Arlington Chamber of Commerce Blog

 

Chamber Intern Meets VA Governor

by Admin 18. May 2016 09:24

by Iyuram Ghebrekristos - Arlington Chamber of Commerce

On May 12, 2016 Governor McAuliffe of Virginia visited one of Arlington's public high schools, Wakefield High School, where he signed three education bills into law. It was impressive watching the Governor arrive in his helicopter and land next to Wakefield. I even had the opportunity to shake the Governor's hand. After being introduced by Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, Governor McAuliffe explained that the traditional method of education hasn't changed much since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. The purpose of the three bills was to redesign Virginia's public school system by changing the typical classroom environment currently in existence. The idea behind these bills is the realization that not all students want, need, or should go to college. By 2018, construction of career and technical education centers will be completed where high school students will have the opportunity to receive a technical certificate in high demand occupations such as cyber security or other STEM fields, or if they choose a college track will have the opportunity to take courses to prepare them for post-secondary education. Students will be exposed to all post-graduation opportunities whether they decide to enter the workforce after high school or attend a post-secondary institution. These opportunities such as career and technical education and dual enrollment courses are designed to prepare students to tackle whichever track they pursue after high school. Having a strong education system and a talented workforce makes the Commonwealth a more desireable place to do business and to live. Meeting the Governor was an opportunity of a lifetime, and a great supplement to the government class I'm currently taking.

 

Phote courtesy of Wakefield High School Principal, Dr. Christian Willmore

Currently rated 5.0 by 1 people

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags:

The Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

by Admin 13. May 2016 09:23

by Alex Held - Arlington Chamber of Commerce

Seven months ago, the students participating in the Arlington Chamber's Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) began as just that, students. Throughout the course of seven months these students transformed into CEOs of their own companies, creating nine different unique businesses representing a variety of industries such as lawn care, retail, and technology.


Many of the students began YEA!, a unique program that takes middle and high school students on an entrepreneurial journey, without any business idea at all; however, with the help of their enthusiastic instructors, Charlie Sibbald of Marymount Unversity and Barbara Nicastro, founder of her own law practice, the students soon realized they could turn their hobby into a business, or come up with unique solutions to problems in their everyday lives. One student who was a shining example of turning a hobby into a business was Rose McGough who before moving to the United States enjoyed making beaded jewelry and custom made t-shirts for her friends and family. With the help of her business savvy Co-Founder & Classmate Dylan Cunningham, along with their resourceful business mentor, Rebecca Dunn of Neoniche StrategiesAvvo Apparel was formed which designs and sells custom made t-shirts and jewelry.

Other students such as Michael Freeman took a different approach to brainstorming a business idea thus solving a problem. To Michael, the current high school yearbook lacked the customization and affordability that many high school students in the 21st Century demanded. With every problem comes a solution and thus Pivloo was born which is a customizable digital yearbook app designed for high school and college students. Not only was Michael able to prove to a panel of investors that his idea was good enough for them to invest $1,000, but the investors also selected Michael to represent the YEA! Arlington program at the YEA! Saunders Scholars Semi-finals in Rochester, NY where he competed among the top student businesses from YEA! chapters across the country. "While I wasn't selected to compete at America's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C. in June, participating in YEA! has allowed me the opportunity not only to improve my skills, but also provided me with the opportunity to make valuable connections with local business leaders all while learning from their experiences as entrepreneurs," said Michael when asked about his experience in the YEA! Program.

Now that the YEA! 2015-2016 program has come to a close, many of the studets have already leveraged their connections made throughout the seven month program. Some have even gone so far as to incorporate their business as an LLC. Whatever the next stage for these students is, we know that they will go on to do many great things, and we look forward to see what's in store for them next. 

For more information about getting involved in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy please contact Membership Engagement Manager Alex Held at aheld@arlingtonchamber.org or (703) 525-2400. 

