Internet Sales Bury Local Business

Everyone who thinks about where to locate their new business or open a new store has heard the phrase, “Location, location, location”.  What the big deal about location? The area a business is located can mean the difference between a thriving, growing business and a business that goes from startup to shutdown in a matter of weeks.

I want to focus on a local business that has been in business for decades. (What really occurred is unknown, below is my thoughts.) The business of this business is shoes, and a small amount of shoe accessories. Their business model is very good, and the customer base reflects this fact. Some businesses like to track where their customers live, this is one of them. Keep selling shoes in mind as you read on.

Tracking where customers live provides more insight in knowing how far your customers are willing to travel for your product and their likely economic status. This business tracks customers by zip code.

Over a period of time, say five years, you find your most active customers are within xx miles of your business street address. It is also obvious from your tracking that new customers are emerging from areas where the city is growing and expanding.  This is usually families moving into new growth areas, or perhaps the city has grown into one or more small communities and the roads have improved enough to bring consumers looking for better prices.

We have to be realistic here. Most shoes are not unique. Competing businesses sell the same shoes we do. Companies that produce shoes are more than willing to sell the same shoes to locally competing businesses. It is all one income stream to them.

This shoe store did the smart thing and opened a second store in a new location where competition between stores would not be an issue. Each store had its own area and market. Sales in the new location skyrocketed. New customers were coming in the door daily. The original store maintained all its previous business.

By opening in the new well chosen location, the second had thousands of potential drive-by customers every day who were eager to spend money. The new location was located in a stand alone building at a mall. Prime territory.

After a few years, the second location had to find a new location. No business would willingly want to vacate such a prime location. Sales were terrific, and the repeat customer base was large. It was apparently decided a move of a few miles should be a non-issue.

The move it turned out, was to not only an issue, but a deal breaker. The second store closed within a few years of moving off the mall property to it’s new home.

Sixty years ago this Gas Station was in a prime location. Slowly business dwindled as expenses increased.

 

What happened at the second now defunct store? The second store according to circulating rumors blames its closing on the Internet. Too many customers found they could buy the same products online for less and online their customer base ran away it was decided by rumor control. How about a reality check?

While the Internet may have caused some sales erosion, the first store is as healthy as before. The true cause of the second store closing was the lack of the thousands of eyeballs from mall traffic.

People generally want to touch and try on shoes. No matter how descriptive and detailed the online ad is, it does not give a customer the opportunity to feel and try out a shoe. People also prefer to support local business whenever possible.

The second store closed not because of the Internet, but because of location. Tens of thousands of mall shoppers a week knew they could probably find the shoe they wanted at the store across the parking lot, for less than they would pay in the big box mall stores. Mall shoppers flocked to the store across the parking lot.

Money is money and savings are savings after all. More importantly it was not two minutes across the parking lot. It was a headache of major proportion to drive to and from the second stores new location.

When the store changed location to their second less desirable location something major happened. The new store lost  the eyeballs of thousands of mall goers every day. The store had relocated to near a major artery road, but it was choked traffic with poor store access. The good times were over.

Location is critical in a saturated market such as shoes where almost every big box and Mom and Pop store is selling everything from $1.00 flip flops to high end heels and boots. If a business is selling a highly desirable product not readily available at every strip mall, customers will put up with a more remote location and poor off the street access if the price is right because of perceived need.

Before you decide on a location, ensure your business model reflects how serious location is for a business that depends on customers driving to your business. What does your future business have to offer customers in exchange for inconvenience? If the answer is very little, look for a new location.

Customer Value Verses Customer Money

This is a comparison of two businesses. They both are in the food service industry. The areas they are located in are about the same, but they manage their business completely different.

One of these, a Mom and Pop business, has an inviting entrance and a pleasant atmosphere which invites repeat business. The second, a popular chain, has an entrance that looks like it is one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. Once inside, the walls are adorned with the usual fare, plus more negative signage.

The negative signage tells the customers in a very negative way how long they can stay, and if they can use the facilities or not. Between the entrance and the barrage of signage inside my expectations were low. The place was neat and clean. I was also surprised at how good customer service was. Though there was a big downside of the staff being focused on the wrong things.

Customer satisfaction is second to money at this business.

Customer satisfaction is second to money at this business.

The staff were sales people and not wait staff. Every comment from the person helping me was to sell me more than I asked for. Did I want to add on to what I ordered for so much more? Did I want more choices than the items I picked? Did I want to double the size of my order for less than the stated price? Worst of all, there was a tip jar at the register. I was told as I paid my bill there was a tip jar – as if I could not see it – and all tips were appreciated.

 

 

The second location was the complete opposite of this. The service was prompt and totally customer focused. I was asked if I preferred a smaller portion than the portion listed on the menu for less money? The person who was waiting on us came to the table no less than eight times checking to see if there was anything that they could do. Top off the drinks, bring more napkins, refill the water glasses, more ice in the drink, more cream for the coffee, and other real reasons to show up at the table. The check was brought at the end of the meal and not during the meal. We were asked if we wanted to-go drinks to take with us (lemonade and coffee).

Repeat customers is the goal of this business

Repeat customers is the goal of this business

Both of these restaurants are in the same price range. Yet one totally out sells the other without so much as a hint of a sales pitch. One enjoys a growing list of repeat customers, while the other is trying its best to fleece every customer who walks through the door.

Put another way, one business will thrive in any economy. One business may be near to closing even though it sells a more popular product. Which business would you wish to spend your hard earned money at, and which business would you likely never visit again? If you are a business owner, which business more closely resembles you own business?

Running a business where customers walk in off the street is difficult. Competition is tough, and profit margins are generally small. However a businesses that focuses on making the customer and not the customer’s money the number one priority stays in business longer and is more successful than a business who thinks their product is far superior that customer focus takes a distant second customer’s money.

When anyone asks my opinion on a good place to eat, a fun place to visit or a good place to see, places where I felt special come to mind quickly and they are what I recommend. When you are asked your opinion on where to go or where to eat, where do you recommend?

Purpose of Business is Profit

This is a business story. There are lessons to be learned here, more than about what is and is not the scope of any business.

I had a friend who had quite a good understanding of business, even though he had never gone beyond a high school education. I guess, he was a natural to some extent. I was thinking of him the other day, and something that happened in a little out of way tavern in the middle of nowhere several years ago.

It was about this time of year. The two of us had been traveling for a number of hours for a business purchase. We completed our business and were on the return trip. We were both tired and hungry. As we drove along some back road, a well kept tavern appeared on the side of the road.

We decided it was time to stop and rest. While there we would have some food and coffee, getting rested for the remainder of the trip. The building was very nice for being so far from anywhere.

The walls were paneled wood, and well oiled. The lighting was soft, but no overly so. The only employee present, the bartender, turned out to be the owner. He had owned the place for some years, and he prided himself on everything about his business from the building that housed it, to the paper napkins we would use during our meal.

The food was of course excellent. Nothing fancy, way better than the standard out of the way back country bar usually provides. I remember I had a cheeseburger. It was fresh and cooked to perfection with grilled onions, and cheddar cheese. I can still taste the burger when I think about it. The home made steak fries and coleslaw that came with my burger were also fresh, and very good.

When we finished eating, we asked if there was coffee. The bartender said there was, and it would take a few minutes to make if we would wait. Of course we would wait, the thought of coffee promised to be every bit as good as the meal we finished.

Coffee arrived a few minutes later, and it was very good. Not too strong, not overly hot, not bitter. As with the rest of the meal and surroundings, it was more than we expected.

Unusual however were the cups the coffee was served in. Not elegant, but certainly not run of the mill. They were very tasteful and unique glass coffee mugs. I had never seen anything like them before, and neither had my friend. He wasn’t sure what was better the coffee or the mugs the coffee was served in.

What is the true purpose of Business?

Purpose of business is profit

As we sipped our coffee and discussed the trip, my friend told me how much he would like to have four of these coffee mugs we were holding in our hands. The more he thought about it, the more he wanted four of them.

The bartender/owner came to the table asking if we would like a refill on the coffee. My friend told the man how much he liked the mugs, and could he buy four of them? He was willing to pay a reasonable price.

The bartender/owner remained quiet, and thought for a few seconds. He then told my friend, the mugs were unique to the business, and he purchased them through one of his suppliers. He continued he didn’t have any extra mugs he would sell.

I don’t know if was from being tired, or my friend wanted four mugs so dearly, but after listening he said, ”Would you rather sell me four mugs or would you prefer I stole them?”

I don’t know who was more shocked the bartender/owner or myself. My friend was was as honest as the day was long. I couldn’t believe what I just heard!

The bartender/owner was also quite taken aback, and I could tell from his expression he was on the brink of asking us to pay our bill and leave right now. Before he could continue that thought, my friend broke the silence.

He said, the building was exceptional, the food just as good, and the glass coffee mugs were indeed unique. However was it possible, more mugs could be purchased to replace the four mugs he wanted to buy?

I thought in this moment was to be had a brilliant business lesson. Here is a business owner, who is in business to make a living. Up until this moment he was doing this by operating a tavern and feeding his customers in a pleasant atmosphere. He took pride in everything about his business.

