Monthly Archives: June 2013

7 Reasons Why the Customer Should Be #1

7 Reasons Why the Customer Should Be #1

June 25, 2013 

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The customer is king. Believing otherwise will likely drive your business into the ground.

Here’s what I mean: Far too many businesses are stuck on perfecting their ideas, products, or services, when the real focal point should be pleasing the customer. Those businesses and brands who do cater solely to their user will always win in the end. But transforming your company to better serve your customers may not be as simple as it sounds.

To get more proactive insight on putting your customers first, I spoke with John Tabis, the founder and CEO of TheBouqs.com, an LA-based cut-to-order online flower delivery company. After recently receiving a $1.1 million seed round of funding, it’s clear their focus on improving the overall customer experience hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Here are a few tips from John to get you on the fast-track to putting your customers first:

1. Define and focus. Before your can begin to improve the overall experience for your customer, you must first understand who they are and what they really want. Toss out the idea of having a broad audience and hone in on the specific target market most relevant to your business. Research their basic interests, wants, and needs and begin transforming your business to better accommodate these aspects.

2. Keep it simple. If you’re really looking to stand out, simplicity will be your saving grace. Far too many businesses think their customers want fancy features and end up overbuilding their products to the point of no return. In reality, your customer craves a simplistic experience with no unnecessary features, “extras”, or gimmicks.

For example, Tabis knew a stealthy, no-nonsense ordering process mattered to the target audience of TheBouqs.com. They created a straightforward, honest, and simple way to purchase their product that involves one flat fee, only 40 bouquet options to choose from, no hidden fees, and just three clicks to checkout.

3. Tout your personality. Who says simple can’t be fun? Make your brand more memorable by injecting it with a level of personality. TheBouqs.com may have a simplified ordering process, but their website and online presence boast a youthful and engaging level of personality. From their bouquet names to their use of photography, one click-through of the website gives customers a taste of the energetic personality of their brand.

4. Find what’s missing in your market. This mixture includes equal parts of knowing what customers in the market want and understanding what your competitors aren’t doing right. By fixing this disconnect and filling a void, you’re not only going to stand out from your competition, but also have a chance at changing the market in the process.

In the flower industry, many businesses have completely forgotten about the buyer by throwing in hidden fees, spamming marketing materials, and trying to sell non-bouquet extras in the purchase process. TheBouqs.com got to the heart of this big market-related issue, which also positively transforms the customer experience as a whole.

5. Develop a pleasant experience. By making your customer’s interactions and experiences as efficient and effective as possible, you’re ensuring their return. Streamline interactions and processes to cut the fuss and put your customers at ease. This means providing fewer clicks at the point of purchase and keeping fees as transparent and standard as possible.

6. Show them respect. Giving your customers an unmatched experience is only possible through respecting their time and inbox. Don’t spam your customers with marketing materials or hit their inbox too often. Too many businesses believe this is a way to keep their customers “in the know” when it’s actually working to push them away. At TheBouqs.com, they send out one email a week. For your customer, twice a week or daily might be best. You need to customize your marketing to match your customers wants and needs.

7. Play to your user’s values. Sure, you may doing your best to give your customers what they want in terms of experience, but keying in on their values will show them you really care.For instance, TheBouqs.com knows their customers value social-responsibility. They built their business foundation on this value through partnering with eco-friendly, sustainable farms that respect the environment and their farmers.

When it comes to your customers, giving a little will get you a lot in the long run. Put your customers first and you’re sure to come out on top.

About Ilya Pozin:

Founder of Ciplex. Columnist for Inc, Forbes & LinkedIn. Gadget lover, investor, mentor, husband, father, and ’30 Under 30′ entrepreneur. Follow Ilya below to stay up-to-date with his articles and updates!

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Home prices up 15% from a year ago

By Lily Leung JUNE 25, 2013

A new home in Carmel Valley.
A new home in Carmel Valley. — Howard Lipin / Union-Tribune staff

San Diego home prices have hit a nearly 5-year high, ushering in more evidence to “confirm the housing recovery’s strength,” the S&P/Case Shiller home price index reported on Tuesday.

Residential real estate prices rose nearly 15 percent from a year ago and almost 4 percent from the previous month, based on April figures from the national real estate indicator. Those gains bring back home values to June 2008 levels.

The index, which has two a month lag, calls the housing bounce-back “broad based.”

When looking at all of the 20 major metro areas in the index, prices are up 12 percent year-over-year, the highest return in seven years.

 

Those same areas have all shown annual increases for at least four straight months. In San Diego, April’s returns mark the 10th consecutive month of positive year-over-year returns.

Taken together, the 20 cities in the index posted a nearly 3 percent price increase, marking the biggest positive return in the history of that composite index, which goes back 13 years.

“The recovery is definitely broad based,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P’s index committee. “Recent economic data on home sales and inventories confirm the housing recovery’s strength.”

