Mt. Juliet Chamber Blogs

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What the Caney Fork River Is Teaching Me About My Business

Mending a line 

In my mind, there are few things as peaceful as fly fishing. It is a chance to get away from the daily grind, enjoy nature and think. I don’t often take off of work for self indulgences, but the close proximity of the Caney Fork River from my office near the Nashville Airport during a particularly troublesome week seemed appealing as I wrestled with some business problems at 2:00 o’clock in the morning. Before heading to work, I threw my 5 weight fly rod and my Robertson fly box into the back of my car along with a pair of waders, inflatable PFD and a warm jacket.  

I have known for some time that I have been working too hard in my business and I needed to start working “on” my business. I had read a book by Michael Geber called the E-Myth that made a lot of sense to me. It was clearly time for me to change the way I run my business if it was to flourish. It seems the faster my business went the more I got behind. 

On this warm winter morning, I started for the office planning on heading for the river later in the day. As I approached the entrance ramp for I-40, I decided to go eastbound toward the Caney Fork River instead of my normal westbound trek to the office.   Forty-five minutes later, I was pulling into the parking area at Betty’s Island, a popular fishing spot. I was the only car there this Thursday morning. As I sandwiched myself between the front passenger door and the rear passenger door to change from my business attire into by fishing garb, I started to worry about all of the things I needed to do this morning. I had a sense of guilt wash over me, but I was here so I went fishing. 

As I walked down the concrete ramp toward the river, there was a fog rising above the water. The still morning air was about 55° already, but the water was icy cold causing the morning fog. The river was lazy. There was some current, but it was moving slowly from my left to the right. I knew that would change with the scheduled release of water from the Center Hill Dam nine miles upstream.  

After wading to my first fishing spot, I tied on a tiny blue wing olive fly and made my first cast. I watched as the fly floated downstream toward an area where I had caught fish before. For those of you that are not fly fisherpersons, it is important that the fly float freely and naturally in the current. If there is any drag on the fly line from the current, it pulls on the fly and you will not be able to fool a trout. On this morning, floating the fly naturally was easy, the current was very slow and even. But that was about to change. Like business, the Caney Fork changes and changes quickly. Sometimes the river is lazy, sometimes it is fierce and impossible to deal with.  

I know that it takes about two and half hours for the wave of water to travel from Center Hill Dam to Betty’s Island once they open the generating gates at the dam. As I fished, I noticed the current was increasing in velocity as the water level was rising. The current near the bank was much slower than the current in the middle of the river. I had to pay closer attention to make the fly float naturally through the strike zone. I had to “mend the line” more often as the velocity of the current increased.   Mending a line is almost a fly fishing art form. The faster the current, the more effect it has on the fly line, that in turn tugs on the fly making it look unnatural. By picking the floating fly line up and flipping it upstream as required by the velocity of the current, you increase your chances of success.  

As I fished that morning, the level of the river continued to rise and the velocity of the current increased. I realized that the same thing was happening in my business. As the velocity of business activity increases, I am starting to get dragged down stream. I need to pay closer attention to my business and mend the line. Meaning, I have to work “on” my business to get things to float naturally and increase my chances for success. I also noticed that as the water began to rise there were eddys forming behind the rocks. Trout instinctively know that they can find refuge and take a break from the fast currents behind the rocks. That is what I was indeed doing myself when I went Eastbound on I-40 to go fishing; I was getting out of the current.  

That morning was a morning well spent. I like traveling Eastbound on I-40 to go to work “on” my business. I am going to go to work in that direction more often!

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Gift & Estate Taxes for 2013, The Insecurity of Living in Tennessee

I hope this doesn’t surprise you, but until January 1, 2012, there was a state limit to how much you could give to anyone, other than a spouse, who is also a US citizen without paying a tax. (This is also true for federal tax reporting. See below.) The amount was only $13,000, which may sound like a lot until you consider buying your child a car or paying for their education. The only exceptions available to most taxpayers were payments made directly to an institution of higher learning or a medical services provider for the benefit of the other person, or contributions to a section 529 educational plan. All that changed on January 1, 2012, but only for gifts made after that date. If you made gifts before then without reporting them, you need to go back and do so. Federal tax law is somewhat different. The limit is the same, but you have a lifetime exemption of over $5 million of gifts and estate taxes, an amount large enough to cover most taxpayers. One thing, though, even if you don’t owe federal taxes on your gifts, you must report them when you file your tax return.

At the same time, the state replaced its old system of taxing estates with a new one which matches the federal tax code. The main reason the state legislature voted to repeal the state gift tax and modify its estate tax (which until then had been on all amounts over $1 million) was to keep money in the state. Before its repeal, assets were being transferred to other states and the gifts made and wills probated there.

This leads us into our main topic: this may be the time to review your estate planning documents, especially trusts. While the legislature was changing the state’s gift and estate tax laws, it also passed new trust laws which greatly liberalized the language that can be used and permits modifying existing trusts in a way that before the new legislation was not permitted. I strongly urge you to meet with legal counsel to make sure your documents are current. You may also want to have your financial advisor review the components of your plan not only to make sure they are in the best possible form but so that you will have a plan for what to do when Congress starts writing tax law, something it must do a lot of this year.

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Are you a Tomato or a Bean?

In the book Soul Feast, author Marjorie Thompson compares human beings to plants. She states that in order to grow properly, tomatoes need to be attached to stakes and beans need to suspend from strings. Without the support of these stakes and strings, their blossoms wouldn’t have the space - and the sun - they need to flourish and they would most likely wander aimlessly and/or lie on the ground and rot.

I had never really thought about it this way before, but after much careful consideration, I realize she is totally right! Humans really are a lot like tomatoes and beans! Not only do we sometimes share the physical characteristics of these plants…some of us are short, some of us are round, some of us are long and some of us are lean, and sometimes we are red from the sun or green with envy. However, the way we most closely resemble tomatoes and beans is that we, too, need structure and discipline in order to curb our tendency to wander, plus we need the support of a community of friends and mentors because we just can’t go it alone.

We need collective wisdom since no one person ever has all of the answers. We need to surround ourselves with others working toward a similar goal so we will get motivation, support, and friendly competition to push ourselves a bit further than we would have done on our own. We need people who believe in us more than we believe in ourselves on those days when big goals seem impossible and we most want to give up. We need divergent views since we all approach the exact same problem slightly differently.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu said “God created us differently so that we could complement each other.” I believe he's right in that it takes a lot of different people with different personalities and skill sets to make things run smoothly. With a brand new year looming, what better time to take a look at the status and strength of your stakes and strings?







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Need a Bank Loan?

Growing a business in challenging economics times can be very confusing and downright frustrating. Can you imagine having a great opportunity to grow your business and not be able to take advantage of it because you lack the money to do so? There is the adage; it takes money to make money! But, what if you don’t have enough money to make a difference?

In the good old days, we could walk into the bank and walk out with a line of credit or business loan. Those days are gone, and I don’t think they will be back anytime soon. We all know the banking industry has undergone some hefty structural changes. It looks like there are more to come. Here are some tips for your next visit to see your banker.

I have a list of 4 things a bank looks at these days to determine if you are worthy of a loan. The first one is Capacity. Do you have the ingenuity, the drive and the perseverance to manage and coordinate everything required to repay the loan? Are you operating within the confines of your abilities and experience? Do you have the cash flow to cover your existing debt plus your new debt? If your cash flow isn’t at least 1.25 times your existing debt load plus the proposed loan, you probably won’t be approved for the new loan in our “new economy”.

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Tax Information You Need to Know!

TAX INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW – Automatic Adjustments Effective January 1, 2013 (Source: IRS Bulletin RP-2021-41 dtd October 18, 2012.)

The news media are chocked full of information – mostly political – about what will happen on January 1. Try to ignore that for a moment and instead focus on what is scheduled to change just because it’s 2013. Here is a summary list of what will change with a few comments. These are by no means all of them. If you’d like to know the particulars, feel free to contact me.


