Good Customer Service Is Part of Your Core Values

When you think about it, we’re all customers of someone’s small business. And there are certain expectations of how we expect to be treated, and anything less is unacceptable. In other words, we all know what it feels like to be a customer.

However, as a small business owner, your top priority should be to always deliver top-notch customer service.  The key to doing this is to make sure that kindness, courtesy, reflecting a good first impression and possessing ethical integrity – are the core values of your business operation.

First, as the CEO, you set the tone for how your employees interact with customers. As an effective hiring practice, you want to have potential employees write down their definition of good customer service.  Not only does it serve as a useful tool in providing you with important data about what kind of employee they will be, it will help you to identify the right person for the job, according to your customer service values.

Second, in the digital age, you’re at a tremendous advantage when it comes to extending good customer service. Engaging with customers through social media can be as enterprising as it is fun.  Running a 30-minute “Flash Sale,” with patrons clamoring to get in on the sale, has its rewards.  This sends the message to your customers that you’re abreast of technology, and are willing to extend to them the courtesy of a discount because they are in your business’ social network.

Third, don’t forget the “power of the pen” so to speak. Customers want to tell you about their experience. So stay connected through questionnaires or other means of garnering their feedback. This provides you with valuable information while creating a loyal customer base that will help you to improve different areas of the business. 

Fourth, perhaps the personality of your business needs some attention. You want to create that WOW factor that drives more business your way, by making your customers feel really appreciated.  You can do this by getting social and writing a glowing endorsement about your customers’ professional qualities on LinkedIn or about their business on Facebook.  Or display the novel, eye-catching artwork of a local artist, in your store or office building. This kind of customer service will go a long way.  As I often say at our credit union, “People Helping People” goes a long way in terms of customer service.

 Don’t forget that you are in a unique position as a small business owner, because you can get to know your customers personally or, better yet, you can make quick decisions that meet their needs instantly. I often hear that good customer service strategies are something large box stores do.  However, with social media being so popular and such an easy-to-use tool for many people, your business could literally suffer instantly from a bad review.  Don’t let this happen to you and your business.

Remember to always be proactive, and take it from me, when it comes to being a customer, we all know that we will spend money where they treat us with dignity, kindness and courtesy.

Face-to-Face Networking For the Small Business Owner

You are at a networking event and a person walks into the room and you’re immediately drawn to them. Why? More than likely that person exudes a kind of charisma that gets them noticed. That’s Power! And when it comes to building relationships, as a small business owner, being able to adapt to any situation, especially ones of the social networking kind, more importantly, face-to-face, should be a part of your repertoire. Essentially, before the evening is over that person will have made a number of important connections that will serve them well.

 With that in mind, the power of face-to-face networking is vital to any successful business.  After all, there is power in numbers, the more people you know, the more customers you’ll attract, and the more your business will flourish. 

However, taking networking a step further, according to “The Elements of Power,” by Terry Bacon, there are eleven networking sources of power – five being personal – knowledge, expressiveness, history, attraction and character.  The remaining five fall under organizational – your role, resources, information, network/connections and reputation.   And the golden nugget is will power. Possessing passion and commitment that when hinged to energy and action, you can’t help but to be noticed.

Clearly, when it comes to face-to-face networking there’s a lot more involved than just showing up at an event and noshing, while engaged in mindless chatter.  There is an art to being an effective networker – someone people notice. No one can promote your business better than you, but you must be business savvy, influential, be an effective communicator and serve it up with charm.  

Okay, now that you’re armed with your networking power tools, you’re ready for your next event.  Once you arrive, first things first, lose your friends and don’t spend more time than what is necessary with any one person. Not unless that person is someone who can add real value to heighten your business’s altitude. Otherwise, you should be working the room making important connections, discovering new ideas and finding out what others are doing.

Be prepared to discuss what you do immediately and in short interesting sentences. No need to repeat yourself.

Most importantly, be friendly and say something funny.  A good joke is always a crowd pleaser and being friendly and approachable makes you more attractive to the listener.

One thing to keep in mind – networking is a two-way street – don’t be selfish, you always want to be a resource and connect someone to a contact that you might know that can help them.  This is important to remember and a good way to follow-up on a conversation you had with an important contact.  It is also a way to build trust among your business peers, and something people value. 

With no further adieu and with all that charisma, look who just walked into the room – YOU!

