Why I went and had a booth at the National Convenience Store Convention

Today, Jim Brinton, CEO of Avanti, published a blog on Vending Market Watch that details my participation in the National Convenience Store convention last week.  His last paragraph stating “I am taking my 40 years of being in vending and being protective” I hope is his intention of posting the blog.  If that is the case, I understand it and will certainly respect that.  But it by no means paints an accurate picture of why Three Square Market (32M) was at this convention.

Jim, a very successful vending operator who has built two great companies, Evergreen Vending and Avanti (along with his Avanti Northwest brand), is well respected in our industry.  He has built a nationally recognized brand and we are going to work endlessly to catch him and our peers to grow our business.  But in reading his article, I take objection to many of his points and believe it is important to clarify why we are there and what our experiences have been with convenience store owners.

First, Jim, one of the first people I met at the show is not only a convenience store owner (has over a dozen locations), but he is a proud micromarket operator.  In fact, he was in convenience stores long before he got in to markets.  And guess who he has a bunch of stores with?  Avanti. We have several successful Three Square Market operators who are also convenience store operators.  We also have operators who are hotel owners, restaurant proprietors, investors, hair salon owners and more.  Jim, they are already in this business – let’s not try and say this is limited to just vending.

I like you Jim, love vending operators.  We covet the relationships we have with them.  But I covet the relationships I have with all of my operators.  When the healthy vending craze started did you shun them?  When OCS operators got in to arena, did we push them out the door and say this was limited to just vending?  When markets moved from just being in white collar environments to gray collar locations, factories and now one of my most successful locations, charter schools, does that mean we are violating the edict?  How about improving the customer experience by offering mobile payment options versus solely relying on a kiosk – was that also a move in the wrong direction?  The answer to all of these is no.  It is called progress, growth and more.

Acknowledging the convenience store market brings credibility to our arena.  Business owners and the general public are no longer asking “what is a micro market?”  They know what it is because it solidifies that this is no longer a fad – it is here to stay.  What it should mean is that as we bring in more players, we should continue to see improved avenues for all vending operators to enter this arena and grow their businesses.  Vending has been in a slump but as recent as this month, the Automatic Merchandiser highlighted one of our operators who took a struggling 30 year company back to a growing profitable business through markets.  Micro markets has allowed that time and time again for 100’s of vending companies and will continue to for decades to come.

But my issue with the blog doesn’t end with that.  I find some of the statements to be far off-base as would some of my clients.  To say a convenience store operator “doesn’t understand how to deal with human resource personnel or customer service requests” is off base.  Many of these convenience store owners are large corporations who have their own HR Departments and clearly understand how to deal with these leaders.  And, if the attendees of this convention didn’t understand how to deal with customer requests, how are they even in business in this ever changing world of on-line shopping, telecommuting, unstable fuel markets and more.

Jim, I admire and respect your success.  But I have to say, telling me where I should be looking to grow my business is over the line.  I am going to lead our company no different than you by adding valued clients, relationships and more.  Recently we were approached by a major player to enter in to our other business, inmate commissary.  Rather than try to “protect” my business, I approached it as an opportunity to further grow my business.  I found a way to partner with them on their ideas and together, we are going to make growing together a major joint initiative for 2016.

Which is the final reason we attended the show.  We believe that several of our operators could benefit from tying our program to a convenience store operators or chains buying power, brand, loyalty programs and more. Instead of requiring that operators paste our brand name everywhere, we allow them to customize their locations – unlike anyone else. Allowing operators to partner with national brands potentially could bring identity and credibility unmatched in the industry.  It is time to think outside the kiosk and the staple of salts and sugars to grow this industry.  Partnering with some of these chains is an untapped opportunity and 32M intends to lead the kiosk providers in doing things that further enhances the services we offer to our clients and their client sites.  So when you see “1000’s of locations in your city”, you are exactly right – we are looking for ways outside of just planting a kiosk in a breakroom to ensure all of our clients grow their businesses profitably – there are 900,000 potential locations out there, let’s go get them and make them all successful.   It goes parallel to the mission we have at 32M:  Create success at every opportunity.  This was an opportunity to create new avenues for our company, our clients and potential new clients.  It was successful.

