Downtown Sound – What’s Old is New Again

When I was a young girl my friends and I spent most of our hard earned money buying records. And when we weren’t shopping for the latest and greatest album, we spent hours spinning our treasures and studying the liner notes and album covers. Your record collection spoke volumes about your personality. The love affair with vinyl seemed like it would go on forever. As time went by, my friends and I began moving away from our hometown and with each move our boxes of albums became fewer and fewer. Our sound systems used to be the first thing that we set up in a new apartment, but after a few moves we quit unpacking the turntables, speakers and records. Then the record stores stopped selling records and only sold CD’s. The advent of the compact disc in the 1980s cut into the popularity of vinyl records. Vinyl records left the mainstream around 1991. CD’s were also much easier to store, move and most of us bought into the idea that CD’s sounded better. It wasn’t very long before we became addicted to purchasing I-Tunes. We started to compete with each other on how many songs we had downloaded to our I-pods and smart phones.

As interest in records diminished, the record stores dwindled to almost non-existence. There were some record-loving holdouts who would scour the second hand shops for used records and a quiet resurgence began to happen with a renewed interest in the artwork of an album and the ability to read the lyrics on the liners and the realization that records really do sound different than digitally produced music. A funny thing started to happen. As you were picking through a pile of records at your local Goodwill store, younger people started to show up and were also buying the “great finds” that you were looking for. You couldn’t be angry that the guy next to you just put his hand on a copy of Woodstock that was on your list of “must have” albums. You were just so thrilled that another generation was starting to get interested in records.

Woodstock

The Vinyl Record Revival

Vinyl records fell out of favor between 1988 and 1991. There has been a renewed interest and increased sales of records since 2006. Sales of vinyl in the United States in early 2009 showed that the sales doubled in 2008 with 1.88 million sold and approximately 2.8 million sold in 2010. According to Nielsen SoundScan data, vinyl record sales in 2014 were 9.2 million, up 52 percent from 2013. It is awesome to see popular musicians today selling a ton of records. Jack White’s 2014 Lazaretto album sold over 87,000 copies. Annie Lennox’s 2014 release of Nostalgia was on back order for about a month. And Sam Smith’s 2014 album, In the Lonely Hour, which won 4 Grammys this year, is flying off the shelves. Also noteworthy, among the top selling vinyl albums in 2014 were reissues from the past like The Beatles Abbey Road and Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Legend, which both sold over 37,000 in 2014.

Records

Along with the increased interest in purchasing records, is a revival in actual record shops. Mark your calendars – Record Store Day is an internationally celebrated day observed the third Saturday of April each year. When I first saw Downtown Sound show up on 4th Street in July of 2012 I was ecstatic. At the time, I was not certain that there would be enough interest in old records to support this new business. I also did not know if the owners had what it takes to develop a successful business. I have been watching the business, with great interest, since it opened and I love spending time looking through their collection of albums. I was recently in the shop looking for birthday present and got a chance to speak with one of the owners, Veronica. Usually when I am talking to business owner, I tell them about the assistance they can get at the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD). By the end of the conversation I was ready to ask her to be a counselor for our program. Their business practices are on target and to be commended. I assumed that the idea for the business was Veronica’s. I could not have been more wrong. When Veronica and her husband decided they wanted to start a business, they weren’t quite sure what that business would be. Their daughter, Lizz, thought they should consider opening a vintage record store. I was quite surprised that a young girl would have that much interest in old records and have the foresight to see that the record world was reinventing itself in a very positive way. On another visit to the shop, on a Monday afternoon, there were scads of customers filing through the bins of records. I was simply amazed that there was so much activity, on what is normally a slow day for many retail stores. Kudoz to Downtown Sound – 330 E. 4th Street in Loveland.

If you haven’t been in the shop, Downtown Sound sells vinyl records (both new and vintage), vintage turntables, guitars and amplifiers and they also do repairs. Check out the ceiling when you go. Veronica had boxes of red vinyl records. She used them to embellish the ceiling and it is a great look.

