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FEBRUARY 2017
In this issue...
  
         
INDUSTRY
 CALENDAR
 
HIGH POINT PRE-MARKET
March 13 & 14
 
 
HIGH POINT MARKET
April 22 - 26
 
 
CITY OF HOPE - SPIRIT OF LIFE AWARDS DINNER
April 23
6pm
Grandover Resort, Greensboro NC
 
 
IHFRA FURNITURE INDUSTRY AWARDS GALA
April 24
6pm
Koury Convention Center, Greensboro NC
 
 
LOUISVILLE MARKET
May 17 & 18
 
 
CANADIAN FURNITURE SHOW TORONTO
May 25 - 28
 
 
HFA NETWORKING CONFERENCE
June 4 - 6
 
 
TUPELO MARKET
June 6 - 8
 
 
DALLAS HOME & GIFT MARKET
June 21 - 27
 
 
ATLANTA FURNITURE & ACCESSORY MARKET
July 11 - 18
 
 
LAS VEGAS MARKET
July 30 - August 3
 
 
- IHFRA REPS -
 GET YOUR HFA CONFERENCE REGISTRATION FOR FREE!
The Home Furnishings Association (HFA) will be giving IHFRA sales reps an opportunity to attend the upcoming Networking Conference in San Antonio for free! All that is required for IHFRA reps to receive free HFA registration is bring one new retailer to the event. A new retailer would be considered a retailer who has never attended the HFA conference or one who has not attended the conference since 2013. 
 
This is the second year IHFRA will partner with HFA to promote this valuable networking event for the entire furniture industry. In a recent Amber Engine industry survey, networking was ranked as the preferred educational method for those surveyed. 
 
IHFRA will also sponsor breakout sessions geared for sales reps. Jesse Akre of Amber Engine will be presenting a session titled "What is Product Data Costing You?". Eric Mawyer of Guardian Protection Products wIll be presenting a session titled "Best Practices for Successful Sales Associate Training". 
 
For more information about the HFA Networking Conference, visit www.thehfnc.com.
 
Contact the IHFRA office for additional details on the referral program (ihfra@ihfra.org / 336-889-3920)
 
DOWNLOAD THE IHFRA MEMBER APP
The new IHFRA app gives members easy access to the Online Directory, Job Postings, Benefit Information and Announcements while on the road. 
 
The app is available in the ITunes App Store (Apple phones) and the Google Play Store (Android phones).
 
Once downloaded, you will use the same login you use for the IHFRA website to use app features. 
 
If you have not logged into the new IHFRA website yet (www.ihfra.org) please do so to access your login info.
 
 
You can also search "IHFRA" in the iTunes and Google Play Store.
 
RISING DEMAND BOOSTS 2017 FORECAST
Millennials start shopping for basics while Boomers fit homes for thriving in place.
 
"We are forecasting 2017 as the best year in the decade for the furniture industry," said Jerry Epperson, Partner with Mann, Armistead, & Epperson, Ltd. Investment Bankers and Advisors, and publisher of the monthly Furnishings Digest Newsletter. Kyle Johansen, Executive Director of Merchandising at HOM Furniture, with fifteen stores in the Midwest, shared Epperson's optimism. "We anticipate growth on a same store basis of 3-4% in the new year."
 
"By all normal indicators like interest rates, inflation rates, housing and the market, we're in good shape," said Ken Smith, Audit Partner with Smith Leonard Accountants and Consultants and publisher of Furniture Insights. "Consumer confidence climbed after the election and a recent University of Michigan survey indicated nearly half of all consumers expected good times in the economy as a whole in the year ahead." Smith's November issue of Insights included results from a survey of residential furniture manufacturers and distributors that showed orders up 14% in September 2016 over September 2015, a double-digit increase that bodes well for the months ahead.
 
"We were pleased to see products at Market that will resonate well in our coastal area," said Dianne Ray, president of Garden City Furniture near Myrtle Beach, SC. "We sell a lot of the less formal fun fabrics like coral, light green and aqua, as well as the distressed and driftwood look in all wood presentations. This Market gave us many exciting options to introduce to our customers." As was the case with Olinde's, weather-related factors, like the flooding and high winds due to Hurricane Matthew, resulted in a spike in replacement buying at Garden City Furniture in the third quarter.
 
"As a result of the recession, Millennials delayed major steps in their lives," said Epperson, "including further education, marriage, childbearing and establishing their own homes independent of their parents. Now, they need someplace to sit, sleep, and dine, and they are out there shopping for unique signature pieces that reflect their individual tastes. This is a great opportunity for retailers to offer something different for them. With 1400 showrooms, and only 300 of those with high quantity purchasing requirements, Market provides an enormous array of innovative vendors to explore!"
 
According to HOM's Johansen, who spent a week at Market accompanied by eleven colleagues, "Trends that resonate with the Millennials include transitional, mid-century to modern and a vintage/reclaimed style. The traditional looks are becoming more simple, with fewer over the top features, and they're taking on lighter finishes than in the past. We show a vast assortment of product, so we aren't focusing on just one or two trending lifestyles. Market gives us the opportunity to visit vendors that span all the major trends."
 
While the Millennials' demand for home furnishings gives the industry a new boost, Baby Boomers still represent a major opportunity. Fitting their homes with livable products that offer enhanced safety and convenience, they could spend as much as $7.9 trillion in the coming years.

"Seniors control vast resources," said Randy W. Fiser, ASID CEO, in his presentation at the ASID President's Forum 2016. "As a group, the 55-plus population in the U.S. would be the third-largest economy in the world, after the United States as a whole and China. Aging in place is clearly their preference, with more than 75 percent of those age 80 and above living in their own homes."

Roger Hancock, owner of Town and Country Furniture in the Buffalo area, attributes the changing needs of older people as the key to his 420% growth this November over last November. "I sell a lot of motion seating and while it appeals to all age groups, streamlined power motion chairs are extremely popular with ladies of a certain age. Whether they want to replace outdated or stained furniture, are physically weakened, or just find that it is easier to get out of a power recliner, they are buying."
 
As we head into the new year, today's two largest demographics are on the hunt for new furnishings. More Millennials are ready to satisfy their long-pent-up demand for pieces to fill their new homes, and Boomers are seeking products that support their desire to thrive in place. For the retailers and designers who offer the right mix of merchandise, the prospects for continued sales growth are looking bright.
 
 
HIGH POINT MARKET NEWS 
 
9 THINGS YOU NEED TO LET GO OF FOR SUCCESS IN 2017
As an entrepreneur, you are your best friend and your worst enemy. You vacillate between believing in your ability to take on the world, making it better as only you can, and doubting your worth, self-sabotaging through procrastination and unnecessary spending. You can make 2017 your best year yet, but in order to do so, you'll need to let go of a few nasty habits.
 
1. HAVING A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
Yes, you are a special snowflake with a unique combination of skills and vision, but that doesn't mean the world owes you anything, especially as an entrepreneur. If you want success, you need to make it happen. You want a new client or your company featured in a great publication, then you'd better start hustling to make it happen.
 
2. TRYING TO DO EVERYTHING ALONE
That said, don't try to do everything alone. It's okay to ask for help and advice, and you can even hire someone to take some of the burden off your shoulders. You have a whole network of friends and fellow entrepreneurs who will be happy to help you, whether it's because you've helped them or because they just want to see you succeed. Entrepreneurship is hard enough -- don't make it unnecessarily harder.
 
3. TRYING TO BE PERFECT
Everyone fails sometimes. A successful person is the one who keeps getting up until eventually, life stops knocking her down. Trying to be perfect will keep you from making the mistakes and riding the learning curve that you need to in order to reach success.
 
4. COMPARING YOURSELF WITH OTHERS
Successful people are meant to be inspirations. Their success can be a potential roadmap to help you avoid the same blocks they stumbled over on their way to the top. You are not supposed to look at them and castigate yourself for not being equally successful. They started and made their way with hard work, and if you focus on the lessons you can learn from them instead of where they are now, you'll get there too.
 
5. PROCRASTINATING
Certain parts of your business aren't fun. You might hate dealing with email campaigns or formatting your website. No many people enjoy preparing contracts or invoices, but every single step is important and needs to get done. Don't let procrastination be the reason you're behind meeting your targets and reaching your goals.
 
6. BEING UNPREPARED
Whether it's the result of procrastination or overconfidence, being underprepared can ruin client pitches, client work and your reputation -- which, once tarnished, is so very hard to fix. No matter how confident you are that you know your stuff, prepare for everything. Have a "plan B" and a "worst case scenario plan." You may never need them, but you'll be glad you have them if you do.
 
7. CONSTANTLY COMPLAINING
Not only is it exhausting to always be miserable, but you'll turn off other people who might have otherwise wanted to help or work with you. If all you do is complain, you'll be too busy to see opportunities. You will be so focused on the negative that you won't appreciate what you do have. If something isn't right, fix it. Don't complain.
 
8. BUYING THINGS YOU DON'T NEED
While it might be exciting to buy all the new toys, focus instead on ways to spend your money that will get you closer to your dreams. A new computer might be flashy and fun, but the course on Google Analytics or revamping your website might be a better use of your money. Or you could always tuck that money away for a rainy day -- they do happen eventually.
 
9. THINKING YOU'RE NOT READY
No one is ever really ready for the big things in life -- starting a business, having a baby, etc. You just have to figure out things as you go. That isn't to say that you shouldn't have a knowledge base and a plan, but as they say in programming "if you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late." Don't wait for the perfect moment. Do it now.
 
There are plenty of things that can be roadbumps in your business. Don't let the things you have control over be one of them. Fix these bad habits and bad mindsets, and go into 2017 ready to accomplish your dreams.
 
 
ENTREPRENEUR - JANUARY 2017
 
SPIRIT OF LIFE AWARDS DINNER
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Grandover Resort, Greensboro NC
 
Honoring:
  • Nirja Shah & Steve Cozine - Wayfair
  • Bill Wittenberg - Klaussner
 
City of Hope's International Home Furnishings Industry is honored to bestow the Spirit of Life® Award to Niraj Shah and Steve Conine of Wayfair, and Bill Wittenberg of Klaussner Home Furnishings.
 
Shah, Conine, and Wittenberg visited City of Hope and learned firsthand from our prestigious and passionate doctors how their support will impact the lives of patients and their loved ones all around the globe.
 
NEW IHFRA MEMBERS
Say hello to our newbies!
 
AFFILIATES
 
UltraComfort of America
 
Rizzy Home
 
Wesley Allen
 
Jaipur Home
 
Classic Home
 
Eichholtz
 
 
ASSOCIATES
 
Nicole Noot - Gruppo Buonlnfante
 
Schaefer Solutions
 
 
REPS
 
Dan Meyer
 
James Graham
 
Mark Bowen
 
Brandon Suddreth
 
David Beil
 
Jerry Colpitts
 
Charles Denton
 
Doug Goessling
 
Anthony Catanza
 
Sam Stoltzfus
 
Tyler Jones
 
Sally Simerson
 
Fran Chesaux
 
Jay Hayes
 
Connor Craven
 
Eli Flores
 
Curt Goss
 
Riley Anderson
 
Jonathan Wilson
 
Rafe Bethell
 
Alex Ashford
 
Craig Meaut
 
John Lopes
 
Jamie Burrell
 
Jack Richardson
IHFRA'S SUPPORTERS
Thank you!
 
220 Elm
 
AICO
 
Amber Engine
 
American Furniture Hall of Fame
 
American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA)
 
American Society of Furniture Designers (ASFD)
 
American West Worldwide Express
 
Ashley Furniture
 
Baldacci Promotions
 
Colonial, LLC
 
Cory Home Delivery 
 
Cozzia
 
FTW, Inc
 
Furniture World
 
Furniture/Today
 
FurnitureDealer.net
 
Global Shippers Association
 
HFBusiness
 
High Point Market Authority
 
Home Furnishings Association (HFA)
 
Home Furnishings Ins. Group
 
Houser Transport
 
Hoyt Highfill & Associates, Inc.
 
Ideal Transport
 
International Market Centers
 
Lyon Credit
 
Massood Logistics
 
Murrows Transport
 
Planned Furniture Promotions
 
Profit Management Promotions
 
Ren-Wil, Inc.
 
Renaissance
 
Shelba D. Johnson Trucking
 
Sustainable Furnishings Council
 
Tupelo Furniture Market
 
Wahlquist Management
 
Warren Trucking
 
Watkins & Shepard Trucking
 
Web4Retail
 
WithIt
 
Zenith Global Logistics
 
Words from our President
 
The furniture industry's first market of 2017 proved to be a busy one for exhibitors, retailers, and representatives working the Las Vegas Market.  Despite the unusually cold and rainy few days, the Market was bustling!  A few buying groups also held their annual meetings in Las Vegas prior to the Market.
 
The IHFRA Office kept busy signing up new and renewing members in the prime location in the Lobby of Building A.  But, the highlight for IHFRA was our Saturday night social at the Golden Nugget's Gold Diggers Lounge on Fremont Street.  Last year, IHFRA held our first Social with a little bit of caution.  The turnout was great, but the room was a little small and difficult to find. 
 
This year, we put together a Social with more space, better food and drink, and a fun place to chill out and watch the colorful festivities on Freemont Street.  IHFRA also honored our Ambassadors and toasted out outgoing Chairman Frank Lorenzo.  The event drew members from all over the United States.  It was a pleasure to catch up with old friends and meet new IHFRA members.
 
