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Wednesday, 02 May 2012 19:25

Profiting from poo

Written by Deb Neuman

When I'm asked by someone, 'What kind of business should I start?' my first response is usually, 'Find something you love, then determine if it can be profitable.' This response was turned upside down recently when I interviewed two guys who do something few of us would love to do they pick up dog poop.

Childhood friends Jason Gibbons and Justin Lubitz grew up together, went their separate ways after high school, returned to Maine and decided to go into business together. They pondered many ideas, but this one was the winner. Picking up dog doo-doo from people's yards might not sound particularly appealing to you, but Jason and Justin saw an opportunity and went for it. They had seen similar businesses in other states and thought Maine could use this service. They were right!

Nine months ago Scoop Dooty was born, and today they have more than 60 happy customers. On a daily basis you will find Justin and Jason in backyards scooping up treasures and cleaning yards. When I asked them if they liked the work, they admitted that the actual scooping isn't all that appealing, but there is great satisfaction in leaving a yard clean, making a customer happy and turning a profit. Their rates are very affordable appealing to customers who don't have the time or the desire to do it for themselves.

Thursday, 26 April 2012 10:28

Clean up your 'house' if you want that job!

Written by Deb Neuman

It was about this time back in the '80s when I began really stressing about finding a job after college. I put together my first resume and mailed it out to prospective employers hoping to be asked for an interview. If I landed an interview and did well, they would begin the process of checking references and vetting me for the job. How times have changed! Today employers are checking you out before they even invite you in for the interview. Many interviews never happen because of what employers learn about you with you ever knowing it. Behold the age of the internet! Thankfully, like bad 'Tony' perms in the '80s (yes, I had one), the days of mailing out resumes as our primary means for finding a job are over.

This is both good news and bad news for job seekers, whether you're about to seek out your first job after graduation or you're looking for a new job. Here are ways to use the internet to gain an advantage in your job search.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012 13:17

Managing expectations the Disney Way

Written by Deb Neuman

I'm writing this with a Disney hangover after spending six days in the kingdom of magic and make believe with a zillion people from New York and New Jersey on school vacation - totally worth it to spend time with my niece and nephews experiencing the magic with them. Disney has long been recognized for their stellar attention to customer service and the overall customer experience. One thing stood out to me on this trip as we ventured from one experience to the next. Disney does an amazing job at managing expectations lessons we can apply to our businesses.

My nephews are 7 and 9, so we went on a lot of rides a lot! At each ride there is a sign that displays the wait time. This is critical information for families with little ones who are trying to survive their adventure. When the sign said five minutes we got right in line! If it said sixty minutes, we considered if the wait was worth it. Two hours or more we moved on to something else! My sister-in-law even used an app on her iPhone to check wait times at rides throughout the park. This way we weren't schlepping the whole herd of kiddos across the park only to find a line that was too long for our patience level.

Disney provided us with information that allowed us to make informed decisions about the activities we chose. This put us in control and we knew what to expect when we got in line - a much better approach than NOT telling people how long the wait would be, which can only lead guests to become frustrated. Let's apply this to a business. Customers appreciate knowing how long the wait will be whether it be for a table at a restaurant, a service call to install cable or service on our vehicles. If you own a business - especially a service business you will score major points when you let customers know how long they will wait for service. Disney also scored points by moving the lines along faster than the wait times indicated. Under promising and over delivering is a much smarter strategy rather than saying the wait time will be 60 minutes and it becomes 90!

Wednesday, 04 April 2012 15:17

History of the jelly bean

Written by Deb Neuman

A co-worker of mine keeps a bowl of jelly beans in her cubicle. I love and hate her for this. I can't resist those little yummy sugar treats and find myself purposely routing myself by her cubicle to grab a few more. As I scooped up another handful en route to a meeting, I got to wondering about the history of the jelly bean and how many would find their way into Easter Baskets this year.

These yummy little treats were created in the 1800s, and are believed to have been inspired by Turkish delight candies, which were candy balls originally made with grape molasses and honey.

The shell coating is an offspring of a process called panning, first invented in 17th century France to make Jordan almonds. The panning process, while done primarily by machine today, has remained essentially the same for the last 300 years. The French began by rocking almonds in a bowl filled with sugar and syrup until the almonds were coated with a candy shell. Today, large rotating pans do the heavy work, while master confectioners apply their true art in adding the ingredients to create just the right shell.

Today's jelly beans' basic ingredients are sugar, corn syrup and starch (Buddy the Elf's major food groups). Small amounts of the emulsifying agent lecithin, anti-foaming agents and edible wax such as beeswax, salt and confectioner's glaze are also included. The ingredients that give each bean it's flavor are also relatively small in proportion and vary depending on the flavor.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:49

The house that generosity built

Written by Deb Neuman

As I walked through a newly-constructed post and beam house on Mount Desert Island, I was struck by two things: the incredible views of Frenchmans Bay from every window and the incredible craftsmanship. I would love to be able to tell you I was checking out this house to buy it. Unfortunately, my bank account can't afford that view. But I was fortunate that the contractor who built the house reached out to me because he knows I'm committed to growing and supporting Maine's business community and he wanted to tell me the story of this house.

Just down the hill from this new house lives a woman with a large bank account and an even larger heart. Through a series of unexpected twists and turns she found herself with a decision to make: to build or not to build that house on the lot that she owns. She doesn't need a house, and she doesn't need to sell it for money. She decided to build it for the sole purpose of providing jobs for people in her community. Five years later, I had the privilege of seeing the result of Maine workers who because of her generosity were able to put food on their tables in spite of the challenging economic times.

Wednesday, 07 March 2012 23:37

My Interest in Pinterest

Written by Deb Neuman

So far I've managed to steer clear of 'Angry Birds' and 'Words with Friends.' I'm an avid Facebooker, I have a profile on LinkedIn and I tweet - keeping up with all of that is hard enough. So when my sister showed me her Pinterest page and raved about how much fun it is I looked the other way. I will NOT be sucked in to another time suck.

But every day I see and hear more about Pinterest, so I thought that it might be a great tool for business owners to promote themselves. I guess I should look into this.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 13:41

Don't wear your PJ's to a job interview

Written by Deb Neuman
Nothing makes me do a happy dance faster than receiving an email and resume from a college senior who is hoping to work in Maine after graduation. T'is the time of year when new graduates are about to hit the pavement with resumes in hand, looking for that first job. So I thought I would offer them, and anyone else who is job hunting, some interview dos and don'ts.
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 18:00

Why I can't resist rotisserie chicken

Written by Deb Neuman

I went into the grocery store for milk, bread, cat food and toothpaste - and left with a rotisserie chicken. Once again, the smell of that chicken got to me and I just had to have one! It got me thinking about the many times I have left a store with items I had no intention of buying.

My first job after college was with a company called Dansk Designs. We carried high end cookware, tableware and home accessories. Part of my job was to set up displays and arrange the store to sell more. Believe it or not there is a science to this, and part of my training involved learning how to arrange merchandise to appeal to human nature.

Here are a few ways it's done.

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 09:35

'Delayed' (again)

Written by Deb Neuman

The airports: one of the most stressful environments ever. I was reminded of this during a recent trip from Bangor to Pittsburgh via a stop in Philly. I flew out the day of our first snow storm. Leaving Bangor was easy, breezy - but that all changed about halfway to Philly when the plane hit turbulence. That was one bumpy ride! I have never been so happy to land. That was the beginning of a very long day as flights were cancelled and postponed, and travelers and flight crews were grounded. The Philly airport was full of people staring at the departures board and making calls to family, friends and colleagues to keep them apprised of their status.

So what can you do when things don't go as planned? This is a situation that is entirely out of your control. You have two options: stress out and be a royal pain to the gate agents or just roll with it. I chose the latter when I found my flight from Philly to Pitt delayed once, then twice, and then again and again and again.

Wednesday, 02 November 2011 10:28

'Tis the season

Written by Deb Neuman

It creeps up on me every year: the holiday season. Wasn't it just the Fourth of July? The first clue that we are entering the stretch that extends from November through early January begins with the delivery of Christmas catalogs to my mailbox, followed by the appearance of holiday wrapping paper at the grocery store and then the realization that I need to book travel plans if I want to spend the holidays with my out-of-state family and not spend a fortune.

Now that Halloween has passed and the first snow has made its appearance, it's time to start gearing up for the season. If you're a business owner and you count on holiday sales, now is the time to be gearing up for what is projected to be an 'OK' season. According to the National Retail Federation, 'The 2011 holiday season can be summed up in one word: average. On the heels of a holiday season that outperformed most analysts' expectations, holiday retail sales for 2011 are expected to increase 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion. While that growth is far lower than the 5.2 percent increase retailers experienced last year, it is slightly higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 2.6 percent.' According to the NRF, continued high unemployment is a huge contributor to this forecast.

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