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It starts with you — the business owner

Having returned from my annual Colorado Chamber of Commerce Executives’ Conference, I was struck more than ever by the need for businesses to impart excellent service and invest in self development.

Pagosa Springs businesses need to gear up for what we believe will be a very busy summer, and for the Colorado Entrepreneurship Marketplace to be held Oct. 7 and 8. While we always need to put our best foot forward, at this time of year, when the season is slow, we have time to reassess our businesses and make plans to improve in the near future.

At the conference, we were lucky enough to have Ann Alba, resident manager of the Broadmoor Hotel, as one of the guest speakers. This petite woman, who never graduated from college, grew from a food and beverage server to hold one of the most prestigious positions in the hospitality world. The Broadmoor Hotel’s general manager, Steve Bartolin, was also just voted as the independent hotelier of the world, no small feat. But what has that got to do with me, you ask? Everything! Is your business a 5-star business? Do you expect the best from yourself and the staff? Do you accept mediocrity? Do you set standards for your business?

I was on the phone the other day, and someone thanked me for being so nice. I was shocked! Here I was, doing my job, and the people were so grateful for someone being nice. What have we come to when “niceness” is the exception and not the rule?

Here are some questions to ask yourself as a business owner:

1. Do you or your staff greet everyone who comes into your establishment and ask what you can do for them?

2. Do you train yourself and your employees to know the community, or is it easier to say “I don’t know,” or “I don’t go there”? Can you say, “I’ll find out for you”?

3. Do you acknowledge people when you are busy and indicate that you will be with them in a minute, then apologize for the wait when it is their turn, or let them know you appreciate their patience?

4. Is your business spotless inside and out, or is it easier to walk by a gum wrapper or ignore the dust?

5. Do you and your staff act responsibly, or are you more interested in your cell phone or what happened the night before when you were out?

6. Do you exhibit a professional appearance, or is the clothing worn by you and your staff mediocre? Are the T-shirts faded and bearing the latest rock concert event, has inner wear become more outer wear, or do you set dress standards?

All these situations begin with you — the owner. You set the standards. If you don’t like flip-flops worn at work, let the staff know this when you hire them. Do you have a set of standards for your business? While we experience a slow time this season, perhaps you can create some standards. Are you afraid that if you set standards, you might lose an employee because they can’t live up to your expectations? When was the last time you took advantage of a business class to expand your own education? Do you take the time to train your new hires and retrain existing staff, or do you show them around the store, teach them to use the cash register, and off they go? Do you invest in yourself and your employees? If you haven’t been to a hospitality training class, you probably need one.

It is easy for us to complain about bad service at other businesses, but when was the last time you did an honest self assessment? If you haven’t, you need one. Excellent businesses are those that continuously perform self-assessments, changing and improving standards, investing in education, and discovering new or better ways to do business.

The Chamber offers inexpensive or free business improvement sessions throughout the year — not just hospitality classes, but seminars to help you find ways to improve financially and identify better marketing strategies. When was the last time you came to one? Are you taking advantage of your Chamber membership? Are you allowing us help you, or do you feel that you just don’t need the help? We are available to assist with standards development, training and service implementation. We will not host a special hospitality class this year, but will be working on a community-wide hospitality program we hope will assist every business.

Hospitality and business improvement start with you. We cannot make you be nice or have smart looking employees — only you can do that. But we have the tools and the desire to help you. Take some time to look at your business. Get ready for summer and the Marketplace and invest in yourself. Take a class, give us a call and we can help with training. Get yourself to the upcoming Business to Business Expo. Take a look at yourself and your business and answer some of the hard questions — it starts with you and we want to be there to help.

Business to Business Expo

The first Business to Business Expo will be held Friday, May 13. As a business owner, are you marketing not only to the public but to other businesses? Do you have goods and services you offer to businesses on a discounted basis? Advertise this opportunity to even more businesses at this Business to Business Expo. For only $25 for a booth, you can let other businesses know what services you have available. If you are looking for services such as insurance, graphic or website design, credit card processing, wholesale product sales, office equipment and rental, business advice and more, you should come and discover the products and services that Pagosa has to offer.

There will be time during the event for each business owner or manager to talk about their business and what they have to offer. Admission is free. There will be door prizes, a heavy hors d’oeuvres reception with a cash bar, and a celebration for those businesses that applied for the Town Tax Rebate Credit Program. The event is open to the public, but we encourage business owners to stop by for a quick Friday evening after-hours event. This expo will be fast paced, fun and very informative. It will basically be a community SunDowner. To register for the show, contact the Chamber or check your last newsletter for a registration form. It is more important now than ever to keep your dollars in our community and to expand the reach of your business.

Membership news

We would like to remind everyone of the ribbon cutting at the Old Town Market today, at 11 a.m. Come out and support one of Pagosa’s new businesses and their fantastic products and services.

We want to welcome our newest Chamber member — the Pagosa Mountain Morning Rotary Club. Pagosa has two Rotary clubs to meet the busy business needs of their members. This club meets Wednesday mornings at 7 a.m. at the Buffalo Inn. They are an international club and local service organization and give back to our community with youth and teacher scholarships and other community commitments. If you are interested in joining the morning club, stop by one of their meetings or call Sam Conti at 731-9019. We thank both clubs for all the service that they provide to our community.

Our renewals this week include Wyndham Vacation Resorts; the Alpine Inn of Pagosa Springs; El Rancho Pinoso; Mud Shaver Car Wash; All About You Day Spa; and the Pagosa Ranger District. We welcome back our Friends of the Chamber Mark and Claudine McAnelly.

The Chamber will release its new website in the next couple of weeks. It is imperative that business owners or staff attend one of the many training sessions that we will host. Our improved website capabilities have been developed to assist you — our businesses. Stay tuned for training times and dates.

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