We worked with the creative folks at Blu Sky Films on a video that captures our value proposition to our members, with the help of the amazing Helen Russell at Equator Coffees and Grace Kraaijvanger of The Hivery. We're forever grateful to both of them and hope you enjoy the fantastic work by Blue Sky. And feel free to share with friends, colleagues and neighbors who might benefit by joining our ever-growing community organization! MORE INFO ON MEMBERSHIP.
Thoughts? Questions? Email us anytime!
Though most of their events are of the funereal variety, Heather Ferguson and her team at Fernwood Cemetery in Tam Valley showed last week that they are far from a traditional cemetery, capable of putting on one heck of a networking mixer.
Fernwood hosted our June 21st Mixer, and dozens gathered in the gorgeous space designed by the firm that created the new One World Trade Center and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai amidst a gorgeous, sprawling, 32-acre property. Attendees enjoyed beautiful music from Teja Gerken, delicious food from Robin Scott Catering and the chance to rub elbows with their fellow Members and friends. Thanks to all who made it out and to all of those who helped make it happen!!
MORE ON FERNWOOD.
“80 percent of success is just showing up.” ––Woody Allen
More than two dozen Marin business owners and managers followed that advice this week, showing up to “Network Like a Pro,” a June 7th seminar hosted the Mill Valley, San Rafael, Corte Madera and Tiburon Chambers of Commerce at the Town Center Corte Madera.
The workshop was led by Tim Hoyle, a national speaker whose company, Motivation According to Hoyle, has been teaching companies how to leverage the intrinsic motivations of employees to improve their performance and accelerate business objectives.
“Most of us know that networking is about showing, bringing business cards, shaking hands and looking people in the eye – so what’s the challenge?” Hoyle said at the outset of his interactive, oft-hilarious presentation. “For those of us who find networking challenging, it’s all about changing behavior. It’s about desensitizing yourself to feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of networking.”
The solution: Repetition. Hoyle used his own fear of snakes, and how to overcome it. He walked attendees through a series of interactions with snake-related items, from a snake video to a rubber snake to seeing an actual snake in person.
“It’s about reconditioning your brain through a series of repetitive interactions,” Hoyle said. “What makes you a great networker? The number of times you show up to a networking event and deal with that awkward feeling. You all have moments in your life when you can be comfortable with who you are – relaxed, gracious. It’s about how many times you can show up to a networking event and do your best.”
Once you’ve put yourself in that environment, it’s about making connections and getting leads, Hoyle said. To do so, Hoyle pointed to a “one legged man wearing lipstick,” a humorous, memorable example of selecting something very brief and specific about the type of leads you are seeking.
“You want to give people just one thing to look for, so that when they see that one lead they know to associate it with you,” he said.
From there, the group dove headlong into one-on-one networking interactions, practicing their “elevator pitch” and their personalized version of “one legged man wearing lipstick.”
“All of this takes practice – when you get it right, it’s going to feel great,” Hoyle added.
MORE INFO ON TIM HOYLE.
Let’s say you need to find a chiropractor, or a divorce attorney, or maybe a great salad place to meet a friend for lunch.
In each of those cases, what’s the first thing you’d do? Ask a friend? Sure, if you have a friend with direct knowledge of one of those queries.
But more likely, you’ll Google it, and see where your search takes you.
That search, and Google’s dominant role in our day-to-day research and decision-making – as well as the various digital and social media tentacles that extend from it – was at the heart of “Marketing Your Business for Results,” an April 5th seminar hosted the Mill Valley, San Rafael, Corte Madera and Tiburon Chambers of Commerce at the Town Center Corte Madera.
The event drew on the expertise of Carolyn Kohler and Lisa Taylor Powers, a pair of local marketing experts who also run their own small businesses, so they practice the tips they preach every day.
Kohler’s Website Wordsmith business specializes in search engine optimization, using web content to help transform her clients’ businesses into magnets for new business, while Taylor Powers’ The Hive Marketing takes a holistic view of a business to provide tailored solutions to help them grow.
The duo often work together for clients, and thus their presentation to more than two dozen attendees was seamless and allowed for plenty of audience questions.
“Your online presence is the first point of contact that someone will have with you and your business,” Taylor Powers said at the outset. “It’s working for you while you’re not awake and while you’re away from your desk.”
