“I’ve worked in a sales role or sales leadership role for the last 10 years of my professional life, and never before had I found an organization that truly puts customers and people before profits. I love working with customers to identify their pain points, then working with that customer to find the best solution and help them understand how it can make their lives easier or save them money. It’s an awesome role because every call and conversation is different and I get to learn so much about so many different topics. From understanding how integrations work and are built, to learning more about network security and hosting solutions, every day is unique and every solution is custom tailored to help a specific customer.”
Stu Kehler, 2yrs
“What started out with an unorthodox “first interview” meeting Dave at Equinox Brewing (in FoCo), has grown to be a wonderful “second family” for me in just 2 short years. I’ve cherished the opportunity and support in growing the RCS Payments channel within the company along with being fortunate enough to work with an incredible group of individuals.”
“From my personal experience, workplace happiness is much more dependent on WHO you work with rather than WHAT you do for work. I’m fortunate enough to truly enjoy the work that I do AND the company of those I work with here at RCS.”
“Over the past 13 years I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow through a few different roles and can honestly say that I still love being here! I enjoy being able to help our customers and being a part of the RCS Family. I look forward to continuing to grow with this team.”
Karen Rechtin, 1yr
“RCS is an amazing collection of people that work as a team to create success for our clients. Each team member is always ready and willing to help each other with anything. Employees are supported in their personal as well as professional lives. I am personally driven and rewarded by the relationships with the people and companies I work with, helping them become more successful with their systems which translates into being more successful with their businesses. Although I have been a consultant for many years, I learn from every client I work with and am able to add that information to my knowledge bank and share it with others. I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love with this group of people!”
Morris Caen, 1yr
“I like working at RCS because of the great people that I get to work with on a daily basis. I’m thrilled to be part of the top POS VAR in North America and am truly excited about the tremendous opportunities we have to grow RCS to the next level.”
Yvette Fontaine, 1yr
“I am a firm believer that every experience contributes to who you are, I feel blessed to have found a “home” where I can draw on so many of my life experiences, from working retail, customer service, inventory, accounting and IT. It has been such a bonus to reconnect with customers in the ski business. I love the small company culture, and especially how we all look out for each other. This is truly my glass slipper!”
Rob McDonald, 19yrs
Also celebrating, Rob McDonald who marks his 19th year at RCS this month!
Patrick began his career with RCS on August 8, 2016, by joining our implementation team and becoming the lead trainer and installer for our restaurant division. From his time working at his family-run restaurant to his own career in the industry, Patrick understands what it’s like to be in the customer’s shoes and after about a year became an Account Manager serving our Counterpoint clients. Patrick enjoys being able to work with such a great group of people that is always willing to help him or the customer succeed.
Matt found an opportunity at RCS after one of our managers visited his tech class for career day. Shortly after graduating in 2015 Matt joined our team on August 12th. Matt has spent the last 4 years building relationships with coworkers and customers big and small and values all the knowledge he’s gained since he began his career with us, he looks forward to many years to come!
Over the last 22 years Kellie has learned the ins and outs of how RCS operates, as well as our customers. In fact, at any moment you can quiz Kellie about a customer 15 years back and chances are she’ll remember them! Kellie began her career here at 19 years old and has seen RCS grow from 4 employees in a small office on the shore of Mascoma Lake to almost 60, 2 locations with 1/6 of the staff remote – spreading RCS across 6 states! Kellie’s day is always changing but loves working with her teammates to help answer any questions they have – which is good because she currently works in many departments as well as completes her full time job as the Executive Assistant of Dave Albert – all with a smile! Kellie has many thank you notes from customers and staff alike that she keeps as a reminder of the impact she makes on a daily basis.
Part II: Making your customers your greatest advertising asset
Inc. contributor Ane Gherani recently wrote about the declining effectiveness of online advertising, and how it can be offset by turning consumers into brand advocates. This isn’t breaking news, but it bears consideration day to day.
With consumers equipped to market on brands’ behalves, brands need to step up their game and invest in experiences that their consumers actually want to share,” Gherani says. “From storefronts and pop-up shops to innovative expo booths and interactive insta worthy subway ads, the experience economy is set to be the most lucrative brand channels to tap into.
The opportunities to boost customer engagement are limited only by the human imagination. (Which is to say, they’re limitless.)
Catalyze social bonding and social media to turn customers into advocates
DoubleTree by Hilton has saved millions a year on advertising using a simple, memorable “Talk Trigger” (a term coined by author and marketing consultant Jay Baer). By providing each guest with a fresh-baked cookie upon check-in, the upmarket hotel chain has created a powerful word-of-mouth marketing machine. Similar examples abound in B2C (business to consumer) customer service and marketing.
MSC, a full-service real estate brokerage firm specializing in retail, recently wrote that “With the infiltration of social media into everyday norms, millennials have created a craze for a whole new type of retail experience driven by entertainment.” MSC sees this as a paradigm shift for small shop retailers.
Social media might get too much credit for the shift towards experiential retail. Still, encouraging social sharing is a comparatively low-cost way to boost sales for two reasons:
People are becoming numb to digital marketing. Those channels are oversaturated and consumers are more interested in their friends’ activities and recommendations than ads.
For better or worse, fear of missing out (FOMA) is driving many consumer choices. As McKinsey & Company recently explained:
Keeping up with the Joneses used to be about wanting to own the same expensive products your friends or neighbors did. But with more consumers opting for experiences—whether that means seeing the musical Hamilton or visiting Hanoi—and sharing their stories and pictures online, people feel peer pressure to join in or keep up.
Make ‘em laugh.
The excellent bestselling business book The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath talks about how businesses can create experiences that have an outsized influence over overall customer satisfaction. It’s surprising how often these experiences come at little to no cost.
For example, Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants are known to deliver funny flight safety announcements. I experienced one that could have passed off as a legitimate stand-up routine. The Heath brothers noted that Southwest collected and analyzed data to see how these script-breaking spiels influence spending.
The data showed that travelers who heard a funny flight safety announcement bought an extra half flight per year (on average) compared to those who didn’t. The data nerds figured if the frequency of funny announcements doubled, it would boost annual revenue by $140 million!
$140 million return on an investment of $0!
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At Retail Control Systems, we provide customized ecommerce and omnichannel retail solutions for a dozen industries. But we’ll always love our brick and mortar retail heritage. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you navigate the changing retail landscape and thrive through the 2020s and beyond.
McKenzie report we referenced earlier also talked about the many opportunities this shift in consumer behavior creates.
Specialty fitness concepts like high-intensity interval training, Pilates and yoga studios are outpacing traditional healthclubs.
Similarly, “comedy clubs, piano bars, acrobatic performances, and [themed] dinner shows” are increasingly sought out by consumers.
“Shared experiences with friends and family” are key, the report states. But in several ways, shared experiences are what retail has always been about.
Bonding over experiences and “stuff”
Buying your first suit with dad is a fond memory millions of Americans share. Mothers and daughters aren’t going to suddenly stop going on retail excursions to buy shoes and clothes because we’ve become more efficient shoppers. These are uplifting bonding experiences that have spanned generations.
Although millennials have pioneered this change, brands embracing customer focused, unique, and experiential retail will attract consumers across generations, keeping the world of retail alive and well.
That captures a key point we’ve repeated over the last few months. Retail isn’t going anywhere, but retailers in general need to master multiple touchpoints, providing consumers the combination of convenience and physical experiences that is increasingly in demand.
In many ways, retailers are simply being called to take things they’ve always done well and find creative ways to elevate them. From that standpoint, the experience economy sounds less daunting and more exciting. Consumer subsets like locavores can in fact be your most engaged customers.
While it’s in some ways laudable, the stereotype of young consumers who want to know “the story behind the product” is an easy target for comedy.
Locavores were hilariously satirized in the oddball sketch comedy show Portlandia, in a skit where a couple at a restaurant asks a barrage of questions about the chicken. Is it organic? What kind of diet is it raised on? How much room do the chickens have to run around? Do you have a good relationship with the farmer?
“They do a lot to make sure that their chickens are very happy,” assures the server. She goes so far as to provide a file containing photos and in-depth biographical information on the chicken they’re about to eat. Still not quite satisfied, the couple asks the server to hold their table and goes out to visit the farm.
(And then things get weird.)
Although it’s often satirized, there are lessons from the locavore movement that relate to consumer retail as well as food service.
From warring opposites to mutually dependent: Ecommerce vs. brick & mortar
For many retailers, there must have been a certain irony to the ecommerce behemoth Amazon acquiring Whole Foods. After all, WFM arguably did more than anyone to popularize the term “Locavore.”
It’s odd how farmers markets and more experiential brick-and-mortar retail concepts have blossomed in the last decade, even as ecommerce has gained so much market share. Weirder still, the same kind of consumers who preferentially buy local goods of one sort are likely to shop exclusively online for other needs.
At Retail Control Systems, we provide customized ecommerce and omnichannel retail solutions for a dozen industries. But we’ll always love our brick and mortar retail heritage. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you navigate the changing retail landscape and thrive through the 2020s and beyond.
As paradoxes go, it’s hard to beat all the pure play online retailers like Warby Parker, Amazon and Birchbox opening physical storefronts. This is reflective of consumer demand for a blended experience—a combination of convenience and personalization. Ecommerce companies have seen pure online sales spike in places where they have physical storefronts.
Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers are finally using multiple touchpoints to leverage, rather than cannibalize each other. The line between different channels is blurring. Consumers who initially encounter a brand in one channel are increasingly apt to purchase through another, weeks later.
Consumers still see shopping, in part, as a social experience. Talking in-person with a store rep with first-hand product experience provides greater assurance than aggregated online reviews. Savvy consumers know that many vendors game the system, making in-person conversations all the more valuable.
The Experience Economy
Jia Wertz, writing for Forbes, recently wrote that “consumers have slowly but surely been moving away from strictly shopping for products, instead seeking a more engaging experience. The trend has been driven largely by millennials and their preference for experiences over things.”
In recent years, the increase in household spending on “experience-related services” has quadrupled the growth of spending on goods. That’s according to a report by Worldwide management consultancy McKinsey & Company.
Although the “Experience Economy” has only recently become part of the popular vernacular in the last couple of years, a 1998 Harvard Business Review article discussed the then emerging phenomenon. Those insights remain relevant.
For instance, thinking through what you’d have to do to theoretically justify charging admission to your store may help you identify opportunities to differentiate your shop and capture new, high-value customers. While most in-store events aren’t admission-based, “demonstrations, showcases, contests, and other attractions” could be.
Some of these ideas remain radical 21 years after publication. For instance, the authors state that “In the full-fledged experience economy, retail stores and even entire shopping malls will charge admission before they let a consumer even set foot in them.” We’ll see. For now, the most visible examples remain things like educational workshops, fitness classes and store-sponsored running clubs to promote athletic brands.
What’s a theme you can leverage to make your customers’ or guests’ retail experience totally unique to your store?
Bonding over experiences and “stuff”
Retail has always been an experience in some sense, and will be for generations to come.
Meeting a second-generation shop owner, clothing designer, coffee roaster or even a geeky electronics expert who can help you with your home entertainment system are all experiences unique to shopping in physical stores. It’s a pleasure to talk and listen to people who are passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. That’s one of the reasons brick and mortar stores will still be thriving for decades to come.
Next month, we’ll discuss how to use simple, memorable experiences to make your customers your greatest advertising asset.
We Make Data Your Friend, Not Your Boss
Shorter Buying Cycles. Fewer Stockouts. Less Surplus Inventory.
Our retail point of sale support services can help you optimize day-to-day and strategic decisions.
It’s funny how in business a single headline, data point or catchphrase can overshadow the big picture. We’re talking about the Retail Apocalypse, but we’re talking more specifically about the impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar retail.
Contrary to the impression news headlines can create, many sectors of traditional retail are thriving. The number of store closings in recent years, however, may be costing you sleep regardless of how your business is faring. For all the turmoil, this is actually a time of great opportunity for traditional retailers. In fact, Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur and others have maintained the perspective that:
The impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar retail is overstated and misunderstood, and
The long-term outlook for retail is great.
The Best of Both Worlds
Retail chains that have continued to prosper through the so-called “Retail Apocalypse” are those that “understand the biggest advantage e-commerce retailers have is their ability to collect and leverage insights into consumer behaviors gained by technological innovations like big data,” according to Forbes Technology Council Lucas Roh. “They are adopting technology and processes to achieve the same advantage and adapt to today’s retail landscape.”
“The real impact e-commerce has on the retail industry is in consumer expectations,” Roh continues. “Consumers now expect a more convenient, tailored omnichannel shopping experience, whether they are online or in-store.”
This all points to at least one key lesson:
Big Data, customer analytics and online marketing are no longer competitive advantages.
Yesterday’s advantages are today’s necessities. That may sound stressful at first, but we’re excited about how these can benefit retailers and consumers.
That’s because today’s solutions address issues that have plagued retail for generations. They can make your life easier and your business more profitable. Even mom and pop retailers can now use business intelligence tools to reduce spoilage, pilfering, and stock-outs; enjoy higher margins; and optimize staff scheduling.
NCR Counterpoint—which RCS has used for decades— can now integrate data across multiple departments and generate over 40 reports. Among other things, these help forecast inventory, flag suspicious transactions and optimize pricing.
Instead of thinking of this as a David vs. Goliath thing, think of e-commerce style capabilities as ways brick and mortar retailers can solve problems that were around long before Amazon.
Omnichannel, not digital, is the face of the future
Companies that provide customers flexible purchasing options understand that decades from now there will still be thriving brick and mortar stores with e-commerce integrations. We’re not moving to an e-commerce model; we’re moving to a hybrid model. Why else would the kingpin of e-commerce be opening brick and mortar grocery and book stores? Why would Amazon have acquired Whole Foods if brick and mortar were tanking?
“Brick and mortar retailers no longer have to feel that they’re staring up helplessly at the giants of e-commerce,” writes Jia Wert, CEO of the fashion brand Studio 15 in Forbes.
E-commerce firms, it turns out, need a physical presence to build brand recognition and achieve their long-term business objectives. More to the point, traditional retailers who make use of the digital economy’s capabilities can not only survive but prosper with the help of modern inventory, marketing, and point of sale platforms.
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Learn how we can optimize your ominichannel marketing, inventory management and sales.
Should you prioritize customer retention over new customer acquisition? Harvard Business Review reports that “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one,” citing research from Bain & Company. The same, oft-cited research suggests that improving customer retention by five percent results in a 25 to 95 percent increase in profits.
Focusing first on your existing customers, assuming they’re profitable, is less work and often makes customer acquisition easier to boot. If you retain customers and create exceptional experiences for them, they’ll also become your best advocates.
Promote time-limited offers. Harvard professor, best-selling author and persuasion expert Robert Cialdini named scarcity as one of his 6 Principles of Influence. In a business setting, one way of harnessing this is time-limited offers. Prospects are more likely to act on an email marketing offer, for instance, when it’s time-limited.
“When our freedom to have something is limited, the item becomes less available, and we experience an increased desire for it,” states Cialdini in the modern classic Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. “However, we rarely recognize that psychological reactance has caused us to want the item more; all we know is that we want it. Still, we need to make sense of our desire for the item, so we begin to assign it positive qualities to justify the desire.”
Issue customer surveys. As we’ve noted before, for every customer who complains directly, there are about two dozen customers who are quietly dissatisfied with some aspect of your service. In addition to identifying areas for improvement, surveys can generate testimonials and keep customers engaged.
Customer surveys are often focused on identifying problem areas. While that’s important if you value repeat business, a Harvard Business Review article, The Power of Positive Surveying, suggests that a more positive slant can improve customer satisfaction and retention.
“Beginning a survey with what the researchers call ‘open-ended positive solicitations’ seems to be an easy, low-cost way to increase satisfaction and spending.”
By getting customers to recall and relate positive experiences, you increase their sense of well-being and make them more likely to return. While customers should have an outlet to vent (ideally not Yelp!), surveys that focus too much on uncovering problem areas can backfire.
“Companies should look at the customer feedback process not only as a chance to listen but also as an opportunity to subtly influence customer perceptions.”
Create the right ambiance. Every introvert has walked out of a cafe, restaurant or store because of excessively loud or grating music, too much ambient noise or overcaffeinated staff. A lot of retail settings are geared toward extroverts because of the perception of the giddy shopaholic, but a third to a half of us are introverts. The reverse can also be true, of course. Lighting and music geared towards one kind of customer risks driving off another, potentially larger group of customers.
Music should also be attuned to your customers. This may seem like common sense, but individual employees may enjoy country music or electronica, which people tend to either love or hate. It may seem like micromanaging to dictate which genres or stations employees can choose, but in many cases it’s good business sense.
Ambience was one of the keys to Starbucks’ success. When Howard Schultz took over the company, he was inspired by the Italian cafe scene. Much like the English pub, these were uplifting social spaces conducive to exchanging news and sharing ideas. Coffee stopped being a commodity and became more of an experience.
Be ultra-responsive to online reviews … the good and the bad. We discussed this in our March blog, Best Practices for Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews. Responding to a positive shout out–even a trivial one–reaffirms that you value your customers. Not responding to a negative review–even if it’s petty–validates the complaint.
Personalize your marketing. This begins with understanding your customer personas: their aspirations, their pains, preferred methods of communication and social media habits. Focus on the channels that matter most. If you have someone in charge of social media or email marketing, it may even be good to have that person sign off on messages using his or her first name (under the company label, of course). This can make you stand out regardless of what size your business is.
Telling customer stories is another great way to do this. While beyond the scope of this blog, there are a variety of great ways to do this including social media, case studies and video blogs.
One emotional and vivid customer story is far more persuasive than a data dump in 85 PowerPoint slides. – Carmine Gallo, The Storyteller’s Secret
Utilize email marketing (Yes, it still pays). Hubspot and Search Engine Journal state that email marketing has an average ROI of 4300% – but that’s obviously quality dependent. Email marketing keeps you top of mind and can help personalize your brand. A point of sale (POS) system with email marketing integrated can segment customers by purchasing history and preferences, allowing you to deliver relevant, individualized offers. Organized customer data is a prerequisite to effective marketing and systems like NCR Counterpoint, which we offer, make it easy.
Electronic receipts delivered by email, another feature built into our POS systems, also allow businesses to send customer feedback surveys and additional offers with ease.
Implement rewards programs and exclusive offers. Again, the better your customer data is, the more you can tailor offers to entice customers. It’s a truism that loyalty programs make people feel valued, but also consider throwing out the occasional surprise reward. These can coincide with birthdays or be completely random.
Incidentally, this is another example of Cialdini’s scarcity principle at work. An offer available to few people will be perceived as having greater value than one available to the masses.
Understand your mission and communicate it across channels.Know your “Why” and weave it into every aspect of your business. Use it to galvanize employees and communicate the value of what you do. This can be a social mission or it can simply be exceptional commitment to satisfying a market need. One of our partners in Fort Collins, Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, has a close affiliation with Sustainable Schools International, a nonprofit supporting education in Cambodia. A portion of every sale goes to SSI and customers have the option to “round up” their payment to the nearest dollar. This provides further financial support as well as generating awareness for their cause.
Everyone on Facebook does a good job of updating me about enjoying a vanilla latte at their favorite coffee shop (at least my friends do). However, people don’t always remember to update their business profile on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other platforms if there is a special event or something out of the ordinary happening.
On a recent trip to Seattle I was reminded how important it is to keep your business profile up to date. While visiting we went to one of the main attractions in the city. Now, we only had a few days and this particular attraction was only open the first day we were there due to construction, so we knew it was going to be a time crunch. According to their website, they would be open till 8 pm and the last tour left at 7 pm. We arrived at 6:45 with what we thought was plenty of time, only to have the security guard tell us that they close at 7 pm. But… we contested, the website says 8 pm, he then proceeded to tell us, “well, that’s google’s listing, we don’t control that.” As someone who traveled from out of town and wasn’t sure when he’d be back, this was disappointing, to say the least.
Yes, you do control your business listing on Google, or at least you should… If you haven’t already, go add or claim your business listing on Google. Seriously, go do it now, stop reading this. Okay, you are now in control. You can now edit your post, add pictures, change the hours, add special hours for holidays, events, or construction. The Google business listing is often one of the first things people see when they google your business if you don’t see one for your business you should create one. Keeping this listing up to date will greatly benefit your business, but it isn’t the only listing to keep in mind.
If your business isn’t using social media, you are missing out. Even if you feel like your company doesn’t have anything exciting to share on social media, it is an area you need to have a presence. With over 70% percent of Americans on Facebook, your business page has the potential to reach millions. Facebook now has a feature that allows people to ask for recommendations. For example, if I was traveling to Austin, Texas, I can now ask my friends who live there or who have traveled there if they have recommendations for a restaurant or a record store. Facebook will then add details about your friend’s recommendations. A Facebook business page is a great way to get more online traffic, but don’t forget to keep that information up to date as well. Learn more about creating a Facebook business page.
Lastly, but certainly not least, your website. You want to make sure your website’s information is always accurate. Companies list their address and store hours in all sorts of places, the about section, the contact page, an information page. It’s okay to have this information in more than one area and certainly don’t remove it if you’ve always had the information in a certain location. However, the easiest and most convenient section is at the bottom of your site in the footer. The footer is on every page and is an obvious place for your location, phone number and/or store hours. Even if you only do online orders it is a good idea to have a physical location listed on your website. Sometimes people want to know how far away an item may ship from, if you’re local or what timezone you are in if they want to call. Also, it helps let people know that you have a physical location and aren’t just a vague concept floating around the internet.
These three areas are not the only places where your information can be listed, but they’re a good place to start. Keep in mind that people traveling from out of state or even out of the country may be relying on this information and you don’t want to damper their experience or cause them to write a bad review. Remember, Google knows a scary amount of information about your business, but you still control most of that information, for now…
We’re going to be real candid here. Most things marketed as “sustainability” efforts are more accurately “waste reduction” initiatives.
What’s wrong with waste reduction, you ask? Nothing whatsoever—it’s great! What follows are some proven insights on how to reduce waste, adopt more sustainable business practices, boost your bottom line and win customers. While progress towards sustainability and cost savings may seem at odds, there are plenty of win-wins. Some of the following tips apply mainly to retailers, others to restaurant managers, but many are flex options that apply to various industries.
1) Adopt a paperless documentation system
M&E painting in Fort Collins recently rolled out a paperless documentation system. While this saves hundreds of pounds of paper, the more impressive benefit is saved time.
Off the cuff, M&E Founder Matt Shoup estimates that M&E’s new paperless documentation system saves each team member a couple hours a week. While the new system was challenging to implement, he expects it to pay for itself many times over.
“It’s been received really well,” notes Shoup.
“The other thing that it did was it freed up a lot of physical space in our office where we were storing paper and filing cabinets,” he adds.
2) Default to waste reduction options with day-to-day customer service
When was the last time you ordered a drink at a coffee shop, fully intending to enjoy it there, and were given a to-go cup complete with a plastic lid and sleeve? Yesterday? Last week? Conversely, when was the last time you came home with carry-out and said, “Great! I don’t have to borrow silverware from my neighbor because they put plastic utensils in my to-go bag!”
You get the picture. Giving out single-use, throw away items usually isn’t the best practice to default to from a business perspective. Changing that default is a quick win, saving money and reducing waste without compromising your customers’ experience.
Additionally, compostable utensils, cups, napkins and to-go boxes are now affordable for most businesses, thanks to industry leader Eco-Products and other companies.
3) Identify low-hanging fruits for energy savings
LED lighting and other commercially-available, affordable technologies cut utilities bills substantially. LED bulbs cost more than conventional bulbs, but they pay for themselves several times over in the form of lower utilities bills and much longer life cycles. If your frame of reference on pricing or quality isn’t current, take a fresh look: The Department of Energy reports that the price of LED bulbs fell 85 percent from 2008 to 2013, and is still dropping. Their light quality and longevity have improved over the same period. Yay LEDs!
If you own the building you conduct business out of, or if you’re responsible for utilities on a long-term lease, consider an energy audit and retrofit. With a deep energy retrofit, a company such as Efficiency Matters, here in Fort Collins, first takes a thorough look at your building to identify the most cost-effective ways to improve its efficiency. They then retrofit the building, strategically insulating key portions of it, sealing leaky areas, changing out incandescent light bulbs and, in some cases, replacing windows.
These deep energy retrofits may have a long financial payment period in terms of utilities savings, but they have an immediate payback in terms of comfort. Perhaps more enticing to a landlord or property manager, studies show that energy-efficient buildings have lower vacancy rates and less frequent turnover than conventional buildings.
If you have an open-minded landlord, he may be willing to assume the cost of these upgrades. The building owner is really the long-term beneficiary here because buildings that have low operating costs, good indoor air quality, minimal ambient noise and minimal temperature fluctuations attract better tenants. That’s property management 101.
4) Incentivize alternative transportation
If you’re in a multi-tenant building you may be able to renegotiate your lease to unbundle on-site parking. Encouraging employees to bike, carpool or use public transportation is easy in places like Colorado’s Front Range, but admittedly not everywhere. That said, if you can save a couple hundred dollars a month by freeing up a couple parking spaces, why not try?
Installing bike racks in front of your store is another way to encourage biking to work that can also attract clients. This is both because of the signal it sends and because of the convenience.
5) Use drought-resistant landscaping
Next time you’re giving your landscaping a face lift, using indigenous plants can cut back on water bills. If your business has minimal or incomplete landscaping this is also a good investment. Why? Views of nature increase productivity and reduce sick days, studies show. Potted plants or, if you’re really ambitious, a living wall may also improve indoor air quality, which improves mental focus, self-reported happiness and employee health.
6) Purchase renewable energy credits to offset energy use
Many businesses that don’t have the wherewithal to generate all their own energy with renewables opt to buy renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset their energy use. The Rio, New Belgium, Odell Brewing and dozens of businesses in Northern Colorado do this. Buying wind energy or supporting a solar energy cooperative costs somewhat more than conventionally-sourced electricity, but whether an end in itself or a means of attracting eco-conscious customers it can be an affordable and sound decision.
7) “Gamify” your waste reduction efforts
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Challenging your team to reduce waste by measuring and charting how much you’re hauling makes waste reduction efforts tangible. This can also be done with energy consumed, total commuting miles by car and anything else that will galvanize employees without seeming overbearing. With a little flair, tracking waste reduction can be fun and morale-boosting.
8) Restaurateurs: Compost when feasible
Case in point: Happy Lucky’s Teahouse
Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, one of our partners in Fort Collins, quickly became a downtown staple after opening in 2009. In fact, my first visit to Happy Lucky’s completely changed my conception of what tea is supposed to taste like. I’ve been back many times.
“Our biggest waste reduction, started when Happy Lucky’s Teahouse opened in 2009, is composting our used tea leaves,” notes owner and “Chief Leafster” George Grossman. “Through the years different customers have brought in five gallon buckets which we fill with our spent tea leaves.
“Composting tea leaves happens fairly quickly even in our relatively dry Colorado climate. My worms in the basement love them too. Composted tea leaves smell great and can help any garden.”
Depending on they kind of organic waste your business disposes of, different composting methods (basic composting or commercial/industrial composting) may be used. Industrial composting “is financially advantageous over landfill-bound waste hauling in areas where a compost facility is within 50 miles,” notes CBRE Sustainability Manager Emily Willson, writing for GreenBiz.com.
One man’s waste is another (cow’s) treasure
If you’re in, or near, an agrarian community, livestock can take a lot of food waste off your hands, saving you hauling fees and eliminating a major source of atmospheric pollution. To touch on that second point: food breaking down in landfills it produces methane, which has over 25 times the greenhouse effect as CO2. You may even get a modest additional source of revenue if you’re a brewery or cidery because leftover apple pomace mash and spent brewers grains are nutrient-rich (and livestock love them). Here in Fort Collins, Summit Hard Cider, New Belgium, Horse and Dragon Brewery and several other beverage makers do this. It’s a win-win.
That said, food waste is a bear. Different composting processes are required for different types of food waste. If not contained and hauled promptly it can also become an odor hazard. Companies like A-1 Organics that specialize in industrial food waste composting may be able to serve you affordably if your business isn’t far away. The U.S. Composting Council website is a great resource for restauranteurs interested in implementing a composting program.
Case in point: Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant
“With compost in particular, there’ve been issues with finding people to haul it,” discloses Erich Whisenhunt, the Director of Food and Beverage for Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (“The Rio”).
Whisenhunt lives on a small farm and gives food waste from the kitchen prep line (vegetable trimmings and the like) to his pigs.
“For restaurants on a small scale, that’s a pretty good solution,” he states.
During Whisenhunt’s tenure as Kitchen Manager, he oversaw various waste diversion efforts including glass-to-glass recycling, food waste composting and vegetable oil recycling for biofuels.
9) Finally, make sure you take rebates into account if you’re looking into ROI
Rebates vary by state and locality, but they can often nudge a waste reduction effort from a “no-go” to a “go” by shortening the payback period of certain sustainability initiatives. If you’re on the fence about a lighting retrofit or food waste composting plan, double-check with the relevant local, state and federal offices. Yes, some rebates distort incentives, steering people to the less beneficial of two initiatives, but we’re here to help you run a business, not critique policy.
While some sustainability investments are a values call, many have a decent bottom-line justification. In other words, environmental stewardship and sound business judgement are often one and the same.
Going back to the point we opened with, however, make sure you’re walking the talk. You don’t have to obsess over sustainability to run a good, admirable business, but if your behavior is out of sync with your public voice it’s likely to be labeled as “greenwashing.”
We’d love to hear from you if you choose to implement any of these ideas, wish to add to the discussion or even disagree with anything.