Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Web Wisdom | December 31, 2014

"Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one." 
—Brad Paisley

Thursday, December 25, 2014

How to get Endorsements on LinkedIn
Loads and Loads of Them!

Like I mentioned in a previous article, you must be proactive when it comes to LinkedIn for many reasons, and if you would like to have plenty of endorsements on your list of skills, then you must give before you can receive.

Endorsing people is super easy, and all you have to do is click a few times in order to dole out the "juice." Here's an example on how to endorse a new LinkedIn connection after they've accepted your invitation to join your network:

If you've chosen to be notified via email when someone accepts your invitation (which is a good idea, especially if you are serious about growing your network), all you have to do is visit your connection's profile and you will see a box where you can give several endorsements with just one click.

As a rule, I do this every time someone joins my network. It's my way of saying "Thank You."

Alternatively, you can scroll down to the Skills section of the profile (as long as they are visible - this is an option, by the way), and manually select those skills or areas of expertise you would like to give endorsements for. That's my preferred method, and I dole out endorsements in a way that is helpful for the recipient. In other words, I usually endorse areas that are important, in my judgement, and where my "vote" will help get a particular skill endorsement count closer to the 99 mark.

After you've endorsed your new connection, the page will refresh and you will be given the option to endorse other members of your network, as shown below:

Again, I take the time to share the endorsement "love" and spend anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds endorsing others. And why not? It costs me nothing and it may prove helpful to members of my network, so I click away.

By following this approach, I've also been fortunate to have received hundreds of reciprocal endorsements over the last couple of years.

However, the other day it (finally) occurred to me that I could do more and "supercharge" my efforts. So now—when someone accepts my invitation to connect on LinkedIn—I send a brief "thank you" message immediately after doling out endorsements as explained above, and I also use the opportunity to ask to be endorsed. This has yielded excellent results.

I've only been using this approach for about a week, and it's working like a charm. I've tripled (or more) the number of daily endorsements I receive, which I think make my LinkedIn profile look great, and all it costs is a little effort and a couple of minutes, if that much.

As a matter of fact, it's worked so well that I've also been sending a similar message to anyone who takes the time to request a connection. Granted, I am extremely picky when it comes to connecting on LinkedIn as I want my network to make sense to me, but when I see a fit, I accept the invite and send another message, which usually results in even more endorsements.

By the way, this approach is not a "trick" but rather an honest technique that motivates people to reciprocate. A lot of LinkedIn members are not even aware they can do this, so it helps everyone when you take a few seconds to educate them on how to use the network to everyone's advantage.

So, if you want to "supercharge" your skills or areas of expertise, make it a habit to say thank you to those individuals who take the time to join your LinkedIn network, and watch your endorsements grow by leaps and bounds.

By the way, since I am interested in starting a new career selling automobiles, I did order Paul's book, The Number One Best Selling Book for Automotive Sales Professionals (Kindle edition), and highly recommend it. Paul also wrote a similar book for other sales professionals. —Luis

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Buying Used Cars Online

Lately, I've been looking at Corvettes of the C3 variety (those built between 1968 and 1982), to find a good candidate for my next project.

At this time I am not sure if I want to restore or follow the restomod route, although I am leaning more and more toward a mid-generation C3 (1973-1977), powered by an LS1 or LS2 motor, coupled to a 5-speed manual tranny.

My search started around mid November and—considering I am not sure which model I want—it will continue for a while longer.

However, since this article is not about which C3 Corvette model year is the best, or more desirable, or rarest, etc., etc., I will try to stay focused on the subject matter instead, which deals with buying vehicles online.

First, I looked through eBay and Hagerty in order to get a feel for Corvette prices, but then turned to for the actual search.

My rule is simple: I have to see the vehicle in person.

And so I searched. Talked to many people. And drove quite a bit to go look at a whole bunch of third generation Corvettes.

The first thing you discover is that—just like with online dating (that's a subject for another post)—cars usually don't look like the pictures posted.

Remember that sellers, as a rule, want to make a good impression, and they dig out the best photos they can find, some of which may have been shot years earlier.

Then there are the recent pics, where you can see that the car was just washed (wet cars always look shiny), and freshly waxed.
Hint: If the photo shows a vehicle siting in a puddle of water or wet cement, it's just been washed. Nothing wrong with clean cars, of course, but again, some sellers will use the wet-car trick in an attempt to enhance the "quality" of the paint.
Anyway, I did find an ad for a '79 Vette fairly close to my house (proximity is always nice), so I went to look at the car, and—to my surprise—this one did look as good as the online photos, which is always a good sign.

The asking price was around $9,500 which is not unreasonable for a Vette of that vintage in good condition, but since the car would need some TLC, I told the seller I would be a cash buyer at $6,000. He replied he could not go that low, and that was that.

A few days later I saw this same vehicle advertised on eBay for the same $9,500 so I decided to "watch" the sale out of curiosity, since he also was accepting best offers.

Fast forward a couple of days and the eBay listing was gone. The curious thing was that the Craigslist ad was still running, but the seller had reduced his asking price to $8,900. "Oh well," I thought. Then, a couple days later the eBay ad reappeared, but this time it explained that the glass T-tops had been broken and the price was further reduced to $8,400.

Since I had spoken to the seller personally a week or so earlier, I sent him a text and we talked about the car again. I did not mention that I had seen the eBay ad but he gave me the same story about one of the T-top panels being damaged and that he had sold them both to a friend of his. It really sounded like a cockamamie story, but I chose not to question it.

The seller quickly explained that you can find replacements online for around $500, but I had already researched the subject and replacement tempered glass T-tops sell for around $1,200 to $1,500, and they require a $300 core exchange (you have to send your old T-tops in order to get the additional $300 back). Used T-tops (solid fiberglass) sell in the $400-700 range, depending on condition.

Anyway, the seller quickly reduced the price to $6,500 without my asking, and I made an appointment to come look at the car again—this time with a good friend of mine who has also restored a few cars—and test drive it, something I chose not to do the first time around.

The car still looked great, and even better at $6,500 in spite of the now missing T-tops. My buddy and I looked at the car all over and he pointed out a few things I had missed, which proves that an extra set of eyes is always a good idea when you're looking at a vehicle that's for sale.

After the visual inspection was complete, the seller gave us the keys and told us to take the Corvette for a test drive.

The motor sounded good and it drove well, albeit rough as most cars of that era. But as we reached the main road I gunned it in order to merge with traffic, and all hell broke loose.

We're not sure if it was the transmission, the drive shaft, the differential, or a combination of all three, but considering the car made a horrible grinding noise when I gunned it, we quickly made a U-turn and drove back to the guy's house. We tried again a few times to recreate the issue, and every time it sounded like the car was going to fall apart. My friend did not even want to drive it, so we just went back to the seller's house.

Upon arrival we explained what had happened, and the seller acted surprised. I must add that the guy was a pretty bad actor, so I gave him the keys and told him to take me for a quick drive around the neighborhood to see if the car would make the grinding noise again.

He agreed and he drove his car out of the driveway. I told him to step on it which he did, in such a lame way, I must add, that it was obvious he did not want the car to look bad. I told him that he had to stomp on it, and he said OK.

We got to the next intersection, made sure there were no cars on the road, and I told him to gun it! He did, and voila, the car obliged and made a racket that I think scared the seller a bit. He sheepishly said "That's strange. It's never done that before." I told him that we did not break it and that it sounded like something serious.

When we got back, he said that he was not sure what was causing the noise. I told him that I was no longer interested in the car, thanked him for his time, and that was that.

The thing I find a little disturbing is that he's lowered the price again, while making false claims about how great and dependable his car is. After test driving it, it is obvious (at least to me), that the car will need some drivetrain repairs, which could be significant.

Unfortunately that's the reality of buying cars—or anything else, for that matter—sight unseen.

Ads can show you the best photos, and ad copy can explain the condition of a vehicle with great detail. Even tell you how much money has been spent on the car. For the most part it's worthless information.

Unless you can see the car in person, and then test drive it and—ideally—have a mechanic do an inspection, buying a used car online is a risky proposition. I am not saying that all ads are deceptive, but you have to inspect a vehicle before you decide to start doling out money.

Most ads, regardless of the number of photos, are not going to give you the whole story, and after personally inspecting several cars that were advertised online, my advice is to try to buy local at all costs.

If you are considering buying a car without seeing and test driving it, pay someone who's qualified to go look at it before you start bidding or offering any amount of money for it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cars I Love: 1969 Brawner Hawk MkIII

The 1969 Brawner Hawk MkIII which was driven to victory by Mario Andretti during the 1969 Indianapolis 500. This is a replica of the original. 

"Andretti Hawk" by Dan Wildhirt | Wikipedia

As a matter of fact, I love the looks of this car so much, I happen to have a 1:18-scale Ertl model sitting right on my desk at home.

Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I credit the source. —Luis

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is Customer Service Becoming a Thing of the Past?

I sold my truck over the weekend, so early Monday morning, I walked into the DeBary, Florida Bank of America branch, in order to cash the check.

It was 9:03 a.m. when I walked into the lobby, where I was greeted by a gentleman who—I assume—was the branch manager. After exchanging a few quick niceties, I took my place in the line, with three other customers in front of me.

The long counter, which had enough room for (I am guessing) at least five tellers, only had one window open, with another teller working the drive-through window. The "manager" made the rounds and greeted customers as more walked in.

By the time I reached the window—after waiting for about ten minutes—the line behind me was approximately eight-people long, while the "manager" kept doing his "I-have-to-greet-customers" routine. I assume bank "managers" are above menial tasks such as helping take care of customers, and this attitude is not reserved for Bank of America managerial staff, as I've seen the similar issues at the TD Bank DeBary branch.

Anyway, the teller cashed my check and that was that.

Later that same day, I stopped by the Barnes and Noble store in Winter Park. I had an appointment in the area and wanted to kill some time.

After looking through the magazine rack and finding one, I made my way to the counter so I could pay for my purchase.

As I waited in line, I also picked up a package of Moleskine notebooks. I love having something to write on handy, and have used them for years.

Just like at the bank, I stared at the long checkout counter with room for eight to ten cashiers, with only two at their stations, who were busy waiting on customers. So I waited and waited, but after about five minutes, I exited the line after leaving the magazine and notebooks on the counter, since I was starting to run really late for my appointment.

Not that my opinion matters, but it seems that the trend across the land, is to discourage people from banking and even shopping in person. Call me old-fashioned if you must, but it is no wonder that retail commerce is suffering today.

Recently I read a book about The Container Store, in which the author (and CEO of the company), waxed almost poetically about their great people and service. So a few weeks ago I decided to go visit their Orlando store to experience their so-called "Yummy culture" and be amazed by their customer service.

We walked through the store for at least ten minutes, looking at stuff and getting some ideas for the house and the garage, and with the sole exception of someone welcoming us to the store as we walked in, not a single person approached us or asked if we had questions. I left the place thinking that they really have a "Yucky attitude," instead.

The only large company I know of that truly offers amazing customer service, is Publix supermarkets.

When you run into an employee, they greet you in a pleasant way, and if they see you walking around with a lost look on your face, he or she will offer to help, and they will walk with you to the aisle where the product is located.

They really make "shopping a pleasure," as their slogan states.

Not sure what the heck is going on with the rest of the retail world, but if companies want to prosper (or even survive), they will have to do a U-turn and go back to training their employees about properly taking care of their customers.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cars I Love: The Sport Speciale by The Creative Workshop

The Sport Speciale. A custom creation by The Creative Workshop. Inspired by the big bore Ferraris, Aston Martins and Maseratis of the 50's and 60’s, it features a Dinan-built 450 hp BMW V12.

Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I credit the source. —Luis

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Web Wisdom | December 3, 2014

"Seven Dangers to Human Virtue: 
     1. Wealth without work
     2. Pleasure without conscience
     3. Knowledge without character
     4. Business without ethics
     5. Science without humanity
     6. Religion without sacrifice
     7. Politics without principle"

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Auto Dealership Job Hunting

Sometimes one must simplify, and after investing lots of time and effort researching different business opportunities, I said "enough is enough" and decided to apply for a job, instead.

Of course, being a life-long gearhead, the decision was easy; find a job in the automotive industry.

Photo of a 2015 Corvette by Chevrolet
2015 Corvette | Photo by Chevrolet

While looking through jobs offered on, I spotted an ad for a sales position at a large local Chevrolet dealership. I quickly completed the application and attached my resume, not knowing if they would even bother to get back in touch with me.

The very next day my phone rings and it's one of the managers at the dealership. Surprise!

My work history of being self-employed most of my adult life, was sort of an issue, but I told the manager that I thought I would be fine working on a commission-only basis, and having people to report to. So he said to come in the next day to be interviewed by a couple of other executives.

Whether I'm attending a meeting or travelling, for example, I like to give myself plenty of time. So I arrived at the dealership with about thirty minutes to spare. Not a problem. One of the managers welcomed me and we talked for about a half an hour.

Since I am an avid reader, the day before the interviews I read more than two dozen articles on the subject. I like to be as prepared just as I like to be early. So the interview went well.

Actually, it went so well, that the manager asked me if I had the time to do a second interview right away with the sales manager. I was prepared to do both, and that's exactly what happened.

Again, I am not the "typical" applicant, so it seemed they were being very cautious with the interview process. I almost got the impression they did not want to offend me with their questions, so it was an interesting yet pleasant process.

After talking with the second gentleman, he asked if I would be able to come back the next day for an interview with the general manager, so we scheduled a time for a third interview.

That last interview was great. We spoke for more than an hour, and it was a pleasant exchange of information for both sides. He apologetically said he had to ask certain questions about my background which—at least in my case—were not an issue, so we covered everything and at the end, after a tour of the facilities, I asked a few questions of my own.

The last thing was for them to give me the forms for both the background check and the drug screening. As soon as I arrived home I called the number for the firm that conducts the background investigation and did the twenty-minute phone interview so they can do their thing. The following morning I stopped by the lab that does the drug screening, to have that test done.

Once those processes are completed, I am ready to start a second career in the automotive industry as a sales associate. And, to that end, I've already ordered a few books on the subject of selling cars.

So, if everything goes according to plan, I should start training for my new career at the dealership, by mid December, which is less than a month away.

In the meantime I plan to do a lot of reading on the subject, so I can be ready to help people find the right vehicles in Central Florida.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Buying a Business — Part 3
Close, but No Cigar

Just like when starting a business from scratch, exploring the possibility of buying an existing business is a roller coaster of emotions, both good and bad. But at the end of the day, you have to be honest about how much work, money, and effort, you are willing to invest.

In my case, the numbers simply did not meet expectations, and the amount of working hours I would have had to devote to the business, made no sense whatsoever.

And it's too bad since I really liked the business and the products it makes. But that alone was reason enough to think twice about acquiring it. Liking a business is important, of course, but as I did find out during my required "familiarization" period, the learning curve was too steep and I was outside of my comfort zone.

In addition to that, the real eye-opener happened the moment I started playing with different financial scenarios on a spreadsheet, as I realized the financials simply did not add up. I am not saying the seller misrepresented the numbers, but if I were to buy this business, I would need to implement a few things that would've basically turned slim profits into losses, and that was sobering.

Just to give you an idea as to where the numbers started to head south, was the fact that the seller (and also the business operator), hardly ever turned on the air-conditioning system for the workshop and office areas, something that is unacceptable here in the sunshine state, at least eight months out of the year. This meant that, the moment I adjusted the monthly electricity expense, my spreadsheet changed dramatically.

The same happened with things such as website maintenance, where the current site is old-fashioned and in desperate need of a redesign, including the addition of ecommerce capabilities, which would bring the monthly cost from an absurd $8 (yes, eight bucks), to a more realistic $200 per month.

Add to those changes things such as monitoring for the alarm system (which is currently dependent on a neighbor calling the seller's cell phone when it goes off), to upgrading the 10-year-old multi-function color copier with a newer unit (and a higher monthly maintenance fee), even to turning the office lights on during normal business hours, and the claimed "profits" disappear into thin air.

I am not criticizing how the seller manages the business. Everyone is entitled to run his or her business as they see fit, but as a potential buyer, you must use your numbers to make sure the business will make you money.

And so, after looking at the out-of-pocket amount I would have to invest to purchase the operation, plus the negative bottom line, I simply decided that it was not worth the effort necessary to turn it into a profitable business venture.

So for now, I've decided to save my money and look for a job instead.

Of course at 55, this is easier said than done. But being a life-long gearhead, I've decided to look into selling automobiles as my next profession. Yes, it can be a challenging way to earn a living but I am curious enough about the industry, and up to the task.

Most people dislike commission sales, and I can understand why. But, on the other hand, the sky's the limit as far as earning potential, and I see that part as a huge plus.

Who knows if in a few months I will get sick and tired of that pay model, but for the time being I am willing to give it a try to see if I can make it happen.

So stay tuned to see if, first, I can land a job at a good dealership, and second, if I can handle the pressure and be successful selling automobiles.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Craigslist Find: Coin-Op K.I.T.T.

I must admit that as a die-hard Third Gen F-Body enthusiast, as well as someone who watched almost every single new episode of Knight Rider back in the 1980s, in a perfect world I would be telling you that I was the proud owner of this cool coin-operated kiddie ride version of the Knight Industries Two Thousand, a.k.a. K.I.T.T., if I had $1,700 lying around.

Alas, life obligations take precedence, so someone else will get to add this piece to their early Third Gen Firebird (1982-1984) or Knight Rider memorabilia collection.

Most cars from the 1980s get little if any respect, but I think that will start to change as GenXs, who grew up watching shows such as Knight Rider, for example, start to look for and restore cars of that era.

As a matter of fact, one of my favorite TV shows, Fast N' Loud, will feature a 2-hour K.I.T.T. special on December 8, 2014.

SEO and Social Media for Small Businesses

This excerpt is from my book Snake E-Oil: The SEO Swindle, published earlier in 2014. Keep in mind that search engine algorithms are in constant flux, and what used to work a while ago, may not work today.

I believe that unless you are willing to spend the time and effort to maintain a current and up-to-date social presence, you are better off waiting until you are ready.

There are so many useless Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Instagram pages on the net that the only conclusion one can make is that—by publishing garbage just to justify the reason for having a social channel—all you accomplish is help sites that provide social media services by giving them content.

I am sure some “experts” will argue that a social presence is a must, and, therefore, you have to launch such pages, quality be damned.

Some may even promise you a constant stream of “likes” or followers as part of their services. Do not fall for that one. For social networks to be valid, they have to grow organically. Besides, having tens of thousands of followers that fail to interact with your site is pathetic, and it may raise a red flag to search engine bots that keep getting smarter by the hour, or so it seems.

Will not having a social media channel hurt you?

I really don’t believe so. And like I said before, having a social media channel “just because” can be far worse.

If you are ready to launch one, I suggest you start with Google+. Nothing personal against Facebook, but I consider Google+ a better choice, both audience- and platform-wise.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Buying a Business — Part 2

As I mentioned in Buying a Business - Part 1, I've been considering buying a small local business and, to that end, I submitted a Letter of Intent along with a small deposit in order to get the Due Diligence process started,

All a Letter of Intent really does, is provide a document that specifies you are interested in a particular business, and that you would like to purchase it pursuant to the original offer, within a certain period of time, as long as everything is as advertised. From the sellers perspective, it memorializes their intent to negotiate toward a sale. Additionally, you may add any other contingencies (provided all parties are in agreement), which basically allows you to walk away from the deal and get your deposit back.

And so, my Letter of Intent included a three-day familiarization period before making a final decision as to whether this would be the right business for me.

Call me difficult if you like, but in my opinion, I really needed to spend a little bit of time immersed in the business, in order to determine if it was a good fit.

This may or may not apply to other businesses for sale, but since this particular enterprise involves manufacturing, I felt I definitely needed to find out if I was going to be able to handle that part.

The seller agreed and, so far, I've spent two full days at the premises trying to absorb as much as possible while actually doing some of the tasks that are involved in the manufacturing process. I will be there again tomorrow, bright and early, to do more of the same. So far, I am feeling more and more comfortable with the business, and the three-day Familiarization requirement certainly was a good idea.

After the familiarization period is over, I will then submit a Purchase Agreement which will allow me to conduct a thorough due diligence, which will include the company's financial records for the last three years.  After all that is done, we will set up the exact closing date and place, and make the transfer final and official.

Besides of the customary non-compete agreement, and all the other legalese, the Purchase Agreement will also include an "official" training period, which will be necessary, especially in this case. Having said that, and as long as the seller agrees, I plan to keep going back to the shop as much as possible until we close, in order to get better and better at each and every task.

Since I will be wearing most of the hats during and—for at least a while—after the transition period, it is imperative that I master as many (ideally all) of the functions, so the business continues to operate without any hiccups.

Yes, buying a business... any business, has its own set of challenges, so it will be a while until I feel totally comfortable and relaxed as the new owner.

A word of caution. Although Letters of Intent usually are non-binding documents, you still need your attorney to look it over to insure you're protected. Needless to say, if you are considering purchasing an existing business, you should already have a business law attorney working for you.

More to come, so stay tuned!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Web Wisdom | November 20, 2014

"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending." —Anonymous

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cars I Love: 2016 Cadillac ATS-VR

Cars I Love: The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V.R. Coupe Racer, developed to meet FIA GT3 specifications. With an output of more than 600 ponies, this definitely is NOT your granddaddy's Caddy. Photos from Motor Authority.

Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I credit the source. —Luis

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Buying a Business — Part 1

When it comes to buying an existing business, there are pros and cons.

If you buy right, for example, you can significantly reduce start-up costs. On the other hand, if you pay top dollar when purchasing an established and reputable business, the cost may be a lot higher than starting one from scratch. You have to decide which is which.

After looking at what's being offered locally and in surrounding areas, it became obvious that most asking prices are arbitrary and in several cases, unrealistic. So when I saw an ad for a local business being offered for sale—with a more than reasonable asking price—I was intrigued and felt the need to investigate further.

As you can imagine, there are many ways to value a small business. You can use the Cash Flow method, which basically allows you to determine how much of a loaned amount the cash flow of the business will support. In other words, you measure the ability of the business to service debt.

You can also use the Tangible and Intangible Assets approach, where you make a decision based on a comparison of buying similar assets to those being offered as part of the sale. Basically do the math on how much it would take for you to create an enterprise of the same value.

In my case, using the latter method, made the decision-making process a lot easier.

After a couple of phone conversations with the business broker, I made an appointment to go visit the business to have  a look, meet the owner, and learn more about the company.

The first thing I thought, is that having a one-way 40-minute commute can be a deal-breaker, at least for me, but after seeing the facilities and talking to the seller, I came to the conclusion that 40 minutes of mostly highway driving are not that bad after all. Besides, I can always relocate the business sometime in the future.

Another plus for going ahead with this deal is the fact that, because of the nature of the business, competition is very limited, compared to other venues such as retail, for example. That's very appealing to me since I did not want to invest in a type of business where I would have to compete with everyone and their brother, which usually results in a price-cutting war that yields no winners.

So the pro in this case—at least in my opinion—is that there's manufacturing involved. I am totally aware that manufacturing anything creates its own set of challenges, but I truly consider it more of a positive than a negative factor.

After gathering some basic details, I contacted my attorney, as well as my CPA, to discuss this potential purchase, and so far, it all looks okay in order to keep moving forward with the project. My CPA gave me some valuable tips on what to get from the seller or agent in order to perform a thorough due diligence.

Time is always of the essence when it comes to making these types of acquisitions, so you must have a good reliable team supporting you, in order to make the process efficient and as painless as possible.

There's no specific formula on how to buy an existing small business. Every transaction will be a bit (or a lot) different than the next, so you'll have to rely on the seller, the business broker, your CPA, your attorney, and your gut in order to make the final decision. This last one may sound a bit hokey, but don't discount it as such. Of course if the numbers don't make any sense, I would advise you to use your head and common sense, regardless of what your gut may be telling you.

So far my research tells me that this opportunity is a good one, and after talking with both my attorney and accountant, I submitted a Letter of Intent, along with the required small deposit, to get things rolling.

After deciding against buying a franchise business, this approach is definitely the right one for me, so I am very excited at the prospect of getting back in the entrepreneurial game.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cars I Love: 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06

Even though I'm not a fan of the four rounded exhaust tips, the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 hardtop is one gorgeous machine. A definite addition to my "Want" list! Photos by CorvetteBlogger and MarketWatch.

Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I try to credit the source. —Luis

Friday, November 7, 2014

Buying a Franchise. What was I Thinking?

As I related a short while ago, I'd been thinking about buying a franchise, but after reading the Franchise Agreement, as well as conducting additional research on the subject, I asked myself, "What am I thinking?"

I am not an attorney, but I am not a simpleton, either, and I really wonder what possesses people to sign what in most cases appear to be—as Robert Purvin, author of The Franchise Fraud, says—one-sided and unjust agreements.

After reading the whole franchise agreement, it was obvious to me that I was going to have to pay for the right to basically become an unpaid employee or agent of this particular franchisor. And while some will quickly claim that in order to "join forces" with a national brand you have to be willing to pay the price, part of the issue I had with this "brand," is that I had never heard about it before.

In other words, I would help them financially to build their so-called "brand."

Frankly, it is almost comical to think that I would consider paying someone for the right to use their name, do the marketing, handle all the social media requirements, hire personnel, etc., etc., and hope to eke a living while the receptionist who is employed by this franchisor makes a steady salary and, most likely, gets some benefits.

Am I the only one who thinks there's something wrong with that picture?

I am not saying that every franchisor out there makes outrageous demands, although it seems that most of them do. And why not? After all, if someone is willing to gamble their savings or future in such endeavors—and there are millions who obviously do—then obviously demand exceeds supply, so my guess it that the one-sided franchise agreements will continue.

What I am saying is that buying a franchise is not the thing for me!

But, since I am ready to join the entrepreneurial ranks again, what I've decided instead, is to consider buying an existing business versus starting one from scratch. The time seems right for such approach, so we'll see what happens.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cars I Love: 1970 Camaro Z/28 Rally Sport

The "split-bumper" Z28 has always been one of my favorites, and this 1970 Rally Sport captures the essence of the early 2nd generation Chevy Camaro. Photo by Edmunds.

Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I try to credit the source. —Luis

Friday, September 19, 2014

Buying a Franchise Business

Having launched and later sold a business I started from scratch, I surprised myself by considering becoming a franchisee, when I felt the time was right to look into a new venture.

The franchise business is a complex one, and more often that not, potential franchisees are affected by the information-overload part of the "dog and pony" intro process, which usually is very confusing and overwhelming.

If you are thinking about buying a franchise (regardless of type or brand), the first thing to do is to have a solid understanding on how the franchise world works. There are many excellent books available on the subject, and they cover both pros and cons of investing in a franchise, so get at least one of each to start forming your own opinion on the subject.

Even though many franchisors advertise that their system allows you to be your own boss, being a franchisee is not the same thing as launching your own business. Things such as hours of operation, how the service or product is displayed, what you can and cannot sell, and more, are not always up to you. The franchisor makes those determinations, and you, as the franchisee, must abide by their rules. You are a cog in a wheel.

I am not making a judgement for or against such rules, but just want to make sure you understand that business ownership and franchise ownership may be similar, but they are not necessarily the same.

Once you have a good basic understanding of what a franchise is, you can start searching for what's available. Chances are you will start looking for business models that are of interest to you, but for the search process to give you the best suggestions, it must be comprehensive and all-inclusive.

Based on your interests, you may think that a food service franchise is the perfect (and only) viable business for you, for example, but you would be surprised at the variety of franchises that are available. So keep an open mind and be ready to consider all sorts of business models.

In my opinion, the best way to narrow down the options that would be a good fit for you, is to have a franchise consultant working for you. Think of him or her as a trusted adviser; one that's familiar with the latest market offerings as well as any special discounts or promotions that are available. For example, some franchisors offer a veteran discount, while others offer a minority discount. There are some businesses that qualify for Small Business Administration (SBA) financing, and more. Your adviser will make all that information available to you.

Franchise consultants are paid by the franchise company if you become a franchisee, so the service will not cost you a dime. Do a web search for franchise consultants in your area and talk to them. These companies also organize conferences where several franchisors promote their offerings and give you more information. And like the consulting services, those events are free of charge and worth attending.

As I continue my research into the franchise options available—and of interest to me, I will post my findings from time to time, in case they are beneficial to you.

But in the meantime, I suggest you do some reading on the subject. You cannot have too much information about how the franchise world works.

These are two good books that should give you a better understanding:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"You're on Your Own!" Sincerely, Chrysler.

Several days ago I wrote an article about how an Internet search helped me find a way to repair the multi-function switch (MFS) on my 2006 Dodge Ram 1500. The MFS controls the turn signals, the high beams, and the windshield washer and wipers. By following the article, I was able to remove it, take it apart, clean it, and reinstall it back in the truck. Unfortunately, the "repair" only worked OK a couple of times, and so I was back to square one.

My next step was to buy a brand new MFS from the local NAPA store. Having already removed the original equipment switch I now knew how to remove and replace the part in a matter of minutes. But again, the new switch worked OK only for a short while and the problem returned.

The issue with the Dodge MFS is that the wipers work erratically. Sometimes they run non-stop; sometimes they stop mid-way on the windshield. So this is not only an inconvenience but also a safety issue.

When I returned the replacement unit I had bought from NAPA, the store manager suggested I look into replacing the wiper module. I was thinking that maybe the wiper motor itself would need to be replaced, but his suggestion made sense, and I decided to do some further research online, as well as for instructions on how to replace a wiper module assembly.

Instead of finding what I was looking for, I did find a notice for a recall at The recall (number 09E009000)—according to the site—was specifically for Dodge Ram 1500 trucks manufactured between 2002 and 2009.

I printed out the page with the info and drove over to Hurley Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in DeLand to discuss the recall with a service rep. I have used their services in the past for regular maintenance, as well as for a couple other recalls, and they've taken care of me in an expeditious and professional manner, so I had no doubt this time would be no different.

Well, I was wrong!

For a company that—according to its owner—endeavors "To consistently delight our customers by exceeding their expectations in every area of service," I was surprised to hear the reply of the Service Representative, after he located my truck's information:

You're on your own!

I guess the look in my face prompted him to add: "According to Chrysler."

He proceeded to tell me that the recall did not apply to my vehicle, and he handed me back my piece of paper. I quietly turned around and told him thank you, to which he replied, "Sorry." And I walked out of there.

I am surprised and disappointed that an authorized Chrysler dealer will not see the seriousness of a faulty wiper module, or whatever the issue may be to, at least, try to determine the cause of the problem and suggest a repair. Again, to me, this is a safety issue.

Anyway, I will take the truck to another shop to see if they can figure out how to fix it, or I may just trade the vehicle. After 125,000 miles, maybe the time has come to drive something else.

But if I decide to go that route, I doubt it will be a Chrysler product.

P.S. I called Hurley Chrysler's General Manager a few times and left messages asking for a call back. I thought that, maybe, they'd be interested in hearing about my experience, but after at least five calls—the last one with the receptionist who knew I had called and left messages—there were no returned calls from the dealership.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cars I Love: Ford Falcon Sprint Restomod

My first car was a 1964 Ford Falcon Station Wagon, and as utilitarian as that thing was, it ignited (somehow) my love for automobiles. I say "somehow" since there's only so much you can ask out of a 6-cylinder motor coupled to a three-on-the-tree tranny automobile.

It is my guess that the early-1960s restomod Falcon Sprint shown here is not lacking in that department, or anywhere else, for that matter. I've always loved the roof line on these cars and this small coupe has been tastefully brought into the 21st century.

I found this photo on Pinterest.

Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I try to credit the source. —Luis

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Visit to America's Packard Museum, Dayton, Ohio

For a while now, I've been planning to attend the Trans Am Nationals in Ohio. But "life"—as they say—would always get in the way, so the "There's always next year" answer, was my way of justifying my decision not to attend.

Well, that changed this year and, as a matter of fact, I started planning months ahead to be there (as a spectator), for the 30th Anniversary of the event.

I am glad I did.

The new venue was great, with plenty of parking for what it seemed to be 400-plus Firebirds of all years. And the weather, although rainy for days before the event started, actually turned out okay, albeit VERY hot and muggy, even for this Florida guy.

However, the rainy Thursday morning gave us a good reason to find something else to do. Ideally indoors. And so, after a quick web search, we decided to take the short drive to the Packard Museum in Dayton.

The museum is housed in—what used to be—the original Dayton Packard dealership. The building was built in 1917, which is the perfect setting for the cars and memorabilia displayed. You can tell that Packard was all about class and quality, not only by looking at the cars, but also by the way they decorated their showrooms. By the way, the old Packard dealership in Dayton, still has the original flooring, wall panels, light fixtures, and decor, as it did back in the day.

As a side note, the museum curator mentioned that the average price of a home in the early 1900s was around three thousand dollars, while the cost of a new Packard was twice that amount.

Quality has never been cheap.


Needless to say, photos cannot do justice to the cars, and the only way to properly admire these beauties, is to visit the museum.

Check their website for more information and hours of operation.

If—like me—you happen to be a gearhead, you owe it to yourself to check this place out.

There are so many cars, plus other stuff on display, that you will need several hours to experience it all. They even have a Merlin engine, built by Packard as part of the World War II effort, along with at least one PT boat engine and a jet turbine, that clearly show the level of detail and craftsmanship Packard engineers and workers were capable of.

In addition to all the early Packards, they also have many fine examples of cars they built until the company folded in the late 1950s, after a poorly-executed merger with Studebaker.

For more information about the Packard Automobile Company, visit Wikipedia.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Web Wisdom | August 18, 2014

"No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by making nine women pregnant." —Warren Buffet

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How to Get LinkedIn Endorsements

The short answer to the "How do I get LinkedIn endorsements" question is, Give and you shall receive.

Yes, it is that simple.

Of course there are several factors at play for this formula to work, and they include:

  • The number of network connections you have
  • How frequently you post
  • How frequently you interact with your network
  • And how generous you are endorsing others

I am sure there are many other factors at play, but the list above includes the most important ones.

Number of Network Connections

The law of averages dictates that the greater the number of members that are a part of your network, the greater the chances of getting endorsed. However, you must understand that building a strong LinkedIn network takes time, and receiving endorsements for your list of skills can—and probably will—take even longer.

LinkedIn is not Facebook (thankfully, I may add), and many members use it sporadically which, inevitably, reflects in the low numbers of connections they have which can result in poor or otherwise non-existent participation.

Frequency of Posts

As the saying goes, "Squeaky wheel gets the grease." And if your level of participation is just as an "observer," you automatically blend into the background, which makes you invisible so-to-speak, to your network.

When I talk about "posts," I am not necessarily talking about writing long-winded articles on a particular subject. If you happen to have enough stuff to share, then do it. If you are at this level then I will assume you have a blog or you are a contributor to one. In that case, you will have links to stuff you've shared in the past that should be of interest to some of the members of your network. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I always tell people to be very picky when it comes to growing their LinkedIn network. 

Posts also include comments you write when other members share something. In those cases, I encourage you to write something that adds value to the thread, lest you end up looking bad thanks to one-word comments that add nothing to the discussion.

Network Interaction

Yes, this is directly related to the paragraph above. LinkedIn is a professional network, and as such, you must network, for things to happen. 

As a matter of fact, LinkedIn has made it very easy for you to participate in a very basic, yet effective level, by congratulating members who are a part of your network. 

Things such as new jobs, promotions, birthday notices, etc., should appear in your inbox every day, and all you have to do is click a couple of buttons to share your salutations with the intended recipients. This, in turn, increases your visibility in front of other members who may not be part of your immediate network, but who may want to invite you into theirs.

Endorse Others

Endorsing others probably is the most important thing you can do as a LinkedIn member, and something that has the potential to get you endorsed in return. But don't do it for that reason. Endorse members of your network simply because you are a nice person. Plain and simple! 

In Sum

Having a comprehensive LinkedIn profile can be a powerful tool, and having a good number of endorsements will make it look even better.

However, avoid (at all costs) joining any type of "services" that exist solely for the purpose of inflating your network numbers, but without a specific purpose. In other words, allow your LinkedIn professional network to grow organically and have it focused exclusively in areas that are related to your profession and/or interests.

I regularly turn down invitations to connect, if the individual sending the request, is in an industry that is totally unrelated to my areas of expertise. I am not trying to be rude or difficult, but my aim is to have a network that is beneficial to all parties involved.

Yes, this has taken a few years, and although my network is small compared to others, I don't look at this as a competition, and neither should you.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cars I Love: The AC Shelby Cobra

The AC Cobra, also referred to as the Shelby Cobra, is an American classic sports car built on a British-designed platform. Originally intended as a "Corvette beater," an AC Cobra did exactly that in 1963, at Riverside International Raceway. Along with the 'Vette, other casualties included a field of Jaguars, Porsches, and Maseratis.

I found this great photograph of a Shelby Cobra on Pinterest.

Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I try to credit the source. —Luis

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Death of the Printed Automotive Service Manual

As someone who has relied on printed automotive service manuals for many years, both as a do-it-yourselfer and as a former bookseller, the fact that printed manuals are—slowly but surely—suffering a slow death, became even more obvious a few days ago when the multi-function switch (MFS) that runs the turn-signals, windshield washer, and wipers on my 2006 Dodge Ram 1500, started to act up.

My first reaction was to take the truck to the local Dodge dealer and let them fix the problem, but the miser in me decided to wait until my next salvage yard excursion to try to locate a used one, for a fraction of the price.

A couple of weeks went by as the MFS continued to run the windshield wipers whenever it wanted to—while annoying the heck outta me—so I had to find a solution.

I searched online with hopes to find a working replacement MFS but instead—and totally by accident—I landed on a forum page where a member explained with words and clear photos, how to fix the existing switch.

So I walked out to the garage and followed the directions on how to remove the MFS from the steering column, then took it apart, cleaned it and applied fresh dielectric grease, reassembled the unit, and installed it back in my truck. A quick test proved that—for a total investment of approximately 20 minutes—I had solved the problem and saved a ton of time and money in the process.

I've also used similar forums and websites to learn how to replace, fix, or restore parts and components for my 1989 Turbo Trans Am, even though I own copies of Haynes and Chilton manuals, as well as the factory service manual supplement.

My point is: Are printed service manuals necessary any longer?

I totally get the "you don't need electricity to read a paper manual" argument; then again, you don't need electricity to search for answers online either, as long as you are using a smart phone or tablet, which—by the way—is how over 50% of online searches are conducted.

Not to mention that, if you happen to need a specific part, you can copy the description or part number, then go to Amazon, eBay, AutoZone, etc., and get the item ordered in a matter of seconds. Last time I checked, printed media does not allow for that.

But before you start throwing your old service manuals in the recycling bin, they do come in handy, especially factory manuals that include Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) part numbers, how many of those parts are required, torque specifications, and more. So I am sure that next time you rebuild your truck or car's engine, for example, you will want to have the factory manual handy.

Even cheaper alternatives, such as aftermarket repair manuals, can be helpful to a certain degree. I can attest to that fact. After all, I restored a 1975 Norton Commando 850 motorcycle back in the early '80s with the help of a printed DIY book.

Yes, there was no World Wide Web at the time so my options were limited to a black-and-white Clymer manual and the Haynes equivalent, but I was able to do the job following the step-by-step instructions and carefully studying the photos, exploded views, and diagrams. So I am not an anti-printed-DIY-literature zealot.

But that was 30-plus years ago, and today, manuals can be found in PDF format (some legit, the rest pirated) for a few bucks, plus the hundreds or—in some cases—thousands of detailed tutorials (both in text and video formats), carefully edited by hobbyists, enthusiasts, and even auto parts resellers, all over the planet, which are free of charge.

The other factor that, I believe, spells trouble for printed automotive DIY media, is speed.

This may be more applicable to aftermarket publishers instead of vehicle manufacturers, but the point is that enthusiast media channels will always have the upper hand as far as timeliness, not to mention the ability to provide video coverage on how to perform specific repairs, which put old printed repair manuals to shame.

Traditional automotive repair literature publishers will have to adapt or they may end up going the way of the buggy whip, vinyl record, or VHS tape, to name a few technologies that had they time in the limelight, only to be discarded the moment something better appeared.

I talked to an automotive DIY print media about two years ago and asked him about strategies his company was pursuing to maintain and grow their market share. His reply was that they were working on making all their printed manuals available online.

I guess that's a start, but his statement reminded me of a few large record companies trying to force consumers to purchase complete albums years ago, when people wanted to buy just one song. It took them a while to figure things out, and luckily for them, their industry is quite different than the DIY publishing industry, where talent is not necessarily a prerequisite for success and sales.