I’m a big systems guy: I think that, if you’re doing something repeatable and everyday, you should make it into a system that makes it easy to do over and over again without actually having to think much. I had such a system “on my PC”:http://wadearmstrong.com/archives/productivity/easy_gtd_with_outlook_and_the_palm_treo.php. Remarkably, despite the plethora of pretty brilliant task- and information-management applications on the Mac, it’s only now that I think I’ve gotten an equal-quality system on the Mac.
It’s tax season, and I’m as interested in how much the government is taking out of my pocket as the next guy. So I was intrigued to learn of a new “small business-focused ranking of state tax burdens”:http://www.sbecouncil.org/businesstaxindex2009/ from “_Wall Street Journal_ Small Business reporter Kelly Spors”:http://twitter.com/WSJSmallBiz. Now, I’ve started two businesses in famously high-tax California, and I’ve never found taxes to be a big enough problem that any of my time was justified in thinking about them rather than running the other parts of the business. But I know that a lot of businesses that have been around longer and are in more of a sustaining than a growth mode have real concerns about tax burdens, so I was looking forward to reading and learning from this report. Unfortunately, the ranking is comically sloppy.
Washington’s all a-flutter over what the stimulus package to help us get out of this economic slump. Is it tax cuts? Infrastructure projects? Bank bailouts? Startups are a unique breed, and need unique tools to drive growth. Specifically, they need cash. Up front.
Last Saturday, my girlfriend and I got some takeout, brought it home, and watched a DVD from Netflix. Kind of a rare event, actually – these days, it’s more about Tivo and delivery; a craving for “Pinkberry”:http://pinkberry.com brought us out for the takeout from the Asian place next door. It occurred to us that, ten years ago, movie and takeout would’ve been a typical weekend evening for almost everyone – how much business must the restaurants in the same strip malls as Blockbuster have done? And how much has Netflix killed these restaurants?
“Wagville”:http://wagville.com is a Los Angeles doggie boarding and day care facility founded and run by Harvard grad and former lawyer “Julie Shine”:http://www.linkedin.com/ppl/webprofile?id=18152133. Like the other WMB subjects, Wagville isn’t making enough money. We quickly learn that:
* The company does little to no retail business, despite having a large (and cluttered) storefront
* Check-in takes minutes on a slow system
* There are no facilities for people, just for the dogs
* Employees are unmotivated and ill-tempered
* Julie cannot motivate staff and may be a micromanager
* There are 27 employees in a business that’s caring for no more than 60 dogs at any time, and the costs add up – in one month, Wagville did $90,000 in sales but had $65,000 in payroll and so couldn’t make a profit
* Julie is focused on providing a service to dogs, not on making profit
* Julie is carrying crushing credit card debt in order to keep the place running
This week, the We Mean Business team takes on “Berry Elegance”:http://berryelegance.com/, a store that makes berries and other desserts dipped in chocolate. Berry Elegance is stalled, with sales falling short and the two owners in disagreement on how to run the business.
This week’s _We Mean Business_ follows the makeover of “Out Back catering”:http://outbackcatering.com/default.html, a Southern California catering company that serves down-home food at parties. Out Back has been successful for two decades but has recently seen its bookings and revenue drop. With the founder’s daughter interested in taking a bigger role at the company, our heroes wade in to see what they can do to turn the business around.
There’s a fun new show on A&E – We Mean Business a small business makeover show. With all the successful personal and home style makeover shows out there, it’s nice to see one just for entrepreneurs. Since I had so much fun blogging about American Inventor here a few years ago, I’m going to weekly summarize the latest We Mean Business episode – and throw in an idea or two about what I think the entrepreneur really should do to make over their business.
So they voted down the bailout. Thank goodness! The last-offered plan was a bad one that would be expensive and not solve any problems over the long term. Let’s hope that there’s room for fast response to the crisis with a good, equitable, and market-based idea this time.
I’ve been gone for a while; mostly it was too much work, launching a whole marketing campaign. But some of it was fun — I went to the Hawaiian island of Kauai on a good week’s vacation, paid for substantially by attending a timeshare presentation. Now that was an education on sales.