Branding Basics for the Small Business

Everybody’s fingerprints are different and unique to only you.  The same can be said about what it means to brand what you do.  More importantly, your brand is your unique stamp that identifies your product or service.  It gives you credibility in your specific marketplace, while providing your customer with what they want and need.  Building your brand starts with developing a reputation for delivering unquestionably good service or an exceptional product.  That alone builds a loyal customer base. However, no matter how good you are at what you do, there’s always the competition.  That’s why branding is essential in separating you from your competitors.

We’re all familiar with the Coca-Cola brand, right?  It’s ubiquitous and certainly has become a piece of Americana. But why does it stand out in our minds?  It’s recognizable.   From its shiny bright red can, crafty logo, to “It’s the Real Thing” slogan. These are all the elements that help to brand a product.

Okay, you’re a small business and don’t have the corporate finances to brand your product or service.  To the contrary, first and foremost you must think big, and you, too, can create the same enthusiasm and recognition around your business as Coca-Cola has done.

Where do you begin?  Let’s start with the basics. One key concept to remember is branding your small business is about creating an image for your products or services.  Consider what do you want people to remember about your products/service?

You must be consistent and repetitious in using the same colors, and placing logo and slogan on everything you do.

However, if you’re not of the creative ilk, you’ll need to hire a professional graphic designer.  Trust me, it will be well worth the investment.

Nothing turns people off more than poor quality collateral, be it home made flyers or lackluster packaging.  You need to present a professional polished look.  All customer facing materials should reflect the same quality that has garnered your product or service a good reputation. 

You certainly want to make sure your brand is seen everywhere. How do you do that?  You can have your logo embossed on everything from buttons and pens to calendars or bottles of water.  Then get these items in the hands of everyone you meet.  You can purchase these items in bulk at a low cost and the return will far outweigh what you spent.

Next make sure your digital identity reflects your brand.  Your logo, brand colors, slogan and other brand assets should be reflected on your web site and social media accounts.

Use your brand on everything you do and mirror that on your digital collateral, such as e-blasts and email campaigns.

I leave you with this: branding is not about getting your target audience to choose you over others, but to get them to recognize you instantly and as a source for providing them with what they want and need.

PR Basics for the Small Business, Getting Social Isn’t So Overwhelming

No doubt about it, word of mouth is still the best public relations tool going. However, the millennial advancements of social media and the web are by far the best bang for your buck when crafting a PR plan. PR stands for Public Relations and as a small business owner if you’re not engaging in social media or using the many free to low-cost services offered on the web, you’re doing yourself a terrible disservice. There are truly a multitude of easy do-it-yourself PR tools available. First, you can promote your business starting with your local newspaper. Nowadays, most people read their news online and business owners have many options to use on-line media outlets including posting events, photos, or videos in the Events section. Most on-line news outlets offer this service free of charge. And when your content is posted, you or your customers can share it using social media. You could also write your own news articles and many local news website will post your story with links to social media (so the reader can comment or share). Second, depending on your type of business, it is wise to explore which social media platform is best for your business. To keep your brand in the spotlight, you can use a variety of #hash tags (formerly known as the pound-sign) that are “trending” in your business world. Also, Twitter is snappy, fast-paced and with rapid-fire responses it can gain you a lot of attention. However, a Facebook page is the most practical way to interface with customers. You can use #hash tags in Facebook, which has so many features that many businesses are using it to serve as their web page rather than owning a separate web site. And not being on Facebook is like not being in the Yellow Pages back in the day. Third, there’s power in personal networking. In the age of social media networking, don’t lose sight of mastering the art of working a room. U.S. News and World Report Money suggest personal networking as an opportunity for you to sell yourself in a genuine way that leaves a lasting impression. With this in mind, join an online “Meet-Up” group specific to your area of business. From personal to professional, at www.meetup.com, groups are located in over 45,000 cities spread across the United States and have attracted over 15 million people. Joining a Meet Up group that caters to your line of business is a great way to grow your customer base because you can connect with like-minded people. Finally, another PR marketing tool to keep your customers engaged is to use an email service that also promotes social media engagement, such as Constant Contact, I-Contact, or Vertical Response. Many offer free do-it-yourself eBlast templates that allow small business owners to use their brand assets. If your customer list grows, you might incur a nominal fee (i.e. $19.00 per 1,000 emails) but it is worth it to connect directly with your customers. The rewards are plentiful when you gain sales or your customers recognize your brand and share it with their circle of friends and colleagues. Using these services, you can regularly offer specials or launch new products, and all of them offer options to link to your social media accounts. Customers, who receive your eBlast, may “get social” and share it. When thinking about PR, keep in mind the power of social media and web-based promotions is something to consistently include in your marketing planning.