With our West Coast membership growing steadily, the Las Vegas Social is becoming a touchstone for our West Coast members and our IHFRA Executive Committee.  Special thanks to all our sponsors, Ashley, Zenith Global Logistics, Amber Engine, Color Ad, Fisher Printing, and FurnitureDealer.Net.  Their contributions helped us make the Social a fun night of camaraderie.
 
We look forward to our big night of the year coming up at this High Point Market, the Furniture Industry Awards Gala.  We will all gather on Monday, April 24, to honor the best new and veteran representatives.  Mike Root will receive the Distinguished Service Award, Nebraska Furniture Mart will receive Retailer of the Year, and Kerry Lebensburger of Ashley Furniture will receive the Pillar of the Industry Award.  Also, our Rising Stars and Legacy Rep awards will be presented - Glen Beckert, Harrison Rose, Samantha Simonton, Buddy Shaffer, Bill Munn, and George Huggins.
 
It is going to be a great night.  We look forward to seeing everyone there!
 
Geoff Weed
Regardless of your company's size, it is imperative you move forward with innovative ideas. But, if you're anything like the rest of us, you're wondering where they manufacture innovative ideas and how you can get on the mailing list. So, to make big strides towards innovation seem a little easier, it's best to start small.

When you move in more manageable increments, the progress is scalable - which means growth isn't so overwhelming. After all, if we asked how you would handle a 320% increase in sales right this hour, you wouldn't be prepared to answer, right? Now, let's get started.

Step one - brainstorm. Pull as many ideas as you can from as many different sources - and this includes people who aren't necessarily on your team. And, when brainstorming, don't be afraid to find inspiration from outside sources. Just be sure to customize the experience for your business.

Step two - play. Test your ideas on a small group of honest individuals to see what feels right - and not so right- for your company. Just make sure that the people in your test group have no vested interest in an outcome in either direction. Step three - fail forward. Yes, fail. It's not a dirty word- it means you're trying. Take the mistakes and missteps from step two and adjust accordingly. Finally - get out there! Don't talk yourself into testing an idea to inertia.
 
Sometimes, you have to go to market with a half-baked idea and course correct along the way.
Rinse and repeat with as many small ideas and steps as you can. The idea is to create a snowball effect. One small action leads to another small action, leads to another and another. And, before you know it, you're a go-to thought leader and innovator in your area.

So, what might this look like in real life? Let's say you take some pictures of your products and share them with friends. Their feedback is good, so you start a social media channel. That feedback is positive, so you build a social strategy and calendar, and then you start scheduling posts. Before you know it, you're running multiple online and in-store campaigns. The feedback is better than good, so you add beacon technology and use those analytics to enhance POS displays.

One small action leads to another, and before you know it, you're a leader. Your sales triple, then quadruple, then explode. Now you have stores from coast to coast, along with a booming online presence - and it all started with a single photograph.

And, if you're not into digital initiatives, that's okay. This process is limitless. Apply baby steps to make giant leaps in print marketing, video, branding, networking and pretty much everything else you can imagine. All you have to do is dream and take the first small step.
 
As I sat down to write my column for January, with Lisa stand-ing behind me with a bullwhip to encourage my efforts, I saw a couple of holiday mailers from Costco and Pottery Barn. At that moment it struck me what major challenges traditional furniture stores have in the upcoming year to compete not only with internet retailers but with other non-traditional channels.

Consider Costco featuring both warehouse only and internet items. I was struck by the famous well respected manufacturers highly placed by this giant: Broyhill, Klaussner, Simon Li, Pulaski, Universal and of course Temper Sealy. Most items that are warehouse only are not priced in mailer, but an accompanying article indicates 50% less than normal retailers' prices. The internet portion does show delivered prices on many groups but an equal number just show "dollars off price," Most items present familiar stylish looks. With the brand loyalty that Costco has these becomes easy impulse purchases in their facility. Since the ultimate consumer doesn't really have a clue what furniture is worth they may be tempted to load it in the truck and take it home!

The other prominent distribution network is "lifestyle stores". With the increasing affluence of the middle and upper consumers, these household names generate huge volume on a national basis: Ikea, R.H., Pier I, Ethan Allen, Crate and Barrel, and World Market to name a few. This little segment produced $8 billion in retail sales in 2015! As we know those numbers are at huge margins!

I guess as one considers how to combat the big boxes and the lifestyle segment, the obvious path is for the brick and mortar segment to make buying home furnishings a pleasant and profitable endeavor. So many examples like Jordan's sensory experiences; RC Willey with a corporate culture of the "Willey Way" where everyone from Jeff and Scott, down to the final mile delivery man, is inbred with a dedication to their custom-er; to Nebraska Furniture Mart Dallas that overwhelms the customer with incredible selection and price, are just three examples of why traditional furniture stores still count.
 