Such news continues to be a positive sign for homeowners who have been waiting for their home values to bounce back from recession levels.

Limited inventory and pent-up demand have mainly contributed to soaring real estate prices, potentially pricing out potential buyers.

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Old hotel readying for renters

Hotel Churchill’s redo at $285k per unit is high but worth it, SOHO and veteran builder say

By Roger Showley JUNE 13, 2013

Hotel Churchill, fronting on C Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues.

 

When the Hotel Churchill opened in 1915, Orrin Churchill, not Winston Churchill, the British statesman, was the builder, and it was timed to serve visitors to Balboa Park’s Panama-California Exposition.

But the seven-story building at 827 C St. downtown has been out of action, like a defeated politician, for eight years, its 94 hotel-sized quarters unavailable to renters and tourists.

Now, the San Diego Housing Commission, authorized by the City Council earlier this week, aims to reboot the building into a 67-unit low-income apartment project over the next two years.

photo
A historic view of the Hotel Churchill in better times. — — Coons Collection

As to why this building is worth saving, Bruce Coons, executive director of the Save Our Heritage Organisation, said it would retain a sense of character in a section of the city with many new high-rises.

“I think when somebody sees this building and the way it is now and will look when it’s restored, it will spur a whole lot of imagination that has been sorely lacking,” he said.

The cost of $19.1 million, or $285,000 for every 350-square-foot unit, is steep – about 10 times the cost per square of new tract-built construction.

For that figure, you could buy a bigger, single-family house in Julian, Lemon Grove or National City, according to the latest housing prices.

Veteran developer Sherm Harmer said he was not surprised by the premium paid to save this old building. Historic buildings, high-rises and affordable housing projects typically cost more than suburban houses, he said, and the requirement to pay union wages — due to financing with federal grants — increases the cost by 20 to 30 percent.

“I think one of the advantages of doing that building is its location,” Harmer said. “(Homeless) services are concentrated downtown, unfortunately, and they’re needed there, because we have an older population of people that are in distress.”

Marco Vakili, executive director of the housing commission’s Housing Development Partners building arm, called comparisons between downtown, high-rise rehabilitations to suburban housing unfair, given the nature of the building type.

However, he acknowledged the cost may rise 10 to 20 percent once structural engineers and project architects dig through the walls and analyze the state of the building.

Architects and engineers have been hired to investigate the building’s innards with their reports expected in a few weeks. The current schedule calls for construction to start next May with completion in August 2015.

The bottom line, he said, is that more affordable housing is needed downtown, where the chronic homeless population is concentrated — even if more units could be built for the same price in other neighborhoods.

“The big key is we’re trying to keep affordable housing where it was, rather than, in a cavalier approach, move it to some neighborhood where it’s less expensive,” Vakili said.

The housing commission acquired the building in 2011 as a result of a dispute with the previous owner over retaining or replacing the low-income rental units in any remodeling. It had been a low-cost residential hotel that closed in 2005 and fell into disrepair. Previous owners sketched out ambitious plans in the 1990s to restore and upgrade it, but nothing came of their efforts.

The commission advertised for developers to perform the rehabilitation, but all three bids were rejected last year for various reasons. The board turned to Vakili’s group, spokeswoman Maria Velasquez said, because it was experienced in such projects and additional time wouldn’t be wasted if outside developers had to seek scarce federal tax credit dollars.

Also of concern were federal budget cutbacks that might have endangered the commission’s use of $11.1 million in grants if the project did not go forward quickly.

Besides the federal grants, funding is coming from the city’s inclusionary housing fees paid by commercial developers, Civic San Diego loans for affordable housing, a state mental health loan and private lenders.

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East Village Fringe Festival

east-village-fringe-festival Added by Chad Dannecker

Downtown San Diego’s Ballpark District known as East Village will be hosting the first annual San Diego Fringe Festival from July 1-7.  East Village is an urban neighborhood made up of old warehouse buildings mixed with new condos, hotels, restaurants and bars that has become a hip and artsy neighborhood.

The Fringe Festival will host more than 50 different artists including locals and others from various countries.  These artists will present artworks and perform at the 10th Ave Theater and Arts Center,Seaport Village,  NewSchool of Architecture and Space4Art.

San Diego : America’s Finest City

The East Village Association brings the Fringe Production in 2013 for the first time to display music, theater, dance, puppet shows, comedy, cabaret, cirque and multi-media performances.

The concept behind the Fringe Festival comes from our sister city of Edinburgh, Scotland.  With a great Scottish festival brought to the beer capital of the world, one thing is certain…good times will be had.

East Village San Diego Art Festival

San Diego, known as America’s finest city, is a warm and welcoming city that is young in age, but certainly not character.  There are many entertaining festivals in San Diego every year and this is one more example of what makes life in San Diego great.

