Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It’s a Leap Year

Today is a leap year, something that doesn’t happen every year and in fact, it’s a pretty rare event. We have to add an additional day every four year in order to catch up, or something like that. Apparently the earth doesn’t travel around the sun in a precise 365 day pattern. People that are born on a leap year day will only have that special day roll around 25% of the time. I guess that mean you would be celebrating your birthday a lot less, bummer. On the plus side when you’re 100 years old you will only have celebrated 25 birthdays, that’s a pretty youthful centenarian. I was thinking that a person born on February 29th is actually born on March 1st because normally this date is actually noted as March 1st. So having to pick your birthday as either February 28th or March 1st isn’t so bad. The month can be picked based on the birthstone that is most attractive.

For all those procrastinators out there, this leap day gives you one more day to do the books or to get something done in the month of February. Procrastination is a major part of business. I’m not advocating for it, I just know that once in a while it happens. For me, regardless of whether it’s a leap day I will still have to pack up supplies for a trunk show. Thursday is a scheduled trunk show day and there is a lot of work to be done. Loading displays, packaging and of course the jewelry, it also takes some time to set everything up and if you’re like me, you can be very particular.

Trunk shows give me an opportunity to do a little inventory and to see where I’m lacking in selection. Bringing all your wares out to be viewed also helps to get feedback on what is selling and what is not. Customers will give you feedback if you simply talk to them. Since we have an extra day, why not take advantage and work a little with your customers. Customers are a wealth of information and can help your business define where it is going. So instead of procrastinating, use your time to ask what needs to be done, how to do it and what your customer think of your inventory. This will allow you to start off March with a little more information and energy then February. So have some fun with your leap year day and maybe make some changes.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Business is Hard Work

When my daughter was in college she had to buy and read a lot of books. It was more financially practical to purchase the books used. The problem with used books is upon return, they has very little real value, or worse, the teacher was no longer using that book next quarter and hence it was worthless. This means there are quite a few text books left around my house. Since I’m such an avid reader I’ve actually read a few of these leftover books. One book that I am currently reading is The Machine in the Garden by Leo Marx. There is an interesting quote in the book, “If America seemed to promise everything that men always had wanted, it also threatened to obliterate much of what they already had achieved.” This is the basic concept behind the American dream.

Owning your own business is the American dream, it allows you the possibility of achieving what you have always wanted. The unfortunate thing is the other half of the sentence is usually forgotten. It’s not as glamorous or even cheery. It has a doom and gloom connotation to it. Yes you can start a business but if you’re not careful you can lose it all. This is not necessarily true. Business can be tough and there are a lot of ins and outs. The learning curve can be quite steep and those that fail to learn can be facing problems that adversely affect their business. Those statistics that everyone quotes about a business failing in the first year are not necessarily true. There are businesses that have been around forever and they sometimes fail, there are no hard and fast rules about success or failure in business except one.

In order to succeed you need to work hard. It is a matter of constantly plugging away and working at the business. You don’t have to have grand ideas or spend tons of cash on fancy advertising, although it does help to advertise. Business mostly takes time. You have to put in the time, whether it’s updating your website, holding a trunk show or keeping your inventory in good repair, it all takes time. Business requires an attention to detail and hard work. You will work longer hours than a 9 to 5 job and have a lot less to show for it. You will have to deal with inventory, customer service and major decision all on your own. Sometimes you’ll feel overwhelmed and other times it will be the most satisfying job you’ve ever had, but that’s business.

There is no such thing as an absentee business and if anyone tries to convince you that there is, they are a charlatan. If you have a good idea you should try and make that idea come to life. If you have special skills why not capitalize upon them? Just remember that no business became successful overnight and if they did it was probably a fad, remember “Pet Rocks?” So keep working hard at your business, take advice with a grain of salt and remember that there is no substitution for practice. You can never get good at something if you’re not willing to put in the hours and do the hard work.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Men Love Watches

Those of you who have been reading my blog know that I’m married. My husband does not wear any jewelry, I know, blasphemy! But he has a love of watches. I really wouldn’t put watches in the same category as jewelry, even though many watches are similar  to jewelry. I have a David Yurman watch that is really a diamond bracelet but is both functional and beautiful. My husband has his favorites and he is relatively tame when it comes to design. I don’t think he’s going for the diamond encrusted oversized dial watch, but he loves classic designs. I’ve put him in charge of picking out some of the styles that we will carry. I hope my husband understand the gravity of this position.

I’ve always been the one to have the final say in what goes in the store. He’s shown me some beautiful pieces and some really fabulous stuff, but I always have the last word. It’s not that he hasn’t found some really cool stuff; it just hasn’t all been really cool. He admitted the other day that he is never quite sure what looks good or what will be appealing in women’s jewelry. It’s not that I’m some great arbitrator of taste, but since I’m a woman who is involved in fashion personally, I just have a slightly better idea. Taste really is a personal thing, what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. It’s hard to decide what goes in your store and what won’t make the cut. You have to be selective but also understanding of what fashion trends are going to be popular. You can have the best taste in the world but if you don’t have the hottest trend, you will get left behind.

For many years I would cruise the local jewelry stores to see what was available. Many jewelry stores sell a lot of the same things. You have to have the staples of basic jewelry and the really innovative stores also sell jewelry that is a little off the beaten track. It’s good to have a selection. When it comes to jewelry I know, with watches I’m not so sure. Watches should be functional because they truly have a purpose. But they are also an accessory that should have some style. I get confused in this department, hence the reason that I am letting my husband take the lead. Just as he gets confused with women’s jewelry, I get confused with watches. I have a tendency to lean towards watches that have a lot of bling and that may not necessarily translate into sales.

So for now I’m letting him pick the watches. He picks them based on his own inner compass of what will be liked and what will sell. I’m not sure how he does it but he does. The watch selection has yet to make it in its entirety on our website, like everything in business, it’s a work in progress. I’m hoping that some day we will have women’s watches because for right now it’s all men’s watches, when we do, watch for the bling because that will probably be my doing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Where Can I Find That?

Time and again I’m looking through a magazine and find something really great. It can be a purse, a piece of jewelry, a sweater, even a kitchen appliance. The real fun comes when you try and find the darn thing. I remember seeing these awesome key chains made from old Las Vegas hotel room tags. My husband is a huge fan of anything Las Vegas and I wanted to get him one of these great key chains. Much to my chagrin they were already sold out and since the hotel was no longer in business, it was a limited supply. I don’t know how many times this has happened, but the fact that it has happened more than once is a little disconcerting. Why do people spend a ton of money for a fancy magazine ad or feature only to have a limited stock?

If I had the opportunity to have an advertisement in a major magazine I would make sure that I had a huge supply. You can have the world’s greatest invention but if you can’t get an adequate supply together it may reflect on your product. That’s the tricky thing about advertising, you want to get the word out about your products or business but you also don’t want it to reflect poorly on your company. Having a product in short supply may show that you are not adequately organized or funded. I learned early on that the fastest way to lose a customer was to not have something in stock. People have a tendency to make impulse purchases, particularly for small items, and you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity.

While some businesses have built a reputation on limited editions or the scarcity of an item, in the day to day business world having something in stock is the best way to ensure customers. Since the recession I’ve noticed a slowdown in many stores replenishment of stock. Something as simple as low-sodium soup at the local grocery store has been out of stock for months. It is obvious that the grocery store is not trying to create exclusivity with soup, they just don’t have any. This reflects poorly on my local store and a customer maybe less apt to shop there since they know they can’t get everything on their list.

Since there are many factors that can interrupt a supply chain, natural disasters, strikes and moratoriums, it is important to find suppliers who can handle the work. For the average business your ability to product, supply or stock a product is more important than being the only guy who makes it. Some companies have built a reputation on having what nobody else has, but people shouldn’t have to hunt down a watch battery, socks or low-sodium soup, these are staples and many stores should have variations available. So if somebody really wants to impress me, have it in stock because I wouldn’t be asking for it if I didn’t need it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Free Catalog

Nowadays everyone is giving something away, either through a purchase or the more popular sweepstakes style giveaway. The usual premise involves something really great, or maybe not so great, you sign up and your name in put in the proverbial fishbowl to be drawn later. I believe the general idea of these giveaways in to increase interest in a store or its products, and getting their name out into the public. The cynic in me says that the company is only fishing for a mailing list. I don’t know about you but every time I sign up for some giveaway I start receiving massive amounts of spam mail. I also start receiving flyers and mailings that I haven’t asked for from companies I never hear of.

Marketing is big business. It takes a lot of time and energy to cultivate a mailing list for marketing purposes. There are whole sectors of the business community that are devoted to getting you more customers and everyone participates. Portero Luxury will send you a minimum of three emails a day if you sign up to receive emails of specials and upcoming sales. Is it really a special if there are three of them per day? Lucky Magazine has a daily giveaway but also wants you to allow emails from the company supplying the prize. Just about any store that you have given your email or address to will send you stuff. This is how companies market today. Bulk mail is still relatively cheap so if a company has your address, expect a free catalog. If you give out your email address, you’re going to get spammed.

What I hate is when a company sells their mailing list for profit. When I was in law school I signed up for prep classes. Not only do I still receive information from this preparation school I receive announcements of upcoming events and discounts on books and other material from other companies that do the same thing. Someone sold my name, address and email address, isn’t that illegal? There are companies that sell products that I am genuinely interested in and I look forward to information from these companies. When a company has a sale or has a new product, thanks for letting me know about the sale or sending me a new catalog in the mail. This type of information is helpful, but selling my name and address to a company I’ve never expressed interest in is not helpful.

I have catalogs that I send out for free, someone just needs to ask for one, no obligation and I won’t spam you after it’s sent. I have a profound aversion to this other type of marketing. I believe if you have a really cool product, beautiful jewelry or a reasonable price people will buy from you. I have been told that this is na├»ve but it works for my sensibilities since I would want to be treated in the same way. Besides, no one is going to order a catalog for products that they have no interest in, right? Genuine interest creates genuine customers who genuinely want to buy your products. I’ll take the slow road and build customer relations over the long haul because building relationships is what makes a company worthy of repeat business.