Common SenseBank

On Dec 24, I scampered around town trying to get some larger bills for Christmas gifts. Our credit union was closed….strange, as other financial institutions were open.

There are at least 6 banks on Kildaire Farm Rd…..all I wanted was to change $20 bills into $50’s. So I picked the first bank (a local bank) I came to….walked in….no customers other than myself….asked to exchange 20’s to 50’s. The reply – sorry can’t do it your are not a customer. It’s our policy….certainly not a policy to attract new customers.

Off to another bank…PNC….no policy about exchanging cash for cash. Of course, banks/businesses have policies….yet some can be trivial.

The end result….there are plenty of banks/credit unions to choose from….it’s a competitive business. Common sense ought to prevail over policy.


Marketing + Advertising

Display ads

It seems that businesses often don’t understand the differences between marketing and advertising….and even more important executing an advertising strategy. Marketing is the overall process of developing a business and/or brand….communicating it to customers….resulting in the sale and follow-up to that sale.

Advertising is the communication process either in print….radio….tv….social media….the Internet. In the past….the main form of communication for a retail business was print (newspapers) display ads….radio….and tv occasionally. We seldom used small display ads….most times it was 1/2 or 3/4 page ads.

News paper mistakesTodays market has changed….newspapers are becoming less and less effective.

Two recent examples of advertising mistakes:

1) A bike shop with 3 locations runs a 6 column inch ad buried along other small display ads with the headline “All parts and accessories are 10% off”. The ad is 1/2 gray with black type hard to read)….a little black (white type) and some white….packed with 16 lines of copy. Cost ~ $400+.

2) A higher-end furniture business with 2 locations runs a 10 column inch ad among other display ads. headline “Plan for the Holiday Sale. Three illustrations with “sale….sale” on left hand border. Cost ~ $700+.

If experience is any indication….both of these ads are thrown-together at the last moment….we need to put something in the paper….here it is….not really part of an overall marketing strategy. Advertising is a challenge for many businesses and expensive unless they have a clear idea of the market and how to get their brand communicated.

Tack Strips

Past Ideals – Part 3

Carpet Tack Strip

Our family business was furniture and carpeting. The carpet business was in a growth period in the 60’s-70’s….well before hardwood floors became more fashionable.

We were looking for projects that could use our facilities after we retired from the active furniture and carpet business. One that we considered was manufacturing carpet tack strip. Tack strip is used by carpet installers to hold the carpet to the perimeter of a room. The strips are about 1.5 in. x 4 ft….with nails protruding to grab the carpet. The strips are necessary to allow the installer to stretch the  carpet to get a smooth appearance that retains its shape without buckling over time.

We had located a machine to make the strip….and had a distribution system in place….step 1. Step 2 was determining whether this was the best use for our facility and resources. Tack strips are pretty much generic and low margin products. While we were always on the lookout for new ideas….manufacturing tack strips didn’t make the list.

Tree Stand

Designed + Engineered + Marketed

MJS treestand 2 of hoffman.jpg treestand

From The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/business/entrepreneur-stands-by-his-sturdy-christmas-tree-stand-8a830qd-184196501.html

Mr. Class certainly designed a stable….solid….heavy-duty Christmas Tree stand. The real issue is marketing to the right customer and finding a way to do that.

For some products….the Internet does the job. In the case of this sturdy tree stand….a upper-end catalog retailer would seem to be a path to follow. Two that might be a good fit: Lee Valley www.leevalley.com or Sport’s Preferred Living: www.sportys.com

Design and engineering can get a product to a certain point….marketing gets the product to the customer.

Ferry Toy Trucks

Past Ideas – Part 2

Toy Truck

Oceana County in Western Michigan is a rural agricultural area with small towns and villages. The village of Ferry being one of them. In the 70’s-80’s a small business started to make solid maple wood school furniture….with a local source of maple hardwood. Ferry Truck Farmers also made wood toy trucks as a sideline. These were not small toys….there were similar to the larger Tonka trucks.

The challenge for Ferry Truck Farmers was marketing and distribution. They made a very nice product….yet didn’t have the marketing skills to sell the products. So we developed a marketing/sales plan to sell their toy trucks.

The trucks were very well-made….solid hardwood maple with a durable glossy-like finish. They would last a lifetime with reasonable care. We marketed Ferry Toy Trucks for a period of time….however other projects required more time and Ferry Truck Farmers was put on the back burner.

Note: Photo is similar to our Ferry Truck. Original photos are buried in a file.


Past Ideas – Part 1


Boof was our entrepreneurial idea among several from years ago. Along with a good friend….we had big plans for Boof. The main one being Boof Blocks. Boof Blocks were foam blocks with different images silk-screened on the sides. Kids like to play with large simple objects….while being light-weight and easy to handle.

We developed the character Boof….created silkscreens for the images….and searched for a foam manufacturer. Finding a foam source was the difficult part of the Boof project. We had the facilities to do the printing and distribution so that wasn’t an issue. We did find that semi-trailor loads were volume constrained rather than weight limited….of course the blocks weighed very little.

The next steps in our project were to expand the Boof character….like the shirt in the photo.

Boof never made it into production….yet it was a good leaning experience in product development and a lot of fun just in the fact that we did create Boof. 

The Customer

The customer is the appreciating asset. – Federal Express

Shake hand  of two 3d stylized people of green color

I’ve written several times in the past regarding customers….the reason why businesses exist. An article in todays N & O illustrates that also.


The thought of the customer as an asset is a great concept. We always appreciated our customers….99% of the time. There were periods when we might have been less than enthusiastic….meeting customers six days a week is a well-developed skill. The challenge for our business was that we sold big-ticket items and for most people these were discretionary purchases. We were selling ourselves as much as selling the products.

The bottom line is that all business depends on customers….and if you are a good business you want those customers to be with you for a long period of time….a lifetime. If that’s the case than your customers have to become an appreciating asset.