eBay, My Personal Thrift Store

Vision Board

Many people fear being scammed on Ebay, that has not been my experience at all. I have had some minor issues, but overall it has saved my business literally thousands of dollars.

I found buying equipment and supplies on eBay to be very beneficial. Minimize Ebay hassles by doing the proper research, check out the seller, ask questions, know the retail price and research the going price on eBay. The majority of the sellers on eBay are legitimate. If anything does not seem right, move on. Another good deal is just around the corner.

Since customer service is extremely important to me, I try to avoid telling a customer their mail will not get out because our equipment is down. To accomplish this I believe in backup equipment. This can be very costly, so I may buy my primary equipment from a local dealer and the backup on eBay. This philosophy has served me well for many years.

Simple yet important.

Have a wonder-filled day,
Donna Flanagin

Random Thought: I enjoy keeping a vision board.

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unique Position

I’ve been in a unique position as an employer, I am able to offer my employees extreme flexibility. It is a great job for a woman trying to raise a family and still work. They can come in after the kids leave for school and be home before they got off the bus. It is okay to take off for a sick child, a doctor appointment or even an afternoon shopping with girlfriends. In exchange for this freedom, the unspoken rule is the work gets done on time, whatever it takes.

I think this freedom is what lured my two daughters to work for the company after graduating college. I have been so blessed, loyal employees, beautiful daughters and grandchildren that fill my heart with joy daily…..unique position by design.

Have a wonder-filled day,
Donna Flanagin

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm  Comments (5)  
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Making the right choice

42 years ago today my husband ask me to go for a ride in his brother’s corvette and get some ice cream. I said sure, and we have been together ever since. I’m pretty sure we made the right choice.

Do you still remember the anniversary of your first date?

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 7:46 am  Comments (2)  

Growing Pains

Our view

It was a tough decision to move the business out of my basement. I was going to have to give up the luxury of working in the wee hours of the morning, no commute and not to mention an awesome view. (Our walk-out basement is literally 30 feet from the water’s edge of Lake Louise.) No more throwing a load of laundry in, getting dinner started nor blending work and personal life so easily.

There was no denying it, we had outgrown the basement. I had an advantage that most small business do not, my husband and I already owed a building/warehouse that was 5 minutes from the post office. The upstairs apartment became vacant so we decided it was time to converted it into my offices. The main level became the production area. No more moving mail up and down the stairs, it was so nice.

Within two days of moving, I outwardly admitted it was a good decision. Our home was back to a home, my business was more visible and convenient for our customers and 5:00 p.m. meant it was time to go home. I have not regretted the move, not one little bit.

Have a wonder-filled day,
Donna Flanagin

Published in: on June 27, 2010 at 9:57 am  Comments (4)  
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Most Businesses Fail in the First 5 Years.

They say most business fail in the first 5 years and I can understand why. It takes longer than expected to get established, garner trust and respect, and build a good customer base. In the beginning, it was normal for us to take only one mailing a week to the post office. Not nearly enough business to sustain payroll, loans or rent.

We had a goal of two new customers a month, and most of the time we exceeded that. We worked out of my home basement until 2007 which was quite a feat. We were literally hauling tons of mail down the stairs and then back up again. A cardio workout at its finest.

Our business grew slowly every year. It was nice to be able to keep control and make major decisions without pressure or urgency. I think it is fair to say that we were very conservative. For instance, we could have joined all surrounding Chambers of Commerce in the first year, instead we joined only one. Slow but sure.

We have always believed in the philosophy that a small customer is just as important as a large one. Every person, business and job has the potential of being a larger volume mailer one day. You never know where a business connection will lead.

We have grown to the largest volume mailer in our county and garnered premier status from the USPS. This was a huge milestone for our company, and we strive to maintain this status to this day.

Next…….our move to a bigger facility.

Have a wonder-filled day,

Published in: on June 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm  Comments (2)  
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My Introduction to Bulk Mail

I was doing miscellaneous secretarial work for a printer and he asked me to research some new automation compatible postal software. I knew absolutely nothing about bulk mail, but I did have years of database experience which goes hand in hand with mailing.

After settling on a software program, he hired us to process the database, paperwork and labels and his employees took it from there.  After 2 1/2 years he decided to do the entire process in-house and took the software back. I had become so attached to the superior database capabilities of this particular software, that I wanted my own copy, but I needed to justify the cost.

I had no customers, no equipment, no permits, and relatively no bulk mail experience. Let’s say I was blissfully naive. So with one potential customer and an enthusiastic saleswoman named Debbie, Flanagin’s Bulk Mail Service was born.

Next…how we grew to the largest volume mailer in our county.

Published in: on June 25, 2010 at 4:02 am  Comments (14)  
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Business growth and happiness

I made a conscious decision on the growth of my business.  It was not the normal path most business owners take but it was the right path for me.  At first I did all the work myself.  As the business grew I added a part-time employee to help with the work load and then another and another.  Although that part is not unlike many businesses, what’s different is the reason why.

I controlled the growth of my businesses based on my happiness.  As long as I was still having fun and looked forward to going to work in the morning, I was on the right path.  I have made many business decision with this in mind.

Another conscious decision I make is to accept some work that is outside of my scope.  Hence, the beginning of bulk mail.

Have a wonder-filled day,

Donna Flanagin

Published in: on June 23, 2010 at 8:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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Desire and Determination

Just a little background…

When I started in business I had a pretty good secretarial base but I had NO bookkeeping experience.  So all my bookkeeping was self-taught by desire and determination.

Small businesses were just evolving from manual bookkeeping to computerized. (I’m dating myself here)  We were still using electric typewriters, mimeograph machines and white-out.  My first computer was an I.B.M. with a 10 meg hard drive.  I still remember the salesman telling me I would never fill that hard drive.

I had two mentors, Martha who was retiring from my husband’s family business and my aunt Pat who did the bookkeeping at her church. They were my life-lines when I got stumped.  I will always be grateful.

Flanagin’s Secretarial Service grew slowly and deliberately for the next several years.  Why do I say deliberately?…….. (to be continued)

Have a wonder-filled day,

Donna Flanagin

Published in: on June 22, 2010 at 10:22 am  Comments (2)  
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I Love Being in Business

I  went into business in 1982. I did not set out to own a business, it just kind of happened.   I started doing the bookkeeping for my husband’s business, then my neighbor asked me to do hers and then her husband asked me to do his and it grew from there.

It has evolved over the years from a secretarial service to a bulk mail service.  We actually still work for the neighbor doing secretarial work but our main business is bulk mail.   I think the FREEDOM to evolve (or not evolve) is the core enjoyment of owning your own business.

There is seldom a morning that I don’t enjoy going into work and seeing what the day will bring.

Follow future posts on what its like owning a business and how I got started in bulk mail.

Have a wonder-filled day,

Donna Flanagin

Bulk Mail Service Tip #3 – Irregular Cuts

Quality Matters

Problem: Irregular cuts

Explanation: More and more of my customers are opting to do some of their own printing to save money.  One of the drawbacks is that quality matters to the post office, so be very careful.  The cut is very important.  The post office operates on weight to get your piece count.  They will take 10 samples, weigh them and then calculate your entire mailing’s weight based on those 10 pieces.  If they take ten samples including the smaller cuts, the weight would be different from 10 with the larger cuts. When the weight does not match the piece count on the postage statement,  the mailing can be rejected or you may be charged more in postage.

Solution: The best solution is to have your mail pieces cut by a printer or vendor with an industrial paper-cutter.  If that is not possible and you need to cut them yourself, set up your paper-cutter guides or mark a guide measurement with a piece of tape or a pencil mark.  Also let your employees know the importance of quality work and why.

Have a wonder-filled day,

Donna Flanagin

Flanagin’s Bulk Mail Service

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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