Wabash River RDA submits READI proposal for West Central Indiana for nearly $300 million in projects
West Central Indiana – The Wabash River Regional Development Authority (RDA) submitted its comprehensive READI proposal this week, totaling nearly $300 million in projects for West Central Indiana.
Through the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) tasked regions across the state to submit proposals with idea-ready and shovel-ready projects that address the overall quality of life for their region. The Wabash River RDA submitted projects spanning Clay, Knox, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion, and Vigo Counties with over $73 million in matching READI asks.
“Our application is a compilation of 42 unique projects,” states Greg Goode, President of the Wabash River RDA. “Each project is categorized into workforce development, tourism and quality of life, and entrepreneurship and innovation.”
West Central Indiana’s proposal is one of 18 regional proposals expected to be submitted. The IEDC plans to award $500 million in funding across the state. With the IEDC’s advice to utilize regional planning efforts and creative visions for the future, the Wabash River RDA submitted its proposal knowing it was bold and transformational.
“Understanding every state agency will play a role in the funding efforts over time, we didn’t want to sell our region short,” states Goode. “Our proposal demonstrates our region’s ability to uniquely compete and offer the state a profitable return on investment.”
Under the ‘workforce development’ section, projects address talent attraction and retention, specifically in terms of educational opportunities, library expansions, and career pathways. The section also includes four housing projects, each unique, as well as a project dedicated to access to quality healthcare and the important role it has in attracting workforce to the region.
The ‘tourism and quality of life’ section narrates a range of projects including aquatic features and community pools, a sports complex, museum expansions and updates, community centers, regional wayfinding, hotel projects to cater to the increase in visitors, and more.
The projects within the ‘entrepreneurship and innovation’ section include diverse projects that present a range of solutions which encourage start-ups and entrepreneurism and attract regional investment.
The Wabash River RDA’s proposal was submitted under a regional umbrella comprising of the Wabash River RDA, Thrive West Central, and West Central 2025. Together, the three regional organizations are dedicated to creating the best region to live, work, and play.
“Our region prepared for this opportunity for some time,” continues Goode. “This proposal was truly a collaborative effort with compiled planning over the last three years. So many leaders in our region came together creating the data, foundation, and projects to create such a transformational vision. This proposal showcases the best of West Central Indiana and energizes us for all the great things to come.”
The IEDC expects to make their decision on which regions will receive funding by the end of the year.
RJL Solutions, an Indiana government affairs and communications firm, launches RJLU, an evolution of RJL’s original internship program designed to create robust, real-world experiences for students. Internship sections include Government Relations, Marketing, Public Relations, Grant Writing and Design with the opportunity to create positions for candidates, as needed.
Short for RJL University, RJLU is intended be an extension of students’ college and university curriculum, with an emphasis on the university experience. Students who are required to receive course credit through internships can obtain such requirements through the program. RJL also accepts students who do not need certain course credit and ensures that each intern will still find it supplemental to their college curriculum. Interns have the opportunity to attend weekly professional development opportunities, work on team-based projects, and have potential travel opportunities throughout the state, Washington, DC and other areas where RJL’s reach extends.
“RJLU is a platform in which the university experience is molded with the real-world, applicable experiences that students will have post-graduation,” states Rose Holtrey, RJL’s Content
Strategist and RJLU Program Director. “Our program offers project freedom, mentorship and unique opportunities to learn amongst our team and client-base.”
Students from all over are welcome to apply. Positions will be based out of RJL’s Terre Haute or downtown Indianapolis offices and last the duration of approximately 12 weeks as seen on the schedule below (dates are subject to change).
Fall 2021: August 30 – November 19
Spring 2022: January 10 – March 31
Summer 2022: May 9 – July 29
Earlier this year, RJL Solutions was honored as the For-Profit Employer of the Year during the Indiana INTERNnet Impact Awards. Presented by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the award celebrates internship excellence within the state, understanding experiential learning is a key strategy for retaining Indiana’s top talent.
RJL Solutions first founded its internship program in 2018 because its headquarters was strategically located in Terre Haute, a city consisting of four higher education institutions. Wanting to capitalize on what schools were offering within their curriculum, the company hoped to provide additional value to the students, the institutions and the community as a whole. With the company’s expansion to the Indianapolis area, RJL serves clients from across the state and beyond. With that expansion, the internship program evolved and offers a more comprehensive approach to the internship experience.
For students interested in attending RJLU for the fall semester, applications are due August 16 and can be found at www.rjlsolutions.com/internships.
Saying that RJL has provided us with anything less than the best internship experience would be a crime. Under any other circumstances, waking up at 3:30 a.m. to catch a flight would be crazy. While daunting, we jumped at the opportunity to shadow Ryan, Director of Federal Relations at RJL, in Washington, D.C. Getting to walk in the footsteps of the delegates who make the decisions that impact us in our everyday lives was unforgettable. The atmosphere in and of itself was unforgettable. Washington is truly a melting pot with little tastes of the whole world. As we were headed to one of our meetings, we saw military officials from Colombia, businessmen from France and China, and ambassadors from the Middle East.
Moreover, being able to be a part of the process and begin to navigate and understand the inner workings of the private side of government advocacy was incredible. In meeting up with some of Ryan’s former coworkers from the Hill, it was encouraging to learn that people our age hold important positions in House and Senate committees, the U.S. State Department and at the White House. As we return to work in the Indianapolis office, we will use this trip as motivation to continue learning and growing as RJL interns so we, too, can one day contribute to the robust government affairs industry. Having this adventure under our belts has solidified our goals as well as our sedulousness.
RJL Solutions, Indiana-based Government Affairs and Communications Firm, hires former RJL intern as an official RJL team member. T.J. Collett, a graduate of the University of Kentucky, interned at RJL during the winter of 2020 while obtaining his master’s in interpersonal communications.
As an undergrad, Collett studied business and organization communication. In addition to his degrees, Collett played on the University’s baseball team where he won several athletic achievements including the University of Kentucky Mr. Wild Cat award for community service, academics and sports, and the NCAA Senior Award.
A life-long resident of Terre Haute, Collett says he’s ready to use his unique talents to contribute to the prosperity of his hometown, it’s surrounding communities and the entire state of Indiana.
“I am energized to start a career that can directly impact communities, organizations and people throughout Indiana. Growing up in Indiana, I have always wanted to come back home, and Rachel Leslie and the RJL family have given me the opportunity to do just that,” states Collett. “I am looking forward to learning my full potential and working with a team that pushes me to be my best.”
As Relationship Development Specialist, Collett is responsible for the creation and upkeep of client relationships. His take on client care is simple - make friends and keep friends. Each client, much like each friendship, is unique.
As the face of RJL Solutions, Collett will use his excellent communication skills to manage high-level customer service, assist in the development of client retention initiatives and strategies and serve as the point of contact for clients. RJL Solutions is a “No Worry” firm, and Collett is the driving force which makes this statement true. He works seamlessly as the community liaison when attending meetings, events, conferences and other networking opportunities where our clients may need us most. Collett will also play an important role in furthering RJL’s client reach and its potential markets.
"Hiring T.J. just made sense," states Vittoria Meyer, Director of Public Relations. "His approachable and personable character, combined with his ability to think quickly on his feet and create well-rounded, thoughtful solutions gives our team and our clients a unique approach to the work we do, the services we offer and the relationships we create.”
RJL Solutions is thrilled to have Collett onboard and ready to watch him grow in his professional endeavors.
RJL Solutions, Indiana-based government affairs and communications firm, has grown its team with the addition of four talented summer interns. Cole Trent and Gabe Tierney are diving head first into advocacy at the RJL Solutions Indianapolis office, and Trevor Revesz and Jackson Krieg continue to expand the Terre Haute office’s Community Development and Marketing teams.
Trent, of Indianapolis, Indiana and a student at Purdue University, is double majoring in Speech, Language and Hearing Science in the College of Human and Health Science and Pre-Law, with a minor in Philosophy and Political Science. Before his time at RJL Solutions, Trent served as a Legislative Intern for Indiana Senators Jack Sandlin and Scott Baldwin. At RJL, he will cultivate a skillset built on policy and client research, meeting preparation, media and government relations, lobbying reports and other designated projects.
Tierney, of Terre Haute, Indiana and a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder, is majoring in Political Science. Prior to this internship, Tierney served as a Seasonal Construction Supervisor for Habitat for Humanity Metro Denver in Denver, Colorado. There, he developed a love for public service which fuels his passion for policy and client research.
Revesz, of Terre Haute, Indiana and a student at Indiana State University majoring in Marketing, is aiding the RJL marketing team in creating content in the form of social media, blogs, newsletters, website edits and design. A self-taught digital marketing creator, Revesz has already brought tons of creativity and talent to the table.
Krieg, of Princeton, Indiana and a student at Indiana State University, is double majoring in Management and Finance. A current member of ISU’s Impact Club, Krieg uses his devotion to his community and attention to detail to aid in research efforts for the Community Development team.
“Internships can change the trajectory of a person’s life, and I like to think RJL is doing just that,” states Rose Holtrey, Internship Program Director and RJL’s Content Strategist. “Our interns this term are making RJL history. They are high-achieving and continue to prove themselves as key members of this program. We are happy to have them on-board.”
Ryan Ritchie, Director of Federal Relations, visits Washington, D.C. on behalf of clients
"These are uncertain times."
"It’s just the new normal."
"There is light at the end of the tunnel!”
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard these cliches since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m certain I would not be writing this blog and would be sun bathing on my million dollar yacht in Capri. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any such funding, so this is my next best option!
Although overused, these sayings rang true as the RJL Advocacy Team returned to Washington for in-person meetings. Navigating which of the many topics to cover in the seemingly short meetings was daunting. How do you prioritize issues when each of them seem equally pressing? Nonetheless, we made the most of our time with a number of elected officials covering topics of utmost importance to you – our clients. From broadband development to stimulus funding to mental health priorities to federal grant opportunities, we covered it all.
Equally perplexing was figuring out the mask situation in our nation’s capital. Now I know many of you reside outside of Indianapolis, so you may have already returned to casually walking into public establishments without donning a mask; however, I haven’t had the pleasure of doing so since March 2020 (except for the time I forgot to wear one at the grocery store and received my fair share of disapproving looks). Surprisingly, this changed for me when I arrived on the Hill and was told masks were encouraged but not mandatory in the office buildings. After trudging up the (literal) Hill in 90 degree heat, I capitalized on the opportunity and enjoyed the fresh, government laden air. What a thrill!
I know what you’re thinking… “Why does Ryan think we care about his personal problems?”
I don’t. But I do think you’d care to know that things are returning to normal. Nature is healing, people are gathering, relationships are being formed, important conversations are being had; and to take advantage of the many opportunities that await each of our clients, I am proud to say that the RJL Team is back in D.C.
Each and every day, we at RJL Solutions strive to find real solutions to our clients’ most complex issues. We don’t call ourselves a “no worry” firm for nothing. Whether your needs relate to community development, advocacy, communications, or public relations; know that each member of our team is committed to doing what’s best for you and your organization.
RJL Solutions, Indiana-based Government Affairs and Communications Firm, has grown their Community Development team with the hiring of Community Development Specialist, Anwyn Payonk. Payonk, an intern at RJL Solutions from Summer of 2020 to Spring of 2021, spent the last year exploring the firm’s Strategic Communications and Community Development departments as a Communications Associate.
“Anwyn has been an integral part of RJL Solutions for over a year. Her ability to take on new tasks and float between departments is amazing,” states McKenzi Kumpf, Director of Community Development. “She is thoughtful and pays close attention to detail, making her the ideal choice for my growing department.”
Payonk graduated Magna Cum Laude from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in May of 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Minors in Professional Writing and Women’s Studies. During her internship, Payonk gained professional experience from each department including copy editing, writing, social media graphics, public relations and grant writing.
“My time at RJL Solutions has taught me invaluable skills that I look forward to strengthening. Working as an intern in the Community Development and Strategic Communications department has allowed me to grow and embrace my talents in a business setting,” states Payonk. “I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to stay on at RJL and to work under the Community Development department.”
As Community Development Specialist, Payonk will aid Kumpf in grant writing, grant applications and research, as the two continue to serve Indiana communities. RJL Solutions looks forward to the positive impact Payonk will have in and outside of the firm.
a message from Lily Pesavento, Communications Coordinator
If you were to sit and reflect on your career so far, what comes to mind? Is it the pay? Is it the hours? Is it the years of experience? Does it bring you joy? Are you following your dream?
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. As a kid I told stories to anyone who would listen. Needless to say, I was an annoying child who required lots of attention; my parents deserve an award. Most children wish to be astronauts or presidents or veterinarians. I imagined myself being published. It didn’t matter where, and it didn’t matter when, but I felt an innate need to have my words read by people I would never meet. Perhaps this longing to be recognized by strangers is a sign of an impending God Complex. Perhaps I’ll bring it up in future therapy. Or … I’ll use it to my advantage.
I have written short creative stories, countless essays in college, hundreds of news articles as a journalist and now a handful of blogs and press releases at RJL Solutions. If I had to pick my favorite platform or style, it would be blogging. Each blog I create is carefully thought out and curated to the audience. What will they take away from spending five to ten minutes reading my blog? Will they want to visit or explore the topic I’m covering? I use my personal experiences to make the blog relatable to readers, an example being my pottery date night blog. This piece was effortless to write and even more fun to relive. Every detail is as it happened, from my lack of pottery sculpting skills to the feeling of the clay under my fingernails. Even though I wasn’t a pottery expert, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Deming Park Pottery’s Date Night class and did my best to convey that energy to my readers. My hope is that each blog post, such as my Date Night blog which you can read on See You in Terre Haute’s website, inspires readers to explore the places and events I write about. I encourage readers to make their own experiences and enjoy the town we call home.
When I sit down to write, the swirling thoughts in my brain quiet down. My ears stop ringing, mind stops buzzing. The world around me melts away. It’s an odd experience, fully immersing yourself in your passion, letting the rush take you over until you become the very words you’re writing.
Sure, there are hard days where I really don’t want to write anymore. I become easily frustrated if the words don’t come to me quickly. I become very critical of my abilities. So critical, in fact, that I may fall into the dark blue abyss of mediocrity. And deep within the abyss, lives Writer’s Block, a horrifying monster with hollow eyes and a smarmy yellow grin. He whispers gently in my ear of due dates and upcoming projects. He taunts me in my dreams and keeps me up at night. He seems so intimidating in the dark, but he is nothing in the light. When I feel overwhelmed, I seek the guidance and support of my coworkers. Words of encouragement flow through the office like a rushing river. I swim up through the murky abyss and grab at the bright outstretched hands until I am floating peacefully on the surface.
RJL Solutions accepts me for who I am and finds my quirkiness charming… I think. I’m the girl with seven succulents in her office window and crystals on her desk. I’m the girl who, while everyone else is checking the paper, I’m checking my horoscope. I’m the girl who heard the printer go off while she was left alone in the office and immediately thought, “Ghost. It’s totally a ghost, and I’m stuck here with the ghost.” No, the office isn’t haunted, I am simply paranoid of the paranormal.
Bottom line, RJL Solutions takes you as you are and helps you grow, much like my window succulents. I see myself becoming a better writer under the guidance of my coworkers. I see myself taking on more Public Relations responsibilities and creating more blogs. I see myself staying at RJL Solutions for the long haul, making a positive impact on my community. This is more than just a business. This is a second home, and my coworkers are a second family. We share our worries and our faults. We share our successes and our good news. We go on weekend adventures and discuss our favorite books. We build relationships and trust.
The trust and relationships aren’t exclusive to employees. We extend the same offer to our clients who trust us with something very precious, their vision. Our job is to make your job easier. We provide you the tools to make your dream a reality. Whether it be in the form of social media, public relations, relationship building, advocacy, grant writing, lobbying, marketing or blogging. Blogging offers a unique perspective, an inside look, into your business. Blogging adds a personal touch to marketing campaigns and business models. Consumers want to see the people behind the big business. Who or what do you want to highlight in our next blog?
If I were to reflect on my career so far, I’d find that I am thankful for my past, content in my present and excited for my future and the content I’ll produce for you at RJL Solutions.
a message from Taylor Hollenbeck, Government Relations Associate,
Holtrey brings to the team a passion for design, branding and digital marketing, each founded on her devotion to serve. As Content Strategist, Holtrey will be an important element to RJL’s Strategic Communications department as she will focus her craft on content planning and development, design, analysis, social media and digital marketing strategies. Holtrey is a recent graduate of the University of Louisville where she studied Communication and Sociology. Her experiences are lined in unique internship and leadership positions for renowned companies and brands such as Love Your Melon and J Wagner Group.
"As a creative and one who has a deep passion for the service of others, I am grateful to have a place at RJL Solutions, understanding that everything the company offers is based on solution finding," states Holtrey. "I am certain my skillset will fit perfectly within the team and offer our clients even more solutions and opportunities."
Pesavento joins RJL Solutions as Communications Coordinator where she will be responsible for scheduling, managing communication requests, providing support in project management and leading various communications initiatives in areas including public relations, community development and marketing. Pesavento’s drive comes from storytelling and sharing the elements of any story, large or small. She is a graduate of Indiana State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Communication with a concentration in Journalism. As a former journalist and consumer representative in the behavioral healthcare industry, Pesavento brings robust knowledge and a deep-rooted love for community.
"Everyone has a story and even the small ones have the potential to make a big difference in the lives of our community members. RJL Solutions has offered me the unique opportunity to seek and find individuals in Indiana waiting for their stories to be told,” states Pesavento. “I'm honored to learn from the leadership team here and find where I fit into RJL's story."
“I had the privilege of being RJL's first intern and now I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with each of our interns as head of the program. Leadership is an integral value at RJL Solutions. Our internship program is designed to support industry related studies, but most importantly, it's designed to create emerging leaders who are well equipped to take on the workforce,” states Anna Madden, Director of Strategic Communications.
RJL Solutions founded its internship program in 2018 because its headquarters was strategically located in Terre Haute, a city consisting of four higher education institutions. Wanting to capitalize on what schools were offering within their curriculum, the company hoped to provide additional value to the students, the institutions and the community as a whole. Today, the company has expanded its services to a downtown Indianapolis-based office where it serves clients from across the state and beyond.
“I believe to better our communities, our state and our nation, we must work together to mentor and offer opportunities to our emerging leaders,” states Rachel Leslie, CEO. “From our first intern, Anna Madden, and beyond, we’ve seen them already make significant, positive impacts in society. Those impacts will make lasting impressions that we’ll be witnessing for some time. I’m thankful to the Indiana Chamber, the Indiana INTERNnet program, their staff and volunteers, and those who were nominated alongside us, for believing in a shared mission.”
Interns at RJL participate in weekly professional development workshops, engage with and are mentored by RJL team members and present a final project presentation at the end of their tenure. Overall, interns are each given real-world and high-level projects to work on, generating an added sense of professionalism, responsibility and trust.
“Our program would not be successful without the institutions who provide the best students, and of course, our interns who continuously bring a unique spark, perspectives and personality to our team each and every semester,” states Madden. “Thank you, Indiana INTERNnet, for recognizing RJL Solutions and our interns.”
RJL Solutions is looking forward to continuing its internship program throughout the state and expand its reach for Hoosier students. To learn more about our internship program, visit www.rjlsolutions.com/internships.html.
An update from Anna Madden, RJL Solutions
Marketing is changing by the minute thanks to a more digital prone world due to events from this past year. The hardest thing you will have to do as a marketer is to re-find your clientele now that homes are major office hubs, and some counties are still requiring businesses to be at half capacity. Marketers are working hard at the beginning of this year to research the new trends and changes in the industry and how we can make this year profitable for our clients after a year that tanked for some industries. Your RJL Solutions’ Strategic Communications Team has made this a goal too. This past month, our marketing team had the opportunity to attend a virtual and rich marketing conference held by the American Marketing Association (AMA). This conference featured speakers from Lucidpress, Sitecore and Tealium, marketing companies with niche focuses on data, branding and digital marketing. Here is what we learned that you need to know while planning your 2021 marketing.
Utilizing Data Effectively
Telling a consistent story through your brand
Brand consistency is of the upmost importance. To feel confident in your brand, it’s imperative that you feel confident in your understanding of two MAJOR players in your game: your consumers and your employees. “24.54% stated that inconsistent branding creates confusion in the market. An inconsistent brand prevents customers from fully recognizing a company and its messaging, which in turn, impacts sales conversions and lead generation,” states Lucidpress, AMA conference guest speaker. The best way to avoid inconsistency is to create (or outsource a marketing agency to create) clear and resourceful brand guidelines. In addition to brand guidelines, you’ll also want someone (or, again, a marketing agency) to monitor your brand and help your company make major decisions, down to smaller decisions such as how a post should be created and the do’s and the don’ts of social posting.
A new trend that was influenced as a result of the pandemic is that sales are shifting from a non-face-to-face format to potential consumers wanting to use text, chat or research on their own. Because of this, it is important that your online content clearly shows your brand with little to no changes in colors, fonts, and design elements. You should include your logo when you can and consider refreshing or adding to your brand through a structured process to allow for more fluidity on the internal creative process. Additionally, what’s being published through marketing channels needs to be consistent with talking points that sales representatives are using. “Sales and marketing alignment helps off set brand inconsistencies, improves communication across teams and ensures your content best reflects customer needs,” states Lucidpress.
Digital Marketing Trends
"Ryan joins the team with an array of knowledge. His extensive understanding of federal initiatives and how they directly impact local and state municipalities and organizations will allow our team to ensure our clients are taking advantage of every opportunity," states Andrianna Hji-Avgoustis, Director of Government Relations. "Ryan's skill-set is certainly a competitive edge and we are happy to have him working alongside us."
Ritchie will work directly with RJL’s clients by providing analyst level support, coordinating legislative efforts by working with state, local and federal government officials and legislators, and implementing strategic high-level initiatives through policy development, relationship-building and intentional partnerships.
“I am deeply honored to join the RJL Solutions Government Relations division. Advocating and finding solutions for issues on the state and federal level has long been a passion of mine,” states Ritchie. “I look forward to working alongside the talented team at RJL Solutions to serve our clients’ needs.”
Ritchie earned his bachelor’s degree from Ball State University and is currently earning his Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from Indiana University. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, attempting new recipes, and reading non-fiction works.
As the firm’s Advocacy and Government Relations Interns, Hensley and Dinkins are tasked with providing supplemental support to the RJL Solutions advocacy department. With the 2021 legislative session in full swing, Hensley and Dinkins are immersed in policy and industry research, client communications and political happenings in and around the state legislature.
Dinkins, a Political Science major at Indiana State University, is passioned with writing and policy analysis. Her previous internship experiences at the U.S. Congress – House of Representatives and Indiana GOP have heightened her political drive and legislative knowledge.
Hensley is obtaining a degree in Communication – Public Relations at Indiana State University. Her past internship experiences and tenure as Student Body President elevates Hensley’s innate ability to lead and facilitate high-level conversations.
Kendall joins the RJL team as the Marketing and Design Intern where she will delve into content creation and planning for RJL and its clients through social media, SEO, web and video design and other digital marketing platforms while analyzing digital relevance and account trends. Kendall is a student athlete at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and is studying Business Administration.
“Each semester, we partner with our local higher institutions to offer some of our region’s best and talented students an internship opportunity,” states Anna Madden, Director of Strategic Communications and head of the internship program. “Our program is designed to provide our interns with a unique, hands-on and experiential learning experience. We hope that through our program, they find a deeper appreciation for their craft and find added skills and confidence to better prepare themselves for the workforce. We are grateful to have these three on board.”
Anwyn Payonk, Communications Associate, continues her extended internship experience this semester as an integral part of the RJL Solutions team.
Although there were (and still are) hardships unique to 2020, did you find peace in having extra time for some reflection?
I enjoyed hunting with my oldest son and learning survival skills from my youngest son using a youth designated survival kit. These are things I’m not sure I would’ve made time for if not in quarantine.
I read. I caught up on books that ended up on a shelf in my office after entering my home. Those books caused me to think differently, develop new leadership skills and share them with others.
I learned new technology (good and bad) and advanced my professional capabilities in the virtual environment.
I licked some toads (Thanksgiving blog). Made long overdue appointments, sent long overdue notes and cards and reconnected virtually with some dear friends.
I stopped and appreciated my RJL family and all we’ve accomplished. I used the time to reflect on each person’s superpower and their unique talents to serve our clients even better.
Now, I’m reflecting on you and your trust. The entire RJL family appreciates you.
If you’ve made it to the end of this message, I have a favor to ask. Please share if you found some peaceful time at home during 2020 and what unique things you were able to accomplish or take on that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. Perhaps we can help one another with some ideas.
May you reflect and be merry!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you,
Chief Executive Officer
As RJL’s Chief Operating Officer, I’ve learned firsthand how important relationships are to the success of our customer service. Through my position, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know our clients personally and build relationships based on trust. These connections developed through good customer service are imperative for a business to grow and succeed. You can offer the best service in the world, but without customer service and individualized communication, it won’t matter.
In 2019, Forbes examined just how essential customer service is for a business. They found that 96% of customers find a company’s customer service an important decider in their loyalty to an organization. In fact, Forbes cited customer service as the top reason clients will choose to leave or discontinue business with a company. If your clients don’t feel appreciated and heard, their loyalty to your business won’t last. Retention and keeping those valued relationships among clients are incredibly important for a growing business. Companies that provide good customer service are five times more likely to have clients purchase from then again and keep their business (Forbes). But it’s not just returning customers that cite customer service as important. Forbes found that brands with higher customer service ratings will bring in 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors who are unable to provide superior customer service experiences. The way you treat clients directly shows them how the company operates and the morals in which they are built on. It tells your clients whether or not they should trust you, do business with you and continue their relationships with your business and its employees.
Customer service strengthens your business and provides all employees the opportunity to grow both within their professional and personal lives. At RJL, our relationship with our clients aids our employees as they gain feedback and continue to better themselves. While customer service can be viewed as a social skill, all it takes is the ability to connect and be open. Excellent service doesn’t come from the chattiest, funniest or most outgoing team member, it comes from an employee and a team who strive to get to know their clients and promote growth. Forbes argues that companies with excellent customer service have employees who are 1.5 times more engaged with them than other organizations. Treating your clients well can empower employees to do better. This attitude opens dialogue for honest evaluations and feelings to be shared. Employees are then able to learn the ways they are impacting the company and the community they serve. Through customer service and honest relationships with clients, a business and its employees can visualize their needs to become better for their clients and their community.
This unique year has taught businesses a lot about their interactions with those they serve. When moving to digital formats, in-person interactions were almost impossible as customer service became exclusively digital. It created a new challenge as many found it harder to connect through a screen. Sitting through meetings with endless lags and constant connectivity issues felt like a bridge that made it impossible to connect with clients and to inspire positive environments. It became even more important to emphasize the relationships built upon good customer service and continue to provide high level attention and detail through digital relationships. When your customer service is rooted in authenticity and a genuine want to help those you work with, the relationships can survive and thrive in any format.
“It exhilarates me to be submerged in new work that will challenge me in the best possible way,” states Collett. “The culture that Rachel Leslie, CEO, has created inspires a drive to advocate for RJL’s clients and the community. I am looking forward to learning more about relationship-building, effective communication, and the professional team environment in my time at RJL.”
Collett, a Terre Haute native, is currently working to complete his M.A. in communications at the University of Kentucky while he plays in his final year of eligibility for the university’s baseball team. Through his support in athletics, Collett has been able to begin cultivating relationships rooted in advocacy through his volunteer work with the UK Kentucky Children’s Hospital and the Jessie Reers Foundation. Collett is currently home for an extended winter break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His love for his hometown community and passion for advocacy are what influenced him to find internship opportunities in Terre Haute during this break period.
“It’s always incredibly exciting to welcome a new intern to the RJL team,” states Anna Madden, Director of Strategic Communications for RJL’s Indianapolis office and head of RJL’s intern program. “At RJL, we believe in giving our interns thought-provoking work that connects them directly with clients and real-world experience. TJ is bringing a strong work ethic and charisma to the team. I can’t wait to see all he is able to accomplish with our government relations team.”
How we face our individual circumstances are undoubtedly setting the stage for how we lead our organizations, businesses, educational institutions, communities – maybe all of the above. Have you changed the way you lead and see things? I have to admit, for me, everything shifted so quickly I found myself making the best decisions I knew in the moment using my leadership style (or at least I think I did). While living in the reactive frame brings me down and shuts down my futuristic vision, my ability to see beyond two or three years, it did cause me to reflect on what I needed to do to switch modes.
The proactive frame of mind, especially going into the holidays brings hope. From a grateful heart at Thanksgiving, to the magic of Christmas, to the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, which will undoubtedly have new found meaning, this time of year offers pause. Although this sounds insightful, I secretly wish the mode shift from reactive to proactive was like switching a toy from demo mode to on. Perhaps that would make our lives a little easier, but it’s just not that simple.
A friend bought me a book titled, Your Oxygen Mask First: 17 Habits to Help High Achievers Survive & Thrive in Leadership & Life by Kevin N. Lawrence. Although it was a simple read, the basic concepts are not only good reminders, but they’re slap-you-in-the-face type of reminders. Chapter Five, Licking Your Toads, suggests that getting the things you don’t want to do done and checked off your list is remarkably important to leading effectively.
“You may delay, but time will not.” – Benjamin Franklin
It offers a step-by-step guide such as first identifying your toads, taking action on them and then setting a timeline (specifically 10 days).
I’m spending the weeks ahead licking my toads, preparing for the future and working to switch my mode from reactive to proactive. I should note, I’m encouraging my team to do the same. My list is likely to include more life items, personal things that will allow me to shift how I lead in 2021. I’m committed to changing from demo mode to on at the drop of the ball at midnight. In that moment, I will no longer reflect on 2020, but consider the difference I plan to make after 2021.
If we’re all in this together, no generational divides, but truly, a society faced with the same enemy, it seems the history books will be written about those who stood above everyone else. My guess is the story will be about those who didn’t live in reactive mode for very long.
So, lick your toads accordingly, and cheers to 2021!
a message from Andrianna Hji-Avgoustis, Director of Government Relations
This year’s Indiana legislative session brings in a wave of change, as lawmakers grapple with COVID-19 and the impacts to the state budget. Although we all know the legislative session is important, why our state legislative session matters can sometimes get lost. However, this year, we need to all pay even closer attention as lawmakers work to save the state from the unforeseen consequences from the pandemic.
The Indiana legislature represents all of us throughout the state. Each individual neighborhood, school district, community, business, or county has representation and can fight for their unique issues to protect and see positive change. With all that is going on all over the world, each of us will be impacted by what our state legislators decide. I implore us all to find our voice, advocate, and educate fellow Hoosiers to get involved in this process because it is a vitally important year.
Andrianna’s passions in her work are rooted in her education background as she holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Public Affairs with coursework in law and political science and a Master of Public Administration from Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI) with a concentration in Environmental Policy and Sustainability.
a message from McKenzi Kumpf, Community Development Specialist
In the world of grant development, it’s important to have thick skin. With numerous grants available and many different projects seeking to be funded, the opportunities are large but the competition is fierce. It’s a reality we have to understand. Rejection is inevitable. Having a project rejected isn’t easy. It hurts. One can have an amazing application for a strong project and still get a letter back saying, “We regret to inform you that your project has not been selected for funding at this time.” This is a phrase we dread to hear in the grant industry. But rejection doesn’t mean it is over, so don’t throw in the towel just yet. Here are four things you should do if your grant application is rejected.
Take Feedback and Look for Improvements
Wait for the Next Round of Funding or Search for New Opportunities
About McKenzi Kumpf
McKenzi is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College where she received a degree in Professional Writing. Her course curriculum and internships strengthened her interest and skills in the grant writing industry. In her free time, McKenzi coaches volleyball at The Academy Volleyball Club in Indianapolis. As a former student athlete, McKenzi’s competitive edge is lined with grit and grace which she brings each day to the RJL Solutions team.
a message from Anwyn Payonk, an RJL Intern
The word “internship” will strike fear into any 20-something college student. For many of us, it’s a requirement or an obligation. While my degree didn’t require an internship to graduate, it still seemed like something I needed to do. Writing was a passion of mine, but I wasn’t sure how to channel that passion into a career. I knew how to apply my writing in skills in a classroom, but beyond that I had no clue as to how the world worked. My mother tried assuring me that an internship would help me find that passion. As all 21-year-old girls do to their mom, I shrugged it off and thought I didn’t need to listen.
I had always envisioned internships in a very stereotypical way - making copies, getting coffee and cleaning up the office. I didn’t want to do this. I needed a place to apply my skills and gain the mentorship to grow them. I’ll be honest, I felt a little lost with my future. I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure what
When I applied to intern at RJL, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard good things from past interns, but my sardonic personality couldn’t help but think of all the intern horror stories I’d seen online from random strangers at random companies. However, at the start of my interview I knew I had found something special. It felt like a casual conversation in which people were truly trying to get to know me. They wanted to know my skills but also what I wanted in an internship, not just what they imagined. I was an individual with aspirations to them and not a possible coffee runner. When I was asked about my writing, I felt an odd sense of pride. I knew I had finally found the opportunity to use my skills in a meaningful and real-world way.
An internship can elevate you in ways you didn’t know it could. During my internship at RJL, I was extremely lucky to be surrounded by mentors and supervisors who trusted me and wanted to see me succeed. I was assigned tasks that were beyond my comfort level but pushed me to be better as a professional and as a writer. Doors to opportunities were not just opened for me, they were flung open at rapid rates. I was handed task after task that taught me something new. Blog posts, press releases and website copy became new ways in which I was able to express my passion for writing in the real world. I had always loved writing. Of course, I did. It’s why I chose English as a major in college. But I had a very narrow view of how writing applied to the real world. Being an intern opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could do with my degree and skill. RJL gave me the opportunity to use my writing for social media, ghost writing, data analysis, press releases and more. A passion for writing didn’t have to be confined to writing books or papers. It could be used in multiple aspects that go beyond the world of academia. As an intern, you have to seize the opportunities thrown at you. At the core of almost all my tasks as an intern was writing. I was fortunate to be at a company where they heard what I wanted. I wanted to write, so they gave me varying tasks that involved just that. I was given the opportunity to constantly be learning about myself, a business and writing. It was essential to not just my success at RJL, but RJL’s success overall. I was becoming an integral part of RJL because they trust their interns and want to see them succeed.
Internships get a bad reputation. Some deservedly so, but if you truly find a company that wants to see you succeed and wants to see you elevate yourself as a young professional, the opportunities are endless. Paying attention, giving your best and, most importantly, working hard, will allow you to find new opportunities that can help you find your niche and your passion.
a message from Taylor Hollenbeck, Government Relations Associate
Have you ever wondered where your taxes go, what they are used for or why they keep increasing? Why are our students going to school earlier in the year and getting out later? When will that pothole get fixed or the lanes expanded to prevent the morning road rage?
Growing up, I never understood why my parents were always concerned about these issues. Why they would write letters to the editor or attend local community meetings where maybe five people showed up on a good day. How was this helpful to them and the entire community? Now that I own my home, I can’t help but wonder why I still haven’t gotten involved in my local government, written letters to the editor or attended local decision-making meetings. I have concerns about my daily commute, safety, economic development opportunities and taxes. I should not and cannot rely on others to make MY voice heard and make my community a better place to live.
Before we dive into the next piece of federal policy, let’s first take a step back and ask ourselves what we are doing to better our local community. The policies made by councilmen/women and county commissioners are going to have an immediate and lasting impact on the community compared to the slower pace of the federal government. Our local communities’ decisions have a much more direct effect on ordinary day-to-day activities compared to state and federal government. We have more opportunities to make our opinions, concerns and praises heard by our local elected officials. It is our duty to serve in the community where we live by becoming prominent leaders and active residents. Simply put, it is our responsibility to serve our neighbors to enhance our quality of life.
Some examples of ways to enhance your local community and make your voice heard include:
- Writing letters to local community leaders and publications
- Attending City Council meetings
- Signing up for monthly newsletters from organizations and leaders within your community
- Voting in local elections
- Volunteering for local and community organizations
- Submitting recommendations and requests for improvements in a community
- Participating in and completing surveys sent out to communities
Find out who your state and local leaders are by visiting http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/ and by exploring your local city and county government websites.
About Taylor Hollenbeck
Taylor obtained her bachelor’s degree in political science from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Prior to her tenure at RJL Solutions, Taylor held the Director of Legislative Affairs position in the Office of Indiana Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. Before that, she was a legislative assistant and, prior to that, a legislative intern. She also volunteers as co-director of a local pageant affiliated with the Miss America Organization.