Today’s post illicited some strong opinions and also “been there done that” stories. I commented as well, but then thought, hey why not do a follow up post with some of the things I tell my clients every day.  Since I am gearing many of my blog posts to really broadcast ” a day in the life” of a working mom, designer and small business owner, it makes sense to follow up with some of the thoughts I had when reading comments. I think consumers can  be  more “mindful” and make good decisions but this can also be helpful “ammo”, er, I meant “info” for any of you business owners or managers out there who run any type of business.Please join in the discussion and comment!

Consider this:

**News flash: we are still in a tight economic market.

Think carefully Mr or Mrs Consumer about buying items with pieces or parts that require specifications or large ticket items on the internet. Are you aware that 97% of online businesses fail? Where are they going to be when you need service, help finding a replacement part or just an answer to a question about your purchase? I have been in business in my community for 11 years and am busier than ever. What does that say? And, my business is well capitalized. No joke, I tell my clients this. I work this into conversations with potential leads also. They NEED to know I am in this business for the long haul and will be there for them if something goes awry. Now, more than ever, if you are a consumer, you should ask these questions. And, if you are a vendor/designer and have longevity, make this a key selling point. Because it is.

**Whether you like it or not, there is no free ride.

If you purchase online, you are required by law in most states to pay sales tax. It is grossly unfair that many retail online giants are CHEATING your state and county of taxes owed. Sorry but this is the truth. If you are a vendor or designer, you should point this out, Gently. Look here for some info and here. Many states are trying to rectify this immense problem with varying results.

**Along these same lines for bigger ticket items:

When purchasing a new kitchen design/cabinetry/appliances etc or same for bath or rest of your home, KNOW WHO YOU ARE GETTING INTO BED WITH FOLKS! This is so important and it simply flabbergasts me to see how little consumers know about the people they engage to remodel or build their home or supply items for it. Make sure they are going to be in business after they take your money. Even good and decent business owners are facing inordinately tough times and their business can fail. You may feel bad for them but if you have given them money and you do not have the product, you are going to feel bad for YOU. Research the people you are working with…it is EASY to do. And Vendors/Designers; does not hurt to do a bit of research on your customers either.

**If you have or need a builder, make sure he or she is licensed

What you say? Surely if he says he is a contractor ( or sub contractor who is required to be licensed) he is as he says? Nope. Around these parts, you can advertise yourself as a “contractor” or “builder” and have someone not even in our area carry the actual license. I will guess it is same in some other areas as well. To me, this is just plain wrong.  And, I know people in our community who have no idea that their builder did not carry his/her own license or even more scary, did not check to make sure the contractor had workers comp insurance and liability insurance. Living in hurricane hell, I witnessed first hand how many people got screwed by dishonest people taking advantage of a nightmare. Especially hard hit were the elderly. That is bad jou jou in my book.

**Know the  contractor lien laws in your county.

For consumers and for vendors. If you are a consumer and you are working with a contractor, ask him to get lien releases from the subs doing work. We rarely get asked this of our builders. The only reason I have ever heard given is ” well, we just trust folks around here”. Bah. I am trusting too but I am a two income family and my livelihood is predicated on solid business sense. If you are a vendor or designer, know the lien requirements. Know if you are “in privity” with a client. And, do not HESITATE to file a lien if you are owed money legitimately.

I have done it 3 times in 11 years. One client sarcastically said to me, “Well, I guess we will know not to mess with Cheryl” Yes that’s right and good. Point made. Losing 25k could wipe out a small business like mine. I have not worked this hard to lose. Your dang tootin I will file a lien if I am not paid.

**Remember when remodeling a home, building new, doing interior design work,purchasing items for the home that require installation  or a professional, you are entering into a relationship.

How can you have a relationship with an internet seller that will stand the test of time? You are generally talking about a nominal price difference to get a real, live. local person with expertise to help you. And, consider it a benefit that probably she or he may know your neighbor, kids go to same school, your mom sits on the same board, and so on. Same with Interior work. Let your designer purchase. Do not beat them about the head and shoulders over an item you “think” you can get less on “F bay”, “Over it.com”, or “Weselleveryitemintheworld-zon.com”.

**TALK to your friends, neighbors, coworkers. Ask them for referrals of good businesses.

And, if you are a vendor or designer, make SURE you are working this angle also. YOUR BEST CLIENTS COME FROM YOUR REFERRALS. This can be client or from subs. I am sure I do not have to tell anyone that..but be honest, when is the last time you sent a note to a former client? For a birthday, a special occasion, a news worth clipping from the paper, a  blog post via email??? We routinely send out thank yous each Friday to anyone I have not met personally that comes into our shop and buys anything. Even simply one knob. I enclose my business card, a 3/50 flyer and write a note on memorable note cards. I THANK THESE PEOPLE FOR COMING IN AND BUYING LOCALLY.  So, it is not enough as a vendor or designer to yak about buying local, you need to do your part to encourage the behavior by rewarding those who do, even with a simple “thank you”. It is the cheapest but best advertisting of your business you will ever do. And, pay it forward please. If you get a good referral, go out of your way to follow suit. It is the karma of construction.

Weigh in. What is your opinion? Do you have other helpful information along these lines?

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

~~~Henry Ford