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Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:49

The house that generosity built

Written by Deb Neuman

As I walked through a newly-constructed post and beam house on Mount Desert Island, I was struck by two things: the incredible views of Frenchmans Bay from every window and the incredible craftsmanship. I would love to be able to tell you I was checking out this house to buy it. Unfortunately, my bank account can't afford that view. But I was fortunate that the contractor who built the house reached out to me because he knows I'm committed to growing and supporting Maine's business community and he wanted to tell me the story of this house.

Just down the hill from this new house lives a woman with a large bank account and an even larger heart. Through a series of unexpected twists and turns she found herself with a decision to make: to build or not to build that house on the lot that she owns. She doesn't need a house, and she doesn't need to sell it for money. She decided to build it for the sole purpose of providing jobs for people in her community. Five years later, I had the privilege of seeing the result of Maine workers who because of her generosity were able to put food on their tables in spite of the challenging economic times.

Wednesday, 07 March 2012 23:37

My Interest in Pinterest

Written by Deb Neuman

So far I've managed to steer clear of 'Angry Birds' and 'Words with Friends.' I'm an avid Facebooker, I have a profile on LinkedIn and I tweet - keeping up with all of that is hard enough. So when my sister showed me her Pinterest page and raved about how much fun it is I looked the other way. I will NOT be sucked in to another time suck.

But every day I see and hear more about Pinterest, so I thought that it might be a great tool for business owners to promote themselves. I guess I should look into this.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 13:41

Don't wear your PJ's to a job interview

Written by Deb Neuman
Nothing makes me do a happy dance faster than receiving an email and resume from a college senior who is hoping to work in Maine after graduation. T'is the time of year when new graduates are about to hit the pavement with resumes in hand, looking for that first job. So I thought I would offer them, and anyone else who is job hunting, some interview dos and don'ts.
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 18:00

Why I can't resist rotisserie chicken

Written by Deb Neuman

I went into the grocery store for milk, bread, cat food and toothpaste - and left with a rotisserie chicken. Once again, the smell of that chicken got to me and I just had to have one! It got me thinking about the many times I have left a store with items I had no intention of buying.

My first job after college was with a company called Dansk Designs. We carried high end cookware, tableware and home accessories. Part of my job was to set up displays and arrange the store to sell more. Believe it or not there is a science to this, and part of my training involved learning how to arrange merchandise to appeal to human nature.

Here are a few ways it's done.

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 09:35

'Delayed' (again)

Written by Deb Neuman

The airports: one of the most stressful environments ever. I was reminded of this during a recent trip from Bangor to Pittsburgh via a stop in Philly. I flew out the day of our first snow storm. Leaving Bangor was easy, breezy - but that all changed about halfway to Philly when the plane hit turbulence. That was one bumpy ride! I have never been so happy to land. That was the beginning of a very long day as flights were cancelled and postponed, and travelers and flight crews were grounded. The Philly airport was full of people staring at the departures board and making calls to family, friends and colleagues to keep them apprised of their status.

So what can you do when things don't go as planned? This is a situation that is entirely out of your control. You have two options: stress out and be a royal pain to the gate agents or just roll with it. I chose the latter when I found my flight from Philly to Pitt delayed once, then twice, and then again and again and again.

Wednesday, 02 November 2011 10:28

'Tis the season

Written by Deb Neuman

It creeps up on me every year: the holiday season. Wasn't it just the Fourth of July? The first clue that we are entering the stretch that extends from November through early January begins with the delivery of Christmas catalogs to my mailbox, followed by the appearance of holiday wrapping paper at the grocery store and then the realization that I need to book travel plans if I want to spend the holidays with my out-of-state family and not spend a fortune.

Now that Halloween has passed and the first snow has made its appearance, it's time to start gearing up for the season. If you're a business owner and you count on holiday sales, now is the time to be gearing up for what is projected to be an 'OK' season. According to the National Retail Federation, 'The 2011 holiday season can be summed up in one word: average. On the heels of a holiday season that outperformed most analysts' expectations, holiday retail sales for 2011 are expected to increase 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion. While that growth is far lower than the 5.2 percent increase retailers experienced last year, it is slightly higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 2.6 percent.' According to the NRF, continued high unemployment is a huge contributor to this forecast.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011 12:34

Back to Biz - Break a leg

Written by Deb Neuman

Sometimes when things go wrong, they actually turn out better than if they hadn't. Case in point: The latest production of 'Forever Plaid' at the Penobscot Theatre took an unexpected twist when, just days before the performance, one of the Plaids became hospitalized. As they say in show biz, 'The show must go on,' and it did. But rather than replacing the ailing 'Plaid' or leaving the character out of the performance altogether, the cast and crew adapted the play to not only accommodate the wheelchair-bound 'Plaid' but to make the most of the situation. The result was an amazing performance and a captive audience as the Plaids performed their numbers three of them dancing, singing and moving on two feet with the fourth Plaid singin', rockin' and wheelin' from his seat! It was as if it was planned that way from the beginning.

It reminded me of my theatre days and a production of 'Bye Bye Birdie' when I played a comedic old lady. During the opening performance I was to lean against a trash can. I leaned in a little too far and fell in. Rather than break my concentration, I acted as if that was the plan, and the audience roared with laughter as I recited my lines while my knee-high-clad legs hung over the side of the can. We kept that bit in for the entire run of the show.

Wednesday, 07 September 2011 05:39

Back to Biz - Love thy neighbor (with protection)

Written by Deb Neuman

September is Disaster Preparedness Month. Too often when we think about "disaster," we think about a hurricane, fire, flood or something awful that puts us out of business for a period of time - if not forever. But what we don't think about is what would happen if our business neighbor has a disaster and we find ourselves the unsuspecting victim of their tragedy.

If you share a location with other businesses, you are susceptible should anything happen to them. This came to light for me when I interviewed Gabriella Malchionda, the owner of the successful Mad Gabs company in Westbrook. You have likely seen Mad Gabs lip and body balms on store shelves. Gab rents space in a building with other businesses. One day she and her team were going about their business when the fire alarms went off. Gab grabbed her laptop (a decision that turned out to be a critical one) and they all left the building. When they returned, water was pouring from the ceiling and their entire business was flooded. Everything was ruined. The business on the floor above them had a small fire. When the fire department extinguished the fire, the water extinguished Gab's business.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 05:39

Back to Biz - September harvest

Written by Deb Neuman

September is by far my favorite month of the year in Maine, with the clear blue skies, warm days, cool nights, the beginning of football season and an abundance of farm-grown produce to enjoy. As I write this, I am baking apple bread from apples I picked at Treworgy Orchards in Levant and marinating fresh tomatoes in olive oil and balsamic vinegar that I bought at the Brewer Farmers Market. I'm so thankful and grateful to the farmers and growers who do all the work to put fresh fruits and veggies on my table. As much as I would love to grow my own, my city dwelling, schedule and talents limit my ability to do so!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 05:38

Back to Biz - Put a little away today

Written by Deb Neuman

The term "Rainy Day Fund" must have been created by a business owner during a hurricane. Take Irene for example - not a lot of business got done in the days before and after she made her way up the east coast. Most business owners I spoke with shrugged their shoulders in surrender to what they had no control over. They did what needed to be done to protect lives and property and rode out the storm.

Irene reminds us that it is so critical to have a disaster preparedness plan in place. First and foremost we must protect lives, then property, then cash flow. She also reminds us that the notion of being an "independent" business owner is a false one. Business getting done depends on the infrastructure being intact (transportation, internet, power). When those things are compromised (anywhere) - so is our ability to conduct business.

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