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Ask INSTORE: November 2011

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Is Google+ worth it?, protecting yourself against buying stolen jewelry, and more.

SOCIAL NETWORKING

Q.

 

Is it worth taking the time to learn the new Google+ social “ecosystem”?

A.

When you think of all the potential strengths the search giant could bring to support Google+ — real-time search, advertising, analytics, YouTube, its business and timemanagement tools, mapping and location-based tieins, not to mention e-commerce functions like mobile payments — you have to believe it will offer some real competition to Facebook, especially as its design, with its easy segregation of your contacts, directly targets some of those areas that bother Facebook users. The problem, of course, is that everybody’s on Facebook because everybody’s on Facebook. If you consider yourself tech-savvy, go ahead and sign up for Google+. If you’re like the rest of us, take Google’s advice and wait for the “enterprise strength” version due out soon. Some better tech homework would be to study the new help page (Facebook.com/business) that Facebook launched days after the unveiling of Google+. It features a step-by-step walk through on how to use Facebook to build your small business.

 

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BUYING PROTECTION

[b]With all these pop-up cash-for-gold businesses, what can we do to protect ourselves from buying stolen jewelry for scrap?[/b]

Many states insist you hold onto the gold for at least a week but regardless of the specifi c laws, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee says it is good practice to obtain complete identifi cation from the seller and to keep records of the deal. “This should protect you from implication if the police show up later with questions about a jewelry heist in the vicinity,” the JVC says. Also, if you operate an interactive website you are considered to conduct business in all 50 states, so you need to be aware of the relevant federal laws as well.

DISPLAY

[b]When discussing displays with my supplier, I hear words like “vignettes, platforms, risers and linear displays.” What do these mean and how do I know which are right for my store?[/b]

Don’t be shy, ask your vendor to explain any terms you do not understand. “Vignettes are simply small stage-like settings in a case,” explains Larry Johnson, senior VP  of Pacific Northern and the author of The Complete Guide to Eff ective Jewelry Display. “Linear displays usually extend from one end of the showcase to the other. Platforms are the risers in the case,” he says.

LOANS

[b]

I opened my store just before the recession hit and have struggled to establish decent cash flow. I’m thinking of hitting up my parents for a loan to get me over this hump. What do you think?[/b]

We think it depends if your parents can afford to lose the money. The economic climate aside, the odds aren’t in favor of a new store that is still struggling to generate cash flow after a few years in operation. We would suggest you first try to get a line of credit from your bank, for two reasons: 1. Banks want to be long longterm partners and will demand to see a workable plan and a date for when your cashfl ow will turn positive. Consider it tough love, because it forces you to get realistic about your prospects. 2. You get to maintain your independence (you won’t have to run every move by Dad). If the bank turns you down, take the same plan to your parents. In 2010, a Babson College study found 50 percent of parents expect to lose money when they invest in a child’s venture. Nevertheless, you owe it to them to explain the risk they are taking.

 

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STAFFING

[b]We want to replace our bookkeeper with someone with a deeper financial knowledge. What’s the best way to ensure our records are safe? Is she obligated to help with the transition?

[/b]

This is defi nitely one of those times when it’s no fun being the boss. Suzanne DeVries of Diamond Staffing Solutions recommends you discreetly plan to have someone in place before you terminate her. “Because of the confi dentiality of fi nancials, we would not recommend giving her a warning; nor should you expect her to transition in a new person,” she says. If she is an employee, as opposed to a freelancer, DeVries recommends paying her a sizable severance; typically one month for every year of service. “We also recommend letting her know that you are happy to give a good reference.”

 

This story is from the November 2011 edition of INSTORE

 

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