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Archive for April 2012

Peanut Butter And Jelly And Other Great Combinations

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A winning combination

The world we live in today is changing and I believe we are going through many changes that are as significant as the industrial revolution.  Even the changes that were brought about by the computerization of businesses due to the affordability of the desktop computer are not as significant or as rapid as what is going on now.  Social media and the connectivity brought about by high speed internet have shrunken the world.  Brick and mortar may be a thing of the past for some businesses.  We need to understand this and be on the leading edge of this change so we can take advantage of it in our businesses.  This means telecommuting policies must be liberalized, use of office building space re-evaluated to maximize efficiency.  If you have a 2,500 square foot office that is used from 8 to 5 for five days a week, it is no longer acceptable to have that asset sit idle for most of the time.   I have listed a few examples below some creative thinking might have to take place to make it work, but it could be worth it:

  • A roller skating rink or gymnastics center by night, a day care service by day.
  • Public school during the week, college campus or trade school on Saturday – maybe tuition won’t be so high. 
  • Use public school space for day care or summer learning by for-profit businesses and use rental income to defray costs or pass savings on to tax payers.  It could be a win-win situation.
  • Breakfast and lunch restaurant operated by company ABC and a Dinner restaurant for company XYZ.  Inventory control could be interesting.
  • Two firms occupy one space at same time and share usage between first shift and second shift.  If it saves half the rent maybe it is worth it?  Or two firms can offer telecommuting half the time and share the space since they only need half as much space.
  • How about an ice cream shop in the warmer months a trendy hot beverage and soup place in the cooler months.  If you are on the hook for rent all year and can sublet it for even half price why not?  Who wouldn’t want a latte or hot chocolate to go with a stuffed pepper soup on a cold winter day?
  • How about a bakery that turns into a pizza shop for dinner hours?  The bakery is done by noon and the pizza shop closes by 11 PM; that leaves plenty of time for the transition if you design a streamlined process.  Read about an interesting pizza idea here.      

Perhaps these ideas would not all work but it is time to change the way we think.  Who would have thought that FaceBook would be worth 100 billion dollars? I would be interested in hearing your ideas for business combinations that could take advantage of cost sharing.

Have a great week finding the jelly to your peanut butter.

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Written by pacelinebiz

April 30, 2012 at 10:05 am

April 23rd In History

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New Coke, better than Old Coke

The last time I wrote about a day in history it was January 24, 1935 and it was the day that beer first became available in a can.  Read about that big day here.  Today in history, another big beverage day occurred-“New” Coke was launched.  I have highlighted some of the events below.  To read the full list click here.

  • 2011  In England, the guest list for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is released 
  • 1997  “Titanic,” opens at Lunt-Fontanne Theater New York City 
  • 1996  Sotherby begins 4 day auction of Jackie Onassis things nets $34.5 million 
  • 1992  McDonald’s opens its 1st fast-food restaurant in China 
  • 1991  U.S.S.R. grants republics right to secede under certain conditions 
  • 1989  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar plays his last game as a Laker 
  • 1989  Nolan Ryan blows a no hitter in 9th inning 
  • 1985  Coca-Cola announced it is changing its secret flavor formula 
  • 1984  AIDS-virus identified, acquired immune deficiency syndrome 
  • 1978  Reds Joe Morgan ends record streak of 91 cons errorless games at 2nd 
  • 1972  Apollo 16 astronauts explores Moon surface 
  • 1969  Los Angeles Laker Jerry West scores 53 points 
  • 1962  1st U.S. satellite to reach the moon launched 
  • 1958  Gil Hodges hits his 300th home run and Pee Wee Reese plays in 2,000th game 
  • 1956  U.S. Supreme Court ends race segregation on buses 
  • 1954  Hammerin’ Hank Aaron hits 1st of his 755 homers 
  • 1950  4th NBA Championship: Minnesota Lakers beat Syracuse Nationals, 4 games to 2 
  • 1939  Boston Red Sox Ted Williams hits his 1st home run 
  • 1900  1st know occurrence of word “hillbillie” (New York Journal) 
  • 1896  Vitascope system of movie projection 1st demonstrated (New York City) 
  • 1881  Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera “Patience” produced in London 
  • 1867  Queen Victoria and Napoleon III turn down plans for a channel tunnel 
  • 1851  Canada issues its 1st postage stamps 
  • 1789  President-elect George Washington moves into Franklin House, New York 

 Granted my list is heavily loaded with sports trivia but I find it interesting that Ted Williams and Hank Aaron both hit the first home run of their respective major league careers on April 23rd though 15 years apart.  Ted Williams was arguably the best hitter in baseball and Hank Aaron is the Home run king*.  Between them they hit 1,276 home runs.  That’s a lot of dingers!

Despite many historically significant happenings on the list, I think the most notable is the change to the secret formula of coca-cola.  If not the launch of “New Coke” as most historically significant then the first known use of the word hillbillie gets my vote.

Have a great week armed with lots of valuable information from the events occurring on April 23rd in history.

*Reportedly someone else hit more home runs but I prefer to not acknowledge that cheating cheater in my baseball world.

Written by pacelinebiz

April 23, 2012 at 10:04 am

The Shamrock Shake Incident And A Good Deal Gone Bad

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I have some business lessons to share from two recent events that occurred in my life.  Perhaps you will find some value from my misadventure.  The two events are unrelated but occurred within 10 days of each other and have stuck in my craw.

On March 17th and 18th I went to 4 different McDonalds restaurants for a Shamrock shake and was unable to get one for various reasons ranging from a broken milk shake machine(this at a store less than 3 months old) , ran out of mix and never were a participant in the seasonal offering.  Needless to say I was frustrated by the situation.  I think we need to take note of this failure and learn from it.

First and foremost we need to be able to adequately stock our shelves so we have product to sell.  I can’t imagine how a company like McDonalds could allow this type of inventory ordering gaffe to occur.  Let me point out that I did not buy anything from McDonalds on those days that they were out of Shamrock shakes.  Most people have already formed an opinion of McDonalds and if this happened sporadically throughout the country it probably will not hurt their image or future earnings potential.  If this happens on a recurring basis it might signal a problem to people so the free pass does not exist forever – even for the Golden Arches.  How much goodwill do you have built up?  Do you have more than McDonalds?  Do you get a free pass from your customers when you fail?  My advice is to do everything in your power to not have to depend on your goodwill.  Stated another way; don’t make this mistake in the first place.  This failure is shocking because it is at the core of their business.  

The second bad customer experience I had was with a technology/electronics company with 23 locations in 16 states.  They had an offer for a coupon for $15 off any item in the store and it could be $15 off a $15 item.  This sounded really good so I decided to take the trip a little out of my way and get 2 flash drives for about $16 after using the coupon I would only pay $1 and life would be good.  I was a little leery of the promotion so before I started my purchase I asked an associate and he said that I did understand the coupon correctly.  WRONG!  I went up to the counter to pay for my 2 flash drives and was told that the item had to be $15 individually not more than 1 item adding to $15 or more.  That was very inconvenient and I was in a bit of a hurry so now I had to decide what I was going to purchase that cost over $15.  Of course I actually had to want or need the product for the transaction to make any sense.  As I rushed around I could not believe that a store with thousands of products could have so few that I wanted that fit the constraints of the coupon. I finally ended up buying a battery charger that came with 4 AA batteries that cost 14.99 plus tax.  I left the store somewhat satisfied but after I got home and had time to think about it,  I really did not want or need the batteries and I did not get what I really wanted – the flash drives.  The lesson to be learned in this instance is never turn a good thing into a bad thing.  So many times a company will try to do something nice for its employees or customers and it backfires.  This is one of the worst things that you can do because an expectation is created and then is not met.  Not only is it not met but you feel worse about the company than you would have if it did nothing at all.  It is a lot like a pass into the end zone being intercepted by the other team and returned 100 yards for a touchdown – very deflating.   Many people call that a game changer.  Watch what I am talking about here.

Yes, I finally did get my Shamrock shake but I had to go out of state to get it.  Have a great week and beware of the Shamrock Shake Incident and other game changers.

Written by pacelinebiz

April 16, 2012 at 10:05 am

Coffee, Coffee Filters And The Cinnamon Girl

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This Is NOT The Cinnamon Girl

Today’s blog is a little bit of everything.  I will review a re-usable coffee filter I bought, describe my ideal cup of coffee and relate it all to the Neil Young song; Cinnamon Girl.  Coincidently, I refer to my lovely wife as the cinnamon girl because she likes cinnamon as much as I do.

