Comparing Notes

Talking with another District Manager last night we were comparing notes on how our out of pocket expenses have been increasing the past few months. With our contract renewals right around the corner, we are looking hard at how much money our current rate really nets so we can arm ourselves with information for our next contract negotiations.

One of my biggest expenses is gasoline, as I live exactly 22 miles from the office and there’s no way to shave that expense. I’m not moving out of this house – I love it here – and I’m not able to use a smaller vehicle and get the same same payload.

My next big expense is all the paperwork and all the route sheets, invoices and payroll information that I have to print on paper every week. We go through a case of printer/copier paper every week. Tommy says he buys his paper one or two packs at a time for $2.50 per pack. I told him that a case of 10 is only $21.0, so he can save a little that way.

I bought a low end HP laser printer that goes through one laser cartridge every 2-3 weeks. Tommy is using the Lexmark printer that came with his Dell computer system that he bought online last year. It uses the little inkjet cartridges and he goes through those like string through a duck.

I told him to try using the refilled inkjet cartridges – there’s a lot of money to be saved by recycling your empty inkjet cartridges and buying refilled cartridges. The refilled HP cartridges that I buy cost 40% less than the brand new ones. I’ve used them for 2 years now with no problems at all and I’ve saved a lot of money. Tommy says he had thought of that but was concerned that the refilled inkjets might hurt his printer. I had to laugh – he is so gullible if he believes that he has to buy new inkjets!

Bible Covers

Love my new mini laptop that we bought a couple weeks ago. It is everything I need in a tiny, thin box about the size of a bible and weighing only about 2 pounds. I carry it with me everywhere and often leave it in the car under the front seat or on the front floorboard. Which suddenly gave me pause about the possibility of someone looking into the car while parked with the thought of stealing my stuff. Then I hit on a great idea – buy a bible cover to use as a carrying case. Who is going to steal a bible from my car?

So we headed to the Christian bookstore and shopped for a bible cover. They had a great selection of different styles and colors, and I picked one with a bible verse blazened on the front to go along with the camouflage idea. It’s actually quite handy – it is the perfect size for the mini laptop and it has inside pockets for pens, highlighters, business cards, and a small zippered pouch for money or credit cards.

A Nice Stink

The wife has a funny saying that pops out every once in a while. When she smells something good that she really likes, she’ll announce, “That’s a nice stink!”

The first time I heard it I thought she was very weird. Well, maybe she is, but I love her anyways. But the story behind that saying is: when she was a very little girl and trying to learn the English language with all the subtle differences between similar words, she had heard her granny say on a Sunday drive that the smell of a dead skunk that they passed in the road was a “bad stink.” Then later that day, when they passed some honeysuckle on the side of the road, the wife (she must have been only 4 or 5 years old back then) announced that the fragrance from the honeysuckle was a “nice stink.” Of course, the whole car burst out in laughter at her mis-use of the word stink. And from then on it became a family joke and she still says it once in a while, bless her heart.

Taste of Chicago

This year’s Taste is the 28th annual – how about that for a long successful run? It has changed a lot from when it started, but it is a great street festival and we are looking forwarding to going again this summer.

The cost is only $8 for a strip of 12 food and drink tickets. All of the vendors are required to offer a taste for just 1 ticket, and then they can offer anything else they want for as many tickets as they want to charge. Last year the average food item cost 4 tickets and we bought 3 extra strips for just two of us to fully enjoy and sample everything we wanted to try.

We really liked several of the different foods and made note of which restaurants had the best food so we could patronize them later in the year. I even tried fried goat cheese for the first time – but I found it rather strong and don’t think I would order that again. I found one vendor selling key lime pie and jumped at the chance to have some, but what they served was absolutely AWFUL and nothing like the real southern key lime pie recipes taste like. But the variety of ethnic tastes was fantastic and one of the things that I love about Chicago – the international influence on everything there, with a solid core of Americana.

Supply Chain

Up until now our warehouse operations have been focused on very little production work, mostly pick and pack for our franchisees. With just one warehouse, the inventory control has been relatively easy to manage.

But now that we are expanding, the warehouse manager and I are considering two primary options to handle the increase workload and just in time inventory methods of so many franchisees that require a quick turnaround and delivery window. the first option is obviously opening one or two more warehouses in other parts of the country. Our warehouse on the west coast has a lot of advantages, but with the price of real estate so high and our hours of operation not matching people on the east coast, we could easily justify a second warehouse located on the east coast. My thought was to put one in the mid Atlantic states, such as southern Virginia, because of the lower cost of real estate and excellent transportation network. Then we can consider a third warehouse somewhere in the midwest, with my preference being the Oklahoma City area.

The warehouse manager has suggested a second option that we are investigating – using a third party fulfillment service. We have been checking out a company called AMS Fulfillment and I like several things about their services. They can handle warehousing, inventory, and shipping for us without the expense of renting our own space and hiring more employees.

It will be simple enough to perform a cost analysis of the two options once I gather a little more information. AMS is a california fulfillment company that handles both business to business operations and also business to consumer operations. So if we want to start offering our products directly to our customers we can use their fulfillment to handle the orders, most likely placed over the internet and possibly using inbound telemarketing. We hope to have both of those in place by the end of the year to increase revenue at the corporate level.

I also like that AMS offers OnGuard Inventory Protection. When you have so much of your product located in one place, your risk of loss due to natural disasters, arson, and other factors is much higher. Of course you never want anything bad like that to happen to your property, but bad things don’t always happen to other people. You have to be prudent in protecting you assets and being prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best.