My web site gives you a pretty good idea about who I am and what interests me. If you're reading this, odds are you're interested in some of the same things. In general, my blog will share lots of thoughts about entrepreneurism, writing, travel, western history, inspiration and the secrets of life. Oh, and Border Collies.
But enough about me. Let's start talking about what I think. :)
Yesterday was a good day. We worked until noon and then attended Rotary. We followed that up with a visit to our designer friends who are working on our trolley and COLT bus ads for the Summer Guide. The ads cost over $2,000 each so we're trying to get them just right. They were due yesterday but we pushed the deadline to today.
Then we attended the two hour video of the Randall Travel Marketing assessment of our area tourism efforts. These are the people who took our trolley tour and called it the best they've ever seen. They've taken tours all over the world so this is a high compliment.
The event was held at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center auditorium and was attended by Cody's mayor and city council members, a county commissioner, press, radio and TV representatives, leading business owners and the leaders of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center which is our largest trolley ticket sales partner.
Margie & I and our trolley business came out looking very good. We have been doing most of what they suggest for years and have been promoting many of their recommendations to others in our town as well. We are adapting our operation to better match their other suggestions. It was wonderful hearing tourism industry experts make these points to business and community leaders because they carried more clout.
I watched The Apprentice last night. Chris, the 21-year-old with the short temper survived again. Dangit. He's a disaster and Trump told him so, so his days are numbered. I'd have fired him over Stephanie, but it's only a matter of time before he goes. The candidates get weaker each season so the casting people need to address this next season.
My idea is to select next year's candidates from successful people over the age of 40. Let's see some polished, middle-aged baby boomer entrepreneurs compete. There might be less drama, but more talent. Also, the show would be more relevant to a bigger segment of the population. But I suspect they use younger people because advertisers so fanatically chase the younger demographics.
I researched some fundraising ideas that can generate enough money for the Cody Community Theater group to buy the Cody Stage building. I know I can make this work if the group has strong leadership. If not, I can buy it myself with these same ideas. I'll present them to the group Monday night.
Today I choose to write more articles for our Cody Keepsake souvenir guide. This afternoon we meet with the new leader of the Cody Gunfighters to discuss re-starting our chair rental program at the nightly summer gunfights. Two years ago we purchased 120 folding chairs and rented then each night to visitors for $1. We donated half the profits to charity (as opposed to chair-ity). The Irma Hotel let the lead gunfighter decide the fate of the program last year and for some unexplained reason he decided to cancel it. We believe the new leadership will see the many benefits and we hope to re-start the program again this summer.
The best benefit is if we make the gunfighters our charity, they will earn up to $6,000. Plus their crowd will be happier having a place to sit, rather than standing for 40 minutes. And since we put the visitor's name on the chair, they are free to go purchase drinks, food and souvenirs from the hotel without worrying about losing their seat for the show. It's a lot of work on our part but it earns us and the charity lots of money while providing a needed service to thousands of visitors. So we're hopeful.
We did get the trolley and COLT ads completed and taken to the Cody Enterprise , our local newspaper that prints the Summer Guide. That's a big load off.
Our next deadline is April 5th to get the cover of our new Cody Keepsake to the glossy printer. The rest of the book will be printed on newsprint so the deadline is later in April. But we want to complete it all before Margie's birthday on April 12.
After that comes the brochure redesign, and then getting all the new inside and outside ads on the trolleys produced. Then my low powered radio program. Then getting tickets and window posters redesigned and printed. The list is unending. Fortunately, everything comes and goes.
Thursday we spoke to the manager of the Buffalo Bill Dam. She was receptive to my idea to add a low powered radio transmitter to the dam parking lot to push the audio tour and other info to help the visitor's get the best dam experience they can. I guess you can say we're dam proud.
Anyway, I volunteered to give presentations at the dam's open house discussing how they built the thing and pointing out some of the construction relics that are still on site. We'll also give an audio tour presentation to the volunteer workers who staff the dam all summer. The challenge is to get them to more aggressively suggest the tour so more people rent it.
Today we count all the Cody Keepsake pages that are sold to see where we stand. The typical free publication is 60% advertising and 40% editorial content. I hope to land in that ballpark. That would put us at 43 pages of ads and 29 pages that I need to fill with content.
I read some more from my Buffalo Bill biography last night. So far he's 14 and has just completed his two month stint as a Pony Express rider. The author verified that Buffalo Bill had the third longest ride in Pony Express history -- 322 miles in under 24 hours. The ride occurred in 1860, in southern Wyoming, but Wyoming wouldn't become a state until 1890. This is pretty interesting to me because I live in northwest Wyoming. I will have to go trace that route one day.
The Pony Express was the west's version of Federal Express. The system reduced the mail delivery time from 24 days to 10 days. To achieve this, they set up nearly 200 stations between St. Joseph, Missouri and San Francisco, California. Riders had to maintain an average speed of 15 miles an hour, including horse changes and meals. The stations were placed 12-15 miles apart and it wasn't uncommon for a rider to gallop into a station and find his relief rider murdered or missing and the station's horses stampeded off by Indians. The rider would then have to keep going to the next station. These situations are what caused Buffalo Bill's 322 mile ride.
But the telegraph wires connected coast-to-coast in 1861 making messages far cheaper and far faster than the horseback system. The Pony Express went out of business just one month after the telegraph connected the coasts.
We have to make up for yesterday, which we basically took off from work. Well, we're never really OFF. She did some house cleaning and we did the dreaded Wal-Mart trip. It took two and a half hours.
More drama in the trailer park yesterday between tenants about a guest who had over-stayed her welcome by about a month. Chris got in the middle of it and sorted it all out and worked out a deadline with the guest and smoothed things out between the two neighboring tenants. Glad she's there.
I spent hours researching new business opportunities online yesterday. Mostly package tour ideas we might be able to offer. The Internet provides unlimited numbers of ideas, opportunities and education. We live in a wonderful age.
I was killing time at Wal-Mart in the electronics department while Margie was messing with the store's digital photo kiosk. They are selling 13 inch color TV's for $59. This is $10 less than the first 10 inch black & white TV I bought in 1969 with my paper route money. Amazing.
I was the first kid in my circle to have his own TV in his room. My dad loaned me the money and I paid him back at the rate of $8 per month, no interest. Of course I was a secure risk because I was pulling in $30 a month back then -- big money for a 12-year-old kid. I took a second route (another $30) and pulled strings to get the newspapers dropped off at my house for all area carriers (another $20) so I was earning a whopping $80 a month by the time I was 14. Here's a column I wrote about a typical paper route adventure.
I mostly spent the money on candy, food, bike rides to Dairy Queen, and bus trips to downtown Minneapolis, Twin's games and the Minnesota State Fair. I bought a few Schwinn Stingrays and Varsity 10-speeds too. Here's a column I wrote about one of our bike-riding adventures.
I saw that Wal-Mart was selling a Schwinn Stingray chopper bicycle yesterday and it was all I could do to not buy it and put it on display in my basement. Had it been a Schwinn Varsity, I'd have succumbed for sure. Nostalgia is a powerful force.
Anyway, I love electronics because they keep getting better and cheaper at the same time.
Margie has just shown me a new mock-up for our trolley web site. It's the only web site I can't directly edit myself and we are going to change that. She'll drop her ideas off at the designer's today.
We have breakfast with a friend at 8 am and then are moving some Cody Community Events group Christmas lights from his garage to our warehouse. Then we're off to Wal-Mart again to buy some mulch before they run out. We need about 50 bags for the backyard along the fence where the dogs run.
Then it's back to creating the Cody Keepsake which will be our life 24/7 for the next 7-10 days.
Yesterday we had breakfast with friends and then hauled some Christmas lighting to our Pioneer Complex property warehouses. Gave our friends the grand tour which was fun because we seldom get visitors out there and they seemed sincerely interested.
Then we made two trips to Wal-Mart for mulch. The backyard swallowed 60 bags and we still need 5 more. If you don't get it right away, Wal-Mart runs out and you're out of luck. We pour it along the fence to cover the path where the dogs run. We need to freshen up the front yard too under our trees and hedge.
Got a call from Chris at the trailer park and we lost another tenant. He got angry at some little thing and decided to move out with no notice. He was a problem before and his girlfriend recently moved out on him so we knew he had a major temper problem. We're glad he's gone. Next!
