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The Business of Collaboration

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller Business is often fueled by healthy competition. The desire to succeed in our respective industries is what drives success. We create a business plan and marketing campaign based on the marketplace as well as what our competitors are doing. All […]

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
– Helen Keller
Business is often fueled by healthy competition. The desire to succeed in our respective industries is what drives success. We create a business plan and marketing campaign based on the marketplace as well as what our competitors are doing. All of this can lead to a robust and thriving local economy and top-notch service offerings. It’s a very good thing for our community, but at what expense?
Collaboration has long been celebrated and encouraged in the non-profit sector. We love the idea of community programs sharing resources and ideas that work toward the same common goals. However, the concept of collaboration outside of the non-profit world if often met with trepidation. Why would you work with your competition?
The real question is, why wouldn’t you? Business collaboration allows you to learn from your peers, take on a greater scope of work, service your clients more fully, and create something bigger than yourself. Amazing mentorship and often friendship is born from working together with others in your field. While it can feel like a calculated risk, putting yourself and your business in the room with others in your industry can also fuel ideas and best practices.
Take Mothers, the master collaborators. Calling upon each other to help with carpools, class parties, field trips, and play dates. Moms regularly share best practices, seek advice from one another, and lend a helping hand anytime one is needed. This makes us ALL better. In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a Mom who doesn’t agree that collaboration with her fellow Moms is the key to her success.
As my business grew, I knew that finding other similar businesses and professionals to help me on this journey was critical to our success. Engaging with other video and digital content professionals, learning about their processes, sharing ideas, and mentoring each other on the industry, challenges us to improve our skills and encourages us to find unique ways to work together. This collaborative approach to work resonated with everyone we spoke with, and we quickly realized there was a need to foster this concept, especially among women. And so, #410Collaborative was born.
We are founded on the common goal of collaboration being at the core of everything we do. We are made up of four female business owners and work with countless others who share our vision. We offer monthly seminars hosted by women designed to uplift, enlighten, and encourage anyone who attends. Finally, we are a place where you can enjoy a creative workspace, share ideas freely, or just stop in to take a few minutes to be mindful and recharge. We are truly grateful for the opportunities we have been given to collaborate and want to share those experiences with everyone we meet!

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Help Yourself By Helping Others

“There aren’t enough hours in the day,” is muttered over and over both at work and at home. And now they want you to volunteer?  Despite every modern convenience, no one seems to have ample time to get everything done. We are over overcommitted and understaffed, but if you are not giving back to the […]

“There aren’t enough hours in the day,” is muttered over and over both at work and at home. And now they want you to volunteer?  Despite every modern convenience, no one seems to have ample time to get everything done. We are over overcommitted and understaffed, but if you are not giving back to the community, it is time to re-evaluate.

The personal benefits of volunteering are numerous and outlined in the following paragraphs, but first, we’ll give the argument a firm, fiscal foundation.  Many (and we mean a lot) of the Valley’s most influential and well-connected people are active with nonprofits. Not just in name, but out there getting their hands dirty.  What better way to meet local industry leaders than working together on a shared cause?  Our non-scientific evaluation suggests that there are countless ways to give back in the Greater Lehigh Valley.  No matter your focus, passion, raison d’être, there is a place for you. Serving a greater good can be a crucial part of your personal success and your company’s prosperity.  As a business owner, it is no longer good enough to write a check and move on.  Valued clients and potential employees seek civic-minded partners who make corporate responsibility a priority.  Additionally, we cannot emphasize enough that nonprofits are businesses that hire support services to run effectively and efficiently.  What better way to showcase your competencies?  So get ready to enjoy the benefits!  Volunteering doesn’t simply offer “good vibes’ by doing the right thing. It will enhance work and personal experiences in a number of ways.

Shape a new skill set:  It is difficult, if not impossible, to make a distinct job change within most organizations unless you continue your education.  And while that’s always a great idea, the reality is few of us have the time or means to return to school. Nonprofit organizations welcome help in whatever role you choose.  A committee position supporting a different discipline is a chance to cultivate a new skill set. The challenge is real, and the success you experience may be enough to build your resume and pivot your career. Even if you have no intention of changing vocations, the unique experience will offer a new perspective and a better understanding of the workplace.

Learn to be a leader:  Many employees are vital to their organizations and add value each day.  But what if your job doesn’t give you the chance to manage others?  Volunteering can allow you to lead a project, design through implementation, and manage a team.  Already in a leadership role?  Chances are, you and those you manage share similar competencies.  Through volunteering, you’ll have a chance to hone leadership and communication skills with people from a wide variety of career and personal backgrounds.

Build your network:  We can always use a little help from our friends, and there’s comfort staying within your circle. However, getting involved introduces you to new people and broadens horizons. Through teamwork and positive volunteer experiences, new acquaintances build trust and often seek out support on career and personal levels. Relaxed, positive community impact will spark growth in places you wouldn’t have expected.

Don’t worry, be healthy:  Studies demonstrate that volunteering makes you happy.  Helping others can reduce stress, keep you mentally challenged, increase self-confidence, combat depression, gets you physically active, and gives you a purpose.  Small acts on your part can lead to big changes in people’s lives, especially for those who really need it, and that feels good.  And volunteering doesn’t have to be a singular, long-term commitment.  In fact, the more diverse your experiences, the more you’ll grow.

Become a catalyst for change:  Don’t just re-tweet or like a post about an important issue, choose to make a difference in something meaningful to you. As you champion the mission among your friends and co-workers your influence can have far-reaching effects.  Your personal accountability and involvement may jump-start others to work for change as well.  From children to dogs, building homes to the environment, there is an organization in need of your help. Begin your search at www.volunteerlv.org or www.volunteermatch.org.

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Creating Your Own Reality

Entrepreneurship Today Starting your own business is an exciting idea wrought with a multitude of unknowns.  Is it right for me?  What should I consider?  Will everyone understand what I do?  Where do I begin? HAVE A VISION: Back in high school, a friend always told me that he wanted “to be an Entrepreneur,” but […]

Entrepreneurship Today

Starting your own business is an exciting idea wrought with a multitude of unknowns.  Is it right for me?  What should I consider?  Will everyone understand what I do?  Where do I begin?

HAVE A VISION: Back in high school, a friend always told me that he wanted “to be an Entrepreneur,” but never knew what he would do. Maybe he was putting the cart before the horse, but at least he had goals. Before pursuing the dream of being an entrepreneur, take the time to think through your vision. Where do you see yourself in 1, 5, even ten years? Maybe it’s working from home, a single person operation with a small, exclusive clientele list. Perhaps you’re at the helm, with a team carrying out your ingenious strategy. Your vision helps create the framework for a business plan, propels you forward, and keeps you on track to achieve your goal.

BUILD A TEAM: Whether a successful solo-preneur or an owner with employees, any business requires a team. Consider your strengths and more importantly, your weaknesses and build a team that covers your blind spots. Doing everything on your own is impossible. Getting bogged down by bookkeeping or marketing or web design is not the best use of your time if it’s not in your skillset. What takes you a day may take an expert an hour – money well spent!  Additionally, set expectations for your team. Are you a 24/7, text at 11 PM, immediate response kind of person?  Own it!  But decide whether your hires must fit that mold or if you understand boundaries. Empower your team, whether employees or consultants, to be a part of your vision and treat them as partners.

WORK HARD: Remember what I said about 24/7?  Be prepared for long hours, consumed by your efforts and working incredibly hard to reach your goals. Communicate to loved-ones that aspects of your life may, temporarily, suffer but that you will soon settle in a new normal. As a business owner, there are always unforeseen situations at all hours; inevitably, during bath time or when your daughter prom’s date arrives. But ‘luck is the residue of hard work, ‘ and many rewards will outnumber the few heartaches.

TAKE RISKS: Are you wearing a parachute? If you are, you’re not really ready to jump out of the plane. Being in business for yourself, potentially by yourself, is dangerous waters. Ensure that you and your loved ones will be comfortable in the new reality. Explore safeguards that can make risks more “calculated.” Consider various scenarios and be equipped for decisions requiring quick action.  A possible order for 1000 widgets when current output capacity is 300 can be a tricky success.  A well thought out business plan will prepare you for positive and negative situations.