In February 2014, Cortez was appointed to the Board of Trustees of William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. She also serves on the boards of the Workforce Investment Board of Passaic County, and Visions Academy Charter School in Newark, and as President of the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic. Cortez is the chairperson for the North Jersey Federal Credit Union Foundation and assistant treasurer for Executive Women of NJ. She has volunteered for numerous organizations including La Casa De Don Pedro, the March of Dimes, Eva’s Village in Paterson and the American Cancer Society. As the first Latina CEO of a credit union in New Jersey, Cortez has been honored by NJ Biz magazine, which named her one of the “Best 50 Women in Business” in New Jersey. Other awards include: the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce, 2010 Star Award in Business, the 2010 Salute to the Policy Makers Award from Executive Women of NJ, and the 2012 Women of Achievement Award from the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey.

The Trust Factor + Creative Innovation = Successful Collaborations

The most cost effective way to grow your business, and increase your customer base and purchasing power is to form business alliances. Small business collaborations can be the altruistic recipe that makes good business sense and yields profits. Brand giants like MetLife, Simon & Schuster, Abercrombie & Fitch and Colgate-Palmolive suggests that.  The successes of these longtime business entities were initially gleamed from the ideas of individuals wanting to produce a reputable product and making that product memorable and easily recognizable.  These businesses also recognized their own weaknesses and need for mutually beneficial partnerships.

Therefore, one of the most important factors in forming a successful business alliance is to want the same basic outcome as your potential partner.  How you choose to arrive at that outcome could be totally different, but is almost always mutually beneficial. However, that’s when the second important factor emerges – trust.   When you can recognize in your business partner, or business collaboration, their strengths and how that balances out your weaknesses, you then learn to trust one another’s opinion, with mutual respect, in making strategic business decisions.

As a matter of fact, Warren Buffet, revered for his business acumen and wealth, had this to say about the trust factor in a Huffington Post article. “That comfort comes from a complete lack of envy in a partnership. Partners must value trust, they must discover how to keep their ego in check, and they must put a premium on not just brains, but human decency.” 

I say, well said Mr. Buffet! That old adage, two heads are better than one, rings true here.

Clearly, when creative innovation is factored into the collaboration mix, the leap from small business to big business has great potential. 

Locally, such is the case of Curl Prep Natural Hair Solutions. This small home-based business located in East Orange, New Jersey, specializing in a line of natural hair care products, partnered with Whole Foods Market and now the line is sold in select stores throughout the state. 

Curl Prep’s founder, Candace Kelley, recognized how Whole Foods prides itself in promoting natural and organic products and supporting local entrepreneurs.  This example shows us that no matter how small your business, recognizing mutually beneficial partnership opportunities are key functions of any good entrepreneur.

Also, putting a new spin on competition and partnership is Bob Mudge, whose article in Leadership Now, takes small business partnering to another level.  Mudge suggests, “cooperating with your competitors might have been counterintuitive years ago, but today it’s a necessity for a successful business.” Meaning sometimes its takes a few businesses to penetrate a market and become successful or partnering your small business with a larger competitor could launch you into the next level.

With that said, it is important to understand that a successful business partnership is like a successful marriage, it takes hard work, trust and creative innovation.  Take the time to look at your weaknesses and find ways to partner with those who can benefit your business.

Small Business Counseling and Mentoring Has Its Rewards

We all can benefit from good sound advice, especially when it comes to owning and operating a business. According to Bloomberg, it is a fact that 80 percent of businesses don’t survive the first 18 months. Simply put, they run out of cash.  With all that you’ve invested in opening a business, why would you not want to do all that you can to insure its success?

The beauty of living in America is that entrepreneurship is at the heart of a thriving economy. That dream of you owning your own business really does matter in more ways than one.  However, to realize the best return on your investment, my advice to entrepreneurs, as well as seasoned business owners is to seek small business counseling.

For starters, small business counseling is where you can get all your questions answered. The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is the safety net for helping business owners get through the process of opening, establishing and expanding businesses.  By linking with the SBA, all your business needs are  met for FREE!  So what are you waiting for?

Go today to the closest Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  There you’ll find one-stop business shopping through a number of small business counseling programs that the SBA has developed with the small business owner in mind.

  The SBA, working in conjunction with SCORE’s “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” will advise you on everything from developing a sound business plan to credit counseling and more.

It’s as simple as going online and getting your questions answered at www.score.org, or accessing one-on-one mentoring. SCORE also provides online workshops and webinars. 

Indeed, you will be surprised by the number of resourceful programs that can aid you in making the right business decisions.  These tried and tested programs, include the Business Ownership and Entrepreneur Education program as well as the Small Business Training Network. Once enrolled, you will be better armed with information to help you avoid becoming a statistic of that 80% failure rate.

Many business owners don’t know their own shortcomings. You might think your idea is great, but that idea may have come and gone. It could be a declining market for the business you are in.  With the rapid advance of technology your idea might need to be refashioned.  That’s where small business counseling is effective. The counselors are knowledgeable of such trends and will advise you accordingly.

Small business counseling can also assist with helping you grow your business.  Or, if you’re a woman, the SBDC can direct you to the Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) that can lead you to grant funding that is specific to women in business.  With more women joining the entrepreneur ranks, the WBCs were developed to give women equal opportunities in the world of business.

Certainly, your business is your baby. There is nothing more painstaking than opening a business, but there is nothing more gratifying than watching your business flourish. Owning a business has many rewards and making it successful will most certainly give you a sense of pride.

 Always remember good advice can go a long way!

Growing Your Small Business in the Age of Digital Marketing

                                                                                

Growing your small business in the age of digital marketing is right at the end of your fingertips.  Social media and digital products have revolutionized advertising and that’s a good thing for the small business owner whose ad dollars are limited. 

            The key is making sure your business is social.  That means interacting regularly with your customer base and introducing your brand to potential clients, through specific channels that targets your audience. 

Certainly, it’s all about the number of connections made, more importantly, when it comes to growing your business, it’s better to narrow the field of social media platforms.  Having 5,000 connections has its benefits, but aim to choose a platform or two, perhaps even three, that rightly suits your services or what you’re selling. 

Digital marketing is an essential tool in developing customer relationships and is a way to maintain existing relationships.  Consider an email marketing campaign by creating an account with one of the many popular email services (i.e. Vertical Response or Constant Contact).  Using a professional email service allows you to communicate directly to your client base while also being able to personalize your message.  

A creative approach that makes your marketing campaign stand out is the way to go.  For example, a motivational speaker can create a clever tagline like, “Life is like photography we develop from the negatives,” and a great tag line is something that will stand out to potential clients and give your customers something to remember you by. 

The point is in today’s economy small businesses must participate in digital marketing.  Using the various digital platforms, including email services, social media and websites, all add up to help you keep returning customers and find new customers.   

Keep in mind, connecting to the right social media is important. Perhaps your business is photography, then Instagram, where you can share compelling images tag others and attract followers, may be the appropriate social media platform for you, along with a savvy photo gallery website.  Couple that with an email marketing campaign specific to new referrals about various packages you offer to clients, will help you reap the rewards from having developed a social media platform that works for you. 

            A recent report by Brittany Farb published in CRM Magazine said, “Digital strategies like social media will influence at least 80 percent of consumers discretionary spending by 2015,” based on data.  Being linked in and globally connected is paying off. 

            Also, the practicality of marketing in the digital age renders instant results.  You can gauge and track the activity of one marketing campaign from another to see how many customers opened your announcement and how many clicked onto a link you provided.  Other social media platforms will provide you with certain demographics that give you useful insight to help identify the concentrated areas of your customer base.   You now have a measureable idea of what’s trending in targeted areas.  Instant information gives you an edge to creating campaigns that work and drive potential clients to your Facebook page, blog or website.   

            I conclude with a question:  Are you one of those business owners perplexed by social media?  My advice would be to hire an intern and keep it moving!

 

 

Wellness and Professional Growth

Wellness and Professional Growth
Ask Lourdes
By Lourdes Cortez
Professional development is one thing many of us put to the side and all too often think about as an after thought. We lead such busy lives that rarely do we make time to think about growth, wellness and professional development.
Professional development and wellness is about improving your professional relationships within your work environment or with your clients.
Professional development is important to ones career for long-term and short-term prosperity. More importantly, it is important to have a development plan because the more established you become in your career the more income you will generate.
Why is professional development and wellness important? It is important to increase your knowledge base about your business, and to increase your earning power, which could increase your income. Some ways to do this is to be THE expert in your field.
First, one should master a specific skill. The way to become an expert in your field is by educating oneself about the product or skill set you are most interested in. Once you show an employer or client what you can bring to the table, work on finding out what other skills you can learn that would enhance your work performance. According to the National Business Research Institute, 23% of people leave their jobs due to lack of development opportunities and training. People want someone who is eager to learn and can bring something to a company or a team environment.
The next step to professional development is making sure you are a diverse addition at your job or have a diverse set of skills in your own business. What makes you stand out from others? It is important to be a master of a skill in addition to showing off what basic skills you have that will contribute to other projects or jobs in a positive and meaningful way. Diversifying your professional background helps you to stand out in what is a very competitive job market. If you are currently employed by an organization and have taken steps to perfect and diversify your skills set then your next step might be negotiating your salary based on work performance and time in your current role.
Lastly, build your network everywhere you go. A growing network benefits every professional no matter what their age, background or years of work experience. Every person you meet has the potential to help your business whether it’s expanding your brand awareness or getting referrals. In addition, spend time solidifying and building your professional relationships. That is critical because in today’s social media environment, what people say about you goes a long way in your career.
There are so many ways to network these days it has become the easiest way to build a brand and to possibly increase revenue if you’re an entrepreneur. An article in Forbes.com “about 15 to 20% of the workforce–regardless of age– is engaged in running a startup or a more established business”. There are so many tools to support growing businesses such as using social media strategies, attending professional conferences, or joining a trade organization.
After thinking this through, you will undoubtedly start to think about how to measure personal success. Sometimes success is measured in monetary value and sometimes it is measured by how well you live your life, spiritually, monetarily or in happiness. Wellness is the cornerstone of any professional’s career. Taking care of yourself means you are better equipped to care for your clients, co-workers, or employees. Be aggressive in becoming a better professional, but remember to educate yourself on what options you have for your growing income and how best to nurture it.
Lourdes Cortez, President/CEO of North Jersey Federal Credit Union, hails from Paterson. In 1984, she began her career at North Jersey Federal and served in several roles. In 2004, she was promoted to VP of Operations and soon thereafter became Senior VP and in 2005 was named President and CEO.
In February 2014, Cortez was appointed to the Board of Trustees of William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. She also serves on the boards of the Workforce Investment Board of Passaic County, and Visions Academy Charter School in Newark, and as President of the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic. Cortez is the chairperson for the North Jersey Federal Credit Union Foundation and assistant treasurer for Executive Women of NJ. She has volunteered for numerous organizations including La Casa De Don Pedro, the March of Dimes, Eva’s Village in Paterson and the American Cancer Society.
As the first Latina CEO of a credit union in New Jersey, Cortez has been honored by NJ Biz magazine, which named her one of the Best 50 Women in Business in New Jersey. Other awards include the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce 2010 Star Award in Business, the 2010 Salute to the Policy Makers Award from Executive Women of NJ, and the 2012 Women of Achievement Award from the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey. On May 15, 2014, the Hispanic Business Council presented her an award in grateful recognition of her achievement and her support of the Hispanic Community.

Ask Lourdes – May 2014

May is National Foster Care Month which provides all of us an opportunity to reflect on how we raise our children. Traditional and non-traditional parents and caregivers want their children to be healthy, safe and to feel secure. What better way to make children feel secure than to teach them how to manage their own money so in the future they can be financially independent?

According to an article published by Foxbusiness.com, “Teaching Gap: 83% of Teens Don’t Know How to Manage Money” our youth could most certainly use the guidance. In summary, the article describes how teens want to learn how to budget money and that they know its importance, but lack the fundamental discipline and knowledge financial responsibility requires.

First, let’s discuss checking and savings accounts.  Having one or both of these accounts is usually the first step to gaining financial independence, but everyone must know the functions of both of these accounts to manage them properly. A checking account is paired with a debit card, which should be used at the credit union or bank closest to you to avoid transaction fees. Advise your teenager to always keep their debit card in a safe place so they do not lose it and are not always tempted to use it often.

Second, your teen should always know how much money is in the account and they should keep receipts of all of their transactions, which will help them stick to a budget. At the conclusion of the month, they should reconcile the account with their receipts to monitor spending.  Parents should use this as an opportunity to teach good spending habits and offer advice on how to spend wisely and save.

Third, a savings account is just that, an account you use to save money. It should be money your teen saves with a specific goal in mind such as for emergencies, for their first big purchase like a car, or for their future education.

Fourth, you should talk to your teen about the merits and pitfalls of credit cards, especially if they plan on going to college. Many banks will target colleges and universities because they know teens are a vulnerable audience. Used wisely, a credit card has many benefits such as establishing a good credit history. But there are many dangers such as overspending and slow to no payments, which would lead to ruining credit. Let your teen know that good credit means they have a better chance of getting a car loan or a mortgage with a low interest rate.  A high interest rate can add thousands onto the initial amount that they borrow.

Make your teen accountable for their credit card payments. Encourage them to use it for small purchases so that their monthly payments are manageable. Keep in mind you should never charge more than you can afford to pay back. If you pay your credit card bill every month on time your bank may increase your credit limit but that does not mean you should increase your spending.

Finally, remember that encouraging your children to be financially savvy at a young age will help them learn skills such as critical thinking, discipline and management skills. In the article, teens were surveyed and the findings showed that 44% of teens earned income outside of the home while 30% received some sort of allowance from their parents. Caregivers and parents are the role models for their children when it comes to money management and spending habits.

During the month of May and in honor of National Foster Care Month, I hope as parents and caregivers, you empower your children and children in your care to become financially responsible.

Ask Lourdes – March 2014

The Rainy Day Fund

by Lourdes Cortez

In an uncertain world, saving money can be a daunting task.  For most of us, savings is one of the hardest things to do and certainly not always the priority it should be. 

In August 2011, CNN Money published an article stating that 64% of Americans didn’t have enough savings for a $1,000 emergency fund. This is an alarming statistic and an unfortunate truth even in today’s economy.  But what about those emergencies, or even those long-term goals you may have on your bucket list? 

Well, here are a few strategies you may consider to gain control over your financial situation.  

First, create a plan of attack. Whether you are saving for an emergency, a short-term goal, or for a future long-term goal, the basis of creating a good plan is putting it down on paper. There are different ways to create this plan. For example, one could use an excel spreadsheet to map out their monthly income and expenses or a simple budget form used by a financial planner.  Start by taking the time to write it down. Groupexcellence.org published an article about a study of last years’ graduate students at Harvard, which proved that 3% of the students, who wrote down their goals, earned ten times as much as 97% of other graduates.  Think it, write it down, and make it happen. 

If you’re the type of person who is visual, you might want to add colors for different expenses and really make it aesthetically pleasing to help soften the daunting task of examining your expenses. You can even add photos of the goal(s) you are saving for. 

Second, open a bank account whose purpose is to host this money. This account is not to be touched, and you must pretend it doesn’t exist, unless you are depositing money or using it for its intended purpose! This may sound like an easy task, after all out of sight, out of mind, but it will probably be the most difficult part of your plan. 

Third, make it easy to deposit but hard to use.  The easiest way to save is use a direct deposit option and start with small increments like allocating 5-10% of your paycheck. Do what makes you feel comfortable so that you feel good about what you’re saving and not feel stress about the money you’re missing. 

Fourth, limit access to the account. For example, if you enroll in on-line banking, limit viewing your Rainy Day account and rely solely on e-statements to monitor your savings. Also, do not issue a debit card to the account, which may tempt you to use your savings. 

Finally, if you’re saving for no particular purpose besides having that extra financial cushion, set a definitive goal such as “I’m going to save $300 in 6 months”, which is the equivalent of $50 a month.  Every time you meet your goal, give yourself a pat on the back and set a new goal! 

Saving is an amazing accomplishment and creates a sense of security. But more importantly, creating a Rainy Day Fund will provide you and your family, the financial security you need when you need it most. 

Send your questions or comments to asklourdes@njfcu.org 

 Lourdes Cortez, President and CEO of North Jersey Federal Credit Union, hails from Paterson, New Jerseyand is the first Latina CEO of a credit union in New Jersey.  In 1984, she began her career at North Jersey Federal and served in several C-level roles before being promoted to her current position in 2005.  In 2004, she was promoted to Vice President of Operations and soon thereafter became Senior Vice President. Lourdeswas named the President and CEO of North JerseyFederal in 2005. Lourdeswas honored as a “Woman of Achievement” by the Girl Scouts during its Centennial Celebration in April 2012.  She was also named 2010 Star Award recipient by North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce and one of NJ Biz’s Best Fifty Women in Business.