To purchase tickets for the East Village Fringe Festival, click here.

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Small business confidence hits one-year high in May

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Small business optimism rose to a one year-high in May, a hopeful sign for an economy that has hit a soft patch.

 

The National Federation of Independent Business said on Tuesday its Small Business Optimism Index increased 2.3 points to 94.4 last month, the highest level since May last year. It was the second straight month of gains in the index.

 

Eight of the index’s 10 components advanced, but capital spending plans were unchanged and job creation plans dipped.

 

The gains in the index suggest that while growth slowed early in the second quarter, the cooling in activity would probably be short-lived as the economy adjusts to higher taxes and deep government spending cuts.

 

“Expectations about the future course of the economy clearly improved over the past few months, but not to levels seen in a ‘recovery’ or even in periods of solid growth,” the NFIB said.

 

Last month, the share of owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months increased 10 points. That accounted for about 40 percent of the rise in the index.

 

There were also gains in the share of owners expecting a rise in their inflation-adjusted sales, as well as those who believed this was a good time to expand operations and increase inventories.

 

While job creation plans slipped, the percent of small business owners reporting they could not fill job openings nudged up.

 

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Local residential projects win ‘Oscars’

 

Fairbrook Estates, Alta Del Mar top winners

By: Roher Showley-JUNE 5, 2013
  • The residential project of the year was Pardee Homes' Alta Del Mar in Carmel Valley. Its plan 3, seen here, won the grand award for best single-family home over 4,000 square feet.
The residential project of the year was Pardee Homes’ Alta Del Mar in Carmel Valley. Its plan 3, seen here, won the grand award for best single-family home over 4,000 square feet. – Jeffrey Aron Photography

San Diego housing, for luxury buyers as well as the homeless, met the gold standard this week as local projects nabbed nine gold nugget grand awards in the annual competition sponsored by Builder magazine and announced at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference.

PCBC, meeting in San Diego for the first time in its 54-year history, showcases the latest in housing as well as commercial design and development trends.

The Gold Nugget contest, marking its 50 anniversary, drew 533 entries in 49 categories – from custom homes to international ventures planned, designed, developed or built in the U.S. or other countries. Western state projects historically dominate the field of grand and merit awards.

“Our merits and grands represent an amazing diversity of locales, projects and design/planning firms,” said San Diego home builder Bill Davidson, cochairman of this year’s PCBC with his wife and interior design executive Dawn Davidson.

Don Jacobs, principal of JZMK Architects and one of seven judges, said the entries typically introduce new “talent” to the industry.

“Many of the merit and grand winners were by new and lesser known firms who now very deservedly take their place in the spotlight,” Jacobs said.

The panel of judges included Tim McGowan, principal of La Jolla-based Ashbrook McGowan, a development company in partnership with developer Chris McKellar. They are the winners of the recently approved sale by the San Diego school district of the Mission Beach Elementary School site.

McGowan said one trend he saw among the entries was the inclusion of a downstairs bedroom at the expense of the kitchen, family room and living room – a nod to the growing habit of multiple generations under the same roof.

“Where 10 years ago we would never think of doing it, now it’s very common to have grandparents there, particularly in Orange County with its very heavy Asian influence,” he said.

Another new trend was inclusion of a kitchenettes in homes of as little as 2,600 square feet, something luxury homes had offered before the recession.

Infill played a big role in numerous entries, McGowan said, and many projects touted their environmental and sustainable building practices.

“There were some spectacular projects, a lot of net-zero energy use stuff,” he said.

Two of the top awards went to San Diego projects – Ryland’s the house of the year at Fairbrook Estates in Scripps Ranch and Pardee Homes’ residential project of the year at Alta Del Mar in Carmel.

“It was so unique,” McGowan said of the 3,156-square-foot, million-dollar Ryland home off Pomerado Road. “They had a wedge home that depending on the lot, you could one part of the house. The interior space had some creative wood feelings. It just stood out…as a really cool design.” The project architect was Woodley Architectural Group.

Pardee’s 136-lot subdivision includes homes up to 6,235 square feet and prices up to $2.2 million.

“It stood out as one of the most well-rounded of the projects,” McGowan said. “It was nicely done and hard to fault it.”

Other judges were architect Donald Jacobs, president of JZMK Partners in Costa Mesa; architect Jerry Gloss, principal of KGA Studio Architects in Louisville, Colo.; Amy Albert, editor of Custom Home Magazine in Washington, D.C.; architect Sanford P. Steinberg, principal of Steinberg Design Collaborative in Houston; architect Curtis Gelotte, senior principal of Gelotte Hommas- The Art of Architecture, in Bellevue, Wash.; and David Steinke, general manager of Ininite Home Collection in Denver.

The nine grands in San Diego include multiple wins for Ryland Homes’ Fairbrook Estates in Scripps Ranch and Pardee’s Alta Del Mar

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