Author Archives: Stephanie Hawk

Living Intentionally

Are you living life intentionally or just coasting? It can be a hard question to answer, especially during a pandemic that has turned our daily lives and connections and relationships upside down. These eleven months have forced me to examine how I live and what I think. What I have learned and thought about these last 11 months is that “stuff” doesn’t happen all of a sudden.  It happens little by little, and then the wheels come off. Think about your health, your relationships, your work. You don’t walk into your job one day and find out you are fired. You don’t one day wake up and suddenly have a heart attack. It is little things that have been happening day after day.  You are missing deadlines, not being a team player at work, difficult to deal with, or eating large amounts of fats, sugars, and not exercising, and then…

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The Story Behind “I Have a Dream” Speech

This past Monday, our nation celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day. The day is a moment to recall how far we have come as a country and to reflect on how far we still have to go in dealing with racism. If the United States has a legacy sin – it is racism. The greatest speech Dr. King was known for giving is the “I Have a Dream” speech. Surprisingly, it did not become a defining speech of his legacy until after his death. With time, the “I Have A Dream” speech has grown in significance and impact. Many people don’t know that the “I Have a Dream” part of the speech was not originally included in the prepared text for his speech at The Freedom March on Washington in 1963. It would be the first time the nation would hear a full speech given by Dr. King. The…

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Six Principles of Persuasion

I am always amazed at people who have mastered the art of persuasion. Persuasion and buy-in by people work far better than force. The successful business or organization understands how persuasion works so much more effectively than cramming a new program, product, or purpose down someone’s throat. By mastering the power of persuasion, you get more commitment, greater engagement, and a positive attitude.  To understand the power of persuasion, it is useful to understand the behavioral principles behind it. The principles are simple, but powerful, when used in combination by a person who has mastered the art of persuasion. Here are six fundamental principles of the art of persuasion: Personal Relationships. If there is one underlying foundation to the power of persuasion it is the concept of building and maintaining personal relations. Building personal relationships takes time and energy, but it pays enormous dividends. I have watched dozens of people…

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Three Things to Consider as You Lead

As business leaders, it is more critical today for leadership in your business or organization than ever before. There have been so many changes and pivots in the local markets over the last ten months that many businesses don’t know what to do or where to look. And that is where business leaders can step forward to lead and make a difference. Everything has shifted rapidly in the last ten months, and leadership is needed desperately. Here are three critical things to consider: 1. Leading in uncertainty. As a business leader, your big challenge is making sense of everything that is happening. There is so much uncertainty about what can happen next and what opportunities are all around you and your business. The challenge for you as a leader is leading during ambiguity and chaos. Decision making and outcomes are going to be uncertain and trying. A strong leader is…

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If Life was Only Like an Etch A Sketch

When I was a kid, one of my favorite toys, besides my army men, was my “Etch A Sketch.” You remember, the toy in the red box with the silver screen and two white knobs. You could almost draw anything with the “Etch A Sketch.” I could play for hours with the toy. Over time, I could draw houses, circles, my name, and mountains or hills.  What I liked best about the “Etch A Sketch” was that if I made a mistake, I could shake it and start over. I had a clean slate; fresh and brand-new, with no evidence of my past mistakes. It would be neat if life was like that “Etch A Sketch.” We could start over and totally erase our mistakes. Here are some of the things I would erase:  Erase past failures. I would erase past failures and the times I really messed up: the…

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Two Things Customers Want

The last eight months of COVID-19 have posed challenges, as well as opportunities, for small businesses on so many different levels. One key question we get asked many times is, “How should I continue to do my marketing, and should I be marketing at all?” Marketing is storytelling and branding, and branding is critical during tough times. What it all comes down to are image and one critical question – what do your customers want?  So how you talk to your customers and who you want to gain as a customer are important and more critical today than ever before to your success. Humans are complex creatures who may not articulate precisely what they want or what they are looking for, but know it when they experience it. So, it comes down to doing two things for your customers:  THEY WANT THEIR PROBLEM SOLVED THEY WANT TO HAVE A CUSTOMER…

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Sally Fraustro Guerra

If you don’t know Sally Fraustro Guerra, you are missing out on someone who always sees the best in people and situations and someone who knows how to connect with a wide range of people. Sally has been involved with the Chamber for 25 years. She is a person who has a passion for her businesses and her charitable efforts. Sally is a “go-getter.” We all want good things to happen. Sally understands the “Slinky Effect.” We all remember the childhood toy, the Slinky, the wired metal wrapped in a cylinder, that when you would set in motion down a staircase, it would fall and fall over itself down the stairs. Sally knows working and spending time investing in people will pay off; maybe just not immediately.  Just like the Slinky, the efforts Sally makes create the energy, and the results follow. Sometimes things happen slowly, and Sally understands, better…

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Click and Collect Business Model

For the last five months, I have written about the emerging role of online sales for small businesses. The survey the Chamber has conducted shows local retail stores that had an online sales platform saw an 18% increase in sales. The COVID-19 pandemic created an urgency for small retail businesses to create another business model of online sales. So how does a business blend brick and mortar with online sales? Click and collect. Click and collect is a strategy where shoppers order their items online and pick them up in the store. Retail businesses that have had several business models have found that sales due to click and collect has grown 155% in the last four years. Also, over 33% of shoppers this last holiday season were click and collect customers. The click and collect model allows for a more integrated shopping experience, plus creates a more seamless process. Here…

