Friday, October 8, 2010

Why I talk about the things I do...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Racism??? Really???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 25, 2010

Anger Management Wins in the End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 28, 2010

We LOVE Happy Customers!

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

Nothing is better than a happy customer....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I’m not a coffee snob!

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

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thanks to all of our customers, new and old!

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

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

Click to see a larger version:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Free Advertising

So tell me, what is the best type of advertising? There are many angles you could take to answer this question, but the best answer is the type that works! If it gets people in the door, then it is great advertising. However, we have found that advertising is incredibly expensive!! Print advertising is very pricey, and our culture is moving away from print media at an amazing speed, as if it has Ebola or something... We are reluctant to spend $1500-$2000 for print advertising, per publication. Today, I’m going to talk a little about FREE advertising... If you can get people in the door for FREE, I would say that is the ULTIMATE kind of exposure.

With that in mind, I have begun a Facebook campaign in the last couple of weeks. We currently have just over 300 ‘friends’, and that number is growing. I have been specifically sending friendship requests to people in our immediate area. They are our biggest potential for daily, repeat business, so that seems like a great place to start. Do we want to be friends with someone in Seattle? Sure, why not, but we are not going to see them walk through the front door, are we?

It is too early to tell if there has been any impact, but I’m going to keep at it and see what happens. It requires a little effort, but the price is exactly right! In this economy, we need to work every angle that we can to survive these lean times. Every single customer is highly important, and every new face that walks in the door is our key to surviving!

What I want to avoid is over-exposure. I don’t want people to ‘hide’ us, or ‘un-friend’ us because of a steady stream of insincere plugs for our business. I am trying to add a little bit of a personal touch to the posts, highlight the fact that we serve food, not just coffee, and especially to highlight the fact that our food is home-made! I am also adding freebies in the posts, just to keep everyone’s attention and to create some buzz. I want people to look forward to reading a Nemo’s post, not to scan past it without reading it!

Here is a sampling of some of my Facebook posts over the last couple of weeks...

We just made a fresh batch of chicken salad for lunch… We pressure cook and shred the chicken ourselves, so it is moist and tender. …not that stringy, fake-chicken stuff out of a can. Add some purple onion and craisins (both are optional), Provolone cheese, green leaf lettuce, and a little spice, and you have the makings of an amazing sandwich. Get yours on a croissant, or on organic sunflower wheat bread!

I smell fresh scones and muffins coming out of the oven. Yes, made here at Nemo's, from scratch!! Come to think of it, I also smell some amazing espresso headed for a large latte...

Nemo's is ready to make your lunch! Made to order sandwiches including Chicken Salad, Turkey/Bacon/Swiss/Avocado, Ham and cheese with home-made honey mustard spread, AWESOME burritos, HUGE salads with chicken, feta cheese, craisins, purple onion, sliced almonds and home-made cornbread scones...

Come to Nemo's... We can help!

As always, everything is home-made and made to order!! We put extra smiles in our food, just in case you need some for the afternoon.

James Baldrick is Nemo's 300th friend! I think that is worth a free coffee! Print this page out and bring it in for a free cup of java!! ...but only if you are James! LOL

Good morning everybody!! Don't forget, we are giving away lunch for two and a pound of coffee this week. Stop in at Nemo's to register for the drawings!! What is better than winning lunch for you and a friend???

If you are feeling sluggish on Monday morning, stop in at Nemo's for some much needed caffeine! Try a Southwest Meatless Breakfast Burrito while you are at it!!
Congrats to Jason Opp, this week's prize winner at Nemo's Coffee!

Jason has won lunch for two, and as you know, the sandwiches, soup, salads, and burritos are all delicious (and home-made)!! Fridays are always great, but getting free food makes today even better!!
Thanks to everyone else who participated in last week’s drawing, and keep trying in our upcoming drawings!

We are having our first weekly drawings today for a FREE POUND OF COFFEE, and FREE LUNCH FOR TWO!! If you would like to be in next week’s drawing, stop in for details!
I smell coffee brewing... :)

Breakfast burritos.... Yummy! Go regular or go Southwest Meatless Burrito, but definitely go burrito this morning! All home made at Nemo's... Have an awesome day!

Purchase a large smoothie or Iceberg (Frapuccino for those who only speak *$) after 2pm and enter to win a FREE POUND OF COFFEE! Drawings will be weekly. Stop in and get in on the action! Everybody loves FREE STUFF!

Nemo's now offers a yogurt parfait with homemade honey oat granola, as well as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries!! Perfect for those days when you don't want a burrito or pastry for breakfast!