The bartender/owner walked away without saying anything more. I thought in the moment we had overstayed our welcome, and we were going to be asked to leave. He went into a back room for a minute or so, came out and beckoned my friend to the bar.

My friend went to the bar, and they conversed for a minute or so. Some money exchanged hands, and my friend walked back to the table with his four coffee mugs well wrapped and packaged.

The point to all this is what is the business of business? Up to that moment, the tavern owner never dreamed he would be selling his coffee mugs. My friend was obviously not driving across country in search of the lost mug. Yet business had been conducted, a surprise to both parties involved in the transaction with myself more surprised than both of them.

Business does not come naturally to me as it did for my friend. To the detriment of my bottom line, I may have asked us to leave, before I thought through all my options. If you own and operate a business, are you open to all avenues of income your business can generate? If you were the owner of the tavern, what would you have done?

Does The Kitchen Area Look Like This Too?

I went out out for lunch today with friends. I parked on the street side of the restaurant. This side of the restaurant is not the side with the entrance, but it is not obvious when one parks where the entrance is.

The main entrance is to the left of where I parked. This view is to the right of where I parked. This dumpster area is also visible from the street and more the parking area. This is the area for customers who want close parking want to park.

This restaurant is a chain restaurant. There are two of these eateries in town. The other has a door to hide the trash bin. The door at the second location is always closed and the area clean, unless an employee is dumping trash.

Being a chain, one would think there are certain common standards for the business to follow? Standards do not seem to be present for the dumpster area. Management’s focus and concerns do not appear to include the whole customer experience.

My side view as I stepped out of my vehicle was this messy dumpster area with trash laying on the ground next to the dumpster. Being a curious person, the first thought that came into my mind after seeing the dumpster and the trash laying around it was:

“Does the kitchen look like this too?”

 

No customer of yours should see this. Look at your business with customer eyes.

No customer of yours should see this. Look at your business with customer eyes.

 

Maybe the kitchen is spotless. I’ll give the restaurant the benefit of doubt.  Neglecting the dumpster area however leaves or creates room for doubt. There is little doubt, this restaurant is the poorer performing of the two in town. Losing the potential revenue of repeat customers, and some first time customers with this area view.

This may be an off day, or this may be business as usual. How many diners are willing to gamble on their stomach?If I were not meeting other people for lunch, I would have gone to one of the other twenty or so restaurants within a few miles of this one.

As it is, I will not be back in the near future. What I will do, is share my observation with you the reader. Then  I will email the restaurant letting them know the dumpster area did not add to my appetite or dining experience.

Focus in business is a good thing. Focus is minding the bottom line and makes a difference between healthy profit and failure for business. Someone in  every business needs to see the business with a wholistic view. See what the customer will see. Hear what the customer may or may not hear. Someone in the business needs to see the business as the competition see the business.

No competitor, and rarely  is going to knock on the door and say, “You know your dumpster are looks pretty gross. Why don’t you clean it up and put a gate up so we don’t have to look at it?” Instead, the competition looks in the cash registers and thinks, “I hope the dumpster are over there stays open and trashy. It sure helps our bottom line!” Customers as in my case usually tell others about their experience and rarely tell the business.

When running a business it is not overly difficult or complex to succeed with a good product. Chains are chains because they have a product customers want. Not looking at the business from a customers perspective damages the bottom line. Myopia and business never make good partners.

Followup: Poor management leads to poor decisions. I went to the website to express my concerns on this matter, and the website was a database canned comment collection type web site which did not address my concerns.

The only email was a gift card email address. I sent my email to them with the picture. Not surprisingly I received a reply back that the gift card department can not manage my email, and perhaps I should address my concerns on the web page response system?

Not appreciating this answer I replied, perhaps they could forward my email much faster than I could find a valid email address. Following this, i went online to find the email of the CEO. It seems the company has filed for bankruptcy.

This is a great example of how poor upper management grows poor management, and poor top level decisions lead to poor decisions down the chain. Perhaps when bought out, the chain will make a comeback. Let’s hope so, it has a very good product.

Dakota Access Pipeline – Where’s the News Coverage?

This video looked like Kent State in the 60’s & 70’s and the civil rights movement wrapped all into one. Why are we sitting back when people are being treated in this manner? This story should be in every daily newscast, every paper. Attack dogs being forced on people and we do not say a word about it?

Here is a youtube video title. The video is very graphic. Here is the video title if the link changes: “Dakota Access Pipeline Company Attacks Native American Protesters with Dogs & Pepper Spray”

And the citation for the video.

Published on Sep 3, 2016

On September 3, the Dakota Access pipeline company attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray as they protested against the $3.8 billion pipeline’s construction. If completed, the pipeline would carry about 500,000 barrels of crude per day from North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield to Illinois. The project has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and members of nearly 100 more tribes from across the U.S. and Canada.

We have people trying to protect the land and the people. We have a company paying massive amounts of money to farmers and ranchers for access through their land. Who can say no to needed monies when you are struggling?

The oil as I understand it is dirty oil from collected from Fracking Operations. The lifespan of the pipeline is limited to how useful the oil is. Once the dirty oil from the pipeline is no longer profitable, what then? Will the pipeline be left to rot and contaminate the land it was built on?

As I understand the pipeline is slated to go under the Missouri River. Imagine what a break in the pipeline will do downstream?

Finally, who is going to protect this controversial pipeline? Surely it will be the target at least of malcontents who will try to damage the pipeline.

Who will be around to clean up the mess that will surely follow once the pipeline is abandoned? I’m guessing, we the tax payers will have to pick up the financial tab, and our children will live with the environmental destruction.

Customer Satisfaction and Cleanliness are not Disparate

Hello,

I dined at…with my wife last week. As usual we had a wonderful meal. My wife had…and I had…. As always, service was superb and the food cooked to perfection. The meal for me however was diminished by my view of the backs of the two booths.

I know with lighting dim, and shift workers in a rush, cleaning flat surfaces is a low priority. I attached a picture as it says more than words. I was facing the cooking area, so the location should be easy to find.

I wanted to bring this to your attention as I know you may wish to do a super clean before booth cleanliness comes to the attention of other customers.

We have been…customers since the eighties, and…has consistently set the standard for…not only in…, but also the state. No reason why…will not continue to lead.

Thank you,

Is cleanliness a lost art for a non fast food business?

Is cleanliness a lost art for a non fast food business?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took this picture as I was not happy looking at smeared food and thought perhaps I should share my view with the restaurant. After a week or so I decided I paid enough for the meal and should not have to see smeared food.

I checked to see if the company had a website. They do and have an email address for leaving comments. As you read above, I left a comment. Notice in my email, I did not ask for anything. I was not looking for a free appetizer or free meal after they clean up the premises – thinking they did act on my email.

This is a quality oriented business and they take their product very seriously. So what’s the beef? At the least I expected some sort of non committal reply, stating they received my email/comment and would look into the situation.

Better yet would have been some sort of apology for having a customer, me in this case, looking at smeared food on the booth backs. Maybe we have been spoiled by chain fast food establishment cleanliness standards?

If this were a hamburger stand, or a family restaurant I would understand, stuff happens, and kids are creative. However, this is an adult oriented upscale dining establishment which charges accordingly. This was not fresh food on the booth backs.

On the other side. If I had sent an email saying what a great meal it was, how good the beer tasted, and the whiskey chaser for desert really hit the spot, would I have received a reply?

If you own or run a business, and take pride in your business, give your customers an avenue to provide you comments, you owe your customers who leave a comment the benefit of a reply. Lack of a reply is a disservice to the customer, and a detractor to the business. Much like having a employee bulletin board of policy that no one reads.

Note Taking Apps For Linux

I have been trying out different tree note and wiki notes software for Linux. Below are several software programs with a blip taken from the home page of each. I included links to their home pages  if you wish to check one or all out. They are all in different forms of refinement and style depending on the authors intent. Some are simply a note dumping ground, others are wiki type, tree storage, and one or two may be all types. Most if not all should be in your Linux repository. If not they can be downloaded and installed.

gJots2 –  gjots2(1) is a simple jotter application for your desktop – an outline processor.

Tomboy – Tomboy is a desktop note-taking application for Linux, Unix, Windows, and Mac OS X. Simple and easy to use, but with potential to help you organize the ideas and information you deal with every day. Tomboy has a lot of plugins that may be useful for you.

Gnote – Gnote is a port of Tomboy to C++. It is the same note taking application, including most of the add-ins (more are to come). Synchronization support is being worked on.

Zim – Zim is a graphical text editor used to maintain a collection of wiki pages. Each page can contain links to other pages, simple formatting and images. Pages are stored in a folder structure, like in an outliner, and can have attachments. Creating a new page is as easy as linking to a nonexistent page. All data is stored in plain text files with wiki formatting. Various plugins provide additional functionality, like a task list manager, an equation editor, a tray icon, and support for version control.

