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Do you know what a consumer is?

The morning business section of my newspaper has a top headline speaking about how awful sales have been and will be in the retail world.  Funny, to me this isn’t news, it’s just reality.  News ought to be something we didn’t already know…hence making it new. But I digress.

Associated Press writer Christopher S. Rugaber makes the case that “…consumers may have too many worries….” Some of the issues facing consumers that Rugaber notes are:

  • “…unemployment
  • flat wages
  • tighter credit
  • fear of layoffs
  • the urge to save
  • shrinking home equity
  • stock portfolios….” [causing disappointment – my addition]

I totally agree with his assessment.  I’m both a business person and a consumer and feel the crunch in both areas.

  • unemployment – this is a fear that affects many of my neighbors…the fear of suddenly having no income influences whether someone spends the money they currently have.  Someone I’ve spoken with recently said she frequently shops at Ross-Dress for Less, a discount chain of clothing stores [and household items].  Her comment was that people she knows are leery of spending money anywhere else because they are afraid they might not have a job and the holidays are just around the corner…and yet, the new school year has begun.  Unemployment is a huge fear factor in consumer spending choices.  I can agree with that.
  • flat wages – this one hits close to home.  I have family members who received zero raises this year.  Consumer prices have risen, but income has not.  It is beginning to cost the most of a $5 bill to purchase one loaf of bread – at full price.  [in the 1950’s it was less than 50 cents.]   As a consumer, I find myself choosing the sale price on brands I’d rather not buy because the brand I’d rather have is just too expensive.  When people’s income is flat and prices rise the phrase “too expensive” creeps into even grocery shopping…not just luxury items.
  • tighter credit – this is one area to which I won’t spend much time…we use credit sparingly…credit is, after all, simply spending money you don’t yet have…it has to be paid back – with interest.  My humble prediction is that the 2009 holiday retail shopping experience is going to reflect consumers desire to use credit less than before.
  • fear of layoffs…this one is huge.  I know of a young couple who are right now having to consider the wisdom of the husband’s changing jobs...his current employer recently offered a slew of early retirement packages as a way of reducing their workforce [and payroll] and there is the ever-present specter of layoffs.  Also, the new position being looked at is no sure thing…if he did get a position there, would that job be assured?  There is no sure thing.  Another young couple I know did have layoff shadow their lives this year.  Last year all was good…the husband even got a raise and a pat-on-the-back for work well done…and this year he got a pink slip.  Fear of layoff is very real…it definitely keeps money in the pocket.
  • the urge to save – as a consumer I am finding myself desiring to have money left in my pocket at the end of the month.  The shaky economy has me worried enough that I’m going to have to save money in order to (1) be able to purchase those items I truly do want and (2) have a hedge against the financial unknown.
  • shrinking home equity and stock portfolios I’ll admit I’m not qualified to give opinions on.  We do own our home; we bought 7 years ago and have seen the value of the homes in our neighborhood rise to almost ridiculous heights and then plummet.  As for stocks…I’m just not willing to take the risk at this time…I’m not willing to divide my pool of available money and risk any portion of it.

So.  A consumer is all of us. We all buy.  We buy to have food, shelter, transportation and health care.  We buy  clothing.  We have to use our money to make repairs on cars, appliances and other items around our homes.  We have to make hard choices when our economic future is questionable.

Right now a consumer is:

  • a person not sure if his or her paycheck is secure
  • someone unsure if his or her savings will cover a sudden job loss or wage reduction
  • men and women facing hard choices in how to spend precious money reserves…or whether to spend them at all
  • people who are being careful

In my own business, my home-based direct selling business, I appreciate that my customers [consumers] are being careful in how they spend their money.  I appreciate that my products are a good value for the price.  I greatly appreciate that one of the “products” of my business is the income opportunity of having a home-based business…and that right now it doesn’t cost anything for signup.  As a business person I appreciate what the economic climate is from a consumer’s point-of-view.

What is your definition of a consumer and do you see the remaining quarter of 2009 as challenging for consumers?

***that was pretty heavy, wasn’t it?  Here’s something more refreshing, so-to-speak:

Tune in next Wednesday, August 19th, at 9pm ET, CNBC and Fortune Magazine will present the “Fastest Growing Companies of 2009” – profiling the hot profit engines that could make you rich. Among the companies profiled during the hour are: BlackRock, Chipotle, Arena Resources, Deckers Outdoor Corporation – and more. The companies are ranked on revenue, earnings growth, and their stock returns over the past three years.
See which sectors of the economy are still booming and go inside the hot companies that are taking full advantage of their position by posting sizzling growth in a slow-growth world.

CNBC Managing Editor, Tyler Mathisen and Fortune Magazine Managing Editor, Andy Serwer will co-host the primetime special, which premieres Aug 19 at 9P ET.

