Monthly Archives: June 2018

Say “Hi” to Your Customers

When I was in college I worked at the now defunct supermarket chain, Grand Union, as a cashier. I really didn’t want to work there at first, but working there helped to pay for all of my expenses while attending college. Thinking way back, I remember that when customers came in line I usually didn’t even look at them or say “Hi” until one day after talking with my dad.

I must have been complaining about dealing with customers when he asked me one simple question.

“Do you say “Hi”i to your customers,” he asked.

“No,” I answered, thinking why should I?

“Why don’t you start saying “Hi” to your customers from now on,” he commanded.

Surprisingly, I actually listened to my dad even though I knew best as a teenager, and it transformed my work experience immediately. Instead of having disgruntled customers, they now seemed to be transformed into casual friends. It was amazing that one word changed both my experience and that of my customers.

Why was this so effective and powerful? I can only make a couple of assumptions as I’m not a psychologist, but this is what I think:

  1. It created a dialogue between the customer and myself
  2. I was viewed as a person, rather than some mindless cashier, or worse
  3. Usually people are nice to people who are nice to them
  4. Lastly, people want to be recognized, even in the smallest of ways

Were people nice each and every time? No, but it was rare that I had a bad experience with a customer from then on. Don’t forget to say “Hi” to your customers, or your local cashier. Who knows, one day they become your CPA!

Focus on These 3 Areas to Multiply Your Business Success

Having a business is not easy, and even successful business owners know this. But what is the secret to running a successful business and multiplying your results? You must focus on these 3 areas:

Operations: Operations is a very broad category, but it can be viewed as any activity that supports or creates and delivers the services or products that you are selling from start to finish.  Many small business owners are very good with providing their service or selling their product. However, there are usually great improvements that can be made with efficiencies, employees, and using time and resources wisely.

Marketing & Sales: Surprisingly, some small business owners perform almost no marketing activities, but are actually marketing their business by their reputation, the way they deliver their services, the characteristics of their products, and the overall customer experience. Virtually all must sell to some degree as many interactions are sales opportunities. Think of restaurants that try to “upsell” a larger size or additional items, such as much needed desserts! Smart marketing and effective sales can help you to multiply your revenues, and it does not have to be expensive.

Financial: This is all of the boring stuff, such as accounting systems, cash flow, internal controls (to ensure more reliable financials and to reduce fraud), and managing receivables and payables. I have yet to see a business that does not either have cash flow issues or tax issues if they ignore this part of their business. Finances are a crucial part of every business and are mistakenly ignored or paid very little attention to. With proper attention to finances, a business can easily become more profitable, have greater cash flow, pay less taxes and interest, reduce stress levels, and have a greater sense of control.

An interesting observation is that all three areas are very interdependent upon each other. An improvement in one are will help the others, but on the flip side, if one are is lacking, then the others will suffer as well. If you need help with any of these, then please let me know.

Don’t Sell Your House

Usually your first house is a “starter” home that you purchased because it fit into your budget at the time. A few years later you then sell your house, move up to a bigger home, and may even repeat this process several more times. But what if you didn’t sell your home and rented it out instead? Let’s look at the pros and cons of doing so:

Pros:

Easier Way to Have an Investment Property: If you were to purchase an investment property then you generally need a much larger down payment of say 20% – 30% compared to a mortgage for a home, which you may not have available. Additionally, the interest rate and payment terms are generally less favorable than a residential mortgage. Since you already purchased your existing home as your residence, you already have financing in place, which is avoids this issue.

Transaction Costs: Look at any settlement statement and you will see that the transaction costs greatly reduce the proceeds after selling your home. By renting out your home you will have avoided these costs.

Appreciation and Rental Income: If prices in your neighborhood are rising and there continues to be strong demand for housing then most likely your house will appreciate and so will the rent that you can charge. A rental property can also provide diversification to the stock market.

Cons:

No Down Payment for New Home: Homeowners usually use the equity from selling their home to purchase another home, but if you do not sell your home then you will have to either save up for a down payment or access your equity through a loan.

Negative Cash Flow: If your cash flow will be negative for the foreseeable future, then it doesn’t make sense to rent out your home. You have to also be able to have the cash to cover expenses when your house is vacant.

Leverage and Debt: Debt is a double-edged sword (that can be another article). You want to make sure that you aren’t so leveraged that it puts a large strain on your finances, especially if/when bad things happen.

You Are Now a Landlord: Who wants to be a landlord and clean toilets? This is a very common argument, but the answer should always be never because who likes problems? You should make sure that you have reliable handymen, plumbers, etc., and screen your tenants as much as possible. However, you should like the fact that you have created a financial asset for your well-being.

Most homeowners never even consider renting out their home, but it can be a viable financial strategy depending upon your situation. Just make sure to run the numbers first.

Are You Cheap or Frugal? Take the Quiz!

There is a fine line between being cheap and frugal. Being cheap has a negative connotation and is almost like a having a disease that makes it painful to part with your money, even when it is beneficial to you or others. Frugal can be defined as using your resources and money both prudently and economically. Which one are you? Take this simple quiz to find out:

  1. Do you leave an extremely small tip or “forget” to tip your waiter when going out to eat, even though the service was great?
  2. Did you ever order a box of munchkins from Dunkin Donuts, return the box half-eaten for a refund after declaring there are bugs in the box, when you actually dug up earthworms and put them in the box?
  3. Do you use coupons?
  4. Do you avoid spending time with family and friends because you don’t want to spend money on gas or gifts?
  5. Are you always looking for a good deal, such as buying used vs. new?
  6. To save money on paper, do you flip over used paper to the blank side, print on that side, and give it to someone else, even though the original side contained very, very personal details?
  7. Instead of buying plants at your local garden center, you secretly bring a small scissors to cut pieces of their plants to take home and grow on your own?
  8. Do you avoid paying back your family or friends when they purchase a group gift?
  9. Do you either cut your own hair or color it even though it looks absolutely horrible afterwards?
  10. Do you consider lower cost alternatives?
  11. Do you try to avoid paying for anything even when you agreed to the price or signed a contract to do so?
  12. Instead of fixing a problem, do you apply a band-aid approach or ignore it, especially a health issue, which ends up making the problem worse?

By the way, non of these are made up, even the silly ones. Don’t worry, everyone has a cheap habit that others find strange.

Answers:

If you answered yes to all or most of these, except for #’s 3, 5, and 10, then you are cheap. Although, sometimes you can cross the line to the cheap zone with these too if you take it too far!