Down to Business: Has Your Mission Statement Changed?

Questions and Answers signpostAwhile back, we wrote about how an important part of starting your business is creating a mission statement identifying the proverbial “who, what, where, why, and how” of your business.

Now that your business is up and running, however, have you noticed that the snapshot vision you created for your future doesn’t align with the reality? If this sounds familiar, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I reaching the target audience I thought I would?
    • Perhaps you were targeting Baby Boomers and ended up servicing more Millennials instead – have you updated your vision, plan, and marketing to reflect this adjustment?
  • Who runs the business?
    • Have you added new employees to your leadership team whose decisions add value to your business?  Do you need to?
  • What is the business? What is the product?
    • Ultimately these might not have changed significantly since the launch of your business.  But should your company or product be altered to meet new demographics you did not realize you would reach?
  • Why does the business exist?
    • You started this business because you had a dream and a market to enter.  But now that you have been operating for awhile, what makes you competitive enough to stay in the marketplace?
  • How does the business operate?
    • Is it time to hire a new manager?  Are you solely an online business and would like to move to a storefront – or vice versa? Could you cut costs or do you need to develop your inventory more?

Admittedly these are a lot of questions; however, it is crucial to question your business several times per year to justify the sustainability of your company.  If you aren’t questioning it, someone else could be, as well as developing their own company that might be your direct competitor.  Questioning your mission statement that you created with the original bullet points gives you a chance to look at your business as if you were your own competitor.  The best way to maintain your mission is to stay ahead of it!

Feel free to register for our upcoming business seminars – click on the links below for more information:

Have a question about business planning, products, or services? Contact Business Development or leave a comment below.

No Business Owner is an Island – Tips for Getting the Right Advice from the Get-Go


Starting your own business is one of life’s most exciting and harrowing experiences.  Good planning is essential to helping you stay on course and deal with unexpected hurdles. Research is the first step in the planning process and you don’t have to go it alone.

While you should be an expert on your industry, products and services, there is no way that you could be an expert on everything that running a successful business requires, particularly the financial, legal and tax requirements.   You may waste precious resources – your time, energy and possibly money- in the long run trying to do things yourself that you are not qualified to do.

Outside experts can include bookkeepers/accountants, lawyers, web designers and business coaches.  Too often, we think we have all the answers and are the only people who can really get things done.  The reality is that we are in danger of stretching ourselves too thin, and can risk the potential success of our business by not utilizing outside expertise.  Consider hiring on a consulting basis to keep costs low until your revenues start growing.  Look to your industry for references – the ideal professionals are those who have specialized in yours.

Unless you are a numbers whiz or have a degree in accounting, it is advisable to get a professional to set up your accounting system.  Each start-up is unique but generally most start ups can begin with a bookkeeper.  The bookkeeper will help start you off with a good record keeping system, handle financial transactions, and produce financial statements.  An accountant will cost more, especially if you plan to aggressively grow.  To keep costs down, you can use an accountant for year-end tax planning; the right accountant will not only help you with tax returns, but also with longer term tax planning and networking.

Good legal advice is worth its weight in gold; bad advice can destroy your business.  A good business lawyer will provide vital assistance in almost every aspect of your business, from basic zoning compliance, copyright and trademark advice, to formal business incorporation, lawsuits and liability.

Hire a web designer who can design both your logo and website.  You want a website focused solely on your company that is easy to navigate and full of useful information.   Before the designer gets started, think about exactly what you want someone to do and how they should feel logging onto your site.

Get a coach.   Even if at first you don’t get a business coach to help you and guide you in your planning and operation, get someone who is objective and outside of your business whom you can rely on for nitty-gritty business advice and to hold you accountable for getting results.    Another set of eyes can work wonders for how you operate both for you and your business.  An outsider can also make sure you are getting the numbers you need both on the top line and the bottom line to survive.

Working with these professionals from the start will not only increase your business success factor, but also free you to thrive in doing what you do best – your business!   Remember no successful business owner is an island; plan to utilize financial, legal, technical and marketing professionals from the beginning.

Have a question about business planning, products, or services?  Contact Business Development or leave a comment below.