Fortune_300x250_PRE

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Can you outrun your competitors?

If Life’s not a race and we ought to slow down so that we can smell the roses along the way…then why are people always talking about beating the competition?  Why even use competitive language in business at all?  Does Business A really have to win over Business B?  Are we all truly vying for the exact same unique customers?

I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon in the motion picture industry…some years there seem to be two movies that come out based on the same premise.  Sense it generally takes at minimum a year to make a movie, you have to figure there must be some competitive reason two motion picture houses would release their pics in the same year.  Case in point were the two volcano movies, “Dante’s Peak,” and “Volcano.”   Both came out in 1997.  The plots were different yet the same…and, truth to tell, I enjoyed them both and purchased both when they appeared in the stores…I like action pictures and I like anything with Tommy Lee Jones and Pierce Brosnan.  [Well, almost anything.]  Another example were the asteroid/comet movies, “Armageddon (1998)” and “Deep Impact (1998)” – again, I enjoyed them both and now own them both and again I really do love anything with Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman.

The above movie examples is a perfect argument for an industry that does indeed vie for the same unique customers.  In each case, I [being a unique customer] paid money to go see these movies at the theater.  But I argue that this is not the case for the home-based business person.  As such a business owner, I don’t see myself as in competition with other home-based business owners.  Rather, I examine my business and identify more than one niche to which I market and have determined that there is plenty of market out there…in no way is my marketplace saturated enough that I have to spend time running.

What does this mean?

It means that I don’t waste any resources on trying to beat my competition.  I spend my time in positive efforts to move my business forward.  If I talk to you about my products or the benefits of the income opportunity for yourself, it’s not to keep you from using my competitors’ products or getting involved with them.  No.  If I talk to you it’s because I’m passionate about my products and I love to share what I know; it’s because of my heartfelt belief in the value of my products/opportunity to anyone interested.  I’m confident there is a place in the market for my home-based direct selling business right alongside others.  In fact, I couldn’t even list out for you who my competitors might be…but I can list out for you the benefits of my products and income opportunity and why you might want to give them a try.

In the world of business, especially small and home-based business, I simply don’t think we need to put on track shoes and try to outrun the competition.  I think what we do need to do is shine our shoes and give good customer service and share information.

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What’s so bad about direct selling?

Direct selling is a great vehicle as a home-based business. That said, why does it get such a negative vibe?  You mention “direct selling” to someone and they squish up their face as if they’ve just bitten into an unripe lemon [which is a truly bad taste].  However, people all over the world purchase products from direct sellers every day of the week, every week of the year.  Products like cosmetics and functional beverages and vitamin supplements and baskets and food containers and scrap-booking supplies and home decorative elements and health and life insurance are all examples of direct selling products.  In fact, some of the most well-known products in the world cannot be purchased in a retail store…they have to be purchased from an independent contractor [or consultant or distributor or agent].  Billions of dollars in sales every year are generated through direct selling.

So what’s so bad about direct selling as a home-based business?  Here are some of the inaccuracies I’ve heard:

  • I don’t want to go door-to-door.  If you were interested in my product, you would never hear about it because I knocked on your front door.  Most products sold by direct selling independent contractors are done by invitation and referral.  In fact, the income opportunities with which I’m affiliated discourage this type of selling mechanism…it’s a pure waste of time and effort.
  • I can’t sell. Good, then don’t.  As sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer says, people don’t want to be sold they want to buy.  Don’t “sell” something, share information.  Ask questions.  Let’s say you are in conversation with someone and the subject of health comes up and your product is a vitamin supplement; ask the person how they are managing that aspect of their health maintenance and would they be interested in some information about your product?  Give them the information and let them make their own decisions.
  • I can’t represent something I don’t believe in. Well then, don’t.  You can’t get excited about something you aren’t excited about.  For instance, I could never talk passionately to you about the juice product I represent if I was not already passionate about it.  And I’m passionate about it because I use my own product for my own health benefit.  And because I do benefit from it [and so does my family] then I’m quite excited to tell you about it.
  • I can’t afford a large inventory.  That’s a good thing because now-a-days not only don’t you need one, with many direct selling companies you ought not to have one.  With the internet and the availability of sales websites, your customers have the convenience of shopping online and having their orders drop-shipped to them.  You don’t have to stock your garage with product that you aren’t sure will move.   To me, in my business, this means I have the assurance that my customers are getting the freshest product direct from the distribution point…not from stock I’ve had sitting in my garage.
  • It’s too expensive to start a business.  Depending upon the product or service, this may not be true.  There are some direct selling companies that cost in the $200-300 range to enroll [which includes kits/samples] and there are direct selling companies that cost far less to enroll [one of the two income opportunities with which I’m involved is offering no-cost enrollment this year as example].
  • I don’t have the time.  Time spent working your business is a personal choice.  A direct selling home-based business differs from a “job” where it is your employer who sets your work hours.  With your own business, you decide how many hours per day/week you’ll work, what time during the day – when you start, when you stop…you even decide if you don’t work at all any given day.  It’s your business.

There is, in actuality much that is great about direct selling…so much so that about 59 million people worldwide are involved in this industry.   If you are among the thousands of people wondering if a direct selling income opportunity would help you in your current financial situation, then give it a look.  It costs nothing to look and the benefits of involvement are rich.

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Working from home is better than a picnic

There is an old saying that goes something like, “It’s no picnic.”  Doesn’t matter what “it” is, just that it is being compared to a picnic.  So, what is a picnic?

  • something fun
  • relaxing
  • done in nice weather, usually outdoors at the beach or in a park
  • can be enjoyed alone, with one other person or a whole group
  • involves special food items like watermelon, cheese and crackers…everyone has different favorites

The saying then, implies that whatever “it” is, just can’t compare with a picnic:

  • it’s not fun or enjoyable
  • it’s certainly not relaxing
  • it involves stress and perhaps unpleasantness
  • it has no good accoutrements– not special foods or beverages and no special picnic blanket
  • it does not involve working with people you like or love

What would qualify as being “no picnic?”

  1. a trip to the dentist for a root canal
  2. a job interview
  3. sitting two hours one-way in daily commute traffic
  4. going to work knowing that your work load has doubled because your office staff was cut in half due to budget constraints
  5. working everyday, doing the same job you’ve been doing, but at a decreased rate of pay due to budgetary cutbacks
  6. working 80 hour weeks and never seeing your family

There are lots of things in Life that are no picnic.  But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that having a business that you work from home is better than a picnic.  Here’s why:

  • you pick your work hours: I have a business I work from home and I work when I want to.  There are some days I’ll work 12 or 14 hours and others where all I’ll do is check email.  My choice.
  • you pick your work environment: I have two places in my home where I can work.  One place I work is a room dedicated as my office and studio.  It’s uniquely mine and has my personal touches…my personal feng shui, if you will.  There are times when I’ll choose to sit on the sofa with my laptop and work there…as I’m doing at this very minute.  It’s nearly 3 o’clock in the afternoon and our parrot, George, is taking a nap and the two parakeets, Ruford and Pippin are running around on the floor chasing one another, often coming right to where I’m sitting.  I love these moments when my house is quiet and I can concentrate.
  • you can work around illness or injury: currently I’m recovering from something and my doc says my recovery is going to take awhile…well, I’ve already said that one of my favorite work environments is the sofa in the living room, so I can do that…and I’ve already said I can choose when I work and when I don’t.  I work when I feel well enough to and don’t worry about it otherwise.  My business is such that it is set up with a workable system that doesn’t require my constant babysitting.  I literally can afford this semi-down time.
  • your business is just that – your own: I’m the owner/operator of my business.  I don’t have to rely on the work or decisions of others to ensure my paycheck.  I make the decisions and set the vision. The dreams I dream are mine and fulfilling them is my responsibility.

I’ve chosen business vehicles that are perfect home-based businesses and that make working from home so much more than a picnic…it’s a joy.

**little commercial here: I’ve mentioned that I have a great “system” in place for my business…if you’d like information about it, send me an email.

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Direct selling business and health emergencies

At first glance you might think that these two things – direct selling business and health emergencies – wouldn’t have a commonality…you’d be incorrect.  [I hate to tell people they are wrong, so I like the term “incorrect.”]  The commonality in these two things is that it is possible to have the one and know that the other will remain viable.

My direct selling business has been chugging right along for the past 8 days as I’ve dealt with a health emergency.  [I’m doing much better now, thanks.]  I actually have two businesses I work from home, one is brand-new and not yet incorporated into a system...the other, however, is incorporated into a system that keeps working 24-7 even if I’m laid up on the sofa mind-numb on pain killers.  And, for that, I’m very grateful.  The letters keep going out and the information remains available and the website for ordering and/or signing up is always available. This is one of the beautiful things of having a home-based direct selling business.  My being ill or injured or otherwise laid up [or even on vacation] doesn’t hamper the business of those people whom I’ve sponsored…they continue working their own businesses…and my current efforts at growing my business don’t stop just because I do.

The particular business I’m a part of has a weekly paycheck compensation plan so that if your business is producing a profit, you will continue to get that weekly profit even if you aren’t “on the clock.”  This can’t be said for many jobs anymore.  I know people who literally can’t financially afford to get sick.