Downtown Sound

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Instilling Customer Loyalty

There is a tremendous amount of competition in most businesses. One of the first assignments that we give Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) clients is to research their competition. If the competition is knocking it out of the ballpark, they will have a loyal customer base.

I have some knowledge in this area. I was a co-owner of Matthew’s Restaurant in Westport, CT, years ago. Many of the customers who came into Matthew’s were “regulars.” When the regulars came through the door, the staff members knew them by name, knew what they liked to eat and drink, knew something about their work and hobbies and made them feel like they were part of the Matthew’s family. The TV show “Cheers” ran from 1982 – 1993. The atmosphere at Matthew’s was very similar to Cheers. The customers who came into the bar area of the restaurant always sat at the bar stool they sat at during their previous visit. As a promotion, I took orders for brass name plates and when purchased, the name plate would be secured to their favorite spot at the bar. There was a hefty price to purchase the name plate, but that did not deter anyone from purchasing them. They loved the recognition.

Matthew's Restaurant

When I visit businesses, I observe operations to see how staff members and owners interact with their customers. I may be more critical than others, due to my past stint as a business owner. I have recently had a few delightful experiences that were great examples of how to gain customer loyalty. My husband and I were checking out a new Loveland establishment, The Laureate Public House. Kris, Eric and Aaron were behind the bar that evening. A keg blew and they tapped a Blood Orange Gose beer from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. A sampling of the Gose beer was poured for all the customers. The beer was fantastic and everyone loved it and started to order pints of it. Later in the evening, they broke out an 18th Anniversary Firestone Walker Ale to share with everyone sitting at the bar. I assure you, everyone at the bar left that evening with of feeling that it was a very special night. They are probably still telling the story to their friends and family, I know I am.

I went to one of my favorite spots in Fort Collins last night, The Welsh Rabbit Cheese Shop and Bistro. It was a celebratory night for a friend’s birthday and also my husband’s birthday. When we entered the bistro, Annaleise, our favorite server, gave us a huge smile and expressed how glad she was to see us. Even if she had not said a word, you could see it written all over her face that she was excited to see us. The fabulous chef at Welsh Rabbit, Nate, was busy whipping up some delectable menu items in the exposed prep area that is located at the bar. This is the area that we always sit; as we enjoy watching the chef make his creations and when he has time he graciously gives us cooking tips. On our last visit, he gave us pointers on making amazing Polenta. We changed our Polenta recipe and had impressive results. That doesn’t mean that we won’t order Polenta when we go to Welsh Rabbit, it just means that every time we cook this dish at home it will remind us the wonderful times spent at Welsh Rabbit. When we were finished with our meal last night, Nate brought us a scrumptious dessert to share (this was not on the menu). He had no idea about the birthdays. What a wonderful surprise to top off a great evening.

I will wrap this up with one more story about building loyalty. This past weekend, I stopped by Artsy Stamps & Paper Crafts. The owner, Patsy Kral, worked with our program from 2010 to 2011. Patsy has taken all our workshops and came in for counseling. I had just missed a card making class and was very interested in one of the cards that they made in the class. Patsy offered to do a one-on-one session with me to learn the technique she used to create a watercolor look. I was thrilled and quickly darted back to the work table to learn some new skills. I have only made cards on my own and the idea of attending a class is intimidating to me. Patsy made it look easy and let me try my hand at the project. I was like a little kid learning how to ride a bike. I was so excited, I asked Patsy to gather all the items that I needed to purchase to do this card at home. What might have been a routine visit to a craft shop turned into a memorable afternoon. I know I could go to a chain craft store to buy many of the items that Patsy sold me. Patsy developed a loyal customer by spending her time and sharing her talents with me.