Currently rated 5.0 by 1 people

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags: , , , ,

RANSOMWARE

by Admin 4. May 2016 11:02

 By Larry Trotter II - SOTERIA

The truth is Ransomware can be the demise of any business. If the proper security measures aren't put in place to reduce the risk of a compromise, businesses can end up paying in terms of money, customer rentention, data loss, and reputation. Ransomware malware has not gained momentum in recent news because it is new, but because of its reputation when it comes to businesses. Its ease of distribution and success rates in terms of extortion and compromise makes it attractive to hackers.

Recent attacks are primarily seen in the healthcare industry because of their lack of security controls. Hospitals' abundance of Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) also makes it an attractive target. The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid 40 Bitcoins which is about $17,000 for the release of their files earlier this year. Medstar Washington Hospital, a more recent victim, experienced systemwide downtime for one week because the malware encrypted the hospital's EPHI systems.

Small businesses are cut no slack either. Houston based firm Advantage Benefits Solutions faced the terror of Ransomware and paid a fee to return its systems to normal functionality. Small businesses are low hanging fruit for attackers and they know that these businesses don't spend the money to properly secure its infrastructure making them an easy target. Law enforcement agencies are overworked with these incidents, so paying the ransom is not frowned upon. In June of 2015 the FBI estimated CryptoWall, a Ransomware variant, cost US organizations $18 million over the previous year. Researchers have seen an uptick in the malware as 4 million samples were discovered in the third quarter of 2013. 

Ransomware is a family of malware also called malicious code that is used to encrypt the data on your computer and/or mobile device. The data is held hostage for a ransom fee usually paid in Bitcoin. Once the money is received from the victim, the hacker provides a key to unencrypt the data on the device. Extortion is another technique used by Ransomware where hackers demand money in exchange for not releasing sensitive documents that they have obtained from the computers taken hostage. The malware continuously evolves into improved versions including updates to evade detection mechanisms and can also be distributed with other exploits. Security companies are only recently developing 'ideal' solutions to truly detect and prevent full hard drive encryption by the malware.

To reduce the risk of your computers becoming infected with the malware you must take a layered approach. The malware is often distributed by phishing email campaigns, removable media such as USB devices and visiting malicious websites. End-user training is by far the most effective measure of defense. Routine simulations to test your employee's ability to identify suspicious emails and or rogue media are critical to prevention. Reporting suspicious activity to the appropriate IT personnel is important as well. From a network security standpoint, implementing Anti-Virus, DLP and other detection platforms all help reduce the risk of compromise. 

Be the first to rate this post

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags:

Arlington Community | Business Owners | Legal

Yes! One potential source of new customers is the country’s fast-growing Hispanic population.

by Admin 28. April 2016 04:41

By Laura Ramirez Drain –Random Words Marketing Group

Do you know that the three fast-growing Virginia counties nestled near the nation's capital — Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William — are at the leading edge of a diversity explosion sweeping the USA. 

What are you doing to reach such diversity and specially the Hispanic Community? Do you know that they could help to grow your business?

Yes! One potential source of new customers is the country’s fast-growing Hispanic population. The Census Bureau found that people of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 16.9% of the U.S. population in 2012, up from 12% in 2000. Something very interesting is that in Arlington County Hispanic or Latino origin made 15.7% of the population. They represent both the largest minority group and immigrant group.Look around you and you will find that you are missing a potential market. Here are some ideas to reach the Hispanic Community.

  • Develop marketing programs to reach young people, because the Hispanic population tends to be more youthful than the population as a whole. According to the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, published in June 2012, the median age for Hispanics is 27, compared to 37 for the general population.
  • Learn about the different Latino Cultures. It is important to identify your target customers and tailor your marketing campaigns to speak directly to them. Mexican culture is different that Salvadorian culture and Peruvian. In Arlington most of the Hispanics are from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and others). Source: U.S. Census Bureau
  • Schools are one of the places where you can learn about diversity. "If you want to see what the future of the U.S. will look like, come to any elementary school in Fairfax County," says Ted Velkoff, a member of the Fairfax County School Board.
  • Remember now with Social Media you are able to reach engage specific segments of any large population.

