Monthly Archives: February 2014

Bulmer on Business, Vol. 1: “The Sun WILL Come Out Tomorrow”

Here in London, Ontario, I think most would agree that, even by our hearty Canadian standards, this has been a relentless grind of a winter.

In business, we’re feeling it, these last eight weeks especially.

536258_64792095When terms like “Polar Vortex,” “Snow Squall” and “Special Weather Statement” are heard (and then experienced)  so consistently, the collective energy of the people grows weary. I can scarcely recall a time when so many seemed so universally worn down as they do right now.

Heck, at the suggestion of a friend, I even looked up details about the phenomenon called “Mercury Retrograde” (and found a great article about it by Gala Darling here ) just to see if there was any further explanation for this current, collective malaise. And it’s interesting.

But I digress.

These kinds of times affect business in a number of ways. We, as consumers, are tougher to reach. We’re staying home. We’re tired. We’re putting off more proactive decisions and dealing more exclusively on matters more urgent to our current day-to-day life.

Idle foot traffic is flagging; we’re moving about by appointment only, and in little mood to browse, or even get to our vehicle and back in such bitter ice, cold and wind.

For retailers, restaurateuers and many other businesses, this is incredibly frustrating.

But, as marketers, we’ve got to look ahead.

This weather will not last. To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We just haven’t see the reaction yet.

But it’s coming.

Zero? That would be a welcome improvement!

Zero? That would be a welcome improvement!

Right now, people are down, cold, weary, and tired. But the flipside of it all is the great likelihood that, once the weather breaks, we will see people out and about in droves. People are aching to get back out and do the things they enjoy, go to the places they like, and buy the things they want.

My question to you, as a business owner, is: Are you preparing for that, or are you moping through the final stages of winter like everyone else?

Now’s the time to get your plan in place. When the surge hits, the greatest percentage of the spoils will go to those who are prepared and have laid the groundwork in advance.

Those who are consistently marketing during these dark, colder times are building their brand and investing in their future. They’ll be top-of-mind when the consumer is finally ready to make a buying decision, or even just that first exploratory internet search. If you’re in this category, good for you. You have a head start on your competition.

But even if you’ve battened down the hatches this winter and have been largely silent, you can still put a plan in place and be ready to invite people to your business for the times when you’re pretty certain they’ll be looking to come out.

So, what’s coming up? Take a look ahead, and think about how your business relates to the many benchmarks we’re about to encounter. To generate some positive momentum, we’ve got to get ourselves into a better head space.

Consider:

883625_24456317March Break will soon be here. For those who will be traveling with their kids, they may need to have their vehicle serviced before they go away, and may even require the purchase of other essentials (swimsuits, luggage, summer clothes) before they set out. If you’re in those fields, are you talking to your potential customers now?

Many more will stay at home and will be looking for things to do with their kids during the break. Others will finally break out to their favourite restaurant, pub or bar to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day or to watch the annual NCAA basketball tournament.

Are you inviting these people to come see you?

Easter is not far off. Family gatherings will be held in abundance. Many forms of retail should see new activity as well.

292906_3638In the sports world, golfers will be aching to get on the course, especially with The Masters tournament coming up soon. Baseball players are already in spring training, and the Memorial Cup should have our downtown core abuzz later in the spring. We’re also soon to see the NHL Playoffs begin, and if the Leafs, Canadians and Red Wings all make it in, there will be excitement; a “buzz” that will make these frozen days of February feel like a long time ago .. once they finally get here.

A few weeks after the snow starts to melt, just watch the “for sale” signs pop up on neighbourhood lawns. Who’s getting the listings? And who’s showing the new homes?

After this harsh winter, it’s a good bet that many people will be in need of home improvement and other contract work to touch up whatever’s being hidden by the ice and snow currently. Driveways will need repair. Eavestroughs will be replaced. Roofs will be re-shingled, decks will be built and pools will be installed.

1431142_42530356Those who enjoy their garden will be starved for their favourite pursuit more than ever.

We’ll trade snow shovels for garden hoses, sidewalk salt for lawn fertilizer, and boots for shoes!

Anyone who enjoys fashion will surely love to explore some new looks for a new season, completely over-tired of being bundled in scarves, hats and mitts for these last many months.

Once the salt and grime come off our vehicles, we’ll see a lot of scratches, dents and dings that local body shops may wish to be fixing. While many of us will finally do those repairs, others, having finally arrived through the other side of winter, will decide to start anew and will finally go and look to test-drive (and maybe purchase) something new.

Tax return refunds will begin to arrive.

Eight weeks from now, wedding season will be ready to begin. Golf will be in full swing. Patio furniture, barbecues and other outdoor accessories will be flying off the shelves.

1436667_82894233It feels better even just thinking of those times, doesn’t it?

Are you ready, or just waiting?

Like the old song says, the sun will come out tomorrow (well … maybe in several more tomorrows, but it will be back sooner or later). My suggestion: put some thought to how you may best take advantage of what’s coming, and put your plan in place now.

When the rush hits (and it will), you’ll be glad you did.

“Solo” CD Release Show a Great Success

Kevin celebrated the release of his new acoustic EP, “Solo: The Return of No Schedule Man” at a concert event on February 21, 2014 at the London Music Club in London, Ontario.

The performance was Kevin’s first in over three years.

Alexa (photo courtesy of Alexa Kay Music)

With an enthusiastic crowd in attendance, London’s Alexa Kay began the night with set of songs that showcased her natural ability as a singer-songwriter, mixing some of her original compositions along with cover versions of other popular songs. Alexa’s incredible talent and sunny personality put the concert on the right track from the start.

Kevin then took to the stage by himself (“Solo”), roaring into the set with the acoustic pop-rock track, “Bilge Rat Blues” from his new EP. He then mixed in a couple of more familiar songs before stopping to discuss the song that really began the whole EP project, “Déjà vu” (for more of the story behind “Deja Vu,” click here).

A medley of songs from 2010’s “No Schedule Man” CD followed, along with another couple of popular tracks and then Kevin’s song “Lullaby” from the new EP.

Bulmer was then joined on stage by Al Coombs from News Talk 1290 CJBK. Together, they played the song “Do Better” (from the “No Schedule Man” CD) and also mixed in some hijinks with other tracks, including a tip of the cap to the late Stompin’ Tom Connors.

Eddie & Kevin

Eddie & Kevin

Next to the stage was Kevin’s 11-year-old son, Eddie, who joined his dad to perform “March” (from the new EP) and then went into a medley of cover songs that earned young Eddie a standing ovation.

To end the night, Alexa Kay and Al Coombs came back to the stage to join Kevin and Eddie on the title track of 2010’s “No Schedule Man” CD.

Taken all around, it was a grand evening a long time in coming. Sincere thanks to Pete & Janice Denomme from the London Music Club for their continued support, encouragement and hospitality.

CD Cover“Solo: The Return of No Schedule Man” is available now at iTunes and with online retailers worldwide. To learn more about “Solo,” please click here.

Hard copies of the CD are available by contacting Kevin directly.

To contact Kevin to inquire about booking him for a performance, or as an MC or speaker, please click here.

Friends & Mentors, Vol. 1: Fred Geiger of Custom Mobility

I’ve been fortunate to get to know a great many interesting and inspiring people. I’m grateful to have learned a lot from each of them.

One those people is Fred Geiger.

Picture1Fred co-owns a London, Ontario-based business called Custom Mobility, which provides wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility devices, as well as home healthcare equipment. Compassion, integrity, transparency and empowerment are all extremely important to Fred, and he brings all of these things (and more) to Custom Mobility on a day-to-day basis.

Currently a weekly host of his own “Ask the Experts” radio show on 1290 CJBK (Mondays at 12:00 pm), Fred has always been one to explore new and different opportunities. He has been in the Military, Police, Education and has helped build private businesses on a couple of different fronts.

Even at the age of 17, he was ready to take on a challenge, feeling at that time that he could (should?) open a McDonald’s franchise. His feelings about it were strong enough that he took the initiative to contact the restaurant chain’s Regional Vice President, with whom he eventually took a meeting … at 17 years of age! Among the many things that came from that conversation was the prediction from the McDonald’s Executive that Fred would be “a millionaire by the time he was in his 40’s.” He was also offered a position in the company at that time, but eventually decided to pass due to potential travel concerns.

Those things will come up again later in this conversation.

All of it has brought Fred to where he is now, at the wheel of Custom Mobility, a business that helps people find comfort and independence in their own homes at a time in their lives when they are more potentially vulnerable – both physically and emotionally – than they may ever have been before.

Fred is a man of great integrity, and he seems genuinely content inside his own skin, so I wanted to talk to him and find out more about his story and what got him to this point, and to see what I could learn from him. It was time very well spent.

Here is my conversation with Fred Geiger of Custom Mobility:

Kevin: Your first real interest was in Policing?

Fred: “Well, first, it was the fire department. But when that didn’t look like it could happen, yes, I wanted to get into Policing.

“Now, part of the problem was that to get on the police department, you needed to have either a two-year college program under you or you had to have two university credits. I had neither.”

Kevin: So why not go back to school?

Fred: “At that time, when I was 18, I already owned my first house, so I thought, ‘I can’t quit and go back to school now.’”

Kevin: So then what?

Fred: “And then I looked at military police because they were taking people, and I thought, ‘Okay, then what I’ll do is go into military police and work at that for a little bit and then from that, I’ll be able to leverage that to be able to get on to a police department.  And so I joined the military police, with the intention of, later on, switching to the police department, which is exactly what I did.

“From the military police, I got on to the University of Western Ontario police department, which at that time was just a security department but it was transposing into a police department so I was there through all that process. From there, five years later, I got on Niagara Regional Police department. And then I bounced to St. Thomas (Ontario) from Niagara because I wanted to be home, closer to my son from my first marriage. My son was living in London and I didn’t want to be a weekend Dad. So I quit Niagara Region and joined St. Thomas City and that was a story in itself.

“But after a while, from there, that’s when I went to Westervelt (College, in London, ON), to teach, and started the Police Foundations Program.

Kevin: Do you mind telling me how long you were in Policing and what age you were?

Fred: “13 years. I’m gonna say I was 35 when I got out.”

Kevin: At some point over those 13 years, and you’re in the prime of your life, are you thinking, “Gosh – I’ve invested almost a decade and a half of my adult life into this. It doesn’t light my fire anymore. But how can I maybe take some of what I’ve invested in myself and extract from it and then apply it in a way that will maybe feed me a little bit more?”

Fred: “I think it was exactly that. What I had also done in the meantime, I started going back to university part time. I did get my university degree. I wasn’t complete by the time I left the police department but I continued with it. What I did was pretty significant because I had been on the police department long enough that I wasn’t going to get laid off. And, great benefits, excellent money, pension. I gave it all up. I just wasn’t happy. My wife Vera has always been wonderfully supportive so with her blessing, I took a big pay cut to go from the police department to Westervelt College.

“I don’t regret that for one second.”

"There’s so much value in your quality of life. And it’s maybe a cliché, but most people don’t live it. "

Fred ( left, with business partner, Kevin Baxter): “There’s so much value in your quality of life.
And it’s maybe a cliché, but most people don’t live it.”

Kevin: Tell me more about what you did at Westervelt.

Fred: “When I started teaching at Westervelt, they had a version of a law and security program. And from there I heard that there was an inkling that they wanted to go to this new standardized training and it was called the Police Foundations Program. So I kind of ran with that.

“It’s getting buried pretty deep now, but even if you Google my name, I have an acknowledgement from the Solicitor General because I sat on the original curriculum development committee for all the Police Foundation Programs. And because we were private colleges as opposed to the community colleges, we were able to beat everybody else to the marketplace.”

Kevin: How long did you do that?

Fred: “Close to 7 years.”

Kevin: So now you’re in your early 40’s. Next thing you know, you’re getting into the truck wash business ….

Fred: “What happened was, at Westervelt, now there were new owners from back then. They had a different vision.

“When I first started there, and I started telling them that I had this vision of the Police Foundations Program, I was telling them, ‘I think I can build you a really successful program.’

“When I started there, they had 8 students in their security program. I said, ‘You give me five years; I’ll have 100 students in my program.’

“Well, within 5 years, I had 150 students in the legal programs.

“We had a great program. I said, ‘You give me five more years, I’ll have 500 students in this program.’

“We put together one helluva program with a lot of credibility and that’s why we were beating so many people out of the gate. But then I began experiencing resistance on how I believed the program needed to develop to grow successfully and to maintain its integrity.  I had a lot of pride and seeing the program shift in a way that I felt was diluting the quality, I said, ‘It’s time to move on.’”

“So, I went from that, I got offered a job to help import this equipment from Sweden, which is a whole other story.”

Kevin: How did you feel about life in general around that time?

Fred: “I remember feeling a little bit of pressure. It’s funny, because you pointed it out. There was a little bit of pressure in me from what that guy at McDonald’s had said (about being a millionaire by the time he was in his 40’s). Because I thought it was almost like I was letting him down at that time.”

Kevin: Him or yourself?

Fred: “Maybe both.

“But I remember thinking ‘You know, I wanted to prove him right.’ But it just turned out a different way. I’ve forgiven myself for that now, because I also believe that at age 17 when I made that kind of bridge – you know – I can’t be an entrepreneur because I don’t have the money, that I went the different direction of the employment route, being on the police department. I think that really stagnated me for quite a while. Because when I was at Westervelt College, honestly, I was a pure entrepreneur. I developed a program, I put the program together. I marketed it. I got the Chiefs of Police to say it was a good program. There was a lot of work. It was like building a business within a business and I really loved that part. That part was just great.

“And I really believe that the only way that you make what you deserve in this world is working for yourself. That’s a little bit harder. That steady paycheque isn’t there or anything. And there is that work in the trenches and everything else. But at the end of the day, it’s not all about money.”

"I’m just a believer that where there are opportunities, you’ve got to take it and explore it. Because you never know where the heck that’s going to lead you"

“I’m just a believer that where there are opportunities, you’ve got to take it and explore it.
Because you never know where that’s going to lead you”

Kevin: That’s a hard thing to learn.

Fred: “We always want to make as much money as we possibly can, but there’s so much value in your quality of life. And it’s maybe a cliché, but most people don’t live it.”

Kevin: So, it sounds like you’re saying that if you consistently do the right thing, the results you require will eventually find their way to you?

Fred: “Yes. Because I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I think you can be incredibly ethical and do a good job and still make money at it. You don’t have to cut corners. Of all the industries, it should be able to be done in this one.”

Kevin: And for all the talk of money, it seems to me it would be just as gratifying, if not more so, to go another however-many-years and look at – where there was nothing – and then look at what had been established and the lives that had been effected and the people that had been helped. There was nothing there, just like the Police Foundations Program, but then you created it and helped a lot of people along the way. We talk about money but there’s also this challenge that seems to keep running through everything you’re telling me about.

Fred: “You’re right. Because that is still one of my proudest accomplishments, is that whole Police Foundations thing. Because there was absolutely nothing. And now there are 35 colleges and universities that offer that program. And to say that I was the first guy out of the gate on that … there’s a lot of pride in that.”

Kevin: I was going to ask about what would be something that stands out that would make you particularly proud. It sounds like that would be at the top of the list?

Fred: “That’d be up there. And I haven’t found what the one is yet here (at Custom Mobility). I haven’t put a finger on it. But I get the sense it will evolve around the fact we have so many clients say to us, ‘You know, thanks. You’re the first people that listened to me.’

slide3

Kevin: If you could go back and talk to that 17-year-old Fred Geiger, whether it was the time around the McDonald’s inquiry or even a little bit beyond that, when you were investigating the fire department and you were getting restless with high school … what do you think you’d want to impart upon yourself, knowing what you know now?

Fred: “Probably to have found a mentor in the field of what I wanted to do.

“I really … I never begrudge what happened, because I believe that everything happens in due course.  You develop at every step along the road and I’ve learned transferable skills that I use in my business today. And so I’m happy where I am and I’m happy about the road.

“But if there was something I could change, I probably wish I had have taken that job offer with that guy in McDonald’s, because I think that fellow would have taught me a lot.

And for that same reason today, I’ve encouraged my son to explore a Specialty Management program for university grads offered where he works. When you get an opportunity like that, there are jobs that you’ve never dreamed of in your life and you’re going to be exposed to it.

“I’m just a believer that where there are opportunities, you’ve got to take it and explore it. Because you never know where that’s going to lead you.

“I never would have dreamed in a million years I’d be doing what I’m doing. But it has really brought a lot of my passion together. It’s brought a lot of the entrepreneurship. And helping people. In earlier years, I wouldn’t have anticipated that it would come from this, but it has. And I think it’s a matter of having that open mind, saying, ‘Can it work?’ and ‘Do I want it to work?’

“It’s the same with you. You’re constantly exposed to things. Yet our training over time tends to direct us to think, ‘Ah, that’s not going to work’ or ‘there’s too much competition in that’ or ‘there’s too much this.’

We don’t need to think like that. Go explore it.”

To visit the Custom Mobility website, please CLICK HERE

To access, listen to and share the archived Podcasts of Fred’s “Ask the Experts” radio programs on 1290 CJBK, please CLICK HERE

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