Monthly Archives September 2019

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is launching “Spark,” a one-day conference aimed at bringing entrepreneurs and business owners together for a series of presentations and workshops.

Members of the business community—current and future—can look forward to incorporating some of the best innovative ideas going.

Sparks 2019 will take place on Saturday, November 16 at the Lambton College Event Centre on London Road in Sarnia.

With plans for Spark to be an annual event, the initiative is part of a long-term strategy for the Chamber to both recharge and reinvent an organization that has been front and centre through the years in the Sarnia-Lambton community.

“The Chamber has already earned a reputation for spearheading various progressive changes in our community, not just for businesses, but in a myriad of quality of life issues that many of us now take for granted,” said Shirley de Silva, president and CEO.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming business owners from across southwestern Ontario to learn what our wide variety of speakers have gone through to get where they are today. We anticipate that our attendees will leave the conference feeling inspired and energized to pursue their goals and aspirations,” added de Silva.

Attendees can look forward to a full day of learning opportunities.  A $99 ticket will include meals, presentation materials, swag bag, entry to all workshops and presentations, exclusive invitation to a pre-networking party on November 15 in downtown Sarnia.

Tickets are available now on the Chamber’s website at  To learn more about Spark 2019, visit or visit the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce on Facebook.

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There’s a principle in business and in life known as “the law of reciprocity” and Chamber members can take full advantage of this when they deal with their fellow members or others in the business community.

Basically, it can be summarized as follows:  “If you do something nice for me I’ll do something nice for you. I feel obligated to reciprocate.”

For example, if two people go out to lunch and one of them picks up the bill, the other one almost always offers to pay for it next time.

Here’s what former Chamber executive (and now expert advisor) Frank Kenny has to say about how this “law” can effectively work in a networking situation.

The lesson, of course, for veteran networkers or those who are just beginning to build a cadre of professionals who you can trust—and who will trust you—is to first think of what you can do for others.

And good luck!

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In 1832, George Muller arrived in Bristol, England to take charge of a small church called Bethesda Chapel where he served for 64 years until his death in 1896. Early in his work at Bethesda, Muller was struck by the overwhelming number of orphans who roamed the streets with nowhere to go for food and shelter.

In this era of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, children as young as seven years old were forced to work in dangerous factories in horrible conditions. It was not uncommon for orphans to lose their lives in this state-sponsored child labour environment. Some of the boys and girls were forced to work as chimney sweeps in the most deplorable conditions. They were a type of indentured servant, bought by the chimney sweep master from financially poor parents. According to information gathered from various chimney sweep websites, these young chimney sweeps were to climb up, inside the chimney, brushing the flue as they went, and they weren’t done until their heads poked out of the chimney top. Due to their fear, these children were often reluctant to climb up the chimney. In order to motivate them, many masters would force the child up the flue and then light a fire. Since the child couldn’t come down, they had no choice but to climb up the flue. If a child happened to die while inside the chimney, another child was sent up the flue to help remove the deceased child.

Moved by what he saw, George Muller felt called to make a difference in the lives of the many ragged children running wild in the streets destined for slavery and forced labour. At a public meeting on December 9, 1835, Muller communicated his vision to his congregation about starting an orphanage. On April 11, 1836, Muller opened the doors of his first orphanage where he took in 26 children. Seven months later, on November 28, 1836, the second orphanage opened. In September of 1837, a third orphanage was opened. Over the years, more than 10,000 orphans were housed in the orphanage started by Muller. Not only did Muller provide food and shelter, but he also provided education to over 120,000 children through the 117 schools he established. He was actually accused of raising the poor above their natural station in life. At his funeral in 1896, the streets were lined with multiple thousands of people, some having climbed trees lining the funeral procession, attempting to get one last glimpse at the man who cared enough to make a difference.

The Power of Purpose

People and teams need purpose. They not only need to ask the question but need to have an answer for, “why do we exist?” An NFL team coming out of training camp and into the regular season lacking purpose will lack the passion and direction to reach the game of games, the Super Bowl. Studies show that people without purpose are vulnerable to boredom, anxiety and depression. Without purpose, individuals will drift aimlessly through life and through their professional careers. When people have purpose, they have focus, direction, desire, aspiration, resolve, determination, tenacity and a will to achieve. They are not deterred by setbacks, delays, or impediments. Fredrick Nietzsche, the German philosopher said, “He who has a why, can endure any how.” George Muller had a “why.” His purpose was to lift orphan children out of a life of neglect and slave labor by providing them with food, shelter, education, and an understanding of their purpose in life.

The Power of Passion

Passion is the fuel in the engine of purpose. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines passion as, “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” Author Michael Nolan wrote, “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few that will catch your heart, pursue these.” Leaders can tap into the passion of their teams by casting vision. Helping others to see the end result of something that’s yet to be accomplished is the key to good vision casting. When George Muller shared his vision for starting an orphanage, he had two schillings in his pocket and never asked a person for a single donation, yet throughout his years in ministry work, he raised what is considered to be over $70 million in today’s dollars. He cast a compelling vision for what could be and then got to work to make it happen.

The Power of People

When people are motivated by a compelling vision, there’s no stopping great things from happening. It’s been said that teamwork makes the dream work. The power of people to accomplish goals and objectives can never be overlooked. Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

As leaders in industry and in our communities, may we be alerted to the needs of others and harness the power of purpose, passion and people to meet those needs.

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With the recent “first day” opening of the Holiday Inn Express property, located on Venitian Boulevard in Point Edward, operator Vranco Hospitality Corp.—which also operates the adjacent Hampton Inn and Best Western Guildwood Inn—is adding to a network of more than 5,700 hotels worldwide.

The new property has been in ‘full speed ahead” development since last September’s final approval of the development by the Village of Point Edward Council.

“We are thrilled to open the new Holiday Inn Express,” said Darko Vranich, president and CEO of Vranco Group. “We’ve operated hotels in Sarnia and Point Edward for a number of years and are proud to add t his new hotel to this great community.”

The property includes a 24-hour access fitness facility, heated swimming pool, and meeting facilities.

Pictured on the “first-day opening” are, from left, hotel staff members Louis Jaketic, Brittany Wheeler, Karen Meloche, Karen McQuade, Monica Gonsalves, and Tim Akin-Adaramola.

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The Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, a county-wide organization that includes representation through the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, is launching a series of community consultation sessions continuing through early January 2020.

The sessions are designed to give residents of the Sarnia-Lambton area “to participate in the development of their community,” said SLEP CEO Stephen Thompson, who is pictured with Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Chamber.

With the intention of increasing economic activity in the region, the consultation sessions will offer residents to have a voice when it comes to the future of their community.

The consultations will supplement ongoing visits to businesses throughout the Sarnia-Lambton area and provide more information to promote economic opportunities across Lambton County.

The facilitated sessions all begin at 7 p.m.

Sessions will take place in:

—Lambton Shores at Huron Shores United Church, Grand Bend (Thursday, Sept. 26);
—Point Edward at Optimist Hall (Wednesday, Oct. 16);
—Sarnia at Sarnia Arena Kiwanis Room (Wednesday, Oct. 23);
—St. Clair Township at Sombra Community Hall (Wednesday, Oct. 30);
—Plympton-Wyoming at Plympton-Wyoming Municipal Chambers (Tuesday, Nov. 5);
—Oil Springs at Oil Springs Youth Centre (Thursday, Nov. 7);
—Petrolia and Enniskillen at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia (Tuesday, Nov. 19);
—Dawn-Euphemia (location TBD) (Wednesday, Dec. 4);
—Warwick at Watford Arena (Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020).


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One of the most obvious ways to boost revenue in your business is to make more sales. Here are 10 ways you can start doing that today:

1. Do You Have A Sales Strategy?

Most businesses think they have a strategy, but they don’t.

Now is a good time to develop one.  You need to consider who your ideal customer is and what are the products and services that provide the best return for you.

The sales strategy should be a brief one-page roadmap that encapsulates:

  • what you want to sell
  • who you are going to sell to
  • where you are going to sell
  • how you are going to sell
  • when you are going to sell

Keep it simple and keep referring back to it.

2. Are You Missing Opportunities?

You could best sum this approach up as “preach to the converted.” Your current customers are likely an excellent source for new business.  You may have a product or service that they may not know about that might suit their business.  Essentially, the first port of call should be the clients that have already bought from your business.

3. Back to Basics

Chambers mentor businesses that have sales issues all of the time.  Oftentimes the problem is businesses have veered from their target market and fail to realize it.

Take an honest look at what your market is and where you are at the moment.  If sales are not at a level that you would like you might need to ask yourself some tough questions such as “Have I focused too much on one sector of my business?’” or “Have I deviated from my sales strategy and forgotten about my target market?”.

The second question is quite a common question.  In struggling economies, many businesses survive by “throwing everything at it.”

Regardless of the current economic climate, it may be time to assess the business and get back to selling the right products to the right customers.

4. Customer is King

Simon & Garfunkel knew this 45 years ago when they sang “Keep the Customer Satisfied.”  In an age when almost anything can be bought or sold online at any time of the day or night by anyone, the need for excellent customer service has never been greater.

Some businesses have built their reputations on looking after generations of families.  Your business can do that too by ensuring that staff are properly trained and that customers get consistently excellent service every time that they deal with your business.

5. The Price is Right

Have you considered how your product or service is priced?  What research have you carried out to make sure that it is competitively priced and that overheads and margin are factored in?  It is very easy to sell too cheaply just as it is very easy to end up broke.

6. Be Ruthless

What you are not selling is as important as what you are selling.  Take a look at the products or services that are simply glued to the shelves and get rid of them.

Don’t be reluctant to retire certain products or services.  One of the secrets to success is being able to detach yourself from the emotion of a business decision.  If something is not selling don’t stock it and don’t waste money marketing it.

7. Open Your Eyes

Right now may be a good time to take a look at what your competitors are doing. And how about looking at similar businesses in different geographical areas to see how they are trading and to see if lessons can be learned.

Tip: Use events such as Chamber networking events to meet new people and to gain market intelligence.

8. Raise Awareness

You know all about your business, as does your family, but never presume that your target audience does.  Think about how you how can market your business.  Go back to your sales strategy in point 1 and identify your ideal customers and then target them where they are.

9. Look the Part

When was the last time you looked at your branding?  Branding isn’t just a logo or a website. It is everything from an auto signature on an email to letterhead to company vehicles.  There are more options available now to help you to get your branding right.  There are countless examples of how you can carry out a brand audit online.  

10. Stay in Shape

Look at your training needs and areas for professional improvement.

There’s a good chance the Chamber of Commerce can help you with training through networking and other learning-based events.  They are also a great resource on what your community offers.

Every company needs sales to be successful. In order to do so, sales and marketing strategies should be reviewed periodically to ensure they are the most effective for your business. Adjusting your tack every so often is the best way to stay on course.

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At the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, we’re always looking for ways to help our members become better at what they do.

Starting this week, we’re presenting a periodic “Moment for Business” video feature that we hope you’ll find both interesting and instructive.

Our first video is entitled (appropriately enough) Are you a leader that leads?

We hope you enjoy.



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If you or your business has been nominated for one of the 15 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards for the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, there’s only one thing to say: CONGRATULATIONS.

As anyone who’s lived with the complexities of email can attest (even 50 years after we figured out how to land humans on the moon), things don’t always go according to plan.

And some nominees—we’ve been told—either didn’t receive their notifications or thought they had run out of time.

We DO need to hear from you, especially since we’re getting ready for the teams of hard-working, volunteer judges are anxious to pore through the submissions.

If you’ve been nominated but not sure what comes next PLEASE CALL US at 519-336-2400 or send an email by clicking HERE.

And good luck to you on Friday, October 18 at the Imperial Theatre. If you haven’t purchased your tickets, click HERE before the best spots are gone.

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It will be a great opportunity to celebrate the advent of fall—a few days early—when the Town of Petrolia hosts the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce Business After 5.

The big day is Wednesday, September 18 and the place to be is Victoria Hall.

The Town of Petrolia, always a great host for these events, is rolling out the welcome carpet for this great networking event, so be sure to put it on your calendar—from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

We’ll see you there!

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She’s a Dragon; an engineer; a Venture Capitalist, and serial entrepreneur.

Michele Romanow started five companies before she was 33, is lauded as one of North America’s boldest and most successful entrepreneurs, and she’s coming to Sarnia on October 10 to deliver a keynote for Sarnia-Lambton Business Week.

Romanow’s list of accomplishments, accolades and collaborators is long and impressive. She’s the ONLY Canadian listed on Forbes’ “Millennials on a Mission,” has collaborated with Sir Richard Branson, and was named Angel Investor of the Year by the Canadian Innovation Awards.

She founded and SnapSaves, which was acquired by Groupon. At 34, Romanow has a thing or two to share about achieving success, but unlike many she freely acknowledges the role failure and iteration play in any entrepreneurial journey. An engaging storyteller who recognizes the extraordinary resiliency required of an entrepreneur, Romanow’s latest venture as co-founder and president of Clearbanc, is poised to invest $1 billion with tech entrepreneurs in 2019. Clearbanc’s growth is remarkable; in July 2019, it announced it had raised an additional $300 million US in capital to continue its impressive growth.

News articles describe the concept as an attractive and innovative model, bound to leverage “billions upon billions’ as they grow.

Dan Nova of Highland Capital Partners was quoted in July 31st edition of The Globe and Mail ‘It’s rare, as a venture capitalist, to see as powerful a concept come down the pike as we’ve seen with Clearbanc.”

Perhaps best known for her side gig as a Dragon on the perennial hit CBC show “Dragons’ Den.” Romanow returns this fall for her fifth season in the Den.

This event promises to be the highlight of the fall calendar and will serve to inspire the business community of Sarnia-Lambton of all ages to know they too can strive to achieve great success.

The Sarnia Lambton Business Development Corporation extends its gratitude to local credit unions, whose cooperation in co-presenting this event is a nod to the collaborative approach played by the local business community. Tickets will be available for sale on Monday, September 9 at 10 am, and will sell out quickly!

Tickets ($60 each) are available online by clicking HERE.



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