Wizzard of Oz

Wizard of Oz mini book project at Artsy Stamps & Paper Crafts

These are a few examples of how the passion of staff and owners trickles down and is felt by the customer. When that passion is passed along, especially in a unique way, you develop loyal customers. Think about your own business. Are you exuding a passion for what you do? Are you making your customers feel special? It is the beginning of a new year; time to review and create new habits.

If you are interested in creating some new habits and learning some new tools to help you gain customer loyalty, the Loveland Center for Business Development will be offering a Marketing 101 half day workshop that includes 3 classes on Friday, March 6, 2015. Nick Armstrong will be the lead presenter of the workshop. You can read some of Nick’s insight in Chapter 6 of the new book, “30 Ways to Bloom Your Online Relationships” by Tea Silvestre. Nick has been a volunteer for the LCBD program since 2010.

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Stephanie Hillberry, LCBD Unsung Hero

Stephanie Hillberry

The Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) is always on the lookout for talented people to teach our clients necessary information to be successful in business. When we met Stephanie, we knew immediately that she would be an awesome volunteer for our program. Stephanie teaches a wide range of social media classes for the LCBD, such as: Social Media 101, Pinterest, Adding YouTube Videos to Your Marketing and Creating E-Books.

Stephanie is a marketing manager at Group Publishing in Loveland, which means that she has opportunities to practice everything she teaches in her marketing classes on a daily basis at her job. Stephanie is also a professional speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in helping businesses to discover their best marketing strategy, including mastery of digital media as well as making personal connections. She’d love to connect with you on social media, and you can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. She even has a few YouTube videos. Stephanie has been teaching at the LCBD since July, 2012.

On a more personal note, you can find Stephanie spending her free time enjoying many hobbies like hiking, crafting of all kinds, writing, and spending time with her husband and Labrador, Caesar. She has horrible taste in television (ex. Buffy the Vampire Slayer), bakes sourdough from scratch, reads at least one new book a week, and really wishes she knew how to ride a skateboard.

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Lucy Morgan, LCBD Unsung Hero

Lucy Morgan  Author Speaker Coach

Lucy Morgan began working with the LCBD in April, 2012. Lucy was starting the business, My Fed Trainer; a leading provider of online Grants Management Training and other Federal Grants Management resources. 2014 has been a banner year for this company, with new federal regulations looming – online training modules are in demand.

Building on what she learned with her online training business, and wanting to help others expand their own online presence, it wasn’t long before Lucy started another business, 10 Minute Media. This business teaches internet marketing techniques, small business skills and how to use information products so that businessowners can increase online traffic, grow sales and expand profits.

Because Lucy saw a need for a plain-talk, non-geeky guide to internet marketing she wrote the book, “Decoding Internet Marketing.” The book launched in January, 2014.

It was evident, early on, that Lucy would be a perfect instructor for an LCBD workshop. Lucy is a volunteer instructor for the LCBD, teaching the workshop, SEO Secrets to Build Traffic and Increase Sales.

In her down time, you can find Lucy adding video marketing to her bag of tricks – working with Karen Fournier of http://www.starstreamproductions.com/.

1 Lucy Morgan and Karen Fournier selfies in the new Video studio

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Nick Armstrong, LCBD Unsung Hero

Nick Armstrong

Nick Armstrong, of Pixelated on Purpose and WTF Marketing, started volunteering with the LCBD/Loveland SBDC in April of 2010. At that time, our clients were exploring the idea of adding social media to their marketing plans. Many of those clients didn’t use any type of social media, for personal or business purposes. We needed to get class curriculum in place, ASAP. Nick created one presentation after another to help our clients get up to speed on social media, SEO, web analytics and creating websites using WordPress. During one session that Nick taught, the LCBD had a total of 52 attendees who had the choice of attending one, two or all three workshops that day. The room that we squeezed the attendees into was quite small, but there weren’t any complaints. You could hear a pin drop during the workshops; Nick was so engaging and eloquent in his presentation style. The LCBD will forever be indebted to Nick for his generous gift of using his time and wisdom to help Loveland businesses to grow and prosper.

