection” and we invite you to give us a try if the need arises. Anyone needing assistance is encouraged to visit us online for a complete contact list of important names, numbers, and direct email links. We are available 24/7 at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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1680 Hits

Where Did All of the "Pepper" Go?

That may seem like a bit of an odd question, but given that in recent years I have considered myself to have that "distinguished salt & pepper" hair color. Now we all know that is really just a way of saying the brown is about gone. Considering that I am sometimes lovingly referred to as "Old Gray" or "Mr. S & P", I have to wonder, just where did all of my "Pepper" go anyway?

Now before you say, "well Mark, it probably just runs in the family", let me tell you that my father still has a nearly full head of brown hair. So why are the gray genes picking on me? Some may stay it must be stress. Well, it does get a bit hectic and sometimes (just like everyone else), I am getting pulled in several different directions at the same time. Deadlines need to be met and not enough hours in the day; BUT stress...no way!

Many of us also know of friends and neighbors dealing with family illnesses and others have loved ones serving in the military and are living 24/7 in harm’s way so we can enjoy things like ball games, and Easter-Egg Hunts…now that’s real stress! Please join me and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers Sometimes I think it is easy for us to take advantage of how well we really have it, and to lose sight of what is really important. When I stop and think about how truly blessed I am, I need to try and get better at being thankful for all of the many blessings I am privileged to enjoy each and every day.

Coming up in just a couple of weeks we will be celebrating the Easter Season. I hope everyone will find time to pause at least for a few minutes and return thanks for the many blessing we enjoy. So, as I was running a comb through my mostly gray hair getting ready for a day of meeting new folks and spreading the good word about our community, I thought about what message I might share with you. I paused for a minute and while I was looking in the mirror, I noticed that most of the pepper is gone and one of these days in the very near future I am likely be called simply "Mr. Salt." I am going to try and keep a healthy perspective on things and not let it stress me out. After all, in the great big scheme of things, I am one lucky guy! Hey, come to think of it, having a bunch of salt up there may be better than having nothing up there at all in my case.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MJChamber or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Abraham, Martin and John

Even though there has been some good music written in the last few decades (and I’ve got a lot of it downloaded on my ipod), I still most often listen to tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. It may be that I’m a bit nostalgic and listening to this older music takes me back to a simpler, freer time. But I also have to admit that songs written back in those days actually had something to say. They weren’t necessarily just a catchy tune. These singer/songwriters were storytellers. The words meant something.

One of my favorite tunes, “Abraham, Martin and John,” was written in 1968 and first recorded by Dion, reaching #4 on the U.S. Pop Singles Charts. This song was re-recorded by Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and Marvin Gaye and was subsequently performed by Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, Bon Jovi, Emmylou Harris, Tori Amos, Whitney Houston, and Bob Dylan.

“Abraham, Martin and John” is a tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans - all icons of social change - namely Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Each of the first three verses features one of the men named in the song's title. For example:

“Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me where he's gone? He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good they die young. But I just looked around and he's gone.”

The fourth and final verse mentions Robert "Bobby" Kennedy and ends with a description of him walking over a hill with the other three men.

After recording the song, Dion came to realize that this socially conscious piece was a reflection of the state of the world. “I realized that what these four guys—Lincoln, King, and the Kennedys—had in common was a dream.” Dion stated. “It was like they had the courage to believe that a state of love really can exist. ‘Abraham, Martin and John’ was a way of reminding people that they could aspire to great things, even in the midst of tragedy and confusion.”

Hearing this song makes me wonder what dreams and aspirations I might have once had and why I’m not doing anything about that. Is it just too easy to go to work every day and not get involved? Am I simply getting too comfortable with my life as I know it? There is another line in this same song that says “Someday is going to be one day soon.” Wow, if that doesn’t create a sense of urgency, what will? If not now, when?

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1801 Hits

Cookies & Our Community

Like many other folks, this is the time of year that we look forward to getting our chops on a box or two (or three) of those delicious Girl Scout Cookies. Many of our local businesses provide high pedestrian traffic areas for Girl Scouts to earn troop funds by selling their wares. Recently it dawned on me how the Girl Scouts and our community share a common message.

