Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Update 4-30-08

New UPDATE...
At 5:00pm (one hour prior to close) sales were at $870, which is $270 or so above break even. I don't know if strong sales this week are an anomaly, or permanent growth... Let's hope for permanent!

I spoke with Tracy and we are over $800 in sales today. If this trend keeps up through the end of the week, we may wind up with a record week! Woo Hoo!

Nemo's Update 4-30-08

Strong sales so far this week…

We exceeded our break even budget for Monday by $120, and we exceeded our break even budget Tuesday by $240. That is based on 167 customers on Monday and 168 customers on Tuesday. I was at the shop this morning, and we had 50 customers by 8:30am, so it may be another strong day…
These numbers are not making us want to go out and buy a BMW, but it is a step in the right direction for sales growth!

Some more trivia on numbers for the first year:
Total labor costs April 2007 to April 2008: $32,498
Highest earnings by one employee: $7510
Lowest earnings by one employee: $99

Total Sales by quarter:
APR07 - JUN07: $20,396
JUL07 – SEP07: $40,241
OCT07 – DEC07: $38,632
JAN08 – MAR08: $$40,070

We were on pace in October and early November 2007 to show growth, but sales took a dive from Thanksgiving all the way through January 2008. I have spoken to other coffee shop owners and other small business retailers, and they experienced the same drop in sales during the holidays. We saw stronger sales building in February and March 2008, resulting in overall similar performance to our second quarter in operation. Provided gas costs don’t get too crazy, I would expect our current quarter to set a new record. We still need to see what today’s final sales will be, but it looks like April08 sales will be around $14,600, which would put us on pace for a $43,800 quarter.

My biggest concerns right now:
1. The price of gas. People don’t like $3.50 per gallon gas, but it is a problem we can deal with, in the hope it is not permanent. I have heard speculation that oil could hit $200 per barrel, and that would result in a significant increase in gas costs. Coffee indulgences are supported with disposable income. If gas hits $5.00 per gallon, or even higher, I would expect to see an impact on our sales. Oil costs have increased approx 125% if based on the Euro currency. Oil costs have increased approximately 320% if based on the dollar. In other words, oil costs have increased, but the weak dollar is the real culprit for the biggest part of the problem. I am hoping our government will do something to improve the strength of the dollar on world markets. Right now, it looks like everyone is spending all of their time watching the Hillary vs. Obama fight. I say stop wasting so much time, money, and effort on an election ‘semi-finals’ and get back to running the country and taking care of business.
2. The economy overall… I am old enough to recognize that the economy gets lots of bad press anytime there is a presidential election with a sitting Republican president. The media way overplays the drama on the economy. I remember the horrible state of affairs of the economy, as reported by the media leading up to the election between incumbent George Bush and Bill Clinton. Within days of Clinton being elected, there was great news in the media with regard to the economy. Everything was looking sunny, nothing was as bad as it had seemed. (some call this lies and propaganda). Anyway, it happens and I am used to it. I think some of this hype may be going on, along with some real economy issues as well.
3. Construction… I know that a new building façade, new parking lot, and new outdoor patio area for us will be long term benefits for Nemo’s Coffee. I also recognize that 10 months of construction can hurt our sales if parking lot access is restricted, and if façade work makes it appear dangerous or difficult to get into our shop. It doesn’t actually have to be dangerous or difficult, but if people perceive it that way, then our numbers will go down.
4. Cost of goods sold… We have seen significant increases in costs of product across the board since April 2007. We have refrained from raising our prices because we thought the increased prices were due to TEMPORARY gas cost increases. I am currently writing a spreadsheet that will allow me to enter the cost of supplies and it will automatically calculate the cost of goods sold, and our margin on all items. For instance, a case of 15 dozen eggs cost just under $17 in April 2007. They currently are running $27, and peaked at almost $30 at one time. I will be able to enter the case cost, and it will automatically calculate the egg cost in a burrito, a breakfast sandwich, muffin batter, etc, etc, etc. Every product that uses eggs will automatically be updated, based upon the quantity of egg used per unit of that product. This will prevent me from doing data entry for every item on our menu when prices change. Once complete, we will need to evaluate the cost of our products to insure we are maintaining the margins we need to survive. For my basic break even budget, I have assumed 40% cost of goods sold. This should have enough room in it for waste, spillage, and employee beverage consumption (each employee gets one free drink per shift).

Upcoming tasks/goals/responsibilities, etc
1. I know I have mentioned this before, but I still need to install the video surveillance system. As I mentioned before, this includes running new electrical circuits where needed, and building a new computer, or refurbishing one of my existing computers. This is probably #1 on the priority list.
2. Hire a book keeper and get our 2007 Quickbooks file ready for tax prep.
3. Install a door from the café to the kids’ room prior to them being out of school for the summer.
4. Spring cleaning. Our shop is much cleaner than most coffee shops and retail food places in town. I want to keep it that way, and it is time to do some deep, deep cleaning. We also need to touch up some places on the walls that have been scraped or banged up…
5. Better organize our admin and management tasks. We have spent a year getting the daily operations down to an efficient system. We now need to set up schedules to include book keeping tasks, admin/paperwork tasks, etc. We end up doing these things on the fly, whenever I work in some time. I want to set up a scheduled system where these things are completed real time, instead of trying to do a month’s worth of admin all at once.

I hope you are all having a great day. We are not able to get away from the shop too much yet. Maybe in a year or two, our revenues will support more staff to allow us to have more time off for a vacation. For this year, Tracy’s parents are taking us to California to Disney World or Land (whichever one it is that is in California, not Orlando). The truth of it all is that they have planned to take Josh, Jonah, and Ethan on this trip once Ethan got old enough. Tracy and I get to go because three boys are too much for them to handle by themselves!! Anyway, we will be in California in June if anyone else wants to go!! Email me for details.

Gotta run,
JD

Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Iraq Photos

The left wing "lose the war" American press won't show you photos like this, so I thought I would. God speed to our troops in harm's way...

Click on any image to see a larger version.

Pvt. Justin Stougard of Tucson, Ariz., assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, stops to greet a young resident of the Al-Wadah neighborhood during a patrol in Mosul, Iraq April 21.
( Photographer: Capt. Richard Ybarra : 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)



Spc. Tracy Collins of Ogden, Utah and Spc. Martin Cerrillos of Toppenish, Wash., both assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment patrol the al-Wadah neighborhood, Cerrillos takes the time to shake hands with a young man as they pass, Mosul, Iraq April 21.
( Photographer: Capt. Richard Ybarra : 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)



1st Lt. Michael Smith of Johnstown, Pa., meets with a resident of the al-Wadah neighborhood to discuss security and how the Iraqi army and coalition forces can offer assistance if required, Mosul, Iraq April 22.
(Photographer: Capt. Richard Ybarra : 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)



Sgt. Andrew Schneider, a health care specialist from Melcher-Dallas, Iowa, scans for possible threats during a dismounted patrol in central Baghdad, April 21, 2008.
Photo by 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs.



Sgt. Eric Lee of Orange, Calif., assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, is offered a small snack by a gentleman in the Al-Wadah neighborhood during a patrol, Mosul, Iraq April 21.
(Photographer: Capt. Richard Ybarra : 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)



Cpl. Victor Parra, Jr., comforts his little brother Jonathan Parra upon his arrival Saturday, April 26, 2008 in Houston. The 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division arrived at the Reserve Center as they returned from their seven-month deployment to Al Anbar province, Iraq



Becky Garica, 22, kisses her fiance Cpl. Jeff Allison, 25, upon his arrival, Saturday, April 26, 2008 in Houston. The 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division arrived at the Reserve Center as they returned from their seven-month deployment to Al Anbar province, Iraq.