Cherrytree – Cherrytree [is] a hierarchical note taking application, featuring rich text and syntax highlighting, storing data in a single xml or sqlite file. If you search on this blog you will find a more in depth previous article on cherrytree.

nvpy – nvpy [is a] Simplenote syncing note-taking application, inspired by Notational Velocity and ResophNotes, but uglier and cross-platformerer. If you search this blog you will find a more in depth previous article on nvpy.

TreePad for Linux, one of several tree note type software packages for Linux.

TreePad for Linux, one of several tree note type software packages for Linux.

Treepad – TreePad Lite for Linux is a freeware personal information manager designed specifically to run on Linux (PC and Raspberry Pi). It supports Unicode, is fully portable, and does not need to be installed.

Plume – Plume Creator helps you to write your stories in chapters and scenes, write fullscreen, edit notes and synopses, export in html and odt formats, edit in rich text, and manage characters, places and items.Are you a writer ? Plume Creator will help you with this hard task! This software gives you an outliner, a distraction-free mode, a note manager and much more!

Kabikaboo is a simple tree-branch note organizer. It is meant to be used to help aid in the writing of a novel. Users can plan out their story, plot, and characters. Created with Python, PyGTK, Geany, and Glade, on Ubuntu Linux.

I did not include KDE Basket notes which many people do use and enjoy, due to the additional programs I would need to run Basket Notes with XFCE. If you use KDE and Basket Notes is not installed you may wish to check the program out.

I gave most of these a test and settled on what works for me. I hope if you are in need of a notes program, one of the above work well for you.

More Words than a picture

A picture may be worth a thousand words. Having an on-top of it Manager overseeing your business is worth much more as seen in the following pictures.

The first picture is of a placard at a local Applebee’s. The business of this Applebee’s at least is customer satisfaction through employee perfection. The greeters, wait staff, cooks, and bus staff are true professionals. They work and maybe live the slogan (below) they walk by going to and from the kitchen area. I only stop in for lunch, and while I am there, I think, “Wow, what a great place this must be to work at!”

What every business should strive for - property of Applebee's

What every business should strive for

This store on the other hand is one store of a national chain. In this case office oriented products from paper to printers. One look at the trash can was enough to catch my attention about the state of the business at this particular store.

The outside grounds between the store and parking lot were filthy. The store itself needed better lighting. It looked like saving on the electric bill was more important than the customer experience. Not one person smiled as I was asked if I needed help.

It feels dirty and have not even entered the store yet.

It feels dirty and have not even entered the store yet.

The thing is, people notice. A very few people like me look around from the parking lot to the bathroom. For other people it is just a feeling that the business feels sort of icky and they want to get out as quickly as possible even. Customers in this second dingy looking store spend less time pondering whether they should make a purchase. Customers are quicker to leave and spend their money at a place that feels cleaner and fresher.

If you serve the public, and you want to make the best impression, look at your business as your customer’s do. Starting with the parking lot, is everything clean and tidy? Is the lighting appropriate? Do your employees look as if they want to be there? Do you want to be there?

Having a dirty building front, visible smoking employees, old gum and trash near the entrance, poor lighting are some of the things that turn off repeat business. The biggest hit to the bottom line is your customers spending their money somewhere else. Clean up your business so your customers want to stay and return in the future.

Get Paid to Overcome Your Shyness

If you are shy by nature and want to be more outgoing, an easy way to get there is by working somewhere where you are forced to speak with strangers. Customers come with all types of personalities and temperaments. If you go out and find a job where you are forced to interact with the public, you will become less shy be default.

You will be forced to interact, discuss, persuade, and listen to and resolve complaints. In the interim you will learn how to easily carry on your end of the conversation. Not so obvious you will learn other speaking skills too.

You will learn how and when it is okay to control conversation. How to encourage or discourage conversation with your posture and expression. You will learn confidence because you will learn that some people are just like you, and others are different than you. Generally you will learn that you can hold your own with almost any person, and there is no reason to be shy anymore.

Half of us are shy by nature. You can get paid to learn to not be shy.

Half of us are shy by nature. You can get paid to learn to not be shy.

Once you realize you don’t need to be shy as in quiet, your world can change. You can become more outgoing in your personal life. You can control the ebb and flow of conversation. You will have learned what attracts and what turns off different personality types.

Get a job in fast food perhaps, and you will learn the skills to become the verbal master of your own ship!

Are You Lonely Tonight?

If you ever feel like nobody knows your name, create a resume or apply for a job online. Suddenly, you have more friends than you thought possible. Look at the number of job related emails received jobs in about 24 hours. On a weekend no less. Bots never sleep I suppose. Amazing…

Create a resume or apply for a job online. The email just doesn't stop.

Create a resume or apply for a job online. The email just doesn’t stop.