We have all heard the Girl Scout song that says “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.” Perhaps at no time in the history of our community has this message been more relevant to everyone calling Mt. Juliet home. Just like a Girl Scout being encouraged to make new friends and keep the old, our community must practice this same message. No group or organization in Mt. Juliet is more excited about living and working in such a growing, thriving, and prosperous community than a committed Chamber of Commerce. Many of these businesses quickly become our “new” friends, often becoming vested members of our community and supporting the local economy.

However, I feel very strongly that we will all benefit if we can find that balance between making new friends and keeping the old. In this case, we must not forget those who have been our friends for a long time; you might even call them “gold.” And for a community whose fiscal lifeblood is the collection of sales tax, shopping local is even more critical. With nearly each and every purchase we make, we all have many choices. I often ask people, when was the last time you stopped by to check out one of those businesses that you drive by every day on your way to somewhere else?

Now with a brand new five-lane highway connecting the north and south ends of our community together, it’s pretty easy to get from one end to the other in no time at all. I’d suggest that you might be missing out on a “golden” opportunity to support a local merchant; perhaps even one that has their name on the back of your child’s baseball jersey. You might even get lucky and be able to pick up some Girl Scout Cookies while you’re there. And just like the Girl Scout Promise says, we need to embrace our new businesses but remember the old ones too. After all, no one can ever really ever have too many friends, or for that matter too many cookies! For a huge Business Directory of how to find all of this Silver & Gold; visit www.mtjulietchamber.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1683 Hits

All Boats Rise With the Tide

 

While 2012 was a tremendous year for the both our Community and the Chamber, 2013 is already on track to be even better! There are residential, commercial, retail, and distribution projects currently under construction and set to open soon, with more in the planning and development stages. Something we are particularly excited about is that this growth is coming to all corners of our community. The old saying “all boats rise with the tide” could not be more true. Equally as important as the new growth, is taking care of and improving upon what we currently have to offer. It is very exciting to see businesses re-investing in our more established areas and deepening their commitment to our future. 

What Does the Chamber Actually Do? There are, in fact, a lot of misconceptions about a Chamber. For example, there are those who believe that a Chamber gathers statistics, prints nice brochures, answers inquiries and advertises what a great place we have to live, work and enjoy the good life. They are right, up to a point. We do all these things, and proudly so. All of these jobs are important. But they are not why the Chamber is here. They are fringe benefits of the Chamber, the things we do as a matter of routine because they need doing and we are good at them. The primary functions of the Chamber, though, go far deeper than those niceties. The Chamber of Commerce is a catalyst ...a common vehicle through which the enlightened mutual interests of all segments of the community work together for the common good of the total community. A better community means better business and we are working for a better community for everyone here. That's why we do what we do. Which brings us back to that original question, what do we do?

There is, in the final analysis, one reason for the Chamber of Commerce to exist and that is to do whatever is necessary to keep this area's economic condition such that people will be willing to risk their resources here in the hope of making a profit. Everything else is either a means to an end, or just the frosting on the cake.

In any community, it is from the profitable operation of business that all other benefits are derived. Only by succeeding in this fundamental goal can we provide the jobs and produce the wealth to finance all of the governmental, civic, cultural and charitable needs that our community is faced with every day. We do a lot of diverse things to accomplish that primary goal. The offices of the Mt Juliet Chamber of Commerce are located at 46 West Caldwell Street in the heart of our community. Feel free to stop by anytime or visit us online at www.mtjulietchamber.com.

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1806 Hits

What is Responsive Website Design?

What is Responsive Website Design?

2013 has been declared the year of Responsive Design in many web circles. If you haven’t heard of  Responsive Design yet, you will soon. The reason it was created (and is snowballing in popularity) is because of the need to optimize websites on different devices -- mobile, tablet,  laptop & desktop -- with the growth of the mobile and tablet markets being the driving force for Responsive Design. 

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2331 Hits