It's just (small) business

Tips, tricks and the occasional tumble

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7 Ways to Communicate Ineffectively

Self-indulgent rant of the day: Full disclosure, I was inspired by an e-mail I received earlier today addressed “To Whom it May Concern” asking if I’d like to participate in a discount program for SUNY Albany employees, provided by a third party company called PerksConnect .

I responded in the affirmative, and shortly after I received a phone call from the author of the e-mail. Between “likes” and “ums” the company representative kept referring to our conversation as an “interview.” Her second question to me was “how long have you been in business” and when asked how that was relevant, she responded that she had to verify that I was competent enough to serve discount program recipients.

I immediately ended the conversation. I don’t know if it was a scam, or if the company often takes such a rude approach. But it got me to thinking about all the ways companies and individuals have contacted me that just turned me off for one reason or another. See if you can spot which annoying tactics PerksConnect deployed that are on my list:

Things that make me tune out, decide not to work with someone, and otherwise just drive me nutty:

On the phone:

1. Say “like” or “um” as many times as you like - but after around the 300th time I’m going to get the impression you aren’t comfortable, you’re not being sincere, and/or you aren’t sure what you are talking about. I’m not talking about people who stutter, I’m talking about people who add words when they don’t know what to say. It’s like grunting. Just stop. 

On the internet:

2. Send me e-mails that aren’t proofread, aren’t clear or aren’t even addressed to me. “Dear sir or madam at your company.” At what company? Who? I’m assuming this is spam. 

3. Wait more than a week to return an e-mail.  I once waited 9 days for a reply to set up a meeting, and the reply asked if I could meet the next day. Had I, say, 9 days more notice, I probably wouldn’t have declined. That was the record for longest wait, until I received a reply email yesterday from someone who I had emailed in January of this year - that’s 10 months between emails. Sending an e-mail is not labor-intensive or expensive. So what gives?

4. Say something critical to or about me online (that isn’t relevant). Unless it’s relevant to my brand or product, I don’t like to be called out in a public forum about something trivial you don’t like. I’m not talking about my friend who points out my mixing up “your” with “you’re” - I’m talking about an acquaintance who responds with a negative comment that is neither helpful nor friendly.

Consider the intent of what you’re saying to me - if you’re joking, that’s what “lol” and a winky-face emoticon is for. If you’re serious, do you think criticizing me publicly is necessary, supportive or helpful? Let’s say you used profanity on my Facebook wall - how do you think that reflects on you? On me?

If I feel like you don’t respect me, or that we aren’t allies, or that you will harm my brand, I probably won’t collaborate with you. 

In person:

5. Don’t make eye contact. Really, I know how hard this is, but you gotta try. Talking to any part of my body other than my head for any length of time is going to make this far more awkward than it was when you were just too nervous to make eye contact. 

6. Don’t smile. If a joke is made -by you, by me, by anyone - or a compliment is paid, or if a nice comment about anything is made, try not too look too constipated. Please. 

7. Call me “sweetheart,” “honey,” etc. the first time we meet. Nothing makes me feel like less of an adult/person (or rather, it makes me feel like you don’t think I’m an adult/person) - especially if this comes from an older male, and is combined with a complaint or insult. (“Honey, you priced this too high.”) I’m guessing you’re trying to put me down because I won’t lower the price and this has hurt your already fragile ego. But I don’t know for sure, and I don’t really care. 

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With that off my chest, I must clarify that I’m not heartless. I understand that meeting new people, and promoting yourself are both difficult, nerve-wracking things that will induce anxiety in even the most cool-headed. I personally don’t usually write someone off after just one infraction. I’m also not trying to be ableist and I realize that there are always exceptions to social “rules,” ie: your right hand is broken and you can’t give a firm handshake. If you can still show respect, forethought and confidence in other ways, please do. 

Before you write, call or meet someone, plan ahead. Prepare what you’re going to say, practice it, and change it if need be. Remember that your delivery is just as important as your message. Feel free to disagree or share your own pet peeves below!

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How to #Consign (at my store)

I don’t run a consignment store, but some of my products are on consignment. By this I mean that I primarily sell goods from vendors with full product lines or collections, not countless individuals with only a couple items each. 

Each vendor at my store is vetted; instead of just showing up unannounced with a car load full of product (please don’t), I like to get an email, with a link to a website, and “hey, let’s meet to discuss this” so that I can arrange to meet the vendor during slow business times.  I also take some time to think about if their wares are appropriate before I agree to meet the vendor or carry their product. 

Why consign?

Consigning makes it easier for the vendor to get their products in more markets because it makes it more affordable for the retailer to bring it in the store without an upfront expense.

How it’s done

This is how I sell products on consignment at Sugartown Vintage Boutique, BUT other retailers will vary on policy and preference, and you may decide you want to do things a different way:

What to do first
First, we negotiate a retail price and a wholesale/consignment price. So, perhaps you want to retail your bags at $x each (typical consignment amounts are 50/50 or 40/60), I (the retailer) would pay you (the vendor) a set percent of X. But you would give me the product up front, and I would only pay you when it sold. 

Pricing is important
I ask that my vendors sell their products at the same retail price if selling direct, otherwise I will lose business to the vendor’s direct prices. So, I would expect if you want your product to retail at $20 in-store, then you would sell direct for no less than $20, and you would make sure to have consistent retail prices in other markets (other stores, websites, etc). 

Protect yourself and have a clear agreement
Typically in the beginning, the vendor gives me an inventory list with both retail and wholesale prices on it, and we both sign it in agreement - this line sheet is sometimes accompanied by a contract (drawn up by the vendor) though I don’t require it. 

Once your product is consigned
My vendors typically check in on a monthly basis, sometimes less and sometimes more depending on how quickly the product is moving. They come into the store, at which point I issue them a check. If they don’t feel their product is moving quickly enough, I give them the option of picking up their product, or periodically rotating their product to keep better selling items in stock or to just try out different items.

I wanna hear your feedback!

If you’re a retailer, do you have a similar or different policy? If you’re a vendor, what has or hasn’t worked for you when consigning? If you don’t sell your wares on consignment now, would you consider it? Why or why not?

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    Interns are great!

    I’ve recently taken on an intern from SUNY New Paltz who is a Journalism major with a focus in PR. My sister, an actively employed social media marketer, comes from the same background - so I’m especially excited for what sorts of things we’ll be able learn from each other and projects we’ll work on together this semester. 

    Want an intern?

    Contact your local college’s Journalism/Marketing department (or a different department if you want) and let them know you would be a great host. 

    Or

    Contact your local non-profit and see if they have an employment training program that needs a job site to train people. 

    My experience with interns so far…

    I used both means of intern acquisition this year. The non-profit route didn’t last more than 3 weeks. I remain on the list as a possible host, but I do believe that an intern actively seeking career specific experience -like the one am I hosting now - is likely to be a better fit, for both intern and host.

    Things to keep in mind:

    Interns are inexperienced. They require training - which means your complete attention and guidance. They are not “free labor,” but they can offer a fresh perspective to a project, and usually a cup of coffee when you need it. Just don’t hand over the keys to your business, and don’t assume they are qualified to represent your brand without oversight (review every tweet, every press release, every bit of information they may send out into the world on your behalf). They are there to learn, you are there to teach. 

    What my intern taught me this week - E-mail Marketing and more:

    I don’t have an e-mail list. Or I didn’t until just now. I have used Constant Contact in the past and was frustrated by some of its early quirks. I did not find it easy to use. A friend of mine recently suggested PHPList.com which I also had problems with. Maybe I just have no patience. 

    Anyway, my intern suggested MailChimp.com. They offer a free basic account (unlike Constant Contact), they are fairly easy to use, and my intern patiently input all the e-mails I had collected, which prevented me from losing my patience yet again!

    The first campaign (a sale on men’s shirts) was a success - it brought in at least one customer the very next day. The ROI was high because the e-mail service and the intern cost me nothing but the time spent collaborating on the campaign.

    You can sign up for the Sugartown e-mail list here.

    Interns are great!

    Everything else you need to know can be found on YouTern.com’s blog. They are usually spot on when it comes to things you need to know as an employer, as an employee or as an intern. 

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A hurricane is a good reason to close your business, right?
A hurricane tropical storm ravaged the north eastern U.S yesterday. Some of my fellow business owners, who, like myself, live near their businesses, chose to open their shops. I, on the other hand, chose to hide under the covers. In retrospect, it was a state of emergency. In retrospect, even later in the day, when the sun peeked through the clouds, trees and power lines were falling around me like dominoes. In retrospect, I never lost electric at the store, and I could have made a buck, but I chose not to. And yet, I’m also guilty of running out to the grocery store later on in the evening to grab some non-essentials - reminding that grocery store owner and it’s brave employees that some people are just crazy enough to go shopping in a hurricane tropical storm.
What did/would you do?

     

    A hurricane is a good reason to close your business, right?

    A hurricane tropical storm ravaged the north eastern U.S yesterday. Some of my fellow business owners, who, like myself, live near their businesses, chose to open their shops. I, on the other hand, chose to hide under the covers. In retrospect, it was a state of emergency. In retrospect, even later in the day, when the sun peeked through the clouds, trees and power lines were falling around me like dominoes. In retrospect, I never lost electric at the store, and I could have made a buck, but I chose not to. And yet, I’m also guilty of running out to the grocery store later on in the evening to grab some non-essentials - reminding that grocery store owner and it’s brave employees that some people are just crazy enough to go shopping in a hurricane tropical storm.

    What did/would you do?

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    Business Card Update:
Last week I told you how I DIY-ed my business cards when I ran out unexpectedly. I’m happy to report that I have since ordered new cards, using my logo designed by my wonderful friend Stephanie Todd. Other than the logo part, these new cards were designed by me - I did not hire a graphic designer. I also outsourced the printing to a national company and saved a bit of money - but I worry it may affect the quality of the final product. We shall see…

    Business Card Update:

    Last week I told you how I DIY-ed my business cards when I ran out unexpectedly. I’m happy to report that I have since ordered new cards, using my logo designed by my wonderful friend Stephanie Todd. Other than the logo part, these new cards were designed by me - I did not hire a graphic designer. I also outsourced the printing to a national company and saved a bit of money - but I worry it may affect the quality of the final product. We shall see…