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Ask INSTORE: July 2007

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Pros and cons of installing a door buzzer, getting rid of a problem staff member, and moving to the next level with your banker.

[h3]Consider Installing a Door Buzzer[/h3]

[dropcap cap=Q.][h4][b]We were recently held up by two armed robbers. It wasn’t a nice experience but luckily no one was hurt and we are insured. The problem is that now my employees are pushing for a locked entrance. From my experience with them back in ’70s they caused more problems than they were worth. There was always the fear robbers might shoot you to cover up their crime because they couldn’t get in with a mask. A buzzer also keeps casual shoppers out and then there’s the specter of legal action if you refuse someone entry. Any ideas?[/b][/h4][/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=A]Elie Ribacoff, president of New York-based Worldwide Security Network, recommends you do install a buzzer system, saying the capability to lock your door is a great asset. He notes, however, that it doesn’t have to be used all the time. “It can be used selectively or randomly to keep crooks guessing and to bolster security when needed, such as during set-up and closing, as well as on days when there is less staff, for special events, etc.,” he says. He also stresses that everyone’s circumstances are unique, so it’s wise to seek the advice of a local security professional who can assess your situation on-site and address strengths, weaknesses and needs.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]INTERNET[/componentheading]

[h4][b]My Philadelphia store has a website but it gets lost back on about the 300th listings page when you do a basic keyword search. Is there an alternative to paying Yahoo and Google to get moved up their lists?[/b][/h4]

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Search optimization is a lot like the world of business: It helps to be big and connected. So the first thing to do is to bulk up. Three pages should be the minimum. Next is to use keywords that want to be found. Online research tools can help by zeroing in on keywords that generate hits. wordtracker.com, for example, helps companies identify the most popular search terms in their industries. Start with at least 250 words of “keyword-rich text” and a “descriptive title tag” (it’s that thing at the top of a browser that tells Web surfers where they are).

These will help create links with other sites and help your site get found by Google, Yahoo and their lesser known cousins. If credible and popular pages are linking to your site, that tells the search engine that this must be a decent site and worthy of front-end prominence.

[componentheading]EQUIPMENT[/componentheading]

[h4][b]I’m thinking of splashing out on a laser welder. What should I be looking at from a financial point of view when making a decision?[/b][/h4]

High-tech tools are glamorous and seductive and nearly always popular with your shop workers but they can also be deceptively expensive once you tote up the servicing, training and other costs. The key issue here is whether the welder will pay for itself. When it comes to machinery, the rule of thumb is that such tools should be generating a return within two to three years. If they don’t, the money would have been better spent on something else with a higher return. Don’t forget that cheaper, older models are an option (as is outsourcing). Finally, don’t think you can install the newest, highest-tech CAM system and begin taking orders right away. There is always a training lag.

[h4][b][componentheading]PERSONNEL[/componentheading]

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What’s the best way to force a problem staff member to quit?[/b][/h4]

We take it you either want to avoid paying severance or to escape the potentially ugly confrontation involved in dismissing someone. Neither is really a good reason for trying to make a staff member’s life so uncomfortable that he leaves on his own.

First, work out how much damage this person could cause your business. If the issue is security-related, bite the bullet and walk him to the door. If it’s one of performance, have a stern talk and put him on 90-day probation. This is one area where being upfront is always best. Letting it drag is a waste of both parties’ time and energy.

[componentheading]FINANCES[/componentheading]

[h4][b]When we opened our store, my father put up some assets with the bank and gave personal guarantees to cover credit accounts with various vendors. How do we best get these guarantees off the table now that I’m established?[/b][/h4]

If you’ve paid your bills promptly for three to five years and have audited statements to show you’re profitable, this is probably the right time to try take your relationship to a more trusting level. Your vendors may still be wary so sell them on the benefits of your efforts to install more businesslike credit arrangements: greater borrowing power, faster growth and da-da — more business for them. One way to be more persuasive is to bring along your CPA to make your case. If they still resist, hint you’ll take your business elsewhere.

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[span class=note]This story is from the July 2007 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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