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The first step in starting a business is figuring out a way to make sure that the amount of money you bring in through the register is larger than the amount of money spent keeping doors open, shelves stocked, AC running, and lights on. At the show I went to in Las Vegas in mid-August, we talked about how a good Point of Sale system, or fancy cash register, can help you manage your business. Most of the systems you see today do a lot more than simply manage the cash drawer. They help track sales history, inventory stock levels, suggest order quantities, and manage account balances. For this post, I want to focus in on the most basic function: accepting payment.
Katie, my wife and business partner, tells me I am a cash geek. I would rather pay for almost anything with cash or check than I would with a credit card. My favorite ATMs are the ones from Bank Of America because if you request two hundred dollars or more, they dispense only five twenty dollar bills and then pairs of fifty dollar bills. My geekiness doesn't stop with actually having a favorite ATM. I love two dollar bills and one dollar coins. In college, my friends would call me "Two Dollar Phil" when I'd put my contribution in for pizza and beer. Having spent time in Central America, I've seen just how truly convenient dollar coins are for both merchants and customers (banks don't like them because they cost more to transport ).
In retail, we try to create as few barriers to purchase as possible. When we purchased the store, we worked hard to made sure we accepted all the major credit and debit cards. We also don't require a signature for small transactions. I won't lie, I want you to give me your money and I'm happy to take it in whatever form you like. We also don't have minimums on card use. If you want to buy ten cents worth of screws with your credit card, then that's fine with us. We're in the process of experimenting with Square and we've been hounding our Point of Sale vendor to help us process NFC payments.
But, like I said, I'm a cash geek. From a business standpoint, there are some negatives. It's obvioiusly a target for theft and a potential liability if mishandled or miscounted. We match up our drawer twice a day and it is usually off by a few cents and even a few dollars sometimes. Plus, to make the business run, it needs to be in the bank. Payroll checks, vendor payments, rent, utilities... all checks going out.
Even with those downsides and inconveniences, here is the reason cash is better for both of us: we are a neighborhood store, locally owned and operated, and we run our banking through a community bank, City First. When you pay me a dollar in cash, I put a dollar into the bank that lends exclusively to local residents and businesses, often with a focus on creating affordable housing. When you pay me with a dollar with credit card, I only get to put 97.5 cents in my bank. that other 2.5 cents goes to some fat cat credit card company. That means I have less money to pay my bills and my bank has less money they can use to lend to others in our community.
If 'shopping local' is important to you, then the first step is patronizing local businesses and being proactive and vocal about how you want that business to serve you. Give us the opportunity to meet your needs. Somewhere down in the list of the other Top 50 steps towards supporting local business is using cash or checks drawn on locally chartered banks to pay for your purchases.
By the way, when you shop with us, please ask for change in two dollar bills and one dollar coins. They really are more fun.
When I initially made my plans to attend a trade show in Las Vegas, I began to make a list of things to do based on all of the things that attracts so many visitors each year. I thought that the hardware end of it wouldn't take up a ton of time. That was back in May. Since then, William and Kyla have been working with our primary supplier and other vendors to evaluate what special offers and opportunities would be available at the store. In June, we received a map of the show floor and our warehouse has resembled a small war room as we mapped out how I would spend my time and what our strategy would be. When I left Washington at 6am Thursday morning, I was as prepared as I could be, but I still was reviewing order forms and making tweaks to our order list even as we began our descent into McCarran Airport.
I went directly to the show floor, pausing only to deposit my luggage at the coat check. I spent the next 8 hours walking up and down the aisles, reviewing every product we had looked at in the pre-show literature and coupon books. I met with new vendors who are looking for opportunities to sell to stores like ours and I talked with other hardware store owners across the United States. After the show closed for the day, I went back up to my room and fired up my computer. I had to work on spreadsheets and review product catalogs and prepare a briefing for Katie, William and Kyla. Their input and ideas are a critical component of how we manage the products that we bring in through these shows.
I took a break for dinner and then got back to work. I didn't go to bed until 2am! Considering the 3 hour time difference, I'd been up for just about 23 hours.
Luckily, Friday morning was a little more relaxed. I still had some stuff to review, but I spent most of the morning on my computer and on the phone. I took a break at the hotel pool right before lunch, and then hit the show floor one more time. I spent the rest of the afternoon following up with vendors and suppliers, placing orders, and asking some questions. I also had to hustle to hunt down some vendors that I had missed. Around 4pm, I went to a seminar talking about how the modern consumer uses technology to make decisions about purchases and came away with some great ideas, but also a certain amount of satisfaction that Old School Hardware is really on the cutting edge with a lot of the functionality we provide through our store and our website.
I then raced back to the show floow for one last hour of show fun. I had to do some buying for winter and I learned about a new charcoal and grilling supply vendor.
In the coming weeks, I'll write a few more blog posts about some of the new products that we'll be bringing in as well as some of the opportunities we hope to give you in terms of savings that we were able to get at the store.
Yesterday was the first official day of summer and topped out in town at 97 degrees, and we are expecting temps in the low to mid 100s today. Now we don’t expect those temps to become the custom this early in the summer, but now is a good time to review hot weather protocol.
Keeping It Cool Inside
Certainly cranking up the ac will keep the indoors frosty this summer, but there are ways to keep window or central ac units humming more efficiently helping to keep costs down. Draw the curtains in the daytime, especially on southern and western exposures or any window that gets direct sunlight. Wait until evening to do heat generating activities like: dishwashing, laundry, and vacuuming. Do not run a dehumidifier while the ac is on because it will increase the cooling load for the ac unit making it work harder. Do basic maintenance on your ac unit like changing the filters; every month for fiberglass filters or every 3 months for pleated filters (check with the manufacturer for you filter if you are unsure). We have most sizes available and if we don’t have yours in stock we will special order it for you. Providing shade for your ac unit will also help to keep it working more effectively. Most people are comfortable when the thermostat is set between 73-78 degrees; this can be increased to 82 degrees when air conditioning is combined with the use of ceiling fans. Turning off lights, appliances and the ac if they are not going to be used for more than an hour and switching from halogen/incandescent bulbs to CFL or LED bulbs will also help save energy and money.
No ac? It will be harder to keep the house cool or at least comfortable, but not impossible. Keep the house closed up tight during the day, and open it back up at night when the temperature and humidity are lower. Use fans in the windows on one side of the house blowing out to help draw air through the home- all the windows and interior doors must be open for this to work effectively. Use a dehumidifier to help keep the humidity down and light colored blinds to reflect sunlight away from the house during the day. Room fans will not lower the temperature of the room that they are in, so leaving them on while you are not in the room will not help. But an oscillating fan can be a lifesaver in hot weather in a room that you are trying to work or sleep in!
Keeping Cool Outside
Well if the temps are 90+ degrees it’s not going to happen, you are going to be hot. But a few simple steps will make the hot more bearable. Walk on the shady side when possible, wear a hat (otherwise known as bring your own shade), walk quickly through the sunny spots and slowly in the shady spots, wear light colored- breathable clothing, and stay indoors as much as possible during the hottest part of the day 10am-4pm. Drink plenty of fluids, replace salt and minerals, but limit the alcohol and sugary drinks as they will dehydrate you. Freeze a bottle of water to take with you on outings, you can use the bottle to help cool you off by holding it to your wrists or neck and drink it as it melts. My personal favorite, eat spicy food! It will make you feel cooler, and will make you sweat-your body’s natural ac.
Leave pets indoors during the day and try to plan dog walks for the early morning or late afternoon/ evening. Your pup may love to “go” but even 5 minutes in a car or tied up outside on a warm day can be deadly. If you do need to take your pet with you, remember they will need water to drink and a bowl, and you might want to pack an extra gallon of water to pour over them in case they start to have problems in the heat.
What to watch out for…
Hyperthermia, also known as known as heatstroke or sunstroke is a condition where body temperature rises to a dangerous level. This is commonly brought on by excessive exposure to extreme heat and dehydration, when the body cannot produce enough sweat to cool the body effectively. Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heatstroke and some people can rapidly transition from heat exhaustion to heatstroke. Common symptoms of heat exhaustion are: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, and dizziness. If you are out and notice any of these symptoms in yourself or anyone you are with, find a cool shady place to sit and get some water. Signs that you may have progressed to heatstroke are: high body temp, absence of sweating with hot red/flushed skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, strange behavior/hallucinations, confusion, agitation/disorientation, seizure and/or coma. If any of these symptoms occur you may need to seek medical treatment.
Here’s to a great summer!!
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