Then last night we watched one of my favorite movies The Shawshank Redemption . I love Morgan Freeman in everything he does. And I admire the patience, persistence and toughness exhibited by Andy, (Tim Robbins) the main character. The big get-even at the end is very satisfying too.
I'd emailed a few inspirational newsletter publishers letting them know they can publish my 103 free inspirational columns and received a nice email from Dave, a man who runs the PNN (Positive News Network). He's calling me this morning to discuss my "no-crime, no-controversy" newspaper publishing near-death experience. I'm meeting the neatest people and opportunities on the Internet.
OK, back to the Cody Keepsake! See you tomorrow!
We dropped our trolley web site ideas off at the web designers on Sunday so we are awaiting their estimate. I can't wait to finish this Cody Keepsake and get going on adding content to the new trolley website. We are currently ranked #6 on Google when you type in "Trolley Tours" which is already great. We're #13 on Yahoo and I know with my new content we can push for #1. Higher rankings means higher traffic which means higher sales.
I attended the meeting last night concerning the Cody Stage building. The theater group wants to buy it. I offered my financing and income ideas and I'm now the co-chairman of the fundraising committee. That's what you get for opening your mouth. Luckily there are two others on this committee and my co-chair is as gung-ho as I am.
We met with the Cody Gunfighter leaders yesterday afternoon to talk about the rent-a-chair program. It looks promising but I take nothing for granted with that group. They change leadership quite often so anything can happen at any time. They have to get city approval to close the street in front of the Irma Hotel for the summer so I told them I'd attend the council meeting tonight and voice my support.
Also today I get a haircut from my daughter at 10 am at the salon where she works. That will be fun. She's given me haircuts in our homes but never where she works since she just got her license allowing her to do it commercially.
Then I meet with my fundraising co-chair at the Irma at 11 am to discuss our ideas for the Cody Stage building purchase.
Then the Cody Economic Development Council meets at noon and I haven't made their meetings for about three months. I pay $200 annually to be a member so I want to attend that. All in the middle of this Cody Keepsake chaos. Volunteer work has its pluses and minuses.
Chris just stopped by to drop money off from the trailer park. It looks like we already have a renter for the trailer vacated Sunday by the tenant with the anger management problem. That leaves three vacancies -- all 2-bedroom trailers. That's one more reason why landlords need to raise the rents occassionally. Getting 100% occupancy from 32 units is a challenge. With that many families, someone always has an issue that makes them need to move somewhere else.
I had a great conversation with Dave from the Positive News Network yesterday. I may be able to help him with a business plan and he may be able to help me with e-newsletter advice and techniques to expand our trolley business without going the lawyer-intensive franchising route. I think we both hung up happy to have each other's name in our Rolodex. The Internet sure helps you meet some fascinating people.
That's all for now. Back to write that article about Annie. Oh, that reminds me. I reserved two new domain names yesterday. WilliamFCody.com (Buffalo Bill) and PhoebeAnnMoses.com (Annie Oakley). I was amazed they were still available so I pounced on them.
I sent the rest of the info to my accountant so she can finish my taxes. I LOVE having an accountant.
Unfortunately, I am stiil the accountant for my daughter and need to do her taxes. Was going to load the software yesterday and realized I didn't have her W-2's. So she's rounding up copies and mailing them to me.
We attended the city council meeting Tuesday night in case we were needed to speak in support of the gunfighters closing off a portion of the street in front of the Irma Hotel for their summer shows. There were no complainers so we saw the vote would be approved so we didn't have to speak.
We learn today whether the gunfighters approved our rent-a-chair program for the summer. If so, they make about $6,000 as the charity and we make the same for providing the chairs and manpower to make the program work.
Chris just called from the trailer park and another tenant skipped and moved. People. And this guy owned a business too, so he is shafting one of his own. I have Chris putting a rental sign on the highway leading to the park and I'll re-check my ads to see what else I can do there. Time to identify some target markets and do some guerilla marketing.
I registered the domain name CodyStage.com to set up a fundraising website for that endeavor. We're going to offer the public various packages for their pledges. Things like building naming rights, a name on a chair, season tickets, etc. I'll create one package that is worth the needed $370,000 in the event one person wants to leave a lasting legacy. In our experience of selling lots of advertising, it's best to create small, medium and large packages. Someone always wants the cadillac package. Others can't decide so they take the medium. Others always want the least expense. So we'll create packages to appeal to all types.
The Cody Keepsake book has 11 pages left to fill. I'm taking half that for new content and Margie is charged with selling the other 5 or 6 pages as ads. Final book page count will land at 68 pages. We finished the glossy cover (and the three full color ads that go on that 4-page cover) and shipped it to the printer. One deadline down, one to go.
The other 64 pages have to be at the printer on the 15th. Margie's birthday is on the 12th. So we'll work like dogs to try to finish by the 11th. But if we don't, we have plans to celebrate on the next weekend.
A few things make the job less stressful. 1) We already have the last book to work from. Much of the content is the same so a good chunk of it is already done. 2) We were smart enough to place responsibility for production of the ads on the advertisers. We then recommended they use Rocky Mountain Custom Photo which is the company we use for much of our design and small print work. We negotiated discount design rates with Rocky Mountain so the advertisers get a break and Rocky Mountain still makes money. Best of all, Margie isn't forced to design 40 ads. Everyone wins.
The weather here has been fabulous. Spring has arrived. Margie & I took a bike ride last night. Cody is perfect for bikes because everything is close and connected. We'd helped get a $2 million dollar bike path funded and built in our old community in Florida but moved before it was finished so we never got to use it. Cody is our good bike-riding karma for that.
I walked through our downtown walking tour yesterday afternoon. I wanted to make sure there were no errors. We print the 10-page tour in our Cody Keepsake and if there is an error we have to live with it for two years. Good thing because I found some needed changes.
I re-acquainted myself with more facts by doing so. You forget so much over time.
Last night after the bike ride I discovered a few interesting properties have been recently listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service. I walked one property I've been watching for a year and came up with a way to fund it with billboards. Sounds good in theory, but I need to get some commitments from advertisers first. One MORE project that I don't have the time for.
Over the weekend I did a search for "inspirational newsletters" and emailed three publishers offering my 103 free inspirational columns. All three responded positively and said they will publish some. So I need to do more of that.
The customer service website hasn't gotten my attention in a few weeks. I never heard back from Clement to OK me adding some of the content I wrote for them. Bad service from a company that sells customer service newsletters.
It's a busy, complicated world. Business people don't realize their actions say far more than their words. I don't think people provide bad service on purpose, they just lose sight of it while being overwhelmed with everything else. The pro's keep the service-focus and force themselves to respond quickly no matter what else is happening. At the very least, they write an email that says, "I'm swamped right now, I'll respond to you no later than next Wednesday."
But my life has been busy with other projects so it's not like I've lost time. I'll phone Clement after the Keepsake is done and I'm ready to spend more time on that website.
Quote for the day comes from stage coach drivers of the 1800's who faced grouchy passengers, rutted trails, robbers and Indian attacks on a daily basis: "Take her as she comes and like it."
Tough, smart and optimistic.
Another banner day in the Bailey household (line from a favorite movie of mine "It's a Wonderful Life").
The gunfighters approved our rent-a-chair program so everyone wins and we get a new income stream (and a new duty to perform). We already have the chairs so the only expense is making new lettering for the A-frame signs we have from two years ago. And the labor to run the program which is usually free because it's mostly Margie & I doing it. Isn't it funny that entrepreneurs pay everyone else and then fail to value their own labor?
Margie put together a sales letter, got 20 copies of the new Cody Keepsake cover and distributed them to potential advertisers today. She's trying to get her last 5 or 6 ads sold.
We are really under the gun now to start punching out pages. I keep telling her it will be easier than we expect since someone else is designing most of the ads (about 35 pages) and most of the content needs only minor edits from the last book we did. But she just realized she needs a new version of Corel Draw design software so we need to move mountains to get that here tomorrow from Billings, 100 miles away. Luckily Cody has a same-day delivery service that goes there every day.
One of my old COLT bus drivers from last year called so I've hired her again. The city provides another driver and I have one more driver from last year to call. If he says yes, I'm fully staffed with good people. We don't start until June 1 and we'll train on the new bus for a couple hours a few days before that. My birthday is on May 31 so that always lands in the middle of trolley and COLT prep time, messing it up. I'm trying to arrange things to take that day off, but the relaxation factor is never there with all the details of setting up the summer season on my back.
We got the quote back from the trolley website designers and it is fair so we will give them the OK tomorrow and get that started.
I saw the last half of The Apprentice tonight and Chris STILL survives. Trump hates him though and called him a loser so I'd rather be fired than be kept around for entertainment value. I wonder how many corporate employees are kept around for just that reason? I think we all can name a few if we give it a moment's thought.
It sold some ads for us today too. Margie sold 4 full page ads to the businesses she distributed her note and cover copies to yesterday. Better yet, they all phoned HER this morning. If you're in sales, you know that rarely happens. She has about 15 businesses to follow up on and we only have 3 full page spaces left. Another banner day for the Bailey household.
Accounts receivable are now over $11,000 (keep in mind it costs $6K to print the thing) and we've already collected a bunch of ad payments so the book is already a financial success. We know readers will love it too because they loved the last one. The second time you do something is usually more successful.
Had a fellow inquire about my customer service book and he is thinking of ordering 50. I have them in stock and can ship as soon as he lets me know. There is so much more potential with that booklet that I am not tapping. Everything in its time.
If you are a Realtor, I'd suggest responding faster to emails from prospects. I sent emails to several Realtors about various properties yesterday and had still not gotten any responses by end of day today.
I finished writing my Annie Oakley article for the Keepsake today and put a good dent in my "Yellowstone Tips" article. We have pretty much all the photos we need. I also purchased the Corel Draw 12 software Margie said she needed.
Let me tell you what a great age we live in. I got online to Office Depot, found the software order number, used their store locator and got the phone number to the closest location 100 miles away in Billings, Montana. I call the electronics guy there who enters the order number into his computer and says he has three copies. I give him my credit card number, and he puts a copy aside for me at the service desk. This is 9:45 am this morning. I then call Custom Delivery here in Cody and ask them to pick it up for me. They have multiple daily runs to Billings so their guy was already up there. They radio him with the assignment and the software is brought back here to Cody by 2 pm. I leisurely pick it up from the delivery service 4 blocks from my house at 5:30 pm. It's sitting on Margie's desk right now. Same day service from 100 miles away. Is that cool or what?
Tony launches his trolley tours in Kentucky tomorrow. He's been updating me and he has a strong script. He's had to navigate a lot of near-disasters getting the business off the ground and he's doing most of it himself. His wife works another job full-time and they have a newborn so she's as busy as he is. To be an entrepreneur, you really have to want it.
It rained all day which was fine with me because I didn't have to go out in it much. We need the moisture since the snowpack is only 80% of normal. Our grass is one of the first to green because we use a professional service to spray fertilizer monthly. It also makes it grow like crazy so I'm not sure of the wisdom of paying money to work harder. Margie lined up that service and I mow the lawn so perhaps it is an assassination attempt. It would be the perfect crime. "Gee officer, he was just mowing the lawn for the 10th time this month and he suddenly keeled over. Will you drive me to the bank to cash this life insurance check?"
My desk is a wreck. And I hate that. I prefer a clean desk but I just can't keep up with all the paper that flies my way from all my businesses. I'm looking at March bank statements that have to be copied and sent to the accountant. A Pacific Power bill that came in yesterday. Some junk mail I want to read. The clipboard with the corrections to my Downtown Walking Tour. A title insurance policy that arrived a week ago for a property I bought 8 months ago. A thank-you card from the assessment team that we hauled around town in our trolley. A historical newspaper from the Irma Hotel I want to read. An annual water quality report I have to distribute to all my tenants at the trailer park. Forwarding addresses to two tenants who moved out who I owe security deposit refunds to. A TurboTax box with 2004 tax return software in it to do my daughter's tax return. Four out of my five checkbooks. Return address labels for four businesses. Notes to myself about properties I'm watching. Notes telling me who I still have to bill for Keepsake ads. And it is all covered by a a half-folded map of Yellowstone I've been referencing for my article. If I had a webcam you'd decide right then and there to never become an entrepreneur.
Speaking of webcams, Here is one that shows downtown Cody, Wyoming . I also checked in on the Old Faithful Webcam today and noticed Yellowstone also has a webcam in Mammoth at the top of the park. I clicked it and saw a herd of elk. In real time. I love the Internet. Click here to see if you are lucky enough to see elk at Mammoth . In case you're not a genius, you want to wait until daylight hours. That's mountain time, Einstein. :)
Margie is plugging away at the Keepsake. I've got my content basically done but the number of pages I need to fill is still a moving target because we still have room for more advertisers, whose decisions are pending. Monday is their final day to climb aboard. Margie's new Corel 12 software is working like a dream so she's happier. Which makes me happier.
I sent a couple of collection letters out to rental deadbeats who still owe me money but have moved out. It's maddening but part of the drill if you're a landlord. Some pay, some don't. It's a cost of doing business. But I found a way to report them to the big three credit bureaus so at least I can help the next landlord. Which reminds me, I want to set up a "Cody Deadbeats" website that local landlords can check before renting to tenants. I suspect our deadbeats are just going down the street and renting from another hapless landlord. If we pool our info, perhaps we can avoid renting to these people. I imagine there's like a million legal reasons why that's a bad idea, but it sure sounds good sitting here.
I drove by a restaurant yesterday and they had taped three bounced checks to their front window. Talk about using shame as a motivator to get deadbeats to make those checks good. CodyDeadbeats.com could have a section for bad tenants, bad check writers, debt skippers, convicted criminals and other negative activities. This could be the one-stop community bulletin board that alerts law-abiding citizens about troublemakers. If they pay their debt, I'll take them off the list. And I'll keep 25% as a collection fee because a business would rather get 75% of something than 100% of nothing.
So now you understand why I see opportunity everywhere. I get ripped off by a few tenants and even that generates another new business idea. Welcome to my world.
Our carrier, Jaime, ties her paperbag to Sheba's back and off they go through the neighborhood. I've been busy all day punching out pages for the Keepsake but had to take a break to enter this photo we took an hour ago.
Since I had the camera out, I've been missing a hubcap on our shuttle van for about two years. No one has it in stock so I took one off and took some photos of it to send to used hubcap vendors hoping they'll have a match. In case you are in the hubcap business, I need a 1992 Dodge Ram 12-passenger van hubcap for a 16 inch rim. Hey, it's the Internet. ANYTHING is possible.
More joy at the trailer park yesterday. The park used to get it's drinking water from wells years ago. The well house has been closed off for over 5 years since the park was hooked to city water. But there is a leak in the well house that caused the inside roof drywall to get wet and collapse. The building is still sound and it was just a junky shed but still, we need the water leak to stop. We had a guy out to look at it and we can't figure out where the water is coming from. It's almost 100% certain that the water is coming from a spring up on the hill that the old owner had piped everywhere for irrigation. So it's not costing me money. I'll call the old park owner today and see if he remembers the locations of his piping system.
One of our tenants is in the National Guard and he returned home from 18 months in Iraq yesterday. Nice homecoming for him and his family. His wife has been counting the days. He was supposed to be a cook over there but he returned wearing a combat veteran hat so I imagine he has stories he doesn't even want to tell. One thing he did say is that he loves not hearing the bang-bang, boom-booms that occurred every day he was there.
I also performed a water test at one of the vacant trailers yesterday and got that sent off. Even though we get our drinking water from a city connection, because we installed meters for each dwelling, that makes us a "water system." It's a goofy rule but you don't argue with the EPA. All our tests come back as safe and they cost about $35 each which includes overnight shipping. Even so, adding meters was the smartest thing I did there because when we bought the park, the water bills ran $900-$1400 per MONTH. There were leaks everywhere because tenants never reported them since the old owner paid the water bill. As soon as we added meters and made tenants pay their own water bill, everyone started reporting their leaks and the bill has dropped to about $700 per month. And the tenants pay that now so we created a giant monthly savings that lasts forever.
A handful of emails I sent Realtors last week about various properties have still gone unanswered. If you ever hire a Realtor ask them if they treat email inquiries as urgently as they treat phone calls. If not, you're getting a crummy Realtor. If there is no response within 24 hours from email or phone, you're getting lousy service.
Today it's back to the Keepsake. All Keepsake, all the time now through Thursday. I'm so glad we decided to re-publish this only once every two years.
Blog-reader Billy sent me a reminder that Chris from The Apprentice was arrested over the weekend. He's the guy with the anger issues that Trump hates. It's only a matter of time before he gets fired on the show. Anyway, Chris has a bad temper and that's what he was arrested for -- yelling at doormen and cops about a $20 cover charge to enter a hotel/casino bar. "Disorderly Conduct" was the official charge. The Apprentice was taped months ago so Chris knows his outcome, even if America doesn't. It's clear he has a temper problem but he's a good example of how people don't change unless they are absolutely forced to due to some crisis. Life just keeps kicking your butt harder and harder until you finally "get it." Learn the lesson and you get to advance. Don't learn it and your "reminders" just keep getting worse.
We still have two full days to finish this thing so I feel like that is very doable without pulling all-nighters. This has been MUCH better than those 100-hour-week newspaper publishing days in our past.
The Carpenters are on my CD player this morning. I remember the first time I heard them was when I checked out a cassette tape album from the St. Louis Park, Minnesota bookmobile. Remember those? I think that's another idea that could be tweaked to become a business. I'm not sure what you'd put in the thing to rent, but I love the concept of a mobile business. In fact, I've spent hours researching concession trailers and things to sell from them. Margie counts her lucky stars that I haven't bought one and signed us up with some carnival.
Which isn't so far-fetched because I have an aunt and cousins who own and operate carnival food trailers and travel the show circuits all summer. Another cousin owns elephants and travels with circuses. So it's in my DNA.
When I think about it, the trolley is actually an attraction that doesn't need a carnival or circus around it to generate traffic. And it is a mobile business. I could take the thing to Tombstone or some other southwest city in the winter. Not that I would, but I like knowing that I COULD. Nice to know I have enough ideas and options that I'll never go hungry.
I got my taxes back from the accountant yesterday. Having three different business entities really helps minimize taxes legally. I have to pay a little but it's a drop in the bucket compared to what I used to pay when I had a corporate job. Today I generate 6 to 8 times more gross income than what I did in the corporate world but my taxes are about a fourth of what I paid back then. One MORE reason to be an entrepreneur.
Margie just had me review a stack of gunfighter pictures for our rent-a-chair ad. We're looking for something to show how big the crowd gets so people are motivated to get a good seat. We're also advertising the gunfight itself and the Irma Hotel, where the gunfight occurs and where we rent the chairs.
Earlier she handed me a photo album she'd made after our 2003 trip to Alberta. I'd forgotten so much of that trip! I told her we should make an album after every trip. She agrees but the issue is always time. A person should live their life with enough unscheduled time to enjoy it. Like I'm a good example of that. I'll get there though, I swear I will.
We went out for dinner at the Chinese place last night with our daughter Jen. Good meal, good atmosphere, good company. Earlier Margie & I took a bike ride and did more scheming. We're always talking about plans to make our lives and businesses better. She said she had a nice birthday.
Today I have a 9 am meeting with my city contact to set up a driver schedule for the COLT bus. I have one driver and he has at least one driver. We need a minimum of three to cover the 7-day a week schedule.
My calender says today is Thomas Jefferson's birthday. It says he was born in 1743 which means he was only 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Which reminds me, if you haven't seen National Treasure I highly recommend it. It's like Indiana Jones meets national history. Adventure, thriller, fun and education all in one. It comes out on May 3.
Here's my quote for the day: "Given time, you can do anything. Take it."
So we finish it up this morning and drive it the 100 miles to the printer ourselves. We'll turn it into a leisurely trip for lunch.
We're delighted with the content and appearance of the pages we've designed. We just hope we haven't missed a glaring typo or the printer doesn't make some colossal mistake. If it comes out as we envision, it will be the type of book every visitor will want and one that makes us proud.
I also got our taxes paid and mailed off yesterday. One more stinky thing off the list. I filed an extension for Jessica and will get hers done in the new few days. Coloroado has a nice program where you get an automatic 6 month extension without having to file any paperwork as long as you don't owe any tax. That's customer friendly.
Part of me wants major tax reform to simplify tax computing but another part of me doesn't. Since I'm already invested in the current system with accountants and lots of legal deductions (although complicated), I sure don't want changes that make me pay more. So I can see it will be a tough sell for the Bush administration. So many people are invested in the current system.
Yesterday we had a meeting at the chamber about the "Recommend Cody" program coming up in May. This is where we take frontline staff on the trolley and bring them on a two hour tour of local attractions. We stop at each attraction and the leadership at each makes a short presentation and gives a quick tour. Frontliners who complete the tour get a "Tourist Certified" button that also says "Ask Me." This makes them more prepared to answer the popular visitor question: "What is there to do in Cody?" By recommending the attractions, visitors are more likely to stay one more day. if every visitor stayed one more day, we'd double the number of daily visitors each summer. This would double revenues for everyone.
You'd think this is a no-brainer but lots of local businesses still don't send their staff on the free tours. For some it's apathy, others are focused on other things, or overwhelmed with what they are already doing. Some frankly don't worry about helping others and don't understand how that helps them. So we promote the tours as well as we can and the people who show up "get it" and end up helping the town. If we keep doing it every year, over time we'll make a significant impact.
We delivered the Cody Keepsake materials to the printer on Saturday and had a nice time during the drive. Margie has three ads she is still messing with that were given to us in the wrong size. Details kill you every time. She can email the corrections though so no big deal.
I mowed the lawn for the first time this year on Sunday the 17th. We have the nicest green lawn on the block already while most of the rest of Cody still has brown grass. We use a monthly weed & feed lawn spray service and it makes all the difference.
I spent 3 1/2 hours with my insurance agent this morning going over coverage on all aspects of our little empire. We were over insured on some stuff and under insured on others. We straightened that out and have some quotes coming to see the cost of increasing our liability limits with umbrella policies. The more you increase your net worth, the more you need to protect it. As for the Lovell office building appeal, we DO have a case but the agent needs to stay on it. Apparently my agent asked that insurance company to write a policy that included water damage and a rep there did not write that coverage into the policy. The policy didn't arrive for 8 months, complicating the situation. So, it's a he-said, she-said deal but we might (and should) win the appeal.
This is a busy week for night activities, which I generally don't care for. I'm definately a morning person. We might have dinner scheduled with some folks we know tonight (Margie set it up and has to verify). Tomorrow night we appear before the city council about our request to have the trailer park annexed into city limits. Wednesday night it's dinner with a friend and Thursday night is the annual chamber of commerce banquet.
I received an email from Tony in Kentucky and he had great ridership numbers for his first weekend of trolley tours to the general public. This is great news because those numbers will only get better all summer. He had some mechanical issues to deal with, just to increase his stress level but he worked them out. Being an entrepreneur means you spend your life solving problems and finding ways around barriers.
I'm doing some research on flea markets because I could start one at our 2AB property pretty easily and Cody doesn't have a true outdoor/indoor flea market.
I received an Annie Oakley action hero figurine from UPS today. I ordered it from Archie McPhee for $8.95. It's pretty cute. I'm wondering if trolley riders might want to buy one if we sold them.
I got an interesting email from a Realtor about a great property at a great price. I just need to think up an income stream to make it pay for itself. It's a motivated seller too so it has opportunity written all over it. But it is still over $300,000 so I can't just write a check. And we're approaching trolley season so I'm short on time to put together a deal. These sort of deals are everywhere when you train yourself to look for them. For me it's frustrating because I see potential everywhere but I'm limited by time and money.
Margie sends in the last of her Cody Keepsake ads this morning to beat tomorrow's print deadline. Once printed, the book pages (printed on newsprint) will be cut and bound with the glossy cover we designed. The printer farmed that cover job out so we get the books delivered to us in late May, just before we start public tours on June 3.
While researching flea market booth manufacturers yesterday I came up dry. Which never happens. I need to give my search terms more thought. I did discover another good domain name though and registered FleaMarketBooth.com.
If you ever want to start a business, just pick topics you love to fool around with and go to namecheap.com and enter related domain names. If you find good .com names still available, reserve one, sign up for web hosting at $3.95 a month and you have your own online business. Don't know how to run an online business? Just search for info on the Internet and you're off to the races. The Internet is the best research tool ever created by man.
Margie just got an email from a woman in England who wants a trolley brochure (she found us on the Internet). Margie told her it had just snowed here and sent her the webcam links above. The woman clicked the links and could see exactly what Margie had described while sitting in England. The Internet is the best communication tool ever created by man, too.
If you do decide to start your own online business (and you should) you have the opportunity to drastically reduce your taxes. For example, if your online business is created to earn a profit (rather than being just a hobby) you can create a home office space (if used exclusively for this business) and deduct a percentage of your house payment or rent, utilities, telephone, cable TV (if it's used in your business for occassional research), your computer, office supplies and home improvements. This percentage is based on the percentage of floor space your office takes up as compared to your entire home's square footage. The larger your office, the larger the deductions. These deductions reduce your taxable income which reduces the amount of taxes you pay.
This works for any business, not just online businesses. So even if you are employed somewhere else (especially if you are employed) you should start a business on the side to generate a back-up income and greatly reduce your taxes. Your business doesn't have to earn a profit immediately either to qualify for deductions. I'm no accountant so you need to research the rules yourself. But if you can give yourself a multi-thousand dollar raise for every year of the rest of your life, isn't a little research and action worth it?
We had a good night at the city council meeting last night. The agenda worked out so that we had to speak about three of our companies. Councilmen were even joking about what company I was representing now.
The council voted to purchase the new smaller bus that has been in the plans for the Cody Over Land Transit (COLT) system we run for the city. We'll operate the program's day-to-day operations this summer and then turn it over to the city which is all a good thing.
I then mentioned how a temporary road closure affected our trolley tour route and was able to do so without complaining and still support the event that caused the temporary closure. I just wanted folks to remember to talk with us the next time they thought of a closure.
Finally, I got to speak about getting our trailer park annexed into the city. The council set a public hearing for May 17 to get the ball rolling. I told them about how affordable our housing is out there, both to rent and buy. This is a big goal for the council to add more affordable housing. After the meeting two people approached me about buying a trailer. Apparently our prices are as impressive as I imagined.
I hadn't even considered that my comments would go beyond the council but the meeting was televised so maybe more people will contact us. The local radio guy interviewed me after the meeting too and I got to repeat part of the affordable housing prices so that might help us too. Just being who you are attracts those who value what you offer.
The Cody Keepsake is done, done, done. I'm sure you're sick of reading about it. That gives you an idea of how ready we are to be done with it. It gets printed about noon today so unless there is some last-minute glitch we don't know about (cross fingers) we can relax until it arrives at the end of May. It's a great book if it is printed the way we expect.
It is still snowing here! More expected today -- up to 6 inches they say. It is winter again although not too cold -- just in the 30's. We need the moisture so no complaints.
Today is Margie's big Visitor Center meeting. She's on the chamber board and spearheaded the effort to gain community input and support for a new visitor center. Local leaders and stakeholders meet today from noon to 3 pm to share their ideas and needs. Margie lined up a professional moderator to capture the info and keep things moving forward. I'll be there to offer my two cents.
There seems to be state money available for a new facility and if we can build it to include a tenant or two, their rents could perpetually pay for the on-going operating expenses.
Wyoming is fortunate to be running state budget surpluses. HUGE surpluses. We are the energy breadbasket of America with huge reserves of natural gas, oil and coal. Mining companies must pay the state for the resources they take. As you know, prices for all three are very high, which results in increased mining and increased revenues. Leaders expect this to last for years and maybe decades. So the state is awash in money ready to be invested in smart projects that help economic development.
One thing that Wyoming does is like Alaska. We sock away a large amount of money each year into a trust fund and then direct the money that fund earns back toward the annual budget expenses. This keeps taxes here very low as compared to the rest of the country. We haven't yet reached the point where the state gives each citizen an annual check for their portion of the trust fund earnings, like Alaska, but we may get there one day.
If you have the choice of living anywhere like we did, we highly recommend Wyoming for it's beauty, low density of people, sunshine, wildlife and low taxes. If you're considering Wyoming, give us a call and we'll tell you why Cody is the best city in this best state.
I did a showing yesterday with Chris to a person interested in buying a trailer. It's during showings that I really wish I was selling something brand new. This trailer is pretty much in the best condition of everything we have but it still has several cosmetic interior issues. We just don't have the money to renovate a thirty year old trailer's interior so we hope to attact people who focus on the positive big picture rather than the negative little details. And we price the units accordingly and offer easy and flexible terms.
We also met with a person who will work in our trolley booth this summer. He should be a great fit and we're delighted to get him. We learned he's willing to work more hours than we expected so that is a big bonus too. With our daughter working until she returns to college, that covers us until August 2. After then, we'll have to hire one part-timer.
I also need to find a trolley driver. It's a challenge because I need someone who is available every single Sunday without fail plus assorted other days based on what pops up with charters and other situations. Also, the person must have a clean driving record, pass a drug test and have a current CDL and medical certificate. AND they must be able to "perform" and run the A/V system while driving. And they need to be good with people and like people. And they need to memorize about 10 pages of script and deliver it in a natural and enthusiastic manner. So it takes a very special person. I basically need a truck driver who can act. Not your typical combination.
I attended Margie's visitor center meeting yesterday. Her and the chamber board president did a great job of getting community leaders to attend. The moderator did a great job and walked us through a process that will slow us way down but should capture everyone's ideas -- even opponents -- so we come up with a vision and solution that doesn't destroy relationships.
I have to say I was surprised at the number of people who either didn't think there was a need or were entrenched in supporting the current facility. Very few big picture visionaries there who shared our values to provide a "wow" customer experience. Even fewer seem to realize that 1,000 to 2,000 wallets PER DAY are driving right through our town without stopping. All that revenue is just 20 feet from our businesses. People seem eager to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year buying advertising in out of town publications and television, but aren't interested in spending anything to get the 100,000 to 200,000 people ALREADY passing through Cody to move that last 20 feet to our doors. I just don't get it. But this process will get all our differing viewpoints onto one "map" of the issue so we'll have a chance to come up with something everyone can agree on. Or at least agree to not fight.
Then I met with a billboard salesman and got an education. They rent for far less than I'd heard so buying a property and adding billboards to pay for it isn't viable unless the property is very inexpensive. There is one property where this would still work so I'll keep noodling on that.
What I basically learned is I need to install some billboards myself on my trailer park property. We own the top of a hill that is very visible as you enter and leave the north side of Cody. This is perfect to place a directional billboard showing people where to turn into our park. If we can install 1-3 more panels, we can advertise the trolley and sell the remaining space to others so the thing pays for itself and generates new income. I spoke to a billboard installer and learned how to build one and it is not difficult or expensive. Now I need to research the county regulations.
Margie had to rebuild one ad for the Cody Keepsake at the last minute yesterday morning. It was a crisis and she solved it in a short time period. Now the thing has gone to press so we should REALLY be done. Welcome to publishing computer files. The good thing about deadlines is that projects don't last forever.
It is snowing again this morning. Third day in a row. It stops later in the day and melts but there is still lots of snow on the ground. We were in a total summer situation on Sunday and it's been winter ever since. Weird. But we need the moisture, so let it rip.
Today is an administrative day for me. I have a long list of stinky jobs so I hope to just knuckle down here at the desk and complete them. We have Rotary at noon and the annual chamber banquet tonight. Our dinner with a friend last night had to get rescheduled due to a conflict he had.
This is great news because it will fully fund the list of repairs we had been planning to make over the summer. Only now we won't have to pace ourselves based on park income.
I'm tempering my happiness just in case something changes or goes haywire. It shouldn't, but you never know in this business. But it's a good situation for the buyer and for us, and we both deserve it.
I switched a couple vehicle titles yesterday. The trolley company owned an older motor home as a mobile office and research vehicle and Margie & I owned a 12 passenger van. We traded the vehicles because they are of equal value and that got them in the right companies for the right insurance. This was part of my homework from the insurance review we had on Monday. I still have to have our old trolley checked by our mechanic who will complete a form saying it is road-worthy.
That's an expense hanging over me because I want to replace the tired engine in the old trolley. I also want to get the roof of that trolley sealed with the stuff they use to line pick-up beds. It has a couple of leaks near the driver's seat when it rains hard.
We have lunch today with a couple who have suggested we perform eco-tours with the old trolley. I'm sure we'll be talking about that a little today.
Last night we attended the annual chamber banquet. We knew many of the people there from our heavy civic and business involvement. We had a table full of neat people so it was fun and relaxing. Several of them were from Minnesota like me so there was no shortage of stuff to talk about.
Chris just called to tell us she just rented out another trailer. Since we knew the woman, we were able to approve her on the spot. That leaves just three vacancies.
