Category: Association Executives

Small Business in America: It’s Gut-Check Time

 

Being a small business resilience speaker and having my own business, I relate on a personal level to one of the tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic: how it impacted small business across America.

By May 12, 2020, the Washington Post reported that at least 100,000 small businesses had shut their doors.

A small business doesn’t necessarily mean a “Mom and Pop Stationery Store.” The U.S. Small Business Administration defines a small business as having as many as 1,500 employees and $35 million in sales.

When a small business goes out of business, it is a tragedy. A business isn’t a “thing,” it’s people trying to build something for themselves and their families.

It is Time for Small Business to Go Big

In July 2020, the United States Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey entitled “Small Business Corona Virus Impact Poll.” The poll reported that of the small businesses that survived the first wave, “Two-thirds of small businesses (65%) are concerned about having to close again or stay closed if there is a second wave…”

The survey reminds us that after the initial lockdown occurred, 85 percent of small businesses were forced to temporarily close. They don’t know if they can survive a second onslaught.

However, there is optimism in this bleakness. Businesses are taking action to anticipate the second wave: 32 percent are purchasing extra inventory, 29 percent are updating websites and improving social media profiles, and 25 percent are refining and boosting e-commerce.

While I’m pleased that small businesses are taking steps to look ahead, there is much more that can be done. In an Associated Press release, entitled “Ways Small Businesses Can Fight Back Amidst COVID-19 and the Retail Apocalypse,” Nebraska farmer Steve Buchanan had some interesting insights including the implied need for local businesses to have the determination to reach out to local communities and to make an impact.

There is great wisdom in reaching out locally. In fact, Mr. Buchanan now sells his produce almost exclusively online.

When I speak to small business associations, I encourage each organization to develop a mindset that envisions success. Does your small business have a vision that looks beyond the current challenges to overcome the challenges?

While buying extra inventory, updating websites and boosting e-commerce are necessary, they are passive.

An important part of having the mindset to overcome challenges is to be creative, to be willing to be an active participant in finding new ways to get customers “in the door,” and to share that vision with every member of your organization. This is called resilience.

Whether you have a dog grooming business with three employees or 300 grooming businesses with 500 employees, there must be a shared vision. To be truly resilient means that everyone in the organization must be determined to pull together to encourage opinions and to believe in your mission.

My heart aches for those small businesses barely holding their own, but I would feel even worse if the only thing standing between success and failure of a small business in the coming months was a lack of resilience to meet the challenges.

Let’s all be determined to have the daily grit to make the vision work and the resilience to do what we need to do to get through this time together.

 

Scott Burrows, Small Business Resilience Speaker, is available for virtual or in-person sales meetings for associations and organizations. Contact Scott today through this website or by calling: (520) 548-1169

 

Are Meeting Planners Determined to Overcome a “Rosy” Outlook?

 

As a motivational speaker on overcoming challenges, it may be counter-intuitive for me to ask clients in the meeting planning industry if they are determined to ‘overcome’ the rosy market outlook for 2020.

Yes, but…

Most industry surveys for 2020 seem to be optimistic enough. The consensus is that attendance at industry meetings will modestly increase on a global level anywhere from 1- percent to 3-percent; that meetings should be longer and that hoteliers are projecting a resurgence in building. However, we all understand that wearing rose-colored glasses is not always a good business strategy.

Despite its general optimism, the “2020 Amex Global Meetings and Events Forecasts” does project a decrease in internal meetings; that the political outlook can’t be ignored; that meeting budget increases will match escalating costs. Of the many concerns in the forecast is that “meeting planners will continue to be required to do more with less.”

Business Travel News in their September 2019 piece “Meeting Professionals Anticipate Growth for 2020” looked beyond the good news.

The good news is that “planners expect to see room availability increase by 0.8 to 1.4 percent and available meeting space to increase by 0.8 to 1.9 percent.”

However, we all know that while planners highly favor “top-tier” meeting locations, space has not kept up with demand. The article re-quoted a highly placed meeting planner who said, “they’ve been moving to second-tier cities, which are more affordable but also may add to travel time for meeting attendees.” Traveling as much as I do, I am also aware that while meeting space in second-tier cities may be more affordable, transportation and frequency of flights may not follow suit.

Echoing the point above, business writer Chris Ryall in an article for Skift Asia Weekly entitled “Meeting Planners Anticipate Rough Year in 2020,” stated:

“Planners will be pressed to find good deals for their clients at a time when venue availability is limited. Looking ahead, all of these issues will become even more pronounced in an election year amid an uncertain global economy.”

It is a Matter of Vision

It is one thing to paint a glowing picture of what the meeting industry should look like, and another to turn the picture into reality. Every meeting planner understands this.

After the terrible accident that suddenly changed me from an athlete and martial artist to a quadriplegic, there were wonderful family members and many close friends who stopped by my room to wish me well.

Without exception, they offered rosy guesses when I’d be on my feet, or how everything would return to normal, or how good I looked. That was their vision for me, but it was a much more difficult road for me to visualize myself moving my arms, writing a note or moving my legs. I realized I would need to develop the determination and the daily grit to push myself as hard as I could to be successful.

In 2020, expect big challenges for the meeting industry, but with vision, determination and grit you will achieve success. While the outlook may seem terrific, get rid of the rosy glasses. It is up to you to make it happen.

 

To speak with Scott Burrows, Inspirational Speaker about Overcoming Challenges for your next meeting, connect with his office today by calling: (520) 548-1169 or through this website.

