Established in 1982
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Here are 3 salient examples of why we need to constantly thank the veterans in our industry for their support, service and generosity. (I thought this post would be fitting for today, since it's Veteran's Day).
Recently, my wife & I visited a store in Ohio and asked the owner the one big reason for her growth, to which she replied, "Connecting with other veteran store owners at the industry events and expos. Period."
According to the book, Retail 101, by Nicole Reyhle & Jason A. Prescott, among the top 10 action guides to grow one's business include the following: "Do you actively seek outside, external resources to help you learn more about managing your business, possibly including a consultation, education course, or other learning scenario?"
And finally, my store's example is perfect too. Without seeking help from the veterans in our industry, we could not have grown, planned to grow or properly marketed our business model to the outside world.
So today, I would like to thank all the veterans in our industry for their service, support, kindness and generosity in helping fellow store owners achieve their true potential, whether it's in merchandising, marketing, retail or wholesale opportunities.
Thank you to our Veterans as well, for their service to our country, for their unparalleled bravery and for their unyielding patriotism.
With gratitude, kindness and effervescence,
Fahim Mojawalla, AMBC Director of Social Media
Island Ship Center
AMBC Certified Store
#SpaOfShipping #FahimFix #ExudeExcellence
10 Minutes from Niagara Falls, USA
1879 Whitehaven Road
Grand Island, NY 14072
Running a shipping store in a very diverse college town, I see a lot of absentee ballots being mailed, and a lot of first time voters--both young adults looking toward a future full of potential, excited to have their voice heard and recognized, and also a fair share of new citizens, grateful to be Americans and honored to perform their civic duty. It really is beautiful.
As deadlines approached, I saw more and more customers eager to overnight their ballots. Some have chosen to send them Priority Mail Express to their ultimate destination PO Box, but many of my student customers have gladly shipped them via FedEx Priority to their home addresses for a family member to hand deliver them on election day. The fact that no one has flinched to drop $30-60 to cast a last minute vote has starkly reminded me of what a profoundly great privilege we have, as Americans, to have a voice and a vote.
The future indeed is bright because America isn't made up of politics. America is made up of people--free, independent, and empowered people. And those people are voting. No matter what outcome today's votes determine, we'll all still be Americans at the end of the day; we'll all still be compatriots, neighbors, and friends.
Here's to the future!
For more information on Marty, please visit unclemartysoffice.com.
Do you watch NBC's The Profit? I got into the show about a year ago, and I love it!
In each episode, Marcus Lemonis--businessperson, investor, and philanthropist--visits a struggling business and decided whether he'd like to invest his own time and money into it to turn it around. He's a no-nonsense character, and tells struggling entrepreneurs flat-out how it is in hopes that they'll realize what they can do to make needed changes.
Marcus helps with everything from finances to inventory management. But my favorite thing is when he has his team completely redesign a business, rethink its products and departments, and give it a whole new look. It's magical!
One of the latest episodes of The Profit was on Bowery Kitchen Supplies, a Manhattan retailer of all kinds of cool culinary commodities. How that business was transformed from a cluttered mess into a beautiful, well merchandised, departmentalized operation is astounding. I got some great ideas from it myself, and the reinforcement on how important product choice is in our business was a great reminder.
If you're looking for something to watch, check out The Profit. It's streaming on most services. Start with the episode on Bowery Kitchen Supplies and prepare to get your gears moving again.
#TheProfit #MarketingwithMarty #NBC #ShakeItUp
I was truly honored to be invited to speak to high school students for their annual Shadow Day program, where they go out into the workplace and shadow different careers, so that they can decide if their chosen career path is, in fact, right for them. It allows them early access into the "real world" and I love being a part of it every year.
Here's an excerpt from my speech today, in hopes to inspire, motivate, uplift & rejuvenate you:
Always remember, that in the marketplace, whether you’re selling real estate, insurance, furniture, cars or cell phone cases, excellence sells; mediocrity does not! Be the best at what you do and never stop learning. Associate yourself with people of integrity and true character so that you can become better people and leave a positive legacy on this earth; that, my friends, is true wealth! In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Let excellence be your brand...When you are excellent, you become unforgettable. Doing the right thing even when nobody knows you're doing the right thing will always bring the right thing to you.”
How you treat people around you will say a lot about your character to your potential employers; remember that. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, among many other successful business people in the world, look for that quality of respect & positive encouragement when hiring new people on their teams.
Finally, I want to leave you with an exercise that I call the #AttitudeOfGratitude - please close your eyes and ponder the top 5 things that make you grateful & happy. They could be physical things, people, pets, feelings, past experiences, etc. I want you to physically internalize that happy & grateful feeling and hold it for a moment. Feel that joy and gratitude of having those things in life and imagine for a split second, what it would be like if any of those things are taken away! But, those things are NOT taken away and you still have them. They are yours and you should feel utterly grateful for them.
With this renewed feeling of gratitude, I want you to open your eyes and take on the day with this #AttitudeOfGratitude. Know that I post on social media every day with this attitude and try to live my life with it as well. I encourage you to do the same. #ExudeExcellence. Thank you and live fully.
Island Ship Center
#FahimFix #SpaOfShipping #ExudeExcellence
10 Minutes from Niagara Falls, USA
1879 Whitehaven Road
Grand Island, NY 14072
Friday was "one of those days" at Uncle Marty’s.
One of my biggest printing customers—one of Cornell’s largest departments—submitted a nearly 3000-page color printing request on Thursday afternoon. It was a good job, involving different sizes of paper that needed to be folded, trimmed, and collated into packets. Their deadline was Friday at noon.
My main high speed printer was running continuously Thursday afternoon and evening. As the final section was finishing, I noticed that the prints looked like they were dirty; they looked like they were on a darker stock, even though they weren’t, and had progressively gotten darker. I called my printer service contractor right away, but had to leave a message because it was after hours. I couldn’t use about half of what we had printed.
Thursday night I tossed and turned, trying to figure out how I could fix this. Maybe the printer would be better in the morning and I could reprint the tainted, tinted pages. Maybe the printer contractor would get my message and show up early make it all better. Maybe my customer could extend their deadline a bit to give me time to reprint everything once the printer was fixed. Or maybe I'd have to comp my customer and present them with sub-standard quality. The latter choice seemed the most likely, though the thought of it nauseated my obsessive, perfectionist brain. I got to the shop early on Friday morning, hoping for a miracle. But instead I found … a flood.
I've had three other floods in the past five years, so this made flood number four. We had had considerable rain overnight, and those millions of raindrops must have decided that my store seemed like a nice place to hang out. The whole back of the store, from my desk to the back hallway, was soaked.
I've learned from my three previous floods to not keep anything important or irreplaceable on the floor. I now have risers, pallets, and slabs all throughout my storage area to keep things dry. Thankfully, all I lost this time was some coffee packs and scrap cardboard. But I had a soggy store … again.
After I left a message for the maintenance department at the company that I rent my space from, I called the printer contractor again to see when the technician would arrive. The company hadn't received my message the night before, but the person I spoke with assured me she'd send someone to my store as soon as possible.
Then the kids started showing up. I hadn't had a chance to check my calendar for the day yet, and totally forgot that I had scheduled a team of students to come in to help me with a focus group for my impending rebranding. I need strong millennial feedback and opinions on my new colors, logo, hashtag, and layout before I finalize them, and so here came a group of eager students, ready to talk branding with me. I felt horrible turning them away, trying to explain in my flustration that it just wouldn't be possible that morning. Many of the students offered to stay and help, but I decided that I just needed to be alone.
I decided to try printing again, wondering if cooling down overnight helped my printer any. And it did! The prints looked almost OK. So, I reprinted the last half of the job—in reverse, so in case the problem came back the worst pages from the night before would be replaced by the best pages of the reprint. And indeed, by the end of the reprint the pages were starting to darken again. Regardless, somehow—all alone, with wet feet, waiting on every customer—I managed to pull together a finished product that my customer was pleased with when they came to pick up a little before noon.
In the meantime, maintenance people started trudging through my store, splashing through the back as they went, and assessed the situation. It took them a while to find the source of the water, but they eventually determined that someone had put a bucket on a drain spout from my roof to collect rain water or something. But that filled up and the water all spilled down along the side of my building and started coming through my wall. So, maintenance got their big vacuums and spent the day sucking up water.
Then my credit card processor went down, and stayed down for most of the day. The company said it had to do with my local ISP conflicting with the processor's system or something. I'm still unclear on the details. Anyway, I figured out that I could work around the issue by switching networks, though when I did that it made my internal network of computers and printers not function properly. So, each time I had to run a card, I had to switch the network over and then switch back afterward. In itself, this would have been a huge pain. But somehow, on Friday, it seemed perfectly normal; it seemed to make sense that it would happen then.
At 3pm, the printer technician finally showed up. He wasn’t in a rush whatsoever. I told him I had a couple of emergency calls placed at this point, but he said he only received a standard request and didn't realize it was a priority. He replaced the drum, and got my printer back to normal in a jiffy.
Friday was tough. There were moments when all I wanted to was go into the bathroom, shut the door, and scream. But I couldn't do that because the bathroom had been completely torn up by the maintenance staff in their efforts to find the source of the water! The ceiling tiles were taken down, insulation bits strewn everywhere, and the floor covered in some sort of dusty, filmy, icky mud. Yuck.
Now it's Tuesday. The bathroom is still destroyed. The areas that maintenance didn't get to in the carpet on Friday are starting to become musty and stink. Someone’s here now to shampoo the carpet and do a special mildew treatment, which of course meant that we had to haul everything out of the back room and into the vacant store next door. I’m glad I wore boots today. I miss my new little office nook, now vacated just a week after I made it. But I’ll be back in it again soon, with clean and fresh smelling carpet.
So why am I telling you all of this? Maybe I just need to vent. Maybe I want you to understand, though I write a lot about looking at the bright side, staying upbeat, providing uncompromisingly stellar customer service, blah, blah, blah, that some days just totally suck. Sometimes it takes every ounce of your being to smile through the chaos and put the customer first. And sometimes we don’t always succeed at that. But when we do, it’s often possible to make more progress on rainy days than on any other.
There were moments on Friday when I just had to laugh at the situation. After all, I've had worse days. I've had much worse days. At times I took a step back and looked around my store—at the water, at the crew cleaning in the back, at the pile of 1500 scrapped color prints, at the cables all over the place for my network switcheroos, and at my disheveled reflection—and realized that I was doing my dang best; I was freakin’ rocking it!
As Dick Van Dyke often reminds us, sometimes you just have to put on a happy face. Sometimes you have to make your own sunshine.
I just moved my desk.
It wasn't an earth shaking, ground breaking, overwhelming undertaking. In fact, the total distance traveled for my Ikea stainless steel-topped buddy was less than 10 feet. But the move has made me very, very happy.
Before, my desk was facing a wall--stuck somewhere between my printing center and packing area. It was in the middle of my store, making it so I had to crane my neck to watch what was going on at the front door and front counter. When my eyes needed to take a break from my laptop screen, I'd look up and stare at the big FedEx calendar on the wall--lovely, but seeing those days flying by and deadlines approaching did little to help my anxiety levels.
But now my desk is in the back of my store, facing forward, giving me an uncraned all-seeing perspective on my shop. From my new perch, when I need a break from my screen I look up and see my whole store--my little kingdom--and it makes me proud. When I spin my wheels, as I often do, I can reset my mind by getting a glimpse of the big picture; I can analytically see things that I want to focus on, and realize a little better when my time has been tunneled into some fruitless endeavor.
This seemingly inconsequential desk move has gotten me a little bit unstuck. And so I want everyone to consider making a similar little change. In doing so, your perspective will shift, your vision will focus and refocus, and your intentions, productivity, and mood all just may improve.
Maybe your little change isn't a desk move. Maybe it's a moving your workstations. Maybe it's cleaning out that neglected corner of your shop, or that cubby that you avoid at all costs. Maybe it's switching roles with an employee for a few hours and seeing things from their vantage point, and they from yours. Or maybe it's simply taking five teeny minutes every couple of hours to walk outside, catch your breath, and reset.
Sometimes making a little change makes a big difference. Try it.
This past week, I had a conversation with an account executive at Yelp, to discuss my advertising experience with the company.
I brought several positive and negative factors to light during our conversation. After I concluded my feedback, Kelly (from Yelp) kindly told me that she was not able to help me out but my feedback deserved more attention and she would try to find out those higher than her in management and executive levels to hear my "spiel." She did note that the only reason that she heard me out, even when I was critical, was because I was respectful in my dialogue.
That, my friends, is the essence of life - to be respectful, even when disagreeing with someone on any topic. If we can achieve that mutual respect, then we can progress as a society.
So, think before speaking, posting, writing...and edit if necessary BEFORE publishing. It might save someone from emotional or psychological harm and it may make you an advocate for unifying instead of dividing others.
With gratitude and effervescence
Co-owner of Island Ship Center
#FahimFix #ExudeExcellence #SpaOfShipping
10 Minutes from Niagara Falls, USA
1879 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Phone: 716-773-6300 Website: www.IslandShipCenter.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/FahimShips Facebook: www.Facebook.com/IslandShipCenter
Evolution [ev-uh-loo-shuh n]: a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development; any process of formation or growth.
My parents opened their first store in the fall of 1991. I was 12; stamps were 29 cents; jeans were tight-rolled. Now, 25 years later, I'm celebrating my own store's fifth anniversary.
A lot has changed in 25 years. We no longer hand-write every shipment in a manifest book, generate primitive labels on a dot matrix printer, use rate charts, or get tangled in a bell chain to check for oversize shipments. We no longer keep extensive fax logs, use an elaborate copy-and-file system for billing, or go to the Post Office every day with our accountable mail book to get that coveted round stamp. But we do still make the arduous and confusing task of shipping into a pain-free, easy, pleasant experience for the public. We still sell service; we still sell convenience.
Back in the 90s, the concept of a shipping store was still fairly new to most markets. The business model was driven by convenience—consumers’ demand for a one-stop comparative shop in their neighborhood to consolidate the shopping-around errands and time-consuming separate trips to a Post Office, a carrier shipping counter, a copy center, a greeting card store, a fax center, a notary office, and more.
Some stores started as print shops that added shipping and mailbox options; some started as mailbox stores that did shipping and a few other things. But shipping and mailbox rentals were the primary focus for the majority of our businesses. We provided our customers with professional packing, multiple shipping options, and expert guidance to help them choose the best service for their needs and budget.
Over time, the industry started to change; it evolved. The internet became a thing and drop-offs crept in. Soon drop-offs became the majority of our outgoing packages, and we realized they weren’t’ going away. The environment was changing. We needed to change.
During the infamous UPS strike in 1997—those long two weeks when the world stopped turning—we found ourselves in the position of providing solutions and alternatives to our customers. I think it was then that the light bulb really went off, and we realized just how important our business was to our town. Customer service became our paradigm.
Shipping stores began to evolve into full-service business centers. Technology allowed us to expand our simple coin-operated black and white copy machines to integrated high quality printing equipment. We began scanning documents to supplement the downturn in faxes and then realized new markets in shredding, finger printing, and document finishing. Some stores started to do design work and many became full-fledged print shops, turning out incredible finished products—done locally at a fair price.
We added digital mailboxes to our traditional private mailboxes and grew our mail forwarding business. We expanded our notary service and added large format printing, large freight shipping, storage options, package receiving, custom box creation, new retail products, and unique greeting card lines. We found untapped markets in order fulfillment, warehousing, concierge service, and textbook buyback. We got creative, and once in a while we struck gold.
We realized that those drop-off customers had incredible potential. After all, they were warm bodies in our stores and a captive audience. So, rather than getting annoyed with them and pouting over shipments that we wish had been run through our registers, we treated them like the golden potential customers that they were. With professionalism and respect, we taped their packages for free, checked for double labels, and showed them what we could offer in so many other areas.
Each drop-off customer left with our brochure in hand and an invitation to “come back soon.” We were able to convert many of them to our shipping services by simply offering monthly-billed house accounts, taking their packing headaches away, or sometimes matching their direct carrier account rates if we were able. We told them—and more importantly showed them—why they needed to have us on their team. We were the experts and there to happily make their lives easier.
The world is turning fast, and our customers’ needs are changing fast. Sometimes we feel behind the curve and overwhelmed trying to keep up. And that’s totally natural, especially for the creatures of habit that many of us have become. But when we recognize this change, we can then embrace it ... and grow with it.
Not long ago, I happened to look closely at the back of a package of cotton swabs. Traditionally, cotton swabs were used to clean ear wax. But you’re really not supposed to use them to clean your ears anymore, as they can cause damage to the ear canal and eardrum. So manufacturers are putting a list on their packaging of suggested uses, none of which has anything to do with ears. They’re now advertised for makeup removal, cleaning keyboards, applying eye cream, removing hairdryer lint, and removing bellybutton lint. The cotton swab industry didn’t die when it became ill-advised to stick one in your ear; the industry simply got creative, found a plethora of new markets, and evolved.
There’s no standard business model any more for our stores. The variety of markets we’re in has created incredibly unique, diverse, fabulous businesses. We’ve become the go-to place to solve all of our customers’ conundrums, trusted to find a solution and provide the best service they’ll ever have the pleasure to experience.
John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Let’s look to the future, and meet our customers there.
This is an abridged and edited version of the full article, Our Industrial Evolution, published in MBC Today Volume 18, Issue 3 (May/June 2016).
Comfort can be delightful. The highlight of my day is going home, putting on my jammies, and snuggling up with a big fluffy blanket … especially now, as nights are becoming crisper and autumn moves in to upstate New York. When we're comfortable, we can rest, relax, and recharge. Our minds and bodies need this, and I am indubitably a superfan. But sometimes comfort can go too far, and we get too comfortable.
The border between being comfortable and being too comfortable is vague and blurry. Sometimes we cross the line and don't realize it until we're deep into the wrong zone. When we become too comfortable, we become lethargic. Our energy levels decrease, and we start ignoring anything that's not essential. We procrastinate. We make no improvements. Our homes and health go downhill because we just don't have the umph to get things done. We start becoming blind to what's right in front of us. We choose to hit snooze instead of getting up and getting active. Our diets get junky and our looks get sloppy; we stop caring.
The struggle between comfortable and too comfortable is just as real in business it is in our personal lives. When we're too comfortable in business, we ignore what needs to be updated and changed to meet a changing market. We miss opportunities, either because we're not paying attention or because they seem like too much work. We become shortsighted, focusing on necessary daily survival but not taking the time to actively meet challenges that are just over the horizon. We become reactive, not proactive. We let our power naps turn into comas; we fall asleep, and the world passes us by.
So what do we do to break the spiral and get back on a forward track of growth? It's the same in our personal lives as well as in our businesses: we become active again. We make resolutions to not hit snooze, but rather get up, get active, and get our blood flowing every day. We find a buddy to keep us on track, encourage us, and kick us in the pants from time to time. We get out and get a change of scenery, so when we come back we can see things with fresh eyes. And we ask those we trust for their own fresh eyes on our situation, to make suggestions and give us a necessary shot of reality.
We must make a concerted effort to break the cycle of lethargy … especially in our businesses. We must force ourselves to make the uncomfortable changes that are necessary to move us forward. We must grow, and not get lost in the flow.
We must wake up.
Last week, I was honored to be invited as a guest lecturer for a marketing class at Medaille College in Buffalo. The class consisted mostly of working adults who were furthering their education to get ahead in their chosen careers.
I met with the professor the day before to discuss which topics I was to cover in the 2 hour class the next evening.
Professor Girard is a dear friend and client of mine and he just asked me to go over the growth of my business in the past ten years and how my wife and I had used various marketing techniques to facilitate such growth. He also encouraged me to bring my effervescence to the class room.
My videographer, S-Man, recorded the class and I have now uploaded a 20 minute segment for you to view and share on YouTube. Here is the link for that video: https://youtu.be/7WQO0k5aqC0
I encourage you to inspire, motivate, uplift and rejuvenate others, whether in your stores, communities, families or schools; in turn, you will receive the most immense rewards: Peace of mind & gratification, two priceless gifts of this short life.
With gratitude and effervescence,
Association of Mail & Business Centers TM, 1465 Woodbury Ave. #811, Portsmouth, NH 03801 ~ (815) 316-8255