I bought a sports coat I can wear with jeans and wore it last night. I'd been wanting one for like 10 years but never got around to finding one. So I pushed myself to do it yesterday and found one that worked. I'm tough to fit because I'm tall and skinny. There was only one coat in the entire store that fit and it worked just fine. Better yet, it was on the sale rack. I may never wear a suit again.
Speaking of suits, they fired Bren on The Apprentice last night. I liked him so hated to see him go. The next weakest link is Craig so he should go next. Then it will be down to three people. None are as impressive as prior years. I'm betting a female wins it this year since the prior two years a male won. Also there are two strong women left and one man who is just strong enough to be a contender, but too weak to go all the way. There's Craig too, but he's a communication disaster so I'm assuming he's a goner.
All things being equal, Trump should hire a woman. I did some research about gender and work within the last ten years that clearly showed that overall, women make the best employees. You shouldn't discriminate against a man, but if you have two equal candidates, statistics show you should select the woman. Here is the article I wrote about the differences between Men & Women at Work.
I learned of a web log contest today from an e-newsletter I receive from a marketing guru. So I entered. If I get any farther they'll give me a link you can click to go vote for me. So hold your powder until I see if I made the cut.
I was supposed to have an article published in an enewsletter this week but I haven't gotten a copy of it yet. So when you market, you have to have as many things going on as possible. It takes everything you have and then some to gain attention. You have to remember it's a 3-dimensional world so you really have to plow hard to make any progress. If only ideas manifested at the speed of thought.
Yesterday I spoke to two business people who own operations that haven't lived up to their expectations. So I have a fresh appreciation 1) That I'm blessed to have several businesses/projects doing well and 2) How tough it is to make businesses/projects successful.
There are so many activities and aspects that must be done well to get over the hump. It's a big world and us entrepreneurs forget that we are just a knat on the windshield of life to customers, even though in our heads, our business seems like a gorilla on the windshield. So you have to market effectively. Here is a great article I wrote for the president of an ad agency that I recently rediscovered .
The web is a great place to archive your past work. I'm always amazed at what I've created years ago and forgotten. Occassionally I'm embarrassed by the amateurness of very early work, but for the most part, I'm delightfully surprised that past work I stumble on still looks good today. I hope you agree.
Yesterday was driven by appointments. We lunched with friends and talked about various tours that we could perform and partner with. There is no shortage of opportunity. The challenge is focusing your time and energy on prioritizing what tour will be the most profitable and how will you market it to keep it that way. I'm not eager to purchase any more vehicles because it means I'd have to permanently have other people operating those vehicles and performing those tours. There are many capable people out there but as my insurance agent reminding me on Monday, "You're only one disaster away from losing everything."
Of course the odds of driving a trolley over a cliff with 40 passengers is very low, but if it occurred, goodbye passengers and goodbye trolley company. There are, however, cliffs on our route so it's not impossible. And when planes crash, passengers tend to get million dollar settlements EACH so we'd have to have over $40 million in liability to be close to fully protected. My agent is getting estimates for me now but I suspect it will be giant money. The state knows how unlikely this is too because they only require $1.5 million liability coverage.
But besides the liability risks, growing a successful business sometimes ruins it. I met a carnival owner on a tour a couple years ago and I picked his brain because I've always wanted to own a carnival. He had started with a few cotton candy machines and worked up to a ride or two and would lease himself to other carnivals. He made a good living and started buying more rides, more concessions and before he knew it, he had his own carnival. Now he had to work ten times as hard to meet payroll, keep his employees working and market his shows and book locations. He told me if he had it to do over again, he'd have stayed small and profitable without all the ownership headaches.
So I'm going to be very careful as I expand our trolley business.
The next appointment was a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a local Realtor. She was celebrating her new office and new business. The Cody chamber has an ambassadors group that welcomes the new business and it includes the mayor. So you see lots of the same people at these events. Which makes it fun because you always know someone and get a chance to catch up with each other's lives.
Then I had to run up to the trolley barn to change license plates on the motor home and shuttle van. While there I took some photos of our trolleys for Tony in Kentucky so he can poach some of our ideas as he builds his trolley tour company. I hope to email those today.
Then I picked up Margie at a Cody Events committee meeting. These people are discussing city Christmas decorations and it's only April. Because there was still snow on the ground, it didn't seem so odd. Most of the snow has melted but the mountains are beautifully covered. Blus skies and crisp 50's yesterday and today make for perfect weather.
Finally we attended a goodbye party for a Rotarian who is moving away due to a new job. Of course we knew most of the people there so that was a fun night. We really burned the midnight oil for us, I think we were out until 9:30.
I also contacted the past Cody Frisbee Dog Champion team to perform with Millie & I at a Humane Society fundraiser on May 21. They just want some attention-grabbing events on the hour throughout the day. We've never performed in the rodeo grounds so that will be fun. The last time we performed for the public was at halftime at a high school football game. Millie is just over 8 years old so she's slowing down a bit but she's still got that border collie heart. She doesn't just catch the Frisbees, she attacks them. Click here to learn about Millie and our contest results .
Busy couple days since my last entry. It is so easy to forget all you've done with so many activities.
Yesterday we sold two trailers. Both to first-time home buyers and both were delighted they could make the purchase. One woman was so happy that we approved her application she broke out into tears and hugged us while repeating "I've never owned a home before." It gave us goose bumps and we were all crying. We made the home very affordable for her but it was a good deal for us too so everyone was a winner. Just the way it's supposed to be.
Then the city administrator and all her department heads came to our trailer park for a tour. We are requesting annexation so they wanted to see what was possibly coming into their city. They also walked the five acres of city property that is behind our park near the river. The visit went great and they were very complimentary of all the improvements we have made. Our park manager Chris was delighted to have the police chief compliment her on the great reduction of police calls the past two years.
I attended a meeting with the group trying to buy the Cody Stage building and shared more fundraising ideas. They want to raise $600,000, buy the building and have an endowment account to fund operations and improvements. This is a giant project for most of the theater people there and many have no experience taking on such a goal. But you learn by doing. My business and entrepreneur experience makes the project look very doable to me but I am going to have to back out for the summer due to the trolley. Their deadline to raise the money is September. So I'll supply some ideas and the rest is up to them.
I wrote a letter to my insurance agent to forward to the insurance company that still hasn't responded to our Lovell water damage claim. She'll forward it to them today.
We also had to set up a meeting with her and the city to discuss insurance issues regarding us running the COLT bus for the city this summer. That meeting occurs Friday.
Over the weekend we billed the trailer park which involved reading the meters, writing and designing the newsletter and attaching our annual water safety report. The latter is an EPA requirement.
Last night we visited friends at the Silver Dollar. One of them owns the place. I've always wanted to own a bar personally so I love visiting them. I'd prefer to only have it in my basement though -- no customers other than friends. But she has turned the bar around to a much nicer place. They serve food so I had the chili. They have a zillion TV's playing sporting events and lots of neon so of course I loved it. The owner and her husband remodeled the space upstairs into an amazing apartment and live above the bar. She gave us a tour and it was very impressive. When I walked back downstairs into the bar, I thought, "She has the basement bar I want." So now I want the same set up she has. I think it was dangerous for me to see that because I bet one day I make it a reality.
In fact, there is a low-priced bar for sale in Lovell that I have gotten the numbers on and I plan a trip there this weekend for a look.
Today is very busy. It started at 4 am prepping for meetings. I have a Chamber Marketing Council meeting at 7:30 am. I'm the president of that group and it's our last meeting before our summer break. I have a list of topics in addition to the agenda the chamber director creates.
Then it's off to the Buffalo Bill Dam. They are holding their annual orientation meeting for all the volunteers who staff the dam's visitor center all summer. These are the people we must reach to increase the number of rentals of the audio tour. I'm to speak on the procedures for renting the tours.
Then at noon, Margie & I give a 20 minute speech to the Optimist Club about our trolley operation and local history. That will be fun. We are both life members of Optimists although we no longer belong to a club. We'd started a club in Florida before moving to Wyoming. We both served as club president down there so were made life members by our club. Today we are happy to just serve as optimistic Rotarians.
I got through the day with all those meetings pretty well. The Chamber Marketing Council meeting was the last one until September and we approved funding several requests from groups requesting assistance for their events.
My talk at the dam to the volunteers running the visitor center went well too. I gave them an opportunity to tell me any problems they were having with the rentals of the audio tours or the operation of the players and no one had anything to share. Two folks asked about offering a reduced group rate and I told them I will work with them on any rate they think is fair. Since we get half the revenues for each rental, they include us in those decisions.
I also asked them if they were getting positive comments about the tour and they enthusiastically said yes. So quality of the tour is not an issue. They all agreed that time is the issue. Visitors are reluctant to invest 35 minutes for a tour.
I think a big part of this is that visiotrs tend to walk right onto the dam first for the big view and then maybe wander into the visitor center. Since they've already seen the view from the top, they are less motivated to take a tour about what they just saw. So I suggested they rope off the walkway to the top of the dam and place an entrance arrow on the rope pointing at the visitor center. Everyone would then have to enter the visitor center, which gives the dam workers a chance to sell the audio tour or gift shop items as a build up to getting the big view on top of the dam. Then visitors can get to the top of the dam through another door. The manager there liked the idea and will consider it.
Finally, we spoke at the Optimist Club and that went great. Margie gave them all free passes and they arranged to take a special tour with us at the end of May. Several Optimists, including the past mayor, spoke highly of the tour and recommended it strongly to the other members.
One of the trailers we sold yesterday fell through. The buyer (who already rents another of our units there) got a couple of unexpected bills and decided she'd wait until those were paid off before she bought. So hopefully the deal is just delayed rather than dead.
Now I'm off to proof a trolley brochure Margie is creating.
We finished the brochure so it is off to the designer (who can hop up what we've designed for prepress) and then off to the printer. It follows the recommendations of the travel consultant advice we received several months ago.
A couple notable additions include a testimonial recommending the tour from Kit Carson Cody, Buffalo Bill's great- grandson who still lives in Cody part of the year, and a testimonial about our Buffalo Bill Dam audio tour from retired US Senator Al Simpson. Al also lives in Cody and is a big trolley tour fan too.
We also put Margie on the cover in her Annie Oakley get-up and have named our tour "The Best of Cody Wild West Tour." The top of the brochure is most visible as it sticks up in the display racks placed around Cody. This part shows the "Best of Cody" tour name, half of Margie as Annie and part of the trolley so visitors get the gist at a glance of the brochure rack and hopefully will grab ours. We order 40,000 this year.
Last night I purchased a replica pistol used by The Hole in the Wall Gang during the time of their 1904 bank robbery in Cody. It's an exact copy except there is no firing pin so it can't shoot. We'll pass it around the trolley as we tell that bank robbery story. This our our third pass-around relic on the tour. It joins a piece of Buffalo Bill's childhood home from LeClaire, Iowa and a piece of 2.7 billion-year-old pink granite from the area around the tunnels west of town near the reservoir.
Looking at all we offer, plus that $5 Cody Keepsake book we give free, I'm leaning toward raising tour prices in 2006. We're a cheap date at the current $15 when you compare us to other trolley tours across the country. And if we're the world's best as we've been told by hundreds of passengers and a handful of experts, an increase will be justified. But no rate changes for this summer.
One MORE reason to be an entrepreneur -- you can give yourself a raise without having to ask some stingy old boss.
We closed the sale of a trailer yesterday to a cash buyer so that gives us a nice cash reserve heading into trolley season. Cash is tighest the last two months before starting a new season so the sale was very timely and much appreciated. We plan on maintaining good reserves for the rest of our lives to take the edge off running all these enterprises. Our cashflow is best in the summer so by fall, we hope to have completed all the remaining trailer park improvements, put new windows in our house, pay off some credit cards and trade our car for a newer vehicle. In theory, we should then be able to live off the income from our trailer park from that point on and trolley revenue can be used for investments and debt reduction. Financial freedom! We'll see.
We had dinner at the Proud Cut last night in downtown Cody. It and the Irma Hotel are the two best "western feel" restaurants in town. There is a big opportunity for more western and unique restaurants in our town. What we have is nice but there is a need for more.
We got a copy of the Rotary Show DVD yesterday and haven't had a chance to watch it yet. That show seems like it was a hundred years ago but it was only two months. Margie & I do a lot of living in two months.
We have some chartered tours scheduled throughout May so the time will fly and soon it will be June 3 -- the first day we open to the public for the 2005 season. But on the other hand, in five short months I'll be sitting here on October 1 looking back on another completed season. Everything comes and goes.
I have a fundraising meeting regarding the Cody Stage building today at noon. We meet at the Irma Hotel. This may be my last meeting because of trolley season. I think it's important that if the group is going to ask the community for $600,000 that the group has to keep that Cody Stage community theatre very busy and active with multiple monthly show offerings.
This afternoon I attend an insurance meeting at city hall regarding insurance for the COLT bus operation. I also have a physical scheduled this morning to update my commercial drivers license medical certificate. It takes a lot of work keeping all these enterprises going.
Yesterday at Rotary I learned that Jake, one of my bankers quit to take another job in a company he may purchase. That's the second time this has happened to me in the past 6 months. I joked with him that everytime I take out a loan in this town, my banker quits. He smiled and said, "maybe it's not the bank then." He deserved that come back because at the end of every Rotary meeting, members take turns sharing good news. So Jake had walked up and announced his good news about his new job and made a few nice heartfelt comments about his old employer. So he sits down and the next guy who comes up to the podium is Jake's boss from that same bank. He says, "I have some good news too. Jake quit the bank this morning." It brought the house down. That's the kind of group these Rotarians are and we love the friends we've made there.
I hope to attend the community garage sale across the street at the Riley Arena and then drive to Lovell to look at a bar that is for sale. Odds of buying it are low but I still want to look. Plus the drive there is relaxing.
We got the other car fixed yesterday so we can drive incognito again. We'd been driving the trolley shuttle van which has big graphics on the vehicle that tells everyone the trolley people are here. We just hadn't gotten around to fixing our minivan. It turned out to be the starter and set us back 280 bucks.
Productive day yesterday. We got our DOT physicals and I applied for renewal of my commercial drivers license through the mail. Doctor gave me the required eye test too so those were the last pieces I needed. Margie's license goes another year but her medical certificate got renewed.
We also had an insurance meeting for the COLT bus and our agent is getting quotes for the city to get insurance that covers us all. She's also working on getting me quotes to increase my liability coverage in our trolley operation. I pay over $20K a year for insurance which is insane. But needed. The more you have, the more you need to protect. And it just proves to me that I will always need a permanent passive income just to maintain what I have. So I'm building that while I'm young and healthy.
I watched a biography on TV last night about Donald Trump . I was familiar with his story but it was still interesting.
Trump's two best pieces of advice are 1) Do what you love and 2) Never let an obstacle or barrier stop you.
Margie & I pretty much follow that advice and have seen that it works. Whenever you see someone who owns multiple businesses or properties, you should realize that those properties didn't fall into the person's lap. They had to hunt down the deals, negotiate a purchase, secure financing, establish management and create systems to make them successful. You can bet they had to get around numerous barriers that threatened to wreck the deals. It takes lots of proactive hard work -- nobody makes you go out and buy a property or start a business. You've got to have a burning desire to create your own financial security.
I guess you can never fully appreciate the work and time sacrifices involved until you do it yourself. But the time goes by anyway, so it makes sense to set yourself up for the future. We started this push just five years ago. I can't imagine what we can do in five more. And I like the security of knowing I have assets that will keep me going even when I can't go anymore. Now the questions we face are, how much is enough? And how much time are we willing to invest to get to that figure?
Which really leads to the ultimate question, How do we want to spend our time? I'm really realizing that time is the ultimate currency. I'm more willing to spend money to save time these days.
Hmmm.... I wonder if I can pay someone to go to Wal-Mart for me? :)
We drove to Lovell yesterday and looked at that bar for sale. Has potential but it would never be a homerun. I don't have the time. We discussed hiring an apprentice in Lovell and having them run the bar and sift for real estate deals that are all owner finance to build a little Lovell empire. Not right now is the decision.
My thoughts are that if I have limited time and resources, I'd rather focus on the biggest deals that WILL be homeruns. In Cody that means there are only a handful of properties that meet that criteria.
And once I get into October, I still want to start some online enterprises and hire people to run them.
I watched the Rotary Show on DVD last night. KBL did a great job of taping it and producing the DVD. It's a great record of the show for future posterity of past posteriors.
