Archive for August, 2008

Use your Sunday for Rest and Planning for the Week.

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Sunday is traditionally a day of rest and like most of us, I find on Sundays that I end working just as hard on house chores or things that I couldn’t get done during the week. One of the things I do is try to get a pulse for what is coming up in the upcoming week.

I check my calendars, reflect about what projects (if any) are hitting their deadlines, who do I need to contact to get things done, etc. I make a list of chores that have to be done and any pre-planning. An example of pre-planning is making a tickler in Outlook or a memo somewhere that quarterly taxes will be coming due and I have to write checks for the Fed and State of California. I often talk about the importance of making quarterly tax payments and if you haven’t heard enough from me on the subject before, consider this your reminder. Don’t forget quarterly taxes are due Sept 15 for the Fed and if you live in a state that has state income taxes, you will need to mail in a payment before that date as well to avoid possible penalties.

Fall is usually birthday and anniversary city for me. I have to start earmarking savings for birthday presents for my mother (Happy Birthday Mom!), wife (Happy Birthday Sharren) and daughter (Happy Birthday Arianna). Sure, you don’t have to spend money to have a fun and profitable birthday but even if I were to prepare meals at home for the birthday people I still need to buy groceries.

If you are planning any trips, make sure your out of town resources like hotels and transportation are in place with reservations and tickets. It doesn’t hurt to confirm them once before leaving. Weather changes may influence travel.

If people are coming into town, plan your time accordingly and make sure that you schedule rest time for yourself.

If you are teaching and resuming school or starting up, try and get some extra lesson plans finished in advance to give yourself some breathing space.

Interested in more suggestions? Please let me know. Otherwise I am going to actually try and REST this Sunday!

Kim Greenblatt

You are reading Kim Greenblatt’s blog entitled, profitable. Use your Sunday for Rest and Planning for the Week.

Improving Communications in Business and Customer Service

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

If business communication is good within a company, the chances are that the communications will be good from the customer service representatives and the public. Good communication skills equal good business rapport and more sales and less problems afterwards.

Schools need to emphasize communication more. Companies need to get their staff trained so that they will take ownership of a problem and follow through with it. Because of global communications and markets, it is not uncommon to be placed on hold where you are living in the United States and the customer service help center is in India or the Phillipines. I recently had some problems trying to find out how a business handles certain problems and the customer service clerk didn’t have an answer.

When I asked to speak to her supervisor she said that she wasn’t in. I wondered if the rep was working from home. When I asked what else I could do to get an answer I was met with silence.

Sorry folks, this doesn’t work for me.

Like a lot of people, I purchase goods or services sometimes with warranties. If something is under warranty, it needs to be taken care of. If there is a payment being processed I want to know how or why a payment gets handled. If the money isn’t applied a certain way, why?

Take note international companies! You better start having a more efficient problem resolution service or people won’t do business with you.

My guess is the problem starts with the board of directors and works down. If the Chairman of the Board doesn’t care how is company responds to customers, why should his staff? If the Chairman of the board just pays lip service and doesn’t implement his changes, it isn’t the fault of the rank and file people.

Just a reminder again here in the United States (and to my international readers) to vote with your wallets and purses. If you are not getting the service or use of the product you are buying – don’t buy the goods or services anymore.

Kim Greenblatt

You are reading Kim Greenblatt’s blog, profitable, where he talks about how companies should imrpove communications in their business and their customer service or risk losing money.

Good Planning for Finances Beats After The Fact Second Guessing

Friday, August 29th, 2008

The problem with financial planning is that it is boring.  Everybody wants to hear the latest and greatest get rich schemes, how to start up a social engineering site that will make them millions in 8 months or blink your eyes and grow rich.  People who end up making money generally plan for it. 

There is always an element of luck and risk and for those who are lucky in their risks their rewards can be astronomical.  The other side of the coin is that their risk can be financially devastating as the recent home loan meltdown has proven.  Banks and people are being punished for being greedy.

What about the rest of us? 

If you have been saving money, paying off your mortgage, keeping your credit card bills down to zero or paying them off monthly, congratulations.  You are on the way to for financial success.  People who have money will be in a better position to scoop up realty in the current environment and make profitable investments. 

There will always be some sort of opportunity to make money and as the cliche goes, opportunities are like Las Vegas casinos.  If you see one that is attractive and miss it, don’t fret, there will be another bright enticing one down the block.