Patrick

Let’s get some facts straight

I talked with one of our great 32M distributors today and heard something that at first ticked me off but then actually was flattering.  He told me one of our noble competitors said “32M isn’t going to be around much longer”.  REALLY?  My brother in law Todd, his brother Tim, and myself …. laughed.  We are 100% privately held, no outside investment, completely self built, self funded, company.  We have ZERO outside stockholders.  We are the decision makers and guess what?  We are not going anywhere, we are not for sale and we are in the middle of a record year.  We have a phenomenal group of employees, we just added two very large jails and have nearly 4,000 more inmates set to install between now and the end of January.  We have a new patent application pending on another new enhancement to our micro market system, we are adding three new major features to our jail system in the next 60 days, and our supply company is now launching a major new initiative with Vistar that is sure to change how people look at both our supply company and 32M.  Add to it, we have a few major game-changing features set to roll out in our market business and a major new product in our jail business coming out in early 2016.

So, when you saw “32M won’t be around” really maybe what they meant is that yes, they won’t be in our rear view mirror much longer.  Yes, two competitors are currently bigger than us in the market business.  But we are rapidly gaining on them and with some of the relationships set to launch, that gap is going to close even faster.

Here is a nugget for you: You have a great kiosk.  We like it and yes, we have duplicated some of its’ features.  Pay a compliment instead of selling smoke and mirrors.  Sell the facts of your system and if you can’t, please as an operator, don’t buy in to the nonsense.  I will say this, I saw Jim Britton today at a convention – I would work with him if you didn’t work with 32M because of his passion for his business.  Or I would spend the time with the folks at Breakroom Provisions – good people with a good product – before I would spend five seconds with people who resort to these sales tactics.

Last, we were the first with many things but we weren’t the first to market.  Kudos to Jim and Joe and others for setting the stage for others like us to jump on.  Now let’s stick to the facts as we move ahead.

We take a great deal of pride in how we built our company, who we are, our great employees, clients and more.  We are not going anywhere.  We look forward to competing for the next several decades in all of our businesses and those to come.  In the meantime, research the facts and if you have a question, ask one of our great distributors, our employees, or me.

Create success today at every opportunity.

Patrick

Change – the word we hate but need for success is really less than a minute a day of change 

The late legendary coach Herb Brooks said in essence “change is something nearly everyone hates, fails to embrace but it is mandatory for success”.  I find that daily I find in both our great employees or valued clients, we are always faced with that conversation: “What do we need to change? Will it be successful? Do I want to do it?”

Well I see change a lot differently than most. If you break down your day and the decisions we make, they likely account for less than 60 seconds of our time daily. Whether we decide what to eat, when to sleep or awake, exercise, work, work smart, work hard, screw off, blow off a new process, try a new route home, listen intently to our spouses, etc., the list is very likely very long. But the amount of time spent processing the go left or right is a fraction of a second.  And this is where you as a leader, employee, spouse or aspiring “let’s get in better shape” adult succeed or don’t. 

We all know that if we wanted to have a utopia life, whatever that utopia is defined as for your individual life, it comes down to our current life is a summation of our prior decisions and our future will be determined by the sum of decisions made starting RIGHT NOW.  If you read the next sentence you purposely or subconsciously decided “I want read on – this is good stuff” or “I am going to read this as this guy is full of hot air and I want more humor”, or the last option, someone stopped reading this. 

The reality is if you want to change your path in life, you are given infinite opportunities to start changing every day.  You want to be in better shape and it is the middle of the work day?  Decide you want water right now versus Diet Coke.  Decide to stretch your legs right now and every 30 minutes so that when you get home you are ready to go for a walk rather than crash on the couch.  Want to be more productive, decide not to check Facebook right now versus making that next critical sales call.  

Reality is that there are infinite paths to walk on daily.  Your daily resting point in the journey of life tonight is controlled by you.  Don’t like your health, change it – if you have cancer that isn’t in your control but if you are out of shape, that is all you.  You don’t like your boss, look in the mirror first and ask if he/she is the problem or does your attitude have something to do it.  More specifically, is the choices you are making leading to poor performance that your “prick of a boss” is really doing you a favor? Or, is your boss or his/her boss simply an ass clown and it is time to be happy and pursue success elsewhere?  A Harvard Business School study found 54% of the time someone doesn’t succeed at a job has zero to do with the employer: it resided solely on the poor attitude and attitude skills one brought to the job. Is the boss an idiot or are you?

The reality, if you are lacking success in any aspect of your life or business or job, the opportunity to change is immediate. And when your break it all down, if you can improve the 60 seconds a day of decisions you make, you will see immediate improvement. 

Last, you may ask, how do I improve my decisions and make the change happen?

1) Slow down and breathe.  Notice I said breathe, not think.  Many bad decisions are made because people are not of a calm mindset to even think. Decisions made in this state are often influenced by anger, fatigue, being hungry or just being lazy.  So, take a deep breath first and prepare to think and analyze. 

2) Know the opposite effect of what you are about to decide. If you are seeking change, than your reality is the opposite effect you are seeking – what is the opposite of that? Know both, then make the decision based upon the desired outcome.  Case in point: You are working on growing your sales but have had a lousy day in sales.  Yet, you know your results have been slacking because you have spent more time on Facebook and fantasy football picks than working your lead management system.  So no one has answered after 24 calls: you can hit Facebook or you can make the next call.  You are at the intersection of success and not.  You can stick with your current results and Facebook routing and enjoy your current paycheck or you can knuckle down and go after the next prospect?  

The reality, achieving success and not is that simple.  60 seconds of change is not hard – make simple yet disciplined changes and you will see the results.  

Create success today at every opportunity.  

Patrick 

Our Theory When It Comes to Presentations – Whether to Say or Ask Something….or Not?

Many of you ask “how do I present this product?” when it comes to markets.  At 32M, we will provide you all of the tools and training required to be successful at selling locations.  But often, the difference maker in whether or not you nail that new account or upgrade that location to a market is how you present.  This includes asking the right questions or making bold statements, especially asking the hard questions.

So, the fair question is: “How do you know the line between asking a question or saying something that is out of bounds and not?”  Here is my theory and I call it “The Say It Triangle”.  Let me be more specific by first defining the three sides of the triangle.

  1. Side One – Professional: Is the question professional?  Specifically, is it a professional topic or not and is it asked in a professional manner?
  2. Side Two – Ethical:  Does the topic put anyone in a situation to have to consider their moral compass?
  3. Side Three – Factual:  Is the question completely true or is seeking an answer or addressing a subject that is truthful?

So, how does it work?  If the statement or question is professional and ethical, it is factual.  If it is factual and ethical, it is professional.  If it is professional and factual, it is ethical.  If it meets this model, ASK the question or make the statement.

What is the opposite of this?  Let me give you some examples:

  1. Tip toeing around issues.
  2. Hiding the truth.
  3. Not getting all the facts.
  4. Losing the sale.
  5. Losing confidence of your customer.
  6. Not capturing the impulse they had when they said “come see me”.
  7. The customer can’t wait for you to leave because they are bored in your presentation.

So let’s address point #7.  Based upon what I have outlined here in the Say It Triangle, would I ask the question “Sir, you don’t seem interested today thus it tells me that I have not captured what you are interested in.  Why did first want to meet with me?”  Would I say this?  YES.  Why, because the sale is not going anywhere and last I looked, zero times anything is zero.  Now, if it was a current client, I may change a word or two but the reality is, it would be no less than “We have been servicing you for a long time and to ensure I always provide you with the best solutions, I felt it was best for me to come in and show you how I can improve your work place and my solution to it.  Have you found any part of this upgrade proposal of interest?”  Failure to means that at some point, a competitor will come in and get their attention that you failed to.

