Peninsula Small Business Talk

from the Peninsula Executives Association

Flower

PEA Member John W. King, Keller Williams Realty is Blogging about UNreal Estate in the Bay Area

PEA member John W. King, Keller Williams Realty has recently started blogging (with the help of Neal Coogler and Melanie Maxwell of All About Business Services)! He already has two great posts up on his blog, UNreal Estate Blog.

John talks about interesting and unusual things happening in the real estate market on the Peninsula and in Silicon Valley.  With topics like “Bad Appraisal Nets Seller Big Dollars!?” and “Crazy Bidding Wars! Back to the Future, Again?“, John brings his 30 years of Bay Area real estate experience and his intimate knowledge of the market together in fun articles.

He is posting regularly at UNreal Estate Blog, so check out his posts and subscribe to stay updated!

Palo Alto Small Business Resource Fair, hosted by PEA member The San Mateo Daily Journal

The San Mateo Daily Journal will be hosting the “Small Business Resource Fair” in Palo Alto on April 30, 2013.

The Daily Journal continues its high profile series of community Business Events with the Small Business Resource Fair, designed to help local small business owners and self-employed professionals thrive in today’s ever changing marketplace.  Small business means big business in the Bay Area.  If your company or organization markets to owners, C-level execs and self-employed professionals, then this event is vital for your success.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto

PEA member Skip Gould, San Mateo Daily Journal shared information about attending and sponsoring this event with PEA at last week’s meeting.  For more information on how to attend the seminar or how to become a sponsor, contact Skip!

A California Property Tax Reminder from John W. King, Keller Williams Realty

PEA member John W. King, Keller Williams Realty wanted to send everyone this quick reminder!

This is just a gentle reminder that today, Monday, December 10th is date that the 1st installment of property taxes are due for fiscal year 2012-2013 for California property owners, before they become deliquent and you incur a 10% penalty.  You need to have your payment postmarked today.  As an option, you can go directly to the assessor’s website to pay your bill online but you might incur a processing fee depending on how your payment is made.

Santa Clara County is http://payments.scctax.org/

These links were obtained from a Google Search so please make certain for yourselves that these are valid sites.  Hope this is helpful for you.

If you don’t own a home, did you know that property taxes are deductible?

Thanks John! Don’t forget to check out John’s current listings and get more information at www.JohnWKing.com!

Large or Small, Peggy Calhoun, Garden ANew Can Help Design your Garden Space

Peggy Calhoun, Garden ANew has been designing gardens for 26 years.  She began her talk by suggesting everyone visit her website, since she typically sends all her clients there to view the pictures she has posted.

The most basic service Peggy provides is a one-hour consultation.  This consists of a walk-through and a discussion of what you have, what the possibilities are of making minor or major changes, and any concerns about budget or construction.  An example Peggy shared was her recent design the small area in Judy Johnson, Unexpected Treasures backyard.  Judy had a small area that needed some attention.  Peggy looked at the light that the area gets and other design elements in the garden to help her design this area. Next Peggy used a picture of Judy’s neighbor to share ideas for improvement with all levels of budget.  A lower budget could make changes as simple as adding large pots with trees.  The largest budget could make larger changes like adding an arbor and replacing some not very exciting plants with something more interesting.

If a garden is established but looking tired, Peggy can go through and suggest changes for each individual bed.   This redo of just the plant beds is the second level of service Peggy can provide. These changes are things like what plants to leave, what plants to replace, ideas for replacement, and quick sketches of ideas.  She types up her notes and lists and sends them to the homeowner so they can order the plants themselves, or you can hire Peggy on to pick out the plants personally and supervise the placement and planting.