There are many good benefits to having a home-based direct selling [or use the term ‘network marketing’] business.  If you haven’t looked into this, you might want to.  Listed in the right column on this blog page under Business Links are links to my two businesses.  Take a moment to check them out.  Send me an email if you have a question or comment.  Can you afford to get sick?

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New network marketing income opportunity

Diversifying in this economy is a very good idea.  To that end I’m using my own platform to tell you about something new.  Look into it if you wish:  the pre-launch of  The Trump Network:

  • Timing Could Not Be Better
  • Experience A Major National Media Blitz
  • Discover The Difference Between Opportunity And Success
  • We expect 1 million members the first year
  • Work from home with your own Trump Network distributorship

To find out more go to http://www.thedonaldgoesmlm.com/6139975

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Companies with ideals

Ideals are principles and values that we pursue as goals in and of themselves.  I believe that the company with which I’m associated is one of high principles and values.  But what I’d like to talk about today are two other products I purchase…the companies who produce them also hold themselves to high ideals.

The first is a food energy bar, Clif Bar.  I eat one a day at mid-day, to keep my blood sugar from plunging and to keep me from eating unhealthy foods in the afternoons…one Clif Bar really fills you up!  I find the packaging interesting as it has a short story by Gary, Founder and Owner:

  • “…While trekking in Nepal, I met up with an expedition about to climb Dhaligiri, one of the world’s highest peaks. I figured that with more than 200 porters the expedition must have been traveling with at least 20,000 pounds of stuff. Expeditionary climbing takes an enormous amount of energy, equipment, and people, to put just a handful of individuals on top of a mountain. My friends and I prefer to climb alpine style; we move quickly, carry light packs, and leave no waste behind. Each campsite is a beautiful destination in itself; not simply a means to an end. I don’t believe in reaching the top at any cost – in climbing or in business. Clif Bar’s journey resembles alpine climbing. We try to travel light and are committed to keeping our company, products, people, community, and the earth healthy….” – from the back of an individual package of Oatmeal Raisin Walnut.

Just in that one little paragraph I find a principle that I admire – “…don’t believe in reaching the top at any cost….”  I share this belief and am building my own home-based direct selling business at a “slow and steady wins the race” pace.  My customer is the person who is looking for a home-based business.  I introduce my company and its product then leave the decision to them. 

I like on the Clif Bar website the main menu headings, one of which is “Soul.”  They talk about working to reduce the company’s ecological footprint and they [both the company corporate and its employees] give back to their communities.  This is another value, ideal, that I admire.  It is shared by my company and my business.  Personally, I still have a ways to go in learning to be a good ecological citizen, but I’ve come a long way…I even rinse out and clean my recylables before tossing them in the bin.

There are income opportunities that come into my email inbox that are only about money.  Money is not an ideal. It is a tool, a resource.  My business has to mean more than the tools that it is made of.

The other product I want to talk about is my breakfast cereal: Bear Naked  all natural granola, the fruit and nut variety.  Again my health is my original reason for choosing this cereal…this cereal keeps my blood sugar up until lunch time…I have no need for a mid-morning snack.  This cereal, along with the juice I drink each morning [my product] provide me with energy and good nutrition. 

I specifically chose Bear Naked/fruit and nut because (1) it is loaded with fruit and nuts, (2) it’s not overly processed and has a whole lot of things NOT in it like preservatives, trans fat and other stuff, and (3) the company’s principles of giving back: they are partnered with The National Arbor Day Foundation – I’m a huge proponent of saving and planting trees.  The company with which I’m associated helps to preserve the rainforest [email and ask me how].   My package of cereal also has a great paragraph written by the developers, Brendan and Kelly:

  • “….We both love great-tasting and nutritious food, active lifestyles and working together. So, Bear Naked was born. As simple as it may sound, we believe food should be minimally processed and made from natural ingredients you can actually pronounce…To us, it’s more than just the wholesome food we put in our bodies. It’s about the inspiration to seek adventure, the energy for hard work, and the motivation to find true relaxation…and doing good along the way….” – taken from the bag I have in my cupboard right now that I purchased at Target

I like about Bear Naked that they use the very best ingredients…yes, I have to pay for it [although the price does differ depending upon which retailer you purchase from], but high quality is worth paying for.  I like on their FAQ page their answer to the question of price:    

  • “….Why is your product priced at a premium level?  Our product is priced at a premium level, because we source the best-tasting, highest quality ingredients we can find. For example, we use whole almonds and walnut halves, not almond and walnut pieces. In addition, our granola is still made by hand, which is labor intensive….”

I’m proud to say that the product I represent in my direct selling business is one that uses the highest quality ingredients processed to maximize their flavor and nutritional value…and worth every dime spent.  Some things really are worth the asking price…after all, do you want to pay the doctor or use that same money to be well by eating well?

Principles and values…Ideals.  What are your company’s ideals?

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