Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nemo’s Coffee One Year Anniversary!!

Well, we have made it to our first year in operation. It is amazing how quickly a year can go by when you are as busy as we have been. It seems as if it were just several months.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported us over this time. We have so many wonderful regulars, as well as companies/government agencies in our area who consistently use our product/services.

Here is some trivia from the first year:

# of Customers: 2,200
Total Sales: $147,300
# of items sold: 62,100
Average ticket: $4.57
Busiest Hour: 8:00-9:00am with 4260 customers
Biggest seller: Espresso Drinks, 20,232 sold for $45,900
Brewed Coffee: 6745 sold for $11,100
Lunch items sold: 9961 sold for $37,560
Pastries sold: 8100

We exceeded our break even budget for our anniversary week, which has been updated to include our new vehicle lease! It is wonderful to see us on the profitable side of things this week!

Biggest lessons learned this year:
1. Success is made up of daily individual efforts. If you look at it as a whole, it seems impossible and insurmountable. If you look at it daily, it requires a great deal of effort, but you can do it.
2. Be prepared to think outside the box. Get creative in the products you offer, the way you market them to your customers, and how you manage the logistics of buying/storing supplies and preparing the products for sale.
3. Take care of your equipment. Put the effort into keeping it clean. Spend the money to have preventive maintenance completed, which will save you in more expensive corrective repairs if it were to break down.
4. Never compromise on the quality of your product.
5. Get to know your customers. They will come back if you make them feel welcome and important.
6. Spend time with your kids. Don’t let business push them out of your life. It is better to play with your kids and then lose a little sleep to get work done.
7. Figure out how to make money to supplement the business start up. Nemo’s did not support us this year, and may not support us in our second year. Our sources of income were: unemployment, photography, past tax returns for 2004, 2005, and 2006, my job at Intel, and my job with RK Mechanical.
8. Trust that God will provide a solution… We expected to have sales that provide us a decent income by now. If you start a business and have decent income in the first year, then you are in the minority of new business start-ups. Every time we were concerned about how things will work out, a solution popped up right at the last minute. I believe that God will provide for the faithful…

This has been a difficult and very rewarding year. Tracy and I have learned how to find solutions to challenges, how to use time more efficiently, and how to give more effort than we thought we had to give. Business ownership will help you to grow more as a person more than you can imagine. I don’t recommend it for the faint of heart, or for those who don’t like hard work. For everyone else, it is a very rewarding endeavor, even if you don’t pay yourself a dime.

I have no idea how many people read this blog, but I appreciate you following along for the last year. It doesn’t matter to me if it is 10 people or 1000 people. I hope I have written/documented some things that have been a positive influence for you as a person, and for your small business.

Take care,

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why I talk about the things I do...

We began this blog in 2006 to document the process of designing and building Nemo's, hence the name, The Birth of Nemo.

We then continued to document our growth and the things we have learned along the way after construction was complete. I try to support the military in our blog, as I believe they deserve it (political thoughts about our wars are completely irrelevant to supporting our troops). I also randomly post items about parenting and various other thoughts... It is kind of a hodge podge of my mind at times.

I occasionally post a blog entry about difficult topics, like my recent post regarding racism. I almost did not post it, and I've thought about deleting the post a couple of times since. However, I am going to leave it up, because it was a difficult experience that we had, and I learned a great deal as a business owner dealing with the public. Part of my goal here is to display what occurs at Nemo's, good or bad, and help other business owners to learn from our experiences.

There is no place in our world for racism, and yet it exists everywhere. There is discrimination that occurs against minorities, and there is reverse-discrimination that occurs by minorities.

None of it is any good. I look forward to positive experiences at Nemo's everyday, but it seems like the most difficult things end up in the blog. I really don't want it to have a negative feel to it, so I will try to highlight more of the positive things, not just the hard things with a huge learning curve.

With that in mind, I want to post a few photos taken recently of happy customers. Providing quality products and service to the community is our whole reason for existing. Let me share some of that with you today!

..just realized I don't have the camera with me!! Drat...
Stay tuned, and I'll post the photos later!!

Take care,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Racism??? Really???

I've been stewing over this post for weeks now. I wasn't sure if I wanted to post about this experience, or just let it fade into history. My reason for this blog (sporadic as it might be) is to help other small business owners learn from my experiences. So with that in mind, here goes:

When you serve the public, you have to be prepared to deal with all kinds of situations. You have an expectation that people come into your establishment because they want to purchase your product. The customer and the business owner should approach the transaction with a reasonable expectation of mutual benefit. The customer gets a quality product at a fair price; the business owner succeeds in selling his product, providing a service to the public, and hopefully makes a profit. If any of these factors don't happen, then the business eventually goes away. That is our free market at work, and it works quite well I might add.

That description should work for the majority of your interactions with people in your store. However, there are going to be a few people who come in, looking for free stuff, looking for some drama, or maybe not even knowing what they are doing (drugs, drunk, mental illness, etc)... As a business owner, we have to evaluate each situation and decide how to handle it. If someone is disruptive, bothering other customers, or creating any kind of a problem, we will ask them to leave. If someone is just looking for a bathroom, a glass of water, or a place to sit and relax for a few minutes, then we will do our best to accommodate them and show kindness.

We recently had a gentleman come into our store and set up for a meeting at one of our tables. Tracy makes it a point to verbally greet every person who comes through the door, regardless of what is going on. It is her commitment to customer service to have an interaction with everyone. She greeted this man and asked if he would like anything. He replied that he was not going to buy anything, but was just there for a meeting (he was there for the free Wi-Fi). We prefer that patrons who utilize our resources support our business, but we do not require it. The only time we will address the issue is if non-customers are using tables at peak business hours (like lunch) and we need the table space for paying customers. This scenario has occurred a few times, but is quite rare.

A few minutes passed, and the gentleman asked Tracy to help him connect his laptop to the free Wi-Fi, as he was having trouble with it. Tracy went to his table to assist and noticed he had brought outside beverages into our store. We have a "No Outside Food or Drink" sign at both entries, and this is one policy we do not bend on. Tracy mentioned that he was welcome to stay for his meeting, but he would have to remove his outside products from the store. This gentleman took great offense and became very vocal. He said some very rude things, mocked Tracy, mocked our store, etc. He decided to pack up his laptop and leave instead of simply complying with our posted policy.

We don't like to have anyone leave our store unhappy, for any reason. This patron chose not to be a customer, chose to use our resources for his meeting, and chose to bring his own beverage into our store in violation of our posted policy. One can say he was wrong to act the way he did, but regardless, he is a person who left our store angry, and that is never good. When he speaks about us to his friends/coworkers/Facebook/Twitter, etc he is not going to go to any great lengths to describe his own behavior. He probably won't even mention it. He is only going to tell people not to go to Nemo's because "we are jerks." That's not good, but it is going to happen once in a great while. Ces't la vie...

Approximately 30 minutes later, a woman came into Nemo's and confronted Tracy about this gentleman's experience. Tracy explained what had happened. The lady asked Tracy if she had a problem with "people of color" (she and the gentleman were both African American). Tracy replied that she does not have a problem with people of color. The lady asked Tracy for a business card, and Tracy refused to give her one. This upset the lady and she ended up leaving, proclaiming to be on the board of the local NAACP, and something about launching a FULL INVESTIGATION!

I was at work at my Project Engineer jobsite and missed everything that had happened. I checked our Nemo's Facebook page mid-morning and saw where this lady (who was one of our Nemo's FB friends) had posted about her 'horrible experience at Nemo's, and how the owner had made racist remarks.' I immediately sent her a private message and indicated that I'd like to find out what had happened, and that I would like to speak with her. I then called Nemo's and spoke with Tracy, and she described the above events to me.

