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!

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.

The Last Weekend

Christmas
Well, we're almost there.  It's hard to believe it's the last weekend before Christmas.  Depending on who you talk to, it's either been a good 4th quarter or it hasn't.  Dealers I've talked to tell me things are pretty good.  Even in a tight economy, people seem to find a way to spend for Christmas.

There's been some strange weather this month which may have affected things, too.  Here in the heartland, we were scraping windshields last night and this morning it was 50 degrees.  As I write this (at 4:20 PM) it's 38 degrees again.  They're telling us the HIGH Sunday may be in the teens!

Last weekend I was in Branson, MO, the big tourist destination in the Missouri Ozarks.  Traffic on the town's main street is legendary.  In spite of a number of other routes that have put in to relieve the congestion, the traffic on Country Music Boulevard was comparable to any summer weekend.  The outlet malls were full.  It took us an hour to get onto the parking lot of Silver Dollar City, the area's 1880's theme park.  It took another hour to get back out.  Apparently word of te recession hasn't reached the Ozarks yet.

So, as we enter the final weekend of Christmas, 2008, I hope you're finding ways to keep America spending and working. 

                    _______________________________________________________________

Minnorah

This Sunday at sundown begins the Jewish season of Hannukah.  All of us at Tacony Corporation want to wish our Jewish friends a blessed holiday.   Hopefully the rest of 2008 will be a time of peace and harmony among all the world's people.

                   _______________________________________________________________                   

I guess I have to write about this.  I've put it off about as long as I can.  This is also the last weekend that I'll be your blogmaster.  After twenty-nine years I'm retiring from Tacony Corporation.  Christmas Eve will be my last day on the job, but December 31 is my last official day.  (I'll be on vacation in between.)

Mine Your Own Business will continue with Bill Hinderer, our President and COO as blogmaster general.  I'm leaving you in good hands.

This is post number 679 of MYOB and I appreciate your coming along for the ride.  Frankly, most blogs don't last that long and I can see why.  Sometimes the creative juices flow and other days finding something to write about is like climbing Mt. Everest.  Thank you for taking the bad along with the good.  I'd also like to thank all the great bloggers and other journalists whose work has been the inspiration for so many posts.  I'm not going to try to name them all because I'll forget somebody and then I'll feel bad.  I would like to mention Doug Fleener, though.  Doug has been personally encouraging and his on-going support is much appreciated.  Krisha De and Anna Farmery have also been very encouraging.  Krishna was even nice enough to invite me to speak at Podcamp Ireland.  She's a brave lady.

If you're interested, I will continue on my own blog which you can find here.  But please stay tuned to MYOB because the future is bright and Tacony Corporation is committed to giving you the information you need to work ON your business, not just IN your business.

Last Minute Gifts

If you're still looking for last-minute Christmas gifts, here's a suggestion.  Actually, here are three suggestions.  I'm pretty sure I've mentioned these before, but they're the three books that I always keep on my desk where I can reach them.  All three are retail-related and would make great Christmas gifts for anyone in the industry.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Emyth_revisited
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber.  This is a must-read for anyone running any type of small business.  (My copy looks a lot like the picture.)

Negen_book
Marketing Your Retail Store in the Internet Age by Bob and Susan Negen. This is a practical, hands-on guide for running a successful retail operation.

Fleener_book
The Profitable Retailer by Doug Fleener is another practical guide for the retailer who wants to make money (and who doesn't?)

Any retailer should have all three of these books in his/her library.

Elf Yourself

OK, this is just a silly thing, but you might want to impress and amuse your friends by letting them see how you look as an elf.  From the creative folks at Jib Jab comes a web site that lets you create a video of dancing elves with you as the star.  The process is free and you end up with a video that will live until mid-January on the Jib Jab site.  You’re also provided with an embed code if you want to post the video on your web site or you can email it to all your elf-loving friends.  If you’d like more permanent evidence of your elfishness, you can download the video for five bucks.

Unfortunately WordPress won’t let me upload the file, so if you’d like to see an example, check it out on my facebook page. (There’s a link on the left.)
elves