Cool photo of Iraqi Special Forces:



U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Sherman dangles over the Pacific Ocean as he is hoisted back into an SH-60B Seahawk helicopter on April 22, 2008. Sherman is a Navy aviation warfare systems operator and a search and rescue swimmer assigned to Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Light 47 deployed onboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).



Sailors use a fire hose to spray down the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in an effort to remove built up dirt and grime during a sunset scrubbing exercise as the ship operates in the Persian Gulf on April 15, 2008. Truman is on deployment supporting maritime security operations.



An Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft takes on fuel from a KC-10 Extender aircraft 26,000 feet above Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, April 17, 2008. The two aircraft and their crews are participating in Exercise Red Flag - Alaska, a multinational exercise that provides realistic training for combat scenarios.



Seaman David Mayfield practices a boiler light-off in the two main machinery room aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, April 25, 2008. The ship's boilers reach temperatures of more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit to produce steam for the ship's propulsion and auxiliary power.



U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kelliea Guthrie (left) and Senior Airman Greg Ellis provide security for a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a cargo mission at Feyzabab Airfield in Afghanistan, April 23, 2008. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway



Quartermaster 2nd Class Michael Selby attached to Inshore Boat Unit 22 mans a 240B 7.62mm machine gun at the bow of a security patrol boat during a sand storm in the Northern Arabian Gulf, IBU 21
(Photographer: Joint Combat Camera Center )



Sgt. Eric Lee of Orange, Calif., assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, keeps an alert posture as he enters a structure during a "cordon and knock" raid in southeast Mosul, Iraq, on April 21.
(Photographer: Capt. Richard Ybarra : 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Just Stuff...

Life Advice…

If you are looking for ways to have fun with your kids, try joining the YMCA. I think it costs about $80 per month, and there are so many things to do. So far, we have utilized the pools and racquetball courts. Josh and Jonah start a baseball league through the Y in June.
Yesterday, the kids went swimming while Tracy and I played racquetball and ran on the treadmills. They had a huge water slide that dumps into the deep end of the Olympic size pool. Josh and Jonah both did great, but Jonah slid into the water and pretty much sank. He has no body fat what-so-ever, and he apparently can’t swim either. They all have fun in the 3 foot deep kids’ pool, and he is able to jump or push off the bottom and glide in the water. Without a bottom to push off, he doesn’t do so well… The lifeguard went in and got him. It would seem swim lessons are going to be a priority for Jonah.

I typically listen to AM Talk Radio, but I am so very tired of hearing about Hillary and Obama. I switched to a new channel and found the Dave Ramsey financial show. I have listened to it for a week or so, and it is very inspiring. America today depends on credit for most of their purchases. Dave teaches the idea that we should be debt free except for our mortgages, and pay cash for everything we buy. Tracy and I are not there yet, but we are almost debt free except for our mortgage and our car payment. It is a good thing, too. Once my Intel job is finished in June, our single income from RK Mechanical just does cover our personal living expenses, and we will have about $500 per month left over. That $500 will go fast when you think of buying clothes and shoes for three boys, medical and dental co-payments, a little bit of entertainment costs, school lunches, etc. December06 to October 07 (when I went back to work at Intel) was a huge learning experience for us. We learned how to live on necessities only, and not have extras. It takes a great deal of discipline, but we know we can do it when needed. When I was in the Navy, I had an odd way of looking at finances. If I had a credit card with a $5000 limit and a $2000 balance, I saw that as $3000 left to spend, not $2000 of debt. Now I look at credit cards as an emergency only fund, and to avoid buying on credit if possible. I spoke awhile back about “financial houses of cards” in reference to the combination of business and personal finances. Looking at finances from Dave Ramsey’s point of view, as opposed to my old ideas when I was younger is very healthy! It takes a shift in how you view money and it helps you to determine the difference between wants and needs.
The last 18 months have been tough financially, but things have worked out and we have learned a great deal. Dave Ramsey has the following four goals to set, no matter where you are in your finances:
1. First, put $1000 in the bank. This is your operational slush fund.
2. Pay off all credit card debt, car loans (may require getting rid of your car), student loans, etc. (all debt except your house).
3. Save 3 to 6 months of your personal budget and keep it in a separate savings account. This is your emergency fund. If your house payment, utilities, groceries, insurance, gas, etc cost $2700 per month, then save $8100 to $16,200 for an emergency fund.
4. Work on paying off your house to get completely debt free.
If you look at your budget and your outgoing funds are more than what you have coming in, you have a couple of options.
1. Evaluate your necessities and see if you can get rid of any. Having cable TV is great, but not really necessary. If you have a cell phone, do you really need a home line? A $350 car payment could go away if you sell that car and buy a used car for $3000 or $4000. Will it be as nice as your new car with a payment? No, but it frees up your car payment amount to pay down debt.
2. Get a second job. You won’t miss the cable TV you cancelled if you are working another 20 hours a week. Even if you get a low paying job as a second job, it will help to pay down debt and won’t be a permanent situation. Working 20 hours a week at minimum wage in Colorado yields $7300. One year of this job will wipe out a couple of $3000 credit card balances. If you can get a part time job at $10 per hour, that will bring in another $10,400 per year before taxes.
3. Get creative and think of other ways to save…

If you can teach your kids to save for retirement when they are 20, it will drastically change their lives. If a 20 year old saves $300 per month for their whole adult lives, they will have 14 million at age 73. If they do so until age 63, they will have 4 million for retirement. $320 sounds like a lot to a 20 year old, but should be achievable for most people. I have had $320 or higher payments on a credit card balance. If you pay that off, or never develop that debt to start, $320 should not be a burden on your budget.

OK, enough basic financial advice. The biggest thing I can say about these simple concepts is that I am sorry I didn’t follow them all of my adult life.

As far as my job goes, I have been planning to finish my Intel commitment at the end of June and be done with this ‘two full time jobs’ ordeal. It was not so tough for three or four months, but it is getting harder. I heard last night that Intel may not decommission this plant. They can operate/maintain the plant in a standby condition for a number of years for what the decommissioning budget would be. It would still be an asset up for sale, or could be potential added capacity to Intel if the need arises. The last I have heard is that they plan to make a decision at the end of May. If they choose not to demo/decommission, then there will be opportunities for a decent length contract there (3 to 5 years). That would be appealing… I’ll have to hang tight and see how all of this pans out…

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: 32,200
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,
JD

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Military Night at Nemo's Blog

I haven't been at the shop much this week, so I am going to post some military photos tonight.

Here is one of my favorites. This is a SEAL Team delivery exercise with the USS Toledo (SSN 769). The Toledo was the second submarine I served on, and I am a plankowner (member of original crew during construction of the ship). I thought it was interesting that the photographer's last name is Anderson (my last name as well).

(Jan. 17, 2005) – A SEAL delivery vehicle team (SDV) performs a fast-roping exercise from a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter to the topside of Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Toledo (SSN 769). SDV teams use "wet" submersible vehicles to conduct 100 percent long-range submerged missions, or to secretly deliver SEALs and other agents onto enemy territory from a submarine or other vessel at sea. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Davis J. Anderson



This is an image from a pool in Norfolk, Virginia. I took my first NDSTC Qualification Test in this very pool in 1987. This photo is of SAR (Search and Rescue) trainees.



This is an image through an underwater viewing window in the training pool at NDSTC (Navy Diving and Salvage Training Center) in Panama City, Florida. This is where I went to Navy Dive School, and I spent many painful hours in this pool. This image is part of Hell Week. The instructors swim down and "hit" you, removing your equipment while spinning and dragging you around, punching you in the ribs and head. The first thing they do is take your regualtor and tie it in a knot, and turn off your air supply valve. You have to endure the assault while holding your breath. If they separate you from your tanks, you fail (and you don't become a Navy Diver). This image is at the very beginning of the exercise. I can promise you this guy did not enjoy the next several minutes!



I just found this image, and the text would indicate that they now call Hell Week "Confidence Training". OK, whatever... After you have been 'assaulted' you get a limited amount of time to recover your air supply and all of your gear, and get it back on.

Panama City, Fla. (Dec. 6, 2006) - An instructor with Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center monitors the time during a confidence training exercise as part of a scuba certification course. Confidence training is a portion of a five-week course designed to test the students' reactions to real-world emergency situations. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi (RELEASED)



Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center instructor stands ready to offer assistance to a diver student if he is not able to regain his own air supply during a problem solving exercise at the pool confidence-training portion of the student's course. Students are trained to stay calm during lose of air situation while following carefully supervised procedures to regain their air supply without going to the surface. The school is located in Panama City, Florida and is the center for navy diver training. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Chief Andy McKaskle

Apparently the 'Confidence Training' is kinder and gentler. This kid does not appear to be bleeding from a fat lip or bloody nose...



Panama City, Fla. (Nov. 7, 2006) - A student of the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center swims on his back using his legs during the 1,000-meter evolution. Students are required to complete the swim in less than 22 minutes. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jayme Pastoric
I can tell you from personal experience that this 1000 yard open water swim is not fun. It looks like they have calm seas in this image. This event is really difficult in rough seas...



A student, enrolled in the Second Class Diver course at the Navy Diving & Salvage Training Center, jumps into the water during a training dive. This image does not do justice for the experience. If this is the same Dive/Salvage ship I had to do this from, it is 30 to 35 feet down to the surface...



"Dive Knife" Check out the knife on his lower leg (left side of frame). I still have my Navy issued knife. I used it to save another diver's life in the Arctic Circle, and is one of my most cherished possessions.



Cool Diver Photo:



A Bahraini harbor pilot is escorted onto his boat after assisting the crew of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Toledo (SSN 769) through the shallow waters of Mina Sulman port after a 10-day port visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain. Harbor pilots are used by U.S. Naval vessels to aid in navigating in and out of unfamiliar bodies of water. The crew used the port visit as a working port to perform a mid-deployment upkeep. Toledo is part of USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and is on a deployment in support of the sovereign Iraqi government. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class David C. Lloyd

If you look at the base of the sail, you can see a Navy Diver standing there. During any topside operations underway, a Navy Diver is always present as a lifegaurd. If anyone is lost overboard, the Diver's responsibility is to retrieve them. I fulfilled this duty countless times while stationed aboard the USS Memphis (SSN 691). I had to rescue people on several occasions, the worst of which was in the Arctic Circle north of Russia during the Cold War (April 16, 1989).



Another shot of a topside maneuvering watch crew, with Divers present.
"In case of emergency, deploy Navy Diver"



The Emory S Land is a subtender. This is the ship where I had my wisdom teeth removed. Mine were impacted, but the Navy dentist chose to conduct oral surgery on me with just Novacaine. They had to cut open the gums, score an X in the wisdom tooth, crack it with a heavy weighted tool, and extract the tooth in pieces since it was grown into the jawbone, grind the bone smooth, and stitch the hole shut. They did this four times and it took nearly five hours. They used 13 canisters of Novicaine on me during that time. It was a horrible thing, and it all happened right here on the Land in 1986. They made me go back to work on the Memphis afterwards...



Torpedo load, USS Memphis


USS Toledo, topside operations underway. Note the Navy Diver at the base of the sail...



SAR high water entry from helicopter. I am pretty much afraid of heights, and I absolutely hated water entry from any kind of height. I had to do a water entry from 30+ feet in full scuba gear about 90 miles off the coast of Panama City Beach, FL. You have to do it correctly or your tank manifold will hit you in the back of the head and knock you out. I survived...



And a couple more cool photos, not submarine or diver related...









Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What's Going On?

Tracy went to the rental house closing and signed our portion of the paperwork prior to the buyer’s doing their paperwork. Provided the buyer’s portion went smoothly, then we have one less responsibility and stress point in our lives! We authorized our realtor to accept offers as low as us walking away at the break even point. In the end, we walked away with a little over $1800, and we will receive refunds from our escrow account for property taxes and insurance. That will probably amount to another $400 or so. The main goal was to get that headache out of our lives, and to pull even $2000 or so out is a nice bonus.

I can’t even tell you how nice it is to have two reliable vehicles. That is another stress point gone from our lives. I was thinking about rebuilding the engine in my truck and keeping it. To rebuild or replace the engine, clutch, and accessory components (starter, water pump, alternator, etc) would cost around $3000. Instead of doing that, I can sell it for about $750 in its current condition. I am going to put a trailer hitch on the CRV and buy a 4 x 8 trailer. That will give me the functionality of a truck that I occasionally need, and I won’t have another vehicle to maintain and pay insurance on. I love old trucks, and will probably buy another one at some time in the future, but I don’t need to worry about a third vehicle requiring repairs in my life right now.

We have a book club meeting at Nemo’s tomorrow night, as well as a Photoshop class in the studio. We are starting to book more and more events and meetings in the studio. That increases our sales, and also markets our shop to new people who are attending these events and meetings. I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to open another business in the future, but conference rooms are a ‘must have’ in the design and development stage of planning!

Now that all of my woodworking equipment is up at our house, I am looking forward to using it. I need to wire the garage for 220v electrical. Unfortunately, our house electrical panel is made by Federal Pacific. They no longer make circuit breakers for that panel. That means I will need to upgrade the entire electrical panel, along with all new breakers. My friend Kevin is a Master Electrician and can perform that work. He is interested in my truck, so I may do an even trade, truck for electrical work. I’ll talk to him about it tonight. I intend to start making high end jewelry boxes, cutting boards, sushi trays, chop sticks, etc, etc out of exotic hardwoods. I can set up a retail section in the shop to sell these kinds of items. I love making things like that…

Upcoming priorities in the shop now that the rental house is gone:

1. Complete 2008 Q1 tax reporting for City Sales Tax, County Sales Tax, State Sales Tax, Federal payroll taxes, etc.
2. Hire a book keeper and get our 2007 QB Pro file tax ready.
3. Build a new computer for the video surveillance system. I keep an eye on www.slickdeals.net for great deals on all kinds of things. If I see a screamin’ deal on computer parts, I go ahead and buy them. I currently have an Antec case and power supply, Asus mother board, AMD processor, MSI video card, various hard drives and DVD burners available to build a machine. Then only thing I am missing is RAM and a copy of Windows. I will get those ordered and get a system built that will support four 30 fps cameras. I actually have a crashed computer that I can gut and get up and running pretty easily. All it needs is a new hard drive, and an upgraded video card. That will be relatively quick and easy. It already has a high end Antec case and power supply, MB, 2GB of RAM, DVD burner x 2, AMD processor, and a copy of Windows XP. I can slap in a new hard drive for the OS, a 500GB hard drive for recording video, and a new video card that I already have! Done deal…
4. The video surveillance system requires an electrical outlet to power the camera at each location. I pre-planned and installed outlets above the drop ceiling in two locations, but need to run a new electrical circuit to the back room, and another to the as yet undecided fourth camera location. Once complete, I can begin installing cameras and get the video up and running.
5. Install a door from the café directly into the kids’ room. Right now, they have to go through the studio to get to their room. We did that on purpose to keep their room private, but it restricts access whenever there is a meeting or event in the studio.

