It’s good to be one in 10,000

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I’ve owned my company for 25 years, and it’s been a lot more years than that since I graduated from anything other than the school of hard knocks. That changed last week when I walked onto the stage with 30 other small business owners as a graduate of the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program, aka 10KSB.

Getting into 10KSB was neither quick nor easy, and honestly, there were days it seemed impossible to both run a company and finish a program with 10-hour classes, homework between, and advisors holding my feet to the fire. The program is not for the weak-willed, but then, neither is owning a business.

The Goldman Sachs team uses a smart blend of talking and doing to move through a Babson College curriculum that covers finance, human resources, negotiation, operations and more, with lecturers from places like the Wharton School and hands-on activities that put learning to immediate work. Who knew quilt making could clarify management styles, or that buying corella pears holds the secret to negotiating? We re-examined how we lead, how we think, grow and plan, and in five lightspeed months, 30 entrepreneurs that had seemed to have little in common had become a team of warriors who will be in the trenches together for a long time to come. large-10ksb-logo

I can’t say enough good things about this remarkable gift I received, funded by Goldman Sachs to the tune of $500 million and delivered free (yes, free!) to qualifying entrepreneurs. Their aim is to prompt job creation and economic growth by providing access to education, capital, and business support services.

It’s the right blend of toughness and support, book learning and street smarts, programmed and organic. Most of us walked in tired and wrung out, uncertain of where to go next or, even if we did, how to get there. Our exit, on the other hand, was sea change. I walked out on a measurable path forward, with a growth plan in hand and a thrill I haven’t felt in years.

It’s a Friday – the weekday we used to have class. Someone right now is sitting in the seat I used to occupy at LaGuardia Community College, beginning the experience of a lifetime. Work on the business not in the business will start to have real meaning for them soon and maybe, they, too, will spend their first no-class Friday looking back and ahead all at once.

This thing isn’t about making one-hit wonders or overnight success. But if you’re looking for sustainable growth that adds jobs and leaves a footprint, this one click could help you make it happen.

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Why Intern after Graduate School?

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In March, I walked through the doors of Arch Street Communications not knowing what to expect. After spending a year and a half in Boston and London earning my master’s degree, it felt strange to be taking on another internship. As I walked into the building for my first day, I was concerned this would be another coffee runner internship, filled with long days of filing and grunt work.

It took only a moment for those concerns to be erased. Within the second I put my bag down, I was pulled into a meeting and giving feedback on a website’s design. The rest of the day continued with the same momentum of meeting coworkers and participating in project strategy development. By the end of the day, I was excited for more.

So why would I take an internship after completing my education? Aren’t internships for college credit? At first yes, an internship is a great place for students to get their first taste of the workforce, however the marketplace is changing and the demand for seasoned employees even applies to those just entering the workforce. When I saw that ASC posting for an intern, I jumped at the chance to expand my skill set in a new learning environment.

The atmosphere of ASC is one of creativity, community, and common purpose. One of the perks of working in a small business is that everyone in the office is within earshot. Ideas and debate are free to flow through the air like petals on the wind, and every idea was worth exploring, regardless of its source.

This constructive atmosphere has been one of the most inclusive office experiences that I have ever worked in. In the following months, I found myself being involved with more clients and creative elements such as blogging and strategy development. The true gem came a month into my internship when I began work on my own projects involving celebrating the 25th anniversary of ASC and strategizing the next step in ASC’s growth.

Reflecting on the past several months, the amount I have learned during my time with ASC would rival many of my graduate classes. The experiences I have from working alongside a fantastic team of intelligent and diverse individuals are ones that I will take with me throughout the rest of my professional life.

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Getting Outdoors through Snapchat

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In July 2016, Pokémon Go took the world by storm, sending hundreds of thousands of users –smart phones in-hand–outside to search for and capture a virtual critter.  The Pokémon Go phenomenon was one of the most popular examples of a growing pattern; organizations are taking advantage of advertising with apps like these to motivate users and engage with them as they head outdoors. Today brands are looking for creative methods to engage with and even play an active role in the activities of these mobile audiences.

Snapchat, which currently has over 300 million active accounts, is quickly becoming a favorite tool for marketers. The Snapchat Geofilter feature, which gives users the option to add an element of flair to their snaps through filters that are unique to their location is a low-cost, easy-to-implement tactic that increases brand engagement.