Make furniture shopping fun by eye popping displays, constantly changing values, and a sales staff that will really solve Mrs. Consumer's home furnishing needs and it will be extremely difficult for alternative outlets, including the internet to "eat your lunch." By most indications, the climate and attitude is very positive right now, so by reinvigorating our efforts furniture can steal back some of the dollars that slipped away to cars, vacations, and other smaller competitors. As always, if we can help you make 2017 your best year ever, please give us a call or drop us an email. 
 
Thanks for your continued business.
Emmet Root
Being self-employed has many advantages - the opportunity to be your own boss and come and go as you please, for example. However, it also comes with unique challenges, especially when it comes to how to handle taxes. Whether you're running your own business or thinking about starting one, you'll want to be aware of the specific tax rules and opportunities that apply to you.
 
Understand the self-employment tax
When you worked for an employer, payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare were split between you and your employer. Now you must pay a self-employment tax equal to the combined amount that an employee and employer would pay. You must pay this tax if you had net earnings of $400 or more from self-employment.
 
The self-employment tax rate on net earnings (up to $127,200 in 2017) is 15.3%, with 12.4% going toward Social Security and 2.9% allotted to Medicare. Any amount over the earnings threshold is generally subject only to the Medicare payroll tax. However, self-employment and wage income above $200,000 is generally subject to a 0.9% additional Medicare tax. (For married individuals filing jointly, the 0.9% additional tax applies to combined self-employment and wage income over $250,000. For married individuals filing separately, the threshold is $125,000.)
 
If you file Form 1040, Schedule C, as a sole proprietor, independent contractor, or statutory employee, the net income listed on your Schedule C (or Schedule C-EZ) is self-employment income and must be included on Schedule SE, which is filed with your Form 1040. Schedule SE is used both to calculate self-employment tax and to report the amount of tax owed. You can deduct one-half of the self-employment tax paid (but not any portion of the Medicare surtax) when you compute the self-employment tax on Schedule SE.
 
Make estimated tax payments on time
When you're self-employed, you'll need to make quarterly estimated tax payments (using IRS Form 1040-ES) to cover your federal tax liability. You may have to make state estimated tax payments as well.
 
Estimated tax payments are generally due each year on the 15th of April, June, September, and January. If you fail to make estimated tax payments on time, you may be subject to penalties, interest, and a large tax bill at the end of the tax year. For more information, see IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.
 
Invest in a retirement plan
If you are self-employed, it is up to you and you alone to save sufficient funds for retirement. Investing in a retirement plan can help you save for retirement and also provide numerous tax benefits.
 
A number of retirement plans are suited for self-employed individuals:
  • SEP IRA plan
  • SIMPLE IRA plan
  • SIMPLE 401(k) plan
  • "Individual" 401(k) plan
The type of retirement plan you choose will depend on your business and specific circumstances. Explore your options and be sure to consider the complexity of each plan. In addition, if you have employees, you may have to provide retirement benefits for them as well. For more information, consult a tax professional or see IRS Publication 560, Retirement Plans for Small Businesses.
 
Take advantage of business deductions
If you have your own business, you can deduct some of the costs of starting the business, as well as the current operating costs of running that business. To be deductible, business expenses must be both ordinary (common and accepted in your field of business) and necessary (appropriate and helpful for your business).
Since business deductions will lower your taxable income, you should take advantage of any deductions to which you are entitled. You may be able to deduct a variety of business expenses, such as start-up costs, home office expenses, and office equipment.
 
Deduct health-care expenses
Being self-employed has many advantages - the opportunity to be your own boss and come and go as you please, for example. However, it also comes with unique challenges, especially when it comes to how to handle taxes. Whether you're running your own business or thinking about starting one, you'll want to be aware of the specific tax rules and opportunities that apply to you.
 
Understand the self-employment tax
When you worked for an employer, payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare were split between you and your employer. Now you must pay a self-employment tax equal to the combined amount that an employee and employer would pay. You must pay this tax if you had net earnings of $400 or more from self-employment.
 
The self-employment tax rate on net earnings (up to $127,200 in 2017) is 15.3%, with 12.4% going toward Social Security and 2.9% allotted to Medicare. Any amount over the earnings threshold is generally subject only to the Medicare payroll tax. However, self-employment and wage income above $200,000 is generally subject to a 0.9% additional Medicare tax. (For married individuals filing jointly, the 0.9% additional tax applies to combined self-employment and wage income over $250,000. For married individuals filing separately, the threshold is $125,000.)
 
