About doing business in Chicago. Hello all, I am back from my wildly successful week of workshops at the Small Business Administration (SBA) in the great city of Chicago. I want to say a special thanks to the following people, Carol Thompson, Mark Ferguson, Don Pellico, Rosalyn Putman, Carole Harris and Judith Roussel and the rest of the staff at the SBA for their help and support during my stay in the Windy City.I also want to thanks all of the attendees for braving the weather to make it to both sessions. I really appreciate it. I have to admit that going to this growing Midwestern city was a bit of a challenge for me as I haven´t visited for at least 5 years (I left Chicago about 16 years ago but still have family and friends there). Okay so first some observations"?¦If you´re planning on conducting business in this city anytime soon, there are at least two times of the year that in my opinion are best. The first is Spring or anytime after March 15th until about end of May or Mid June. There´s still a chill in the air but very little snow or ice and the temperature tends fluctuate from mid 40´s upper 60´s. Because I am not particularly fond of extreme cold or hot weather, I also prefer traveling to Chicago in the Fall or anytime from September-Nov. 15th. The city has changed remarkably since I visited last, boasting a revitalized transit system as well gregarious and very polite cabbies. A word of advice on the transit thought, which is to buy Chicago Transit Authority or CTA Day Passes for about 5 dollars. They last for 24 hours and good on the entire transit system. Be sure to call the CTA before you visit for more details. Or for a few dollars more you can get a weekly pass. Because the system has changed so much (once upon a time you could pay $1.50 get a transfer and ride both the bus and elevated (train) system but those days are long gone) it can be a bit daunting to navigate as well as pricey if you don´t know what you´re doing. For example every time you ride the bus without a day or weekly pass it will cost you $2.00 which again can add up. If you´re like me and want to get to your destination in a hurry and by pass the sometimes extreme weather, I suggest taking one of the many cabs conveniently roaming the streets 24-7. A 20 minute cab ride from Lincoln Park to downtown´s (the Loop Area) Canal and Madison (about 5 miles) is about $15.00. And well worth it. I know after living in Chicago for over 20 years I should be accustomed to the weather. But living in the Bay area for 16 years changes your tolerance to bad weather. Call me a wuss but I was a very comfortable wuss"?¦.in my cab. As far as business accommodations go, I did a lot of comparative shopping on hotels and inns in the area and the one I chose (and recommend) is the Inn at Lincoln Park. Conveniently located 601 W Diversey Parkway at Clark Street; just 20 minutes from the financial district. This quaint but welcoming inn offers a continental breakfast, internet access in every room, conference rooms, cable t.v., laundry service and more. It´s also just walking distance to Walgreens, Borders, Jamba Juice and other notable chains. As a new business traveler, I am always in the mood for a good deal and I found a great package with Southwest Airlines. My room and airfare came to about $517.00 total for a five night stay. I love Southwest Airlines. Anyone traveling anywhere for business or pleasure should make a point of contacting your destination´s Chamber or Visitor´s Bureau for free booklets on activities, restaurants and general information. As far as dining, I have to admit, the food in Chicago was some of the best I´ve tasted which is to say that it´s just as good as the food in my beloved San Francisco. However, if you are looking for a salad bar, I am afraid they are few and far between in this city. This is definitely a meat and potatoes kind of town. Some of the local faire I revisited include, Gino´s East (in a larger, newer location than the one I remember) Clark Dogs on Clark (look for the yellow sign) and Nookies on Halsted near Belmont. Finally, I want to comment on my workshop at the SBA itself.
Crain´s Chicago Business (thanks Amy) was wonderful in providing discount coupons to attendees of the two day workshop thus adding even more value to the sessions. Which brings me to an important realization. If you want to create more of a buzz and generate even more free publicity for your growing business, consider partnering with larger firms to provide special promotional items for your events etc. You both get free PR (and clients) and more business thanks to your efforts. And if you get some added perks like free subscriptions or other perks out of the deal, all the better. The workshop was so successful that I´ve been asked to return to speak at a large conference of over 250 small business owners at the SBA in August. All in all a very successful trip. The bottom line is that if you´re willing to make a few phone calls and partner with other firms, you can add value to your services and create long lasting relationships that will bring increased dividends for everyone involved.
Tony Wilkins is the author of "Telemarketing Success for Small and Mid-sized Firms available in most bookstores and online at www.amazon.com and www.xlibris.com you may also find out about his workshops and services at
http://stores.ebay.com/telemarketing-success via e: mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 415-267-4872 .If you´d like to be notified of a new posting for this column ,please contact Tony Wilkins at email@example.com