Like the casinos, you need to have cash and the easiest way to have it ready is to have been saving for it.  If you are working your way out of debt, congratulations as well.  You will make it.  It may take some time but planning now for getting out of debt will be a lot easier with your eyes open than closing your eyes and hoping it will go away.

Kim Greenblatt

Respect Confidentiality In Any Settlement

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

This may be common knowledge for a lot of people but it bears repeating.  If you get a court settlement and the terms are that it is confidential, please respect it.  There is too much at risk to blab over it.

As a mediator and arbitrator for the Los Angeles and Santa Monica bar, I know first hand that silence is more than golden when it comes to legal agreements.  It is the law.  It is required.  That is why I couldn’t believe that I was in an elevator the other day with two strange men and one of them was telling the other the details of some court settlement he was in.  What if I was a from the courthouse and familiar with his case?  What if I were a junior (well, okay senior) partner of the law firm that was against him and overheard him?  I could march my overhearing butt back to court and get the judgment thrown out.

Folks, please respect the sanctity of the settlement.   It doesn’t matter if the settlement came from a trial, arbitration or a mediation.   If you think of the aggravation you have gone through to get it, the pain, the madness,  the anger, possibly the seemingly endless depositions, the soul-wrenching testimony in front of total strangers, it isn’t worth it just for bragging rights.

This is especially important when it comes to dealing with special needs clients that you are responsible for.  The person you are caring for may not understand what has happened and it would be horrible to get services removed, funds cancelled or worse because you had an attack of ego.

I am sure it won’t happen if you remember this post.  I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked at human nature.  I think one of the first things that people like to do when they hear good ideas is tell it to the world.  In this specific situation, it is better to keep it from the world!  To do anything else just doesn’t make sense and isn’t profitable!

 

Kim Greenblatt

 

Kim Greenblatt, in his blog, profitable, reminds you to respect the sanctity of court settlements and keep your mouth shut!

Plugging Cash leaks

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

A recent reader question to me was:

“Kim, how can I stop the money from being spent from my sole proprietorship? I am watching my money, tightened down on credit and am working on increasing sales.”

The reader didn’ t tell me specifics and I can’t say what is or what isn’t being spent. I would think that he should be able to react faster than a corporation but I have no clue as to what this person’s savings are.

So here are some general plugs to fit any size sink where money is being lost down the drain.

1. If you are a sole prop, watch your expenses. If business is down, see where you can cut expenses. You need to still advertise to keep a market presence but be ruthless in getting rid of advertising that isn’t working.

2. Determine if you are married or have a significant other, that you or your partner aren’t bleeding off excess cash that could be used to run the business. If that is the case, shame on you! Time to change and read some of my blogs on savings.

3. Examine shrinkage precautions. If you subcontract or hire part timers, look for shrinkage. That is the fancy word for theft. Are inventories dropping and the money isn’t showing up to cover the missing product? Time to install cameras if you own a store.

Are you sure you can trust your business partner? I mean, really sure? A lot of times, spouses or lovers refuse to look at the obvious that their BFFD (best friend forever, dear or by five finger discount?) is cleaning them out.

Take appropriate steps and take action.

The only person who can insure that the leaks get plugged and the caulking stays in the bowl of your business if you are the one who does it. If you are paying for outside consultants or contractors, listen to what they say, even if you don’t agree with them. If they are the experts in the field you are working in, they are the ones who might be able to help you turn the faucets on with more financial pressure and get you a gusher of cash!

Kim Greenblatt

You are plugging cash leaks with Kim Greenblatt in his blog, profitable.

Market Price Point and Profitability

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

One of the questions that I get asked is how do I determine price point for marketing a product. For something that there is already an established market for, say a book on a certain topic, the answer is straight forward. You price it with whatever else is selling close to that price in the market. You try to add value by presenting an engaging product or service that will be justified at whatever reasonable price that you put on it.

In the case of non-fiction books, the market sweet spot is arond $12-20 for something that helps a person financially or personally. For specific niche books, such as gambling, one can go higher because the potential return is higher if the person who buys your book or product uses it and it works. The extra $2-5 in the long run will be recovered quickly. It makes economic and profitable sense to charge a little more. The online booksellers will also discount accordingly if the book takes off.

For new products that hit the market the answer is a little hazier. First, the initial development costs have to be recovered somehow. It could be that the cost of materials that you are using is pretty steep. A good example is the introduction of new video game console systems. Whenever a new system is introduced, until the new chips and guts of the system can be made relatively cheaply, the new system generally gets sold at a loss. Take a look at the Playstation and Xbox systems when they first came out. Over a few years, as Sony and Microsoft find more competitive (and quality) manufacturers, the can lower their price.

The market sweet spot for gaming systems use to be $300-350 but has dropped because of money being tight to $175-250.

The bigger companies can afford to take losses initially on their developmental bleeding edge systems because they have income streams from other products. In Microsoft’s case they have their money coming in from the operating system sales and productivity tools. Sony has their media library and other entertainment hardware to sell.

You, as an individual or start-up person have to take into account the artificial or real need for your product in the price as well. If you are marketing a raygun that makes people live forever, you can charge a very high price because a lot of people would pay anything for immortality. If you are trying to market a can opener that sings the theme song from the Olympics, you will have limited success and seasonal issues since something like that would only sell once every two years (for Winter or Summer Olympics). You can’t also mark-up a can opener too much because people can get a similar silent product cheaper at their local dollar, thrifts or supermarkets.

Once a price point is established, you have to be flexible enough to lower it or raise it if your operating costs change or demand goes up. Look at oil. Gasoline prices rose or fell based on demand – real or perceived. The gas stations that kept their prices higher had less business.

Whether it is gas, can openers, immortality rays, video game consoles or books on Rett Syndrome, nobody gets something for free and it pays to price things appropriately.

Kim Greenblatt

Kim Greenblatt, in his blog, profitable, talks about market price point and profitability.

Upcoming Book Chapter Listings – Practical Money Making

Monday, August 25th, 2008

I just uploaded this weekend my book and cover to the printer.  Hopefully I will have a clean proof and be out with the new book within a week.  In the meantime, dear readers, here are the chapters for you to review and be amused with (or not depending on your mood).

Chapter Titles for the upcoming book, Practical Money Making – Surviving Recession, Layoffs, Credit Problems, Generating Passive Income Streams, Working Full Time or Part Time and Retirement.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INTRODUCTION 
WHAT IS YOUR FINANCIAL GOAL? 
NO JOB 
YOUR DAY JOB 
YOUR 2ND JOB 
MY COMIC BOOK DELIVERY BUSINESS 
NON-PROFIT JOBS 
DON’T TAKE ON A JOB WHERE YOU SELL SOMETHING THAT YOU LOVE TO COLLECT 
I HAVE NO MONEY AND I NEED TO DO SOMETHING PART TIME 
MAKE MONEY DOING THINGS THAT PEOPLE HATE TO DO 
THINGS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER WHEN PICKING A BUSINESS 
DEVELOPING PASSIVE INCOME STREAMS 
THINK FOR THE FUTURE 
NEST EGGS 
PAY OFF DEBTS FASTER 
LONG TERM INVESTMENTS 
ACCOUNT FOR TAXES 
WORK AT HOME OR WORK AWAY FROM HOME AND SOME TAXING QUESTIONS 
REVIVING OUR DEAD SERVICE ECONOMY 
DO WHAT YOU LOVE, BUT DON’T LET IT DESTROY YOU FINANCIALLY 
RETIREMENT 
MONEY IS TIGHT AND IT IS ABOUT TO GET TIGHTER 
THREE AWESOME CLOSING BITS OF ADVICE 
 
If you, my readers, have any questions, please let me know.  The book should be out in stores and available on the internet in about a month.  The isbn number is 978-60622-001-6, and the suggested retail price in the United States will be $14.95.

Also, I am taking requests for what my next non-fiction book should be.  Let me know what you want to see.  In the front running is now a book on Special Needs.  It will be more of a general book than my Rett Syndrome book and will focus on financial issues as well as social, physical, mental and spiritual things.

Let me know your thoughts.  Be well, safe and profitable!

Kim Greenblatt

 

You are reading, Kim Greenblatt’s blog, profitable, and learning about his upcoming book, Practical Money Making,  soon to available everywhere!

Job Searching – How You Can Tell Things Are Slow

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

One of the ways that you can tell that things are slow in an economy and hiring is tough is if the company website is in “desperate need” to fill a position “ASAP” and they refer you to an automated system to just through your resume into their database.

Another ways is when recruiters try the bait and switch on you to get you to send them their resume.  Depending on what part of the country you live in and where in the United States (or world for that matter), you may be seeing more of a “bust” economy rather than a “booming” one.