If you file Form 1040, Schedule C, as a sole proprietor, independent contractor, or statutory employee, the net income listed on your Schedule C (or Schedule C-EZ) is self-employment income and must be included on Schedule SE, which is filed with your Form 1040. Schedule SE is used both to calculate self-employment tax and to report the amount of tax owed. You can deduct one-half of the self-employment tax paid (but not any portion of the Medicare surtax) when you compute the self-employment tax on Schedule SE.
 
Make estimated tax payments on time
When you're self-employed, you'll need to make quarterly estimated tax payments (using IRS Form 1040-ES) to cover your federal tax liability. You may have to make state estimated tax payments as well.
 
Estimated tax payments are generally due each year on the 15th of April, June, September, and January. If you fail to make estimated tax payments on time, you may be subject to penalties, interest, and a large tax bill at the end of the tax year. For more information, see IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.
 
Invest in a retirement plan
If you are self-employed, it is up to you and you alone to save sufficient funds for retirement. Investing in a retirement plan can help you save for retirement and also provide numerous tax benefits.
 
A number of retirement plans are suited for self-employed individuals:
  • SEP IRA plan
  • SIMPLE IRA plan
  • SIMPLE 401(k) plan
  • "Individual" 401(k) plan
The type of retirement plan you choose will depend on your business and specific circumstances. Explore your options and be sure to consider the complexity of each plan. In addition, if you have employees, you may have to provide retirement benefits for them as well. For more information, consult a tax professional or see IRS Publication 560, Retirement Plans for Small Businesses.
 
Take advantage of business deductions
If you have your own business, you can deduct some of the costs of starting the business, as well as the current operating costs of running that business. To be deductible, business expenses must be both ordinary (common and accepted in your field of business) and necessary (appropriate and helpful for your business).
 
Since business deductions will lower your taxable income, you should take advantage of any deductions to which you are entitled. You may be able to deduct a variety of business expenses, such as start-up costs, home office expenses, and office equipment.
 
Deduct health-care expenses
If you qualify, you may be able to benefit from the self-employed health insurance deduction, which would enable you to deduct up to 100% of the cost of health insurance that you provide for yourself, your spouse, your dependents, and employees.
In addition, if you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, you may be able to establish and contribute to a health savings account (HSA), which is a tax-advantaged account into which you can set aside funds to pay qualified medical expenses. Contributions made to an HSA account are generally tax deductible. (Depending upon the state, HSA contributions may or may not be subject to state taxes.)
 
*This article is for informational purposes only. IHFRA does not promote any one financial planning service for its members.
BLAKELY FINANCIAL - FEBRUARY 2017 
 
 
Last week, the Globe and Mail featured an article "Companies struggle with shortage of sales talent" which I believe was suppose to feature a new program at Wilfrid Laurier University. This new program has been created to teach sales training, something not traditionally taught by universities. Unfortunately, the article got derailed and took on a focus of the shortage of sales talent in Canada with Vidyard being displayed as the poster child for the problem. Given the nasty comments the article garnered, I suspect CEO Michael Litt probably wishes he had passed on giving that interview.
 
That said, the Globe article, along with a recent tweet by Shawna Calderwood of an article I wrote in 2011 entitled: Why do we hate (our own) sales people?, has prompted me to think it would be worth re-posting it today. So, from my 2011 archives, here it is:
 
Why do we hate (our own) sales people?
Have you ever noticed that in a company there often seems to be jealously, almost bordering on hatred, for the company's own sales team? Ever noticed the derogatory jokes being told about the sales team; the stereotyping of them as not knowing their product; their lack of attention to detail; their being motivated only by commissions, or their being shallow and self-centred? In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, they just "don't get no respect". Why does that happen, given that this team is the life blood of the company? If they don't sell, the rest of the company doesn't work.
 
There is a great article in the Economist "The Art of Selling" that states that, "Reports of the death of the salesman has been greatly exaggerated". The article raises the question why isn't there a Chief Sales Officer (CSO) in most companies, sitting at the executive table next to the CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, and even now the CPO (Chief People Officer). Instead this person is often disguised with titles like EVP of Global Operations, Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Customer Officer, etc. Is it that distasteful or politically incorrect to admit that a company has to sell its products to survive?
 
I currently am re-reading Lou Gerstner's book "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance" and was reminded that at IBM, their sales people were called Marketing Reps up until the 1990's (I still have my business card from the 1980's) . Think about the number of sales reps you encounter today whose job function is hidden behind the title Account Executive, Account Manager, or Client Manager. Think about the number of people whose business cards read Regional Sales Manager, Sales Director or even VP Sales, yet don't have a sales staff working for them. All of these people are sales reps, yet all want to try and hide it from their customers because many seem to be embarrassed by their chosen profession.
 
