A Bad Day

Yesterday’s news wasn’t good. Thirty promising young lives, snuffed out by
a very disturbed individual. Thirty sets
of parents will never see their sons and daughters again. It’s sad, very sad. 

 The shootings at Virginia Tech University get our attention because they were so unexpected, so senseless, so
tragic. They also get our attention
because the news media is forcing them into our consciousness with
around-the-clock coverage on television, radio, and in the newspapers.

 Yesterday’s events were dramatic and tragic. But, sadly, kids die every day. They die in traffic accidents. They die of disease. They die in war. They die in the streets. Drugs and alcohol take their lives. Some even die at the hands of their parents. Most go unnoticed by the media. As tragic as any death is, we only seem to
notice when we’re personally affected or when it happens in a dramatic fashion
as it did yesterday.   But every loss of life has an affect on all of us.  Remember "It’s a Wonderful Life"? 

When you consider all these lives lost and add all the other
bad news we hear every day including the threat of terrorism, lethal storms,
fuel shortages, rising prices, threats of global catastrophes, it may make you
think that what you do every day just isn’t that important. The world’s going to heck in a handbasket and
we’re “just selling stuff”.

But, if you do think that way, you’re very wrong. You and I and every other American who goes
to work every day keep our country running. We’re the engine of the greatest economy in the world. As we reported here yesterday, small business
generates 50% of the USA’s
non farm gross domestic product. But is
money as important as human life? By
itself, no it’s not. If you live to make
money, your priorities are wrong. But if
you make money to live, you’ve got it right.

Nothing happens until somebody sells something. It’s been said that the purpose of any
business is to allow people to have lives. That doesn’t mean just the owner and his family. It includes employees, suppliers, customers,
anyone who has a stake in the business. This isn’t an economics class, but in the simplest terms, when you sell
something, hopefully you sell it for more than you paid for it. You use the difference to pay your people, to
pay your bills, to buy groceries for your family, to buy other goods and
services. Every time you spend one of
your hard-earned dollars, the process begins again. Our economy works as long as those dollars
keep moving from one hand to another.

Even when something tragic happens, life has to go on. The faculty and students at Virginia Tech
will take time to grieve, as we all will, but then life will slowly get back to
normal, even though “normal” will never be exactly the same. Classes will resume. Exams will be given. In just a few weeks seniors will graduate. They have to. There are jobs to be filled. The
graduates will contribute to the economy that provides the opportunity for
future students.

No, what you and I do every day is very important. We keep those dollars moving. Our taxes help pay for the education of the
next generation of entrepreneurs.

 Just as important, the products you sell make your customers’
lives more enjoyable and more convenient. You sell quality of life. What could be more important, especially when
someone is grieving or in pain? That “item”,
that “piece of merchandise” that you sell becomes part of someone’s life. Most of the time, you’ll never know how
important it might be. But you can be
sure it is important or it would
never have left your store.

 And you make it happen every day.

Way to Go!

From a press release from The Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration:

"Small Business, Big Contribution

"Small Business Continues To Generate 50 Percent Of Private Non farm GDP

"WASHINGTON, D.C. – Small business is a big contributor to the nation’s economy, generating 50 percent of the private, non farm gross domestic product (GDP), according to a study released today by the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration.  The study covers the period 1998 – 2004, and confirms the findings of earlier research."

Once again statistics confirm the huge contribution that independent business people make to our American way of life.   In spite of the built-in advantages enjoyed by  big companies, including favorable laws, both tax and otherwise,  independent business  continues to be the engine that drives the economy, especially on the local level.   It’s all the more reason why  we should continue to keep pressure on  Washington and on our state capitals to  write laws  that don’t discriminate against  smaller  organizations.  Small business is good for America! 

April 15…….

is a day that normally strikes fear into the hearts and minds of mortal men and women.  If you woke up this morning thinking "&#@^*!, it’s tax day!", you can relax.  Thanks to the calendar and your Uncle Sam, you have another day to put it off.  This year taxes must be postmarked by midnight TOMORROW, April 17.

For those of us who are dedicated procrastinators, this gift from the government is at least equal to the three extra weeks of Daylight Savings Time we received just last month.   Hopefully this unprecedented  show of generosity from our employees in Washington D.C. is just the beginning of a kinder, friendlier government.

Or not.


Have a great Monday!

Going to the Dogs (and Cats)

OK.  Let’s say your a baby boomer.  Your kids are grown and (hopefully) out on their own.  Theoretically you should now have extra discretionary cash lying around.  What do you spend it on?

According to the experts, most of us are spending it on our pets.  Once you’ve created that study/office/hobby room that you’ve always wanted, you may still have extra bedrooms left over.  Pet owners are turning those spare rooms into play areas for Fido/Fluffy.  And we’re doing it to the tune of billions of dollars.  That’s right, BILLIONS.  So-called "pet accessories" are generating more than $30 billion in annual sales and the market just keeps growing.

If you don’t believe me, check out the Elizabeth Canopy bed ($1,099) at at Funny Fur, the pet party kits at the Pawshop, the Georgian Four Poster Pavilion Bed ($23,380 plus shipping and handling) at the Quintessential Pet, or the Stairway to Heaven modular cat  playground (only $249.95) at CatsPlay.com.  Obviously money is no object when it comes to our furry friends.

You’re probably not in the business of selling doggy beds and Doggy_bed
kitty rugs, but there are certainly ways to promote your products for our four-legged friends.  Sewing dealers can obviously feature fabrics and patterns for the pet parent.  A vacuum cleaner that does the job on pet hair would be a welcome addition for most pet owners.  Ceiling fans that create kitty-comfort could be a big seller.  All you need is a little imagination to promote to the big-spending empty-nesters. 

Let us know if you have any other ideas that you’d like to share.       (The Tea Cup bed (shown above) is a bargain at just  $250.00  from Funny Fur.)            

Decision Making Tool

We all have a limited amount of time and money.  Do you ever have a problem deciding where to put these assets when there are a number of things that need to be done?  Yesterday at a quality management workshop, I picked up an idea that might help.  It’s called the Payoff Matrix.  Here’s how it works. 

Let’s say you have a list of jobs to do.  You’d like to do them all, but you know you don’t have the time.  First rate each task on its difficulty, from low to high.  Then rank each one on its potential payoff, again from low to high.  Plot each task on the following chart:



As you can see, there are four quadrants.  Easy tasks with a high payoff should be done right away.  Difficult tasks with a high payoff should be started as soon as possible with a reasonable date scheduled for their completion. 

Easy tasks with a low payoff should be done, only after all high payoff items have been completed.  If it’s hard and doesn’t offer much of a payoff, forget it.  It’s a simple device, but it works.  Try it at work or at home.  Putting your "honey-do" list into a matrix will make your life simpler and more pleasant.  But if you try it at home, remember that "payoff" is in the eye of the list maker.  You may not see a big payoff in cleaning the gutters, but your spouse may think otherwise.

Tax Reform?

There’s an article posted this week on Small Business Review that you should take a look at.  The U.S. Treasury Department has proposed sixteen items as part of its 2008 budget.  Seven of them will increase reporting requirements for business. The object is to raise revenues but the resulting paperwork could be a nightmare for small operations.

For example, businesses are not currently required to file a form 1099 for payments to corporations.  That would change under the new rules.  It’s said that it could double or triple your paperwork requirements.  Another controversial proposal would require verification of Taxpayer ID Numbers of all contractors before payment can be made.

Another rule that could impact you is one that would require credit card companies to report your credit card sales to the IRS.  On the surface that might not seem terrible, but considering the time lag between the sale and the time payment is received, transactions that span the end of the year could make it appear that something is wrong, triggering unnecessary audits.  Also, the measure would be very costly for the credit card companies, costs that will most likely be passed along to their customers.  That would be you. 

Congressional approval of the Treasury budget is far from a sure thing.  According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch,  the current IRS regulations take up a whopping 67,000 + pages (That’s not a typo. The IRS regs really are more than sixty seven thousand pages long.) additional requirements may have trouble getting passed.  On the other hand, the federal deficit is huge and Congress is going to be looking for ways to increase revenues.

We’ll keep an eye on this for you and let you know what develops.

Happy Easter


From your friends at Tacony Corporation, best wishes for a Happy Easter.

Free Resource

Hewlett-Packard offers a number of free on-line courses that you might find useful.  They include how-to classes on software for various levels of ability, business skills, in-house marketing, and even real estate. 

The same site offers a number of templates that you can use to create letterhead, brochures, newsletters, and other business documents.

Everything is free but the site requires a no-charge registration which will put you on their mailing list, but there are opt-out options available.

New York, New York

If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere."
Frank Sinatra

In case you missed it, the New York Times reports that Wal-Mart’s CEO, H. Lee Scott said recently "I don’t care if we are ever here", referring to Manhattan Island in New York.  Like the ten-year-old who says "I didn’t want to play anyway" when no one wants him on their team, Scott was reacting to successful efforts to keep the chain off the island. 

In this real-life game of  Survivor:  Manhattan Island, a strange alliance has been working to keep Wally World from entering the market.  On one side you have the unions who believe that the chain’s presence wouldn’t just lower prices, but would also drive down wages.  Their unlikely allies are so-called "snobbish elites" who Scott says "are just better than us and don’t want a Wal-Mart in their community."

Wally’s PR machine quickly tried to soften Scott’s comments.  Spokesperson Mona Williams told the Times, "Entering New York has been difficult, but not something we rule out.  Lee said he personally didn’t care if we built stores there or not.  It might be more trouble than it’s worth, but that he would leave that up to the real estate group that makes those decisions."

I’m sure there’s more to come.

Passover Wishes


From your friends at Tacony Corporation, best wishes for the Passover Season.