Life is not always a bowl of cherries and there are times that try men's souls. Learn about a few of the challenges which have slowed us down a tad recently...
Devastated and Disgusted
But Not Defeated
When in the course of human events... Sorry, this opening line has already been taken. I'll begin again: Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune... Oops, I did it again. Try this then: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death... "Come on brain, spit it out, and just say what you mean in your own words." All right, here goes.
Lately, events beyond our control have slung arrows at us which threatened to knock us off the mountaintop into the valley below. None of our recent trials compare to ordeals we have faced in the past; such as Marie's battle with cancer, or my imbroglio with the menacing business tenant next door. But cumulatively, our current crises are raising stress levels, while keeping us from more productive endeavors.
Four challenges top the list of energy-draining brush fires in need of extinguishing. Most crucial, at least in terms of deadline pressure, concerns the publication of the next issue of Curry's Chronicle, the official journal of the Carson City Coin Collectors of America. After several months of gathering fresh material and then spending most of January editing the material into rough draft form, we sent everything to the printer at the beginning of February. Allowing for a six week turn-around time, we waited patiently for two weeks before the first proof was dropped off. Immediately we noticed that the font size was smaller than what we had requested. This would change the general layout and page numbering, so we called the printer to voice our concerns. He surprised us when in an emotional meltdown, he called us unreasonable and backed out of the project. He had obviously forgotten that he had apologized for wasting our time during the publication of the last issue of Curry's Chronicle - it took seven proofs to nail that one down. Although he told us all along that we presented the most organized rough drafts of any of his clients, there always seemed to be crossed signals. Why, you might ask, did we continue to use this printer? Primarily because the thought of finding a new printer and starting from scratch seemed mettlesome. But here we are, paddling up a creek without a paddle, three weeks behind on the current project. We interviewed five new printers on Thursday and Friday last week (February 16, 17) and continue the search this week.
Another aggravating perturbation concerns the signage on the exterior of our store. For nearly a year, the two-three foot diameter coin images book-ending our Southgate arch have drawn attention from commuter traffic passing by. Three months ago, the face plates of the coin signs began to wrinkle, distorting the images. We immediately called our sign company, requesting service. We were informed that due to a heavy workload, the maintenance crew would not be able to replace our drooping coin signs until January of this year. Coming at the most inopportune time - the holiday shopping season - we had no choice. As the weeks in January passed by, we became restless when nothing had been done. Phone calls to the sign company resulted in promises and further delays. Finally, nine days into February, the faces on the coin signs were replaced. But not with the high quality images previously installed; rather with ugly examples of coins, which aren't even the original dates installed more than a year ago. More phone calls prompted more excuses. In the meantime, we cringe every time we think of those unsightly coins hovering over our store. Where once we had MS-68 specimens, we now have AU-50s.
(Heather and Rusty displaying lovely sign.)
(Where did the pretty coins go?)
One aspect of our business constantly keeping us in a state of befuddlement is computer technology, which leads to a third trial currently testing our mettle. As most of you know, our new website is approximately six months old, and judging by the feedback, has met with universal approval. That is the good news. But the underside is what is required to maintain such a web presence. We have worked out many of the kinks; but a lingering problem has been our website’s shopping cart. For two months we have been on the phone several times a week with the two companies responsible for processing our customer's orders; not to mention the countless vapid emails we have received from these companies. Lord willing, a solution has finally been applied, and for once, transactions are being processed properly. You would think that with as much as company’s pay their Internet Technology people solutions should come with more celerity.
And celerity, as we have discovered, is not a word to be applied to newspaper advertising departments. As you might have guessed, herein lies the nucleus of the fourth pothole in the road we are facing as February rolls into March. Back in November of 2005, with one of our key staff member's (Somer) departure looming on the horizon, and our never-ending need for qualified employees, we prudently decided to increase our help- wanted advertising. Generally, we tap into the candidate pools at the local colleges; but this time we wanted to revisit an old source, the classified section of the local newspaper. Past experience warned us to allow ample lead time, so we initiated communication with an ad rep in late November, targeting the first several weeks of the New Year to run our ads. Not wanting to get lost in the endless columns of liner ads in the Classifieds section, I designed a display ad with images and lively text. In an attempt to expedite our project I emailed my ad to our rep, and waited. A couple days turned into a couple weeks before I received a reply. Informed that I needed to sign a one year contract to get the lowest rate, I agreed, and then waited. By this time, the Christmas break had come upon us. Our rep took sick leave and then holiday-time off. Still, I needed to fax a signed contract before December 31st in order to receive discounts beginning in January. Although we were closed, I went to our store on New Year's Eve and faxed the contract, not knowing if anyone would be at the newspaper office to receive it.
Deadlines were missed and ads would not be placed until the second Sunday in January, at the earliest. I accepted this, but still needed a display ad created based on my rough draft. More delays caused us to miss the next deadline forcing us to shoot for the last Sunday in January, or first Sunday in February, for our initial run. The newspaper's graphic department instructed us to submit our rough draft in PDF format, with specific image resolutions required. I downloaded a PDF converter to comply and somehow figured out how to save the draft I had designed in Microsoft Publisher, into PDF. The file was quickly emailed to the newspaper, and after another delay, we received a proof copy of our ad. It looked nothing like my original design; almost like something out of a Third Grade arts and crafts class. We cancelled all ads. Enough was enough. By then, we had hired two new staffers from the college job bank anyway. When we informed the rep at the newspaper that we wanted to cancel our contract, we received one of the swiftest responses ever from her. Finally, her supervisor got involved, and after a token round of contention, relented, realizing that her newspaper had not earned our business.
Precious time has been lost as we have dealt with all four of these challenges. Two issues have been resolved, our website order processing and our contract dispute with the newspaper. Curry's Chronicle remains in limbo, however, and we must look at the awful images of our coins on our outdoor sign everyday. God willing, these lemons of life will be turned into lemonade; and before we know it, the 220 or so members of the C4OA, will be enjoying their next issue of Curry's Chronicle, and two beautiful images of coins will once again stand as beacons to the city of Reno. Marie and I have weathered our fair share of storms through the years; and it is with this confidence that we remain optimistic, if not a little flush-faced and slightly exhausted.
As anyone who has been in business for any length of time knows, problems are inherent. Sometimes the problems come in swarms and tend to suffocate the life out of you. Then you overcome them and wonder what wormy can will open next. But through it all, you learn that most of the evil feared is in your mind. If you keep it inside, you might feel like your head will explode. But just as an old adage says, "a problem shared, is a problem cut in half." If true, I have just shared our problems at Southgate with all of you reading this article, parting our sea of troubles into dozens of tiny droplets.