“Black” Friday

Saint Charles, MO, "historic main street"It’s unfortunate that the media have chosen this particular name for the day that often makes or breaks an American  retailer’s year.  It is the day when many retailers bottom line changes from red ink to black, but the term still has a negative connotation for many people.  In fact, depending on the outcome of today’s business, it may really be a black Friday for some.

Of course, we hope it’s a great day, especially for small business.  Personally I will avoid the malls like the plague.  But my lovely and talented wife and I will spend the afternoon and evening shopping the independent shops on Main Street in Saint Charles, MO.  It’s a “tradition” that we started last year.  The crowds are smaller, and much friendlier, than the rampaging mobs that started surging through the chains as early as midnight this morning.

There are just as many bargains to be had, and the gifts tend to be much more personal, some even personalized, compared to the “Made in China” stuff found elsewhere.

So, here’s hoping that it’s a good day for all of our independent retail friends and the beginning of a successful Christmas shopping season.  That’s all for now.  I’m off to do my part in boosting the economy.

It’s All About the Mission

I spent the last two mornings helping set up for a charity auction.  The Poor Clare nuns hold an annual auction to help pay for the expansion of their monastery.  That’s right.  They’re actually expanding.  Reports of the demise of religious orders is greatly exaggerated.  Some orders are actually doing quite well.  But that’s a topic for another time and another place.

Here’s the thing.  There were more people helping over the last two days than there are nuns at the monastery.  How does this happen?  Why are so many people willing to give up their time to help out?

Obviously the volunteers support the nuns’ mission.  The Poor Clares are a Franciscan order and they have a lot of friends.  Their mission of peace resonates with people all around the world.  A lot of people are willing to give their time, their talent, and their treasure to support it.

So how’s this help you?  Unless you’re running a nonprofit, it’s not likely that people are going to work for you for free.  But how often have we seen friends and neighbors rally around a business that’s in trouble?  In times of disaster it happens.

On a day-to-day basis your employees and your customers will do what they can to support you, if they believe in your mission.  The question is:  Do you have a mission that people can support?  If you do, does everyone know what it is?

You may not be looking for volunteers, but you are looking for a staff that works hard and customers who are willing to patronize your business.  It all begins with a solid mission statement.

We’ll be talking more about mission statements soon.  For now, give this question some thought.  Why are you in business and why should I care?

I Can Do Without the Glamour Shot

OK, I understand that our elected employees never go out of campaign mode.   At the very moment that the newly-elected employee places his/her hand on the Bible the reelection campaign has begun.  I get that.  But how much is too much?  How much of their reelection process are we, the taxpayer/employers supposed to pay for.

Case in point.  I just received a notice that it’s time to renew my business name registration.  (Actually it doesn’t expire until next April, but I guess the state of Missouri needs my seven bucks to keep the doors open.)  Anyway, I wonder why the renewal notice has to feature a photo of our grinning Secretary of State on its cover?

The photo in question is similar to the one that graces the SOS home page, though it is different.  I guess one official photo, paid for by the taxpayers, isn’t enough.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute!  Your smiling face has a prominent place on this page.  How’s that different?”  It’s different because this is a private site, paid for by yours truly.  No one is forcing you to visit or pay for the site.  It’s also different because I’m a relatively unknown quantity.  If you’re going to put any stock in my commentary, it may be helpful for you to know that I’m not just another pretty face.

If politicians want to promote themselves, let them set up a personal web site, at their own expense.

I hate to start the week with a curmudgeonly rant, but these little things that add up.  Like most of you, I’m getting increasing frustrated by the antics of our employees in Washington and in our state capitols. Turning an official state document into a campaign flyer hardly seems like the best way to spend our money.

Twitter Can Improve Your Search Engine Ratings

Thanks to Andrew Williams of Vac Shop, Mayfield, Newcastle Australia for pointing out this post at Website Magazine.  Search engines Google and Bing (formerly MSN search) announced last week that they’re going to start indexing Twitter tweets.

According to Website, a new eMarketer report (“Social Commerce on Facebook, Twitter and Retail Sites”) “while some e-commerce merchants are experimenting with these sites, most merchants are still ignoring them.”

Considering that social media sites can be used to promote your business at virtually no cost, it makes sense to use them, especially if your competitors aren’t there.