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How to Work On Your Business When You Can’t Work In Your Business

Your customers are being told to only leave for necessities, your employees are working from home, and you’re looking around an expanse of open space in what used to be a bustling business. What do you do when you can no longer function as the business you’ve always been? Use this time to work on your business, not in it. 

If you are looking for a partner at this time, (someone to help you navigate the uncertainty, help you get your technology updated so you can work remote, or just a peer to reach out to and collaborate with) check our Membership Directory!

Professional Development  

Learn more about your industry, growing a business, and how to lead. You know that feeling you have when you come back from a really good professional training? Where you are motivated and can’t wait to implement the new things you just learned? You can still get that feeling; there is so much information to glean from books, podcasts or seminars.  

TED Talks for Business Owners
10 TED Talks for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs
10 Must-See TED Talks for Entrepreneurs
The Most Inspirational TED Talks for Small Business Owners

Top 25 Business Podcasts for Entrepreneurs

See what your local library has to offer! The Oil Region Library Association has resources for businesses like:
Gale Business: Plan Builder pw: pl2612
Gale Courses pw: pl2612
Job & Career Accelerator
As well as other resources to keep active and minimize cabin fever like OverDrive (eBooks, eAudio), Kanopy (streaming), etc. Visit their website for more information or email with questions.

Update Your Skillset

Have you always wanted to learn photography to better market your products? Or maybe you need help organizing your information, or you’ve always wanted to perfect your bread making.  Maybe you need a refresher in Quickbooks or to learn how to set up and update your website so you don’t have to hire it out. Heck, maybe you’ve wanted to pick back up the guitar. You’ve got time on your hands, it’s the perfect excuse to learn a new skill.


Implement Systems 

Systems can be great for your business. They help you to respond faster, not have to duplicate processing over and over, batch tasks, and can help you run more efficiently.  

• Set up email auto-responses
• Create checklists for repetitive tasks
• Organize your physical and digital files
• Update your customer databases
• Clean out your inbox
• Set up online recurring payments

Tackle That Project 

You know, the one you’ve been avoiding. We all have projects that we have been procrastinating about that we mean to do. They may seem to be too much time, energy or they will be too disruptive to business. Well, now that you’re out of excuses, it might be the perfect time to do it.  Think of how good you’ll feel when it’s done. And it could be a nice distraction.

• Update your website
• Launch an e-commerce site
• Reorganize your office or store layout
• Upgrade computer systems

Looking for someone to help develop your website, someone to provide legal guidance, or any other partner in this time? Check our Membership Directory!

Find a Mentor

It’s nice to get the perspective of someone who’s been there. And while you’ll probably be bereft of finding someone who’s gone through this exactly; you can certainly find someone who has weathered storms before. Below you’ll find a list of a few great programs for business owners or those looking to start a business. But reach out to us – we would love to connect you with someone in your field!

• Clarion University Small Business Development Center
• Small Business Jump Start

Get a Different Perspective 

Look at your company as if it was someone else’s. What advice would you give them? How does your customer see your business? What suggestions might they have for you? If you were to start all over; would you do anything differently? Are there things that you are doing that don’t provide value? Are there things that could be added that would create value?

• Send a survey out to your customers
• Create a focus group
• Reach out to your peers

Speak up  

Keep communications with your customers and supporters as well as other businesses.

• Let customers know how they can support you during this time
• Continue to post on social media and send out e-newsletters
• Communicate with other businesses; check in with your peer group
• See what others are doing and where you can collaborate
• Network and connect through phone, email, or online business groups and virtual meetups
• Use telecom resources like FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and more. Let us know if you need help getting started!

Get Creative 

Are there other ways that you can provide value to your customers? Can you offer services or inventory in a different way? Could you offer online training or sales, virtual updates, delivery options, meetups or classes? Now is the time to step out and try something different. You’ve got nothing to lose and could potentially have a lot to gain.

Support Others 

What will you have wished that you had done with this time looking back? Are there opportunities that you can support or offer your time to organizing? Everyone is going to be feeling the effects of this. Reach out to your local nonprofit or check-in with at-risk populations in your community if you have something to offer. At the very least use your platform to share what others are doing.  


Things are tough now, but nothing is permanent. Take a step back sometimes. It can be overwhelming and scary with so much uncertainty. Take some time away from the business.  Connect with family and friends. Reconnect with nature. Meditate. Get some rest. Take care of yourself and your body. Know that you are doing everything you can and allow that somethings that are outside your control.  

Most importantly, know that you are not alone; everyone is feeling uncertain. No one knows what the future holds. Prepare as much as you can so that when it does bounce back; you’ll be ready, stronger than ever. 

Please let us know how we can help. We are here to support you!
Call (814) 676-8521 or email anytime.

An Update From Chamber President – Susan Williams

Chamber staff meeting over Zoom.

While it seems quiet at the Chamber office, there is no shortage of work to do in supporting our members and our community. I have spent most of the last two days talking with members and my staff; exploring how we stay informed, apply that information in a reasonable and productive way, and then plan our future days and weeks. This seems almost impossible as things keep changing.

We’d love to hear from you about how you are managing and planning. We’ll be sharing what’s working for us and those we talk to. 

It seems like the one thing we are all feeling is sort of stuck.  What should we do next? A good place to start might be by starting a list, of the things that you would or should be doing if nothing had changed. Now, look at that list and consider if you actually could be doing some of those things, just in a different (even better) way. What or who would you need to make that happen? Of the things that are left, will you be able to do them in the future and if so, how will you prioritize them?

Next… list things that you’ve always meant to do but couldn’t get to. You may want a list for both personal and professional tasks. Some of these may be perfect to delegate to your staff – especially if they involve research, learning, or content creation. In case you can’t imagine what these would be, I’ll share my list:

  • Deep dive into your finances
  • Review HR policies
  • Create or update succession and/or emergency plans
  • Create or update procedure manuals
  • Write – write – write! Blogs, stories, etc.
  • Learn – anything you can imagine is available online

I’ll keep this page updated as we learn more.
Thank you – Susan

Contact us – we want to hear from you! Call our office at (814) 676-8521 or send an email to

View our Business Resource Page here.

View local Business Updates here.

NPRC Gains Degree-Granting Authority

June 3rd marks another milestone for Northern Pennsylvania Regional College (NPRC). Coming just over a week after the College celebrated their second year of operations, the Pennsylvania Department of Education provided NPRC with their degree-granting authority. This degree-granting authorization is a critical step for NPRC and will allow them to operate independently for the Spring of 2020. Gannon will remain their educational partner through the end of 2019.

To reach this point in the College’s establishment, the last year has been filled with policy development, curriculum writing, and creation of the College’s 2019-2020 course catalog. “This is an extremely momentous occasion for NPRC thanks to the hard work of the staff, the board, and PDE. We are building a top-notch school, and that can only be done with top-notch, dedicated individuals,” says Kate Brock, Chair of NPRC’s Board of Trustees. When Founding President Nairn was delivered the news from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, emotions were strong. “I cannot adequately express the gratitude I felt when I got the news,” said Nairn, “So many people, so much time, so much effort, and now we are one last step away from fully realizing the promise and the mission of this very special institution.”

This milestone couldn’t have been accomplished without the backing by Senator Scarnati, the early work of the Educational Consortium of the Upper Allegheny (ECUA), counties that have supported the College from the beginning, and the superintendents and school districts that took a chance on this initiative. NPRC is the first two-year college in Pennsylvania above interstate 80 and much of its success can be attributed to the seven years of ground work ECUA has laid for the College. Early in 2020, Northern Pennsylvania Regional College plans to begin the process for regional accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Local classes can be taken at the Venango Technology Center.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s July 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Growth and Expansion at FICDA

By: Deb Eckelberger, Development Director

Thus far in 2019, FICDA is experiencing business growth, building upgrades, and new tenants.

Early this year, in the Franklin Industrial and Commercial Development Authority (FICDA) big Main building, manufacturing space was created to support the expansion of Wolbert Welding. This FICDA tenant is partnering with a Kentucky company to build Grove and Manitowoc crane outriggers here. Several employees have been hired, and have traveled across the state for training on this new product line. Mid-summer, a large robotic welder will be installed at Wolbert Welding. The jobs created by this expansion, along with the new robotic technology are part of the growing advanced manufacturing process—one that is changing the look of manufacturing as we know it.

As you enter Howard Street, the Pattern Shop building is to the left. In that building, Liberty Electronics is expanding, to support their growing customer needs. A former machine shop space is being repurposed into light manufacturing space. Sprinkler, lighting, and HVAC systems all were upgraded, with new flooring throughout.

Together, these two expansion projects will bring close to 40 new jobs to Franklin. In addition, local contractors have been busy working on these projects. All the building trades are involved. Skilled workers are here daily, committed to these business growth projects.

New IT equipment has been installed in the Emerging Technology Center (ETC) building Training and Conference rooms. With financial support from the USDA Rural Business Development Grant Program, these rooms now offer large monitors, lecterns, sound systems, conference calling equipment, video conference equipment, and ease of use. Scheduling of these rooms has increased greatly with this new equipment. Workshops, board meetings, customized trainings, employment interviews, group meetings, are just a few examples of their use. Following the goal of the USDA Rural Business Development Grant program; this new equipment is in place to benefit small and emerging businesses in rural areas. The Training and Conference rooms are truly a community asset, fulfilling that goal.

The ETC building has three temporary highway contractor/PennDOT field offices that support the summer construction projects in the area. Awareness of highway projects, traffic changes, road detours, and then sharing that information with businesses and individuals is helpful information for everyone. Having them as tenants increases safety awareness for all.

As we move into the second half of 2019, we look to the completion of these FICDA economic development projects, to see their manufacturing processes fully operational. We look for new and innovative ways to continue to work closely with the valuable resource partners that exist to help businesses grow, and we look to continue the mission of FICDA: “to nurture economic and commercial development and growth, foster the creation and retention of jobs and assist in the planning and implementation for new and existing businesses.”

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s July 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Gates & Burns Celebrates 130 Years

Originally known as J. R. Gates & Sons, the company was founded in 1889 and had offices in the Latonia Block at 20 First St, Oil City. The sons were H.E. and M.S. Gates.

The 1904 New York Industrial Recorder stated: “The firm represented large insurance companies due to the advantages which the people of Oil City enjoyed to a larger extent than other cities due to its immunity from big fires. The superiority of the water supply, the excellent distribution system, the efficiency of the fire department and the admirable layout of the City and substantial character of the buildings, all contributed to a low exposure rating. Also, the firm does an extensive business in buying and selling real estate.”

Later, the firm became known as Gates & Burns Insurance and Real Estate and remained in the Burns family until 1985, when it was purchased by Barr’s Insurance.

Fast forward to 2019, now known as Gates & Burns Realty, the company only deals with real estate and has been owned since 1990 by William P. Moon and William P. Moon Jr., Broker. With offices in Oil City, Franklin, and Clarion, the staff includes 11 sales associates and 2 administrative assistants serving all of Northwest Pennsylvania. All sales associates are members of the local, state, and national Realtor Associations.

An open house will be held on July 24 from 4-7 p.m.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s July 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.