Companies are reacting accordingly and sending out postings hoping that things will get better.  In some cases they are back to business as usual with their hopes that in this bad economy that they can get a Harvard PhD with 20 years experience in their field to work for minimum wage.  Business has always been that way.

A subtler technique is where they post a position for say a technical engineer but when you get on board you find yourself doing Project Manager work.  Or if you get hired on as a Project Manager and find yourself managing multiple projects and divisions doing a Director’s job!  It may not matter to you because you are just looking to get an income stream going again.  If you are doing a great job, once economic times change, you are in a position for lobbying for more money.

Keep busy sending out resumes.

Start looking to see if there are any short term contracts that you can take, if that makes financial sense to you, to get some money coming in.   If your industry is in a slump, like the auto industry, is there anything else where your skills can be used where you can derive a living?

I am getting a lot of emails from people talking about their frustrations at finding work.  I tell that that eventually some of the ads they answer have to be legitimate ones and ultimately all it takes is one job.  Once you get that one job,  the rest of it will not matter.

Good luck!

Kim Greenblatt

More On Business Summer Fall Cleaning

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Our Spring cleaning has drifted more into Fall cleaning with Labor Day coming up soon.  As I started to say in the previous article, there is no time like the present to retool and streamline one’s business plan.

Project Managers, CEOS and sole proprietors are all trying to cut costs and increase profit.  In sales we are seeing more and more of smaller bags of items like potato chips, candy bars and the like.  The prices either stay the same or go up slightly.  While I applaud the fact that I can keep my weight down (and I am limiting the amount of junk food I am eating on general health principles-moderation is great for everybody) there are a lot of other people who will feel ripped off.

In the fast food business, some companies, like Carl’s Jr, have taken the opposite approach and are big on loading you up with extra meat and larger hamburger buns.  In other companies, like McDonald’s, they are starting to see that they aren’t making the kind of profit margin that they use to because of higher energy and food costs on their dollar menu items.  They are kind of stuck though because a lot of Moms hit the drive thru and spend $25 on 25 dollar items for their families instead of ordering the higher priced value meals.  McDonald’s isn’t quite sure at this point how they want to raise their prices because that might result in less people going to their restaurant.

It is important to realize that in the United States and other parts of the world right now, their is a financial contraction happening.  The best advice that I can give somebody right now is to try something on a small scale and if it works, duplicate it at a larger scale.

I might limit some of the dollar items or start with one of them at the fast food restaurant and see how sales go.  This isn’t a novel idea and it has happened before when Coca Cola tried to move over to the “New Coke” formula.  People hated it.

People hate change even more when it costs more money.  They tend to adjust accordingly though.  When gas prices passed over $4 a gallon in Southern California, people started driving less.  It was economics in action that the market sweet spot to get people to stop spending money on gas was upwards of $4.  Now that prices have dropped somewhat, there is slightly more driving.

The same correlation can hold true in business where you can see if your sales are not going to be affected dramatically by cutting out some loss leaders, give them a shot.

The net result of summer or fall business cleaning is a nice, clean profitable income statement!

Kim Greenblatt

Cleaning and Your Business

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Tonight I spent the night going through my office and throwing away papers that have literally been sitting on my desk for years.  We are talking some Target store receipts dating back to 1991.  I don’t even think I have the shirts that were on that receipt.  I am sure I probably wouldn’t fit into the shirt as well.

What does this have to do with you?   It means that you should at least once a year take stock of your business or job and see where you can clean things up.  Maybe you are a little slow with dealing with problems.  Maybe you react too quickly and that causes more problems some times.

These are the things that you can tweak as you become aware of them.  In some businesses, you can’t win no matter what.  If you are a tax collector people will not be happy with you no matter what you do. 

Some other things to tweak are asking yourself where else can you improve productivity?  Maybe there is something literally that you need to clean up.  If you are in the restaurant business and find that you didn’t get that “A” rating if you are in Los Angeles, California, you are probably wondering what else you can do to boost your health rating for your food. 

Maybe you have some money leaks in your business and it is time to start plugging them up.  It isn’t the big losses that sometimes kill us, it can be the small nickel and dime losses or differences that will add up and cumulatively be a problem.

So make sure that when you clean your house, you also remember to do some cleaning at your business. 

Now I need to take a shower because all this sitting in dust and dirt is starting to make me itch….

Kim Greenblatt

Kim Greenblatt welcomes you to his blog, profitable, and talks about cleaning his home office and cleaning your business.