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Archive for May 2013

Hot Fun In The Summertime

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Summer Is Here!

Summer Is Here!

Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer and cookouts with the sounds of the local radio station counting down the top 500 songs of all time can be heard in the background.  Many people go camping or to the lake for fishing or water skiing.  I grew up near a lake that had all of those activities and would watch the people pass by on their way as I worked at my dad’s gas station.  Many would stop by and fill up their cars and boats before stopping at the lake for various activities.

Another sure sign of summer’s arrival was the opening of the “greasy spoon” restaurant up the road from the lake.  Their menu had pizza burgers, pepper steak sandwiches, french fries, potato puffs (similar to kettle cooked chips) and a local specialty – the coffee stir.  I am getting hungry just thinking about the food they dished out!

I am sure you have similar experiences of summer time activities from your childhood.  Strangely, the lake was a big part of the summer even though I really did not spend much time there.  At this time of year, I usually have list of things I want to do every summer but so far I have not had time to think much about it.  I am looking forward to harvesting vegetables from my garden and making home-made salsa.  One item on my list now that I wrote this will be a visit to The Corral for a Pizza Burger.

 Have a great week enjoying the things of your past as summer 2013 kicks off.

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Written by pacelinebiz

May 27, 2013 at 8:02 am

Business Lessons From The Paperboy

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Extra, Extra Read All About It!

Extra, Extra Read All About It!

Some of the younger readers might not know what a paperboy is and barely know what a newspaper is.  Those who were around when paperboys were commonplace you can skip a head a couple of sentences.  Back before Al Gore was kind enough to invent the internet for us commoners, a human being typically less than 16 years old would deliver the newspaper to your door by either walking or perhaps using a bicycle.  I kid you not this really happened.

What lessons can we possibly learn from such an out of date media form and delivery method?  We can learn plenty, in my opinion.  It will be my job in the next 400 words or so to explain.  The paperboy can teach us at least three things.

  1. Use of technology
  2. Customer service
  3. Keeping bad debts to a minimum

Let me begin with technology.  The smart paper boys who wanted to have the largest route and most efficient delivery method would utilize a bicycle.    You may think that a bicycle is very low tech but compared to walking it was very advanced.  What we can learn is that employing some technologies even if not on the “bleeding edge” can yield results.  Fine, don’t be an early adopter but by now you should be using things like social media to replace traditional advertising like yellow pages or, dare I say, a newspaper advertisement.   Get rid of your dedicated fax line and use a scanner to send and receive pdf files over the internet at a much lower cost.

What does a 12-year-old paperboy know about customer service?  If he is a good paperboy he will not fling your paper in the drive way but ask you for your preference.  Would you like your paper between the storm door and the main door or shall I bring it in the kitchen and set in on the table by your coffee?  This kind of thing really happened. (Ask my dad he will tell you)  Of course this also was before doors were locked and remotely monitored with a smart phone.  Alas, technology giveth and taketh away.  How far do you go to make the customer happy?  Can you tailor your customer experience to fit each customer’s wishes?  Amazon does this and they are a huge company yet they maintain a unique customer experience that does not feel impersonal despite dealing with you through the internet.

Face to face interaction and good service leads to lower dead beat customers.  The paperboy interacts with his customer almost daily or at least monthly when he collects his money.   What we can learn from this is to become like a friend to your customer.  Some good advice I got from my boss at the CPA firm where I worked was to do your best at becoming  a friend of the customer.  He said it is easy to fire a service provider but hard to fire a friend.  We can also learn to stay on top of our receivables by monitoring them regularly.  The best way to stop bad debts is not allowing the receivables to become past due in the first place.

My 400 words have been used; I hope I have reminded you that we all can learn a little from the paperboy.  Have a great week.

Written by pacelinebiz

May 20, 2013 at 8:01 am

DIY Gardening And Sticking It To The Man

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Nature's Bounty

Nature’s Bounty

On April 10, 2013 I took a big step towards sticking it to the man, or so I thought.  That day I bought the following items for my garden:

 Garden purchases 2

As I drove out of the parking lot of the store I was fiendishly laughing at how I was about to embark on an adventure which would stick it to the man.  The big, publicly traded grocery store chain would have slumping sales this summer in my corner of Georgia.  A down grade of their stock was surely imminent I thought.  Perhaps I should take a large short position in their stock and cash in later this summer as revenues miss analysts’ estimates?

That was on April 10th.  As I write this on May 6th, my plans are going awry.  Since I planted my garden 3 weeks ago on April 15th, we have had 4 sunny days, 7 inches of rain and it has been almost 2 degrees below the average temperature.  One head of romaine has fizzled leaving me with 8 plants to fulfill my dreams of slashing my grocery bill.   As I re-assess my plan let’s look at the numbers.  Those 9 heads of romaine cost me $3.77 with sales tax.  Incidentally, why on earth is there sales tax on plants?  Isn’t there are prohibition on taxing food?  If so, then wouldn’t it make sense that the purchase of the raw materials for food – vegetable plants and seeds be non-taxable?  I looked at a recent bill and an organic head or heart of romaine lettuce costs about $1.15 so if those remaining 8 heads make it to the dinner table in a salad I will have saved a whopping $5.43 for the effort.  At 57 cents a pound at retail, my $19.02 investment in tomatoes better yield 33.37 pounds of vine ripened beauties. I think that is possible since the big boy tomato is about a pound on average. If I can manage 11 tomatoes per plant I will have recouped my investment. 

I guess my plans of saving big bucks on my grocery bill are not looking too good right now.  I will keep you posted on my progress throughout the growing season.  Have a great week, reaping what you sow…

Written by pacelinebiz

May 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

Being Authentic, Part Two

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Honesty Is The Best Policy

Honesty Is The Best Policy

I was recently investigating a change to the 3 essential services needed for any home – Internet, Phone and TV. Concurrent to this quest, I received a series of unsolicited offers in the mail from a nationally known provider of said services. I had some free time between appointments one day so I decided I would take my multitude of offers and nail down that great price for the telecommunication trio.

I walked in the store and was quickly waited on by a representative. I explained that I had these offers, every one of which was better than the one before. He didn’t seem interested in my offers and proceeded to tell me what they had on sale. The last bundled 3 pack offer I got had the ultra low price of $79 for the holy trinity. He printed off his sheets for 100 channels 200 channels and 300 channels and the prices were curiously all about the same between $115 and $125 per month. This is still a better deal than I have with my current set up but what happened to my $79 dollar deal?

He tried to explain to me the differences in the plans but I only had about 30 minutes before my next appointment so I had to leave and study the information back at HQ. This should not be so complicated. What happened to the deal that got me in the store? There were so many variables and things going on “behind the curtain” that I was very distrustful of the entire process. They did a bait and switch teaser rate and muddied the waters so I could not make an informed decision. Is this the ideal way to treat a customer? I think not.

I suspect that they realize they are providing a service that is essentially the same as the competition.  What they aren’t telling us is that their 300 crappy channels are just like Brand X’s 300 crappy channels.  The way they differentiate themselves from the competition is with their commercials. They want us to choose them because their cute puppy is better than the competition’s talking unicorn or some such nonsense.   

I think what they should do is give their customers a reason to stay with them and potential customers to do business with them.  How about touting good service when a problem arises?  What about consistent delivery of the product with minimal amount of down time? That might also be a good thing. Perhaps they should take a cue from Delta Airlines who says the real difference between them and the competition is that the people at Delta are better. 

I am still looking for an answer to my telecommunications decision but I am getting closer and closer to going retro and buying an antenna for my roof and using Hulu Plus and/or Netflix as my content provider.  Of course I will buy a subscription to MLB.tv for about $10/month for my baseball needs.  Doing this I will save about $60 per month and I will program my own network of stuff I like to watch.

Have a great week being authentic with your customers.  They will thank you with their loyalty.