When Nick began working with the LCBD program the website that was in place, created by another volunteer, was outdated and needed to be upgraded. The old website took hours to update. Nick created a website for the LCBD that was extremely easy to update and had all the latest features needed for SEO and analytics. Nick continues to donate his time to help with maintenance issues of the LCBD website, email systems and computers.

Nick is also an LCBD advisor. He saw a need for start-up companies with limited budgets to have the ability to purchase a website at a reasonable cost. Nick created a company to address that need: http://pixelatedonpurpose.com/. Nick still does high-end web development, but cares about the “little guy” and let’s face it, the region is filled with these small businesses. Nick is the author of the e-book, Psychotic Resumes.

The LCBD relies on a pool of volunteers to educate and develop local business. We strive to get the cream of the crop when choosing those volunteers. Nick is at the top of that list.

In Nick’s off hours, he loves to spend time with his son, Ryland, and works on creating audio dramas for his hobby audio group Giant Gnome Productions, which presents regularly at Denver Comic Con and StarFest. He’s a Trekkie through and through and can debate the merits of the Prime Directive for hours on end.
nick-uniform 2

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Rose Melville, LCBD Unsung Hero

Rose Melville

We will be acknowledging LCBD volunteers throughout the year; watch for upcoming posts. The volunteer that we will be spotlighting in July, 2014 is CPA, Rose Melville. Rose has been an LCBD advisor and QuickBooks instructor for the program since 2009. Rose is a certified QuickBooks instructor and volunteers her time to teach an all day QuickBooks class at the LCBD, once a month. One of the most challenging aspects of business ownership can be learning to understand financial reports and keep up with bookkeeping. Rose is a wealth of knowledge and her willingness to give freely of her time to LCBD business owners is to be commended.

Rose is also on the LCBD advisor list. As such, she gives an introductory session to the referred clients to help them with their accounting questions. That includes: basic bookkeeping and accounting terms and definitions, how to reconcile their accounts in preparation for filing income tax forms, and how to read financial statements to understand the shape their business is taking.

On a more personal note, Rose’s latest endeavor is the purchase of two baby Nigerian Dwarf goats that she has for pets. She had to bottle feed them when she first got them. Now she is teaching them to eat the grass in the yard, since they don’t have their mother to show them such important life lessons.

Goats

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In Case of Emergency

In Case of EmergencyI recently had a family medical emergency that came very close to changing what the rest of my life was going to look like. It happened so suddenly that there was no time to let friends know what was going on. When the incident had passed and I had time to let the “peeps” in my life know what had happened, their immediate response was, “what can I do to help?” There wasn’t a thing to be done at that point. If the emergency would have gone the way that I thought it was heading, with the diagnosis of a stroke, I would have needed enormous support. I know with complete certainty the people who would have risen to the occasion and helped in any way that was needed. If any of those friends are reading this, you know who you are and you have been there for me in the past.

As you go about your day, take a few minutes and think about the people in your life who would be there for you in an emergency. Maybe give them a call or write them a quick note or have them over for a meal to let them know how much you appreciate them. We are all busy keeping our lives running smoothly; don’t neglect the people who would be there for you at the drop of a hat.

I consider myself to be an organized person. During this emergency I needed to have some important papers on hand. As I was gathering the paperwork, I noticed how old the documents were and that I was missing documents that I thought I had in place. I would highly recommend creating easily accessible files for the documents you might need during a medical emergency. A binder works well; any family member or friend could grab it as needed. Digital files are another way to go – just make sure that you give access to your loved ones.

There are three essential documents that I would recommend having in place: Colorado Advance Directives (Medical Power of Attorney), Durable Power of Attorney and a Last Will and Testament. If you have a business you will need to think about what you would want to happen with your business upon death. You can find templates for these forms on-line: Medical Power of Attorney (http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3289) Free download

Durable Power of Attorney (http://www.ilrg.com/forms/powerofattorney-gd/us/co) Low cost download

The most important things about powers of attorney are: a) use only someone you really trust, b) DO NOT put them in your lockbox, which will be sealed at your death and c) let your health care POA know where the document is and what it says, esp. the living will part, and also your doctor and family.

I would suggest contacting an attorney to work through the details of setting up a Will; you could also have the other two documents reviewed at that time.

I have been on a bit of a crusade asking friends, family and coworkers if they have these documents in place. I am not terribly surprised that most do not have a Will or P.O.A. set up. If you have been thinking about getting your affairs in order, you might want to move these items to the top of your “To Do” list.

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LCBD Unsung Heroes

Okay, this isn’t so much a blog post as it is an on-going acknowledgement of the wonderful people who make the LCBD program what it is. I realize that many of you won’t read this, but for the few who do, I hope you will get a glimpse of the personalities of those who serve the LCBD.

Most people who come to the LCBD for business assistance think of Robin and Mary Ann as the glue that keeps the program running. That sentiment is truly appreciated. There are many other people involved in the program and that is a huge factor in why the LCBD is so successful. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the financial support the City of Loveland provides to the LCBD, and has from the inception of the program.

The list of people who have given of their time and talents as volunteers for the LCBD would be too long to include in one article. We will be spotlighting a different volunteer each month, starting with the volunteer who has given the most time, Jim McWilliams.

A brief history lesson

Now don’t gloss over as you read the background of the LCBD…the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) was formed on December 15, 1993. In 2008 the LCBD program transferred over to a pilot Small Business Development Center (SBDC). After a three year period, the LCBD board decided that it would be in the best interest of the Loveland community to pull away from the Colorado SBDC program and transition back to the LCBD program. Robin Shukle-Shea was hired in 2008 to be the Director of the Loveland SBDC program, a sub-center of the Larimer SBDC. Mary Ann Huffines joined the Larimer SBDC program in 2008 and transferred to the Loveland SBDC in 2009.

Jim McWilJim McWilliamsliams – Jim has volunteered at the Larimer SBDC as an in-house counselor since January, 2008. Jim has been counseling clients at both the Larimer SBDC and the LCBD continuously since that time. Jim was the owner of three Goodyear franchise tires stores, along with other business ventures.

Jim meets with clients on just about any issue related to creating a successful business. There’s hardly a business topic that Jim cannot address from his past experience in sales, retail, merchandising, credit and financing, bookkeeping, reading financials, recruiting, employee issues and training, inventory control, marketing, advertising, franchising, business relocation, building purchase and lease issue, to name a few.

Jim began counseling at the Loveland SBDC (now the LCBD) office on November 3, 2009. In addition to his weekly counseling sessions, Jim has taught an LCBD monthly class on profitability. Jim uses his experience as a business owner to provide meaningful “real world” examples of complex business issues.  Jim is also very gracious with his time – often visiting client sites, doing additional after-hours research and analysis, and offering additional time as a ‘second set of eyes’ on complex client financing issues. Jim is a perfect role model for how one should live their lives; work hard and prosper, always be there for your family and give back to the community in a meaningful way.

If you have a bit of extra time, you might want to talk to Jim about gardening, wine, coin collecting or selling on eBay. He is always full of surprises in any of these areas. And if you want to see Jim really smile, watch him when he is out driving his Prowler.

Jims garden

Jim with car

 

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The Morphing of Social Media

Social Media has been important business practice for the past few years, and it has showed no signs of slowing. In fact, it’s taking off, and we at the LCBD are here to make sure you can hit the ground running at whatever speed.

There have been numerous instructors teaching social media workshops at the LCBD in the past few years, and instruction in using Facebook fanpages is always included. Without fail, there are questions that come up regarding recent changes in Facebook that the instructors have to muddle through and try to answer intelligently. Facebook is constantly morphing and upgrading itself, making it a moving target when it comes to learning all the new functions of the latest version

Just as it’s been increasingly important to keep up with the changes in Facebook as a marketing tool, keeping up with new social media tools is essential for a thriving business. As such, LBCD will have classes for the newest social marketing machine: Pinterest.

In December of 2011, Pinterest became one of the top 10 largest social network services, with 11 million total visits per week. In March 2012, Pinterest became the 3rd largest social network in the United States. By February of 2013, there were 48.7 million unique U.S. visitors to the site. Unfortunately, until recently, the demographics for Pinterest has been 20-40 year-old women, so it was not really taken too seriously for business purposes. But take another look! They now have business pages and most of the top business authors have Pinterest accounts. Even better, they create communities, a vital business tool.

When I was asked to consider offering a Pinterest class at the LCBD, I looked at the site, and hastily came to the conclusion that it was for bored housewives, or for people interested in hobbies. I spent a bit of time messing around on the site and then quickly saw the huge marketing potential for many of the business clients that the LCBD works with. Thus, we now have scheduled a Pinterest class in August.

It’s worth checking out Pinterest on Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/13yOgZd), which details the changes the site has gone through since they first showed up on the social media scene, as it can give you a good idea of how it evolved into a marketing tool that is easy and fun for you to use. Though I doubt that I would have considered it in the past, it is certainly a site to consider using now. The key to sites like this is, offer quality, or interesting items if you are using this to promote your business. If people have an interest in what you are putting out there, they will eventually take a look at your website.

Many of the clients we see at the LCBD are apprehensive when it comes to using social media. I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping an open mind and checking out the social networks that exist now or are yet to come. It is annoying keeping up with the functionality of the sites as they are going through changes, but it is well worth it in the end. If you are looking for immediate sales, this is not the place for you. Social media is about building community and offering up something that might be beneficial to others, as Pinterest is about community building, this class will help.

Pinterest

 

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Building Sales in 2013…What Should You Focus on?

I hate to be a broken record, but it is the same thing you should have been focused on in 2012…marketing, marketing, marketing. And sometimes soft marketing, that isn’t always measurable, is a good place to start.

Many successful forms of marketing have not changed in centuries. You can’t do enough one-on-one networking. Even big companies with great websites need to have employee ambassadors who exude the characteristics of their company philosophy.

Pushy_Sales_People_by_SA948_Stamps

If you have a product to sell, people have to know about it… like it… and trust that it will work for them. Look at one of our winning local companies, OtterBox. They certainly did not start out as a huge global presence. One of the ways they gained that “trust factor” is by having an amazing replacement policy. You can have a year old Otterbox case and if you are having issues with it, OtterBox will replace it on the spot…no questions asked. The reliability aspect of the product spread like wildfire. I have been in situations where I met 20 different OtterBox employees within the span of a couple of hours. They didn’t know me from Adam and had no idea that I might be blogging about them. Without exception, each person walked by me, introduced themselves and had something pleasant to say and a smile on their face. There was not a high level management person in ear-shot with each of these encounters. This is great hiring and a good example of having the right people “on the bus” (Good to Great by Jim Collins).

With that being said, there are some new wrinkles to the marketing game. QR Codes for instance. Although Japan has been using QR Codes forever, the United States is just starting to see traction in this area. If you don’t think this is a viable marketing component for your company, you might want to do a bit more research and re-think this option. Adding video to your website is another marketing vehicle that will make you stand out from your competitors. Put that “IFO” (irresistible free offer) into a video format. If you absolutely do not have the budget to add a video, consider adding a simple PDF of educational information relating to your business as your “IFO.”

The LCBD will be offering workshops in March on Creating QR Codes, Adding Video to Your On-line Marketing and SEO Secrets to Build Traffic & Increase Sales. Keep an eye on the LCBD Website for dates and times and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter (top right corner of the website).

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