Not long later, this lady called me on my cell and I spoke with her about the incident. To her credit, she was honest with me about her friend bringing in outside product, and about him not responding well to Tracy's request that he remove the outside product. However, the only thing she was concerned about was Tracy's "racist" remark. I told her my understanding is that she merely answered her question, and that Tracy had not made any racist remarks to either her or her friend. At the end of the conversation, she agreed that there were no racist remarks made, but she unfortunately felt she could no longer support Nemo's as a customer. I said that is unfortunate, considering the circumstances, but that was certainly her prerogative.

OK, at this point, I thought it was over. I checked Facebook again a little while later, only to find that she was still posting remarks about blatant racism at Nemo's, not only on her FB page, but also on numerous friends' pages, and a Colorado Springs Small Business page. WHAT?????!!!! I couldn't believe it!!! I called her again and she answered. I told her I thought we had come to an agreeable conclusion that there were no racism issues, and she again agreed. I asked her if she would please remove her Facebook posts. She said she was not willing to do so. She said it had taken on a life of its own on Facebook, and she was not going to try to stop it.

OK, so now you know what we are dealing with here: Community Organizers.
To make a very long, very horribly long, story short, I spent hours and hours replying to FB posts, chasing down Twitter broadcasts, contacting individuals, trying in good character to defend against these false claims. I decided very early on to try to do so without ever saying anything negative about the gentleman or the woman. She demanded apology after apology from me, publicly on Facebook. I agreed that her and her friend left our store unhappy, and I apologized for that, as we do not like anyone to leave unhappy, for any reason. Well, things seemed like they were settling down, smoothed over, and fading into internet oblivion.

The next day, I found additional posts making negative statements about Nemo's. I finally had enough. I had humbled myself and apologized publicly to unknown hundreds, if not thousands of people on Facebook and Twitter, for a problem we did not cause. I’m OK with that. Sometimes you have to step up to the plate and be bigger than the situation. Sometimes it is more important to swallow your pride instead of proving you are right. At this point, though, I was tired of people lying about what they did, lying about what we did, and putting it all on public display to try and damage us. I responded to the new posts and said as much. I offered to post the security system video and audio, and the hundreds of people who had been drug into this discussion could decide for themselves what really happened that day. The surveillance video would show who was a racist and who was not.
Well, this lady wanted no part of that. She had fully invested herself into her story, her accusations, and she had hundreds of people watching and listening via FB and Twitter, including the local business community. When she saw my offer to post the audio and video, she immediately un-friended us, deleted everything I had access to. Her and her friends who were most active in the discussions all blocked me from their pages, so that I could no longer see what they were posting. She also did not want her friends to be able to see anything I might post, like the TRUTH! I called her later that morning and spoke with her. She said she was SOOOO done with this situation – stick a fork in her. She suggested that I would probably alter/edit the video and audio to try and make her look bad. Whatever…
That is how this ended, for me at least. She may have continued her anti-Nemo’s campaign, but I no longer have access to anything she posts since she blocked me.
And now, we get to the best part of the post: What have I learned?
1. There are WONDERFUL people, everywhere… Through this event, some of her friends were willing to take her accusations and run with them, spread them, re-tell them as if they had been a part of it. However, other friends of hers TRULY wanted to know the truth. They sent me private messages to ask questions, offer advice, give insight. A number of people in this discussion went out of their way to visit Nemo’s and get an idea for themselves how we treat people. They observed how they were treated, the sat in the cafĂ© and watched other people come and go, took notice of their interactions. They then went back to Facebook and reported their findings, their observations, their thoughts - - - all of which were POSITIVE! When you find yourself in a difficult or bad situation, look around. There will be good people involved, or at least watching from a distance. ENGAGE those good people; you will come away from the experience having won a friend or two. God creates good in all things. Sometimes you have to look around for it, but it will be there ~ if you have invited God to be a part of it.
2. Some people are not interested in the truth. I tried for an entire week to present our character, and allow people to decide what they will about us based on our interactions. A small percentage responded positively, most just sat back and enjoyed the show, and a small percentage took up the campaign to try to damage us. No matter what you do in life, you are going to find a small percentage of people of good character, loving, truthful, honest people. You are going to find a whole bunch of SHEEPLE. The masses who won’t develop their own thoughts, those who just go along for a ride, enjoying the drama. You will also find a small percentage of people who are willing to inflict damage, just to support their friends, to support an agenda they agree with, or just for their own enjoyment. I have seen this throughout my days in the Navy, my years in the semi-conductor industry, my years in construction management, and now in our several years of operating a small business.
3. You can never defend yourself from an accusation of being racist. If you try hard to defend yourself, people will assume you are guilty because you are trying so hard to prove otherwise. If you ignore the accusations, people will assume you are guilty because you don’t care. If you apologize, even if you are not at fault, they will run your apology up a flagpole for all to see, and proclaim with great veracity that you truly are a racist, since you apologized for it (or something else, just trying to be nice). No matter which road you take, you will not have a positive outcome. People who make false racism claims are looking for drama and hate and tumult. The truth is not what they are after; there is no confusion, no miscommunication. As soon as you actually offer some proof of your innocence ~ POOF, they vaporize and disappear.
4. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, just say “I’m sorry you feel that way. I wish you well.” Walk away. If you have a quality operation and you care about your customers, then your reputation will not be damaged. Your customers will love you back. There might be some negative chatter for a few days, but it will dissipate. They need someone to take the bait in order to get their drama mo-jo going. Don’t be the person who takes the bait, as I was.
5. If you are accused of being a racist, and it is because you are a racist - STOP!!! There is enough hate in the world without people adding to it with racism.
6. At the end of everything, go back and read #1. Remember there are good people everywhere, in every situation, and that God has your back. You can’t go wrong with that…

Friday, June 25, 2010

Anger Management Wins in the End

As a small business owner, you will quickly realize that time management is incredibly important. Anything that saves a little time is probably worth it, depending, of course, on the cost. Will I pay my accountant to do my payroll for me? No, because we have four employees and I can do it myself for free in about 30 minutes… If we had 60 employees, paying someone to do it would be wise, if the alternative is not seeing your kids for a couple of evenings every time payroll is due (every two weeks for us).

I’m currently involved in a battle with a vendor, and I’ll tell you right up front that it is NOT cost effective. The dispute is over $66. That’s it… Less than our dumpster bill for a month, less than a trip to the movies for my family. I will admit that the most efficient thing to do would be to pay the 66 dollars and have this go away in the minute or two it takes to complete an on-line bill payment. The accounting department of this vendor made me angry, though, so I’m going the distance. From a time management perspective, or better yet, a “value of my time” perspective, this is silly and inefficient. From a self-satisfaction perspective, I’ll go to my grave before I cough up $66 to this vendor.

We utilized this vendor for over two years, and I’m not sure why exactly. The cost for their product was nearly double what it would take to go purchase the exact same product from one of their retail locations. Getting bi-weekly deliveries is how we set it up from the start, and we continued with that for a very long time, even though it was not cost effective, in retrospect. It saved us about an hour per week of our time, but it cost us an extra $240 per month. That means we were effectively paying $55 per hour for delivery. Over two years, it cost us an extra $5700!! If (or should I say when) we have a commercial freezer or refrigerator fail and have to replace it, that $5700 will come to mind, I am sure… If you look at any given aspect of your small business, $55 does not seem important. $5700 will grab your attention pretty quickly, though. Take a look at what you are doing and see if you can make sensible improvements, without a huge investment of your time. The weekly payoff may not seem like much, but over a number of months, the value quickly becomes more apparent, and not so trivial.

OK, back to the issue at hand…
After we got smart and stopped using their services, they sent us a generic late notice for $66. I called them to determine what was late, and requested a specific invoice number. She gave me an invoice number, which I was able to provide proof of payment for. She then gave me a different invoice number, which I also had proof of payment for. Several more episodes like that, and she started to get frustrated. After nearly two hours on the phone, she stated she didn’t have time for this. I indicated that I also did not have time for this, and that I also had proof of payment for every scenario she threw at me. She said her records were not accurate enough to provide a specific invoice number, but she was quite sure we owed them $66. I told her that my records were extremely accurate, and that I was quite sure that I did not owe them any money. At this point, she asked me to just pay the late notice. I explained that if they provide me an invoice that I could not provide proof of payment for, then I would gladly pay the late notice. I asked her to research it on their end, get their documentation in order, and then notify me of the actual problem.

Several weeks went by, and I did not hear from them. I assumed they straightened out their records and determined that I did not owe them any money. Well, you know what they say about assuming… The next correspondence I received was a notice from a collection agency for $66. Arrrgggghhh! That really made me angry. I spent several hours altogether working with her, providing proof of payment for every random scenario she threw at me. Instead of getting her records in order, she just sent it to collections instead!! How unprofessional is that? I notified the collection agent of all that had transpired. As you can guess, they really don’t care. They just want you to pay up… We have had harassing phone calls from the collection agent for about six weeks now, and they are getting meaner and more disrespectful every time.

Today, I finally had enough. I once again called this vendor and asked to speak with an owner or general manager, and specifically stated I did not want to talk to customer service again, nor their accounting department (I’ve wasted a number of hours now dealing with them over several months). They played the phone system multiple-transfer-tactic, ending with a mis-happen disconnect after being on hold for five or ten minutes each time. I went through that three or four times. ULTIMATE FRUSTRATION!! I called back one last time and told the person who answered to get me a manager or my next call would be to the Better Business Bureau. That finally worked and they put an actual person on the phone, without hanging up on me again, or leaving me on indefinite HOLD.
As angry as I was by this point, I absolutely know that anger NEVER wins. You can be completely right and correct, but if you have an angry approach, you will not get anywhere. On the flipside, I also know you can be completely wrong, and people will work with you and compromise if you have a pleasant approach. This manager I spoke with promised to look into the issue, and said he would get back with my by the end of the day.
It is now 3:30pm, and I have not heard anything. I called this vendor again and immediately started receiving the run-around, multiple phone transfers, disconnects, long periods of being on hold, only to be told there were no managers in the office any longer. I recognized the voice as someone I had spoken to multiple times earlier today, told them who I was, and that I want to speak with the same manager again pronto. After being told there were no managers still in the office, this person said they would go and get him… 30 seconds later and I’m on the phone with the same person from earlier today!! Apparently, their standard operating procedure for customer service is the run-around, followed by an offer to connect you to someone’s voicemail. How do they even stay in business???
After a short conversation, with a positive and good attitude, even though that is not how I was feeling, this manager indicated he had pulled our file. The billing associate in charge of our file is on vacation, so he said that he would cancel the collections and close this issue without any further efforts being made on their part or on my part. He said there was a record in my file of our previous emails, proof of payments, and other conversations. He could not believe how much time had been wasted over a $62 discrepancy!! Even though I did not get the chance to prove I don’t owe them any money, he decided it was not worth any more time investment on anyone’s part…

So, I guess it is time for me to summarize this experience and provide some lessons learned.

1. Evaluate your business practices. If you can find areas of improvement without a significant increase in effort on your part, take them. Even if the weekly figures seem insignificant, realize it can have a huge cost savings over a year or two.

2. Keep your records clean and organized. I keep everything together for any given calendar month. I pay for just about everything via on-line bill pay. I can pull up scans of cleared checks, and I can pull up transaction confirmation numbers for any electronic transaction in seconds. Also, I have a “PAID” rubber stamp, and all invoices get marked with the date and amount paid at the time payment is made. There is never a question whether or not an invoice got paid. If it is stamped, then I know it is taken care of.

3. If you have a discrepancy with a vendor, your records will speak for themselves. If you can provide answers to their questions/accusations quickly and easily, that speaks volumes.

4. If you get angry, don’t show it. You can certainly be firm in your communications, but do not lose your temper. Regardless of whether you are right or wrong, if you lose your temper and speak to them in an unprofessional manner, you will lose. Finished… If you maintain your composure, then you have a better chance of getting somewhere, even though it might take awhile and cause you EXTREME FRUSTRATION.

Friday, May 28, 2010

We LOVE Happy Customers!

We closed early today due to the holiday weekend. A customer came to the door 45 minutes after close and walked away looking discouraged. I chased her out into the parking lot and invited her in. She was hoping to get one of our world famous chicken salad sandwiches. SO, WE MADE IT FOR HER!!! :)

Nothing is better than a happy customer....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I’m not a coffee snob!

Owning a coffee shop that serves really great coffee and high quality products does not automatically make you a coffee snob. I spent twelve years in the US Navy, drinking some of the worst coffee on the planet! It came in big 5 gallon metal tins, painted an army green color. They looked like they were surplus coffee stores from WW1… When a new five gallon tin was opened, the first pot or two of java was almost as good as a cup of Folgers Crystals - - - nearly, but not quite. After that, it was all downhill. The canisters did not re-seal, so the remaining bazillion pounds of coffee would be exposed to the atmosphere until it was gone. It was dry to start with, and would become so dry that it should have been a fire hazard. It was like making coffee with old, shredded tree bark. And let me tell you, the “atmosphere” on a submarine was not the kind of air you want your lungs basking in, let alone your coffee… We used a chemical called mono-ethanol-amine in the CO2 scrubbers. It was essential to convert CO2 into Oxygen (which really helps with that whole staying-alive-thing), but it would permeate the atmosphere. Your body acclimates to the smells of a submarine, to where you don’t even notice them anymore. However, you could taste the MEA in the coffee, because the open canister would soak it all up, along with the diesel fuel smells, probably lots of sweat and body odor, and lots of other not-so-inviting smells on a submarine. So, short story long, I know how to drink crummy coffee…
Fast forward to modern times, and I’ve had lots of bad coffee. I can drink McDonald’s Iced Coffee with vanilla (however, their espresso drinks are horrible and rely solely on sugar and whipped cream to have any appeal to the masses), office coffee, restaurant coffee, etc… There is lots of bad coffee out there, just waiting for us. Tracy and I were daring enough to try the new iced coffee at 7-11 the other day. We were there with our three boys, along with a few other neighborhood kids, to get Slurpees after a hike in Palmer Park. We filled a cup with ice, and then filled it with their ‘iced coffee’ concoction. It was a little thick and syrupy, but we were willing to try it with open minds. Well, one little tiny sip later, we closed our minds quickly, and very tightly… Our minds and our mouths slammed shut and had to be pried open again with a weed whacker… That stuff was horrid!!! It was like putting a cup of flavored Coffee Mate liquid stuff over ice. COMPLETELY NASTY. So, I’m not a coffee snob, but I do have standards – very low, but still, there has to be a stopping point. We didn’t have access to an ingredient list, but I’ll bet it was mostly high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors.
If you find yourself at 7-11 and the new iced coffee catches your attention, you will be better off going up front and asking someone to slam your fingers in the door… You will enjoy that more than the iced coffee…

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thanks to all of our customers, new and old!

The last couple of years have been very dynamic, and I expect the foreseeable future to be the same. We build a strong customer base, and then massive layoffs occur in the surrounding business community. We work hard to rebuild our customer base, and along comes another round of layoffs. We have also had two Dutch Brothers Coffee drive through locations open within a mile of us. Through all of the challenges that keep popping up, we are still hanging in there. Not only that, but Friday was a near record day for us. With sales being down a little from our 2009 numbers, this was a very pleasant surprise!

So at this point, I’d just like to give a simple “Thank You” to everyone who has been to Nemo’s Coffee. If you have noticed us but haven’t been in yet, we are looking forward to meeting you and making something really great for you to enjoy!

Click to see a larger version: