Are You a Professional?

We all know that when someone gets paid to play a sport, they are
a “Professional Athlete”.

Yet, we many times see these “profesionals” skip out on their practice time, or give less than their all or best.

These aren’t the professionals.

The professionals aren’t the ones who aspire to be the Star.

The professionals are the ones who come to work to WORK.

They do whatever it takes to accomplish the task. And they do it day in and day out, every day.

They Don’t Quit or Give Up.

If we want to get paid for our chosen work, then we need to put on
our Professional Pants and go to work.

Don’t have enough work?

Put on your Professional Marketing or Salesman hat and drum up business – more business than you can handle all at once. Then you’ll have a scheduling problem to solve.

Having a Production problem?

Get to busy figuring out where the bottlenecks are and how you’re going to fix them. Widening those bottlenecks get stuff moving, and costs go down for more profits.

The problem we self-employed have is that we don’t recognize the
importance of being a Professional in all we do for our business.

I’m guilty of letting my Inertia guide me, not my business needs.

So, I have to overcome this inertia all day long so I can do the
important work of my business. It is easy to get distracted, and
professionals don’t get distracted, so I strive to do better.

I have to SEE my Target so well I can feel it and taste it.

I have to FOCUS on my Target to the exclusion of all else.

I have to AIM and SHOOT at my Target to Hit It.

I have to HIT It until I Hit it.

Start, Continue, Finish.

For a Good Read on Being a Professional, get Steven Pressfield’s
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
It has helped me, that’s for sure.

John L


Here Is a Simple Goal – Make More Money

Sometimes the simplest goal is the easiest one.

My simple Goal?

Make More Money!

The success gurus all talk about having SMART Goals. (I do, too,
but in a different context.) They mean that you need to have a
Specific “More Money” goal in mind – “$13,738.29” for example –
or else you’ll never be successful.


I have my SMART Goal posted right here on the wall next to my PC
monitor. I see it many times every day. It has a Specific Measurable
Amount to reach by a Specific Time-frame, all Attainable and Relevant to me and my life values.

But it doesn’t tell me what to do “today!”

That’s Where My Plan Comes into Play.

I view my Plans like Roadmaps to reach various destinations.

I’ve concocted several routes to my “More Money” goal. Each
has some steps to take at various times to increase my revenues and
profits in certain of my Money buckets.

I have real estate, investments, online retail, writing, seminars, and consulting as some of my various income streams.

I know where I’m headed.

But, today?

Every day brings new circumstances, or unexpected opportunities,
or unforeseen obstacles.

Today, I need a simple Goal to get me started and keep me moving.

Make More Money!

This is my Focus Goal for the day. It keeps me head-down and
fast-paddling, not letting minutia get me off-track.

It helps me avoid my petty distractions and to actually make progress – for Today.

I have a tendency to avoid getting anything done. This kick-starts
me for the day and keeps me moving forward.

So, not to make light of it, but it’s time for me to put THIS
Make-More-Money activity away for now, and Focus on something else.

John L

Goals Profits

Your Goal in Business – Profit

Oh, I know that you’ve been looking around and finding out how important it is for you to craft a snazzy Mission Statement so you can align your priorities and attract an investor.

That’s all well and good.

But, if your highest goal in your business isn’t Profit, then you’ll likely miss the mark.

Profits Are Good

Profit is what distinguishes a Business from a Hobby.

So, if you want to have a business, then you need to be making a Profit.

Otherwise, you’re not really serious, and your very expensive business will end up being a Very, Very Expensive Hobby.

Every transaction doesn’t necessarily need to be profitable, but your pricing and expense-controls need to be well-enough defined that profit is assured overall.

So, at the end of the day, week, month, year, you need to be able to show a profit, or how you are at least reducing expenses to stem red-ink.

I build profit into my daily and weekly goals. I know how much of what products I need to move in which channels in order to be profitable at the end of the week.

Do you?

What About Customer Satisfaction?

Naturally, you need to find and retain customers in order for your business to grow and succeed. So, if you always put this instant’s profit ahead of the long-term profit, then you’ll end up failing or at least having a business that is difficult to sustain.

Customer Satisfaction is the engine that drives repeat business, word-of-mouth advertising, and in the long-haul, leniency when you inevitably screw up and let your customer down.

So, you’d better be offering and delivering products and services, that customers want, in ways that exceed their expectations in quality, value, and excellence.

The Bottom Line Is the Bottom Line

It is important to know how every part of your business day impacts the bottom line. You need to know how much your merchandise and supplies cost, how much your labor costs rum, and what your variable and fixed expenses are.

You also need to understand how the pieces of your transactions affect that bottom line.

I worked for a time as the Operations Manager of a 50-person company. We sold $20-k and up fax systems. (Yes, they really did cost that much, and there really was demand for them…) We paid the sales guys a commission on each sale, which is typical.

It seems that every day, one of them would come up with some sort of discount or free add-in for their sale that they just HAD to close. If they discounted the sale by $1,000, their commission would go down $150. I could never quite get them to understand the it also cost the company $850 in lost profits.

Think about this formula. P=S-C-E. Profit = Sales – Cost of Goods – Expenses. If all remains the same except the sales price, a reduction in the price reduces profit by the exact amount. Discounting a sale costs the bottom line.

By the same measure, not controlling costs will affect the bottom line in the same way.

Ben Franklin said it best. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Plug that penny into the Profit formula, and you’ll see – It’s True!


Does this mean that you should never give a discount? Absolutely not!

Discounts, Special Sales, Quantity Discounts, and the like are proven methods of generating more business.

What it Does mean, however, is that you need to account for these sorts of reductions in sales dollars in advance and in your plan, not on some impulse to generate a bump in sales.

Your business needs to be able to absorb such discounts and still deliver a profit.


