Happy New Year

How’s that for a creative title? I’ll bet no one else will use “Happy New Year” as a title today.

But I don’t think it’s ever been more appropriate than it is today as we count down the hours until 2008 becomes history. A lot of people will say “good riddance”. 2008 did present more than its share of challenges. But as I look back, I thought it was a pretty good year.

I met a lot of wonderful people, both online and in person. I started this blog/podcast and began putting together a plan for life after the corporate world. I was privileged to lead a session at Podcamp Ireland as part of a two-week trip to Ireland, by far the best vacation Jan and I have ever had. (OK, Disney World with the kids was pretty cool, too. But this was different. It was the fulfillment of a life-long dream.)

Of course, the biggie was actually breaking the ties with corporate America and setting out on my own as a solo entrepreneur. Those plans are a work in progress and will come to fruition in 2009.

So, as we head off into the unknown of 2009, I want to thank you for coming along on this journey. Thanks for listening, and reading; for twittering and facebooking (?) and Linking In. 2008 was quite a ride and I can’t wait for 2009.

So to you and yours comes my wish for a happy and blessed new year. I hope and pray that it will be everything you want it to be and more. And, be careful out there!

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Making the Change

I had no idea that the conversion from “employee” to “solo practitioner” would be so complicated. It shouldn’t be. After all, I’ve been doing both for a few months, so it would seem like just dropping one role would be a piece of cake. But there a lot of little details that just eat up a lot of time.

For example, I’ve been working out of the room I set up as an office for several months. But now that it’s my permanent and only work space, I find myself being more particular about how things are arranged. There are shelves to hang, boxes of books to unpack, and computer files to transfer.

I arranged to have emails forwarded from my former company so that I can get subscriptions switched over to my new address, but I had no idea there were so many. And for those of you who author newsletters and such, why are some subscriptions so difficult to switch? Surely a reader changing an email address isn’t that uncommon. Do I really have to unsubscribe and then resubscribe? (Hint: Some folks may decide that it’s not worth the trouble. I’m just saying.)

So I hope you’ll bear with me for a few days as everything gets set up. The target date for a total changeover is still January 1. Meanwhile, excuse me while I run over to the office supply store……again.

So What Happened?

The “experts” have already begun to analyze retail sales for the fourth quarter, in spite of the fact that there are some significant shopping days still ahead before the end of the year.

We’re hearing that retail sales were down in most major categories, which makes me wonder. If you’re a retailer, has anyone asked you for your Christmas figures? If not, where do the numbers come from? I’m willing to bet that most of the stores where I shopped this year have never been polled. Does that mean that my purchases don’t count? Do I have to shop at Wal-Mart or Target to be included in the sales figures? If you know the answers to any of these questions, let us know.

Another interesting trend this season, Amazon.com had a significant increase. Apparently consumers were more inclined in 2008 to shop online. But this fact also raises questions? Why the increase in online shopping? Christmas shopping used to be fun. Has the brick and mortar experience deteriorated to the point that people would rather sit in front of a computer screen than spend a few hours actually touching and feeling the merchandise before they buy? Are Amazon’s prices so enticing that shoppers just can’t resist?

I think independent retailers (and the chains too, for that matter) should look carefully at the shopping experience being delivered to the consumer. Are we doing everything we can to make the typical shopper want to come into our stores? If not, what can we do better? Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I just can’t believe that so many people would rather avoid the whole hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping in favor of sitting alone in front of a computer screen. Of course I’m sitting alone in front of a computer screen right now, so what do I know.

Happy Boxing Day!

Happy Birthday Jesus!

From all of here at Mining the Store (That would be Jan and me) a very Merry Christmas to one and all. If you happen to not be one who celebrates this particular day then I hope you take the message in the spirit in which it’s intended. While it’s obviously a very special day to Christians all around the world, it’s also a day of peace and joy offered to all.

