The Biz of Pacelinebiz

Turning things on end to achieve results!

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Transparency Versus Deception

leave a comment »

Why Charge Extra For Hi Def?

Why Charge Extra For Hi Def?

I recently changed from Satellite TV to a Cable TV provider and this is my story. I had been getting mail from a Cable TV provider for some time and finally decided to make the effort to switch from Satellite.  I could have done this a year ago but the laws of inertia were working in the favor of the incumbent provider.  See my blog about inertia by clicking here.

I called and asked about the $89 per month offering for a TV and internet bundle. This was the lowest tier offered but it was comparable to what we had with the satellite.  After dealing with these larger companies for cell phone, TV and internet in the past I suspected I would not be paying $89 per month but a larger number after taxes and hidden fees were applied.

Little did I know how much these hidden fees and taxes would amount to. Here are the details of my actual monthly bill with my comments to follow after the total is enumerated:

Deception? You Decide.

Deception? You Decide.

Incidentally, with my very first bill that arrived they announced price increases of $1.75 for the broadcast TV fee, $2.00 for the regional sports fee so my new monthly bill will be $43.04 higher than the teaser rate of $89.99 which is almost 50% of the original rate. The taxes and governmental fees of $11.10 are out of their control so I can give them a pass but the rest is deceptive if I can’t get the package without paying the additional fees.  It is like restaurant offering an entrée for a stated price and then charging for the tablecloth, napkins, dinnerware, and a chair to sit on.

Let me go further into the absurdity of some of these charges. They are charging $13.94 for high definition receivers!  Even I, Mr. Late adopter of technology, no longer own a low def tube TV.  I don’t think you can buy a TV that is not high definition and that probably has been the case for three to five years.  Why charge extra for something that is essential?!

I also take exception to the broadcast TV fee and the regional sports fees. They are part of the package and if these are simply charges that are passed on to the customer please include them in the base price.  They don’t sell cars with an up-charge if you want tires.

Despite the additional charges I am still saving about $25 per month and have internet speeds that are double what I had previously so I am satisfied with the switch but am already disappointed that they rolled out another $3.75 in charges on my first bill. That really says thanks for being a customer, now that we have you locked in for two years let the gouging begin.  It is a shame that I am resigned to expect this from a company.  Have a great week, if you can, after reading this.

Written by pacelinebiz

July 24, 2016 at 8:01 am

Be Careful What You Wish For

leave a comment »

There is an "App" to replace me

There is an “App” to replace me

In September 2014 I wrote a blog about the push for a $15 per hour minimum wage. I cautioned that it was a very bad idea and described what would happen if it were to be implemented.  You can read about that by clicking here.  As it turns out the push has continued and the fast food industry has reacted well before the rate has reached $15.  Click here to read what a former CEO of McDonalds has to say about this in a recent article.

My prediction of what would happen is coming true and instead of helping those who work in minimum wage jobs or at entry-level jobs near minimum wage it will hurt. There will be fewer entry-level jobs.  Please don’t hail me as an economic genius; this is really simple to anyone who has any business sense.  The technology has been available for a long time and now that labor is becoming more expensive a switch to automation becomes more viable.

At the beginning of June, Chick-Fil-A launched their mobile ordering app similar to the wildly popular Starbucks app. This switch to automation was inevitable and the ruckus that the $15 per hour movement caused simply accelerated the move to machines.  I applaud the move to more technology only because it is a more efficient way to “deliver the goods”.  My wife and I use the app that Panera Bread has to order food and pick it up when we are ready.  It is a fantastic way to avoid the lines and save time. I am worried about where all the low skilled workers, students and people looking for part-time work to augment their income are going to find employment.

Have a great week.

Written by pacelinebiz

July 10, 2016 at 8:01 am

Do These Five Things And See What Happens Next

leave a comment »

A Few Bright Ideas

A Few Bright Ideas

Today I am going to challenge business owners to break from the routine and see if a few actions can invigorate your business.   When was the last time you tried a new idea?  If you can’t remember then maybe things are getting stale at your company and a small shake up will make a big difference.  None of these suggestions are very difficult so the cost-benefit upside is large.

  1. Call your five best customers and thank them for their business, ask them if there is anything they would like you to do to make things better, then ask them if they can get back to you with a possible new customer they could refer. They get an opportunity to feel appreciated and it might open dialogue on an improvement that will retain or increase business and you might get a referral. The effect will also give them a sense of being a business partner with you and not view you only as a vendor or service provider.
  2. Take a troubled or low producing employee to lunch and give them a chance to open up with some non-threatening, open-ended questions about work. If there is not much revealed move on and ask about family or hobbies.  At a minimum they will feel a little more appreciated and will probably sense you care and that might be the start for communication to work on the problem.
  3. Take yourself to lunch. Clear your head;  go to a quiet place, a city park or wherever you can feel relaxed and then jot down 3 things that you would do to change your company if you could.  Think big and then take the ideas back and see if your employees or management team can figure out a way to make it happen even if scaled back.  A small percentage improvement is better than nothing and you had a nice lunch.
  4. Assemble your employees and ask them to submit one idea to save costs without hurting the customer experience, quality, sales or employee well-being. Offer rewards for the best three ideas based on their input.   Perhaps the value would be $100 for first place $50 for second place and $25 for third place.  The kicker would be to throw a party for everyone once the ideas were successfully implemented.  The extravagance could be dependent on the success of the savings.  Try a pizza lunch for modest success and a catered buffet for a big win.
  5. Survey employees about their one pet peeve at the company and do your best to eliminate the issue that comes up most frequently. I am thinking about something like moving to business casual all the time or even jeans all the time (with appropriate limits).  Maybe it is something like buying a coffee maker for the office.

I hope you take the challenge and try to make a difference.  You don’t have much to lose and a lot to win. Have a fun week!

Ten Things I Would Change If I Ran Starbucks

with 2 comments

Coffee

Coffee

I don’t have an obsession with Starbucks and probably average 2 visits per month for a coffee. I like their coffee and their stores.  From my casual observation, I think these suggestions would make sense but might not be practical or possible.

  1. Make all stores going forward and possibly retrofit existing ones for a second floor that had a more private area of tables for use by people for meetings or as an office away from home during the day. In the evening, use it for acoustic music and to tie in better with their expansion into alcohol sales. Music and coffee houses go together.
  2. Reduce the clutter in the floor space and add more tables. Display as much merchandise on the wall shelves as possible and leave it at that.
  3. Brew decaf coffee at night! That is the only time I want it and after lunch they do not brew any. It makes sense to them but not to me.
  4. Have a TV that would provide updates for news, weather radar, stock quotes and sports so we would not have to rely on our Smart phones. The content could be customized with the Starbucks customer in mind.
  5. Have a splash of local flavor at each store. I understand the need for uniformity and brand consistency but I have been to stores all over the country and they look too much alike. I can’t tell if I am in Akron, Ohio or Zephyrhills, Florida. (There nearest Store to Zephyrhills is about 20 miles away)
  6. Get a store in Zephyrhills, Florida to make my story better!
  7. Be a little less hip/edgy. Or at least offer a more welcoming environment to older folks who love to drink good coffee and hangout. I am no geezer and I feel this would help. Why not offer a small discount for those over 65 in the slower traffic hours like mid morning and mid afternoon? Maybe play music from the 60’s folk era to help. They were probably at coffee houses drinking coffee and listening to folk music in the 60’s and it might be a nice ambience for them.
  8. Give up on the cool sounding sizes like venti, grande and just have small, medium and large. This is a personal thing with me as I can never get it straight.
  9. Offer wrapped coffee stirs in plastic or paper. I don’t think it is sanitary to have the loose wooden ones in a container on the shelf.
  10. Devise a better sleeve that keeps your hand cooler and that does not fall off. If we can put a man on the moon….They actually have a suggestion box on their website; maybe I should submit these gems and win free wooden coffee stirs for a year!

Have a great week.

Good Plan, Poor Execution

leave a comment »

Communication is difficult

Communication is difficult

I had another poor customer service experience and I thought I would share it with you so that you may learn something from it.  These business lessons seem to happen too frequently in my opinion.  I wonder if I have bad luck; or is this a common experience for today’s consumer?

This is the story.  I took notice of an advertisement that a large publicly traded grocery store was introducing this spring about ordering online from the deli.  After seeing it for a week or more, I suggested to my wife that we try it out on a Saturday night.  She agreed and we ordered a spinach wrap with turkey and an Italian sub on whole wheat.  We customized our selections and placed the order for pick up in 30 minutes at our nearest store location.

I thought to myself, that it was a good thing Al Gore invented the internet so I could take advantage of this magic from my couch.  I chose pickles, black olives, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, green peppers, banana peppers, salt, pepper, oregano, oil and vinegar.  I was delighted with my selections and could not wait to dive in and try this flavorful sandwich.

When we arrived to dash in and dash out with our food, we were puzzled that our food was not waiting for us in the special place designed for our order.  After awhile, a manager came by and asked us if he could help us and we explained that we were waiting for our order we place that was supposed to be ready at 8:10 PM.  It was now 8:15 and there was no sign of our food.  He checked the printer and there was our order, being ignored by the folks behind the counter.  He took the order and got someone to work on it for us.  We got our food 17 minutes later and he did not charge us to compensate for the error.  I would have preferred that we had the time back that we wasted.

The advertising worked but the execution at the store level failed miserably.  It is obvious that there was a communication breakdown in the roll out of the new advertising campaign.  Was it the fault of the management team to explain the new program or was it the deli employees fault in understanding the new plan and how they were to respond to the orders coming in from Al Gore’s internet?

My suggestion is to make sure you have a good communication plan for new processes and procedures.  Remember that communication has to be understood in the same way by the sender and the receiver for it to be successful.  Have your “receivers” repeat back to you what the new process or procedure is, in their own words, to make sure that everyone is on the same page.  Is it that hard to do?  How many people work in the deli 15 or 20?  It is not an impossible task.

Have a great week.

Written by pacelinebiz

June 12, 2016 at 8:01 am

Peanut Butter And Jelly…And Staples

leave a comment »

A winning combination

A winning combination

What do these have in common you ask?  Peanut butter and jelly are great combinations and Staples, the office supplies retailer, is using a combination to save on costs.  I wrote about this strategy in 2012 and you can read my thoughts by clicking here.  If you do not want to read my blog about this, I will summarize my suggestion and summarize the article that discusses Staples idea for cost savings.  If you want to read the full article, click here.

My suggestion was to combine resources or cost share.  I focused mainly on operating space for companies that did not compete and operated at different times of the day or year.  A few items I suggested were an ice cream shop sub-letting their space in the cooler months to a soup and warm beverage shop.   I also suggested a pizza shop and bakery could share space and operate throughout the day.  The bakery would be open for breakfast and lunch and then the pizza shop would take over until they turned it back over to the bakery.

Staples is doing a very similar thing to save on the cost of having too much retail space.  They are now beginning a test in the Boston area to partner with a company that offers work space for business owners who need a temporary office or to meet with a client on an occasional basis.  I suppose this can work at least to recoup the cost of excess retail space but a more complimentary relationship would save on cost and increase sales.  They could look for a relationship that would draw more traffic to the stores from customers who would buy more Staples products.  The people who need a virtual office on an occasional basis are probably not heavy users of office supplies since they tend to be solo-preneurs who can function most of the time from a home office.

I give Staples credit for making the effort even if they are late in recognizing the need and opportunity.  I wish them luck as e-commerce and the continuing trend toward digitization is shrinking the size of the office supplies market.

Have a great week.

Ten Things Every Business Owner Should Know

leave a comment »

The Secret Formula

The Secret Formula

I have created a list of important questions that every business owner should know about their company.  These might not be the most important, and the list is far from comprehensive, but they are definitely things that should have your attention.  Below is the list and after the list a few comments to make you think.

  1. What is the best source of revenue?
  2. What is your biggest expense?
  3. What is the biggest hurdle holding you back from being better?
  4. What is your most profitable product or service and why?
  5. Who is your best customer?
  6. Who is your worst customer?
  7. What do you do best?
  8. What makes you different from the competition?
  9. Would you buy from you?
  10. Why do your customers buy from you?

Items one and two on the list are similar and are critical to understand since they are most significant to your bottom line.  Your biggest expense is where you should start first when looking to cut costs.  For many businesses this is cost of goods (Materials) or it is labor costs.

Item three is good to know because it is restricting you and by alleviating it you will soar to new heights.  This is probably the ability to generate more sales or government regulation for many businesses.  This is especially true for small businesses since they usually don’t have the luxury of full-time sales force or compliance department.  This task is handled by the owner or someone who is not skilled or trained in sales or government compliance.

Item four can be easy to quantify in terms of profitability but could be a mystery as to why.  I urge you to get to the bottom of why it is most profitable because there is a good chance that you have hit on something that differentiates you from the competition. This is the “why you stand out from the crowd” answer.  That is gold.

Items five and six are also similar and you need to know why.  For your worst customer you may want to consider what you could do to spend less time with them and more with the best customer.  This can be a type of customer not a specific name of one.  What attributes are associated with the best and the worst.  Getting rid of the worst can be addition by subtraction.

Item seven might be the answer to item four.  Find this out and do more of it and customers will come your way and be happy and spend more and be more loyal.  That is why it is gold if you know the answer.  If you don’t why or are not sure – ask some of the customers who buy your most profitable product or service.

Item eight is linked to number seven.

If you can’t answer yes to number nine then you need to correct that immediately.

For number ten if you don’t have a good idea – ask them.  You might be surprised by what they tell you.  It is information you will need to act upon depending what they say.

Have great week.