What is the impact of this Corporate Inferiority Complex that we have cast on to our sales people?
 
One of the best sales reps that I have ever met was not confused or embarrassed by his job description. On more than one occasion, I heard him explain to a prospective customer that, "his job was to sell and their job was to buy" and if they weren't interested or ready to buy, the implied message was "don't waste my time". This sounds harsh and plays into the stereotype of the dreaded salesperson but his message was that for interested customers, he would go to the moon and back to educate them, service them and get them value for their purchase; but if you were just tire-kicking or didn't have the authority or influence to make the decision then he couldn't afford to spend time with them. In sales jargon, this is called "qualifying the prospect". Yet I have seen so many "Account Managers", "Account Executives", etc waste time doing things in the name of customer satisfaction for people who have no intention or ability to become a customer in the foreseeable future. Did their job title confuse them as to what their job really is?
 
A myth I see in a lot of companies is that the sales reps are overpaid, underworked and often only a bystander to the sale. They are the ones who take clients to lunch or dinner, often with a technical person dragged along to answer all the customer's questions. They are the ones who attend the fancy conferences and schmooze with the customer's executives. Meanwhile, the rest of the team write the proposals, answer all the technical questions, do the demonstrations, and design and deliver the conference room pilots, yet the sales rep gets paid the big commissions.
 
So what does a sales rep really do?
 
Well, it seems that they do a lot. Just ask one of those many sales support people after they have decided to become a sales rep. They are the ones who were often making the derogatory jokes about how easy it is to be in sales, until they became the salesperson. My experience is that two out of three aren't successful or if they are, they don't like it and go back to their old job. All of them will tell you it is a harder job than they originally thought but they can't really tell you why. They will talk about the pressure to perform, the black and white accountability for results, the intensity and the weight of carrying a team of support people on their back. They will talk about the lack of job description or job clarity. Anything the customer needs, whether reasonable or not, which is not part of someone else's job description, falls to them to solve. They will talk about how hard the travel is, even though it seemed like a bonus when they weren't doing it. Finally, they will talk about how hard it is to like some customers, even when they are totally unlikeable, because it is your job to like all customers so they will buy more from you.
 
So if you are a CEO of a startup and designing your organization, here are some suggestions on building your culture:
  • Make sales a proud profession in your culture because if you don't sell, you are dead.
  • Don't tolerate the derogatory jokes or snide remarks about your sales reps. Squash the people making them or better yet, make them a sales rep for a while.
  • Don't confuse people with job titles. Sales people are hired to sell. Call them that. If a person is worried about having sales in their job title, then they probably do not have the right DNA.
  • Train them. There aren't college or university courses on Sales as there are for Marketing, HR, Finance, Accounting or Engineering. You can't hire a person with a Bachelor of Science in Sales so the onus is on you to equip them with the skills required - from making their first sales call to negotiating a complex sales contract. [August 26/16: I stand corrected. From your comments, I have now learned that there are universities granting a Bachelor of Sales degree. It is both progressive and fantastic.]
  • Pay them a lot. If they get rich, so does your company. These are your top performers. Don't begrudge them their BMW's
Sales is the hardest part of a company. The reasons are subtle, especially for those not in the profession. As a CEO, don't underestimate the challenges that managing this crucial component of your business will bring.
LINKEDIN -  AUGUST 18, 2016
 
 
New developments tend to hit the retail world with force, making waves with endless implications and possibilities. Oftentimes, they fade away into hazy breakroom conversations that go something like, "Remember that time we thought the Palm Pilot was going to change the world?" But sometimes they take root, becoming the new norm and ultimately changing how we interact, do business, and live our lives.
 
The speed of technology, combined with the rapid evolution of trends, make it challenging for brands to know what's worth their time, attention, and resources. What will really stick, and how do we see it coming? We can start by anticipating what we think will impact and improve the way we do business. And we can be on the lookout for advancements that are beyond next - those technologies and influences with the potential to revolutionize the retail landscape that haven't quite made their full debut.
 
IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES
Augmented and virtual reality are becoming mainstream, offering experiences and interactions that transport customers outside of, well, reality. Brands are taking note of the possibilities this presents and testing ways to merge virtual and physical worlds, integrating them into full-scale virtual shopping experiences and into our everyday lives.
 
ASOS has joined forces with Trillenium, a creator of virtual stores, to experiment with innovative 3D and virtual brand possibilities.
 
Apple is rumored to be exploring the development of digital "smart glasses," which would use AR technology to display images and information in the user's field of vision.
 
Brands like Disney, Comcast, and Time Warner are investing millions of dollars in virtual reality as well; imagine a day when watching TV in VR is the norm, and flat screen TVs are a thing of the past! Retailers could provide limitless experiences that go beyond 2D. Stores could function with no inventory or physical products on hand. The opportunities are truly limitless.
 
GO BEYOND YOUR FINGERTIPS
Making payments with little more than a thumbprint is slowly but steadily becoming the norm. Next-gen biometric capabilities and functions - secure, frictionless interactions; virtual replications that move and engage - are beginning to make a real impact on how brands do business.
 
The Japanese government, in anticipation of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, is testing a capability that will link tourists' credit cards to their fingerprints so they can make cash-free, card-free, and phone-free purchases throughout the games.
 
eBay partnered with tech firm Lightwave to create a first-of-its-kind "emotionally powered store." Using facial coding and "biometric pods" they can tap into the shopper's brain to help them select the most emotionally satisfying items.
 
Products and environments may soon cater to customers' moods and preferences as they change, in the moment. Physical and digital spaces could serve as forums for customers to interact as virtual versions of themselves.
 
GET DISCONNECTED
From computers to smartphones, brands are exploring ways to deliver the technologies we know and love, without the burden of having physical devices in hand.
 
Knocki, a wireless device that transforms ordinary surfaces into smart surfaces, allows users to tap ("knock") a surface - like a countertop or table - and send commands for anything from changing the thermostat to starting the coffee pot.
 
Samsung's smart contact lenses allow users to take pictures with a blink of an eye - literally. Sensors in the lens pick up the blink, capturing the photo and sending it directly to a smartphone.
 
When we're unhindered by physical devices, we'll be free to engage with products that live as an extension of our environment and of ourselves.
ALLIANCE DATA - JANUARY 27, 2017 
 
 
3 Takeaways from the NBC Nightly News Report on Identity Theft
 
It's not every day you hear the phrases "card-not-present" and "brick-and-mortar stores" on national television. But, well, last night was different.
 
Nearly 10 million Americans get their news from NBC and Lester Holt each night, and last night those viewers got a peak into the world of payments from a report on identity theft. Here's how their report started:
 
"It happens every second of every day in America: Someone's personal identity is stolen. Last year, six out of every one hundred consumers were victimized. While new chip credit cards have cut down on in-store fraud, criminals have simply changed their strategy."
 
Al Pascual, Javeline Strategy and Research: They went from targeting the retailer and their brick-and-mortar stores to the retailers' dot-com sites.
 
The hard numbers are still coming out, but Pascual's summary has become the generally accepted view in the payments industry. Chip cards have successfully made in-person transactions safer, despite rumors to the contrary (and complaints about speed). But the result of that is that criminals have switched their focus to online fraud, and the volume of e-commerce fraud attempts has gone up.
 
But the NBC News report was focused on consumers, but we think there are a few big implications for merchants, too:
 
If you still don't accept chip cards, you need to start 
It's undeniable: the chip card switchover didn't go smoothly for many processors. Whether it was the "should I swipe or insert?" confusion or the insanely slow transaction times, chip cards were not exactly embraced when they arrived in 2015.
 
But chip cards make your store more secure, save you money, and protect consumers from identity theft-these benefits are simply too much to ignore. The truth is that your chip card experience is dependent on your processor. There are companies with fast solutions and simple setup, so you can prevent the "do I swipe or insert? Insert? Oh sorry you said swipe" confusion, and get customers out quickly.
 
Security is paramount in every avenue-and it doesn't have to come at the expense of CX
If you only focus on securing one of your payment channels, you're putting another at risk. You need to be sure you're working with companies that will protect every avenue you have, and not simply taking the route that is simplest for themselves. Chip cards are great, but are you keeping your data off your POS? Is your provider simply siloing your channels for convenience sake, preventing a better customer journey?
 
Criminals will never give up, so make sure you're futureproof
The battle between hackers/criminals and security companies will never end. Chip cards have made in-person transactions safer, so that's led criminals to move online. As online security evolves, criminals will switch their efforts to a new avenue and a new strategy.
If your payment solutions can't quickly and easily update to protect against the next mode of attack, you're going to be in trouble. Make sure you choose a solution that allows for seamless, friction-free updates.
Watch the video - NBC Nightly News - Consumer Report: Identity Theft Jumped 16% In Past Year
CAYAN - FEBRUARY 2, 2017 
 
 
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