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The retail landscape is changing because of COVID-19. The future has arrived sooner than scheduled. As businesses move forward, there are going to be opportunities and challenges to finding the right business model. The fundamental truth is that things have changed in the last six months. The hope of returning to “the way things used to be” is not going to happen. Understanding what is happening and where the shifts are occurring are the first steps to help position your business for success. Here are six things that will be impacting businesses in the next 12-18 months. Spending. As jobs are lost and unemployment grows (McAllen’s unemployment is 10.4% for June), discretionary spending is going to be reduced. With economic uncertainty, people tend to hang on to their money longer. The impulse purchases that happened last year will be fewer. For businesses, there is an opportunity to begin analyzing what…

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Be the Turn-Around Person

Everybody has a bad day. For many of us, the COVID-19 seems to be a bad day that has lasted several months. This pandemic has been challenging for so many reasons: the self-isolation, the uncertainty, health scares, the constant changing of opening, to stepping back, or slowing down the reopening, and just the unknowns. We are human, and we like our routines, and we like being in comfortable moments that don’t threaten our wellbeing, financially or healthwise. So how can a person adjust and handle a moment like COVID-19? When everything seems to be going sideways or off track? Here are five simple things you can do to turn a moment, a week, or even a bad month around. Focus on the moment. Stop thinking about the future or what went wrong last week. You cannot change the past, and the future has not arrived. You have this moment and…

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The Future Arrived Ahead of Schedule

Like so many businesses and people, we are all trying to navigate territory that feels unfamiliar and foreign to all of us. Finding our way in the future will not be a straight line or something we can map out step-by-step. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to have to side-step, change directions, and pivot many times. Steve Jobs said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, that you can tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” There is information everywhere; what is needed is an actionable insight that is surprisingly hard to come by. What does the present moment mean for your business? The key will be to listen to and understand your customers and their needs, more deeply than just listening to and understanding surface responses. Here are some essential questions to start asking and exploring: What is the…

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$1.5 Million in Grant Money for 2nd Round of Funding for McAllen Small Businesses

The City of McAllen and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce are now offering an additional $1.5 million in its COVID-19 Small Business Grant program to help McAllen small businesses relaunch and reignite their businesses. Grants up to $5,000 will be given to small businesses with revenues of less than $2 million. Mayor Jim Darling said, “Small businesses are the foundation of McAllen’s economy. The City of McAllen wanted to do everything it could do to have a positive impact on local small businesses during this pandemic recovery.”  The program will be available to McAllen-based businesses, for as long as the funds are available. The grants are free money and do not have to be repaid.  The money can be used for the following: Launching online presence and sales Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sanitation supplies and equipment Short-term marketing campaign Limited interior modification for health and safety purposes Delayed rent/mortgage…

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Why I Wear a Mask

Though different studies reach varying statistical conclusions about wearing masks, the overwhelming consensus is that masks help stem the transmission of COVID-19. Jeremy Howard of Australia has found 34 scientific papers (Masks4all.com) showing masks are effective in stopping the spread of the virus, and there are no documents or studies proving otherwise. The National Institute of Health performed a video experiment that used lasers to illuminate the shower of droplets emitted when someone speaks and how a mask blocked nearly all of the droplets. A statistical study done by scientists in the United States and Europe shows that if 80% of the population wore a mask, the infection rate for COVID-19 would drop by 90 percent. Obviously, the N95 masks have the best rate of stopping the virus, followed by surgical masks, and then cloth masks. Scientists theorize that wearing a mask reduces the amount of exposure to COVID-19 virus…

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Thoughts During COVID-19

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter defeats, so you may know who you are, what you rise from, how you still can come out of it.” Maya Angelou We are all experiencing hard and difficult times. Our routines and daily ways of doing things have all been disrupted. Our sense of “normal” is gone, and we struggle to find a new path forward. Some of us have lost jobs and income, others have seen loved ones sick and struggling, and still, others have been overwhelmed by anxiety and fears. None of us are alone at this moment in this pandemic.  This pandemic is just a moment. Understanding and recognizing what is happening around us is the first step to leaning into this moment and dealing with our fears and thoughts. So many times, we want to numb…

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$300,000 in Grant Money Available for McAllen Small Businesses

The City of McAllen and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce are offering a program designed to help McAllen small businesses relaunch and reignite their businesses with a grant program to assist with some of the essential things to getting reopened. Grants up to $5,000 will be given to small businesses with revenues of less than $350,000 and grants up to $10,000 will be given to small businesses with incomes of more than $350,000. Mayor Jim Darling said, “Small businesses are the foundation of McAllen’s economy. The City of McAllen wanted to do everything it could do to have a positive impact on local small businesses during this pandemic recovery.” The program will launch June 1 at 9:00 AM and will be available to McAllen-based businesses for as long as the $300,000 is available. The McAllen Chamber of Commerce is expecting the funds and grants to go quickly. The grants are…

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