You may say “I don’t want to be pushy or aggressive?”  Being truthful, factual and ethical is not being pushy or aggressive.  It is clarity, thorough, complete, decisive, etc.  Last I looked, sales often isn’t comfortable.  If you are comfortable in sales, you likely are not pushing yourself or your customers and your results reflect that.   The previous sentence is an exact example of the Say It Triangle:  It is factual – it is ethical – so those of you questioning whether or not it is professional, take note.  By failing to to either push yourself or your customers, you likely do not create value or urgency around you or your product.  And failure to create measured value or urgency, where the customer says “I want to move ahead today” means no sales.

In selling markets, to be specific, a lack of creating value means the locations say “I will stick with vending” or “I will stick with my current provider – they have done a good job”.  Vending, I stress, is not a bad business or solution….in locations that dictates vending should be the solution.  But don’t let that be pre-determined. And certainly don’t let the location say “we should only do vending”.   If there is interest, it can be a great location when presented the right way.  And the right way often includes coming in and asking tough questions to elicit the true needs of the organization so you create value around your product providing solutions to those needs.

So, ask yourself, in the last few presentations, have you created value or urgency for your market solution? Your company?  Your SELF?  If not, meaning you are not having success in selling markets, I would suggest  you look long and hard at your presentation skills and ask yourself “am I saying what needs to be said or asking what needs to be asked?”.

Make it a great day and create success at every opportunity.

Patrick

The Reality: Credit Card Processing, Markets & Systems

In the last week, I talked with a few Canadian operators who described to me phone calls each of them received from one of our competitors.  The summation of the call is that our competitor tried to scare the heck out of them about credit card processing and they are the ONLY certified processor and failure to work with them means that they are putting their company at risk.  REALLY?

Here is the reality: 32M has an insurance policy, as I am sure our competition does also, that protects them in the event of compromise of our system.  To get this, we had to submit semantics on how our system is built, protected, redundancy, etc., all the fancy terms you hear about technology today.  And guess what?  We passed.

We have gone through PCI audits.  In fact, 32M will be rolling out PCI-DSS certification this quarter.  This certification not only matches what this competitor claims to be the end all in this industry, but according to our QSA, another fancy term for a credit card processing compliance firm, our level of certification will exceed what they have.  But rest assured, I am not going to spend all of my time pounding you as consumers in to the ground that this is the end-all to measure systems by.  Why?

Prior to 32M earning the PCI-DSS certification, we long ago had all of our systems inspected by government agencies far higher than a QSA. We have been in compliance with them and with PCI …. THE ENTIRE TIME.  We work in an industry that houses the people in society who have committed crimes.  Some of them, horrific crimes.  Our systems, company, buildings, processes and people have gone through inspections that far exceed what our QSA has done and for over 13 years we have been given the green light to be in these environments.  We have certifications far beyond what any of our competitors have.  We take PCI, compliance, security, etc., name every term, as serious as a hole in your head.  It is our reputation at stake and NONE of it is taken lightly.  So yes, I take offense when someone tries to say “we are not certified”.  That considered, I bet I am not the only one that thinks this way.  So…..read on:

I have full confidence that our competitors are running systems that are secure, just like ours.  They wouldn’t be in business and would not be in the thousands of locations the micro market system providers are, IF THEY WERE NOT.  That includes credit card processing.  PCI standards only require that 32M, not my jail business included, just 32M alone, have a certification that is far less than what we have.  We have had it and once the PCI-DSS is issued, we will far exceed what we are required to.

That considered, I bet Jim Britton has his system locked down tighter than Fort Knox.  Avanti didn’t grow by accident.  And to be clear, Avanti is not the competitor making the calls to operators using the scare tactics.  That said, Avanti didn’t become the biggest provider just by pure luck.   I can’t say I know Jim Britton personally but in my brief interaction with him at various meetings, he has built a rock solid business based upon his passion for markets, excellence, service and more.  He is a dominant player in just his stand-alone, highly successful vending/market business in the Pacific NW.  Avanti is strong.  We respect success and Mr. Britton defines it.  And yes, I like to try and go after what I see as our system strengths versus his … have you been watching TV lately and watched the Sprint commercials?  Well, we go after our competition also on the merits of our system and the feedback we have received from operators.  That’s what Sprint has done with their “Cut Your Bill in Half” campaign and what we will do as part of building our business.  But all this considered, I am confident that Avanti and the other competitors out there also have the same PCI certifications that they are required to.

So here it is…32M will have the PCI-DSS certification and we will be processing debit in Canada.  Albeit later than I hoped, it is the process that is required to do it so be ready now to start looking at markets and what they can do for you and let’s get beyond the smoke screens.  In summation:

  1. Markets do work and they work well, VERY well.
  2. When you merchandise a market well, launch it in a dynamic fashion, micro manage your cost of goods sold, rotate inventory in and out, and bring in the products that they are leaving the store to go buy today, you can be wildly successful at markets.
  3. If you want to put vending machines products on a wall and call it a market, than stick with vending.  But know that you will need to work diligently to maintain the accounts that vending is suited for because in time, markets will dominate the ones that are not.
  4. If you are not polished on selling technology, than ask your system provider for help or hire someone, whether full time or on contract, to sell them.  Why?  See #1.
  5. And learn what locations are right and not.  And know that even if the location says “no” today, that doesn’t mean they will say “no” two months from now.  If it is a good location, it will be a good location when the decision maker is ready to say “yes”.

And as far systems, our rocks.  We know it does.  But each system has its’ features.  We think ours are better and more advanced.  But you may find another system better suited.  If so, please keep us in mind as time progresses to consider us.  Why?  This market is only at the forefront.  If you think markets are the talk now, give it 5 years.  How about 10 years?  Don’t think you are in neck deep with an operator when you factor in the growth you will have in markets the next 5-10 years.

We look forward to talking with you at the earliest opportunity.  Call us.  Stop and see us at your next trade show. But until then, don’t be scared in to making a decision on a provider.  Create some success today at every opportunity … because failure to means a day wasted.

Patrick

Back To 32 School!

Start the school year off right – Build a 32 School Market!

32schoolmarket_logo

Now, operators have a new range of potential clients! Do you know of any school districts facing budget cuts? Are there schools that need improvement? Replace a school’s kitchen with a market!

We’re doing it! Ask us how!

Check out 32SchoolMarket … a provision of Three Square Market and 32Market.com
OR go to our main website at 32Market.com!

An SEO Overview and How You Can Improve Your Google Ranking!

SEO aka Search Engine Optimization is typically divided into two main groups:

  •  On page SEO: Everything on the page. This includes everything from the words in the content you use to all the technical stuff (i.e. the code) like the HTML tags that tell the search engines about your content.  This is all within your control.
  • Off-page SEO: Everything off of the page. This is primarily made of links to your website from other websites. This is not in your control, but you have some ability to influence it.

Why is on page SEO so important? On-page content is what you have complete control over. If you use the right HTML tags and structured data to markup your content, Google will know what you do and where you are.  For example, by using words like “markets,” “vending,” and “break room” you will list higher in the search results for those keywords. Thus, when customers in your area are searching keywords that make sense with your site … they’ll find your business!  To be most effective, think like your customer!

Don’t get too stressed out about the details if you aren’t a website guru! With the advancements in search engines and how websites are rated … your actual content (what you say on your website) is the most important factor in your on-page content.  Make your content clear, concise, and up-to-date and you’re already miles ahead of most websites!

Your SEO will also in some ways be affected by the links that your website is associated with.  For example as an operator or distributor, by providing a link to 32Market.com or BreakRoomRehab.com your association with these websites will increase your visibility when individuals search for Three Square Market in your area.  Help us – help you by placing our partnership badge on your website!

Off-page SEO can be tricky, but is also one of the most important sources of your ranking power.  Links are about quality, not just quantity. Links to your business from poor websites can actually penalize your search results.  Think of adding links to your website as earning links instead of just collecting as many as possible. You can earn links by creating valuable content that others want to link to.  Social sharing is just one of the ways that you can start increasing your “link-ability.”

A Quick Overview:

  • Thorough, thoughtful and correct content on your website will take you a long way
  • Updating your content regularly will keep you relevant
  • Associations with quality websites can take your website to the top
  • Earn links! Create content people care about. For an easy way to start, begin growing your social circle and sharing what you have to say!

Opening a Successful Market – By Marketing …

Congratulations! You have signed a contract for a new market location, and you’ve worked out all the equipment, set-up, kiosk and product details with your distributors, suppliers and 32M staff.

Question: How do you make sure that the opening is a success?  Answer: Marketing!

– Your market is only new once!  You should capitalize on the new and trendy aspects of your micro market – it will never be as relevant as it is right now!

– If you don’t instruct customers how to use the market in a clear and simple message – some potential customers might not even try it.

– You are making an investment into you business with this market, and why wouldn’t you do everything possible to gain ROI as quickly as you can?

To make the most out of your new location utilize a marketing plan!
Marketing/Advertising is like the icing on the cake – the cake is good without it, but without the beautiful decoration and delicious taste the icing provides how many really want to try it?

Here are some quick marketing solutions that we suggest you employ with your new market location: 

1) Make your future customers aware of the market prior to your grand opening by using temporary banners, posters, flyers, and email messaging that will prepare and excite employees at the location.

2) Create or purchase a “Launch Marketing Packet” from 32M – to put the icing on your cake.  Launch marketing should include: Instructional Guides about market features, hand-outs, and colorful displays to attract attention.  To purchases a “Launch Marketing Packet” for your location go to 32MarketStore.com.

3) You!  Have a friendly face at your location for the first 24-48 hours so that you can assist customers and help them to realize the great benefits and products you are providing!

4) Have a sampling!  Or call it an Open-House! This is a great option at any time for new products that you are bringing in.  Doing a sampling will draw in customers and create demand for a product and thus a demand for your market.

5) Offer promotions or prizes for using the market.  Offering a discount or giving out $5 in market cash for the first X-amount of customers may seem  like a lot, but in reality it is the greatest form of promotion you can supply.

a) it’s easy to do
b) nothing motivates people like free money!

Other tips and tricks: 

Think about what draws your attention at a store. Is it the 50% discount and cash savings, the smiling faces of the friendly and helpful employees, the beauty and the allure of the location?  All of these are factors that motivate buyers.  It’s important to remember that all buyers are different and to be successful in “casting a wide net” you should cover all aspects!

Mobile Only Markets!!!

Hello All!

Don’t be fooled by imitators of our software!  We are the only micro market service provider that can give you the ability to open a Mobile Only market using our patent application software – Available for Android or Apple devices.

For more information about Mobile Only stores and how you can open a store for under $1000 please visit our new web page:

32MobileMarket.com

For more information on our patented mobile app or mobile only stores email Patrick at PatrickM@32Market.com!

Thanks! And have an enjoyable Memorial Weekend!

Perfection – what else are you striving for

As a continuation of our Blog on Principles of our company, Perfection is next.  We are big believers in Jim Collins book, Good to Great.  He says as one of his principles “are you good at it?”  We took it a step further: can we perfect it?

While perfection is something rarely achieved, seeking it should be a constant in your life, let alone the product you produce and sell. Failure to means you are accepting average.  Seeking it means you are constantly looking to improve it, how you service it, how to stay ahead of your competitors and more.  Failure to think this way means simply that, you are likely to fail, whether sooner or later.  

As part of seeking perfection, we seek like minded business owners who strive for the same.  People who want to be the best.  Business owners who can sort through the smoke screens of marketing gimmicks and fancy displays for hard core performance facts and profit measurements.  In having like minds, we can together, seek the best avenues to provide a superior end product.  In return, we achieve jointly our profit goals, the core of each business’ ability to thrive. 

We look forward to seeing our clients in Vegas at NAMA next week in our market business.  Until then, have a great business today. Today is 20% of your work week….make it count. 

Patrick