It’s our wish that you may be healthy and prosperous all the days of your life. And if that happens to not be the case right now, then we offer you a wish of peace and the knowledge (as passed along in one of Doug Fleener’s daily motivational messages that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

Have a blessed day!

Ho Ho Ho

Chimney_santaAnd
I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight,

Happy
Christmas to all

and
to all a good night.

Selling Is For People

So,
it’s your last blog post.  After nearly 700 posts, how do you go out with a
bang?  I’ve decided to pass along some insights from Steve Jeffery, the Senior
Vice President of our Home Sewing Division.  We were reminiscing about days gone
by and reflecting on how different things are today.  But one thing hasn’t
changed.  People buy things from
people

 

Nick
Tacony knew that.  We all know that.  The best ad in the world doesn’t mean a
thing if you don’t sell something to the person who comes in the door.  The sale
happens when one person convinces another person that the first person’s product
or service is worth more than the cash the second person has in his/her pocket. 
That’s all there is to it.

 

When
Steve was in the retail business he was a great believer in advertising.  He ran
ads every week.  But he didn’t stop there. His entire store was pre-programmed
to take advantage of the traffic that came into the store.  He told me that he
used to re-hang his ceiling fan display almost every week to make it easy for
his sales people to walk the customer through the selling process.  It was a
smooth flow from the advertised model through the up-sell models and
accessories, right to the cash register.  Sure it was a lot of work.  But it was
work that paid off in sales and profit.

 

And
when they got to the register, there were the impulse
items
, waiting to be added to the sale.  A retail sale is like a stage
performance.  All the right pieces must be in place to have a successful
outcome.  Can you imaging a Broadway play where there was no script?  There were
no props?  No one rehearsed?  With some slight exceptions, every single
performance of a successful production is essentially the same as the one
before.  There’s no room for ad libbing.

 

We live
in a new and exciting world!  As I’ve pointed out on this blog for almost
three years, the new forms of electronic communication level the playing field
between the “big box stores” and the independents.  Blogs, podcasts, social
networks like Facebook and MySpace, and mini-blog sites like twitter are free for you to use and you can
buy extremely targeted advertising to reach just the people you want to reach. 
Considering the short time it’s taken to develop these tools, I can’t imagine
what’s going to be available to you in the coming years.  All I know is that it
will be exciting for those who chose to take advantage.

 

One of
the famous sales trainers, I think it was Zig Ziglar, said “You have to treat
the customer so many different ways that she has to like one of them.”  That’s
the key.  The level of competition today is at a level unheard of just a few
years ago.  Instead of losing a sale to the guy down the street, you can lose a
sale to someone half way around the world.  You have to be sure that the experience of shopping
with you provides value beyond just the merchandise in the box
.  If
you do that, you’ll make not just a customer, but you’ll make a friend.  And
that friend will be excited to tell her other friends about you.  And when those
other friends come in and find out that what they’ve heard is true, you’ll be
building a constant stream of prospects and repeat customers that will get you
through any economic downturn.

The Section 179 Deduction Might Save You Some Money

[Official disclaimer] Keep in mind as you read this that I'm not a tax adviser.  I've never even played one on TV.  However, I have stayed at the Holiday Inn Express.

Aparently Section 179 of the IRS code isn't widely known or understood.  In fact, it's fairly simple and can save an entrepreneur some money.  Here's the deal.  It used to be that if you bought a piece of equipment, you had to amortize the cost over several years.

Now, under Section 179, you can deduct the full cost in the year that the purchase is made.  According to Section179.org, the provision in the tax code, sometimes called the "SUV Loophle" or the "Hummer deduction" is intended to encourage small business owners to invest in their businesses. 

The site gives an example of the way 179 can be used to save money.  There are some limits, for example the maximum amount of the purchase is $800,00 which makes it a benefit for smaller companies and the web site offers a list of qualifying equipment.

If you've been thinking about buying a new truck or some other expensive piece of equipment, you might want to take a look at Section 179 and consider making the purchase before the end of the year.