Geofilter usage has grown over the past year. Many organizations in both the public and private sectors use Geofilters to raise awareness and promote their projects. One example is Commuter Connections, the host of Bike to Work Day in the metropolitan DC region. The DC Bike to Work Day is one of the largest in the country, attracting over 17,000 riders last year. Using Geofilters, Commuter Connections will give event participants the tools to share their participation with their friends quickly, using a unique graphic that will be available at select Bike to Work Day pit stops. As bicyclists snap, they let people see that they support healthy, low-cost and green commutes.

By pairing outdoor activities with advances in technology, these new tactics in engagement brands closer to their audience and influence their behavior through creative and direct messaging. As technology continues to advance, we can expect new and innovative ideas to bridge the gap between marketing and consumers.

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NY State is Powering the Future

Photo by Flickr user Melissa Martin.

Each spring communities around NY State celebrate Earth Day as a way to come together to protect the planet and encourage innovative ideas to power the future. Activities range from recycling drives and nature walks, to marches and a variety of cleanup events. In addition to these fun environmentally friendly activities, the Empire State continues to lead the way in environmental stewardship.

New York’s Clean Energy Workhorse: Hydro-power

New York is leading the nation in the field of renewable energy. New solar power is being installed across the state, and New York leading the way to be on 50% renewable power by 2030. While wind farms and solar are continuing to gain traction hydro-power currently meets 17% of New York’s power needs, and has been a proven source of power for the state since the Niagara Falls plant opened in 1882.

Currently, New York is working to upgrade improve the efficiency and infrastructure of its hydro-power systems as a source of low-cost clean energy. By improving the efficiency of its power generation turbines at existing plants, such as the Higley hydroelectric station in St. Lawrence county and by retrofitting non-power producing plants with turbines, New York could stand to gain at least 295 MW of clean, domestically produced power.

With minimal impact on the environment, and zero CO2 emissions, hydro-power is the workhorse of New York’s renewable power production.

New York is leading the way in our nation’s energy future. It is taking big steps to make sure that renewables go from being fringe-energy producers to mainstream necessities. Investments such as these bring jobs to local communities, clean power to residents, and encourage governments to invest in their infrastructure and make life better for everyone on Earth Day and every day thereafter.

Photo by Melissa Martin

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Honoring Our Champion

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Congratulations to ASC’s CEO and Founder, and newly recognized Diversity Champion Nora Madonick and her fellow honorees, who were saluted at Tuesday night’s Celebrating Diversity event hosted by the Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journals.

Nora founded ASC on the principle that diversity drives better outcomes, and we are excited that she has been recognized for those principles and her leadership. Making every voice count is a core part of ASC’s outreach mission.

Thank you to everyone who joined in our #Vote4Nora campaign.

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Controlling Chaos: Our guide to a successful Q&A

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In a recent article published in the Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journals, our CEO, Nora Madonick, described an easy to implement three-step process that will not only make your Q&A session easier to manage, but also ensure that everyone in your audience feels included in the conversation.

The process is important and it all centers around an action plan. Having a plan for the Q&A portion of your meeting before you walk in the door can turn a confusing flurry of questions into a constructive information session that allows the audience to receive immediate, well thought out responses to their queries. This process is easy to setup; all you need are:

-A white board, chalk board, or paper flip chart

-A facilitator

-Your speaker

-Your audience

To read about how these four components work together for a smoother, more engaged Q&A session, check out Nora’s full article at http://westfaironline.com/87243/chaos-control-in-public-meetings-three-steps-for-the-qa/.

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SpongeBob to ASC—My Internship in 5 Points

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There’s a SpongeBob SquarePants episode in which SpongeBob breaks into a sweat trying to choose 10 words to describe “What I learned in boating school.” If you haven’t seen it, here’s the gist:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8AiuTO7sXY\

Suffice it to say, SpongeBob and I are perfectionists when it comes to writing about ourselves and our experiences – every thought must be complete, every “T” must be crossed, and every memory must be detailed.

So now it’s my turn, and while it’s not easy to edit down my every memory on the countless lessons I’ve learned during my internship at ASC—here’s a summary in 5 points:

 

1)      Event management & event planning are different

In school, I believed event planning and management were interchangeable because I was active in both roles. But ASC has taught me that, although it is important to coordinate all event logistics before the event, the responsibility does not end when the show is on the road. Managing an event means having a contingency plan, being aware of the event activities, and having a flexible staff—all things  things that lead to a successful event.

 

2)      There is no such thing as a small task, even if it may seem that way on the surface

Internships have a stigma attached where it is assumed that interns do the grunt work and are typically not trusted with large tasks. However, I never felt like an intern at ASC – I simply felt like part of the team. And because of this, no task was too small and every task was important.

 

3)      There is no such thing as a bad idea

I have a great fear of saying the wrong thing, so I tend to say nothing at all. ASC provided a safe environment to voice my thoughts and opinions without fear. At ASC, I found that the team encourages and values every idea put on the table because every idea leads to a bigger picture. I think the important lesson here is that an idea is just a seed and a seed can grow into many different things – but only if it’s planted.

 

4)      There are benefits to working for a small business

Working in a small business allows for one-on-one attention. Building relationships with clients and coworkers is easy, asking questions when you need clarification is easier, and it allowed me the opportunity to be involved in several projects. This gave me a more rounded look at the different parts of public relations and marketing.

 

5)      Teamwork really does matter

Before working at ASC, I understood the importance of teamwork to an extent. But seeing how everyone worked together and easily extended help to others when they could, really showed me the strength of being a team. In the real world, you are teaming up with clients, contractors, and a list of other people to complete a project or launch a successful event. What I learned at ASC is that everyone has a voice and every voice matters.

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Making Every Voice Count

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Arch Street Communications (ASC) is pleased to announce ASC CEO and Founder Nora Madonick’s nomination as an Outstanding Entrepreneur for Westfair’s Celebrating Diversity Awards.

Nora is a powerful resource for diversity in the communications field as well as for her clients and the community. Support Nora and ASC by casting your vote for her in the Outstanding Entrepreneur category! You can vote as many times as you wish—vote early and often! Polls close on 2/7.
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Nearly 25 years ago, Nora set herself to the tasks of building her business by developing communication and public outreach campaigns to support meaningful projects that change, save, and improve lives—for people from all walks of life.

Because Diversity Requires Action
Under her leadership, ASC’s strategic communications and public outreach work continues to provide a powerful voice for under-served and under-represented populations in transportation and energy projects in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, metropolitan Washington, DC, and across the country.

Because Nora is an Outstanding Entrepreneur
Nora built ASC from the ground up, starting with $10,000 of her own money and a single contract with the Westchester County Department of Transportation to a business that saw more than $1 million in revenue last year.

Because Every Vote Counts
Do your part to shine a light on diversity by supporting the great work of ASC’s fearless leader with a #Vote4Nora as Outstanding Entrepreneur.

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ASC and its Neighbors Give Back

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The holiday season is a time for ugly sweaters, bad caroling and celebrating with friends and family. It’s also a time for businesses to practice good corporate citizenship. ASC seeks opportunities to volunteer and give back to the communities we live and work in throughout the year. This holiday season we are also taking time to lead a building-wide food drive in partnership with the Food Bank for Westchester.

To strengthen our community relationships, we are coordinating the event with the people we see every day–our neighbors in the ArtsWestchester building. Flyers are posted, emails have been distributed and strategically placed donation boxes are filling up. You can contribute to this great charity too by leading your own food drive or by making a cash donation. For every $1 donated, the Food Bank for Westchester can deliver $4 in food to those in need.

Located in Elmsford, the Food Bank for Westchester distributes more than 7.6 million pounds of food annually, providing 6.3 million meals to hungry people in Westchester County. The Food Bank for Westchester is at the forefront of the fight to end food insecurity and is always looking for people and organizations to contribute their time, money or collected goods to end hunger in our area.

Happy holidays from everyone at ASC!

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Simple Yet Brilliant Facilitation Technique You Should Be Using

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If you’ve ever wished for a way to handle rapid fire questions during a public meeting Q&A, this one’s for you. At a recent storm preparedness workshop in Manhattan, partnering a facilitator with a speaker during the all-important Q&A session made sure even the most agitated questioner felt included, the process was smooth, and the speaker had ample time to prepare answers.

Here’s how it worked: Once the speaker finished, the facilitator opened a 20-minute Q&A by collecting three questions from the audience and writing them on a flip chart. He then restated the questions for the speaker to answer one at a time. After the first three had been answered, the facilitator collected three more, and on until 20 minutes had ended.

Here’s why this approach worked so well:

The facilitator managed audience expectations about the length and process of the Q&A

No individual could dominate the Q&A

The speaker had plenty of time to frame each response

Questioners—and the audience—saw and heard the questions

The Q&A was controlled from start to finish

We’ve all seen meetings where the Q&A devolved into something less than productive—a good facilitator anticipates the unexpected with a toolbox of options that can turn the most contentious meeting into a positive experience. What are some successful facilitation techniques you’ve seen or used?

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