Why You Should Become a SEG: Features and Benefits

downtobusinessheader-resized-600In 2012, we focused on how to build, plan and market your business. This year, we’re going to change direction a bit and narrow in on employee relations and how that matters to a business. Something you may want to consider is becoming a financial partner, what we call Select Employee Groups (SEGs). A SEG is a group of employees or members of an organization that is based in, or has an office in Monmouth or Ocean County. SEGs offer Credit Union membership as a no-cost benefit to their employees by working together with First Financial to create a cooperative financial services program.

The products and services offered by First Financial to its SEGs when a partnership is formed can add real, direct value to the organization’s benefit package – resulting in a stronger, more robust benefits package and a more effective way to attract and retain the best and brightest individuals.

We provide employees with the education, tools and resources to gain control over their financial lives, and as a result become more productive while at work. Educational blogs are available on diverse topics that benefit our members’ financial well being. The services offered go well beyond traditional banking products to include free financial education seminars, such as budgeting and credit management. Personalized seminars can be offered at convenient times at each business’ location. If you are interested in setting this up for your company, please contact Business Development or call us at 866.750.0100.

Join us next month for these great seminars:

Your employees will also have the opportunity to use these great financial tools available on our website 24/7:

As a SEG, you will also have access to our Ambassador Portal, a free tool available to all Ambassadors/SEGs which offers a desktop presence of the Credit Union that can be used at your place of business in order to keep up to date on:

  • Our current promotions
  • Events and seminars
  • Online account openings
  • Downloadable First Financial brochures
  • And so much more!

By becoming a SEG it will offer your employees financial peace of mind knowing they are getting the best financial service and benefits possible.Take advantage of this great opportunity and become a SEG today!

Disaster Recovery for Small Business

downtobusinessheader-resized-600Not since 1962 has the Jersey shore experienced the devastation of a hurricane the size and scope of Hurricane Sandy. Like many of you, we here at First Financial experienced disruptions in power and other critical services, while at the same time, dealing with employees and members impacted by the crisis.

While many didn’t plan for the crisis, it’s probably a good idea for any small business to take a look at what can potentially happen & how to plan for it.

 Start by minimizing the risks:

  • Develop a sound Disaster Recovery Plan – review and test it annually. This will help insure that systems are in place to help minimize the interruption in service that you provide to your clients and also providing valuable information to your employees that will give them both direction and peace of mind during a crisis.
  • Go out of your way to take care of employees
  • Make deposits in the bank of good will
  • Monitor industry news coverage, conditions and situations
  • Set up systems for early detection and warnings about crises
  • Identification and/or reduction of eventual risks
  • Establish good contacts with media and community
  • Conduct a vulnerability audit

When and if a crisis occurs, carefully evaluate the damage and prioritize your responses to employees, vendors, media and the community at large (or any other critical audiences).

What can we learn specifically from Hurricane Sandy in terms of planning?

  • Create employee and business evacuation plans
  • Review remote office resources
  • Consider cloud-based client and project management systems
  • Make employees a first priority
  • Ensure an uninterrupted payroll
  • Establish a mobile work environment

What should we consider in regard to technology in the wake of the hurricane?

  • What tools are best for communicating? For example, cell vs. satellite vs. text messaging
  • Phone system: do we have voice activation, an 800 #, forwarding, online voicemail?
  • Do we have remote-access to an e-mail server?
  • What if we need to transition to a virtual office?

Some other advice:

  • Be proactive and routinely discuss, practice and implement your plans ahead of time
  • Ensure you have established clear, defined tasks and functions for everyone
  • Prepare strategic messages for every problematic, hard question imaginable
  • Be able to track and communicate with employees, clients and vendors
  • Realize planning is a best case scenario: what you least expect will happen, and most often what you think may happen may not.

If your business was impacted by Hurricane Sandy, the SBA may be able to help. Click here for more details. Additional details about SBA disaster loans are available on this fact sheet.

If you have questions related to any of your First Financial business accounts or loans, please Contact Business Development or leave a comment below.

Job Search Strategies Seminar Summary

job-wanted-sign-resized-600Trusted SCORE counselor Bill Lang joined us once again for an informative and engaging seminar. Seminar attendees were provided with the current elements that are crucial in order to start a successful job search.

Some helpful information that was provided, included:

  • Focus on finding your strengths: Ask yourself – Who are you? What are your skills, training and work experience? How can you develop those traits into a positive image? The answers to these questions will help you define who you are when answering questions during an interview.
  • Elevator speech: Incorporating the strengths that you came up with, you need to create a 30 second speech that tells a short story about yourself. It’s great to use when you first meet someone outside the workforce – perhaps in an elevator? You can expand on your 30 second speech by another two minutes in order to answer the “Tell me a little bit about yourself” question that frequently pops up in interviews.
  • Addressing your weaknesses: A perceived weakness is the perfect time to sell yourself. This is where you need to provide the interviewer with a positive response. For example, a good response for “positive weakness” would be, “I have to work on having more patience and giving myself a break. There have been times where I take on too many tasks and then expect to have everything done at once, but I have learned to be more realistic in what can be accomplished given the time and resources available.”
  • Time management: Once you develop a plan, set aside a portion of each day to execute the plan. Don’t feel that you need to devote 12 hours plus each day job searching. A job search is always full of rejection and dashed expectations. By scheduling down time you can recuperate from these downers.
  • The “Tell-All” resume: This is the part where you sell yourself. Your resume is essentially your sales pitch to the company you’re applying to. You want to tell a story about your experience and history while keeping in mind that it needs to be concise and to the point. Employers typically only look at the first page of your resume, so putting the important information first and making sure the layout is neat and organized are going to be in your best interest.
  • The “Search”: Once you’ve decided what position you are looking for, begin to look for opportunities in that field. You can research online, in newspapers, the One Stop Center and dozens of other ways. However, networking is the most effective way to get leads and land the job you want. Just a hint, if you take the time to introduce yourself to someone in the industry you want to be in, ask for their help in a way that they will want to assist you. A great, FREE tool to use is LinkedIn, you can search for various companies, people who work in those companies and even apply to jobs – everything you need all on one site!
  • Use company and job websites: A lot of the time, companies will internally post any positions they have available on their corporate website. You can also try job websites like Indeed, Career Builder, Monster, Google, etc. Just be sure to look into the company your interested in to make sure it is not a scam.
  • Word of mouth = Networking: Make it a point to reach out to friends, neighbors and relatives to see if they have any job openings at the company they are currently employed at or if they know any contacts in the industry you’re looking to apply to. Sometimes the “It’s all about who you know” phrase is pleasantly true!

The bottom line is that you need to try harder in marketing yourself and remember there are no automatic opening doors to employment. You must make the effort to reach out and seize the handle.

For more detailed information about interview tips and resume building, check out our Interview Tips blog post. As an extra bonus, if you comment on the article with a question, feedback or another job search tip by 11:59pm on 10/31/12, First Financial will automatically enter your name to win a FREE session with Rob Imperato, CEC-Certified Professional Life Empowerment Coach at Self Empowerment Coaching, LLC. Rob can be reached at 732.730.2234 or

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER. Must be 18 years or older to participate. Contestants will have until 11:59pm on October 31st to submit a question, feedback or job search tip. Winner will be randomly selected and will be notified by the Marketing Department on or about November 1st, 2012. Click here to view contest terms and conditions.

Be Professional. Be Prepared. Be Experienced: Interview Tips to Help You Land Your Next Job and October 2012 Seminar

businessgirlsmiling-resized-600In a struggling economy, many people are applying to multiple jobs which means multiple interview possibilities. Whether you just recently graduated college, you’re looking to change jobs, or you’ve been out of work for a while – we want to help you land that next job opportunity – so when it comes down to preparation you need to practice, because practice ultimately makes perfect. Remember to sell yourself and sell your skills to prove you’ll be the best candidate for the position. Take the necessary steps before going into an interview so you can feel confident about what you can bring to the table and offer to the company.

Although interviewing never seems to get easier, use these tips to help you interview effectively, efficiently and confidently…

  • Practice: Practice your responses to the typical job interview questions and answers most employers ask. Think of actual examples you can use to describe your skills. Providing evidence of your successes is a great way to promote your candidacy. Also have a list of your own” target=”_blank”>questions to ask the employer ready.
  • Research: Prepare a response so you are ready for the question What do you know about this company? Know the interviewer’s name and use it during the job interview. If you’re not sure of the name, call and ask prior to the interview. Try to relate what you know about the company when answering questions.
  • Get Ready: Make sure your interview attire is neat, tidy and appropriate for the type of firm you are interviewing with. Bring a nice portfolio with samples of your work and extra copies of your resume. Make sure to include a pen and paper for note taking.
  • Be On Time: Be on time for the interview. On time means five to ten minutes early. If need be, take some time to drive to the interview location ahead of time so you know exactly where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Here’s more on preparing for an interview.
  • Stay Calm: During the job interview try to relax and stay as calm possible. Take a moment to regroup. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Listen to the entire question before you answer and pay attention – you will be embarrassed if you forget the question!
  • Show What You Know: Try to relate what you know about the company when answering questions. When discussing your career accomplishments match them to what the company is looking for. Here’s how to make a match between your expertise and the company’s requirements.
  • Follow Up: Always follow-up with a thank you note reiterating your interest in the position and thanking them for meeting with you. If you interview with multiple people send each one a personal thank you note. Send your thank you note (email is fine) within 24 hours of your interview.
If you need to dust off an old resume/cover letter and are in dire need of some help to make it modern and up-to-date, here are some pointers from Russ Cook, who’s held numerous positions in the human resources industry at companies such as Comcast, 3M and GPU Nuclear.
  • Resume: Be sure to include contact information in the header (including your e-mail) and a section that summarizes your skills in bullet points. List present or last job positions first and then follow chronologically. Remember to use action words to start each bullet point that highlights what you’ve accomplished in each job position held. Also, include education and certifications earned that may be applicable. Keeping your resume to 2 pages is your best bet since most companies only review the first page. It’s okay to reduce oldest positions to a short statement highlighting your main accomplishments in order to make your work history fit.
  • Cover letter/E-mail: It is stressed that your grammar and spelling are perfect before sending your cover letter, resume and e-mail to the individual job. Have a few friends or family members check for mistakes before sending it out. Do not forget to address the person who posted the job, describe in a brief paragraph how you meet the qualifications and skills listed in position, using “key words” in the description that will draw the recruiter’s attention (there are free Internet tools like Wordle that will pick out key words for you!) and offer an e-mail address and phone for contact to obtain further information.
  • Social Media: Take advantage of the free job portals that are available to you. Reach out to potential employers by using LinkedIn where you can build a portfolio (even an online portfolio builder:, upload your resume and network with previous, current and potential employers. You can even ask old co-workers, managers and bosses to recommend you and it will be posted on your LinkedIn profile page.
Recent college graduates, don’t be discouraged – you have PLENTY of information that you can include in your resume. With these tips you will be able to use your resume to convince employers that your academic success is transferable to the workplace.
  • Goal Objective: It’s important for recent grads to provide a targeted objective statement. The objective can be stated in a formal objective section or referenced in a qualifications summary. Whichever approach you choose, avoid flowery or generalized objectives that are too commonly used by new graduates. This should be placed at the top of your resume after your header.
  • Emphasize Accademic Credentials: If your related work history is minimal, place your education before work experience. List academic honors such as dean’s list, distinctions such as summa cum laude, scholarships and other awards. As a general guideline, list your GPA if it’s at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. If your GPA leaves something to be desired, use your major GPA if it’s higher than your overall GPA. Consider adding a list of related courses in your education section so hiring managers can see that you have a strong academic foundation.
  • Highlight Educational Experiences: When reviewing your resume, hiring managers want to understand what type of worker you would be if they hired you. So describe educational experiences such as internships, practicums, class projects and even volunteer activities as if they were paid work experiences. A good internship can help you land the perfect entry-level job that you’ve been looking for. If you lack work experience related to your goal, include your internships and practicums in your experience section. Give examples of actual assignments, challenges you faced, your contribution, and the results and benefits to the employer.
Best of luck in your job search, we hope these tips and advice will make your process a little bit easier!

For additional help and information, attend our Job Search Seminar with SCORE, on October 24th at 6:30pm at our Wall Office. To register, click the image below. We hope to see you there!

Register Now!

As an extra bonus, if you comment on this article with a question, feedback or another job search tip by 11:59pm on 10/31/12, First Financial will automatically enter your name to win a FREE session with Rob Imperato, CEC-Certified Professional Life Empowerment Coach at Self Empowerment Coaching, LLC. Rob can be reached at 732.730.2234 or

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER. Must be 18 years or older to participate. Contestants will have until 11:59pm on October 31st to submit a question, feedback or job search tip. Winner will be randomly selected and will be notified by the Marketing Department on or about November 1st, 2012. Click here to view contest terms and conditions.

Article Sources: