Author Archives: Stephanie Hawk

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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532nd Article (2)

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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What You Can Do to Support Local Businesses

In tough times, our community has a record of pulling together. Today, and in the coming days and weeks, we will be having another one of those moments. Do we rise to the challenge, or do we seek to shelter in and practice non-involvement and isolation? This flu season and COVID-19 are severe and are impacting communities in different ways. This season will also be a great opportunity for us to come together and get through this moment, collectively and not individually.  The economic impact of this challenge could be severe. Supporting our local businesses is essential. There are ways to be safe and not spread the flu, but also make sure restaurants, bars, hotels, retail stores, and every other kind of business can survive this moment. Here are some simple steps to support our local businesses:  Order take out or curbside. Support your favorite restaurant by ordering from them…

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Seven Things to Do to Connect and Network

Connecting to people and building networks of contacts and connections are critical for any business’s success. One of the key benefits we offer at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce is the ability to connect with a wide array of people and businesses. At our core nature, we want to do business with people we know or have met.  Some people find connecting and networking easy and almost second nature. Others may find networking and connecting uncomfortable and hard to do daily. There are some basic things a person can do to communicate with other people. Here are seven things to do: Show interest in others. People know pretty quickly if you are “not really interested” in them and you are just trying to make a sale. The quick connection and sale mentality are a big turn-off. People who can carry on a conversation with everyone and show genuine interest are…

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Sharing Bad News

Communication can be a challenge for any business or organization. Some companies are good at sharing information and others, not so much. Effective communication can be the tipping point between success and failure. Ineffective communication in an organization creates rumors and a needless waste of time that affects morale and productivity. Sharing news good or bad, if done the right way, can help achieve a high performing business. Here are six key ways to communicate and share good or bad news: Don’t wait. Our human nature tends to make us wait when it comes to bad news. It is better to share information immediately, as opposed to waiting. In today’s work environment, there is constant discussion of “transparency.”  Giving people information in a timely fashion is acting transparently. The other key is trust in leadership. By withholding critical information, we quickly destroy faith within an organization.  Make the meeting face–to-face.…

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The SCAMPER Method (Part III)

I continue this week with the SCAMPER method as a way to develop a new idea or to make a breakthrough with a product or service. So, here are the final three letters in the process. 5) “P” is for put to another use – Think about how you can take a current product or idea and put it to a different purpose. Many times, a concept only turns out to be great when applied differently. Here are several key questions to ask: Is it possible to utilize this product elsewhere, maybe in a different industry? Who else can utilize this product? Would this product function differently in a different setting? What else can it be utilized for? Is it possible to recycle the product’s waste to make something new? Could it be used for people with specific disabilities? Is there another problem the product can solve?  Are there applications…

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The SCAMPER Method (Part II)

Last week I introduced the SCAMPER model for innovation and creativity.  The model is used widely in innovation circles and provides a solid foundation in developing new ideas, even if you think you are not very creative or innovative. Asking some key questions is critical for success.  Last week I wrote about the letter “S” for substitute and how trying to replace materials, ingredients, or use can bring a breakthrough. The letter “C” was combining, and how bringing unlike things together, you can get a new product like rolling suitcases or phones with music and cameras.  This week we add “A” and “M” to the process. 3. “A” is for Adapt – Think of a solution for another problem you may mold to suit your situation. “Necessity is the mother of all inventions.” Sometimes conditions force us to try something totally outside the norm.  Here are some key questions: Is…

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