The first order of business is to review my re-usable coffee filter.  I bought it last summer for about $3 and it is worthy of consideration to replace your regular paper filters.  I am not an environmental activist by any means but if it works and actually saves money as well as a tree or parts of one over its life then why not?  The filter can be found at a big box store or grocery store near you.  I probably make coffee 250 times a year and the paper filters come in a package of 200 for about $3 which is about what I paid for the re-usable one.  Based on that math my return on investment is about 9 and a half months.  I have one caution about the filter; it can leave coffee silt at the bottom of the coffee pot so you may want to consider that before pulling out the 3 singles to buy it.  If you are careful you can get most of the coffee out of the pot before the silt finds its way into the cup.

Now, let’s talk about my ideal cup of coffee.  (I am drinking one cup as I write this which has its dangers) I make my coffee with water from our dispenser on the refrigerator door, the store brand dark roast coffee (they call it Italian Roast) and decaf store brand coffee in an equal blend.  I drink about two-thirds of a pot per day when I am in the office so I need to do this to avoid excess caffeine.  Moderation in all things is a good thing.  I also add to my coffee a good shake of store brand ground cinnamon.  A good shake is about a half-teaspoon.  I don’t think you can go wrong with a bit too much or too little.  I have also used nutmeg when feeling especially daring but it tended to plug up the old paper filters so I have not tried it lately with the re-usable one.   I add store brand hazelnut creamer to my cup and some sweetener and I am good to go.  My coffee maker is a $24 Mister Coffee unit that has a timer on it as an extravagant add-on feature.  I use that feature in moderation like all else I do – lying for the sake of a good blog post is one example.  That is how I make my ideal cup of coffee and I will put it up against the best coffeehouse coffee you can find.

Finally, the business of Neil Young and the Cinnamon Girl.  I began calling her that six or seven years ago when a friend of mine commented that we liked cinnamon a lot.  The name has stuck ever since and whenever I call her that I always am reminded of the Neil Young song of the same name from his Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album.  Yes, I said album since it came out in 1969 on vinyl.  That is how you write a 597 word blog in about 45 minutes about coffee and various other things.

Have a great week with a cup of coffee, your Cinnamon Girl/Guy and a Neil Young tune to make things interesting.

Written by pacelinebiz

April 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

Bean Counting And Much More

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Where do the beans come from?

“It is not enough to count the beans you must know where they come from.”  I heard this when I was working in a CPA firm all the time from a partner who apparently had a lasting impact on my business philosophy. The essence of his message was that a business owner needs to know the customers, product lines or service offerings that are the winners and the losers in his business.   

One way to do this is to dig a little deeper into your business.  By digging deeper I mean to analyze what the most profitable business activities are.  You can do this by using your accounting software to its fullest.  Go beyond the standard reports and look at what your customers are buying and what you make on each item you sell to them.  Many small businesses use inexpensive accounting software such as QuickBooks or Peachtree to track their income which is fine.  They offer good reports and the ability to export data you select to excel for analysis.  Taking this concept further you can look at what ZIP Codes you are selling to and adjust your sales efforts to tap into new, underserved markets. You may also want to run a report or create one that will tell you the date the last time you had a sale to a customer.  If it has been a while since their last visit or order, a follow-up postcard or special offer might be a good way to make sure you don’t lose contact forever.

What else can you do?  The ideas are only limited to your imagination, the time you have to spend to investigate and your appetite for digging into details.  What about average sales order per delivery or by sales representative?   Why does Sales Rep A have a higher sale per order than Sales Rep B?  Is it luck or is it something that you can learn from?  How about looking at trends?  Run a report and see how many units you sold to your top 10 customers over the past 3 or 5 years.   Which direction is each customer going – up or down and what are the reasons?   Many times a small business owner has a good idea of the answers to these questions but sometimes there are surprising results. 

A good accountant can help you with this and you should ask these types of questions if you are not getting this information.  Ask your accountant about Turning Things On End To Achieve Results! 

Have a great week, elbow deep in beans.

Written by pacelinebiz

April 2, 2012 at 10:03 am