The best way to make sure you’re maximizing that presence is to come up with a marketing plan: What are your goals? What sort of website and social media traffic do you get now? What message do you want those visitors to receive?
Because small business owners already have a ton on their plates, and because there are are seemingly infinite ways to reach their customers, from websites and social media to email newsletters and videos, they need to decide how they want to reach their audience. “You can’t do it all, so knowing what are the appropriate channels for your customers is critical,” Kohler said.
Given Google’s dominance in getting people to your website, a business’ Google presence serves as a foundational component to that process, Kohler said. She provided 10 tips to making sure you show up high in search results. They included:
There you go: honest, practical, free marketing advice from a pair of experts, including a free half-hour consultation with Kohler or Taylor Powers – a sure-fire way to get their Google act together in short order – all courtesy the the Mill Valley, San Rafael, Corte Madera and Tiburon Chambers of Commerce.
MORE INFO ON CAROLYN KOHLER’S WEBSITE WORDSMITH.
MORE INFO ON LISA TAYLOR POWERS’ THE HIVE MARKETING.
Some of the biggest employers in Marin were onhand to hear Debi Geller and Dolores Cordell explain the current hiring market and give tips on making it work for your business and how to manage the latest employment law changes.
A booming economy, low unemployment rate, extraordinarily high cost of housing and few job seekers among teens all add up to a historically difficult hiring market for employers in Marin County – a topic that has been on the minds of owners and hiring managers at businesses throughout Mill Valley and beyond.
That was reason number one the Mill Valley, San Rafael, Corte Madera and Tiburon Chambers of Commerce hosted “Employment 2017: Recruitment, Retention and Employment Law Changes,” a Feb. 1 seminar at the Town Center Corte Madera that drew on the expertise of employment law attorney Dolores Cordell and Debi Geller, an account executive with Nelson Staffing.
It was clear from the start that hiring – and the abundance of employment-related regulations that accompany the processes of hiring, managing and firing employees – were the most pressing concerns facing many of Marin’s largest employers, as the audience included leaders from Whole Foods Market, Marin Suites Hotel, The Redwoods, Nugget Markets and many more.
Hiring Manager Woes
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I have never seen the hiring market so tricky – Marin employers have had a harder time hiring in the past six months than at any other time I can remember,” Geller said at the outset, noting that Marin’s unemployment rate currently sits at 2.9 percent, a far cry from the 8 percent of mid-2009. “There is hardly anyone who wants to be working who is not working.”
Marin’s current jobless rate is the same as it was 10 years ago, but there are distinctions in 2017 that make hiring much harder than it was in 2007, Geller said. Those factors include a $3,300 median monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Marin – a cost difficult to bear for job seekers in the lower-wage light industrial, food service and retail sectors in particular.
Given the high cost of housing, it’s no surprise that upwards of 60 percent of employees in Marin commute to work here, just one of the many contributors to Marin’s traffic problems.
“The lower the pay, the harder it is to fill the job,” Geller said. “It’s the million dollar question. And a big driver of all this is that kids used to work in those jobs, and in Marin the teenagers don’t work, so that whole workforce doesn’t exist here, which makes it even harder.”
Several attendees noted that they are pulling out all the stops to incentivize potential new hires, including stipends for public transit costs, paying for higher education and additional training and offering employee referral programs through which current employees can earn a bonus for referring a new employee.
Geller and Cordell said that while getting job seekers in the door is hard, managing the hiring process can be even harder. They urged hiring managers to be careful with the questions you ask job seekers during the hiring process. For example, if an applicant has a service dog, you can’t legally ask them why they have it, but you can ask them if they can perform all of the functions of the job. And ditto with a pregnant applicant or asking an applicant where they’re from.
“There are acceptable and unacceptable questions, and you must be careful to not cross the line, Cordell said. “It’s common sense,” Geller added.
Application forms should also be vetted, they said, as laws are changing regularly. For instance, in San Francisco, employers can no longer ask a job seeker if they have a criminal history. They can, however, conduct background checks.
“The main thing that you want to focus on is, do they have the qualifications to do the job,” Cordell said.
Once They’re Hired
Cordell and Geller spent the bulk of their presentation on what to do once they’ve made a new hire: managing employees, retaining them and properly handling the process of firing them, if needed. They also focused on abiding by the array of employment regulations, particularly those that are changing, like social media and marijuana policies. Here are a few of the points they touched on:
And the bottom line is an employee’s work performance. "If they manage to show up every day and do a good job, it’s none of your business,” Cordell added.
MORE INFO on Debi Geller of Nelson Staffing.
MORE INFO on employment law attorney Dolores Cordell.
Dear Voting Members of the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center,
It’s that time of year to thank our Chamber Board members for their service and nominate a new Board slate. We offer our special thanks to retiring members Carolyn Kohler and Doug Tarr (Mill Valley Code Club) and continue to mourn the loss of Alan Abrams, our long serving Board Member, who passed away last month.
This year the Board nominates the following slate, representing a combination of new and renewing Board Members:
If you wish to nominate yourself or someone else for the 2017-2019 Board, you may do so with a separate petition for each person, bearing the signatures of at least 11 qualified members of the Chamber and the consent of the nominee. Petitions should be sent to: Nominating Committee, Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, 85 Throckmorton, Mill Valley, California 94941 and received by October 21, 2016.
If there are any nominations by petition, elections will be held in October. If no petition is filed within the designated period, the nominated slate of Directors shall be declared elected.
If you have any questions about this process, or would like to become a Chamber volunteer, please contact our office by calling 415-388-9700 or emailing us.
Thank you, and we look forward to hearing from you and serving you this year and beyond.
Board Chair, Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center
Soon after Miriam Hope Karell connects with a local small business owner seeking free business advice through the Marin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) she runs in San Rafael, the inevitable question arises: “What’s the catch?”
There’s no catch.
“People can’t believe that this service exists for free – they think it’s too good to be true,” Karell said in a presentation this week, part of the ongoing "The Essentials" series from the Mill Valley, San Rafael, Corte Madera and Tiburon chambers of commerce at the Corte Madera Town Center. “They ask, ‘What are you going to make me do?’ The only thing we do is track the success of our clients once we start advising them.”
Consider the Marin SBDC a secret weapon for small business owners. Marin SBDC has helped more than 687 businesses create more than 400 jobs. They’ve helped those business increase their sales by $16 million and help them garner more than $14 million in funding through a variety of sources.
“It’s the largest support system in the country for small businesses,” Karell says of the SBDC network, which include 12 offices between Santa Cruz and the California-Oregon border. “Our primary focus is free, one-on-one business advising, answering any questions at any stage of the development of the business.”
The expertise of Marin SBDC's 15 advisors range from social media and marketing to strategy, ecommerce, product development and funding. For the latter, Karell says Marin is unique in that most investment comes from the “friends and family” crowdfunding circles as opposed to landing bank loans or traditional investors.
The success stories are abundant. There’s Pelo Fitness owner Alan Roberts, whose passion for cycling and fitness drove him to open his own center and make cycling classes fun for people of all fitness levels. But one year after he launched his business, Roberts wasn’t generating enough clients to justify his rental of a large space near Whole Foods Market and San Rafael High School. So Marin SBDC business advisor Paul Bozzo suggested that he incorporate retail into the space, giving him a safety net.
“Because of his hard work and all the help he received from Marin SBDC over the span of several years, he’s now opening his second location in San Francisco right now,” said Karell, whose office is located on the campus of Dominican University. “We helped him get investments and loans and guided him through the process of incorporating retail into his business. Now he’s taking off.”
Marin SBDC helps both new and existing small businesses, and Karell noted, the only “catch” is that they track a number of their clients’ metrics, part of the formula they must use to maintain their $100,000 in annual funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Karell must then garber matching funds via local and regional municipalities and other grant funding sources. The City of San Rafael, City of Novato and County of Marin currently provide funding for the program.
The 411: Marin SBDC is located at 104 Bertrand Hall on the Dominican University campus. Want to seek their help? Go to their website and click the “Apply for Free Advising” red button. Here's a clip from Karell's presentation:
Ferber has been an invaluable presence in Mill Valley for decades, volunteering to photograph countless events and gatherings all over town and beyond. For that unparalleled level of dedicated service to our community, Ferber has been named the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center’s 2016 Business Citizen of the Year, and was honored with a Spirit of Marin Award by Bank of Marin at a reception at St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael on September 23.
How about that! More than 80 people poured into the vibrant Body By Xspace in Corte Madera, California to join the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce, Corte Madera Chamber of Commerce and Body by X owner Nadia and Xavier McClinton for an extremely fun Mixer. Thanks to our wonderful hosts, Harmony Restaurant for the delicious food, Marin Brewing Company for the beer, an array of donors for the wine and all who showed up in droves for the great company!
Go here to check out all the great photos of the evening by Gary Ferber!
And join us Oct. 19 at the Holiday Inn Express Mill Valley San Francisco Area, 5:30-7pm for our next Mixer.
For the 2016 edition of the City of Mill Valley’s annual opportunity to deliver a State of the City report to Mill Valley Chamber members, there weren’t too many surprises, as City officials focused largely on the two biggest issues facing every resident and business owner in town: traffic and the Miller Avenue Streetscape Project.
“Traffic in Mill Valley – oy vey,” Mill Valley Mayor John McCauley said at La Ginestra Restaurant as he kicked off the traffic discussion. Throughout his lengthy summary on the subject, McCauley detailed the work of the City’s Traffic and Congestion Reduction Advisory Task Force, a group of leaders representing the myriad organizations and agencies with jurisdiction in some or all parts of the City’s road infrastructure. The Task Force began its work a year ago and now will sunset and pass the baton of addressing the City’s traffic congestion to City staff and the City Council, having fulfilled its purpose by creating a lengthy list of short- and long-term ways to reduce traffic in town.
“Mill Valley traffic volume has not changed much in the last 10 years – traffic going in and out of town has been relatively the same,” McCauley said. “But what has changed is the conditions around us.”
That includes the roads and lanes on and around the Highway 101 overpass at East Blithedale Avenue and Tiburon Boulevard, he said, where an increase in Tiburon traffic and poor synchronicity between the traffic lights has made conditions abysmal.
At a public meeting in the coming weeks, the City Council will review a lengthy report prepared by traffic consultant Parisi Transportation Consulting. The report will include a list of projects developed through the Task Force’s work that have received funding in the City's Capital Improvement Program budget.
Over the course of its work, the Task Force identified a clear objective: restore vehicle travel times on East Blithedale Avenue and on Almonte Boulevard/Shoreline Highway to what they were in 2012-13, after which those travel times spiked, despite a marginal increase on car volume on local roads. To achieve that goal, David Parisi told the Task Force that travel times on East Blithedale between Millwood Avenue and Highway 101 would need to go down by 35 percent from 7-10am, 24 percent from 10am-3pm and 33 percent from 3-7pm.
In targeting that objective, the Task Force kept in mind the multi-jurisdictional nature of local and regional roads and that there was no “silver bullet,” so to speak. Using a data-driven approach, they chose three umbrella strategies to do so, as well as nearly 50 specific measures within those three categories, each of which were ranked based on their likely impact, their estimated cost and the timeline within which they could be implemented. The strategies are:
MILLER AVENUE STREETSCAPE PROJECT
With the the Miller Avenue Streetscape Project now almost into its third month of construction, the City's $15 million overhaul of one of Mill Valley’s two main arteries is in full swing. The project, by far the biggest road renovation the City has undertaken in decades – spanning approximately two miles of Miller Avenue from Almonte Boulevard near Tamalpais High all the way to Sunnyside Avenue near downtown – is expected to last until late 2017. The City is providing weekly Construction Updates on the project. Here's the latest one.
“Our town has been talking about Miller Avenue for a long, long, long time,” McCauley said. “We got it going very quickly after school ended in June, because we knew it was going to be tough on for the businesses along Miller. But we’ll all be pretty happy with it when it’s over.” MORE ON MILLER PROJECT.
MUNICIPAL SERVICES TAX RENEWAL
McCauley also informed attendees about the City’s Municipal Services Tax, which was first approved in 1987, has been renewed twice since then and expires in 2018. Its renewal is on the ballot this November 8, with an increase from $195 to $266 per parcel and an annual 2 percent increase after that until it expires following fiscal year 2026-27.
The MST provides “the City with extremely valuable services,” McCauley said. Those services are two pronged: 1) $300,000 goes towards fire prevention and vegetation management programs and 2) Approximately $900,000 goes to repairing the City’s roads via the Street and Sewer Rehabilitation Project.
“The City has a deep understanding of the best way to maintain this huge investment,” McCauley said of local roads, noting that the strategic deployment of “slurry sealing” allows the City to “never let roads go to a point here you have to completely rebuild them – it’s more like it’s a protective coat of paint.” MORE ON THE MST.
Questions/comments about the State of the City? Email us.