Thursday, February 28, 2008

Results of our latest Hiring binge…

I have mentioned our latest round of interviews and hiring needs over the last week or so. It was a fairly easy decision for us to hire Megan. She has restaurant experience, and just graduated with a degree in photography. She is excited about being involved with getting Nautilus Photography up and running. We called and offered her a position about an hour after her interview, and she came in the next morning at 8:00am for her first training shift! Tracy said she did great, and picked everything up quickly. It will take some time for her to be fully trained and take over all of the closing duties, but we are very happy that she is doing so well. I have a family photo portrait session on Saturday, and she is going to assist with it. I will probably find out that she knows much more about photography than me. She’ll probably think I’m an idiot!

We also offered Rory a job, and he accepted. Today is his first training day. He has a natural magnetism, and is very easy to get along with. He smiles easily and often. He also has restaurant experience and seems to be catching on very quickly. We have learned over the last year that hiring quality people and training them is more important than hiring people with coffee house experience. An average employee with experience is not nearly as good as an exceptional employee that has to be trained…

There was a third person we interviewed that we also like very much, and would love to offer her a job as well. We are looking at our schedule and trying to figure out if we can work her into our schedule, without violating our labor $$ budget (another piece in our financial house of cards structure). I discussed with Tracy that we need to have the best staff possible in our store in order to be successful. I don’t want to continue to give hours to an average employee if we have we have a potential EXCELLENT employee who wants to work for us. Just because someone has been around for 5 or 6 months does not mean we are obligated to maintain their same scheduled hours if we have better options. That might sound a little bit ‘cut throat’ but I want to reward excellent employees with hours in the schedule, and take them away from people who perform at a lower standard. I don’t think that is mean, I just think it is wise in a business environment. We have not yet decided on this issue, and we will figure it out in the next few days.

Gotta run…
JD

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Financial House of Cards

I started this blog to document our construction efforts, and business planning for the startup of Nemo's Coffee. Once that was finished, I continued blogging about operations and how things were going. I also spiced it up a little with events going on in our lives. Recently, though, I have been trying to dig a little deeper. I have been trying to convey the difficulties we have encountered, and how we are dealing with those difficulties. Tonight I would like to talk about finances.
First of all, Tracy and I are not business people. We know coffee and photography, but neither of us have ever taken classes in business. Knowing how to make great espresso drinks and knowing how to capture great images does not make a business. We have found out over the last year that so very much more goes into it. You have to know your product or service inside and out, obviously. But, there are other things that come into play. One of them is knowing how to juggle your finances.

You have two basic options when starting a business. The first is to be independently wealthy. If you have money lying around getting in the way, and lots of time on your hands, go start a business and have fun. If you don't like the hours or effort required, use one of your piles of money to hire a general manager.

The other option, which most of us choose, is to pour everything you have, and a few things you don't have, into starting your business. You then work incredibly long hours, sacrificing everything, to get your concept up and running. Everything goes well, maybe even better than expected for awhile, and then you find yourself constructing your financial house of cards. Basically, things get tight. You start figuring out ways to make do with what you have, to make do with less than you thought possible. You figure out how to balance one thing while keeping an eye on another wobbly area of your finances. Step by careful step, you build your house of cards, taking care to place everything just so, holding your breath in terror at the hint of a breeze, so to speak, hoping it doesn't come crashing down.

I have been talking with some of my friends who own their own business, or are beginning an entrepreneurial venture as we are. Since I don't know any people going with option #1 above, I'll describe what we are all experiencing with the favored option #2. It seems that everyone builds their own financial house of cards. They all look different, they all are made up with different types of cards, but they all have one thing in common: each and every one is fragile, susceptible to the slightest vibration or commotion. Some of these influences could be your own mistakes, self-created problems, or they could be outside influences beyond your control. A local business person invested $1,000,000 opening a Krispy Kreme donut shop here in town. What a great move, at least it seemed so based on the fact that people waited in line for up to an hour on a regular basis to buy Krispy Kreme donuts in Denver. You could go there anytime of the day, any day of the week and there would be a huge line. Krispy Kreme in Denver had to hire off duty police officers to direct traffic, daily! They were raking in the cash, quickly becoming one of the rare people who could start another business via method #1. The news channels and the newspapers talked about the Krispy Kreme opening here in Colorado Springs for weeks. The youth minister at our church had plans to camp out on the sidewalk the night before with some of the teens, and be the first customers when they opened. For some reason, that sounded like a lot of fun to us. We drove our Suburban over at 9:00pm and parked in the drive-thru, FIRST IN LINE. We camped out and slept in the car (well, the kids slept... I got no sleep). As the night wore on, more and more people showed up. Our church youth group was there, playing guitars and singing all night. Many others showed up and the line of 'donut campers' got longer and longer. At about 4:30am, police arrived and began setting up cones to create lanes for cars to go through. At 6:00am the television crews arrived and began interviewing people who camped out all night. When they finally opened the store, we were the first ones served, and we were interviewed by a local radio station at the order menu. They broadcast me ordering three dozen Krispy Kreme donuts all across Southern Colorado! You just would not believe all the hype and excitement about a donut shop opening. Cars lined up for blocks waiting to go through the drive through. It was an amazing sight. We didn't live too far from the store, and we noticed that people were there buying donuts at all hours of the day, everyday. It was an American success story... Then, approximately two months after they opened, people started talking about the Atkins diet, and other low carb diets. This diet fad took off like a rocket. Within a couple of months, there were no lines at Krispy Kreme. You could go over there anytime and buy donuts without having to wait. Within six months, they closed retail operations. They continued to make donuts there, and deliver them to grocery stores and convenience stores. Several months after that, they closed the doors completely. $1,000,000 wasted because of a new diet fad. Is Krispy Kreme as a franchise going to survive? Yes. Did the local owner go belly up, though? Yes... Does Josh remember camping out at Krispy Kreme all night? Yes, it is one of his fondest memories!

Well, anyway, I have no idea where I was headed with that whole Krispy Kreme story. I haven't had enough sleep and you are going to have to bear with me if I go off on a tangent.


Oh yeah, I was talking about influences beyond our control wrecking our financial house of cards. Anyway, our financial house of cards is made up of Nemo's, my photography aspect of the business, me working two jobs, us having two rental houses and one of them being empty, Ethan breaking his leg at the start of all of this, costing us $5000 out of pocket, etc. etc. etc... If I had to guess where our weakest link is right now, I would have to say it is our empty rental house. We have been making payments and covering utility costs for nine months, costing us about $10,000. Right in the middle of a brand new business start up is absolutely the wrong time to have a $10k hit on a rental house and a $5k hit on a broken leg. But, you place your cards where they need to be, adjust them to make them more stable after every little vibration or movement, and keep praying that your house will hold up to the many outside influences trying to knock it down. Some businesses make it though the difficult times, their business grows and becomes self sustaining, and their house of cards slowly turns into brick and mortar, and maybe even a castle or mansion at some point. Others barely build their house before a massive gust of wind not only knocks it down, but scatters it to high heaven!

Where do I think we are? Our house is built, and it looks very strong on the outside, but I know it is just a facade. My two full time jobs are giving our house a false sense of strength. Our business has done well, and it is maintaining an undercurrent of strength. Our product is excellent, our environment is considered the best in town by many, and our customer service is excellent. We know our customers by name, and the conversation and friendship flows effortlessly. We have established connections, rapport with our customer base. We will continue to do that, and continue to build our customer base and build sales in turn. The weakness in our facade is whether or not my two jobs will last long enough to let things turn to brick and mortar. We have authorized our realtor to accept an offer on the house where we walk away from it with no equity. The best thing would be to take some time and finish the remodel and sell the home with a $25k profit. But, that takes time, and our time is ticking away. My job at Intel is supposed to end March 31, although there is talk about extending us since there is a active buyer considering the facility. But, Tracy is all but begging me to quit my night job at Intel. She would rather let the rental house go into foreclosure than for us to continue on our current schedules. As hard as things are now, I think that would add unfathomable amounts of stress and difficulty to go down that road.
Anyway, for now our house of cards is still standing. We shore it up here and there when needed. It is a major juggling act to keep everything stable, or at least to take on an appearance of stability in a world of turbulence. I believe every successful business owner has been at this point. Does the house fall, or do you weather the storm and survive? Nemo's is an excellent concept and people love it there, and we are putting all of ourselves into it. I believe we are going to make it over the hump and survive, and then prosper. Right now though, we are praying for calm around our house of cards. I pray that God will continue to hold them up, and give us the strength and perseverance to continue on...

JD

Edgar Allen Poe The Tell-Tale Heart

TRUE! -- nervous -- very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses -- not destroyed -- not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily -- how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees -- very gradually --I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded --with what caution --with what foresight --with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it --oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly --very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! --would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously --oh, so cautiously --cautiously (for the hinges creaked) --I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights --every night just at midnight --but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers --of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back --but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out --"Who's there?"

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; --just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself --"It is nothing but the wind in the chimney --it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel --although he neither saw nor heard --to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little --a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it --you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily --until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open --wide, wide open --and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness --all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses? --now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! --do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me --the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once --once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye -- not even his --could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out --no stain of any kind --no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all --ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock --still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, --for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, --for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search --search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: --it continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness --until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath -- and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men -- but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my horror! --this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! --and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! --

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! --here, here! --it is the beating of his hideous heart!"

Every second counts…

I look back on the times in my life when I thought I was busy and laugh… Even though I was busier than most people at the time, it pales in comparison to my life now. I feel like I am trapped in an Edgar Allen Poe story. I remember reading one in high school about a guy who hears a heartbeat thumping away (guilty conscience). My day is filled with the imaginary ticking of seconds on a clock. From the start of my day at 6:15am until the end of my day at 3:00am, every minute is accounted for right now. I have more to do than there is time to get it done. If I am driving from the kid’s school to my job at Ft Carson, a mere red light creates tension. When they offered me the Project Engineer job, I explained that I take my kids to school and I cannot arrive at work until 8:20 or 8:30. They agreed, but everyone else arrives at 6:30 or 7:00am. I don’t like showing up when everyone else has been hard at it for an hour or two… If I get stuck behind someone at a stop sign who refuses to pull out unless the road is clear all the way to Eastern Kansas, my blood boils. If I wind up in the line that takes longer than others at a store, I think of the several minutes that could have been used elsewhere. I sometimes have to decide on the way to Intel if I am going to grab some dinner and be 10 minutes late, or skip food and show up on time, but have my stomach growl for several hours. As hard as this is, it is good for me to experience. I have always valued my time, but the last several months have taught me to GUARD my time and to be efficient in everything I do. Every minute of distraction I allow is a minute that something important is not getting done. Or worse, every minute that cuts into my time with Tracy, Josh, Jonah, and Ethan is agony. There is no time to do things over, and there is no time to leave things partially done and get back to it later. This is only temporary and it will get better, but it is hard right now.

I must go now… the tick-tocking in my head is getting louder…
JD

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Good Dilemma

Tracy and I finished round two of job interviews tonight. We obtained quite a few excellent applications via our Craigslist ad. We narrowed that down to six interviews and set them up. We had one excellent prospect yesterday, and two above average prospects. One of our interviews for tonight was cancelled. He had to leave unexpectedly for Florida and will be back in three weeks. The other two were both excellent. So our good dilemma is that we were interviewing for one definite position, and wound up with three outstanding prospects. We have a gut feeling that we will have a daytime slot open soon, so it would not hurt for us to hire for two positions.

Tracy and I agree that we should hire Megan for our open position. It will be a closing position, and will include responsibilities of insuring the store is closed properly (everything clean/stocked), counting out the cash drawer, as well as the typical customer service. But wait, we have an added bonus here... Megan just graduated with a BS in Photography! How incredible is that, considering we happen to have a fully equipped photography studio on site?? I just recently mentioned in the blog that I would like to begin advertising the studio, setting appointments, and contracting out the photo sessions to one of my pro friends. Bringing Megan onboard would fill our need for Nemo's, and I can work out a deal with her to help get the Nautilus Photography going as well. I have a family portrait session on Saturday morning. I invited Megan to come and be involved in that session, and asked her to bring her portfolio for review as well. Some might say a situation like this is coincidence, but we have had too many absolutely perfect coincidences occur at just the right time. I believe that God is looking out for us and is providing solutions as needed. The more that Tracy and I relinquish control and have faith that God will provide, the more often that a perfect solution comes along right when we need it. We do have an amazing God! Anyway, Tracy is calling Megan back tonight to offer her a position, and to ask if she can come in for her first training shift tomorrow!

That leaves two other excellent candidates. They both have very magnetic personalities, meaning that they are very easy to interact with, and are very friendly. Many people can decide to be friendly and interactive, but these two are that way naturally. Both have experience in restaurant/food establishments. We will probably choose one of them to start part time, offering them additional hours as an incentive if they out-perform our other staff. I don't know if that sounds cut-throat to you, but we have a looming issue that is a potential problem, and bringing on a second new hire to prepare for that would be wise on our part. Since we do not have the labor budget to carry two people for one time slot, the competition aspect of it will help us decide who to keep if the potential problem does not materialize. I love competition, but Tracy is more concerned about this issue than me. The way I see it, we have built our reputation on the highest quality product, and the highest quality customer service. I think we need to have the best staff possible to continue with that goal of exceptional experiences at Nemo's. I'll keep you posted as to how things pan out over the next several weeks.

As for the third potential hire, we will ask them if we can keep their application on file for our next opening, or to add an additional staff member as needed for growth. I wish we could hire all three right now, but the budget just doesn't allow it.

Time to get to work...
Later,
JD

Dragonspell... Donita K. Paul

I looked up the books by the author who was at Nemo's Saturday. Her name is Donita Paul and her books are:
Dragonspell
Dragonquest
Dragonknight
Dragonfire
and a 5th book being published in June 2008.
I took a look at the book covers at Barnes & Noble and we own a couple of these. I have not read them, but Josh has. The reviews at BN indicated that they are a good read for both kids and for adults. I plan to read them soon...







More Starbucks Headlines

Starbucks is closing every store in America for an emergency three hour training session. They as a corporation have noticed what we have been saying all along. Starbucks quality is a mere fraction of what it used to be. Their baristas only know how to push a button on the super automatic, kind of like pushing the button on the french fry maker at their last job.

If you have friends, family, co-workers, etc who are massive Starbucks fans, send them over to Nemo's during the Starbucks closure. We will give them an amazing cup of coffee or specialty drink, plus offer them freshly made sandwiches, salads, home made soup, breakfast burritos, chicken with lime cilantro rice lunch burritos, etc, etc. Step into Nemo's once, and there is no going back!

Here is the brief USA Today article, and some blog comments on the story:

Coffee break: Starbucks closing for 3 hours today

SEATTLE (AP) — Starbucks is closing the doors at its 7,100 stores across America for a brief barista re-education.
CEO Howard Schultz announced the 3-hour closure starting at 5:30 p.m. local time Tuesday to energize 135,000 employees.
TODAY'S CLOSING: Starbucks press release
STARBUCKS CHANGES: Read Schultz's e-mail to Starbucks staff
He wants baristas to share their passion for making espresso, or as he says, "to pull the perfect shot, steam milk to order and customize their favorite beverage."
Schultz says it's part of his refocusing on the coffee customer experience.
A few blog comments on this story:

Starbucks is giving America the opportunity to discover the competition this Thursday evening. America will realize that the competition is better and cheaper at providing the same buzz... all without having to learn a totally new language.

at least where well trained barista's are concerned (and I met almost NONE when I worked at Starbuck's) it should be as considered as tipping a bartender. It's not only how well they make a drink, but how welcome they make you feel.
Your best trained barista's rarely work for a major corporation.

I wonder how they'll react when they discover most of their "barista's" know next to nothing about frothing milk...or pouring it properly.
I used to work in one...I'd had a few years experience when I went there. My talents could have been utilized MUCH better than they were.

I think Starbucks tastes like burnt mud. I used to drink it, but they lost me a few years ago....warm battery acid.

Somebody needs to teach Starbucks employees how to make regular coffee, two weeks ago I ordered a reg. coffee, cream ,two sugars, no joke the kid behind the drive-up window asked me how to make it, I almost fell out of the truck I was laughing so hard, unbelievable, last time for me.

Fine. Starbucks has been around how long, and they are just now training their employees how to serve their product? Shouldn't we be entitled to a refund for past purchases made from untrained buffoons? I suppose this upgrade to barista proficiency will raise the prices. Certainly appears to be nothing but a sneaky way to fool the consumer into thinking they're getting something better. I'll stick with McDonald's.


Hey Starbucks, while you're at it, train them to make a better tasting coffee.
Starbucks is the most expensive, bitter cup of caca I ever drank in my life.

For me, the thrill of going to Starbucks is over for me. I can make just as good coffee at home and take with me (thanks to DD coffee grounds in stores). I think Starbucks will start charging people to lounge in their stores. It's only a matter of time...

I like them for there bathrooms in NYC.
But I stood in line for 10 minutes and I bought 2 cups of a grande or venti or whatever they call them...
and it was 7 dollars...

next day went to a small coffee shop and it was 2.75 and the service was great and personable.
Dunkin Donuts has 3 lines and gets your coffee in a flash and it taste like coffee not burnt toast.

Charge 1 dollar for a small cup and watch traffic increase Starbucks, oh and 3 starbucks on 1 block is frustrating and uncool.

Starbucks CEO Schultz "wants baristas to share their passion for making espresso."

I think you concentrate on making a good cup of coffee that doesn't taste burnt before you do anything else.

No loss..To be honest, I wonder if this is the start of some problems for the company? Has the "coolness" factor worn off or become obsolete? Still, their green and white logo has become a permanent fixture in our society of rampant consumerism where "hipness" supersedes quality.

Frankly, I was one of those who thought it was "cool" to go to Starbucks when they first started multiplying over 10 years ago. It was one of those places to be seen. Now, I rarely even go into one, as their coffee is not even the best quality. I have taken a liking to Dunkin' Donuts coffee recently and also 8 O'clock for at home. Probably not the best coffee in the eyes of many, but I can say personally it's much better than Starbucks.

I was the only person for a long while who used to sit at the Starbucks by my home drinking a Dunkin coffee. When DD moved in about 6 months ago the lines started thinning out at Bucks. Now, I have seen several people who come to read the paper or surf the internet (as I do) with a competitor’s coffee.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Nemo's Update February 25, 2008

We will have been open for 10 months tomorrow! Quite a few places have opened in Colorado Springs and had to close within six months! We have beaten that disaster... One of those places was the Soup Nazi franchise from Seinfeld. God willing, we will keep plugging away...

We had a couple of semi-famous people in the shop on Saturday. A local recipient of an Extreme Home Makeover house (Yes, the Ty Pennington show) was in, along with an author of children's books who has national success and acclaim! I meant to look up her books and post them here, but I forgot to. I will do that soon...

Tracy and I interviewed three people today, and we have three more interviews tomorrow. All three individuals today were very nice and would be good hires. One of them really stood out as having a magnetic personality. We are really trying to hire well this time. We want to find someone who will be responsible, do things well, but also have great interactions with our customers. I think we found that person, but we still have three more solid individuals to interview tomorrow. We may need to hire two people instead of one. This might work out well...

My job at Ft Carson is becoming very demanding. There just aren't enough hours in the day right now. I need to be working 60 hours per week there in order to keep up, but I only have 40 hours to give. I really need a time machine pretty badly. If I got to the end of the work day and needed more time, I could just go back to noon again. I could also use one to get more sleep. I could dial it back a few hours before going to sleep and get a solid six or seven hours, instead of a not so solid four or five.

Tracy really wants me to begin marketing my photography and getting that business up and running. She would rather I replace my Intel income with photography. I know that I can build that business over time, but it is difficult to leave a job that pays great in order to begin building a new income stream from scratch. One of my photographer friends who is a professional suggested that I start scheduling appointments and contract them out to her or other photographers we know until I can step in and do it. That would start building the business even though I don't have the time to be there. Another thing we can do is take out a business loan and pay ourselves from that capital investment while building the photography. With an in-house studio, it should not be difficult to build photography sales to $4000-5000 per month. That would be an average of one wedding and 12 portrait sessions per month. That is just one session every other day...

I have to have our storage space cleared out by Friday. I am going to start working on it Thursday. Nothing like a deadline to get you motivated!

I need to get busy... Talk to you later.
JD

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Craig's List

OK, I can be pretty cool for an over-40 bald guy, married with children. But, I have to admit, I'm not much into Myspace, Facebook, Youtube, Craigslist, texting, and all of that stuff. I have shirts older than some of the kids working for us...

Anyway, on our original round of hiring, we placed an ad in the local paper for nearly $300. We received approximately 20 quality applications over a five day period. I placed an ad in Craig's List for free today, and we had our first person in the store, filling out an application within 20 minutes! We ended up getting about 10 quality applications in just a few hours. For all of you 20-somethings out there that are completely and totally "connected": I love the fact that you saw our ad and submitted applications, but you are going to have to work like it is 1999 (Prince should write a song about working like it's 1999). By that, I mean no internet access during your shift, no personal cell phone usage, and if you have a WIFI chip implanted in your brain, you need to turn it off during your work shift.

OK, if you can't tell, I'm joking around. But, I am serious that we received 10 quality applications very quickly from a Craig's List ad, and I am also serious that you will have to be "disconnected" during your shifts!

Eveyone have a great night! I need to get my water chemistry scope so I can get five or so hours of sleep tonight...
Take care and God Bless!
JD

Dog Draino

I have a really horrible story for you. First of all, Tracy and I have no spare time for anything extra right now. We came home yesterday and the entire house reeked with a putrid, nasty smell. Scout was in his kennel and apparently had vomited and had diarrhea all day long. He was covered with it, and the kennel was a complete disaster, as well as the area around the kennel. Scout got a bath, and then drank lots of water. While cleaning up downstairs, Scout continued to throw up on the living room carpet, and in the kitchen. Tracy and I were wondering aloud about what could have made Scout so sick. We buy quality dog food, and we do not feed him table scraps. Josh told us that Ethan had put concentrated lime juice in Scout’s water that morning. It would seem that lime juice is not good for dogs.

Our night crew lead put his notice in today. He has been offered a full time job by his other part-time employer. That puts us in another schedule crunch and we are hiring. I posted a notice on Craigs List this morning. It costs approx $300 to put an ad in the paper, and I want to avoid that cost if possible. If you are local and know someone who is interested, please send them our way! In the meantime, we are going to take a look at our schedule and figure out how to fill the gaps. If our neighbor can pick up the kids from school, Tracy can stay a little longer in the shop. I can go to the shop after my day job and finish closing, and do the cash drawer stuff…

I recently finished reading the book “Lone Survivor”. If you have any desire to peek into the lives of our troops in Iraq/Afghanistan, especially the Seals, this book is amazing. In fact, I think every American should read it. The media does our war effort such a disservice with their biased, negative reporting. If you care to have an idea of what is really going on over there, this book is a must read. This book will make you cry, it will make you laugh, and you won’t be able to put it down. In fact, once I got into the part of the book detailing this mission, I read until the book was finished. I only got 2 ½ hours of sleep Tuesday night as a result. Most importantly, it will make you proud of our young men and women who are giving their all, including their lives in some cases, to fight for the honor and protection of the United States. If “The War on Terror” is just a political catch phrase for you, then read this book. It will put a face on the enemy, and make you realize that we are fighting people who want to do us harm, not just fighting an abstract war on terror.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hiring and Firing

Well, Tracy had to fire one of our newer employees this morning. She is a very nice girl and that made it difficult for Tracy. But… this girl had zero motivation and no work ethic. She is very nice and friendly and interviews well, and interacts with people well, but she would not step up to the plate and do the whole job of Barista. She wanted to be a cashier only. A barista has to be a cashier as well as work the espresso bar, prepare food, and help with the cleaning tasks. Tracy trained her well on the job responsibilities and even made lists of items for her to do. She would still just stand around and watch everyone else work. If Tracy gave her direction to complete tasks, she would take four to five times longer than anyone else to get them done. After more than a month, Tracy still had to give her direction minute by minute, hour by hour, all day long. If left to her own devices, she would just stand at the point of sale and do nothing. Based on the post I did a little while back about what we have learned about having employees, I recommended to Tracy that she find someone new after the first couple of weeks. Tracy wanted to give her additional chances because she was very likable… Unfortunately, it did not work out. We hired Sara (our nephew James’ girlfriend) and she started yesterday. She is a very nice girl and has several years of experience at Starbucks (this is actually a con, not a pro, we are finding out…). Tracy actually worked with her at Starbucks for a short time in years past…

Tracy made chicken, lime cilantro rice, and black bean burritos today for the lunch crowd. I tried one for breakfast and it was awesome! We have found it is important to add new items to the lunch menu from time to time. Even if you have to stop having one thing in order to add another, it keeps things interesting. Our lunch regulars like having new things to try…

The building owner is going to proceed with construction on the building this summer. Tracy and I are wondering how that will affect our sales. We expect it to help grow our sales once it is finished, but it will probably hurt our sales while construction is underway. Hopefully, the construction workers will eat enough breakfast burritos, lunch, and coffee to make up for any loss in sales traffic while things are in construction. Part of the plan is to level the area in front of our shop and put in a patio. We can then buy additional outside table, chairs, and umbrellas. I believe this visual impact will help bring in commuters. Instead of driving by a 45 year old strip mall, they will see a fresh updated building, and an outside cafĂ©. I think it will help a great deal, but things will get worse before they get better! We need to look at the long term big picture, but we need to be careful and insure our capital budget lasts through the growth… Right not we are still operating on cash reserves from our initial capital budget. I am considering opening a line of credit, just in case our funds run low. I think we will have an easier time now while we have a fairly large chunk of money in the bank still, as opposed to asking for a loan when running on fumes and are desperate for cash flow. We are hoping not to get to that point, but I would rather put a safety net in place now when it is not needed, rather than later when it is critical to being able to continue operating. We get pre-approved business lines of credit all the time in the mail. I don’t know if we should do that, or apply for a Small Business Loan. If anyone has any advice, I’m listening. Feel free to shoot me an email (jdanderson-nemos@hotmail.com). The SBA loan would be at a lower interest rate than a business credit card account, but we would be paying that interest on money sitting in our bank account that we may not need. With a credit account, the interest rate would be higher, but we would only be paying interest on a balance as needed…

As a business owner, I believe we must be able to make wise decisions. My experience in Construction Management and as a Project Manager with employees to manage has helped me to make clear, concise decisions quickly. However, we are into new ground here as business owners and the right answers don’t always seem apparent. I am starting to study through Proverbs in the bible. What a treasure trove of wisdom that is!! Even if you are not a Christian, you can read Proverbs and gain knowledge that will help you to make wise decisions…

Take care,
JD

Friday, February 15, 2008

Normal

“Normal”

1.conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.
2.serving to establish a standard.
3.approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment; free from any mental disorder; sane.

If you are going to open a small business, I would suggest that you think about what “normal” means to you. Basically, you will need to define the ‘standard’ or ‘common type’ referenced in the first definition above.

Once you cross over into business ownership, you need to change your standard of ‘normal living’ from the residential, 40 hour per week wage earner to the standard of ‘normal living’ of a business owner. How do you do that if this is your first time to own a business?? That is the situation Tracy and I find ourselves in. We entered into business ownership not knowing what it would bring. We knew in an abstract way that it would be difficult, and that our lives would change.

I reference ‘normal’ to whatever my life is like at the time. I spent twelve years in the military, and the demands placed on us changed frequently, sometimes daily. I was trained as an early adult to be flexible and to adapt to the demands of life on a daily basis. Tracy did not have that type of past experience, and this transition has been much harder on her. Don’t get me wrong… she is a trooper and she has risen to the challenge, but her nature is to wonder when this difficult period is going to be over so we can get back to ‘normal’. Life’s answer to that is that we gave up ‘normal’ the day we opened Nemo’s. This is assuming that you still consider the 40 hour week, live in your house, and raise your kids as the definition of normal. I realized quickly that we have a new standard of normal, and it is as yet not fully defined. Tracy has spent most of the last year with the expectation of the shop getting to the point that some amount of normalcy would return. I think the last week or so has been a real growing period for her. We had a discussion about how difficult things are now, and what our options are. We pretty much narrowed it down to the following:

1. Give up, throw in the towel, and go back to non-business owner type of normal

2. Dig deeper, find that place deep in your soul where your motivation and determination lie, and keep going, but with a sense of frustration and bad attitude.

3. Dig deeper, find that place deep in your soul where your motivation and determination lie, and keep going; but with a sense of optimism, positive attitude, and thankfulness for the opportunity you are pursuing.

Tracy and I both agreed that option #1 is not an option for us. We are both determined and strong. “Giving up” is not who we are. I have been operating on option #3, and Tracy has been wavering between #2 and #3, depending on how things are going. After our discussion, we both agreed to do our best to stay with #3. Regardless of how hard things are, the frustration, complaints, self-doubt, etc of option #2 are very harmful to your day to day lives. If you give in to that, it is very easy for morale to decline. If you stay there for too long, bad morale will eventually degrade your sense of purpose, your motivation, your determination, and everything else you need to see things through. Tracy and I both agreed that we need to stick with option #3, and we made commitments to each other to do so.

So, if you are looking into owning a small business, give all of this some thought. Some things to consider:

1.If you are married, be sure to evaluate the strength of your relationship. If it is not strong, or if there are cracks in the foundation, so to speak, opening a business will illuminate those weaknesses quickly. Some marriages do not survive a small business attempt. Tracy and I both see our marriage as a covenant with God first, and a commitment to each other secondly. The strength of our relationship is solidified in our faith, and that very much helps us to stay strong, even when stress is high and things are tough.

2.If you are not willing to redefine your concept of normal living, then just stop now and don’t proceed. Business ownership is going to demand things of you that you will not see coming. These demands will require energy, time, loss of sleep, personal sacrifices of material possessions (lack of $$$ to buy things you want, unable continue in hobbies you enjoy, no vacations, etc). There is no way for you to evaluate and plan for everything, because you have no idea what is going to come up. But, you do need to search your soul and decide if you are willing to make changes, to make sacrifices, and to muster up the strength to take on the challenges and succeed!

3.If you have children, you need to consider them in your business planning. When we were designing the shop, we included a 10x12 room for the kids. It has a TV, a computer, books, art supplies, games, and I bought a Nintendo Gamecube on EBay for $60 for the shop. This room allows them to spend time at the shop with us without being miserable. It also allows them to have a private area if they stay home sick from school. As far as time commitments go, you absolutely need to make some decisions concerning your kids. If you are exhausted and you have two hours of admin to do for the shop, are you going to do your paperwork in the evening, or are you going to spend time with your kids and family, and then do the paperwork after everyone goes to bed? Your answer to that question will greatly determine the quality of your life moving forward. We choose to spend time with the kids, and then do the ‘homework’ after they have gone to bed. Yes, it is tough to give up sleep when you are already exhausted, but in ten years our kids are still going to like us. I participate in an on-line photography contest site called DPChallenge. They post a topic and you have to take a photo that best represents that topic, while still being creative and appealing to look at. They recently had two topics called “Heaven” and “Hell”. One of the photos in the “Hell” competition was of a woman working in a restaurant, with her young child sitting in the background in the kitchen. The title of the photo is "While Mommy Works... a Childhood Lost". It made me really sad to see the look on the child’s face, and it made me really happy that we incorporated plans for our children when we were ‘designing’ our business.

Here is the photo by BA Martin:
(http://dpchallenge.com/image.php?IMAGE_ID=620251)


4.Vehicles… This may sound like a simple thing, but there are some things to think about. First of all (unless you are independently wealthy) you must realize that you cannot afford to pay $500+ per month for a car payment and insurance. We had a Suburban with a $450 per month payment when we were planning our business. We got rid of it and now have a Suzuki Aerio SX. We have room for us and the kids, and that is about all… We went from 12 mpg to 30mpg, halved our car payment, and have a brand new vehicle with no looming repairs (our Suburban had 70,000 miles and things were starting to go wrong with it). We also have two ‘beaters’ that we paid cash for. I have a ’69 Chevy truck that is invaluable if you are going to be doing any of your own demo or construction. I also have an ’87 Jeep Cherokee. Neither are nice vehicles, but they are serving a purpose and there are no payments!! Would I like to have a new (or newer) vehicle? YES!!! Is that reasonable or responsible right now? NO!!!

I could probably think of many more things to discuss, but I need to get busy. I would like to comment on our faith again. We are Christians, and we believe that trusting in God and surrendering ourselves to Him is vital to our success. We know that we can not do this on our own. Without God’s blessing and help, we are nothing… You may or may not agree, but it helps us to keep going and get through this difficulty…

JD

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some start up advice from the Internet:

What happens in a year that makes it the make-or-break-period for a small business?

People spend most of their startup money. They don't have as many orders as they need to pay their bills. And people don't anticipate the expenses that come up. Also, most entrepreneurs need to build up their markets and loyalty slowly. Maybe 1% of people have an unbelievable product, but most have to build up their customer base and they end up running out of money before they get there.

What are the three key things that have to happen within the first year so a business doesn't fail?

Get to know your product, get to know your market, and get good employees. You have to have good people to back you up, and you have to know your target market or you are wasting your time. If you have the wrong market, you have to keep testing to find out what that market is.

What is crucial for an entrepreneur to know when starting his or her business that might help it survive?

They should know what their goals are and what they want out of the business. Do they want to simply make a living? Do they want to end up being a big company like Google? Do they want to stay local or sell nationally? They have to have some goals to know what they are going to be and what they are going for.

What is something that often happens during that first year that can overrun a business if it is not dealt with?
One of the easiest things to get behind on is payroll taxes. And once you get behind it starts to mushroom. The IRS won't come after you right away, but they will get you in six months. Another thing: You almost have to go into business thinking that you are not going to make a fortune initially. In the first year, you need to make a foundation first. And in the beginning you have more bills than you know what to do with.

You say that an owner's attitude can affect the entire business. How so?

Sometimes owners go into a business thinking, "I'm king. I can do what I want." It turns out to be the opposite. The people working for you pick up on that attitude, and if you are vague or indifferent with customers they will be, too, and your customers will not come back. It can ruin a whole business.

You also say that losing a big account is not the end of the world—explain.

First, you should never take an account that would ruin your company if you were to lose it. You can lose an account for any number of reasons. A larger account has a lot of expenses. You need to think about what you would do if you lose that account, so that your business will not go down. You can't let it shut you down. You should have backup sources and not give that big account everything. That way they can't take everything if you lose that account.

How would you advise someone to deal with competition?

Know what your competition is doing. You can't run a business and ignore it. If you are a retailer, shop your competitor's store or send in mystery shoppers to see how they treat customers. Check their Web site to see what they are doing. They might be announcing something new, and you don't want to be caught off guard. Hopefully, you have something that you are working on and it is better. That way you don't have to get into a price war, because that's when everyone loses. You need to be aware of your competitors or they will eventually pass you by.

Through experience, I've found there are no shortcuts to launching a business--you have to do your homework to understand your customers, competitors, market conditions and risks. But there are some principles I've found to be very effective for growing both my company and my clients' businesses whether they are startups or Fortune 500 corporations, whether they sell consumer products, professional services or technology products.
Even though we are all start from different places, these seven lessons have certainly served me well over the years:
1. Stop selling and start sharing. People are much more interested in what you have to say when you're sharing your knowledge, your passion and your experience to help them solve their problems. Focus on being interested in them, and don't worry so much about being interesting. It's amazing how interesting you are when you're paying attention to your customers' needs. People buy from those they like, trust and identify with. Building rapport creates that trust and credibility. Just remember, it's about the relationship, not the sale. Nobody likes to be sold, but everyone likes to buy.
Do: Listen to what your prospects and customers say with their words and body language.
Don't: Pull out a brochure or sales sheet unless they ask for it.
2. Differentiate or die. What makes you unique vs. the others in the market? Make sure there's something special about your product or service other than the price. Own something important in your customers' hearts and minds. Being good is no longer good enough--you have to find something where you're great. Use your imagination and creativity to set yourself apart from the crowd. I once worked with a business owner who always wears red. She works in a male-dominated field where everyone has basically the same credentials so at least she's easy to spot at events. "The lady in red" gets most of her work by referral, which is a great way to build a business.
Do: Talk to real customers and ask them for a report card
Don't: Chase last week's/quarter's/year's trend
3. Solve problems people will pay for. Revenue is validation. Are customers voting with their wallets? Are your products or services the "nice to have" thing or the "have to have" thing? Be very important to your most important customers--they should think of you first for any needs in your category. Also, make sure you have more than just a "one off" good idea. Although great businesses start with great ideas, not all ideas are company-worthy. Many of the dotcoms forgot that the business model must actually work, that cash flow matters and that it's not just about building awareness but about making the sale. Janet Jackson got plenty of attention for her wardrobe malfunction in last year's Super Bowl, but did that sell more of her products?
Do: Test, tweak and try again.
Don't: Ask your friends or family and call it "research."
4. Leverage the evangelists. There are people out there using your product or service who would be glad to tell others about your business. If you can make them happy, they'll help you spread the word to other like-minded customers. And here's something to keep in mind: They may be using your product or service for purposes other than the ones you initially intended, so make sure you really understand what they like and dislike about your business and, more important, why. And remember, it's not about pedigree or job title--your champions can come from anywhere. At one of the startups I worked for, a hair stylist made a key introduction for our company. Friend-raising can, in fact, lead to fundraising, so make friends before you need them.
Do: Make it easy for your evangelists to try your product or service.
Don't: Discount the negatives. There may be an important insight buried within.
5. Be visible. Wasn't it Woody Allen who said that 80 percent of success is just showing up? Invisibility is not a good business strategy--if people don't know you exist, then guess what? You don't. You don't have to run a Super Bowl ad to get noticed, but you do have to be active in the communities you cater to so people know where and how to find you. Whether you have a technology business, a consumer products company or a professional services firm, you're in the relationship business. If there are businesses that target your same customer base, then find creative ways you can each leverage your contacts and databases to multiply your outreach. Best-kept secrets are just that: secrets.
Do: Put your mouth where your money is, too.
Don't: Hide in your office or behind your computer online.
6. Create extraordinary experiences. The relationships you have with your customers are based on the cumulative experiences they have with your employees, product, service and business. If your brochure or website makes one claim but the reality is very different, it's the firsthand knowledge that will be remembered by your customers, so make sure you deliver on the promises you make every time you connect with your customers. Is it such a surprise that most of the airlines are going bankrupt while Jet Blue and Southwest are profitable?
Do: Consistently reinforce your key messages in everything you do.
Don't: Forget that every employee, partner and affiliate is an ambassador, too.
7. Put passion above all else. Customers are savvy--they know when something is genuine or if you're just going through the motions. So do your employees, partners and affiliates. If you don't enjoy what you are doing, find something else to do! It's hard to compete with someone who gets up feeling excited every day and who's full of ideas about their business. To them, what they do doesn't feel like work. Enthusiasm is contagious, so determine what it is you enjoy doing and then share your gift with others whose talents may lie somewhere else. When everyone plays to their strengths, the results are superior.
Do: Work you love and believe is important.
Don't: Waste time. It's your most precious commodity.
Q: I've dreamed of starting my own business for so long, yet I can't seem to take the next step and actually get things going. What's holding me back?
A: Probably every entrepreneur goes through what you're going through before starting a business. Particularly if you have a job in a comfortable atmosphere, with full benefits and generous bonuses, it might seem ludicrous to give up what you have and start at the bottom again. Yet no matter how many perks you might get at your job, the fact is, it's still a job--and you still wonder, every day, what it'd be like to work for yourself, not someone else.
It seems apparent that your urge to be an entrepreneur isn't going away anytime soon. It also seems apparent that taking the leap would be the right move for you. No matter how difficult things might be in the beginning, one day you'll thank yourself for having the courage to start a business.
There could be other things holding you back other than the feelings of trepidation you're experiencing, however. See if any of these reasons sound familiar:
1. You don't have a lot of money in the bank. That's a very good reason to shy away from quitting your job, isn't it? But that just means you need to get a financial plan together. Consult with a financial planner who can help you map out personal and business finance goals. Some local colleges and community centers even offer workshops and classes on financial planning, usually at a minimal cost, so take advantage of them.
2. Someone mentions the words "business plan" to you, and you stare blankly. A business plan is not the be-all, end-all of starting a business. But it's pretty important. I talked to an entrepreneur-to-be the other day--someone unfamiliar with writing a business plan--and she said she didn't need a business plan because she wasn't planning on seeking financing from outside sources. But even if no one but you ever sees your business plan, it's still important. It helps you put your goals in focus and create a written plan of action for your business. It's almost like a detailed to-do list. Plus, you never know where your business will take you. You might get started and find out you need more money than you thought, and that's where that handy business plan comes in.
3. You don't know anything about bookkeeping. Go ahead and admit it--it's very freeing. Admitting you don't know everything will only make you successful later, because it means you'll have the courage to ask for help. Get all the advice and mentoring you can at this stage. There's no shame in consulting with an accountant, an attorney, a long-time veteran in the field, and so on.
4. You're not sure you have the dedication it takes to stick with it. There's a simple way to solve this problem: Don't start a business doing something you don't like. If you hate getting up early, starting a coffee shop or a bakery is not for you. If you get impatient around children, don't start a child-care center or anything else kid-related. You have to love what you're doing when you start a business, or you will not stick with it. It's no different than working in a job you hate.
5. You're afraid of selling. That's a big one, because if you're an entrepreneur, you're also a salesperson--that is, unless you figure out a way to bring a top-notch salesperson onto your team from the get-go. Chances are, you don't have the money for that yet, so perhaps a better alternative is to psych yourself up to sell. If you believe in your product or service, you'll find the confidence to sell it.
Now quit stalling, and get to work. You've got a business to start.

Things are getting tough…

They say the first year of a new business start up is the hardest. I can’t imagine things being much harder than they are right now.
Tracy and I are both maxed out, and there are no more hours in the day to allow us to do more. We have some ideas about how to grow sales, but neither of us have any time to implement them. Tracy is up at 4:00am, works until 3:00pm at the shop, and picks up the boys from school just after 3:00. She then has the evening responsibilities of having the kids do their homework, getting dinner together for the boys, doing some laundry and dishes, and whatever other home tasks pop up on a day to day basis. She and the kids go to bed around 8:00 to 8:30pm.
I’ve posted my schedule and it is pretty crazy, starting at about 6:00am and ending 21 hours later at 3:00am. We are both really strong people and we are willing to put in the hard work necessary, but we would like see the light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, it is still dark! On top of everything we have going on, we need to empty out our 1200 sq ft ‘storage’ for the shop, as well as do some things at the rental house. The property manager gave us an unoccupied 1200 sq ft unit to use for storage during construction and start up. It is still full of left over construction materials, bar stools, equipment that we demo’d that is good stuff, but not needed for the shop (about 20 commercial light fixtures, extra construction wood/lumber, extra Maple and Padauk woodwork stock, extra slate floor tile, extra wood flooring, etc, etc, etc… Intellitec is going to move into and utilize several unused units for additional classrooms, so I have to get all of that out of there by February 29th. As for the rental house, I have a 625 sq ft wood working shop stuffed full of equipment and wood stock. It is all too expensive to get rid of, so I am going to have to put it in storage for now. The immediate need is for me to spend some time to get all of my tools and equipment out of the house and attached garage and move it to the shop (detached). Once the house is sold, I will need to move all of that to storage.
We also have taxes looming, Jonah’s birthday party coming up, we are working in the church nursery this weekend, we have sick kids, etc, etc, etc…

I’m not listing all of these things to whine or complain. I’m just listing these things to document how hard it is right now. If you are starting a business or thinking about doing so, you can plan on some rough times for sure…
When I look back on my life, the memories of the hard times are never as difficult as the actual experience. Difficult times make you stronger in the end. Your memories are buffered by the strength and confidence you built through those difficult experiences. We remember hard times, but I don’t think we continue to ‘feel’ how hard things were when you were actually going through those experiences. OK, I just read the last paragraph and it is not easy to follow. I’m having a hard time putting this into words.

Anyway, Tracy and I are going to keep at it. There will come a time when we will appreciate what we have gone through. We will gain strength, confidence, and pride from this, regardless of how things turn out. Right now, though, it is hard. Very hard. Please keep us in your prayers.

The bible says we are to rejoice in our tribulations and difficulties, because that is where we build perseverance, and that is where character comes from, and eventually hope. OK, I paraphrased that and probably botched it, but I don’t have the time to look it up right now. I think it is in Romans 5???

OK, I looked it up anyway, and I was correct. It is Romans 5.
Here are the verses:
3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

So anyway, I hope this post makes sense to someone out there… It probably sounds like the ramblings of a madman. Overall summary… things are hard, keep us in our prayers, but we still have positive attitudes and we are optimistic, and we have the determination to keep going…

Take care and God bless…
JD

Monday, February 11, 2008

Challenge Yourself!

I'm into my 17th hour of my 20+ hour day... I'm starting my 11th week of these 20+ hour days. If you find yourself facing a challenge or anything difficult, then read on...

Christian Larson:
Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
The heights of great men reached and kept,
Were not obtained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night.

Lowell Thomas:
Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can.

William James:
Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second. Give your dreams all you've got and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.

Leonardo Da Vinci:
Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.

Liane Cordes:
Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.

Author unknown:
Some people dream of success... while others wake up and work hard at it.

William Penn:
To have striven, to have made the effort, to have been true to certain ideals - this alone is worth the struggle.

Aristotle:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Elbert Green Hubbard:
When on the brink of complete discouragement, success is discerning that... the line between failure and success is so fine that often a single extra effort is all that is needed to bring victory out of defeat.

Helen Keller:
When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.

Marcus Aurelius:
Do every act of your life as if it were your last.

Joe Namath:
You learn you can do your best even when its hard, even when you're tired and maybe hurting a little bit. It feels good to show some courage.

Marvin Phillips:
The difference between try and triumph is just a little umph!

Zig Ziglar:
Where you start is not as important as where you finish.

Jim Rohn:
You don't get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.

Aesop:
Little by little does the trick.

Herbert N. Casson:
The men who succeed are the efficient few. They are the few who have the ambition and will power to develop themselves.

Oliver Wendell Holmes:
The mode in which the inevitable comes to pass is through effort.

Gail Devers:
Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.

Ann Frank:
Laziness may appear attractive but work gives satisfaction.

H. Jackson Brown:
Life doesn't require that we be the best, only that we try our best.

Linda Brakeall:
Life is like riding a bike. It is impossible to maintain your balance while standing still.

Edwin H. Stuart:
Men who do things without being told draw the most wages.

Dale Carnegie:
Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

Jim Ryan:
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

Paul Coffey:
Nobody's a natural. You work hard to get good and then work hard to get better.

Roger Staubach:
There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.

Audrey Hepburn:
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm... As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

Mahatma Gandhi:
Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.

Sandra Day O'Connor:
Slaying the dragon of delay is no sport for the short-winded.

Laurence J. Peter:
Slump, and the world slumps with you. Push, and you push alone.

Orison Swett Marden:
Achievement is not always success while reputed failure often is. It is honest endeavor, persistent effort to do the best possible under any and all circumstances.

Lee Iacocca:
Apply yourself. Get all the education you can, but then, by God, do something. Don't just stand there, make it happen.

Napoleon Hill:
Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.

Doug Firebaugh:
Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.

Unknown Author:
Every job is a self portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence.

Napoleon Hill:
Do not wait; the time will never be "just right'. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

Thomas Alva Edison:
Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Walter Linn
It is surprising what a man can do when he has to, and how little most men will do when they don't have to.

Another Starbucks detail in the news...

News Headline Today:
"Starbucks serving up free Wi-Fi with AT&T"

Apparently, Starbucks has been reading my blog to get ideas… They have decided to copy Nemo’s and offer free wi-fi internet service… Here is a quote:

“We're very excited about what we're doing together to align ourselves with what consumers want," said Rick Welday, a chief marketing officer for AT&T's consumer business.”

Well, sort of…

If you pay with a Starbucks card, then you get two hours free. Otherwise, or if you want more time, it will cost $3.99 for two hours. If you are thinking that will really add up, it will. They are also offering a monthly membership for $19.95.

…or, you can come to Nemo’s and have free Wi-Fi service all the time, no matter how you pay, or even if you don’t buy anything! Who wants to pay $20 bucks a month on top of what you already pay for cable or DSL at home?

If you want to call $3.99 for two hours of internet service “aligning themselves with what consumers want” then they really should go and think about it some more. While they are thinking about that, they should try to think of where to get some decent coffee to serve, too!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Brochure posted, finally...

I know I mentioned this awhile back, but this is the first chance I have had to post web versions of the brochures I made. We had 5000 of them printed at www.gotprint.net and they are amazing! They came pre-folded and have a beautiful glossy appearance.

Here is one side(click to see a larger version):


...and the other(click to see a larger version):



I did a little more Photoshop work today for Jonah's birthday party invitations. He wanted Zelda images for his invitation. I found five or six hires versions online and then merged them into one image in Photoshop.
Here is the front (click to see a larger version):



If you have a child that likes Zelda, let me know and I'll send you a hires version of this... This is Nemo's related, because Jonah is going to have his party and sleep over at the shop. They will be playing Wii video games in the studio on a 12 foot wide big screen, followed by a movie. I will be setting up our 10 man tent in the studio for them to sleep in! It should be lots of fun.

We had a good week and we reached our breakeven sales for the week. Lets hope things keep going in the same direction.

Gotta run,
JD

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sales are coming back...

Yesterday we did over $600 and today we did $725...
I'm glad to see the trend continuing for sales to return to the levels we were at last Fall!

Expectations vs. Reality

Way back in the summer of 2006, Tracy and I were putting together our business plan for Nemo’s Coffee. Tracy had been a manager for Starbucks, and as a result, had access to the budget and P&L information for all 14 Starbucks stores in her district. The store with the lowest sales was the Citadel Mall food court, which was doing about $8000 per week. The busiest stores were the drive through stores in town, which were doing $25,000+ per week. Knowing that we were a new startup with no brand name and no market recognition, we set our business plan to be operating at approximately 75% sales of the slowest Starbucks store in town after one year. That would put us at about $6000 per week. Those seemed like realistic expectations, considering our superior product quality, environment, and customer service.

Well, we are a little over 9 months into this and we are operating at a little over $3000 per week in sales. Now that is very encouraging, considering many startups do not perform so well so fast. But compared to our projections, we are way behind schedule. Welcome to reality! We thought we would not only be profitable by now, but that we would also be paying ourselves an income.

If you are thinking of starting a business, or are in the early stages of starting a business, I hope our numbers can help you set some initial projections. We thought it would be no problem whatsoever to get a stable 300 daily regulars in the first year, just by word of mouth. We are finding out that it is much more difficult than that.

Don’t look at this as complaints or us being discouraged, because we are not. We are thrilled with how things have gone, and the feedback we have received from other shop owners locally, and around the country, is that we are doing great. We are just looking forward to achieving $6000 in sales per week! Wish us luck and keep us in your prayers!

We have not formally hired a bookkeeper or accountant yet. We have utilized an accountant to complete our quarterly reporting for Q2 and Q3, and I did our Q4 reporting. I also researched processing W-2 forms for our employees, and I was able to complete that task myself. I think I’m ready to send the white flag up the pole, though, and hire a bookkeeper and accountant. There are some bookkeeping tasks that still need to be completed for 2007 records before we can proceed with taxes. I’m ready to punt… I feel confident in my abilities to research these required tasks and get them done correctly, but I just don’t have the time. I have an allotment in our budget for professional services to cover accounting/lawyer needs, and I think it is time go in that direction.

The Photography Group is having a meeting at the shop/studio tonight. I will be providing coverage from 6:30pm until 9:00pm, and then I will go to Intel to complete my water testing. Today will be another long day…

We signed a contract with our realtor yesterday and the rental house is officially on the market. They have already put up their signs. I have gone over there twice to move my tools out of the house/garage and into the shop. I have approximately $30,000 in woodworking equipment and tools. I don’t have room for them at our residence, but I’m going to have to figure out something soon. I may have to put them in storage until I can get a shop built at our house. To have a 26 x 26 shop built by contractors would cost approx $45,000 to $50,000, based on estimates provided by the previous owners who had looked into it. I can build it myself for about $18,000. I’d rather wait and do it myself when I have more time. It is going to be weird to not have access to wood shop for awhile….

Gotta run,
Everybody take care.
JD

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Customers do not like modified hours

One thing we have learned since we have been open is that customers do not like it when you modify your hours. We started staying open on Sunday mornings from 9:00am to 1:00pm about a month ago. We started building sales, and saw an increase in the number of customers from week to week. We had plans to go to Walking With Dinosaurs at the World Arena last Sunday. We closed the shop at 11:00am in order to get to the show on time. I have been here today for a little over two hours and we have had one customer. I noticed the same thing last summer when we modified our weekend hours to support a camping trip, or other family events we had going on. Anytime we modify our normal hours for any reason, business dies off for a few weeks. There are times that we can't avoid doing so right now, but it seems to hurt for a week or two...

I did a series of formal portraits yesterday for the staff of a local church. They are going to use the shots for their website. It felt good to take some photos, as I have not had time to do so lately. I have a meeting next Saturday to go over my wedding package plans and pricing with a couple. That wedding is scheduled for August. Once my Intel scope is complete, I will go back to actively marketing my photography. I don't think it will be difficult at all to add $2000 to $4000 per month in revenues through the spring and summer. Wedding season is coming! I just have to be patient for now, though. Guaranteed income is more important right now than 'potential' income from the studio. I know I can market the photography and grow that business, but I like getting two paychecks a week right now...

Gotta run...
JD

The Rental House

OK, I made several posts last fall about one of our rental houses, and our desire to sell one of them. I made some significant progress on remodel work, but then stalled out when the shop sales grew significantly. I ended up spending more time here at Nemo's helping than I was spending at the rental house getting it finished. When I went back to work at Intel, I had even less time to spend at the rental house. When I went to work at Ft Carson, and Intel at night, I effectively had no time for the rental house. It has been sitting in the same state I left it in around November 2007. This is not a good thing for our personal finances! Starting a new business is difficult enough without an added drain on your finances. It costs about $1000 a month for the mortgage and escrow payment and to pay all of the utilities. I have thought about hiring a contractor to finish the projects I started and then sell it, but I wanted to get advice from an industry professional first. I met with a realtor yesterday, and her advice is to offer it for sale as is, at a reduced price. I have already purchased the materials for the remodel work and they are on site. We just need to find someone willing to buy into some sweat equity (reduced cost for the house and they finish the work). Our realtor believes that will not be difficult to accomplish, and we will still be able to walk away with some of our equity. To be honest, I am willing to sell it at a break-even discount, just to get rid of the payments!
Another option I considered was to hire someone to finish the biggest priority projects, and then rent it out again. I have had a number of people contact me over the last six months wanting to rent it. We have found that two bedroom properties make the best rental units. You tend to get singles or no-kid couples into a small place. This home is 2000 sq ft, four bedrooms, two baths, with 3 car garages, and a large yard. A home this big attracts families with kids, or immigrants who want to sign a lease with several people, and then they have 20-30 additional 'cousins' move in over the next month or so (sounds silly, but I am being serious... it really does happen). The families with kids tend to do a great deal of damage to houses. The carpet absolutely gets destroyed, and everything ends up very dirty. We have little holes everywhere from bb guns being shot inside. All of the glass globes for the light fixtures are broken and gone. The landscaping was let go and weeds took over everywhere. The fence is all broken and damaged. I could go on and on, but these are the reasons we no longer want large rental houses. We'll stick with the little two bedroom ones instead, thank you.
So anyway, we are going to try to sell this thing as is. We have enough equity in it to make it attractive to investors, and still walk away with some cash. I hate to give that equity to someone else with more time than I have, but it is the easiest solution for this problem. Let's hope it sells quickly...

Speaking of financial matters, this business startup forced us to be more frugal about things than we had ever been. We have plenty of surplus income right now with me working two jobs, but I have learned a few things from the last year.

First lesson in frugality: Children, especially boys, are hard on pants. Cheap brand pants don't last, but name brands like Levi's, Wrangler, Gap, Gymboree, Dockers, etc do fine. The problem is, name brand pants cost $30+ per pair, and are still in the $20's when on sale. I have found that Goodwill stores have name brand pants, in nearly new condition, for $3.99. And, if you go on the right day, the colored tags may be 50% off, making name brand pants $1.50 to $2.00. I still have a military ID, and with that discount, I hauled away a treasure trove yesterday for less than $14. I got Levi's carpenter style jeans for Josh and Ethan, a pair of Lee Jeans in 8 Slim for Jonah, a pair of Gap school uniform khakis for Jonah, a Docker's white button down dress shirt for Jonah, a pair of Gap carpenter khakis for me, and a pair of US Polo Assn jeans for Ethan all for less than $14. All are in perfect condition, with no stains or wear. I think that is a great deal...

One word of advice for parents out there... If your kids want to rent a really stupid movie and they ask you to watch it with them, do so without making any comments about it being stupid! Some of my favorite movies of all time are shows we have watched with the kids. A Bug's Life, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc are all just plain fantastic movies, regardless of your age. On the other hand, the new movie that came out called Game Plan is geared towards kids, but it is really lame. Tracy and I made a couple of comments to each other about how cheesy and stupid it was, and we then realized that it really hurt the kids' feelings. They were enjoying the movie, and our comments didn't sit well... If you are watching a show with your kids, just have fun with them and if you hate the movie, just laugh when the kids laugh and enjoy hanging out with them. There will come a time when they are too busy with their friends to hang out with us and watch a movie... We should enjoy this time with them and not ruin the experience by commenting on the movie, no matter how lame it might be!

I just did a spell check on this post in Word, and it told me that it is written at the 8th grade reading level. If you read at less than the 8th grade level, go get your Mom to help you out.

Gotta do payroll now...
Take care,
JD