Monthly Archives: February 2016

Fight or flight?

Back in my homeland, a significant drop in the price of milk can throw a damp, wool blanket over an entire town, making it difficult for many local businesses supported by the dairy industry to turn profits in a market controlled by outsiders. Now where have I seen this scenario before?

You can do one of two things. Complain about the drop per hundred weight, which if you properly execute a tonsil-clearing farmer snort while saying it, “hunnert-wate”; everyone will nod in agreement, kick the dirt, and then go about their chores. Or, if you are a generational farmer, in it for the long haul, you adjust your projections, cinch up your overalls, dig in for the bumpy ride and diversify your revenue streams.

The nice lady who cuts my hair over the past two years is a pretty good example of that attitude and gave me some insights into her small business recently. She opened up her salon in Williston (although I prefer to call it a barber shop) a few years back after having successfully operated a similar business in Wisconsin.

During 2013 and 2014, customers were lined up, some waiting for an hour or more to get trimmed and gussied up for another day on the oil rig. She and her sister and aunt couldn’t keep up with demand. Which is pretty good, since they are tucked off the main thoroughfares, and didn’t spend much on advertising. They would close promptly at 5:00 pm, and Mondays just to get a break and sleep. But things are different now. Things are different everywhere. The salon owner told me:

“I know a lot of folks closing up. It’s not as busy as it was in 2014. I could go back to Wisconsin, too,” she said. “Is my business down? Yep. Is it slower? Yep. Am I going anywhere? Nope. I just signed another three year lease. I’ll be here to take care of customers that others leave behind.”

She tells me she’s working harder than ever to be available for her customers when they need a trim, and working past 8:00 pm some nights. It’s not all about just opening the door and hoping to survive the crush of customers day after day. That was before 2015. Now she’s marketing more, encouraging word of mouth networking, and even contributed a small sponsorship to a local race driver.

This is one example of what’s happening all over the region and in our community. We can’t control the effect that a global market hiccup in oil prices will have on our economy in Northwest North Dakota. But we can control how we react. Just like our farmers who have to adjust to the price of milk every so often.

Greek philosopher Epictetus said:

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

I suspect this is harder for some than others. Some businesses will adjust, some will not be able to do so as easily. But with so much of our infrastructure investments now in place, diversifying our economy, adjusting our expectations and riding this period out is more plausible than it was in the 1990’s.

Just because the rate of economic growth is slower, doesn’t mean Williston isn’t growing at all. We’re adjusting to this pace and adapting to the ‘new normal’ just fine, thank you.


Quick Chamber Update:
Jump over to our new website, to stay up to date on events, new members, and sign up for the weekly newsletter.

Business directories are available – Members get one free, otherwise they are $10.

ShamRockin’ the Bakken – Taste of Williston event on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Check out Facebook to keep tabs on which Williston restaurants will be featured, and where to get tickets ($20 each), and follow our Taste of Williston mascot, Fergus, as he visits local businesses before March 17.

Level UP 2016 Chamber Business Conference – The premier business event of 2016 in Williston, May 11 at The Well at Williston State College. Come hear Inc Magazine columnist, entrepreneur and author Norman Brodsky as the keynote as he highlights his career and talks about ‘Street Smarts’ his book. Interact with key business leaders and network with like-minded individuals to learn sales techniques, media tactics for your business, fitness in the office and business tech applications to help you grow your business AND your career. Sign up now!

Tagged , , , ,

Make a real difference; run for office

“Honey, you should run for the school board and fix that mess!”

“Martha, instead of griping about the issues, why not just run for office yourself?”

“Hey, Joe, some of th’ guys were talkin’ and think you’d make a good candidate for the legislature.”

As a student senator in college, we’d sit in the student union over an Old Style (maybe more than one) and figure out which city council member or county board member was going to retire. Then we’d crank up the campaign machine to get one of our better looking student friends elected. Sometimes it worked. That was pre-social media and pre-internet, and pre-stone age. Campaign stone-flyers, the original tablets, were dragged from cave to cave via woolly mammoth. Lol.

Recently, the Williston Herald ran a story on the offices up for grabs this year. (In the digital world, they call that ‘click bait). The basic process of running for local office (town, school district, city, park board, county) is fairly straight forward. Get the proper number of signatures for the proper office, and get on the ballot. And it’s free. That’s kind of cool, actually. I’ve known 18 year old mayors, 22 year old state legislators, and 30 year old congressmen. There aren’t too many barriers to getting on the ballot, save for a felony maybe.

Incorporating your true political sagacity, there are practicalities you should consider, like, you know, life. Can you devote enough time to do what is required to properly represent your interests or district? Are there issues you are more interested in than others? Is there an open seat, or how many votes or dollars will it take to win?

Although it might be fun; generating tweets, comments, shares and likes via social media doesn’t really count as making a difference.

For what it’s worth, there’s really only one consideration that outweighs all the others:

Do you want to make a real difference?


Tagged , , , ,

New year, new goals, new focus

It was easy as a National Guard photojournalist. Once per month, get an assignment, take some pics, write the story and by 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, hand it over to the editor. Taking on a writing project (like a blog, for instance) on your own brings an entirely new level of responsibility. Like actually doing it.

Image result for deadlines

Most of the last twenty entries came out of this keyboard with flowing grace, seemingly appearing effortlessly on my screen, like snow flakes floating down late some calm December afternoon.  The new year has brought on a flurry of new intensity, and focus on our Chamber’s core missions. So let’s get to it.

Banquet wrap up
The Programs & Services Committee started to work in earnest last summer planning the 2016 Annual Banquet, which culminated on January 22 in roaring fashion. We tweaked the event slightly untitled-50from 2015 including:

  • Separated the ‘business meeting’ portion from the banquet. This gave an opportunity to hear from staff and committee chairs about their efforts.
  • Incorporating a theme, encouraging attendees and sponsors to ‘dress up’ for the night. We heard most of our positive feedback surrounding this detail.
  • Reduced our sponsorship opportunities to create more value for those Members who partnered with us.
  • Re-arranged the room to fit more people in seats.
  • Pulled off a limited live auction to raise funds for The Friends and Veterans of The Old Armory.

In all, we could not be more pleased with the support, partnership with Red River Supply our presenting sponsor, and everyone who attended the wonderful evening. Standing ovation goes to the Chamber staff, June, Bekka and Shawna; and of course the Chamber’s Programs and Services Committee. Which by the way has already been scheming about next year’s annual festivities!

New website, new opportunities
As we promised last year, we delivered a Williston business directory for the first time; and launched the 2016 version of With the help of DAWA Solutions Group, the Chamber’s website is now able to be mentioned in the same drop down menu as Williston Economic Development, Williston Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Williams County and the the City of Williston.

The best part is that we’ll be able to have ALL events listed for members and non-members, making our website THE resource for tons of events, organizations and information. We look forward to working on fleshing that website out as we move forward.

Next week we’ll explore the political and issues of 2016 we’ll be following and influencing.

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: