300 Seconds

Preparing for the Unpredictable

It’s almost 70 degrees where I live in Wichita, but travel to western Kansas and you’ll find road, business and school closings amid blizzard conditions. Travel to eastern Kansas and you’ll experience tornado warnings. It’s a good reminder that no matter where you live, weather can be unpredictable and it’s smart to prepare for the worst.

Fall and winter weather can mean rain, wind, snow and ice, which can translate to wet bookstore floors. Take 300 Seconds to prepare for your next snow (or tornado) day. Here are some things to think about:

  • Snow shovels and snowmelt. If you can keep a path clear to your front door, customers will be more likely to leave their cars to come into the store. Just like an “open” sign, it shows that they are welcome and, more so, that you appreciate them as shoppers.
  • Mops, rugs or towels. Keep them near your front door to clean up puddles or to offer customers an opportunity to wipe their feet. This is especially helpful if you use salt or snowmelt. These products can make sidewalks safer, but they can prematurely age your hardwoods and carpets. Encouraging the wiping of feet can help prevent the transfer from shoes to floor.
  • Umbrella storage. You could offer plastic bags to prevent dripping all over the store, or perhaps hooks or a coat rack in the foyer.
  • “Caution: Wet Floor” sign. (This is the same sign used during floor cleanings.) Even though you try to keep up with the puddles brought in by wet feet, prop up this sign during foul weather… just in case you missed a spot. This will hopefully promote careful stepping instead of purposeful walking, slipping and falling.

Whether it’s snow, rain or tornado weather, be sure that your staff knows about any emergency weather procedures. It might seem like common sense, but to have a step-by-step procedure in place for new employees will help remove the guesswork.

300 Seconds: Out with the old…

We’re approaching holiday display time! (Or perhaps you’re already there.) Before you get too crazy with store decorations, it’s smart to start with a fresh canvas.

Take 300 seconds today to look at the posters and flyers hanging around your store. Are any out of date or rough around the edges? This is a good time to remove them. If you don’t have replacements ready to go, keep the stack you just removed near your design computer and tackle printing the replacements one at a time, as you have 300 seconds available.

Remember to check the front door, foyer, community bulletin board, near the register, etc. Just walk around and try to envision the customer’s perspective.

Five minutes here. Five minutes there. They all add up to a great looking store.

It’s Standard Time again.

Daylight Saving Time ended yesterday, and news outlets like to remind us to take this semi-annual opportunity to check the smoke detector batteries in our homes. Let’s not forget about our bookstores, too. Take 300 seconds today to not only check the batteries in your bookstore smoke detectors, but also your fire extinguishers to make sure they’ve been serviced recently.

It’s probably a good idea to double check with your staff–especially new hires–to make sure they know where to find the fire extinguishers. And while you’re at it, see if they know where to find your emergency flashlights and that they are equipped with fresh batteries. Finding a flashlight in the dark is slightly less daunting if you know the general vicinity in which to look.

300 Seconds: Organizing the “One Notebook”

300 Seconds: Organizing the “One Notebook”

In a recent post [“Carry a Notebook. (And a pen.)”], I shared my practice of using one notebook for everything. All types of information (lists, thoughts, passwords, quotes, etc.) from all areas of my life (work, home, school, art, etc.) are compiled in one notebook. This way I know where to find any information I wanted to keep… just not in my head.

My current notebook will be full by day’s end, but before I shelve it with the others, I want to share the results of a hack I’ve been testing.

You see, I love knowing that all of the information I need is in one location. But it can sometimes be difficult to find that information when I need it–specially if I’m in a hurry. So with this last notebook, I used the last page as a filing guide. I wrote on it different descriptions of information to which I wanted quick access. These might include phone numbers, how-to procedures, or dumb things my daughters say. If a page in the notebook contains information I don’t want to lose, I’ll mark the edge of the page with ink. Then, for example, the next time I need to remember the procedure for recording an author interview via Skype, I can flip to that page in the notebook.

One nice thing about this technique is that you can make up categories as you go along. Or, you can just wait until you’ve searched for the information a time or two. Either way, it’s a nice, clean technique for keeping organized without the use of Post-its, flags or paperclips.

Why call this a “300 Seconds” piece when it take just a few seconds to ink the edge of a page? Let’s just appreciate the 300 seconds you will not spend searching through your notebook.

300 Seconds: After the Show

Well, I’ve finally made it home after my last regional trade show. With travel and spotty wi-fi out of the way, we’ll get back to a regular schedule.

I’m following my own 300 Seconds advice today: the “after the show” wrap-up. It works like this:

Gather together your notes, books, scraps of paper, and collected business cards and determine if there’s any follow-up required. Did you promise a review? Did a rep buy you a drink? Did you tell another bookseller you’d share store secrets? Did you intend to send B&Wn ad rates to your marketing department? [grin] Spend 5 minutes sorting your stack and put tasks on a to-do list with deadlines. Then the rest of the week, spend 5 minutes here and there attacking the list.

If you need to write a thank you note, address the envelope and place a stamp on it. You’re more likely to actually send it because now you’re invested in more ways than one.

If you’re overwhelmed by a new stack of ARCs, put them on the shelf in order by publication date. You don’t necessarily have to read them in that order, but this way you’ll be less likely to miss a deadline… even if it’s self-imposed.

If you picked up some business cards, compare the information (title, address, etc.) against what you already have in your address book.

And finally, take a little time on social media to follow and friend any new acquaintances. Social media is a great way to extend the warm, fuzzy feeling acquired at a good show. (Unless there was a different source for that warm fuzzy. Then I recommend a couple of Advil and some water.)