2021 is shaping up to be a busy year for Michael Barbera. The founder and chief behavioral officer at Clicksuasion Labs in Pinehurst was recently named to a three-year term as a local board member of the USO of North Carolina. He’s also the newly installed chairman of the board for the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, and recently took a seat on the Partners in Progress economic development organization board.
“The majority of my time is spent working with brands and clients out of state. But the people I work with are from Moore County. If this is where I’m going to be looking to hire then I need to be involved in this community. I want to have the chance to give back and nurture that talent.”
Barbera had collaborated with Kelli Willoughby, executive director of USO of NC, on several projects prior to joining the board. The USO of NC provides critical programs and services for military members at 11 locations across the state, and provides nearly 600,00 service connections annually.
“It’s a good match for me,” he said, noting his role and responsibilities include advising Willoughby regarding active duty service members, fundraising, and strategic initiatives.
“The USO of North Carolina has immense capacity as a military service organization to make a measurable impact on the lives of our service members,” he said. “I’m excited and eager to contribute to the quality of service associated with the USO of North Carolina.”
He is also a founding member of Revolutionary Coworking, a shared office space environment developed in Fayetteville. Barbera said any business can apply to join but the facility’s primary purpose is to serve military spouses.
“I have a small military background and I understand that it can be difficult for military spouses to transition between jobs or they may work from home and be stuck meeting with clients in a coffee shop. We wanted to give them a better space.”
That experience in managing a cospace environment will be put to good use as the Moore County Chamber of Commerce is set to move into its new offices in the Krausen Building in downtown Southern Pines.
Located at the corner of South Bennett Street and West New York Avenue above the new Southern Pines Growler Co. taproom, the Chamber’s new floor plan was designed with flexibility in mind. The open layout includes staff offices, informal gathering places, a conference room that can be adjusted according to size needs, and a coworking space.
“It’s not a secret that traditional membership organizations are failing. Many chambers across the county have closed their doors. So the question is how can we be relevant to the community, our members and our mission?”
“We identified a collaborative space where we could bring all these elements together,” Barbera said.
A large portion of Moore County Chamber members are small businesses or people who may work from home, he added. The new flexible coworking space will provide an easy “go to” place where people can gather for business needs.
As the Chamber’s board chairman, Barbera will also hold a seat on the Moore County Partners in Progress board.
“These are two different organizations with different goals, but they are closely aligned and support each other’s missions,” he said. “Our approach to economic development should be modern, measurable, and relevant to our county’s needs, growth, and residents.”
Barbera is consumer psychologist, and he and his team coined the word “clicksuasion” to describe the psychology of clicks on the internet and how businesses can use those inclinations to control the customer experience.
Their business consulting firm Clicksuasion Labs has grown to a team of 11 staff members since it was first established in 2014.
“When the pandemic hit back in March, a lot of projects paused. We had little on our plate and I wasn’t sure how much we’d be able to accomplish. Then the bottom dropped out and we got swamped.”
In particular, Barbera said they’ve seen an uptick in clients from hedge funds and universities.
“They want to know the same thing as other businesses: how Customer A is going to spend B dollars on C product by D date.”
The pandemic has changed consumer behaviors, but Barbera sees this as a temporary issue.
“The delivery method or medium may change but the customer is still there.”
During the early days of the pandemic, Barbera and Crystal Wambeke developed a second small business called Rakemates. Their locally-based lawn service uses a monthly subscription model, eco-friendly products and tools, and they specifically hire staff members who have lost their previous jobs due to COVID-19.