Business, Coastal Stuff, Oddyssea

Not Every Dollar is the Same

10.21.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Not Every Dollar is the Same
$1,000 bill - different businesses yield different profits. Not every dollar is the same.

Having spent the vast majority of my business life creating and selling software; the business model I’m used to consists of relatively large expense dollars in the form of Research & Development (R&D) and Sales, Marketing, and Administration (SMA.) Since it’s software, the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) tends to be noise leading to healthy gross margins. If the COGS are <1% of sales, the gross margin is >99%.

The advent of network delivered software model has changed that a bit with COGS as a percent of sales climbing to around 20% to support the investment and operations of the IT infrastructure necessary to deliver the software as a service to the customer. Even with the increase in COGS it still leaves a ~80% gross margin. And that kind of margin supports a healthy R&D and SMA investment on a per dollar sold basis.

The recent foray into the retail world with Oddyssea is a completely different beast. Moving from software to physical products has a huge impact on the COGS aspect of the business. The obvious aspect is the acquisition of the product for sale, but the sourcing, transport, storage, presentation, and eventual disposal of the product and packaging are material costs that all hit the COGS line.

In the retail model, we’re finding that 50% of each dollar is consumed with the life-cycle of the physical products we offer to our visitors. This means we see a 30 point drop to a gross margin 50% which means there are fewer dollars left over to cover costs, investments, and profit. One benefit on the expense side is that R&D is minimal in the retail model. SMA remains a very real set of costs to cover inside the reduced gross margin dollars.

Thus we’ve found ourselves tracking gross margin pretty closely and working to make improvements in that area of the business moving toward a long-term goal of 65-67%. In our first few months we’ve been able to log an average of 1.5 points improvement per month as we optimize our product line for sale and work to move the COGS into the desirable zone. Based upon the early data, we believe that our profit margin will result from the COGS improvement while keeping a tight hold on SMA and working to steadily increase top-line sales.

It’s exhilarating to learn a new way of doing business and taking the bits from the prior 30 years to apply in the new arena. This experience has also served to make me appreciate the simplicity and profitability of software businesses. It is MUCH easier to create a profitable software business than a business in the bricks and mortar world. The 30 points of gross margin make the software business much more flexible, forgiving, and profitable for the owner.


Pancho & Lefty

10.09.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Pancho & Lefty

For your viewing/listening enjoyment. Can’t get it out of my head this morning, so I thought I’d share a little Townes Van Zandt with the broader world too……. 😉

Business, Commentary

You Work for Me Dammit

10.02.12 | Permalink | 1 Comment
You Are Fired Wells Fargo Bank

I’ve frequently railed against large companies abusing their customers in this forum. There are rants on United Airlines, Allianz Travel Insurance, Honeywell, etc. that detail the specific incidents so you can read them as you like.

Yesterday, as I was fighting my bank for the 47th time on stupidity they’ve inflicted upon me as their customer, it occurred to me what has gone wrong with these institutions: they are simply too large to care. The loss of any single customer is inconsequential to their business so the relationship of customer to vendor has become twisted. They believe you (their customer) exist to serve their interests and the interests of their shareholders. This is 180 degrees incorrect in that customers are the lifeblood of any business and these monster companies are about to re-learn that lesson as more of their customers get fed up with this situation and seek alternatives.

This is what I want to share with all of you too-big-to-fail motherfuckers out there: You Work for Me Dammit. It’s not the other way around. I’m done working through your systems to do your work that you should rightfully be doing for me as a customer. What’s my alternative? Anything or nothing is better than what you offer. Big is not best. Big is not beautiful. Big sucks.

So, in addition to firing United Airlines after 20+ years of loyal patronage this year, I’m about to fire Wells Fargo after 23 years of banking relationship. We have had our personal and multiple business accounts with them over the years and that’s now over. We will be headed to a local bank or credit union with our business. The pain of switching is much less than the pain of staying and PAYING for the right to be an abused customer.

A word of advice for other large companies that want my business? Remember that you work for me and do your damn job. Don’t just do it, do it well. Or, I’ll fire you too. And I’ll enjoy it. That’s something Mitt and I have in common it would appear. 😉

I hope this becomes a trend, customers firing large companies who screw them. If you have fired a company or want to do so, please leave a comment with the particulars, I’m interested to hear your story.