Time to run…
Later,
JD

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nemo's in the News

Today the lead news anchor for Colorado Springs Channel 13 came into Nemo’s and interviewed Tracy. The cameraman captured the interview, but also took lots of shots of Nemo’s interior. The anchor is Eric Singer and Tracy and I actually have known him for years (not well, we don’t really get invited over for dinner much, well... ever). He was a regular customer at the Starbucks where Tracy and I met in 1995. We will be checking the newscasts to see when they air the piece…

I also heard from my friend Ryan today. He was our general contractor for our construction, and he and I did the woodworking in the shop. Ryan and his family are in Oregon now and it was really great to hear from him!! :)

Gotta run.
JD

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Night Update

I've mentioned several times how difficult the last week or two have been. Things got even harder Thursday... I left Ft Carson at 5:00pm with a long night ahead of me. I needed to go by the shop and to set up the studio for a seminar and to work on payroll, then go to the rental house and finish moving everything out, and then go to Intel and complete my water chemistry scope. On the way to the shop, my truck started sputtering, lurching, and backfiring badly. I made it to the shop, although I really didn't expect to. I popped the hood and noticed radiator fluid bubbling out around the water pump. The problems with the truck did not indicate an overheating issue though. The radiator cap was not hot, so I took it off. The radiator was full of foam, and no water. OK, that is not normal. I knew the foam was most likely caused by oil getting into the coolant. At no time, EVER, should the oil and water in an engine mix. I filled the radiator up with water from the shop, and lurched my way home. I drained the oil and ended up with about nine quarts of watery, foamy fluid. I should have gotten about five quarts of oil only out. Not good...
I put five quarts of oil in the truck and hoped I could keep it running long enough to finish moving things from the rental house shop. I also had about two truckloads of stuff to take to the dumpster from the rental house.
I was able to finish moving things up to our house by 10:00pm, and the truck was getting worse. I skipped taking the junk to the dumpster, which really isn't a huge problem. We sold the house 'as is' for $30k under market value because of the projects and work that needed to be completed. By contract, it is OK for me to leaves some stuff behind. I wanted to leave it better for the new buyers, but that was not an option. I did not want to have the truck break down on me half way between home and the shop.
I got to Intel at 11:00pm and I got home at around 3:00am.
I was back up at 6:30 and called Ft Carson to let them know I needed the day off. I had no vehicle that would make it to Ft Carson (The Jeep started overheating again last Tuesday and won't go more than about 15 minutes...)! We also had the rental house closing at 3:00pm.

I spent the morning at Nemo's doing payroll and helping Nick, Megan, and Amanda.
We received word that the closing paperwork did not get completed and to the title company, and that the person responsible for it took Friday off. That meant no closing... It is now scheduled for Tuesday at 2:00pm.

Tracy and I took the boys to see Spiderwick Friday night. I planned to catch a nap at the movie, but I enjoyed it so much I stayed awake the whole time! I finally got to bed at 10:00 Friday night and slept until 8:00am! Woo Hoo!! Ten hours of sleep. This is triple what I have been getting! I loved it!

Tracy and I worked in the shop Saturday, and then went car shopping afterward. I was hoping the beaters (the Jeep and my truck) would last until the shop revenues would support a vehicle lease. We need to have two reliable vehicles, and decided to go ahead and take the plunge. We wanted to do the lease through the business name for tax purposes instead of a personal lease. My only criteria were:
1. I want the vehicle to have positive equity at the end of the lease. Unfortunately, that rules out GM, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, etc...
2. Enough cargo (or trunk room) for our supply runs for Nemo's. A hatchback access instead of a trunk is preferable.
3. I just wanted something that would get us from point A to point B, nothing fancy.

Based upon 'holding it's value' for equity reasons at the end of the lease, I decided on Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Subaru. I went online and checked out a few cars, and decided that the Honda Element would best meet our needs in the lower price range. As it turns out, the Element is only a four seater. There are five of us... Ethan said he does not want to ride on a roof rack.
We ended up driving an Accord (very, very nice), a Civic (nice, but small), and a CRV. Once we drove the CRV, that was it... It had lots of room, decent gas mileage, and we worked out an acceptable lease payment. I was aiming for $250 per month at the most, but ended up going with the CRV at $290 per month. The Civic lease was only $48 per month less...
So, this is what we got:





As far as how this relates to the shop budget, we need to increase our break even budget by $125 per week to cover the lease costs. When you subtract product cost from the sales of approx $500 per month, that leaves enough to cover the lease payment.

Time to get to work...
later,
JD

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our closing on the rental house is scheduled for tomorrow at 3:00pm! It is kind of a bummer that I made a payment on the house this month. When our first potential buyer fell through on April 1, I went ahead and made a payment. It reduced our payoff by a couple hundred dollars at the most, and the rest went to interest. If only I had known that we would be under contract, and have a closing scheduled within seventeen days. I could have saved that house payment…
The important thing is that we will be out of this house and no longer have that financial obligation, or have a rental home that is too large to manage. I may have mentioned in a previous post somewhere that the perfect rental is a two bedroom, two bath house. A four bedroom, two bath, three car garage, corner lot with lots of landscaping makes for a horrible responsibility to have for a rental…
As of 3:00pm tomorrow, it is gone from our lives!
I stopped by there yesterday and completely filled up my full size pickup and brought that up to our house. I still have about two truck loads of stuff to move, plus empty out the storage shed, plus cut all of my high dollar lumber into 6’ planks and store them in the loft in our garage, plus haul one or two truck-loads of junk to the 30 yard dumpster at the shop, plus some other things I can’t think of right now.
I also have to work at Intel tonight, and I have to set up the studio at the shop for a seminar tomorrow, and I have to complete payroll for Nemo’s by tomorrow, and who knows what else…

Life is hard, then you die… that is what an old t-shirt of mine said. That is how I am feeling right now (physically, not mentally). I am looking forward to getting a couple of good night’s sleep in a row. It is bad to try and move an industrial wood shop, close on a house, do taxes (for 2005 and 2007), complete payroll, work two full time jobs, raise three kids, fix crashed point of sale computers, and have parent-teacher conferences all in the same week. COMPLETE INSANITY!! But… I got it done, or will by the end of tomorrow at least. I am looking forward to spending time with Josh, Jonah, and Ethan this weekend with no impending responsibilities. We will go swimming at the Y, and they have been wanting to play baseball lately. I plan to take them to the park and hit some balls with them. We are also going to the zoo on Sunday. They just completed construction on a new exhibit section and they have a member’s only presentation on Sunday from 9:00 to 1:00.

We are rapidly approaching our one year anniversary for Nemo’s being open (April 26). It is also Tracy’s birthday! I am planning to put together some trivia about our first year and post it. I am going to take information from the blog for the first year, as well as photos, and have a hard back coffee table book made for Tracy. My whole reason for doing the blog was to keep a record of planning and construction, as well as operations, in order to create a book for Tracy. I think it would be fun to actually write a book about small business startup. There are some on the market, but they are ambiguous and pretty much unhelpful. They might say you need to think about a certain potential problem, but they do not go into any details of how to deal with a problem or challenge. Obviously, every problem will have a unique solution depending on your specific circumstances, Building Code requirements for your area, Health Dept requirements for your area, etc, etc. But, a book that shows you how to tackle and manage a problem or challenge is sorely needed. When you multiply that by the 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 serious challenges that arise while trying to build and open a small business, it gets a little difficult. Maybe I will write a book like that in my spare time…

Gotta run,
Take care,
JD

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Update on a few things…

1. Taxes – We still have some bookkeeping issues to figure out and resolve before we can do our 2007 taxes. The accountant that we have used and every other tax professional in the city have all been buried with the tax deadline. Instead of trying to get someone to work with us on our problems at the busiest time of the year, I decided to file an extension and then work out the issues with our Quickbooks file in a less stressful way than trying to meet the April 15 deadline. This also requires an extension for our personal taxes. I was fine with that decision, but I did a little research on the government rebates that are going out this year. I wanted to verify whether or not an extension would disqualify us for the rebates (who doesn’t like free money??). Well, the information I read indicated that we would NOT be included in the rebate incentive if we did not file by April 15th. Just being a tax payer with W-2’s on file is not enough. That put me in a difficult position yesterday. Do I continue with the extension and give up the rebates? I decided to file a normal 1040 Individual return just like we always do. It includes our personal income from 2007, as well as our two rental houses (but nothing Nemo’s related). Getting that done and submitted qualifies us for the rebates. When we get our Quickbooks file straightened out for Nemo’s, I will have our accountant file an amended return for our personal stuff. In the end, everything will be correct, but we won’t miss out on the rebates.
2. Rental House – our closing is scheduled for Friday! It looks like everything is falling into place, except for me. I still have an enormous amount of tools and materials to get out of the shop and the storage shed. I have been moving things slowly, sorting and organizing as I go, and getting rid of extraneous junk. I had planned to finish up last weekend, but got side tracked by massive Point of Sale computer issues, noted in the posts below. As a result, I am two days from close and have a significant amount of work to do still. I am obligated from 6:00am to 5:00pm, and from 7:00pm to 3:00am both today and tomorrow. I don’t see me getting much, if any, sleep in the next couple of days. I am going to have to just pack things up and bring them to our house and sort and organize later, in the minimal hours available between Ft Carson and Intel, and in the middle of the night. One issue is that I have roughly $2000 worth of domestic and exotic hardwoods. They include Padauk, Narra, Purpleheart, Bubinga, Canarywood, Goncolo Alves, Redheart, Rosewood, Maple, Quartersawn White Oak, etc, etc. Most of the inventory is Padauk and Maple in 12’ lengths, and 10” to 14” wide planks. The extra wide boards and long boards cost a premium, as they had to be milled from a very large tree without defects. I do not have room at our house to store planks this long. As a result, I am going to have to cut them down to 6’ lengths in order to store them. So much for paying a premium for long stock.
3. Employees – I think we set a record for the shortest employment ever! We hired a new person who showed up 30 minutes late for their first training shift. They showed up 25 minutes late yesterday for their second shift and smelled like they had been smoking pot. Tracy cut them loose on the spot…
4. Computers – The POS is working great, for two days in a row!! I received some comments about switching to Mac computers instead of using PC’s. Apparently, they never crash. Well, that sounds great, but I own about 10 PC’s and all of my software is for PC. I don’t think I am in a position to switch to Mac, although it is certainly appealing after all of the problems I’ve had with Intuit software conflicts with Windows updates. I’d like to see one of those cool Mac commercials with Quickbooks as a topic…
5. Sales have been pretty steady, still hovering around the break even point. I have talked to other shop owners who have seen a decline in sales recently, as has Starbucks, per all of the recent negative press releases. For us to remain steady during an economical decline is encouraging. I guess you could call that growth in an abstract way of thinking. Tracy is doing an awesome job at the shop, and I’m hoping that we can survive at the break even point until the economy bounces back. Paying ourselves would be nice someday, but not entirely critical right now. One reason for that is tax returns that we will be receiving. Children and rental houses are amazing tax shelters. We have three kids and two rental houses. That has resulted in us getting decent tax returns for a number of years in a row. Some people are not aware of this, but you have up to three years to file a tax return, provided you get a return and do not owe taxes. We are the kind of people who will use money for something if we have it. I decided to save some tax returns for ‘rainy days’. In April of 2007, we were at a point where we had not had any personal income for 4 ½ months (We were working on construction of the shop and getting it open). I filed our 2004 return at that time, and got enough of a return for us to live on for three months. That was a huge help. I completed our 2005 return on Monday and we will be getting a decent return from that year (that was the year our second rental home kicked in). I also scrambled late last night to do our 07 taxes in order to qualify for the rebates, and I still have 2006 taxes to complete and file. In all, the returns will allow us to pay off all personal debt with the exception of our mortgage and our car. It will also allow us to put away four or five months of emergency money in a savings account. Some people told me I was crazy to let the government hang onto that money, but I see it as a wise move for us. We are at a point where the money will be very helpful, and I’m glad I did it this way instead of getting returns in those respective years and spending it then… Today is the rainy day, and I’m glad we had this resource stored away, in a somewhat unconventional savings method.

Attitude – Tracy and I have so very much going on right now, and not enough time to devote to it. I can’t even count the number of nights that I have gotten three hours of sleep or less recently. I decided long ago that attitude is a choice, and not a result of life’s ups and downs. The last several weeks have been a true test of that concept. My attitude has been great, and I am very happy. My life’s events recently would normally make me absolutely miserable, if I let it. If you are the kind of person swayed by stress and events in your life, try making a decision to be happy and have a good attitude no matter what. It is working for me, and I am truly thankful for my life and the blessings I have. Stress and problems and workload are all irrelevant to your attitude, if you make that choice. Good luck, as it takes some practice…

I suppose that is enough for now…
Take care,
JD

Monday, April 14, 2008

A couple of photos...

I edited a couple of photos from a recent maternity shoot while I was waiting for Windows and QB software to install. Here is one BW and one color (click on an image to see it larger):



More lessons learned...

Well, the POS worked fine on Saturday, but it would not work this morning (Monday).

I Mapquested Intuit headquarters and let the air out of the tires of every car in the parking lot. I am going to continue to do this daily until they release a version of software that actually works.

OK, I actually did not do that. I was going to put something harsher in that fictitious statement than the air in the tires thing, but I was concerned about Homeland Security taking me seriously.

Anyway, I reinstalled Windows XP, but did the 'Repair' Windows option.
I then reinstalled all the BIOS information for my motherboard, as well as all of the device drivers. I did not have the motherboard software here, so I opened up the computer to look. It would seem that the manufacturer data is on the opposite side of the motherboard (the non-visible side). I thought about taking the computer apart and removing the motherboard to get the model number. Instead, I logged into my www.Newegg.com account and reviewed my order history. Right there it was, all beautiful and everything...

Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600JSRTL 160GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - Retail

AMD Athlon 64 3700+ San Diego 2.2GHz 1MB L2 Cache Socket 939 Single-Core Processor - Retail

LITE-ON Beige 16X DVD-ROM 52X CD-R 32X CD-RW 52X CD-ROM 2MB Cache ATAPI / E-IDE Combo Drive - OEM

CORSAIR ValueSelect 1GB (2 x 512MB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail

Antec Minuet 300 Black/Silver Steel / Plastic MicroATX Slim Case Computer Case 300W ATX12V Power Supply - Retail

BIOSTAR GEFORCE 6100-M9 939 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail

GVISION P15BX-AB-459G Black 15" LCD Touchscreen Monitor 250 cd/m2 500:1 Built in Speakers 0.297mm Pixel Pitch - Retail

I Googled the manufacturer and model number for the motherboard, found the web page for equipment support downloads, and obtained all the BIOS and driver information I needed.

I also installed antivirus, touch screen monitor software/drivers, etc...

I finally got around to installing QB Pro, and it would not work. I reinstalled it, and it would not work.

Back to square one. I reformatted the hard drive, and then reinstalled Windows as if it were a brand new computer build, and a brand new hard drive.

I repeated all of the steps above. This time, QBPro started and I was able to restore our company data from my USB flash drive.

I am now going to install QB POS. I am pretty sure that P.O.S no longer stands for Point of Sale. Use your imagination and you'll see where I'm headed with that...

So anyway, new lessons learned for you small business owners:

1. If you have to fix your software installation, don't monkey around with the "Repair the Installation" options. Go aggressive and wipe the hard drive first. Be sure to transfer any files or information to an external HDD first, or burn them to CD or DVD. That includes your My Documents folder, and more importantly, your My Music folder. If you have spent hours and hours burning MP3's from your 1980's CD collection, you don't want to lose all of that. Wipe the hard drive, or if you want, buy a new hard drive (they are fairly cheap these days).

2. When you build a computer, or if you buy one already built, take the time to find out what components are installed. Download the drivers for all of the components. Keep them onsite because you will need them if you do a full Windows install.

3. Don't actually Mapquest the headquarters location for Intuit. The temptation to actually go there and go crazy might be too much for you.

---Note to Homeland Security - I'm not actually going to go Postal---

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Real Lessons Learned

OK, last night I was really tired and really angry. Now that I have had 3 1/2 hours of sleep, I'm back in good form...
I found my QB Pos and QB Pro software at home after 2 hours of searching. I am currently working on reinstalling both to see if I can get this POS system up and running. If not, I will have to reinstall Windows, both QB softwares, anti-virus, printer software, MS Office, etc, etc....

Here is the helpful version of lessons learned if you own a small business:
1. When you buy software, make a copy of the CD's and use them whenever you need to reinstall the software. Keep these copies in your filing cabinet under something obvious, like "Critical software that I will get no sleep if I can't find it."
Keep the original software files, in their boxes, somewhere safe off site. Once again, put it somewhere obvious that you will remember in six months or a year.

2. Take all of your software key codes and put them in an email and email them to yourself. I set up a free hotmail account just for storing critical files and information like this.

3. If the software you own has a download version, download it and keep it on your hard drive. This makes for very easy installation if needed. Copy the website URL for the software download and email it to yourself.

4. Have a backup computer ready to go. Have Windows, MS Office, QB Pro, QB POS, Antivirus, Printer support, etc all installed. If your main POS computer goes down, you can install this one, do a restore from back up and you are in business.

Good luck.
JD

AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!

For the second time in a few months, an automatic Windows Update security patch has corrupted the Microsoft .net Framework files on the computer running our Point of Sale and Quickbooks software. The first time this happened, I had to pull the computer, install another computer, and install QB Pro and QB Point of Sale, then do restore from backups to get the system up and running.
Tonight I went online to QB forums and found numerous posts about QB not working after the recent auto Windows security update (on April 10). One of the posts had a link to the solution. It was to deinstall MS.net FRamework 2.0 and then reinstall. If you are not able to uninstall it manually, there was a link to a MS .net Framework utility. I was unable to ininstall manually, so I used the utility. I then spent 2 1/2 hours trying to reinstall Framework 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, and 3.5. After what seems like forever, I got them all installed, but QB still will not work. I then looked for my installation disks for QB and QB POS and could not find them anywhere here at the shop. They must be at home, but I can't remember. I specifically remember putting both software packages in the safe. I may have taken them home with the first computer that had this problem. Anyway, I have spent over three hours on this and have not been able to get QB to open.

Finally, I remembered that my laptop has QB and QB Pos installed, and it is out in the Jeep! I brought it in, replaced the POS computer with the laptop, connected all of the equipment (cash drawer, receipt printer, touch screen monitor, etc). I am now restoring the QB file from my Zip drive. I will then have to restore QB POS from the Zip drive, then synchronize the two.

So... Computers suck, and Intuit software sucks even worse.

Lessons Learned:
1. Get an abacus for your point of sale. You will get more sleep that way.
2. If you do use a computer for your Point of Sale, get a POS software that actually works well. That will cost about $6000.
3. If you are stuck using something affordable like Intuit software, buy a bottle of Motrin. You will need it.
4. Make CD copies of your installation software for QB and QBPOS. Be sure to keep the installation serial numbers with the copies. Keep the copies on site. Place the original copies of the software somewhere safe.
5. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS keep a backup copy of your financial software and point of sale software on a Zip drive (USB flash drive), or some other external storage solution. Some places are now offering backup of files at online FTP sites. I have not gone that route.
6. If you have a problem with your Intuit software, try to find a solution somewhere other than Intuit supported sites.
7. Go to the doctor and get medication for high blood pressure.
8. Don't sleep. Stay up all night screaming at your computer, while you use every ounce of restraint you can muster to keep from smashing your computer.
9. Go buy an abacus.

I hate Quickbooks software.

Here is a snapshot of the live music tonight. They did a great job, and we will surely have them back again sometime soon...



I am so stinking mad... and super tired.
Later,
JD

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Photography Post

I have had NO TIME WHATSOEVER for photography lately, but one of my recent shots did make it into the finals of a photography contest at www.fredmiranda.com.
They have themed contests, and most contests are very literal with regard to the topic. At fm, the moderator (Fred) is a very creative thinker and usually approaches a topic with a wide open mind. The contest topic is TECHNOLOGY, and the entries had numerous electronic items, gears, industrial things, etc. I decided to think outside of the box and enter a photo from a recent maternity shoot. If you have ever studied biology, the 'technology' involved in human reproduction is quite amazing. God did a very good job. In fact, I called the photo (just for the contest) "Patent #00000001 Granted to God"

Click on the image to see it larger:


Well, I just checked the voting and two people have voted for my image. I did not expect it to do well in the finals. If you are an 'in the box' thinker, then this image does not say "Technology" in the least. Apparently, me, Fred, and two voters are the only creative thinkers in the bunch.

Here is the image that is winning so far... It is by Brian Peck who is a U2 spy plane pilot for the USAF. This image was shot in flight at 67,000 feet.



I have not been able to get into the studio for any shots, but I have been keeping an eye on several photo websites for some interesting ideas, and to practice reverse engineering the lighting scenarios for portraits that I really like. As soon as some of my time is freed up, I plan to do some high quality studio work... I want to create a line of greeting cards to sell out of the shop. This little project is tucked away on the back burner for now, though.

I have a photo shoot a week from tomorrow. A local Army soldier and his girlfriend are going to a formal Army Ball (dance) and I will be doing a formal portrait session for them.

The couple in the maternity shot above had their baby recently, so I will be doing baby photos very soon. I will post some images when I can...

Gotta go.
JD

I realized last night that I’m over 40 and there is no going back…

I was in the break room at Intel trying to decide which drink to buy. They have everything from soft drinks, Gatorade, waters, teas, bottle Starbucks Frappucinos, etc, etc. I bought a bottle of 100% Red Ruby Grapefruit juice and liked it. Actually, it is what I buy two or three times a week, if I don’t have coffee. What normal person buys grapefruit juice and likes it? Is this a sign of getting old, or am I just a freak?
I also used to be able to eat two entire super-sized combo meals at McDonalds, and like it! Now I don’t go near the place unless I absolutely have to. I ran through the drive thru on the way to Intel earlier this week and got a Quarter Pounder with fries and a coke. I took about 4 or 5 bites of the sandwich and had to throw the rest away. This has been a common occurrence for the last year or so. I just can’t choke it down… I can’t believe I used to like it!

Speaking of me being a freak, I see something happen daily and I was wondering if it happens to anyone else. When I drive home at night, street lights go out when I approach them. At least one street light goes out for no reason as I go by every night (different ones, not the same one). Last night, three of them went out on my fairly short trip home. I’m wondering if they overheat and go out for a few minutes and then come back on, and this is a fairly normal thing and it is coincidence. Or… do they go out because I have some strange magnetic field emanating from me as a result of my 12 years in the nuclear power field as a reactor operator. They don’t go out when I’m a block away… it is always when I am within 50 feet or so. I really have no explanation for it, but it does make me curious, and it happens every single night.

Photoshop contest! I have not been very active in the Photoshop or Photography groups since I have been working at Intel at night. Jeff Kouri has carried on the Photoshop classes during this time. He has a Photoshop contest scheduled for April 23, 2008 at 6:30pm at Nemo’s. You can check out the details at www.meetup.com. Just search for ‘Photoshop’ in Colorado Springs.

Speaking of art, we are currently showing the paintings of Nikki Connen. Her work is really incredible and we have had a great reaction to it. If you have a chance, stop in and take a look. I’ll post a recent photo of the shop with her artwork when I have a chance.

Tracy hired a new girl this week and she will be starting her training today. She is an artist and wants to develop an art community at the shop/studio, much the same as I did with photography and Photoshop. I think that would be great!

Gotta run…
JD

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Latest and Greatest Nemo’s News

Well, we have been extremely busy for the last week or two, even by our standards. Here’s the scoop:

1. Rental House
Our buyer was not able to get funding, so our original contract fell through. She was pre-qualified with a major national bank, but they cancelled the loan program she was qualified for several days before our closing. We went under contract at about $30,000 less than market value with the house ‘as-is.’ The intent is for someone else to complete the remodel projects and gain the equity for their efforts. She asked us to fix 14 things noted on the home inspection, even though it was an ‘as-is’ deal. Wanting this sell to go through, I spent approx $1000 to complete some minor electrical repairs, minor plumbing repairs, had the furnace cleaned/inspected/serviced, replaced the back porch steps, etc. Her failure to secure a loan caused me to also have to make another mortgage payment, another month of utilities, another month of homeowner’s insurance and property taxes, etc. Overall, she cost us an extra $2200 or so… I felt that her earnest money should go to pay for the repairs she requested on an ‘as-is’ transaction, and towards the monthly payments. Our realtor disagreed and gave it back to her.
Well, the house went back on the market officially the next morning (Tuesday April 1). We had four showings that day and went under contract again that night. We are currently scheduled to close on April 18. The new buyers are (legal) immigrants from Panama and are in a state assisted first time home buyer program. They get $10,000 from the state towards a home purchase, but the house has to meet specific inspection criteria in order to qualify. Several of the remodel projects in progress violate the terms of the program. The buyers asked us to finish those projects, and we said no. The house is offered at a discount so that they can do the work. We gave them a key and they have spent the last week scraping and painting the gutters and outside trim, painting the garage door, installing the kitchen cabinet doors and new hardware, painting some upstairs rooms, etc, etc. They are willing to put the efforts into the house in order to qualify for their program. If it all falls through, then a few items on the overall list got done and are finished.
I put a huge dent in moving equipment, tools, and materials from the wood shop up to our house. I still have a huge amount of work to do, and only this weekend to finish it. Wish me luck!

2. What do you do when you get sick?
Tracy was sick last week and had to go to the doctor. She stayed home in bed on Thursday and Friday. She has been at the shop six days a week for 49 weeks straight, without missing a single day. She typically works from 4:30am until 3:00pm. She has put so much of herself into the shop, and that is really what drives our success. Tracy is a stickler for product quality and in the end, that is what keeps people coming back. We realized very quickly that her not being there is a huge challenge with regard to staffing and with how much prep work she does in the morning from 4:30 to 6:00am. Tracy’s mom worked some shifts, and I worked from 4:00 until 10:00am on Thursday and from 4:00am until 8:00am on Friday (plus the Ft Carson day job until 5:00pm and the Intel water chemistry scope from 7:00pm to 3:00am). In all of the months I’ve been working Ft Carson and Intel, and helping with the shop and doing a little photography, I have never felt like it was too much to handle. I nearly fell asleep driving from Ft Carson to the kids’ school Friday afternoon, which is the first time I have felt sleepy when I shouldn’t through this whole process. We made it through, but it was difficult. I can’t even begin to say how much help Barb (Tracy’s mom) has been. We also had our employees coming in earlier than normal and even called Angie (our neighbor and ex-employee) to come and help. We made it through this rough time, and Tracy is feeling much better. Sometimes someone has to be missing before you truly grasp how much they do. We didn’t have the same proficiency that Tracy has, and we made do for the short term. Filling Tracy’s shoes is a very difficult task!

3. Sales Performance
Sales bounced back from Spring Break week to just at the break even threshold. We are so very close to going profitable, I can almost taste it! Two years of planning, construction, and start-up, and we are right on the edge of being rewarded (not very much, but that will grow over time). It is exciting to be at such an important milestone. I just hope the trend continues. With all of the doom and gloom economy news, it is a scary time to be teetering between success and failure!

Our merchandising refrigerator quit working sometime Friday night. Tracy got there Saturday morning and it was maintaining a nice, crisp temperature of 81F! That is hotter than the room was at 70F. Apparently, it switched from a merchandising cooler to a merchandising heater overnight. We bought it brand new and paid more for a ‘better’ brand. The thing cost $2700 and I expect something like that to work for decades! It is under warranty and they have it fixed, but why doesn’t anything ever work anymore? Why do we pay thousands of dollars for things that don’t work? If you are going to open a shop, I would suggest buying used equipment. We have a mix of new and used. Here are the differences:

1. Used equipment costs pennies on the dollar, but does not have that new, shiny look. It might even have a dent or a few scratches. New equipment costs full price, loses that new, shiny look in a few months, and winds up with a dent or a scratch in a few weeks.
2. Used equipment sometimes requires service, and it might cost $150 or so. New equipment also needs to be serviced, but if you are lucky, it will still be under warranty. You still paid for the service by paying full price for the equipment, if you want to look at it that way.
3. If you buy new equipment, it is only new for a short time. After a few months, it is actually classified as used, and is subject to failure just as much as the used stuff.
4. Did I mention that used equipment costs pennies on the dollar?
5. Used equipment costs less, and gets delivered and installed by the local restaurant equipment supply house that you dealt with. Finding a screaming deal on the internet (www.bigtray.com) might save your $600, but you have to figure out how to uncrate and move an 800 pound item into your store. The bumper sticker “Yes I have a truck, and no I’m not helping you move” comes to mind. Besides, my truck does not fit inside my store.
6. If you open a used refrigerator or freezer at the restaurant equipment supply house, you will notice that it smells funny. If you open the door on a brand new piece of equipment, you will notice that it smells like industrial adhesives and chemical plastic. If you open the new equipment three months later (technically used now), you will notice that it smells like the equipment in the used section of the restaurant equipment supply house. You will also notice that neither of them smells funny at 35F. They really need to be turned off and warm to smell funny.
7. Used equipment sometimes has stickers on it, or worse, left over sticker adhesive. New equipment looks good until your kids put stickers all over it.
8. Did I mention that used equipment costs pennies on the dollar, and someone in a blue shirt that says “Joe” or “Dave” on the front will do all of the heavy lifting??
9. Used sink faucets tend to leak a little. New faucets tend to work perfect for a few months before they start leaking. After they start leaking, they are just like a used faucet, except you paid double or triple the price for it!
10. All equipment requires maintenance, and that is where you save money in the long run. New equipment might run longer before failing if you don’t do any maintenance. So what? When it finally fails, and impacts your business, and costs $300 to fix, it is the same as used equipment.
11. If you can’t tell, I am recommending that you purchase used equipment. But, do your research, know what you are buying and how it rates for reliability and longevity, and try to negotiate a warranty instead of buying it as is. You should be able to get 30 days without any problems. 90 or 180 days is harder, but not impossible.
12. Make friends with the local restaurant supply house folks. You will absolutely need their help at some point. If you were a jerk to them during the purchase or move it, they will probably remember (I never had that experience; I was nice to them).
13. Do not accept “free” equipment from one of your product vendors, in exchange for using their products. You will probably get a poorly maintained, used piece of equipment, and you will be stuck using their product, even if you end up not liking it (the product and/or the equipment). Product quality depends on the product and the equipment used to prepare/serve it. Don’t compromise either of those things in order to “get a deal.”

We have live music Friday night at the shop! It is a local folk/bluegrass band called Heirloom. Sorry, no photos to post. I’ll try and take some photos Friday night while they are there…

Gotta run.
JD

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April Fool's Day post about Starbucks

I did not write this, but I saw this post presented as an April Fool's day joke, dated in the year 2048. I couldn't help but post it...

Starbucks’ brew includes AMD
Dexter Spamann, Interstellar Employee Communications
Stardate: April 1, 2048

It’s the cherry on the coffee ice cream sundae. Today, Starbucks Corporation acquired AMD to form Starbucks Semiconductor.

Starbucks-AMD blend is evolutionary
After a wild spree of acquisitions through the 2020s and 2030s, Starbucks has finally added beleaguered AMD Corporation to their ranks.

“It was the next obvious step,” says Starbucks Semiconductor CEO Norman Brewski.

75% of all stores now a Starbucks
Starbucks spent much of the 1990s and 2000s trying to create the “third place,” a location for all that existed between work and home. But in the late teens, Starbucks hit saturation.

“We had an outlet on every street corner around the globe, and every major location across the solar system,” recalls Brewski.

“In some areas, the company had clustered so many stores in prime locations that main streets consisted of nothing but Starbucks coffee shops and their derivatives: Starbucks Autos, Starbucks Rehab, and upscale retailer, “*$”.

Starbucks needed new places to go.

By 2025: A Starbucks in every home
With the outdoor market now saturated, Starbucks set their sights on putting a barista in every home, with the long-term goal of having an outlet in every room.

They achieved this remarkably quickly with the invention of the RoboBarista, a device powered by an AMD 7-core processor (AMD was not able to get very high yields on 8-core designs and so came up with a novel marketing effort suggesting that “seven was just luckier than eight”).

In just twelve years, Starbucks had expanded to 3.2 billion outlets and was selling more coffee than could be farmed in the newly fertile plantation fields of Greenland. Imported coffee, now grown on Mars, was praised for its low-gravity taste.

Starbucks expansion continued unabated through the 2030s
After the acquisition of ToyotaFordBMW in 2029 that enabled Starbucks to put in-seat latte into every HoverCar, the mission to personalize coffee and continue to increase its distribution became even more of a challenge.

“When your product is already available in every store, every home and every car, where else is there to go?” a Starbucks spokesperson told the Earth Gazette at the time.

That’s where AMD comes in.

Combining caffeine and silicon
“With the miniaturization afforded by Moore’s Law, chips are now the size of coffee grounds,” explains Starbucks chief scientist Steve Pawlowski, who bolted Intel for the new post with the coffee conglomerate. “We realized it was time to mix silicon and caffeine in an exciting new way.”

The company had previously attempted to extend its brand with a line of combo appliances, including Wii-cappuccino makers and Sony Blu-ray coffee roasters. However these were banned in 2011 after gamers and home movie-watchers found they were able to stay up for nights on end, missing work and severely impacting the global economy.

Starbucks learned from that experience and has apparently been experimenting for some time to find the next breakthrough in personal coffee-making. Their solution: the internal coffee-maker.

Starbucks inside
“Our first design for the computer-controlled caffeine-release system (CCCRS) was a laser-guided suppository, but testers complained that the coffee it brewed and released into the blood-stream tasted bitter,” says Pawlowski. “That’s when we decided to just embed the CCCRS in the roof of the mouth. We’re calling it OCD – Oral Coffee Delivery.”

“Their logo’s green; our logo’s green. And that’s very important to us,” says CEO Brewski.

Green logos and extreme customization are what has made this company so successful he claims. [Note for history buffs: Starbucks discontinued the “regular cup of coffee” back in 2009, ceding that market to archrival Dunkin Donuts]

And that customization will continue with Starbucks Semiconductor.

Brewski demonstrates as he orders his own CCCRS from his RoboBarista, “I’ll have a low-fat Phenomuccino with triple cores, GPS, and foam.”

Today is Good News day…

My last post was all doom and gloom…
Things have swung back to the positive in the last couple of days.

Our rental house buyer under contract failed to secure financing on Monday. The house officially went back on the market yesterday morning. We had four showings yesterday and received a new contract last night. It is the pretty much the same deal as before, so we are still walking away from a chunk of equity. But… we are under contract and ready to get rid of that financial obligation, yet again.

There is a local radio show/TV show that covers the food/restaurant industry. They are going to broadcast live from our shop in May. I don’t know the exact day yet, but they typically get 750-1000 people to show up for lunch during their on-site lunch broadcasts. They do so every Saturday and have for years. Now we have to figure out how to staff the store and stock the store to do two weeks worth of lunch business in about three hours. It will be a good thing to get us some exposure, even though it will be a challenge.

My finger that I split all the way to the bone is healing up nicely. I expected to have trouble with it, but it is doing great. I also have not developed tetanus, a staph infection, flesh eating disease, Ebola, yellow fever, or any other crazy disease as a result of this injury and complete lack of professional medical attention!

Tracy, Josh, Jonah, Ethan and I are going to Disney World in June with Tracy’s mom. She has been waiting for Ethan to get big enough to go there and actually remember it. She is taking Tracy and me as well. Tracy’s older sister Kelly and her husband Tim are going to run the shop for us while we are gone. Kelly owns/operates Curves and Tim is a school teacher, so they both have the flexibility in their schedules during that time of year to help out.

Intellitec is supposed to begin construction on their end of the complex soon. They are tearing down 100 linear feet of the building on their end and rebuilding it, adding eight automotive lift bays for their automotive technical college. I am hoping the entire complex renovation will occur at the same time. Our property manager does not have a construction scheduled nailed down yet for the new building façade.

Gotta run…
Take care,
JD