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CHAMPS Entrepreneur Meeting Recap: Creative Writing Strategies in Business

Buck Downs, executive writing coach and CHAMPS member, led the November entrepreneur group in a discussion of the importance of creative writing strategies in business.

Buck encourages creative writing as a habit for business owners. He recommends developing a habit of writing daily, or at least regularly, about your business. You’ll find it easier to craft marketing materials, pitches and other written content when you have the habit of that kind of writing. It’s a way of priming the pump.

Below are a few of the key takeaways that I took from Buck’s discussion.

The Why, How, and What of Writing

Why –

  • Think of your written business documents as your envoy. They are a way for you to be in two places at once.
  • Documents that you’ll need to write are both inward and outward facing. Written documents are just as vital to communicating information to your business team as they are to delivering your message to potential clients and customers.
  • It is important to get the ideas out of your head and into the world. An idea that seemed brilliant and vibrant when you first thought of it may have less impact when you try to remember it later if you haven’t written down both the idea and the inspiration for it. Write your ideas down when you have them and try to capture the motivation for the idea and connect it to the problem you want to solve.

How

  • Always be writing.
  • Be ready when something stops you in your tracks. Carry around a small notebook that you can go through later. This is a great way to capture inspirational moments. Find a way to compile or store your writing so you can look back on it.
  • Integrate writing into your daily life. Maybe this is scheduling time on your calendar, or setting aside 10 minutes first thing in the morning before the day pulls you away. It is harder to write for your business when you are cold and out of practice, it is easier when you are in a habit.
  • But how to get started, and what to write about? And how does this relate to my business? You have to get into the habit of talking to yourself about yourself in order to promote yourself. The idea is that you develop a picture of what you want your world to look like, even if reality doesn’t match that picture right now. Then review and revise that vision.

A way to get started is by setting aside 10 minutes or 200 words about:

  • Where you’ve been
  • What your goals are
  • Your best client, or worst client
  • How you lost a client
  • How you got a client back
  • Qualities of an ideal employee
  • A victory or accomplishment
  • Or develop a list of questions that can serve as prompts to help you start writing.

As you write, you will begin to tell your story and you can develop a document to draw from.

What –

Ultimately your writing will be emails, annual reports, communications to clients, stakeholders and employees.

Writing regularly will make drafting those documents easier and they’ll be less dry and have less jargon. They will do a better job of telling your story.

Writing will give you an opportunity to think about how to grow your business and will help you identify what is missing. What are the gaps – do you need professional development, new software or tools, a different employee mix?

For external documents/marketing material, writing regularly will help you create a body of work where you can extract value from your experiences and create marketing materials that will make people recommend or connect with you.

For internal documents/employee communications, writing regularly will help you extract the elements of the culture that you want to establish in your business. Ultimately those employee documents will set expectations for employees and provide them with guidance that will free you to do more strategic thinking.

For more information on writing for your business, you can reach Buck at itsbuckdowns@gmail.com.

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced in the past month that would reduce the tax burden on long-standing businesses in the District.

Do you have thoughts on how this legislation could impact your business, or recommended changes to make it work better for you? Contact CHAMPS at champs@capitolhill.org with your suggestions.

Two measures were introduced by Councilmember Charles Allen (info below from 9/17/19 press release), and a separate but overlapping measure was introduced by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (info below from 9/17/19 press release)

Small and Local Business Assistance Amendment Act of 2019 by Councilmember Charles Allen

This bill aims to ease the burden of rising property taxes that small business owners report as one of the most significant rising costs to doing business in the District of Columbia in three ways.

  • First, it creates a tax credit of 20 percent (capped at $10,000 annually) for rent paid or property taxes paid by a small, local business – which closely follows the Schedule H tax deduction for residential tenants by allowing tax relief based on the amount of a tenant’s rent that go toward paying the landlord’s property taxes. This will provide relief to local businesses who are feeling the pinch when rising property taxes are passed on from the landlord to their small business tenant.
  • Second, it would provide property tax relief to landlords who choose to rent all or a portion of their space to small, local businesses rather than a national chain – those properties would receive a 10% relief off of the total value of the property, capped at $100,000.
  • Finally, it would create a Small and Local Business Credit Enhancement Program within the Department of Small and Local Business Development to provide credit enhancement services for small and local businesses. The bill specifies one program in the bill – a rent guarantee for up to three years that will provide incentive for developers to lease their space to small and local businesses. The rent guarantees would be 100% in year one, 50% in year two, and 25% year three.
  • The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers McDuffie, Todd, Trayon White, Robert White, Nadeau, and Evans. It was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Silverman and Grosso.

