Welcome Neighbor

Welcoming homeowners for over a quarter of a century, Anne and Bob Pounds use their passion and talents in making new homeowners feel connected with their new neighborhood.

Where is your business located, and what area(s) do you serve? (map)

Our headquarters are in Chadds Ford, PA, where we began 25 years ago, and here is a map of our service areas as we expanded our service.

When did you start your business, and what was your inspiration for doing so?

We started in January of 1999, just a week after the former nationwide Welcome Wagon company shut down their entire company across the country overnight. As one of the top 30 representatives doing both sales and welcome visits, I and my partner Bob made a quick decision that the service should not stop, and we re-organized as Welcome Neighbor and continued where they left off. Since then, we’ve personally (and with our team) welcomed over 55,000 new homeowners into their homes. It has been a very personal and friendly way to build community, connect local businesses to the new homeowners, and present the resources of each community and the businesses we’ve invited to be a part of our welcome.

How long have you been operating, and what changes have you seen and made in your business since its beginning?

Wow! What HAVEN’T we changed and seen changed? I was visiting when I began asking the question, “Have you tried out email yet?” And I began getting email addresses of our visitees. During our time we’ve seen Facebook and social media come into use, we’ve seen the novelty of having a “car phone” change to the ubiquitousness of almost every person on Planet Earth having a cell phone. We kept our business alive during the Great Recession when we lost almost half of our small business partners over a period of ten days after the market crashed. We added a monthly enewsletter about 10 years ago, and our readership is now over 7,000, with an open rate of (usually) about 70 percent. In it is my blog called Dear Neighbor that I began to “keep hope alive” during Covid; and I also do a recipe, local events, and restaurant reviews which also appear on our fun website called TheCheapEater.com. We also send by email a clickable map of our favorite trails, parks, dog parks, playgrounds, libraries, etc. that open to short YouTube videos of Bob and me on the trail and touring the park. It’s a way to help people get to know the area in a newer, digital way. The newsletter was an important staying power when Covid shut us down for two-plus years. We went from a monthly to a weekly publication to help our partner businesses stay alive during that difficult time. We lost all our greeters, and when we began again, we kind of had to start over. Coming out of Covid has been a slow and steady return, but the one thing we have seen is that people have become more reclusive. This is a sad outcome of our society being forced into isolation, and many have not made a good recovery. Recently we came to the decision that we cannot do our best work standing at someone’s door or talking to a Ring doorbell, and we decided to take a better approach by mailing a welcome package that has the same generous offers, friendly connection to local businesses, some gifts and our mini magazine called New Connections. Also during Covid, Bob developed our cell phone app and put all our partner businesses in it, with complete access information and a feature we call “Why Welcome Neighbor Chose. . .” Now we also do this feature in the magazine, to make up for the in-person presentations we were too frequently less able to do. Scan the QR code to open the app—you’ll see some of your fellow members:

Tell us about you: what do you do in your daily work?

Lots of customer care! We find as many ways as we can to serve as consultants to our businesses, and we work hard to promote them across the board, on every platform we have and are a part of—such as community message boards. We do our own printing, have a graphic designer (although Bob does a lot of this work too), and until recently we worked with our greeters to get their presentation materials together and disperse their visit information. We do copywriting and printing. At the end of each month, we present a list of the new homeowners we’ve introduced them to. We publish our enewsletter and contact new businesses we’ve vetted and invite them to participate. Starting a new partner business gets them in all our platforms. All of that is a lot of our work. And we connect with new homeowners the first week of the month!

How do you serve your customers?

See above. It’s pretty steady work!

What are some of the important and possibly less obvious aspects of your business?
I would say it’s connecting people and putting people together. It becomes a natural thing to help people find what they are looking for to fill their needs, get them involved, introduce them to others who may have the same interests. I also think we kind of look around the “edges” of our partners’ businesses to see if there is a unique way to get information out about them and their services and/or products. It’s everything such as announcing that the vet is doing a free nail trim to an HVAC company that offers free water testing and offers a line of water treatment systems—it’s the extra things that don’t always get said. And more: It’s finding ways to bring people together that are non-intrusive and actually useful to them. It’s promoting local, local, local. It’s encouraging use of and supporting our local food pantries and volunteer organizations. It’s sharing the great tourism features of our communities. It’s an unending goal of being a good resource to a hungry audience, new people.

What is your business philosophy, and how did that outlook or education prepare you for your work?

We were totally unprepared for our work! We didn’t even know enough to have a dream. It is our mentors who taught us so much, including how to have a dream and set goals to reach the dreams. Today, we have many “mantras: that remind us to see the positive. Sometimes we just look at each other with a grin and say “A.I.G.?” It comes from a little tie-tac pin that is shaped like an egg and has those three letters on it. What does it remind us of? “Ain’t It Great?” How can you go wrong when you remember that as an overarching philosophy? Another is “Growth occurs when we are OUTSIDE our comfort zones!” So stay uncomfortable; that’s where the action is. When we were 26 and 27 and newlyweds, we discovered we hated going in opposite directions to our respective workplaces. I worked for a nonprofit marketing research organization connected with the U. of PA, and Bob was a new graduate with a journalism degree working on a magazine. We decided to abandon our jobs and start a business of wholesale and retail sales, and we began recruiting a sales organization and teaching them (and ourselves) how to be effective at sales and working with people. We read every book we could get our hands on related to sales, marketing and leadership, bought a giant tape reel-to-reel tape recorder and began listening to the “greats.” We invested in these learning tools because we had so darned much to learn! We attended conferences and took every opportunity to take notes and apply the information. But the one thing that resonated with us more than everything else we learned was that the code of ethics of our business we joined was built on the Golden Rule: “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You.” I hardly believed it, already jaded from corporate life; but it proved to be true and one we could build our organization on. We built a large business of several thousand people and planned to make it our life. When the ethics of the organization changed to something different, we sadly turned in another direction and gradually pulled away from what had been a dream, realizing we had lost control of that dream for ourselves and all those we had made promises to. Now we use the same code of ethics in Welcome Neighbor, and we know that no one can pollute it, because it is within our control.

What are your hobbies and “other than” activities?

Many! We began sailing after taking a sailing vacation when we were young business owners, and we never recovered. We went to Annapolis Sailing School and bought a small board sailor. Then a small pocket cruiser, once we realized we wanted to be out there all day long. We went everywhere with that small cruising boat. Then a bigger boat. Then another bigger yet boat, and we moved our sailing location to the Chesapeake Bay. We sailed for 42 years and loved every minute of it, constantly improving our skills and studying how to be better at it. But we were never racing sailors. We love the good life too much to submit to that kind of torture! Our philosophy of being hard workers while having fun is simply that of many business owners: work hard,play hard. In addition to sailing, we are gardeners, growing as much of our own food as we can (even while sailing half the week!), I am a writer, having written two books and more in the works, I have been a watercolor painter and studied under Karl Kuerner, and Bob is a gadgeteer and fixer of all things, as well as a lover of all things computer. Anne loves cooking and entertaining, and Bob is a willing sous chef and mixologist.

 

It occurred to me that I am within days or a week of publishing a memoir I’ve worked on over about 20 years called Riding in the Rumble Seat, about my mother. My author Facebook page, Anne Pounds Writes.

Do you have any tips for new business owners, employees, or new homeowners?
Of course!

New Business Owners: Congratulations! We encourage every American to get into some kind of business. It’s the best way we know to learn about life in the real world, learn
about yourself and what you are made of. Anne says, “I was worthless as my own employee and had to learn how to be productive,” and many corporate settings treat employees like babies). Learn to fail up, because you will fail many times. Join the chamber. Start part-time and give yourself the challenge of making it grow. There is no thrill like it, in our opinion—except sailing under full canvas in 25-knot winds and building waves).

Homeowners: YOU throw a party for your new neighbors: put invitations in mailboxes and tell everyone to bring an appetizer and you’ll do some drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Everyone will come so they can meet you, and you will have started a new trend! Contact the Visitor and Convention Bureau, visit our website WelcomeNeighborPA.com, to learn about the resources in your new environment. Subscribe to our enewsletter at our website. It’s called Neighborly News, and you’ll find Anne’s blog called Dear Neighbor, a great recipe, usually a restaurant review from The Cheap Eater, local events, and ideas for enjoying the season with you and your family.

Employees: Learn how to have an entrepreneurial attitude. Pretend you actually have a stake in the business, and that your job is not just a paycheck source—because you do! You are expendable, a good thing not to forget. Read some books to learn how to develop leadership skills and how to deal with difficult people—there seem to be some in every business environment who will present challenges and obstacles to you. Turn that obstacle from a stumbling block into a steppingstone without throwing them under the bus. Try to use some civility in your daily interactions. Social media is the best teacher in how to be UN-civil, but sometimes it’s easy to forget in face-to-face encounters that you shouldn’t act like the [other] jerks. You can do better.

How should people in each category reach you? Are you available for a chat?

Anne is always available! It’s what she loves, interacting with real people! Bob is more the back-office guy and the brains of the operation, but he’s loaded with good ideas.
WelcomeNeighborpa.com
Anne.wnpa@gmail.com
610-742-9341