Finally, the third level is a full garden design.  This is a three-hour on site design, including everything from paving, planting, beds, and even fireplaces or outdoor kitchens.  Peggy brings her grafting table onsite and the goal is that at the end of the three hours that they have a full sketch of the garden plan.  Peggy shared an example of one of these jobs where she started with an oddly shaped yard with nothing but a few trees.  She ended with a plan that included the front entry, driveway, side yard, raised plant beds, a vegetable garden, patio, sitting area, and an outdoor living room.  From there, you can execute the plan yourself or hire Peggy at an hourly rate to choose the plants and supervise the gardeners to implement her plans.  Peggy loves what she does and loves coming to your home to be a problem solver.  She is always looking to find ways to make your home more comfortable and enjoyable.

A Day in the Life at Arborwell Professional Tree Management

Jon Maystrik, Arborwell Professional Tree Management explained that he wanted to give PEA members a basic idea of a day in the life of an Arborwell tree care field employee.  Jon knows he is the face of Arborwell, but there are 25 other guys who put their lives on the line every day.  At 6 am, the employees all meet in the Arborwell yard.  Everything is done with their cell phones, including clocking in and out.  They call a number, enter their employee id and that clocks them in.

Every morning, they begin by gathering to go over new jobs, any incomplete jobs from the previous day, time off needs, tool and equipment needs, and ‘near misses’ which are accidents that could have happened but didn’t.  After going through all their old and new business, the account managers distribute work orders.  Jon handed out a work order for members to look at.  This order is for a landscape company that provides landscaping but no tree services.  Arborwell often subcontracts with these landscaping companies, which works well for both parties since Arborwell is adding value to their services, and Arborwell gets jobs through them.  The second page of the work order lists the service request – how many trees and what they will be doing.  Jon explained that for this job, a crown reduction, he suggested they bring a ladder.  Crown reduction is a pruning technique that reduces the tops of the trees to control the size of the tree.  These olive trees are being reduced partly because they get sprayed annually to reduce the amount of fruit, and this is more effective on a smaller tree.

Jon gives the guys an idea what their day will look like, including when they can expect to take breaks, and any extra tools they might need.  He explained that all of their trucks have chippers, hard hats, chainsaws, climbing gear, hand saws, gas, oil, and all the basics needed for tree work like cones, caution tape, etc.  Trucks also have a type of alcohol used to disinfect the saws to reduce the amount of pathogens transferred between trees.

Back on the first page, there is a checklist for the workers to go through in the yard, on-site, an inspection, things to do during the job, and a completion checklist.  These checklists get turned in the next morning before they receive a new work order.  Arborwell offers monthly bonuses for employees who turn in the most of these, signed by all team members, by the end of the month.

One of the first things on the checklists is stretching.  Jon explained that this significantly reduces injuries, especially in the morning.  Another thing the guys look for is different hazards.  If cars are parked under trees, they can’t trim them unless the cars are moved.  They also try to protect landscaping and anything else that might be damaged below the trees with tarps and plywood.

Jon then took PEA members on a field trip to see Arborwell at work at the Sheraton.  They were doing a crown reduction on trees by the pool, and were going to be trimming more trees by the parking lot when they were done.

All new Arborwell employees spend two days doing classroom training and need to pass safety quizzes before going into the field.  After this, they are on a 90 day probation period where they are paired up with a mentor.  If they will be trained to climb trees, they go through another year of training.

Walking in their Shoes with Avi Safar, Footwear, Etc.

Avi Safar, Footwear, Etc. began by giving a quick overview of his company.  They have seven locations in the area and two in San Diego.  At Footwear, Etc. they sell comfort shoes- everything from athletic shoes to sandals, to supplies for people with foot problems.  They work with a lot of podiatrists.  Avi brought two of his managers to speak from the stores PEA members frequent most often.  He brought Michell Ramos the manager of the Los Altos store, and Caree Oller, the manager of the Palo Alto store.

Michell has been with Footwear, Etc. for 10 years, starting at the age of 19 in Los Altos.  She moved to Palo Alto and was mentored by Avi for about a year and a half before moving back to Los Altos in 2007.  One of many lessons she learned from Avi is the importance of paying attention to the details.  Since Michell took over the Los Altos location, their profits have gone up every year.  She feels that the most important aspect of running a store is the human aspect.  It is important to connect with customers on an emotional level and showing that they are not just dollars to you.  Customer service is something Michell always focuses on.  She tries to create a positive and helpful experience to create returning business.  Michell also tries to keep a clean and organized environment.  Most importantly, Michell thinks it is important to manage personalities.  She is always working to keep her employees happy, and they will bring that warm and positive attitude to the floor and the customers.

Caree has been in the shoe industry for 38 years, beginning in her father’s shoe store at the age of 12.  Caree opened her own shoe store in Portland in her 20s and ran that store successfully for 20 years.  After the recession, she moved back home to the Bay Area and looked for the best shoe store in the area.  Footwear, Etc. mimicked her shoe store in their focus on customer service, their philosophy and the focus on the anatomy of the foot. In Portland, Caree was the president of a marketing group, belonged to a business association, and worked very closely with the Mayor.  She has only been with Footwear, Etc. for six months and manager for one week, but she brings in a lot of experience and has a great team.

The selection of shoes does vary from store to store, but Avi says the inventory is 90-95% the same.  The Sunnyvale location is a little different because it is their value center, so they have a small section of current merchandise, but the rest is discounted (past seasons, one of the last few pairs, etc).  Michelle commented that the most common shoe size for women tends to be 8 – 8 ½, and for men it is 10 – 10 ½. Avi says these average sizes have gone up over the last 30 years or so.  Some of the things Michell can tell by the shoes you are wearing when you come into their stores are if you are a value shopper, if they care about their feet or not, and whether they are willing to invest in their feet or not.  Caree added that you can tell how a customer stands and what insole to recommend by the wear pattern on the bottom of the shoe.

Fall Gardening Checklist with Susan Hamilton, VTF Services

Susan Hamilton, VTF Services recently shared with PEA a list of things you should do to get your garden ready for winter.

  • Now is the time to clean up “crud” that has accumulated over the summer, while it is still dry.  This is the stuff that collects in corners and at the base of plants like leaves and other plant materials.
  • Re-pot any potted plants that need it.  After re-potting, some plants may need to be fed.  This is a good time to check for “critters and crud” that may have collected in the pot.
  • Dethatch and aerate your lawn.  Lawn builds up a network of fallen grass blades that can form a waterproof barrier.  Dethatching breaks up the barrier.  Lawn aerators pull plugs of dirt out of the lawn.  Leave them to dissolve and top dress the soil.  This is good time to use a weed and feed product.
  • If you have lantana growing in your yard, now is the time to prune it.  Don’t touch it later on – if you do it will take years to come back.
  • Keep your irrigation running.

Unexpected Directions with Judy Johnson, Unexpected Treasures

Times have changed in the estate sale business.  Judy Johnson, Unexpected Treasures, has found ways to adapt to the new environment and explained how her business is working these days.

Judy began her business over twelve years ago as an estate organizer.  She discovered early on that what she really enjoyed doing and had a special talent at is not finding a place for stuff but helping people get rid of stuff.

When Unexpected Treasures began in 2000, a typical call from a client would be from the adult child of an older couple who had passed away.  The heirs would take a few mementos and want Judy and her team to clear away the rest.  Judy, with her background in museum works and fine arts, is very well equipped to find items that are of value that could be sold to collectors or dealers.  She would find all sorts of great things – historical items, collectibles, Hummel figures, clocks and many more.

Different Clients: Today’s clients are different.  These days, heirs are keeping more items and are looking for items of value to sell themselves on eBay and the like.  As a result, today’s estate sales are less likely to be filled with the wonderful things that were once common.  They are also keeping more items and renting storage units to store them (which is a postponed issue).

The basic process for the clearing has not changed.   Judy identifies anything with potential resale value, frequently calling on her network of expert appraisers.  She also has a network of potential buyers and keeps an eye out on their behalf for items of interest.  Once the saleable items are gone, anything useful is donated to a variety of local non-profit organizations.  The rest is hauled off for recycling (if possible) or to the dump.

In general, Judy says her business is more focused now on clearing out rather than on estate sales.  Her last estate sale was in April and went very well.  She is grateful to new PEA members A&C Hauling for always being reliable and efficient haulers.  For an additional fee, she will arrange for shredding of documents or will call in Curtis Lane, Lane Cleaning Services, to thoroughly clean the home.  In a sense, she has become more of a project manager these days.

Her pricing policies have changed to keep up with the times.  She charges a flat fee for the estate clearing.  If the estate sale is less than the flat fee, the client pays her the difference.  If the estate sale exceeds the fee, Judy collects a 20% commission on the sale.  Hauling is always charged separately since that is too variable to include in a flat fee.

Different Buyers: The other part of the picture that has changed is the buyers – specifically, what they will buy.  Gone are the days of Hummel figures, fine china, and antique furniture.  None of those items sell well these days.  What does sell: sterling silver, gold, costume jewelry, watches, Native American items, military items, firearms, musical instruments, antique toys, fine dolls, currency and coins and some art books.  Mid-century Modern and Chinese furniture are the exception to the “no furniture” statement.

Restricted items: There are also many new restrictions on the sale of anything with wild animal parts – ivory, elephant, wild animal skins and furs, crocodile, alligator, and many, many more.  This includes the ivory on piano keys, ivory inlay on instruments, and even taxidermied wild animals.  It is so tempting to say that it is a wild world out there.

Brian Irion, Esq., Law Offices of Brian Irion has his Latest Bankruptcy Case Dismissed with Prejudice

Brian Irion, Esq., Law Offices of Brian Irion has been a member of PEA for nine years.  He was brought in to the organization by Roger Bolgard, Jackson & Miller and Brian has brought in three members himself (San Mateo Daily Journal, All About Business Services, and Flicker, Kerin, Kruger & Bissada).  Roger, like Brian, is an attorney, but they focus on different things.

Brian began by giving an overview of what kinds of things he has done in order to help PEA members understand what he can do for them.  In the last year, Brian has had 65-70 matters whose attorneys’ fees ranged from around $75 to $130,000.  In the area of intellectual property, he handled a trademark dispute for a synthetic seawater manufacturer, a copyright disputes for movie distributors, and a patent dispute for clean room testing equipment.  Brian has also represented contractors, some on an ongoing basis, in litigation.  If you have a transaction matter Brian recommends talking to Roger.  He has represented general contractors in collection matters and disputes with owners, subcontractors and architects.  He has also represented subcontractors in disputes with owners and general contractors (residential and commercial).  Another area Brian specializes in is real estate law.  He does purchase and sale litigation for residential homes and commercial facilities.  Brian has also worked on construction litigation and evictions (the landlord side for commercial and residential).  Unfriendly business dissolutions that are corporate, partnerships or LLCs are also cases that Brian works on.  In addition, he works on collections cases representing service providers and people who have bought goods and didn’t get them.

Finally, Brian also does many forms of bankruptcy.  Over the last year, Brian has done 30-35 debtor representation bankruptcies (chapter 7, chapter 13, and chapter 11).  In the last year Brian has also represented creditors, like in his latest trial, as well as unavoidably interested parties.

Brian shared a ‘PEA works’ story about his latest bankruptcy trial.  Brian represented the largest allegedly unsecured creditor in a chapter 13 bankruptcy case (who happened to be the ex-husband of the debtor).  He shared an overview of the case, and then spoke about how PEA helped him win the case.  The debtor sold her Porsche a few months before filing for bankruptcy for only $3000 to a close friend.  Brian spoke to Larry Moore, Larry’s Autoworks and Larry thought the car would be worth about $14,000 scrap.  Larry gave Brian information for getting in touch with a scrap auto dealer and a Porsche mechanic to give expert testimony.  Brian also got in touch with Mike Feller, Innovative Sales & Leasing who gave a declaration to value the car.  Finally, Brian had Bob Rosenberg, GR8WORK Builders, Inc. evaluate the value of a house she had purchased as well as being an investigator of sorts to help Brian find out what was inside the house as he suspected the debtor did not list all of her assets.  Ultimately, the case was dismissed with prejudice, which means she not only still owes money to her former husband, she also owes her divorce lawyer and cannot file bankruptcy to discharge these debts again.  Ever.

Brian finished his presentation by talking about what is a good lead for him.  He is not a good person for small claims matters (that is under $10,000), and not good if you want a lawyer to write ‘just a letter’ (this will just make the other side hire a lawyer as well).  A good lead is someone who understands that, as famously said by Abraham Lincoln, “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.”

Internet Marketing Panel at PEA

Last week at PEA, the Program Committee organized a panel on Internet Marketing with some of our members. Learn more about what we talked about below!

Larry Moore, Larry’s Autoworks emceed and introduced the panel speakers: Neal Coogler, All About Business Services, Erik Jacobsen, Threestory Studio, Jerry Lee, San Mateo Dailey Journal, and Kim Tucker, All Reasons Moving. Larry presented questions to the panel that they answered, and then opened the floor for questions from other PEA members.

If I’m not already on the Internet, what is the first step?

Jerry: Don’t be intimidated by the web, because you definitely need to be on it in some way.

Kim: Register your domain name and get rid of random, online email accounts.  Use your domain for employee email addresses.

Erik: You need a landing page, even a simple page is a start.  Think of your landing page as being your storefront on the Internet.

Neal: I agree with Erik, a website is important even if it is very simple.  Some people use what are like enhanced directory listings as a website, but you don’t own those sites.  It is much better to make something that you own.

Should I pay for Internet advertising?

Neal: A lot of PEA members can do without, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something to look into.  You should not discount the pros of paid advertising.

Erik: I use Google Adwords- it is an easy way to get targeted advertising and can be cost effective.  It gets me regular leads, although it was not as effective at first and I had to reevaluate my ads.

Kim: We use a combination of paid and not.  The pro of the latter is that they are free, but the paid advertising will give you a focused campaign.  It is about relevancy- we also get business from the free listings.  One tip is to Google your competitors to see what they are doing.

Jerry: It depends on what industry you are in and the internet literacy of your customers.  You also need to put in work on your end, by having good site content.  Blogging is a good way to create new content, and you could use something like that in combination with the paid advertising.

What is the ‘best buy,’ or where can you spend the least but get the most value?

Jerry: For me, we use our resources on our website itself, because ads are less effective for our business.

Kim: Visibility is important, so create a presence, work on your website, and drive traffic to it with new content. But it is important to decide if you have the time to do those things yourself, because if not, you should consider outsourcing it. We pay someone for our Google Adwords, while I spend my time on blogging.

Erik: I agree – investing in your landing page is important.  Make sure you have the content on your page.  There are also things you can do for free if you have the time.

Neal: As they say, ‘content is king.’  Having good content on your site is a good way to improve your web presence.  There are also some basic things you can do for SEO that can be quite effective.

What should I avoid?

Neal: Be cautious of hiring a business that wants to charge you a monthly maintenance fee to maintain directory listings.  It can be difficult to unsubscribe and you don’t own these listings.

Erik: Be cautious of people who promise to get you to a certain position in search results.  You should also be careful to not mix your personal and professional worlds online.

Kim: I agree, if they promise to get you on page one, they are often not doing it properly and Google will ding you for some of those practices.  I also agree that it is important to keep the personal and professional separate.

Jerry: I get a lot of spam, and it is best to not respond to it.  Remember that nothing is easy; it all takes time and effort.

Larry then opened the floor to questions from the membership.  Thank you to the Program Committee for organizing this program!