Search This Blog


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Regional Cooperation Between Milwaukee, Chicago, and Gary

By Aaron S. Robertson

For some time, there has been a lot of talk by state government officials, business leaders, and researchers throughout the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana about the need to build cooperation between the metro areas of Milwaukee, Chicago, and Gary.

I have been following the discussion with great interest. It first came to my attention when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a number of articles and opinion pieces on the subject during the summer of 2012. Just today, in fact, there was another great opinion piece published in the Crossroads section of the Journal Sentinel, written by Paul Jones and Kelly O'Brien. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker discussed it during a speaking engagement at an economic symposium held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago some time ago. I hope that the concept catches fire, and that we can see cooperation flourish.

Even though Milwaukee, Chicago, and Gary are in different states, it really makes no sense to try to poach companies and other resources from each other. In the end, though each state is concerned about its own economic vibrancy and has its own goals, we're all a part of a larger unit, the United States. So while raiding each other's corporate and research assets may beef up our own individual state growth numbers, what are we really gaining in the end? On the national level, there's really no gains made.

But by moving toward a more collaborative direction, we have a great opportunity to lift those national numbers up by pooling great minds in both business and research, among other resources. This can lead to so many more great discoveries and innovations on many, many levels.

I sincerely hope the idea takes off.

What are your thoughts on more regional cooperation between the metro areas of Milwaukee, Chicago, and Gary? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How you can sell your business without being in sales

By Aaron S. Robertson

We all know people. Outside of work, we run into/hang out with people all the time – family, friends, classmates, managers and owners of restaurants and retail establishments we like to frequent, professionals we do business with on a regular basis (doctors, bankers, attorneys, insurance and investment representatives, etc.), and so on.

As an employed person, it is possible to sell your company’s services, or at least start the conversation and plant a seed.

You may not be in an official sales capacity at your employer. You may have absolutely no formal sales or marketing experience in your background. You may not know all of your company’s pricing models, figures, and industry jargon. And all of this is totally fine.

But what you do have is a deep, first-hand understanding of what your business has to offer your clients or customers. You know what your business is all about, because you are on the front lines, day in and day out. So you can speak very intelligently on the subject of what your firm offers when you’re out and about outside of work.

That being said, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation when you run into someone who may benefit from your company’s products or services. Keep an eye and ear out for any needs or goals your connections bring up to you in conversations that may align with what your firm has to offer. And if you can’t answer a specific question or concern, offer to refer that person to someone else in your company (i.e. someone actually in the sales department) who can.

But being your friends, family, and other acquaintances, you’re most likely the very first contact that they have with your company. So give it your best, be sincere in trying to help them, and get them in touch with the right people if the opportunity arises.

You may not be in your company’s sales department, but everyone in the company can certainly pitch in (and everyone has a genuine stake in doing so) when it comes to strengthening the firm’s bottom line, which means job security for all.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hales Corners Chamber Social on 12/23 at Jetz

Aaron S. Robertson, 414/418-2278, or



Hales Corners, Wisconsin - December 15, 2014 - The Hales Corners Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with Jetz Convenience Centers for its December social on Tuesday, December 23, from 7:30-9:00am.
All businesses, community organizations, and residents are encouraged to attend this great networking event.

Bob O’ Connor, owner of several Jetz locations throughout the metro-Milwaukee area, will be speaking on an exciting and extensive new shopping rewards network he and his team are unveiling, a program that holds a lot of potential for both local businesses and consumers alike.

Donuts, coffee, and juice will be served, and attendees can also get the latest information on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s plans to reconstruct Highway 100. Attendees are kindly asked to RSVP, if possible, to 414-704-6102.

“We’re grateful to Bob and his leadership,” said Hales Corners Chamber president Donald G. Schwartz, continuing, “Jetz is a tremendous community partner on many different levels, and we’re looking forward to this social. It promises to be fun and informative.”

Here are the details:

Where:    Jetz – The Village Center
               6101 S. 108th St.
               Hales Corners, WI 53130

When:     Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Time:       7:30-9:00am

RSVP:     414-704-6102

For additional information on the Hales Corners Chamber of Commerce, please visit:


Milwaukee-area Breakfast Networking Group Opportunity

I recently launched a business networking group that meets over breakfast time at a centrally-located Milwaukee-area restaurant. The group meets on the first and third Monday of the month from 7:30-8:30am.

So far, the following industries/professions have been filled:

  • Web and graphic design
  • Employee assessment specialist
  • Life insurance and investments
  • Mortgage services
  • Telephone answering service/Call center 
  • Painting
  • Cleaning

If interested in learning more about this great networking opportunity, please e-mail me at .

All the Best,

Aaron Robertson 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Building Rapport is Key to Sales Success

By Aaron S. Robertson

A while back, I saw the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, in which Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street stockbroker who engaged in, and was later convicted of and imprisoned for, securities fraud and other related charges. During his time on Wall Street, as we see from the film, he and just about everyone at his firm led a pretty wild lifestyle, as well, to say the very least on that.

These days, Jordan is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, and business coach.

Whatever your thoughts are on the film, or the man, or what he did, I found a couple of great videos on YouTube I thought were worth sharing. In them, Jordan discusses the importance of building rapport during sales discussions.

Now, building rapport may seem like a no-brainer to seasoned and successful sales professionals, but all too often, I've come across salespeople who haven't mastered that skill yet. And as an everyday consumer and business professional myself, I have to say: it is an instant turnoff. It really is a deal breaker for me.

What exactly is meant by "building rapport"? Well, it's about expressing a genuine interest in the person you're attempting to sell to - essentially, relating to that person. Hey, we're all human. We're all trying to make a living. We're all faced with obstacles, whatever those may be, and we're in search of solutions. It's about engaging in a two-way conversation - asking questions and knowing when to be quiet and listen. It's about building trust.

Check out these videos and feel free to share your thoughts and insights in the Comments section below.

Everyone I do business with earned my business and trust because of the rapport factor. I've enjoyed many long-term, fruitful business relationships over the years because of rapport.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Upcoming Milwaukee County Parks Events

Visiting Raptors & Owl Prowl
Thurs., Dec. 11th, 6:15-8:45pm in Grant Park: Enjoy an unusual evening with some winged ambassadors from the Schlitz Audubon Center. Meet at the Grant Park Clubhouse at 6:15pm

Owl Prowl for Adults
Fri., Dec. 12th, 7-9pm at Wehr Nature Center: Join a Naturalist to discover the habits and amazing adaptations of our common Owl neighbors.  After an indoor introduction, we will explore the woodlands and fields of Wehr in search of the Eastern Screech Owl and Great Horned Owl. Come dressed weather appropriate; we will be outside for about an hour.

Yvonne Ware Breakfast with Santa
Sat., Dec. 13th, 9:30am-12:00pm at Kosciuszko Community Center: Feast at this family breakfast with Santa. Also enjoy music, crafts and activities for children and photos with Santa. Admission Ticket Required for EVERYONE!

Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market
Sat., Dec. 13th,​ 9am-1pm at the Mitchell Park Domes: Select from a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, bakery, poultry and meats.​​

Cocoa with the Clauses
Sat., Dec. 13th, 11am-2pm in Cathedral Square: The North Pole’s most recognizable residents, Santa and Mrs. Claus, will be visiting! Santa and Mrs. Claus will hear wish lists, while moms and dads can snap a free keepsake photo. Just remember to bring your camera! Elves and other holiday characters will also be there. Other free treats include hot cocoa and cookies compliments of Associated Bank, plus games and face painting!​

Santa Visits The Domes
Sat., Dec. 13th,​ 11:00am-3:00pm at the Mitchell Park Domes: Bring your camera! 
Holiday Performance at The Domes
Sat., Dec. 13th at the Mitchell Park Domes:
 - 2:00-3:00 PM Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Concert Band
 Sun., Dec. 14th at the Mitchell Park Domes: 
 - 11:00-12:00 PM Our Lady of Guadalupe Performance (Holiday Music)
 - 2:00-2:30 PM Kids Korps (Dancing to Holiday Songs)
 - 3:00-4:00 PM David Drake "Let There Be Light!" (Folk Music)​

Owl Prowl for Families
Sat., Dec. 13th, 6:30-8:30pm a Wehr Nature Center: Join a Naturalist to discover the habits and amazing adaptations of our common Owl neighbors.  After an indoor introduction, we will explore the woodlands and fields of Wehr in search of the Eastern Screech Owl and Great Horned Owl. Come dressed weather appropriate; we will be outside for about an hour. Recommended for people ages 6 and up.

Green & Gold Tailgate 'n Skate with Santa
Sun., Dec. 14th, 11:30am-3:30pm at Hales Corners Park: Holiday celebration at the Hales Corners Pool House. Bring your family for photos with Santa and stay to watch the game!! (Ice skating on the rink if the weather permits!)

Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park
Open Daily (weather permitting) in Red Arrow Park!

Mele Kalikimaka - Holiday Floral Show 
Open daily through January 4, 2015 at the Mitchell Park Domes: From the land where palm trees sway... "Mele Kalikimaka" is the Hawaiian phonetic translation of Merry Christmas! Come enjoy the trees, lights and music!

   Holiday Performances at The Domes
December 20: 10:00 AM-3:00 PM VISIT FROM SANTA
                        1:00-2:00 PM Eric Look (Key Board and Vocals Holiday Music) 
December 21: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM Mr. Jim Mooney (Pianist)
                        2:00-3:00 PM Tuba Christmas Concert   

Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival
Lights daily through December 28, 2014: Sugar & Spice and Everything Lights! This six-week festival will spread holiday spirit with animated light displays in Cathedral Square, Pere Marquette Park and Zeidler Union Square, and hundreds of events. ​

Currie Golf Holiday Sale
Now through Dec. 23, 2014 at the Currie Golf Course Pro Shop (3535 N. Mayfair Rd., Wauwatosa(414) 453-7030): Shop merchandise consolidated from our 5 Pro Shops at the Currie Holiday Sale. Save 25-75% on shirts, drivers, irons, putters, golf bags, hats, accessories and more! Brand names include Taylor Made, Titleist, Callaway, Antigua and more!
AND DON'T FORGET THE GOLF GIFT CARDS -  Buy $100, Get $20 Free!  
*Gift Cards also available at Southridge Mall Kiosk, 5200 S. 76 St., Greenfield near the food court from  Nov. 24-Dec. 28, 2014 during normal mall hours:
Snowflake Sale at Wehr Nature Center
Skip the mall and shop at the Friends of Wehr Nature Store's Snowflake Sale. Pick a snowflake and get 10%, 15% or 20% Off through Dec. 30th.
2015 Dog Exercise Area Permits on sale!! 
Get your 2015 Dog Exercise Areas annual admission permits now. Buy a 2015 permit and get the rest of 2014 free!

Zilli's Sunday Brunch
Served Sundays from 10am-2pm at Boerner Botanical Gardens by Zilli Hospitality Group. The brunch includes an egg dish with sausage and bacon (served family style) and food stations with meats, salads, and desserts. Brunch is served with sparkling wine, mimosas or coffee, tea, juice or soda.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Advice for Starting a Business

By Aaron S. Robertson 

Recently, a friend of mine sent me a message through LinkedIn asking for any advice I may have on the subject of starting a business. From 2007-2013, I served as a partner and president of a small Web marketing firm here in the Milwaukee area, so I was able to easily draw from some personal experiences for the benefit of my friend. I've noticed that more and more friends, former classmates and co-workers, etc., have been seeking my insights over the last couple of years, and I am happy to share what I know. I hope it is of some benefit. So, following are excerpts from my response to her. Please note that none of what follows is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, any type of legal or financial advice. I am neither an attorney or accountant/tax professional. Please consult the professionals for your own unique situation.

Well, my advice would be to first sit down with an attorney and try to figure out the best business structure to use, and then incorporate. We were an "S" corporation, which may or may not be the best option for a business like yours. Perhaps you can get by with an LLC or some sort of other arrangement. Any attorney fees for setting up your company would be tax-deductible, so hold on to your receipts and keep good records. I have found in my own personal experience that many attorneys will just charge a flat fee for incorporating your company and creating all the necessary documents. My attorney incorporated us for $400 back in 2007.

Next, I would recommend developing a relationship with an accountant, preferably a CPA. S/he can help you with your corporate tax return each year and help you determine if you'd need to send in any tax payments during the course of the year. Our corporate tax returns typically ranged from $300-400 per year.

You ask about grants. That's an area that I admittedly don't know too much about. We got our business up and going with just the cash we already had readily available at the time. But I'm sure you and your partner would certainly have some good options open to you, if that's something you'd like to look into. There are freelance professionals and firms alike that specialize in grant writing and submission services. I would just Google something like, "Milwaukee business grant writers" and see what comes up and start calling around. Or call around to local chambers of commerce and see if they would have someone in mind. Perhaps your attorney may know someone, too. And definitely keep checking out the SBA's site, as you mentioned.

You may not need grants or loans, though, if it's just going to be you and your one partner, especially if you'll be working out of your homes (at least in the beginning). We got by on a pretty slim budget and just on the income we brought in from each job.

Next, I would look into joining one or more local chambers of commerce and/or other types of business networking organizations to help you meet people and start getting the word out about your business.

For marketing expenses, I'd say business cards, a basic Web site, and membership dues in one or more chambers/other networking groups should get you by. A lot of your business, I'd imagine, is going to come from word of mouth, meeting people, and developing relationships.

Hope this all helps! I can refer you to a few good attorneys, accounting firms, and others if you need it.