We are playing the movie "Up" today at Nemo's... If you are just waking up and need some coffee and a breakfast burrito, come and see us!!

Tracy made a new vegetarian breakfast burrito today at Nemo's. Rice, eggs, black beans, corn, tomato, green chilies, onion, cheddar cheese, and a special mix of spices! Come in Monday and try a Southwest Meatless Burrito at Nemo's! ...and, as always, everything is homemade!

Tracy makes her chicken salad by pressure cooking and shredding the chicken herself, then adding all the good stuff to make it awesome!! She puts extra smiles in it, just in case you need a few...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is Life Fair?

I recently saw a post on Facebook where someone was wondering “if the end of the road is any better than the beginning.” I have no idea if they were being serious or not, but it made me think about life.

Since the very beginning of time, the World has presented the same incredible opportunities, as well as the same crummy pitfalls. As culture and technology have changed throughout the centuries, the opportunities and pitfalls have taken on a different appearance, but they are the same in nature all the way back to the beginning of time. With regard to the beginning, middle, and end of the road, they can be comparatively worse, better, unrelated… The really cool thing is that each of us as individuals get to choose. Our choices, thoughts, spoken words, actions, efforts, lack of effort, and everything else we do (or don’t do) has an effect on where our life path goes. Some people seem to make the same choices, but have different outcomes. Some are good, some not so good…

Is it fair? What does that mean, really? If your attitude depends on whether or not you have been treated fairly, you had better be ready for some serious upheavals in your life. My kids have a certain fascination with fairness. Who gets to sit by the window, who gets to choose what to watch on tv, who gets new shoes, who stays home from school if they are sick, who got to stay up until 9:00pm and who didn’t… Sometimes it is enough to drive us crazy. Life has circumstances. Sometimes they are convenient; sometimes they are just plain irritating. Fair? Unfair? Does it really matter?

If I hear someone complaining about life being unfair, I like to ask them if they were breathing when they woke up. The answer is always ‘yes’ (since I don’t spend much time talking to dead people). I respond with, “Then life was fair to you today.” Once you get out of bed and get moving, life is just life. It is not fair or unfair. It just is…

So my recommendation is to un-hinge your attitudes and your idea of happiness from life’s circumstances. Get up everyday, check for that first breath of fresh air, smile, and then get on with it (and don’t forget to brush your teeth). Choose to be happy. Choose to have a great attitude. Choose to smile, even if you can’t think of a reason to. You will find it is contagious. If you have great things happening in your life, enjoy them. If things aren’t so good, roll up your sleeves and tackle your problems with a smile. Enjoy the challenge. Don’t be afraid to make a change or two. Many people are unhappy and dissatisfied because they constantly try to shoehorn their same old life into changing circumstances. Chances are, that is not going to work out for you.

What is the point of this, you might ask? None, really. Just the ramblings of a middle-aged-white-guy, married-with-children, going about life, doing his best.

Here’s the thing, though. Listen closely…
I’ve learned the secret to happiness.

Choose to be happy, and you will be. There, that’s it. Sounds simple, right. It actually is, in fact! Try it; you just might like it. Stop worrying about whether or not life is fair. If you find yourself asking that question, take a deep breath. That is your answer...

Friday, February 26, 2010

2010 vs. 2009

As we approached 2009, the housing market was at the height of its collapse, Obama had just been elected, major firms were being bailed out left and right while others were allowed to fail, many people were losing their jobs... Tracy and I agreed that we would continue to work hard, make the best coffee and food, provide great service, and leave it all in God's hands. Our hope was to survive lean times and look forward to a better 2010.
Well, 2009 came and went with all of its horrible economic news, and having to watch Congress and the Administration make move after move that will further cripple the economy. We've seen so many regulars disappear as a result of lay-offs and relocations around us. The recovery we were hoping for by 2010 has not arrived. Educating ourselves on economic policy and keeping track of current events leads us to believe we have not seen the worst yet.

So, we are back in the same place we were at the start of 2009. The economy looks bleak, and we are trusting in God's will in our lives. There is a big difference between that and trusting in God to provide what we want. Accepting and even anticipating God's will takes away the stress of wondering what will happen. We continue to do our best in order to honor God, and we will see where it goes. As I noted at the end of January, our JAN2010 sales beat JAN2009 sales by just a little, even though it was not expected. In mid-February, I would have said there is no way we will beat last year. Well, it looks like we are going to do just that! How exciting is this??? If you are concerned about what you have going on in your life, exercise your faith, have trust that God has your back, be willing to accept His plan in your life as opposed to your own, and enjoy the ride!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How to get a free coffee!