In conclusion I believe that any business owner could benefit by looking for opportunities to reach a more multicultural population, specifically the Hispanic Community. This is the future.

Laura Drain is the founder and CEO of Random Words Marketing. Her focus is to connect small business and help each other to improve sales. We are one stop marketing shop we provide everything you need to reach any multicultural community more information www.Randomwordsmarketing.com 

Be the first to rate this post

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags:

What Businesses and Employees Need to Know about the Transportation Benefit

by Admin 20. April 2016 11:34

By: Brendan Casey, Arlington Transportation Partners

The term “transportation benefit” is thrown around a lot in discussions of employee benefits and compensation but people often don’t fully understand what the transportation benefit is or how it can help them. Confusion about the transportation benefit is completely understandable too – who wants to slog through dense IRS documents to learn the ins and outs of the transportation benefit? The topic is further complicated by the various names that are used interchangeably: transportation benefit, transit benefit, commuter benefit, or my personal favorite, the Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit. Most people are more concerned about simply getting to work on time each day and haven’t really given much thought to the impact their commuting choice can have on their end-of-year tax situation or their take-home pay. Don’t get me wrong, there are many reasons to consider commuting via transit, vanpool, biking or walking that go beyond simply running the numbers (reduced stress, increased productivity, job satisfaction, environmental consciousness, etc.) but let’s stick to the dollars and cents for this look at the transportation benefit.

There are two types of transit benefits: subsidized and pre-tax. Regardless of which type you are looking to roll out at your company, the IRS limits the monthly transit benefit amount to $255 per employee.

A subsidized benefit is a huge boost for an employee’s overall compensation package. A company subsidizes the cost of an employee’s transit (or vanpool) commute by depositing money on that person’s SmarTrip card through their payroll company or the free regional SmartBenefits program. Let’s say an employee has a subsidized transit benefit and needs the full $255 every month for her commute (most people do not need this much however). That $255/month would equate to an additional $3,060 a year in overall compensation, BUT it would only cost the employer $1,724 to extend that benefit since they use pre-tax dollars to do so. That’s a lot of bang for your buck! Basically, the company doesn’t owe payroll taxes on that $3K+ employee benefit. This can be a key factor in attracting and retaining valuable employees.

The other version of the transit benefit is the pre-tax option. The pre-tax transit benefit allows employees to set aside a predetermined amount of their salaries each month, to be deposited on their SmarTrip cards for riding Metrorail, Metro/ART buses, MARC, VRE or vanpools throughout the region. While not as lucrative a benefit for employees, the pre-tax option still allows employees to save a lot on their annual taxes by allowing them to use pre-tax dollars for their commutes. An employee using the full $255/month pre-tax transit benefit will save $1,175 by the end of the year! Employers also save money through the pre-tax transit benefit – upwards of $400 per employee if that employee is using the full benefit amount. The pre-tax transit benefit is a win-win for everyone involved and should be considered part of a basic benefits and compensation package at any company in the Metro DC area. It is even more important to offer some form of transit benefit if your company is paying for employee parking in any way – not all employees want to or are able to commute with a car so why should they be penalized for commuting in a more sustainable way? Do the right thing and provide an equal benefit for transit if your company pays for parking.

If you are interested in learning more or if all this transit benefit jargon has given you a headache, email ATP (solutions@transpartners.com) and we’ll be more than happy to help you navigate the riveting world of qualified transportation fringe benefits. It may not be the most exciting topic, but it’s certainly an important one that can really benefit your colleagues and company.

Currently rated 5.0 by 1 people

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags:

How to Obtain a Good Business-to-Business (B2B) List

by Admin 14. April 2016 06:14

by Carolyn Carlson, Data - Clear

Many of the Chamber's members may wish to communicate via obtaining a Business-to-Business (B2B) list.

The key fundamental components to successful messaging are: get a fresh updated list; have a good strong message using key words; and personalize the mailing to the micro-targeted audience to build a connection and for the customer to respond.  It is possible to have a great list, but if the wording is not clear or the reader does not feel your connection or potential partnership, it can miss the mark which means wasted dollars. For email outbound marketing, this means reading, analyzing and tweaking the content by looking at reporting statistics - open rates, click through rates, and how many people are unsubscribing to your outbound mailing.

When getting a B2B list, the prospect will want to work with a reputable company that uses multi-sourcing to check for address standardization, National Change of Address (NCOA), and removes deceased records from their national database. I know working partners who verify the deliverability status of each business email. I also buy records to test, then go back for a second larger purchase order.  B2B data is compiled from seminars, trade shows attendees, local boards, licensing boards, subscribers, industry associations and other data compilation sources. Records are cross referenced against national business data bases to ensure that each record is accurate. Scrubbing and verification of email addresses is done prior to providing a delivered file. The files meet Direct Marketing Association privacy, security, CAN SPAM complaint and are updated quarterly.

B2B Records contain: company name, company address, website URL, SIC code, NAICS code, industry, number of employees and sales volume and revenue.  Additional records can contain: contact first and last name, job title, rank (director level), functional area of work, area of focus, phone, email, fax, and gender. 

Business industry codes can be queried from National American Industry Classification System (NAICS) - http://www.naics.com/search. Once a business has determined what NAICS codes they are interested in prospecting, a query can be run.  Another set of codes to consider is Standard Industry Classification Codes - http://siccode.com. Sometimes one query may net your firm more records than another so I run both queries for a business client.  If interested in casting your marketing net wide a client may wish to obtain NAICS and SIC records for their prospecting if the budget will allow.  

Be the first to rate this post

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags:

Winning Referrals in a Skeptical Marketplace

by Admin 7. April 2016 06:33

by Scott J Greenberg, CFP®, RICP, ChFC, Scott J. Greenberg Private Wealth Management

As a financial professional, I meet a lot of skeptical people.  Often they are coming to see me because they suspect something is afoul, don’t feel like they are getting the whole story, or it may be the first time they are ever really opening up their financial info to someone new.  So, I get it.  However, I have found success winning consistent referrals in this skeptical marketplace and I thought it would be helpful to share some reasons why.  People are afraid of what they don’t understand, so I focus most of my attention on education to maximize comfort, and truly caring about those I serve.

In our experience, people understand that various investments come with risk, but just want to understand what those risks are and how they may affect their account. I always start with a very straightforward conversation on the risks associated with the current plan and any recommendations proposed.  Investment risks can include market risk, inflation risk, reinvestment risk, interest rate risk, and others.  Putting these into context where it’s a balanced discussion, and in an easy-to-understand way, makes all the difference.  The main goal here is to use layman terms while providing the full story clearly and concisely and to steer clear of any jargon that can only add confusion.

Right after risks are costs.  In a previous blog, I described some of the costs associated with investing that some people are unaware of.  In my experience, most people are OK with paying for something as long as they can see the value in it.  While there are certainly some, typically less informed, individuals who approach long-term investing with a “cheapest is best” mentality, most sophisticated professionals prefer to not financially plan for their future the same way they would shop for socks or cereal (and most folks wouldn’t just want the cheapest versions of those either!).  So, I introduce the costs involved with any option, clearly demonstrate the value that cost is providing, and allow my clients to make their own informed decision.

Above costs or risks, is simply caring.  When our clients come to see us, they can feel something different right away.  We are fortunate enough to work with people whom we thoroughly enjoy, appreciate, and know that we can help.  This can be felt, and isn’t something that takes much practice.  In my opinion, the single reason why we receive consistent referrals in a skeptical marketplace is because we care, and it shows.  A phone call to check in, a friendly email, or a quicker-than-expected turnaround on a simple task lets people know we care.  Combine that with a straightforward conversation on risks and costs, and it’s a formula that has at least worked for me.  We hope others can use these very simple and intuitive ideas to improve their refer-ability in their own marketplaces.

This general information should not be construed as investment advice.  Scott Greenberg offers securities through AXA Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA, SIPC, offers investment advisory products and services through AXA Advisors, LLC, an investment advisor registered with the SEC, and offers annuity and insurance products through AXA Network, LLC. Scott J Greenberg Private Wealth Management is not a registered investment advisor and is not owned or operated by AXA Advisors or AXA Network.  Individuals may transact business and/or respond to inquiries only in state(s) in which they are properly qualified.  AGE- 109877(01/16)(exp.01/18)

Be the first to rate this post

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags:

Networking: It’s About Them, Not You

by Admin 30. March 2016 11:48

by Karen Bate, KB Concepts P.R., and Laura Drain, Random Words Marketing Group LLC 

Networking is key to being successful in business, and it’s a major reason people join the Arlington Chamber and other professional groups.

But knowing and doing are not the same thing. For many, walking into a roomful of strangers and striking up conversations is a real challenge.

For others, networking means pitching their services and passing out business cards -- not getting to know new people, discovering shared interests, or finding ways to help one another.

Are you finding the right connections, establishing relationships that help build your business, and making the right networking choices? Here are five simple tips to keep in mind as you head to your next networking event:

1. Smile. It seems obvious, but when people get nervous, they can stiffen up and forget this simple rule to making friends and being approachable. Take a couple of deep breaths and remind yourself to smile before entering the room.

2. Make the first move. Everyone dreads standing alone in a crowd, and the best way to avoid it is to simply walk up to a group or individual and say, “Hi, may I join you?” It’s a networking event – that’s why you’re all there.

3. Keep it simple and light. Ask easy questions, listen to the answers and follow up. Avoid the temptation to talk about yourself too much – the best networkers know that people like to talk about themselves, and appreciate the person who shows interest in them.

4. No sales. You’re trying to establish relationships, not make a pitch. If specifically asked, have a brief description of what you do ready. By all means convey passion for your work, but keep it short and light.

5. Bring enough business cards, ask for theirs and follow up within 48 hours. Networking is just the start of the conversation; if you make a good connection, take this important next step and go from there.

“Rather than networking to directly benefit yourself (1.0) or a total stranger (2.0), the idea here is to network solely for the benefit of your best existing clients and colleagues,” says Derek Coburn, featured speaker of the Chamber’s upcoming event, Networking 3.0 on Wednesday, May 4.

During this interactive workshop, you'll discover new strategies to increase your networking success. Attendees of the program will learn to:

· Become the ultimate connector and resource for your clients

· Identify and develop relationships with world-class professionals

· Enhance the value you deliver to your clients

· Position yourself for more quality introductions to ideal prospective clients

· And much more!

Derek will sign copies of his book Networking is Not Working after the program. You can also purchase a copy while registering for the Chamber seminar here.

Like so many worthwhile things in life, successful business networking requires stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s helpful to remember that everyone else is in the same boat; armed with a smile and some solid tips for success, you might even enjoy yourself!  

Be the first to rate this post

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags:

The Critical Role of the Primary Care Physician:What Your Employees Need to Know

by Admin 23. March 2016 09:17

By Amy Turner, Executive Director/COO of Innovation Health

We all remember the days of the HMO plan – limited care options that left many employees looking for more choice and access to care for themselves and their families. To help meet this employee request many HR directors began looking toward PPO plans, which offered larger networks of doctors and specialists, but at a higher cost than the HMO plans. Today, employees want the same options, but with the increase in high-deductible health plans, many of them are also taking a closer look at cost.

As someone who has been in the health industry for more than a decade, I have seen a lot of changes take place, but one that strikes me as imperative to address is the lack of people who have, and engage with, a primary care physician (PCP). Plan options and policy changes aside, in the past people relied on family doctors for everything. Doctors intimately knew a family’s history, often treating several generations of family members. As we try to keep our employees healthy and lower the overall cost of care, it is important that we bring this tradition back with the PCP. 

Whether you are the HR director in charge of selecting health plans for your company or the CEO who is paying them, here are the top four reasons you should be advocating for your employees to engage with a PCP!

They are focused on preventive care

A PCP can be your employee’s main health care provider for their most common medical problems. But they also look out for your employee’s overall health, recommend screenings, make referrals and encourage healthy habits.

They help maintain good health

A PCP provides employees with continual care. And that’s what good health maintenance over a lifetime requires. PCPs can treat the whole person, taking into account both your employee’s history and existing conditions.

They serve as an important point of contact and resource

PCPs are personal doctors who can coordinate care. That takes stress off your employees as their doctors are ready to make sure their best interests are met. Furthermore, they are often the first people  your employees can contact when they have a question or a problem. He or she can provide answers and care, or recommend a specialist when needed.

They help keep costly ER visits down

Because they will be your employees’ first line of defense, PCPs can answer questions, call in a prescription or even suggest the action your employees should take.  This will help them to avoid costly ER visits as they are able to manage any health issues before they escalate.

Once your employees select a PCP, make sure they are aware that under the Affordable Care Act they’re entitled to one, free yearly checkup. You read that correctly – every single employee you have can receive one free check-up a year.  This is something all of them should take advantage of. So, if you aren’t doing it already, please express to your employees the importance of building a PCP relationship and getting a yearly checkup. Not only will their health likely improve, but it could save your company and themselves valuable dollars. 

Be the first to rate this post

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags:

Making Nonprofit Board Actions a Little Easier in Virginia

by Admin 15. March 2016 07:05

by Tim Hughes, Managing Shareholder, Bean, Kinney & Korman 

Effective July 1, 2016, it will get a little bit easier for nonprofit boards to do their work without the need for formal meetings of the full board. The General Assembly passed HB 234 which will allow non-profit boards to act without having a formal meeting if they comply with the new statute.

The Issue

Having served on a lot of nonprofit boards, I am acutely aware that we are all struggling for time. Organizing a board meeting, even using the currently available means of telephone attendance, can be a real struggle. As a result, I see non-profits conduct a lot of decision-making via email. The problem is that email is not permitted for formal board action. Many boards are undisciplined about documenting ratification of email decisions at the next board meeting.

The current provisions of the Code of Virginia allow for action without a board meeting, but they require written agreement from each and every board member. One unengaged board member, or one person upset about a course of action, could stymie a non-profit and block prompt action.

The Solution

My colleague at Bean, Kinney & Korman, PC, Delegate Rip Sullivan, introduced HB 234 to allow board action without a meeting. The code changes will be effective July 1, 2016 and provide as follows:

- The non-stock corporation needs to expressly adopt the power to act under this statute in its Articles of Incorporation;

- The greater of the majority of the board, or a quorum of the board if greater, must agree to action without the meeting;

- The voting for any action must comply with the entity’s applicable voting rules for action during board meetings, such as quorum and majority/supermajority voting;

- Notice of action without a meeting must be expressly given to each director; and

- Any director is allowed to object to acting without a formal meeting thereby forcing the action towards a more formal meeting for decision.

Next Steps

Based on my experience, I would hazard a guess that most smaller nonprofits are not even aware that their board’s ability to act through email as opposed to in person meeting was so limited in Virginia. I am a big fan of flexibility and options, so I would counsel all Virginia non-stock corporations to amend their Articles of Incorporation to add this option to their available governance practices.

Timothy R. Hughes is the Managing  Shareholder of  the law firm of Bean, Kinney & Korman, PC,  in Arlington, Virginia. He represents clients in construction and commercial litigation, and corporate, contracts, and general business matters. He can be reached by email at thughes@beankinney.com and by phone at 703-525-4000.

Be the first to rate this post

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags:

Powered by Weblink International 1.4.5.0