Saturday, December 29, 2012

Where Does Santa Work After Christmas?

If your kids are like my older two were when they were younger, they might  frequently ask you detailed questions about Santa Claus.  I always tried to think of creative stories that would satisfy their imaginations and curiosity, which was fine.  An author that I previously blogged about, Elizabeth Rook, has a better idea for us.  She's written a book entitled, "Where Does Santa Work After Christmas", and it has been published just in time for those innocent, yet challenging, post-Christmas questions.

As it happens, a young child named Tyler, the main character in this book, is also very curious about Christmas.  Rook uses Tyler's natural curiosity about Santa Claus as a learning experience.  The reader accompanies Santa through his different occupations, which turn out to be plentiful.  Santa teaches children about the responsibilities associated with various professions, including firefighters and veterinarians.  Your child will love reading about how Santa takes care of sick animals at the zoo and rescues kittens.

My two-year old has just begun to learn about Christmas and really enjoys the beautiful decorations all around us. This time of year, while we are taking down the Christmas decorations, we can maintain the Christmas spirit and even teach our children about compassion and responsibility through this book, "Where Does Santa Work After Christmas."  Fortunately, this book is available for purchase at Elizabeth Rook's website and on

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Selling On Ebay - a Good Way to Learn About Business

Okay, hear me out.  Ebay???  You are thinking that I’ve finally lost it – how could you learn anything from Ebay?  Isn’t that just a website for getting rid of old stuff from around the house?  You know, I won’t deny that some of those same thoughts went through my head at one time, too.
This article isn’t about how to do Ebay well, or get rich from Ebay, or anything like that.  Perhaps some of the lessons could help you on Ebay, but that isn’t my goal. Rather, I want to share with you some of the lessons that I’ve learned from selling on Ebay and I truly believe that they can help you in other businesses.

You have to take Ebay seriously. 

This may sound obvious, but if you are doing Ebay as a side-hobby, you can only depend on luck to actually make money.  Unless you are selling iPhone 5′s, your customers are not guaranteed.  The same goes for any other business.  If you are “dabbling” in something, or just “trying it out”, the odds are stacked against your success.  You have to have skin in the game.  Jump in head first and act like it is a job – you are the most important boss you’ll ever have!
If you do it half-way, you’ll get half-way results, at best.

Customer service is important – always.

I bet a lot of people who sell on Ebay are tempted to not take customer service seriously.  It doesn’t feel like a “real” business, but I guarantee you that your customers feel “real”.  They are giving you real money for a real product, so don’t they deserve first class service?   Take advantage of every opportunity to distinguish yourself to your customer, even if you are fairly sure they won’t buy anything from you again (how many ice-cream makers will they really need?), they can still give you a boost by giving you a great positive feedback review.
I remember how irritated I felt one time when I sold an old textbook on Amazon and my customer gave me a neutral review with the following comment: “Did not include packing slip.”  A PACKING SLIP!  He got his book, didn’t he?  Look, whether we like it or not, customers like to feel like they are important to us (and they are, believe me).  Remember this and it will take you far.  Needless to say, I never forgot a packing slip again.

You have to learn to “batch” your work, or else you will be working too many hours with too few rewards.

The first few times I sold on Ebay, I felt so frustrated.  It took so long to create a listing, upload photos, write a description, etc.  It didn’t feel like it would be worth it unless I sold my items at really high prices.  How in the world did people do this for a living?  I felt like I was doing something wrong.
And I think I was.  The trick is to get your hands on multiple of the same kinds of items.  You put in the effort on the backside:  choosing your product, taking pictures, creating your listing.  Then, you leverage that effort and make a profit off of the same work repeatedly.  It’s easy as pie!  Well, not really, but it will help you hang on to your sanity.  The same idea goes for shipping:  spend a designated time period each day packaging and labeling and then make one trip to the post office (or better yet, schedule a pickup!).
And don’t spend all day checking your items repeatedly.  Tempting, I know.
These same ideas are useful in a different business:  batch your work.  Make money off of the same work again and again.  Don’t waste your time on busy work.

You’ve got to develop a system. 

I won’t go into too much detail, since the idea is pretty clear.  You need a definite system.   For example, at 11:00 in the morning, I start printing off my labels and I take everything to the post office at 2:00 pm.  If I get an order after 2:00, I don’t worry about it until the next day.  I researched packaging materials, keep all of my inventory in one place, and keep track in a spreadsheet what I am selling.
In all businesses, you need a system.  Some are more complex, but you’ll find if you don’t spend the extra time to decide how you are going to handle different situations, you’ll be spinning your wheels more often than not.

Give people what THEY want, not what you want them to want.

When I first started selling on Ebay, I thought that I knew what people wanted.  And I refused to hear the market telling me that it wasn’t interested in what I was selling.  How could hear the market?  I could barely concentrate over the sound of crickets when I looked at my listings.  Nobody wanted what I wanted to sell them.
I stumbled across a pretty random item and put it up for sale.  I was 100% positive that nobody would be interested.  It sold the same day.  I ended up listing hundreds of that same item and sold every single one.  It’s a product I never would’ve chosen if I hadn’t been willing to change course.
So, in your own business, make sure that you spend time finding out if people actually want what you want to sell them.  You will save a lot of time and money.
I’m sure that people can think of even more lessons learned from Ebay, and I’d love to hear them!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Delightful Santa Books for Children

I recently discovered two fascinating children's books by a unique author with a compelling story.  If you've never heard of Elizabeth Rooks, you've been missing out on a real treasure.  Luckily, I found these books just in time for Christmas 2012 - I think they would make great gifts!  The books are titled "Where Does Santa Go on Vacation after Christmas?" and "Where Does Santa Work after Christmas?".  I don't usually do book reviews, but I love Elizabeth's personal story and the way that she helps us answer the tough questions about what Santa Claus does the rest of the year!

"Where Does Santa Go on Vacation after Christmas" follows Tyler, an imaginative and curious young boy, Tyler, and his quest to discover where Santa vacations during the year.  Tyler and the reader together discover the glorious variety of cultures that make up our world.  The best part of this book is that it teaches children that even someone like Santa has trouble fitting in when he visits different parts of the world.  What a fun way to teach children about diversity and understanding others.

Tyler’s character is instrumental in the second book, “Where Does Santa Work After Christmas,” as well.  Through this book, children discover that Santa has more than one career – he isn’t just a jolly, bearded man in a red suit.  Santa shows children about different professions through his roles as a veterinarian and a fire-fighter and teaches children compassion and responsibility.

These two books are an endearing complement to any book collection, and would make an excellent Christmas gift this year.  They can both be purchased either at Elizabeth Rook's website and on Barnes and Noble or

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Are "Gatekeepers" Necessary in the Publishing Business?

On the internet, self-publishing is everywhere.  Ebooks and Kindle books abound.  There are literally millions of blogs.  I am self-publishing this blog post.  Information is being thrown at us from every direction.  The question is:  Do we NEED gatekeepers (i.e. publishers, editors, etc.) to filter these items for us?

Critics of self-publishing say that we need gatekeepers for our own good.  The gatekeepers will make sure that we are able to find the best books and magazine articles.  Otherwise, how will we sort through all of the available options and how will we know that the information is accurate?

Those that support self-publishing say that people are able to decide for themselves what they want to read.  In addition, supporters claim that it is actually a GOOD thing that more sources of reading materials than ever are available.  They also accuse the publishing industry of greed... obviously, self-publishing has the potential to substantially eat into their profits.  

Where do you stand on this issue?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Obama - Accidental Gun Salesman of the Year?

I have been amused. dismayed, and fascinated since the election of our latest president.  Sales of guns in "large retail outlets" have risen more than 39% since the beginning of the year.  

During hard economic times when most industries are experiencing unusual hardships, why are many types of businesses related to weaponry experiencing some of their best sales periods?

And what does President Obama have to do with it?  

Before the election, many conservative pundits and entertainers did a bang-up job of attracting the attention of many conservative voters that otherwise lacked passion for some of the core conservative issues (i.e. certain foreign policy and economic issues, among others).  It is not to say that these voters were no longer interested in these traditional issues, but that the situations had become very dire and they may have been willing to consider a change in direction for the country.

These conservative pundits (both amateur and professional) filled up the airwaves and bandwidth with incessant chatter about then Senator Obama's stance on gun control.  Some of these voices went  as far as to say that Obama was going to immediately rid the nation of guns (would that be such a horrible thing, honestly?).  These efforts were so effective in scaring the population that in October 2008, rifle and firearm sales were up by 14% from the previous year.  This is BEFORE the actual election, and before the introduction of any sort of legislation by Obama or other Democrats in the new session.

In Cobb County, Georgia, there has been an extremely high increase in permit applications - the numbers show that there were 3,238 applications in 2007.  Compare this to 7,576 in 2008.  The 2009 figures promise to be just as dazzling.

With the types of reasonable, "common-sense" gun control measures that President Obama supports, all of law-abiding citizens in this country that want to use guns for self-protection or hunting will still be able to do so.  Those that are interested in paramilitary group start-ups might have a bit more trouble.

So, everyone who has participated in this frenzy should just feel a little silly because the best of them was "got".   If I were one of  these people, I would be asking myself what kind of nonsense has been going on behind my back while I was stocking up on ammo and stockpiling weapons in my secret underground cellar in my backyard...  

Perhaps, just perhaps, there are more important issues to be dealt with.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Found: Money - Would you keep it?

A driver in San Diego found a little over $700 while driving on the Interstate.  There were some drug-running suspects on the loose and they let some of the money fly out of their window, which is how it ended up on the road.  

The driver is keeping the money and considers this to be a lucky event.... would you keep the money?  What about some of the people who say that this money is drug money?

I, personally, think that this person is 100% correct in keeping the money.  I recall all of the old sayings:  "possession in 9/10ths of the law" and "finders keepers, losers weepers".  In this case, the weeping loser is the government :-)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Our adversion to "profanity"

I was reading a book about language today, and came across a very interesting concept. The book did not discuss this in detail, and I was unable to come across any reliable internet sources to read further, so I will be left on my own to think about this one:

Is our aversion to profanity simply a well-ingrained superstition?

Different cultures deal with profanity differently, and in those cultures different things are considered vulgar or profane.

What I could determine, simply by the definition of "profane" is that it is an old word and definitely religious in origin.

Could it be that we should sit back and think about why we think certain things are profane? What do we think will happen to us? I am talking about more than what we think our friends, co-workers, or family might say behind our back... Is there a bigger fear that we have about saying certain things? Are we like the old believers in Greek mythology, thinking that we will be struck by lightening?

I am interested to hear other thoughts on this issue.