The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce distributed $30,000 in grants to local small businesses through its 2015 Small Business Incentive Program. The awards were announced at the Chamber’s BIZCON Network Tri-Cities Luncheon.
BIZCON offered business people a full morning of insightful and educational breakout sessions on topics including business ethics, marketing, co-working, management and leadership, maximizing the return on social media and avoiding burn out. Aimee Windmiller-Wood, senior vice president of learning and development for Fierce Inc., a Seattle-based leadership development and training company, was the keynote speaker. Windmiller-Wood stressed the importance of communication between managers and employees.
“There is a virus in many companies —and it starts with having conversations that aren’t real,” she said. “People sit in meetings and smile and give the corporate nod.” And in many companies employees are afraid to question decisions that are being made or bring up problems until after an idea or project fails. Then they respond with, “I told you so.” But they never really say anything because, with the culture of the company they are afraid.
Windmiller-Wood said company leaders need to change the conversations with their employees to create a more open culture that allows people to speak, share ideas and voice problems and issues without retribution. “Change how you invite people into conversations,” she said. “Instead of saying ‘I want to talk to you,” say ‘I want to talk with you." The more things there are that can’t be discussed in an office or business, the more unhealthy the environment, she said. The most important things a strong leader can do is to be honest and be themselves. “Authenticity requires vulnerability,” Windmiller-Wood said. “The strongest leaders aren’t afraid to admit when they are wrong.”
[blockquote quote="“Change how you invite people into conversations. Instead of saying ‘I want to talk to you', say ‘I want to talk with you.'" source="Aimee Windmiller-Wood, senior vice president of learning and development for Fierce Inc."]
During the luncheon, the businesses that received the 2015 Small Business Incentive Program grants were announced. This is the fifth consecutive year that WRPS and the Regional Chamber have partnered to support local small businesses by awarding $30,000 in grants that can be used for websites, software, training, equipment and more. The money is provided by WRPS. “Washington River Protection Solutions believes it’s important to strengthen the small businesses in the Tri-Cities,” said Melissa Garrard, senior project specialist at WRPS. “We are pleased to support our local economy through this program.
Regional Chamber members applied for the program during the summer. The grant winners were: A.M. Cleaning, AAG Insurance, Bio Energetics Wellness Center, Black Cat Relics & Vintage Jewels, Cannon Machine Products Inc., Carbitex LLC, Century Securities Inc., Clean Image Carpet & Restoration, Cloud Signs LLC, Einan’s at Sunset, EverStar Realty, Express Employment Professionals, Fenix Restoration, Forte Studios, Frost Me Sweet, Growing Forward Services, Home Instead Senior Care, Hot Solar Solutions LLC, Insight Accounting Solutions LLC, Iron Mountain Construction Management LLC, Joe Peterson Insurance Agency, PixelSoft Films, Senior Benefit Solutions, SERVPRO of Tri-Cities West, Smooth Moves LLC, Solar Spirits LLC, Spencer Carlson Unlimited Inc., Teddy Bear Daycare and Preschool, Tri-City Americans, Tri-City Cabinets, TruVision Solutions LLC, UpAngel Productions, Visiting Angels and WinSome Inc.
Applicants were encouraged to think outside the box when applying for the grants. Vickey Priest, owner of Teddy Bear Daycare and Preschool, applied for new plank flooring, an essential improvement for the business and for the children that attend the daycare and preschool. “Without the help from the program, purchasing a new floor would have cut into other expenses that are needed for the children. The Tri-City Regional Chamber and Washington River Protection Solutions have made a dream come true.” Bryan Monarch, owner of UpAngle Productions, received a grant that will allow them to purchase a new camera lens. “With this award, we were able to purchase a brand new zoom lens for our ever-growing camera arsenal,” Monarch said. “The new lens is allowing us to continue to take our customer’s memories to whole new levels with the upgraded equipment and technology.”
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