Have I Become the Grinch?

I am so not into Christmas this year!  I can’t seem to get excited about it.  It has lost its meaning – a time to celebrate the birth of Christ.  It is now a time to worship the coming of Santa, and retail.

I am not religious, but respect the celebration by the Christian faith.  I was raised with the story of Christ, but many, who celebrate Christmas by putting up a tree and spending money they don’t have for gifts they don’t need, know nothing of the story.  Some are not even of the Christian faith!

We are three weeks from Christmas and the stores are packed with shoppers and the mall lots are jammed with cars.  This is certainly good for retail as this is a time that either makes them or breaks them.

But back to me.  I have reached the stage in my life when I don’t need anything and, if I do, I go and get it.  I don’t need more things!  I realize that makes it difficult for those giving me gifts as I don’t have a list for them.  It also colours my gift-giving this year as I am having difficult seeing what others really need that I am supposed to buy for.

My focus has been shifting in the last few years to those who are truly in need, not of the trivial gifts, but of the necessities of life.  I would sooner see food on the table of a family in need than receive a gift I don’t need.

Maybe volunteering to make up hampers on Boxing Day will restore my Christmas Spirit.

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Can I Help You?

This sounds simple enough, but it is annoying how many times it is missing in retail establishments.  It should not be harassment or a clerk following you around the store, but a clerk should be able to recognize when a customer is having difficulty finding something and offer assistance.

I was in one store and could not find what I was after.  I was the only person in the store and in full view of three clerk having a good conversation.  I went to the till to ask for some assistance and the three ignored me and continued their conversation, which was not work related.  I left without a purchase and have not gone back.

Yesterday I was in a liquor outlet to look for a different craft beer to give a friend as a gift.  Again, I was the only customer and there was a clerk behind the till at the front of the store.  After about 10 minutes of looking at their beer selection, I could not see what I was after so was about to leave.  As I went by the till I said I was looking for a different craft beer.  His response was, “Oh, they’re on the other side of the store.”

I thanked him and did find a product that was different and took it to the till.  There was not even a hint of customer engagement with this clerk.  No smile, no ‘have a nice day’, or ‘can I help you find something’, he looked like he would sooner be anywhere except behind the till.

Now it is easy to blame the clerk, but the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the manager or owner.  They have either failed in their hiring or in their training, or both.  In both of the businesses I mentioned, they rely on repeat business.  In order to encourage repeat business you have to engage with your customers, know their wants and needs.  You have to at least appear friendly!  If not, unless you have a very unique product, they will be going to your competitor.

Take care of the customer, and they will take care of you.

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Communication, Customers, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Empowering people, Sales, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Friday, Cash Flow, and Stress

What originated as a sale day following the American Thanksgiving has spread considerably since its inception.  In Canada there was concern with the retailers as the across the border shopping increased dramatically with Canadians going south for the bargains.  The result, Canada now has joined the US with their own version of Black Friday.  I just saw a Facebook post from England and, you guessed it, they also celebrated Black Friday this past week.

And, guess what, we are only a month away from Santa’s arrival!  According to a Gallup poll on the US, the average family spends $855 US on Christmas gifts.  This holiday for many retailers is what’s makes their business profitable.  Without it, they would not be in business.  Look at television advertising immediately following Halloween.  There is a focus on children’s toys and electronics.  You will see an increase in jewelry ads.

The real big day however, comes a month later when the credit card bills arrive.  Unfortunately, many people do not keep track of their spending so when the bill comes, they are forced to pay it off over time, which, in most cases wipes out any sale savings because of the high interest rates on credit cards.

In business we always talk about having a positive cash flow.  Households are no different.  You should always plan so that you have money set aside for your day-to-day expenses.  This includes a contingency for unplanned expenses so that you are not compromising necessities.  In Canada there are many families who are one pay cheque away from living open the street.  Managing the cash flow in the household is essential for them.

Stress, in many cases, is the result when overspending takes place, whether it is Black Friday, Christmas, or any other occasion.  Stress is a killer!  This is the time of year for depression, heart attacks, and yes, even suicides.  A rich person is one who lives within his or her means.  Remind yourself that when you buy the $1000 item for $250 off the regular price, you haven’t saved $250, you’ve spent $750.

Do yourself a favour this season and pay attention to your ‘cash flow’.  Your health will thank you!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Coaching, Community Futures, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Life coaching, Managing stress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Other Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing is the topic of the day in most communities and tends to focus on the homeless population, and rightly so.  I would argue that for most of this population it is not affordable housing, it is safe housing so that they can get other needs met with other services and move forward with their lives.

There are the working homeless, those in entry level positions who can’t find accommodation, or, if they find it, can’t afford it.  Over my years of employment counselling, I saw many people who were in this situation and were either living in their vehicle, if they were lucky enough to have one, or couch surfing with friends and acquaintances.

There are also those who are living on the edge, the ones who are existing, living in cheap accommodations that wouldn’t pass many standards.  These are the fragile ones who only need one thing to go wrong, and they will lose what little safety they have and find themselves on the street and not everyone can survive on the street.

Parents are finding that children are not leaving home like they used to because they can’t find or afford to go out on their own.  New apartments close to where we live are priced so that you should be making over $3000 a month in order to live there if you go by the 30% rule.

One area that is not considered when affordable housing is talked about is the baby boomers.  It definitely is not as important as the other affordable housing issues but, nonetheless, it affects lifestyle and perhaps the health of seniors.

I’m referring to the lack of 1200 square foot ranchers.  We are active seniors and we have a nice home but would like to downsize and be in a smaller house all on one floor.  We don’t want a condo as we like a vegetable garden and I like to have a small shop.  If we find this in Nanaimo, it is not located near the amenities, and we would have to take out a $100,000 mortgage to buy it!

What is causing this unrealistic situation?  Is it the stringent building codes?  Development cost charges?  Land prices?  Is it developers not reading the market?  I have talked to many seniors and they have experienced the same issues.  They want to move and remain active, but their only choice is a condo, not a single-family dwelling offering the lifestyle that they want.  The demand for this type of housing is only going to increase as we are just at the start of the boomers!

I wonder 15 – 20 years down the road, who will be buying these large, expensive homes that are being built today.  Unless wages rise at the same rate as housing prices, it won’t be the young families in our community!

Affordable housing means different things to different people, but one thing is certain, today it doesn’t exist for many!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Communication, Economy, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Lifestyle, Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Importance of Timing in Business

Timing plays a critical role in business starting with what day the door is open for clients or customers.  Some businesses are based on seasonal events; winter sports, summer, Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc.  A landscaper who does not get underway until July is going to have a lean winter, and January is going to miss most of the opportunity for a ski shop!  Good planning and research is required before the season begins so you can reap the benefits.

Inventory is another part of business driven by timing and to some degree, what competitors do.  Fall clothing starts to appear in retailers in late July, early August at the latest and the summer clothing is out in February/March.  Christmas begins very early at retailers such as Costco and Canadian Tire.  This can be a challenge for smaller retailers who rely on the sale of Christmas decorations as they have to follow suit of lose out on the opportunity to share in the market.

Large retailers can afford to invest in inventory and carry it but a small retailer does not usually have the deep pockets to carry inventory and certainly cannot afford to be left with inventory after the season has left.  This is where keeping good records of customer transactions can be huge as you plan for the next season.

Timing also plays a role in hiring staff.  A wise business person has a clear idea of where they are going and hires before they need them.  This give the opportunity of training them and having them up to speed when needed.  Too many employers hire when the need was yesterday.  This results in poor hiring decisions and employees who have not received the needed training to effectively do the work.  This can affect employee retention.

If you are a new entrepreneur, do great research, set realistic goals, and be aware of the timelines and critical date associated with your particular business.  Your business plan is your guide and a living document for you to forecast future revenue.

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Entrepreneurs, self-employment, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Challenges of Employment

The times we live in are a challenge, both for employers and employees.

For employees, while it is currently an employee market on Vancouver Island with a very low unemployment rate, it is becoming impossible for those working in entry level positions to find affordable housing.  Vancouver Island is a tourism area with a lot of seasonal, part-time, lower-wage positions.  The minimum wage is supposed to reach over $15 per hour by June of 2021.  In the Nanaimo area currently, the living wage is $17.65.  By 2021, I am sure that the living wage will be much higher, and the percentage gap will remain between the two.

Another issue in raising the minimum wage is the effect on employers, especially small business.  If they have a staff, raising the bottom rate dominoes into raising the rate for those in higher positions.  There needs to be clarity of remuneration for levels of responsibility.  This translates to higher costs for consumers, which, in the end, raises the living wage.

The worker shortage has been focusing on the trades but in reality, it is happening in all sectors of employment.  For the trades it is about to get worse with the LNG announcement for Kitimat.  The high paying construction jobs will entice workers from other areas of BC, creating a further shortage of skilled labour, especially on Vancouver Island where wages have traditionally been lower than the rest of British Columbia.

All of this is further hampered with the housing affordability skyrocketing in the past few years.  Demand, changes to building code, and the building of higher-end homes to maximize the land and building costs have put home ownership out of the range for many.  This, is combined with Vancouver Island being more appealing cost-wise that the inflated housing market in the lower mainland and elsewhere, has increased the pressure on the real estate supply on the island.

For those of us who endured the crash of 1982, we know there will be an adjustment.  What it will look like is uncertain, but something will have to give.  The average house price in Nanaimo is around $550,000.  If things keep going the way they are, who will be able to buy our homes in the future?

Interesting times requiring creative solutions!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Economy, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Employment, Entrepreneurs, self-employment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Success!

What is success?  Not a simple question.  Success means different things to different folk.  It can be finding a convenient parking spaces on Saturday at Costco.  To others it is reaching a financial goal in business.  Some may attribute success to solving a particularly difficult puzzle.

Whatever it looks like to you, there were likely failures along the path to success.  You probably saw good parking spaces in the next row at Costco, but by the time you got there they were gone.  In business there likely were unexpected expenditures that delayed reaching the financial goal.  Puzzles sometimes require one to take breaks, walk away, and return with a clear mindset.

Those seeking a goal need to sometimes temper their enthusiasm in reaching the target and look for plateaus along the way.  These plateaus are mini-successes or levels in the assent to the goal.  There should be a reward at each to maintain the confidence in the journey.

In general, we like acknowledgement for the good things we do.  Why not do that for ourselves?  Why do we wait for others to recognize the things we do?  It can be anything from your favourite ice-cream sundae to a weekend away with your favourite squeeze.  Make it a reward for reaching a step in your goal.

As I mentioned, success means different things to different people and is not necessarily linked to what you have done or are doing.  It can be the feeling you have over raising a family, or your children graduating high school, getting a degree, or the birth of a grandchild.  Or it might be your landing your dream job or being granted the master’s degree you worked hard for.

Whatever it is, remember to pause and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

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Posted in Believe and Succeed Life Coaching, Business Coaching, Business Planning, Coaching, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Empowering people, Life coaching, Managing stress | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment