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Chamber speaker says brighter days ahead for U.S. economy

By Robert Norris

Maybe the economy isn’t so bad, after all.

About 450 people filled the main ballroom for the 91st annual meeting of the Blount County Chamber of Commerce held Thursday at the Airport Hilton.

Blount County businesses, industries, entrepreneurs and governments, small and large, were represented. They were on hand to hear a renowned small business expert expound on “Strategies for Success in Life and Business” — and maybe to pick up a few pointers on how to make things better quicker.

Jane Applegate, the keynote speaker, did not disappoint.

“We have been through a very, very tough time called the great recession. We’ve all seen the darkest times in America,” Applegate said.

“But I truly believe, based on my travels around the country — and I have been able to meet with chambers in 15 cities in the past few months, so I really have been on the road and talking to hundreds and hundreds of business owners — I do feel that things are brighter.”

Applegate is the leading speaker for Bloomberg Television’s “Idea Exchange” and author of four books about entrepreneurial success, including “201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business,” published by John Wiley & Sons. A third and thoroughly revised edition of her “201 Great Ideas” book is due out in April.

She writes a bimonthly column for the American Express Open Forum site and is a former award-winning columnist for the Los Angeles Times, where she did investigative reporting on white collar fraud. She has been honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration for her service to the business community.

Applegate acknowledged the economy’s downside.

“Things are still not terrific. But there are a couple of things that we have to remember. First of all, America has the strongest economy. This is the only country in the world where you can wake up in the morning with a great business idea, sit at your desk, go online, file your incorporation, register a website, hire people through a virtual talent agency and start your business by the time the sun goes down,” she said.

“Another thing, a lot of business owners are going to benefit from pent-up demand. You just cannot go on much longer without buying things, hiring people, expanding, getting back to business. I think that is going to have a wonderful result for small business owners around the country.”

For her Chamber presentation, Applegate cited her four pillars of small business success: management, money, marketing and morale.

She also pared her 201 great ideas for small business down to six:

  • Never work with anyone who gives you a headache or a stomachache.
  • Set your ego aside and ask for help.
  • Get paid.
  • Don’t let technology rule/ruin your life.
  • Work hard. Play harder.
  • Be grateful.
Of those ideas, she is emphatic enough about the first to make it her motto.

“If your desk looks like the Walgreens and you’ve got Maalox by the gallon and you’re buying Advil by the pound and you’re popping Pepto all day — you know who you are. If you look at your desk and your stomach starts to churn, you know you have people problems,” Applegate said.

“I have never met a successful entrepreneur or a corporate executive working with people that are making them sick. If you remember nothing else, make this year, 2011, the year you are going to eliminate toxic people from your business life.”

Those people could be an employee or a client, anyone who is dragging down morale.

“I would also like to remind people that there are no bad people, but there’s often a bad fit,” Applegate said.

“There is so much talent out there. This is the best time to be hiring people. So why would you be paying people to aggravate you?”

Applegate appearance was sponsored by Bloomberg Television and Charter Business.

Corporate sponsors of the annual Chamber meeting were ALCOA Inc., Alcoa Tenn Federal Credit Union, Charter Business and Multi-Media Solutions.

Thanks to our sponsors!

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