This bill would provide assistance for “longtime resident businesses” that have been operating in the District for at least 20 years, or 15 years in the case of smaller businesses. Businesses would have to show their continuous operation and support from the community it has served. Businesses that meet the criteria would be placed on a registry and be eligible for:

Longtime Resident Business Preservation Amendment Act of 2019 by Councilmember Charles Allen

  • grants up to $1.5 million or low-interest loans up to $2 million for repair or replacement of historic signs and facades or heavy equipment, other capital improvements, and operating costs and approved by the Department of Small and Local Business Development;
  • rent stabilization payments of up to 10 percent of the average commercial rent for the census tract, if the longtime business is at a substantial risk of displacement.

This was inspired by a legacy business program in San Francisco. The District started a similar grant program this year, but this legislation would greatly expand the eligible businesses and the benefits provided. It would create a fund to provide the capital for grants and loans.

The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers McDuffie, Todd, Evans, Robert White, Nadeau, Trayon White, Bonds, and Cheh. The bill was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Silverman and Grosso.

Protecting Local Area Commercial Enterprises (P.L.A.C.E.) Amendment Act of 2019 or the ‘Affordable PLACE Act’ [B23-432] by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie

Today, Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie, Chair of the Committee on Business and Economic Development introduced the The bill supports both legacy and small local businesses by providing technical and financial assistance, incentivizing landlords to enter into or renew leases with legacy businesses, and creating protections to commercial tenants as they negotiate their leases. The legislation would:

  • Establish the Legacy Business Program within the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD).
  • Authorize DSLBD to issue grants to legacy businesses of up to $50,000 per year.
  • Provide an opportunity for landlords to apply for a tax abatement provided they enter into a lease with a an eligible small business.
  • Pays for the program by directing any revenue collected by the Discount Fee to be directed to the Legacy Business Program rather than to the general fund.

NEW BOOK EMPOWERS STUDENTS WITH STUDY SKILLS TO GET MONEY’S WORTH IN COLLEGE 

High School Is a Waste of Time and College Is a Scam…Unless You Have Study Skills 

WASHINGTON (February 18, 2019) – Parents struggling to find ways to ensure their child is armed with the necessary skills to succeed in college have a new resource to avoid any costly academic crises. Published by Rowman & Littlefield, This Book Will Not Be on the Test: The Study Skills Revolution, is part on-the-ground college insider tell-all memoir and part study skills Bible backed by cognitive and educational psychology.

“Considering the amount of money spent on college, it’s criminal that most students never learn how to learn, even though they’re expected to do it like a job,” said author Paul Smith Rivas. “Most kids won’t hit the ground running in college — not because they don’t study, but because they don’t know how to study. I wrote this book to give students the methodologies and practices needed for real success, complete with practical “science of learning” techniques like writing your own explanation of what you’re learning and connecting it to what you already know.

Written by Paul Smith Rivas, the book also alerts parents to a huge problem in American education today – that high school doesn’t prepare students to thrive in college and a jumbled, ad-hoc approach to learning will cost them money and valuable opportunities.

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Rivas is the director of SMITH RIVAS Study Skills & Academic Coaching, a Washington, D.C.-based academic accelerator founded in 2014 to help students earn better grades in less time. SMITH RIVAS takes research about how people learn and translates it into practical study skills that students can use to succeed in their classes. Before discovering the value of study skills towards the end of a 20-year career at UC Santa Barbara, Rivas spurned Stanford for a full academic scholarship to UCSB, where he triple-majored in math, sociology, and Spanish while working 10-50 hours per week in the Athletic Communications office.

The book has an astoundingly diverse list of endorsers, including bestselling author on productivity Daniel Pink, PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff, science of learning experts author Ulrich Boser and Dr. Stephen Chew, several former professional athletes, and a graduate of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Offering explicit study skills solutions for the academic, financial, and mental health problems caused by this unfortunate reality, This Book Will Not Be on the Testhelps families, teachers, and administrators have more rewarding experiences in schools. Everyone will recognize their college-bound students in several of the chapters.

Request a review copy of This Book Will Not Be on the Test or an interview with the author by contacting Paul Smith Rivas directly at (202) 615-7791, paul@smithrivas.com, or smithrivas.com. Rivas is also on Twitter and Facebook @SmithRivasDC.

Media Contact: Jon-Michael Basile Email: JonMichaelBasile@gmail.com