When I graduated from high school, we were the kings and queens of the campus. As I recall, we were royalty. We were the seniors.
Then I went to college. As a freshman in college, I was once again a pauper and at the bottom rung of the educational ladder, even though deep inside I still felt like I was a king, just temporarily dethroned.
My roommate in the college dormitory was a high school football all-star and an Ohio punt, pass and kick champion.
He thought he would star on the college football team (a Mid-American Conference team). He returned from try-outs with a very different perspective.
He was the top dog at his small town high school, but he was now competing with the top dogs from high schools all over the state and country – bigger fish from bigger ponds – and he was out of his league.
If you think I’m just reminiscing about days-gone-by, you are partially correct. However, the big-fish-little-pond effect was actually conceived about students in school, not business. However, its meaning still applies.
Small Fish – Big Fish
Although our average pawn transaction still falls within the industry average, we make thousand dollar (or one comma) transactions all the time. Upon occasions, we will make a pawn loan, sell or buy something in the five digit area. Five digits is a big transaction around here. Remember, I’m still a small fish.
My son, on the other hand, the director of acquisitions for a real estate investment fund, does two comma deals on a regular basis.
I received a text message from him last week. “Just sent out my first term sheet with three commas. Will see how it goes next week.”
Three commas? Let’s see, thousand, million, and then billion. I guess my transactions fall a little short. Kinda makes me feel like a minnow. Maybe even a guppy.
Still, I strive to be a top pawnshop in my area. I may not be the largest or the best in every aspect, but I’m always trying to improve myself and my pawnshop. Even though at times I feel as though I adhere to a quote attributed to Willie Nelson: “Don’t come to me for wisdom; come to me for experience.”
But whether you are a small pawnshop or a big pawnshop, when you stop moving forward and try to coast on your past successes, it’s probably time to …. go fishing.
Tip No. 216
Windows 8 is here. It’s even had a birthday. Windows 8.1 was released in October 2013, and the next update, Windows 8.2, is right around the corner.
Those in the know are spreading rumors of Windows 9 and speculating a release date of late 2014 to early 2015. And others say Windows 10 will be a “cloud OS.”
Various computers in my store are running Windows XP, 7 and 8. It can take a second or two, now and then, to remember which end of my cursor is up.
Similarly, I’m using version 2003, 2010 and 2013 of Microsoft Office, depending upon which computer I’m sitting in front of at the time.
Since I learned to use Windows Vista, the transition to Windows 7 was quite easy. And, maybe I was fortunate, but I never had any Vista issues.
Maybe this year I’ll get everything standardized. (Probably not.) If nothing else, it’s really time to upgrade the XP computers.
As I have said once before (Tip 195), I find Windows 8 to be more “touchy feely” and consumer oriented, rather than a solid business operating environment. Many of the new features of Windows 8 are designed for touchscreen hardware, like tablets.
Any power user wants to take his hands off the keyboard as little as possible which precludes even using the mouse unless absolutely necessary. This is why there are so many key functions to provide shortcuts and key combinations. For example, Ctrl+Z to Undo Typing and Ctrl+Y to Repeat or Redo Typing.
This saves me time (considering all the mistakes I make) from moving my mouse all the way to the upper left hand corner and clicking on those left and right circular arrows.
As many others agree, I find Windows 8 to be quite clumsy for business use, so I found a free download to regain some of my Windows 7 “feel” on the computer.
Classic Shell for Windows 8
This powerful free/donationware utility adds the features back to Windows 8 that, in my opinion, Microsoft should never have removed.
Classic Shell™ is free software that improves your productivity, enhances the usability of Windows and empowers you to use the computer the way you like it.
The main features are:
• Highly customizable start menu with multiple styles and skins
• Quick access to recent, frequently-used, or pinned programs
• Find programs, settings, files and documents
• Start button for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1
• Toolbar and status bar for Windows Explorer
• Caption and status bar for Internet Explorer
Classic Shell has been in active development for four years and has more than 10 million downloads. The latest version is 4.0.2. www.classicshell.net/
Bonus Tip No. 1
Also, while you’re at it, download a free copy of Gadwin PrintScreen.
Although the newer versions of Windows do allow for use of the PrtScn button, actually getting it from the screen to printer paper is a long, drawn out procedure (in relative computer terms). I like things fast and simple – push a key on the keyboard and out comes a piece of paper with the intended content.
The current versions of Windows, requires at least a four-step process: Alt + PrnScn, open Microsoft Windows Paint, click Paste (or Ctrl + V), then Print (or Ctrl + P).
Yes, in Paint you have a lot more options before printing; however, for 99 percent of my needs, I just want a hard copy of the information on the screen, not necessarily the whole 10-page document I may receive with Ctrl + P.
Gadwin PrintScreen is a flexible screen capture that is equipped with excellent screen capture apps that are free. It has sophisticated features, user-friendly interface and customizable settings for shortcut key associations; capture preferences and output. www.gadwin.com/printscreen/
Tip No. 217
Over the years, I have told you about many of our “in-house” designed and fabricated store display fixtures.
I have always been fond of coat hangers and PVC pipe. They can be manipulated into varying shapes in order to support and display many items. (You know that old saying, “If you can’t fix it with a hammer, a coat hanger or duct tape, it can’t be fixed.”)
One day, I noticed my hand-held video game systems were just lying flat on a shelf. Nothing was necessarily wrong with them, except for the fact that they were just lying there.