  1. 1.“Kiddie Tax,” the amount used to reduce tax on unearned income for minors will adjust. This is important where your children have been given investments with income so that the taxes will be lower.
  2. 2.Income from US Savings Bonds used to pay for qualified education expenses is subject to a phase-out based on income.
  3. 3.The amount of annual premium deductible for long-term care insurance changes as do the tests to comply with high deductible requirements in Medical Savings Accounts.
  4. 4.The annual exclusion for gifts increases. This is important because people often violate gift tax rules unintentionally; for example, buying someone other than your spouse a car. The State of Tennessee’s rules are harsher than the IRS and if you are caught violating them, there are stiff fines.
  5. 5.There is a tax on the sale of any shaft used in the production of certain types of arrows. I doubt very many people care about this. It just gives me a chance to set up a joke about getting the shaft.
  6. 6.The maximum hourly rate for legal services where the attorney’s fees were awarded by the court is adjusted.
  7. 7.The income and contribution limits for all retirement plans adjust. Instead of automatically continuing what you’re doing, ask your investment advisor what else is available. Make sure you consider non-qualified plans as well as the traditional 401(k) and IRA-based programs.

Along these same lines but not included in the list of automatic adjustments are the potential changes to the health care insurance landscape coming online in 2013 and 2014. Don’t get caught waiting until the last minute. Meet with your insurance advisor now and look down the road together. You may be paying too much for personal and/or employer-based coverage and can start saving already. Make sure you understand what expenditures are deductible. People are missing a lot of deductions by assuming they understand the law.


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Education-Is-A-Key To Website Success!

With the improved usability of websites over the last 24-36 months (Content Management Systems in particular) and the integration of Social Media  with websites, it has become apparent that education is becoming a key to having a successful website.

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Are You Getting a Bad Rap?

One of our basic human needs is to communicate. Communication is how we exchange information, share life, connect, and get to know one another. Even though text messaging has earned a bad rap with experts saying it ruins social interaction, writing skills, and expression, it remains an inexpensive and convenient way to keep in touch. Text messaging is the #1 most popular way American adults communicate today and statistics show that 25% send and receive between 11-50 texts a day.

Most of us have experienced the frustration with smart phone auto correct when we type one word but a different one pops up instead and totally changes what we meant to say. I’d like to share some autocorrects I found in a Google search…..

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The Family-Owned Business Interest Deduction: Pending Changes in Tax Law and Recent Court Rulings

Owners of family businesses, including farms, are at a disadvantage when it comes to tax planning. Many of the deductions available for current income do not apply to smaller businesses, which lack the liquidity for larger, long-range investments. Their focus is on day-to-day operations and more short-range planning, often at the expense of critical planning components like who will own and run the business next. Business owners need to know that nothing happens automatically except confusion and cost. Here’s a summary of the current situation.
Current federal tax law provides each individual with a $5,000,000 lifetime exemption from their taxable estate. It also provides that a married couple can intentionally combine their amounts through a “portability” feature. There are many reasons to be cautious about depending on the portability feature, which needs to be reviewed on an individual basis; but there are two reasons to be nervous about depending on the $5,000,000 exemption at all. First, your business assets are combined with other personal assets to arrive at the total estate value (with some adjustments) that increase it. It is surprisingly easy to be above the $5,000,000 threshold. Second, and most important, is that the whole thing changes at the end of this year unless Congress acts to extend it, going back to a $1,000,00 exemption. Best wisdom is that even if Congress extends the current level, estate tax laws will be completely rewritten during the next Congress.
Recent Tax Court rulings have upheld specific planning strategies, which can lock in the current exemption amount. Although it is good to know the IRS will work with you to keep your business intact, you will need to implement them before the current law changes.
Pending legislation with the working title, Family Farm and Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2012 (H.R.6271), would provide substantial relief to farm and business owners. If enacted, it would improve on the old Qualified Family-Owned Business Interest (QFOBI) exemption, which was repealed effective in 2004–2012. Under the proposed legislation, qualifying farms and businesses would not have their values included in estate tax calculations provided certain conditions were met. This late in a congressional year and during an election period, this bill is probably politically motivated but does give owners and their advisors some insight into how Congress may rewrite the tax laws in the coming year.
State tax laws like those in Tennessee can make a big difference, which is too often not considered. Tennessee is phasing out its inheritance tax laws, but until then, the state amounts are considerably below the federal level. The current exemption amount is $1,000,000, increasing to $1,250,000 in 2013, and incrementally thereafter until disappearing altogether in 2016.
Seek planning with your business succession strategy. Farm and small business owners, more than any other group, need to be proactive and intentional in their planning if they want to pass their business on to the next generation or sell it at a good price.
David W. Hayes is a Certified Financial Planner™ and IRS Enrolled Agent. This article is not a solicitation for business and is not intended to replace advice provided by Certified Public Accountants, Attorneys at Law, or other professionals. IRS Circular 230 requires that you be informed that any statements contained herein are not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by you or any other taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed by federal tax law.