The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing…

Don’t get distracted by the crush of business or the excitement of a new product line or the allure of a new set of techie-thingies.

Keep your eye on Profits.

Measure them. Understand them. Make them…

How have you lost track of your profits? How have you recovered from distraction?

Tell me what you need to know about being profitable.

John L

expense control Selling

Save Money on Your eBay Listing Fees

We have been selling stuff on eBay for a few years, now. It’s how we used to generate most of our online revenue.

eBay Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

I had a lightbulb “doh!” moment a few days ago. I’d like to share so maybe you won’t hurt yourself slapping your own forehead.

eBay’s Changing Environment

eBay, in its own efforts to attract more high-volume Sellers and to settle the fears of new Buyers, has been re-working various fees and listing policies.

Most notoriously, they have removed the option for a Buyer to use personal checks or Money orders as a method of payment, and forced most Sellers to accept PayPal as their only means of payment.

But, eBay has also raised the Final Value Fees on items sold from a Store, lowered the fees to List a Fixed Price item, and the fees for any Book or CD/DVD.

This is all wonderful and confusing and maddening and generating “who-knows-what-this-will-do-to-MY-business” howls from Sellers of every business level.

One change we have taken advantage of is the new Fixed Price Listing fee structure. They are now just a Flat Fee.

For a single price of $0.35, we can create a Fixed Price Listing offering unlimited number of the item. It used to be based on the Total represented by the cost times the quantity. Now – Flat Fee for any quantity/price offering.


The Gold Among Dross Secret

But, buried in these changes was a simple concept that I had overlooked or dismissed as not important.

Was I ever wrong.

It was a simple change to a previously forbidden or very restrictive policy. This is found in their “Circumventing Fees” examples.

Choice Listings – A listing where a seller allows buyers to choose from a selection of completely different items.  In general, sellers are permitted to offer a choice of sizes, colors and configurations of a particular item within a listing,  However, a listing may not offer buyers a choice of completely different items.

This is the final piece:

Listing a single item but offering additional identical items for sale in the item description is not permitted.

Exception: Multiple quantities may be sold in one listing through the following formats:

  • Dutch auction-type listing
  • Fixed Price listing
  • Lot listing

So What?

As it turns out, we sell primarily Brand New items. We do a good buying job, and then offer them on eBay and our other online store,

We sell 8 different designs of the same Locking Diary for teens. We sell a dozen different designs of Blank Book Journals. We sell several items that are identical except for design or color.

All Righty Then!

My light-bulb is that I now only need to create a single listing for Teen Diaries, show all the design choices, and ask the Buyer to indicate how many of each design they want.

I can then keep track of how many are left.

As we run out of a particular design (which happens far more often that I generally keep track of) I can modify the hosted photo of that design to say “Sold Out” and then any and all my listings with that design are current as to availability.

Ordinarily, I will have 3 or 4 listings of a design, sell out, and then have to find and cancel the remaining ones – wasting the listing fees in the process.


I cut my listings to only a fraction of my previous number and I keep track of inventory all in one swell foop.


What did I learn from this? Sure – I learned a technique for saving eBay fees.

Mostly, I learned to look a bit more slowly at the fine print, and to think more seriously about always finding ways to improve my business.

Saving a dime is a dime more of profit.

Save enough dimes, and the Profit dollars begin to add up.

What did you learn?

John L

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Buy Right, FIRST, to Make Profits Last

Profits come after all the costs are deducted from the Sales revenues. The largest deduction is generally the one called Cost of Goods Sold, or COGS. Everything that is directly attached to a sale can be considered a COGS component.

In our online retail business, what we pay for the physical goods we sell, and the shipping to get them to us make up our COGS. Later, when we sell an item, we also charge for shipping & handling, and the actual cost of shipping is COGS.

It only makes sense that we can increase profits if we can get a bit more in sales revenue for an item. It is less obvious, but paying that same bit less for an item will gain the same profits while remaining price-competitive.

Wal-Mart, derided by many for being a community buster, “profits” by keeping their COGS under strict control. They do everything they can to keep that acquisition cost as low as possible.

What are some ways you can keep your acquisition costs low, lower, lowest?

  • Don’t pay retail.
  • Ask for a bigger discount.
  • Pay on time for Invoice discounts.
  • Ask for another discount.
  • Buy at quantity discounts.
  • Sell it all.

From Real Life

My wife, Sandi, & I have been successfully selling online for about 5 years.  Mostly on eBay, but our non-eBay store pays for the rent. We specialize in Craft Tools, Blank Journals, and Boxed Greeting Cards.

We make good buys from closeout vendors at a Las Vegas trade show called the ASD Marketweek shows.We have one product we’ve been buying directly from the Manufacturer for the past 5 years. We went this year to negotiate a 25% price reduction due to the age of the product.

When we arrived, another customer was going through the merchandise and making offers – and mostly getting approval from the vendor. The customer picked up our product, and we gasped… (He was making offers for the whole stock of each product. We wouldn’t get ANY!) He made an offer of less than half our price, but then decided he couldn’t use as many as were available. He eventually concluded business.

It was our turn, and we began with our #1 product. We offered the same price he had. She accepted! How many? Gee… how about 200? OK. YIPPEE!

She had a newer version, and said we could have it for just a dollar more. How many? 219. OK, we’ll take them…

What a great Buy!

As we left, however, the enormity of this particular buy began to work its way through our practical side.


We don’t have anyplace to store them. We will need to up our entire marketing effort to move them.

Man… WHAT were we thinking???

Well, we are thinking profits. We can continue to sell these at their original price and make plenty of profit. But, they sell slowly. So, we can lower the price, sell more, and still make more profit than before.

THAT’s the  purpose of making a great buy.


Buying Right is the key to Profits. Keep those initial costs low.