NETWORK: As important as creating your vision, building you team, and working hard are, what good is it if no one knows your product? As an entrepreneur, YOU are your brand.Your widget is outstanding and indispensable, but until the rest of the world figures that out, they need to trust and believe in you. Find groups and councils that will support your growth as an individual, team leader, and community member. Attend seminars, go to lunch and learns, and develop relationships within your region and business communities.  If you are among the most fortunate, you will find a mentor – someone in your corner to challenge and inspire you, help guide decisions and provide emotional support at every stage. The value of a good mentor cannot be overstated.

GIVE BACK: Why are successful businesses usually pillars in the community; because their logo looks good on the nonprofit’s website? Not exactly. An individual who gives time and treasure to charitable causes builds respect in her community, makes the community a better place to live, develops valuable connections, learns new skills, and gains respect as a leader with both current employees and business contacts. Involve your team, and you’ve upped your game, my friend. And that’s as good as money in the bank.

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5 Tips for Creating Effective Video for Your Business

Why do I need to do a video? I don’t want to be on TV! The answer is simple — It’s important to do something that helps you stand out. Emmy award winning television producers, Marta Countess of Countess Communications and Ashley Russo of ASR Media Productions, both based in the Lehigh Valley, sat down […]

Why do I need to do a video? I don’t want to be on TV!

The answer is simple — It’s important to do something that helps you stand out.
Emmy award winning television producers, Marta Countess of Countess Communications and Ashley Russo of ASR Media Productions, both based in the Lehigh Valley, sat down to offer their top 5 tips on the importance of business video.

1 Know Your Audience

Ashley: The way people view media and video has changed dramatically in the last decade. In the age of Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, attention spans are shorter than ever before and people often choose what to watch based on accessibility and duration.

Marta: You don’t have to wait to be picked by the traditional media for an interview. Instead, you can create and “publish” content on your website and share it on social media. Your videos and other media content can position you as the obvious expert and build an audience.

2 Find Your Voice

Marta: As a business owner, you already understand how important it is to develop your brand identity. It is the strength of your brand that compels people to work with you and buy from you. It goes well beyond your logo and your business card. Online video is an excellent way to build the strength of your brand. When you use video, they learn about your personality, about what you do, what types of services or products you offer and get some insight into your brand’s goals.

3 Create Your Story

Ashley: The absolute best thing that will come from creating a video is the creation of your story! Rarely do we take the time to share our journey, express our views, and really convey our message. Often, we are mired in the details of our business, as we have to be to succeed, but this level of detail is rarely needed in your video. A video company that has the ability to communicate your vision will be able to help you craft your story in the most effective manner. Less is more and short is sweet!

4 Show Off Your Assets

Marta: In the world of business, B2B, B2C, you have to build relationships to build your business. You really have to get to know the person. You have to like what they’re doing and trust that you’re going to be in good hands. Video can quickly help a viewer get to know you better. It can show that you’re an expert at what you do as well as show that you are a helpful, caring professional.

5 To Hire (or not to hire) a Pro

Ashley: I can make my family a nice dinner on a Wednesday night, but when I want a really spectacular meal on a Saturday night, I go out to eat! Technology has allowed us to all be active in the video arena and there is definitely a time and a place for self made videos but taking the time to work with a professional on your main videos will prove to be well worth it. For the reasons mentioned above, a professional production company brings more than shooting and editing to the table. In the end, you will not only have an amazing video, better website and improved SEO, you will know your brand better, hear your voice more clearly, share your story more effectively, and let everyone know why you are someone to be trusted… and you may even have some fun doing it… And isn’t that what it’s really all about?!

Marta: Most business people need help creating good videos. They are experts in the work they do, but video is more than likely not part of their skill set. Just reading about video production techniques online or monkeying around with iMovie won’t give you the polished content and visual presentation that showcases their business in the best light. You really have to spend some time and a little bit of money to get started in a professional way. You do not need lots of whistles and bells and green screens and dancing dogs or anything like that. You simply need to put a professional polish on it.

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