After a little thought, I designed a cardboard easel to hold them up and at an angle. This provided a much better appearance that was more visible to the buying public. But I still didn’t care for the look.
Next, out come the coat hangers. After a few cuts and bends with a pair of pliers and diagonal cutters, I had a wire easel which provided a less obtrusive view of the small hand-held game system than the cardboard.
As it happened, a catalog came in the mail a few days later from a supply house which specialized in retail store fixtures. While glancing through it before filing it away with other catalogs of like kind, I happened across a section: “Display Fixtures, Easels and Risers.”
Besides having an assortment of wire easels (not a good as mine), they had an even larger variety of clear acrylic easels which (I hate to admit) were sturdier and better looking than my custom designed coat hanger wire easels.
I purchased a dozen of their 3.5L x 3.5Wx 4H x 1 inch deep slot (to hold the hand-held video game systems) Acrylic Book Easels designed for displaying books, videos, software and other flat items. They only cost $2.59 each.
This style was also available in four other sizes and five additional varieties, each in multiple sizes.
Not only are these very attractive looking (since they are acrylic, they are practically invisible), they are sturdy and help display my product with a little class. I’m planning to buy additional shapes and sizes in the future for displaying other items in my store.
Sometimes, the use of professionally made fixtures will really enhance the presentation of your merchandise.
I purchased mine from Retail Resource (www.retailresource.com/), but a Google search for “acrylic book easel” yields different results in all shapes, sizes, colors and styles.
Tip No. 218
Do you (or your staff) carry firearms on your person? If so, do you carry openly or concealed?
While I’m not going to argue the logic for either choice; to carry or not to carry and open carry vs. concealed carry, I will just say my preference would be concealed carry.
Just because you may be familiar with firearms and accept them as commonplace, don’t expect that all of your customers share the same opinion. Not everyone loves firearms.
Some patrons may think if you need to wear a firearm in order to be safe in your pawnshop, maybe they shouldn’t stick around.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll defend your right to carry a firearm if you so choose. I would just prefer it to be concealed for this particular purpose. I think it presents a better appearance for you, your employees and your store.
I was in a pawnshop a while back and I noticed the proprietor was carrying a handgun, exposed, on his waist. A Glock Long Slide is hard to miss. When questioned, the pawnbroker told me the local constabulary suggested he carry a firearm.
I asked if any other employees were also carrying a firearm, and he started to point out those who had guns.
Another mistake. As I said previously, if you are going to carry a firearm, I believe it should be concealed. And next, it should be a secret.
You should show your W2, your medical history, talk about your most intimate fantasies and everything else before you tell people that you are carrying a (concealed) firearm.
It’s nobody’s business but your own (and maybe the guy who sold you the holster, if applicable).
Telling people that you carry a firearm is a security breach that may come back and bite you later.
Gun stores may be an exception. Everyone working in a gun store and usually pawnshops that specialize in firearms seems to be openly packing heat. Who would ever think of robbing a gun store with all the employees well-armed? (Well, there are stupid robbers.)
Anyway, in this case (a gun store environment) the openly exposed firearm and accompanying holster may also be viewed as an advertising tool.
I talked with the proprietor of the above mentioned pawnshop a few months later (think Willie Nelson here). He still carries a firearm, but now a smaller model and it is concealed.
Tip No. 219
I know I have most of you fooled into thinking I’m a nice person. Well, I am to a degree. I do also have my breaking point and this sometimes involves the not-so-very-well- behaved (or attended) children of my customers.
You know, the ones who should be wearing strait jackets, muzzles and leashes (all at the same time). Don’t tell me you have never had them in your pawnshop.
Children that venture behind your showcases and counters, turn up the volume on every television, play every guitar within reach, tear off price tags, try to climb on and ride the bicycles (usually knocking them over in the process) and run around the store like it is a roller derby rink. Worse yet, their parents pretty much ignore them!
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention they wipe their noses on the fronts of all the glass showcases.
Since it’s not usually a good policy to throw these little “future customers” out of the shop, we often reward them just prior to leaving. Yes, that’s right, we reward negative behavior.
I have a box of plastic slide whistles in my desk drawer at all times. I buy them from one of my musical instrument wholesalers.
We give these little demons a slide whistle and instructions on blowing it (loud) right before they leave with hopes that they will annoy the hell out of their parents on the way home in the car.
For less than $2, I now have my way of getting even. Money well spent in my mind. I have noticed, the next time their parents come in to see me, they are always alone.
Many of the tips I offer will be of more benefit to newer pawnbrokers, but some more experienced pawnbrokers may find something ‘new’ and interesting, also.
If you are new to this column, I share three or four tips per issue that you can use in your pawnshops to help sales, security, merchandising, or make life a little easier.
Since we all run our pawnshops differently, I try to cover a broad range of subject areas to appeal to a wide scope of interests.
Many of these tips come from personal experience (that translates into trial and error). Others come from fellow pawnbrokers kind enough to share something that has worked well for them.
You may even want to contribute a tip or two for future columns.
Ric Blum is a vice president of Ohio Loan Co. in Dayton. He has served as president of the Ohio Pawnbrokers Association, secretary/treasurer of the National Pawnbrokers Association and as a member of the board of directors and the board of governors of the National Pawnbrokers Association. Please feel free to e-mail your comments or tips that you would like to see included in this column to RicBlum@att.net or mail them to Ric Blum, Ohio Loan Co., 3028 Salem Ave., Dayton, OH 45406.