I Googled Nemo's Coffee to see what I would find... The first item that came up was a link to this review, dated January 30, 2010:

By Christopher

"The coffee is great. The atmosphere is small and cozy with various chairs, comfortable couches, and a set of cool theater seats. While the scones look very good (diet prohibits these treats), I most enjoy their homemade breakfast burritos and salsa. The owners are very genuine. They've even treated me with respect on my most grouchy days. Good music, good TV even (was watching Bob Ross paint happy trees one day). The place is clean. I'd bring friends here and visit regularly, making this a 5 star coffee shop in my book.‎"

I'm happy that Christopher enjoys our shop so much. There are a number of review sites for local restaurants and I'd love to see more reviews out there. If you post a review of Nemo's Coffee somewhere, print it out and bring it in and we'll give you a free coffee (or a discount equal to a coffee on something else)!

Irrelevant Nemo’s Trivia!

During our nearly three years of operation, we have gone through 75,000 cup stickers! How’s that for a piece of sweet trivia?? That works out to be about 100 stickers per day of operation.

Tracy and I decided it was time for a change. I created the following design last weekend and ordered 10,000 stickers, which shipped today!

Who knows… maybe someone will come over for lunch if they are sitting at their desk, staring at their warm, nasty, bologna sandwich they forgot to put in the refrigerator when they arrived in the morning… A quick glance at their Nemo’s cup, and they get a reminder that we serve lunch! Now that is community service at its best! Nemo’s saves the day for some poor soul with a creepy lunch, or no lunch at all!

I’m going to design another two or three different stickers, each highlighting one of our services. I’m thinking one to highlight our fresh, baked-from-scratch pastries; another about reserving our conference room for an event; another to promote our fruit smoothies!

Gotta run…
Take care,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Increase in Fees…

For the first two years, our Health Department License to operate a retail food operation was $154 a year. This year, it was $254. That is a significant increase for just one year. I wish government would operate the same way that a business or family must operate. If times get tough, you tighten up on expenditures and you prioritize your needs and operate within your budget. Unfortunately, the government does not share that philosophy. When things get tight for the government, they get a ballot initiative going to increase taxes. When that was soundly defeated by popular vote several months ago, they did not get the message. They just start increasing and implementing new fees to fund their waste and fraud. We know quite a few people at the Health Dept and they are wonderful people, so these comments are not directed at them. This is just one example of how the government operates. If the people speak out (literally, or by vote), the government just figures out a way around public opinion. My Dream for the future is that the government would care about the opinions of the people they represent. Is it possible for this to happen in the coming years? I sure hope so…

Friday, February 5, 2010

Anger and Military photos, but not together...

I had to have a talk with Ethan last night about the difference between feeling angry and acting angry… That is a tough concept for an eight year old to get. I don’t think I did well with it until just the last several years, and I’m 44!
I explained that feeling angry is a normal human emotion, and in many cases, it is justifiable to feel angry. However, acting out in anger is almost always a bad idea, and often times will cause much damage. Looking back into my life, I can honestly say that I regret acting angry in every circumstance. I can’t think of a single time that acting out in anger had a positive effect in my life. All I ever accomplished was to hurt myself, hurt others, damage relationships, break things, and lose credibility with people. Even though feeling angry may have been justified, acting in anger rarely, if ever, produces any positive results.
How do I take 30+ years of adult experience and explain it to an eight year old?? Hmmmm… That’s tough… I think I explained it well, but I have no way to help him gain control of his actions, other than to say there will be disciplinary consequences to his actions if he makes poor choices in response to his anger. Deterrents work, but I’d love for him to gain wisdom without having to suffer any consequences. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the norm when dealing with human nature…

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nemo’s Coffee Update 2-1-2010

With all of the doom and gloom about the economy, and with layoffs and loss of regulars in our area, I expected to see a decline in 2010 performance. January numbers are in (sounds like some huge, accounting reporting agency… Actually just sales tracking in QB Pro…). January 2010 beat January 2009 sales by about $500 for the month. That isn’t an amount of growth to get excited about in and of itself, but it is very exciting since we were expecting a decline in sales. We would like to thank our long time loyal customers, as well as our new customers!!

Tracy and I showed up at Nemo’s yesterday morning to deliver 20+ gallons of milk. The first thing we noticed when we walked in was that the backroom smelled like our grease trap. I noticed that the back room floor sink had standing water in it. That floor sink and the 3 compartment sink drain into the grease trap. A little troubleshooting indicated that the grease trap was blocked. Instead of quickly dropping off milk and making a couple of drinks and heading back home, we popped open the grease trap. We had some quality time together for the next hour scooping and straining about 4 or 5 gallons of grossness out of the grease trap. Everything is back in working order, but this is not what we had expected to be doing on a Sunday morning!

I’ve been posting military photos lately, but here are a few of my images from recent times:

A shot from Glenwood Springs the week after Christmas:

Ethan snowboarding in Glenwood


Josh and a little sledding action...

This is an image from St Mary's Cathedral in Colorado Springs that I did some heavy Photoshop work on...

And another image heavily Photoshopped, to the point that it is difficult to tell it was a photograph to begin with! Great Sand Dunes National Monument

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Surviving 2010, Continued…

Here are a few other areas we are going to work on:

Originally, we had a passion for coffee and it was our intention to just be a coffee shop, with a few pastries, as would be expected. However, we had people stop by the shop almost daily during construction and ask what we were going to offer for lunch! It very quickly became apparent that our future customer base wanted food to eat, not just coffee and pastries. We listened to that input and incorporated it into our plans, and I’m very happy that we did. Based on our coffee/espresso/pastry sales over the last 2 ½ years, we would have gone out of business by now if that was our only concept. Offering home made soup, salads, and sandwiches added another revenue source, and it has resulted in total sales that got us into the black and able to remain viable.

Now, the next step is to grow our food business. How do we do that exactly???
Here are my current ideas…
1. I have a photography studio, and I have some serious Photoshop/Graphic Arts skills. I’m going to take some product shots and incorporate them into an in-house marketing campaign using the 40” flat screen, as well as the 15” LCD digital photo frame at the POS, as I described previously with regard to photography sales. We have a number of regulars who see us as a coffee shop only. Getting some mouth-watering visuals up of our lunch products may convert some of them to lunch-regulars as well… We also offer some killer breakfast burritos made in-house (real scrambled eggs (not that egg-in-a-milk-carton garbage), Jimmy Dean sausage, potatoes, and shredded cheddar cheese, not to mention home made salsa!), as well as breakfast sandwiches with egg, cheese, and bacon on a toasted croissant or sunflower wheat bread. I think we can increase those sales with a few flashy photos!!
2. When the owner’s were completing the building façade remodel, we had no overhead signage. A work around for that issue was to get 4’ x 8’ signs made. I made an A-frame wood structure in the bed of my ’69 Chevy pickup and mounted the signs on that. That resulted in a mobile billboard, which I was able to move around every couple of weeks to get fresh eyes on it by passing traffic. I’m going to make new signs that will advertise our home made lunch items. If people have been driving by for 2 ½ years because we are a coffee shop, I hope to get some of them to come in for lunch!
3. Facebook has a pay-per-click advertising program that can be targeted to specific markets. I may try that, and direct the advertising to the Olympic Training Center, Memorial Hospital, and possibly to the 80909 zip code. I have not decided on this yet, but I think it will be worthwhile to try.
4. I bought a Panini grill, and offering hot sandwiches will boost our lunch sales. People get tired of the same old things, even if they are good. We will offer Panini specials, with a highlighted new sandwich every couple of weeks. These will get the visuals on the monitors as well…

I’m also looking into some unconventional revenue sources. One of those is to attempt to renegotiate our lease. We thought we did well when we nailed down our lease, but being rookies, we made a few mistakes. We agreed to rent increases over time based on an 11 year lease. We never planned for such difficult economic conditions… We just had a rent increase in December, and our rate is now too high for current economic conditions. We are hoping the owner’s will agree to new negotiations. Keep your fingers crossed for us, and we’d appreciate your prayers as well!!

Another area we have not developed is whole bean coffee sales. Our roaster was recently named Roaster of the Year!!! Our coffee product is top notch, and this recent national award confirms what we have thought all along. We sell very little whole bean product, though, because we have not marketed it. We don’t even have a whole bean menu board up!! I am working on some signage for the store to advertise our whole bean product, and we’ll be getting a whole bean menu board up. Since we only average about 5-10 pounds of whole bean sales a week, I think there is room for growth here. I’d like to get that up to 30 to 40 pounds a week by mid-year.

We have more ideas, but I’m out of time for now. I hope everyone is having a great week! Take care,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking for new revenue for 2010…

2010 looks like it is going to be a tough year for small business.
So, how does a small business tackle this challenge? The wrong answer would be to keep doing the same thing and hope you make it. I’d rather think of ways to enhance our current revenue streams, as well as to develop new revenue streams.

