Copper State Technology

Observations from a small business owner.

August 2011 - Blog Archive

31 August 2011 - First month done.

My first month of odd-day blogging is done. I missed just one day. It feels good to be writing again. Seth Godin remains my role model for business blogging.

Several good things happened in August. We picked up a new client. Met with a new vendor. Our SEO kicked off. Won a bid for a Web Application programming and server. Finally, we picked up some general liability insurance. August was a good month.

How often do you write? Please drop me a line and let me know how your August was.

29 August 2011 - Another blog mention.

I have been reading Bruce Krasting's blog with much greater frequency. He shares his erudite and witty thoughts on current financial events.

Bruce has explained many of today's current financial and socioeconomic topics with great clarity. His focus is upon high-level topics that rarely get mention in the MSM. I have learned more from his blog than just about any other financial blog. I do wonder where he gets his graffiti art at the bottom of most of his posts?

How do you keep up on today's economic topics?

27 August 2011 - Vendor Data Safety.

Not only do you need to be responsible for your company's data safety; you need to ensure that your vendors treat your data just a safely as you do.

I recently read an article from the IEEE Spectrum website. Robert Charette mentions several security failures that resulted in “secure” data being compromised.

Best practices for keeping your data safe should extend to your vendors. As an example, do you understand how your credit card vendor keeps your customers' data safe? Each of your company's vendors should be able to detail exactly how they secure data.

How secure is your data? How secure is your data inside your vendors' databases & network?

23 August 2011 - Contact Form Q & A.

Brad Lees, our web application developer, added a contact form to our contact page. Written in PHP.

Question: Why a web-based contact form on our website? Answer: Some folks don't like to give away their email address. This form gives a potential customer another way to reach us.

Question: You might get spam. Answer: We have already gotten spam. However, I will gladly delete spam email everyday for a year just to have to opportunity to talk with one new customer.

How many ways can potential customer reach you?

21 August 2011 - Is it hot there?

Save for one cold day in July, it has been over 100 every day since the 10th of June. (25 July was only 98 degrees in the shade.)

Average day to drop below 100 is still over a month away. Source.

How are you keeping cool this summer?

17 August 2011 - More on in-house web design

19 August 2011 - Copyright

Spent some time today looking for a local, Phoenix ISP. Didn't really find one. Are there any locally based ISPs that are reselling Internet access from Cox's or Qwest's infrastructure?

One of the things I notice when searching for vendors is their website's copyright date. Several websites I looked at today are dated 2008. Three years later, are these companies still in business? Sometimes it is hard to tell from their websites.

Have you updated your company's website recently? Is the copyright up to date?

17 August 2011 - More on in-house web design

Been reading several articles regarding web coding. Once again the debate spins around having graphic artists learning to code their work for the web. Nothing complex, just some basic web design work using HTML/CSS/Javascript.

Shawn Blanc started the debate again with his notes on newly releasedAdobe Muse. Shawn referenced an article by Eliot Jay Stocks. Eliot calls Muse "A step in the wrong direction". Eliot wrote an interesting treatise/rant on this very subject early last year.

There still seems to be a rather large divide between graphic design and web design. Kuddos to Adobe for trying to bridge that gap. Perhaps they can make it work. Many other companies have tried and failed. Remember M$FT's Front Page?

As we move forward into the 21st century, I feel that web-based media has become paramount for any small business. Our society seems to be quickly abandoning print media and turning toward “printing” graphic designs on computer screens.

Can your graphic design build something wonder for both print media and web-based media? Does you web-based media look similar on a PC, MAC, Xbox, iPhone, Droid, or iPad?

15 August 2011 - Ten Week Lead Time

Placed an order Friday for an iPad 2 case. I find myself working with one more and more while leaving the MacBook at the office.

I chose a bamboo case and laser-etched leather screen cover/stand from Grove. I can't believe how they look. Groove's website and product selection showcase are remarkable.

Demand for these bamboo cases has far exceeded supply. These folks make all their products in-house in Portland, OR. Figure an eight to ten week lead time before my order ships. These folks must be building an incredible product.

Are you building and marketing a product that folks will wait months to obtain?

13 August 2011 - Website Update.

Completed a major overhaul of the business website today. Figure ten hours of total work in front of the computer. I taught myself how to “code” in HTML/CSS a few years ago. Seemed like the thing to do at the time. Sure beats paying someone to create web pages. I use BBEdit 10 as my text editor and FTP engine. BlueHost hosts the site. All the work happens on my Mac Mini.

Plenty of work still to do on the site, but the web site stands on its own today.

When was the last time you added content to your website?

08 August 2011 - Open Doors.

Stopped in Tombstone a couple of weekends ago. First time in some 20 years. We parked and strolled up and down the walkable Allen Street. Plenty of see. Cow pokes, gunmen and various 'ladies' in historic attire. Both sides of the street are lined with various shops, attractions and saloons. OK Corral anyone?

Most, if not all, of the retail shops had plenty to see in their front windows. Quite a variety of shops to choose from. What caused us to leave the shaded sidewalk and venture into a store? The cool rush of air conditioning flowing from an open door.

I would say that only about 40% of the stores had open front doors. Those open doors invite a passerby to stop and look inside. Sure those business owners spend more on electricity. Perhaps 50% more. Controlling costs are important. Close the door and save some money right? We never stopped at a business that had a closed door. How much foot traffic does a shop lose due to a closed front door?

Are you leaving your business' front door open to attract a passing customer?

Monthly Business Special:

For August 2011, I would like to offer a "name-brand" PC for $499.95. Intel Core i3 chipset, 4GB of RAM. 250GB hard drive, DVD writer, running Windows 7 Pro. Copper State will remove any unnecessary, preinstalled programs, update the software, add Adobe Reader and install Microsoft Security Essentials
Limit five please!

01 August 2011 - Welcome Back!

Been a few months (years?) since I updated this blog. I have plenty to share on growing a small business and how much computers and IT has been changing.

17 February 2010 - Gross Margins

Todd Sattersten published an eBook a couple of weeks ago. It is titled Fixed to Flexible. Mr. Sattersten offers some concise insights on how your approach to cost, price and margin drive your business. You can find an updated copy here. As a small business owner, Fixed to Flexible has changed the way I go to market. Perhaps it can help your marketing plan as well.

Just one quote from the ebook. It is found on page 36.

The story of cost is that it always trends down. You can count on it. The story of price is that it is more flexible than you think. The story of margin is that it is a stark choice between opposing strategies. The story of options is that you have many more than you realize.

A small business owner might think differently. Costs seem to rise, price is set by the market, gross margins are compressed and options are few/require too much capital. It is easy to fall into this way of thinking. Mr. Sattersten challenges his readers to turn that thinking on its ear.

Take a look at your business today. Can you squeeze in one more unit of production? Can you squeeze in two units? (By unit of production, I mean a patient appointment, a service call, etc). What happens if you stay open just one more hour today or offer appointments during lunch on Fridays? What is your gross margin on your last sale versus your first sale? I would expect your margin to be close to 100%. Most of your costs are truly fixed when you think about it. Add in a few more sales today and see what happens to your margins.

Does your small business offer just one pricing model? What if you had several tiers of pricing? What if the first tier of pricing was free? What if the top tier of pricing truly reflected what your work is worth? Personally, I would love to work for "free" for 20 hours per week and have five $400 billable hours. Could you increase your margins using flexible pricing?

In this economy, it is deceptively easy to cut costs to increase your margin. Just cut a few hours here, reduce product quality there, have a computer answer the phone, reduce your hours worked. All these are tempting cost reductions. I always ask, "What happens