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Doing Business in Mt. Juliet

For the last few years my wife and I have tried to do as much business in Mt. Juliet as we can. It has actually become a habit. We are regular shoppers at Ace Hardware, frequent Courtney’s for Sunday breakfast, and I get my hair cut (yes, all of them) at Larry’s. I buy a growler or two at the Mount Juliet Beer Company, meat at Houston’s, and grass seed and lawn fertilizers at Garr’s. I am disappointed that Pop’s (DQ) closed, but if there is a bright side - I’m not saying there is - it is probably best for my waistline. We get our glasses and eye exams at Franklin-Altman Eye Care, I am fascinated by the stuff in Superior Music and we absolutely love the produce stand on the edge of town on Lebanon Road. Did I mention my father-in-law lives in Rutland Place? These are just a few of the local places we patronize. There are more…my insurance agent and CPA are Mt. Juliet business people too.

The awareness for me to shop Mount Juliet was created by Mark Hinesley. Mark is a great cheerleader for Mt. Juliet business owners whether they are in the Chamber or not. I have found the Chamber to be a good resource for buying locally. A great tool that we use is the on Chamber website. The business search function really comes in handy. Here is an example of what happened a month or so ago.

We were planning a party at our house for about 35 guests. We went to the Chamber website and searched for a caterer. One in particular, which we never heard of, came up. Rhyno’s Grille? They are on Lebanon Road, so off we went for dinner one night. We were very impressed! Ryan Bussey is the owner of Rhyno’s and is an excellent chef. After several conversations, we put Ryan in the hot seat. We are rarely disappointed in doing business in Mount Juliet, but this was a big event for us. I have to tell you that Rhyno’s did an outstanding job! Ryan listened to what we wanted, prepared what we asked for, and delivered beyond our expectations. It was fun to hear the guests talking about the food. It wasn’t one particular food item, it was all of them. I want to thank Ryan for making our event an overwhelming success. Just as important though, I want to thank Mark for encouraging us to shop Mt. Juliet and the Chamber staff for giving us the tools to support our community. Thank you for making it easier to do business in Mt. Juliet.

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The Top 10 Business Tips I Learned From Our Garden

1. Make hay while the sun shines

Timing is critical. If you pick your fruit too soon, you get a stomachache. If you pick it too late, you have garbage. Know what part of a cycle you are in and act accordingly.

2. You never know where the seed will fall

Exhibit your leadership qualities at all times. Those who can be groomed will notice and emulate. Those who can't will reveal their true nature to you sooner this way.

3. Snails in May, gophers in June, drought in July ... if it's not one thing, it's another

There will always be problems. It is what you do about them that matters.

4. Some plants make it, some don't

If someone fails to prosper under your leadership, don't take it personally. Be like the sun and shine equally on all. Some make it. Some don't.

5. "Amended soil" still smells like cow manure

Don't get bogged down in euphemisms or politically correct thinking. Give directions clearly. Stick to the point. Know when to shut up.

6. It's not called a nursery for nothing

Everything is delicate at the beginning. With new staff, new projects, and new acquisitions, take care!

7. Every garden has a snake or two in it

Every business has a snake or two in it.

8. A vine is really a glorified weed

Some of the most surprising things take off! Be open to everything and everybody.

9. Tall plants in the back; short plants in the front

Use your resources wisely. Know your people. Don't ask from someone something they can't give.

10. Plants need sunshine and rain

Don't sweat the small cycles. Keep your eye on the goal!

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Spaghetti Sauce and Toilet Paper

Several years ago, my daughter Autumn and grandson Landon were on their way to pick up a few groceries and head home for the evening after a long day at work and school. Hoping to involve Landon in the process, Autumn asked him to help her remember two important items: spaghetti sauce and toilet paper. Well, much to her surprise, he repeated this over and over, out loud, as they walked into the store. He was bound and determined to be responsible enough not to let his mama forget these two very important items. As you can imagine, many people smiled at the sight of a skinny little freckle-faced redhead walking into the store reciting “spaghetti sauce and toilet paper, spaghetti sauce and toilet paper.”

Memory tricks become even more important the older you get. I’m already experiencing the embarrassment of walking into a room for something, seeing something else that needs to be done, and then forgetting why I walked in that room in the first place! Since I work at a job where it’s important for me to remember names, it’s been imperative that I develop some good memory tips. And the best tip guessed it...repetition.

When you first learn a person's name, say it three times in your mind. Repeat it back immediately out loud, such as "Nice to meet you, Bradley” and make it a point to use their name several times during the conversation with them. Don't worry, they won't think you are crazy. The sweetest sound to anyone's ears is the sound of their own name!

Another good tip is to make an association between the person's looks or personality and their name. I was having trouble remembering whether a woman’s name was Janice or Janet, so I used the tool “Janice is nice” and it has stuck in my mind ever since. I used the same tactic with a guy named Tyler. For the life of me, I could never remember his name until I pictured him wearing a tie (he's very stoic and conservative) and now his name is forever embedded in my memory.  

The key is, do whatever works. The only one who will know about it is you, so have fun with it!

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ROMI… “Return On Membership Investment”

I’d like to add one little letter in the old ROI acronym to make it very specific for your “Membership” with Chamber of Commerce. Most businesses, organizations, individuals, churches, schools, and volunteers either want or need to see some type of return on investment for the dues they pay to be a member of the chamber. In fact, the last time I looked I did not see a single member that just sends in their dues payment each year with the hopes of getting nothing in return; everyone expects at least something.

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Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone

Yesterday I once again, literally, took a leap outside of my comfort zone. For those of you who know me, you wouldn’t be surprised. I am known for doing crazy things like flying airplanes upside down, white water rafting the raging Gauley River after a storm or canoeing for a week in the Isle Royal National Park in frigid Lake Superior waters. For my whole life, as far back as I can remember, I have been pushing my comfort zone envelope. Whether in business or personal life, it is that curiosity DNA gene I have that makes life excitingly fun!

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Lots of folks are switching to Google Business Apps

I was updating our support ticket system tonight and I noticed we had 4 clients who were migrating from their old e-mail accounts to Google Business Apps. This seems to have become a common occurrence for many of our clients in 2012.  We also took the plunge to use Google Business Apps in early 2012 and like many of our clients we are very happy with the move.

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The Olympic Games

Once again I have been hooked by the Olympics. The Olympics remind me that victory is often by a hundredth of a second, or a single point, or a few centimeters. The slogan “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” still rings true after all of these years.

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Chamber Coupons, Calendar Updates, and Daily Deals

This week I’d like to use our time together to remind you about a couple of Chamber Benefits and let you know about a new program that will likely be rolled out in the coming weeks.

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“Change Your Vision, Change Your Life”

Have you ever heard the axiom, "no matter where you go, there you are?" The same is true for the life we have created. We are where we are, based on the decisions we have made, the people we have chosen to associate with, and the sum total of our five closest friends. Interesting formula isn't it? Is it time to make some new friends? In the wise words of Ricky Ricardo, "you got some splainin' to do Lucy!" It's time to stop the blamin' and complainin' and accept the fact that the buck stops here, right now, with you. It's not what happens to you that matters, it's what you do about it. Stuff will happen. Work on building your character and your resolve and stop looking for reasons to justify your particular situation.

It was Henry Ford who said, "Whether you think you can or can't, either way you're right." Success in business is about accountability, responsibility, and ownership. If you don't have a mentor or coach, find one, preferably someone you admire and respect, who has owned a business, and who has faced and conquered the same challenges. When I am faced with a challenge or a difficult situation I like to ask, "What would my mentor do or how would they handle this?” It's time to start thinking like a "glass half full" person rather than a "glass half empty" one. Misery has enough company and it doesn't need to live in yours.

So what's this got to do with your vision? I'm glad you asked. I have had clients say they struggle with their vision and the future of their business. They say business is complicated, attracting clients is difficult, marketing is confusing, keeping customers is happy is a mystery, and making a good profit is doubtful. In general, they are not having any fun. If any of this resonates for you, it's a good time to stop, grab a pen, and answer a few questions.

At the top of your list, answer this:

Why did I get into business in the first place? In other words, what void in the marketplace did I hope to fill with my product or service? How was I going to do it better, faster, or more reliably than anyone else? What pain was I going to alleviate from my customers life that would have them choose me? What pleasure was I going to provide better than anyone else? What don't people like about buying in my industry in general and how could I demonstrate that I am different from the rest?

You see, your business status right now is the vision you hold. The skills you possess, the level of knowledge you have, the competencies you have developed, all are part of the picture called our vision. Unless you learn new skills, acquire more knowledge and practice, and learn to become more competent, your business will look very much the same in the future. Business does not remain static, why should you?

Take some time right now and describe your business five years from now. Write as if it is in the present and you have accomplished your goals and dreams. Think outside the box, bigger than you think is possible right now. Be idealistic, positive and inspiring, even challenging. Now take stock of what you know and what you don't know or understand. What skills, knowledge and competencies do you have to master to fulfill this vision you have now written about? Sometimes when a client does this exercise it seems overwhelming or appears to be the size of an elephant. And we say, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time"! Write down now an action step you will take within the next 24 hours to move you closer to your vision.

When I look at a new client, I don't see a struggling business owner. I see a brilliant, capable, intelligent human being that cares and wants to make a difference in this world and leave an enduring legacy. How do you see yourself? Here's one of my favorite quotes, "Aspire to Inspire before you Expire."

Have a great week!

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“Sign Replacements on North Mt. Juliet Road”

This message is primarily directed to those who have a sign needing to be replaced on North Mt. Juliet Road or to those who know someone who needs to replace their sign due to the recent expansion of the road. With the completion, it is now time to start the process of getting our permanent signs back in place.

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“Our Rolodex; A Benefit of Membership”

While the Chamber has MANY member benefits, one that is not taken advantage of as often as you might think is the use of our “rolodex”. By that I mean our long list of contacts, connections, and access. This is especially true when it comes to local, regional, state and federal contacts. If you and or your business need to contact a local agency, legislator, or governing body keep in mind that the Chamber can help get you started in the right direction. A lot of that contact information is available on our website, often with a direct link the party you are looking for. If you can’t find it, or are not sure who you need, give us a call; we are always happy to help. On the local level, we work closely with our city leaders, various departments, and city personnel and we can often get you in touch with the right person with a simple call or two. And as for access, don’t forget that the chamber can also help hook you up with a personal visit with our County Mayor, State Representatives or Senator, City & County Commissioners, etc. And if you all you need is for someone to pass along an idea or suggestion, let us know that too. The Chamber leadership meets regularly with many of these people and we are always happy to help make the connections and get things done.

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Seven Principles for Leadership

If you are reading this in the Chamber Blog, congratulations! You have made it through the most turbulent economy since the Great Depression. Unfortunately, now is not the time to relax. As business leaders, we need to become more resilient at handling the extremely high demands of our jobs and the ever-changing business landscape. The following seven principles will help you sharpen your leadership skills so that you’ll be better equipped to handle any challenge that comes your way.

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