OK, so I think we can all agree that makes sense. Now for the hard part… How do you accomplish it?

Part of the Nemo’s concept from the start was to incorporate my photography into the space and the revenue stream. I have certainly enhanced our income here and there with a few weddings and lots of high school senior and family portrait sessions. They have all been generated based on word of mouth marketing, with absolutely zero advertising or marketing efforts. When I broke my clavicle in November 2008, that effectively killed off everything I had going with photography, including hosting photography group meetings in the studio. For 2010, I have a number of activities planned to incorporate photography again…

1. Since we installed a 40” LCD tv in the café, I can use it as a marketing tool for my photography. I’m going to create a marketing DVD to promote my portrait and wedding photography, and I will play the DVD in the café.
2. There are a number of companies that will print hard and soft cover books with your photographs. I’m going to design books to promote my photography services and have a number of them printed. I’ll place the books on the tables at Nemo’s, at all three of the local Curves locations (owned by Tracy’s mom and sisters), and at other locations I can find to display them (other coffee shops, our church and other churches to promote wedding photography, etc).
3. I will also begin actively marketing my photography services via Facebook!
4. I am drafting a beginner Photoshop course curriculum. I will be offering a six or eight week session of Photoshop lessons, to teach new photographers a digital workflow. I haven’t decided on pricing yet, but I’m aiming for the $100-150 range. I will market this class via, which was very successful when I offered Photoshop classes in 2007-2008.
5. I randomly put prints of my photography up in the shop, typically on the bulletin board. I haven’t taken the time to matte or frame them. We get requests at least once a week to purchase a copy of various images. For 2010, I will be selecting 20 or 30 of my most popular images and get prints made in various sizes, from 5x7 up to 20x30 (or even bigger if the image quality will support). I’m going to take the best 10 or so and have them matted and framed in the largest sizes the image quality will support and display them in the café utilizing our art rail. I’m also going to mount and matte the images in smaller sizes and merchandise them in plastic art sleeves and have them available for sale. It is so much easier for someone to grab it and pay for it, than for them to ask about an image on display and wonder if they can purchase a copy… I will also create a DVD to play on the 40” screen to highlight my images available for sale at the shop.
6. I bought a 15” LCD digital photo frame, which I will load with the images available for retail sale. People just love a moving image, and I think this will really grab their attention and sell some prints.
7. I have also had two galleries in town express their interest in displaying my work. I have one show confirmed for September 2010, and I need to formally submit images to the second gallery and chase that opportunity.
8. There are still photography groups organized through as well as Strobist groups (see to see what they are all about) in town that are interested in using my studio for meetings. I will begin offering the space to them again this Spring.

If these ideas are well executed (which is the only way I like to do things), I believe we can create a whole new revenue stream that will help us to survive these lean times. It will require a great deal of effort up front, but once established, will be easy to sustain.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Slow Economy – Where to save $$?

With the economy as slow as it is, and no improvement on the horizon, Tracy and I are looking for ways to save money at Nemo’s. Since we have ran our shop with a common sense approach from the start, there are not many places for us to improve. We did find a few, though…

1. Last night, I replaced the head gaskets and diffuser screens on our La Marzocco 3 Group Linea… My cost was about $40. The last time we had a service tech do the work, it cost about $180. I saved $140 and got to spend some quality time with La Marzocco!
2. Another critical maintenance item is to have our ice machine serviced. It was $168 the last time we had it done, and we are due for another. Since we bought our ice machine used, we had absolutely no documentation on it. Five minutes on the internet allowed me to find the Owner’s Manual, as well as the Service Technical Manual. Another 10 minutes of reading and I know everything I need to know in order to service the unit. I had to buy some nickel safe ice machine cleaner for $20. That saves us another $148.
3. For our first 2 ½ years, we have had our milk delivered to the shop by Royal Crest Dairy. They produce steroid and antibiotic free milk, all natural. There is no comparison between Royal Crest Dairy milk and store bought milk. The quality is top notch. However, we have paid as much as $4.50 a gallon (price fluctuates on this commodity). We found a retail source for the Royal Crest milk, and I now do two milk runs a week for the shop. The new price is approximately $2.60 a gallon and it costs me an hour of my time a week. That saves us $275 per month, with no loss of quality.
4. These are just a few ways we have found to save a few dollars at Nemo’s. We are going to continue to look for other ways to save…

Gotta run…

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm alive!!

I've neglected my blog for awhile now...
But, I'm alive and so is Nemo's.

I plan to do a better job with this during 2010, but not right now! Gotta run!