Motivational Speakers Impact Meeting Attendance for Associations

 

As a keynote speaker to national associations on the topic of motivation and overcoming adversity, I know the importance of my mission. This coming year, national association speakers will speak to nearly 207 million attendees at 1.8 million events. These events range from major keynote addresses and breakout sessions to regional workshops and seminars. Often, attendees at general national association meetings will also attend other association functions. Impressions gained from national association meetings and shows often filter down, and define the organization when attendees are thinking about going to smaller meetings.

The average low-ball estimate of the cost for attending a national association meeting is about $1,500 per employee for a three-day meeting.  This is not a decision lightly made.

If you are a meeting planner you already know that bringing in an inspirational and overcoming adversity speaker is a great way to kick off a conference. In fact, it can set the tone for the entire event.

In an article about successful meetings, Forbes magazine (February 10, 2019) explained the motivating effect of a dynamic keynote.

“What is the purpose of the guest speaker? Do you want someone to kick-off the event by electrifying the attendees? Generally, the answer will be, ‘yes.’ Your attendees will come in with high energy and high expectations — you’ll want to match this intensity with your speakers’ abilities.”

Announcing that an inexperienced non-dynamic speaker will speak at the national event almost guarantees the reverse outcome of what you expect.

In an earlier article in Forbes (October 16, 2013), communications expert Dr. Nick Morgan related, “A keynote speaker is a temporary tribal leader who can move an audience to action…people only take action because of other people, and a keynote speaker has a unique opportunity to do exactly that.”

Suppose there is no one to move that audience from the very beginning? Not enough attention is been given to what happens when a national trade association declines to hire the right motivational speaker or hires someone who does not engage the audience to help them deal with the issues they face.

Why Take the Risk?

There are at least seven general outcomes when a national association decides against hiring a keynote speaker or does not bring in a speaker who is dynamic enough to move the audience to understand key issues. These outcomes include: lower attendance; a failure to address an important industry concern; a lack of unifying message; a lack of actionable objectives; a lack of media coverage through online, print and electronic media and lower expected attendance at the association meeting the following year.

Helping to avoid disastrous outcomes are what a professional national association speaker brings to the podium. A strong keynote speaker takes the time to learn about your industry in depth; is invested in moving your audience to action; cares about your association’s success; and is accessible will assure a more successful meeting.

At a time when associations and their membership are more far-flung and remote than ever before, the national meeting may be the one opportunity to bring everyone together.

The question may not be “Can we afford to bring an inspirational keynote speaker to our association meeting?” rather, can we afford not to?

 

Contact Scott Burrows, National Association Inspirational & Overcoming Adversity Speaker today through this website or call us at: (520) 548-1169

 

Do You Know Your Members and Do They Know You?

 

As I frequently deliver overcoming adversity keynote and breakout session speeches to association executions, I was quite bothered by a recent poll taken by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

ASAE reported organizations were concerned that member expectations were changing and the organizations themselves lacked data about their members and even a capacity to analyze that data.

Can You Imagine?

We don’t often think of associations as “having customers,” but they clearly do. The customers of associations are their members. Numerous surveys — and I have witnessed this first-hand — warn of members going rogue; of members spinning off and either forming their own organizations or in some way, undermining the original organization. Unfortunately, all that this usually accomplishes is to dilute industry efforts, weaken messages, and confuse potential members about the true mission of the organization.

Peggy Smith, writing for Community Brands, April 2019, talked of several major association challenges. Her organization conducted its own survey and found “…the strategic focus has been on member acquisition and increasing revenue. Fewer have been or think they will be successful at increasing retention, although this is a goal…”

What this tells us is the association industry is doing a pretty good job of attracting new members and increasing the revenue from those members, but the industry doubts it will have much luck in keeping those members. It is widely known that attracting new members is not cheap. In fact, the industry standard shows that it can be up to five times more expensive to attract a new member than to retain a current member.

Here is where my idea of “association determination” comes into play. Combining similar findings of these and other surveys, it seems that many organizations are giving up meeting the expectations of existing members, they are unwilling to overcome adversity; to learn about their needs, in order to keep attracting new members. As it is more expensive to attract new members, many organizations go into a cycle of doing the same thing over and over and essentially marching in place.

Organizations that are determined to retain their members, to learn about them, to really listen to what they are saying are the winners in this scenario. One of the most effective ways to retain members is to continuously engage them. Certainly, we have the means to do so, either by personal calls thanking them for being members, or listening to their concerns and needs, or creating vibrant communities within the association community.

We can be determined to use a blend of modern technology as well as traditional methods to keep members engaged, using tools from mobile apps and websites, to online forums and online surveys, to personal thank you letters and one-on-one discussions.

When Associations Fail

Forbes magazine, in a 2018 article on why associations fail, stress at least three important things associations must do to remain vibrant:  build a strong consensus among the existing membership; make sure the membership supports what they have helped to build; and most important – listen more than you talk.

Are we willing to overcome the temptation to simply take in more and more “followers” rather than to engage, include and reach out to the committed members we already have? Let’s not forget that our “customers” are our greatest strength. Be determined to learn who they are, retain them, value them and listen to their needs. In turn they will be your greatest ambassadors.

 

To book Scott Burrows, Inspirational Overcoming Adversity Speaker for Association Executives, contact him through this website or call us at: (520) 548-1169