Some parts were funnier than I remember and some were not funny. It was strange watching the show as a spectator. While we performed we only saw parts of it from the wings or on the TV in the back. All in all a good effort. But it reminded me that the writer has no control on how the show comes off. It all comes down to the people delivering the lines. If anything, this DVD will help us decide who should NOT play key parts and who should. Some people did far more practicing and it showed. They are the people who deserve the key roles next year.
The Cody Stage fundraising project is on hold another 10 days until we determine who will lead the group and how committed they are. People who make large donations will want solid leadership that will keep the theatre busy and create an organization that makes the donaters proud. The group has an election on May 9 and that will determine if we have leaders passionate enough to take responsibility for the entire operation and organization.
My experience with non-profits has not been good. Too many people with opinions and not enough to commit to doing the heavy lifting. That's a big generalization but as an active volunteer I have found it to be true. The for-profit sector has the pressure to produce and that forces creative ideas be implemented and actions to be taken. In short, capitalists are hungrier than non-capitalists. The difference is that non-profits tend to coast and for-profits are always re-inventing themselves. Guess which are more vibrant and successful?
Today's Billings Gazette has an article about last year's Kentucky Derby winner, Smarty Jones. His home is Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Kentucky. My buddy Tony took me past there several times as we were mapping his trolley tour route out there. Tony lives in Midway which is the epicenter of the thoroughbred horse industry. Thanks to Tony, I now have a great appreciation and a little knowledge about horse racing.
That's the fun of travel -- you feel connected to a larger part of the world and have some knowledge when different places are featured in the news or in conversations. In short, it makes more of the world relevant to you.
The snow has melted so I am off to mow the back yard!
Several recent examples: the classified ads I submitted to the local newspaper showed up inaccurately typed into the paper. Twice. Net result, they owe me a refund so they lost that revenue. And I lost time and customers due to an incorrect ad. Awareness. Attention to detail. Both missing.
Then there are the people I face who take 90% of the conversiational air time when we meet. They aren't aware that they are mindlessly talking and rarely listening.
Then there are the vendors who don't deliver work in a timely manner. And don't communicate that it won't be done on time. Which wastes my time and the people down the line who we promised to send work by certain times.
These types of actions become more annoying when there's lots to do and a short time to do it in. Which is the situation we are in now.
The three dimensional world is already irritatingly slow in the process of manifesting thoughts into reality. But when you add a degree of unawareness and incompetence to the already slow actions, it becomes very frustrating. So that's the way I feel this morning. And I know that if I was more aware, I'd realize that I am only upset because I am insisting reality be different than what it is. And I can stop. So I will.
On a positive note, I ordered 3 "Talking House" AM radio transmitters yesterday. I will be able to broadcast a 5 minute message 24 hours a day that will be heard by anyone who tunes to the unused 1610 AM frequency. The range is 300 feet but I can order an antennae that increases the range to 3000 feet.
I will use the transmitters with signage that tells people to tune to that frequency. At the trailer park, I can provide messages that describe our available rentals. At the trolley booth, I can provide advertisements about the trolley tour and local visitor information. At the dam, I can advertise the audio tour and provide information to make the dam visit more enjoyable. So, I look forward to testing them. We are once again on the cutting edge of marketing techniques in Cody. They arrive within ten days.
I cut the backyard lawn yesterday which means it will snow today. At least that's what happened the last times I cut the grass. But the weather report calls for 50's today so I predict the pattern will finally be broken.
Local businessman Bud Webster died in Cody on Monday and today is his funeral. He owned the local Chevy dealership for over 65 years, and was a major town booster over the years. He owned the Coca-Cola distributorship for a few years too. Can you imagine owning Coke & Chevy at the same time? All he needed was a baseball team and an apple pie bakery.
We drove by his dealership yesterday and their changable sign said, "Sale on 2004 models." No message thanking Bud. We thought that was a missed opportunity so Margie made a "Thank You Bud!" sign and posted it by the church where the funeral will be held today.
Our trolley marketing is coming into focus. I'm arranging advertising in the chamber newsletter all summer. The radio transmitters are on the way. We meet with the radio station this morning to discuss an ad campaign. Window signs will be designed and Margie will play Annie Oakley before the shootout crowd each night. I even ordered a costume that will make me look like Frank Butler, Annie's husband. The things we do for money. :)
But it all adds to the visitor's trolley tour experience and that's what we want to over-deliver.
Our charter with school kids went great yesterday and the teachers and parents were really wowed. For the first time we passed around the replica 1873 .44 caliber calvalry pistol used by the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang during Cody's 1904 bank robbery and that went over really big.
We've been getting lots of advance ticket sale requests by phone. People are seeing us on various web sites and calling. This year we've been running the credit cards and mailing them tickets. Which is nice because they know they have seats and we have instant income before the tours even start.
Our new trolley website is supposed to be done within a week. I'll then be challenged to add all the content before season. Lots of 4 am days lie ahead for me. I write best in the pre-dawn and I've been a slacker lately, sleeping until 6 or 7 am.
The Recommend Cody tours are about half full so we meet at the chamber today to discuss ways to fill them by May 19 and 20. Then Margie & I provide free trolley tours to local residents on May 28 & 29. That's another great marketing move. Those tours always fill and it gets locals recommending us all summer.
I've decided to create a trolley business manual this summer/fall that can be sold to entrepreneurs with some consulting time included with Margie & me. The trolley business generates over 50% profit and earns more in four months than most people earn all year. And this is in Cody, a town of just 9,000. Imagine what could be done in a large city with year-round traffic. I think many corporate management executives would see a trolley business as a great way to escape the rat race and improve their quality of life. We can help set them up in business and generate another lucrative income stream for them AND us. I think we're better off mining the acres of diamonds surrounding what we already do.
Thank you Tony from Kentucky who hired me to fly out this spring and help him start his trolley tour operation near Lexington. I really enjoyed the experience and it cemented for me that we have a great operation that can be mimicked across the country.
Perhaps our new off-season life will include traveling around the country starting trolley tours and audio tours for others.
We also learned the Rotary Show radio commercials I wrote this spring won statewide awards again. Two years in a row now. This year we captured first place for best single commercial and second place for best commercial campaign. I don't know yet which commercial won first place but I bet it was our "Real Men of Genius" Budweiser spoof ad.
We arranged a $3,000 radio campaign this summer for the trolley so the pressure is on to create ads for that by our Tuesday production appointment. The trouble with doing well is you then have to top yourself all the time.
We also approved the sale of another trailer to an out-of-state buyer moving to Cody. Our trailer park website played a key role in that transaction and our digital camera helped become the buyer's eyes. Technology is getting more valuable all the time. Hopefully that sale will close soon.
Today I work at the dam's annual Open House event. I'll be a roving docent, explaining how the dam was built and showing people remnants of old construction towers and old photos that illustrate what the worksite looked like 100 years ago. This year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the dam's construction. It's funny how you become an expert just by doing some research and completing an audio tour project.
I hope to gain approval to place the radio transmitter at the dam as well as roped stanchions that direct all visitors into the Visitor Center first. Currently they can walk right onto the dam without entering the Visitor Center, so they get the big view without understanding what they are seeing. If we get them inside first, they can view exhibits and rent the audio tour so they understand the big view when they get out on the dam.
I watched a movie with Margie last night on HBO. We'd seen it before but it was great again -- Love Actually . I highly recommend it. I'm a sucker for romantic comedies.
Cody Trolley Tours,"Gilligan's Island" Radio Ad
Cody Trolley Tours,"Cassie" Radio Ad
Cody Trolley Tours,"Wyoming Firsts" Radio Ad
Cody Trolley Tours,"John Wayne" Radio Ad
We sold a trailer yesterday to a woman from California who is moving back to Cody. Our website and digital photos made the sale possible. She's delighted, we're delighted, so it's a win for us both. Technology is great when it works.
The Cody Stage group met last night and we had a vigorous discussion about multiple topics. There is still no clear-cut leader willing to passionately run the entire organization and facility. That concerns me but there are a number of people willing to do some work so maybe it will pull together well enough to hit their $600,000 fundraising goal.
I've had to back out due to my trolley season -- I give 400 performances a summer -- so I wish them luck. They haven't exactly embraced too many of my ideas because I approach the thing through the eyes of a businessman and the long term members there look at it through the eyes of a non-profit. They want to put on their 3 or 4 plays a year and not have any pressure to keep the place busy. My point is that if you ask the community to buy you a building, you need to reward their gift by keeping the building active with events. At the end of the night they seemed to agree to want to hire a manager to keep the place busy with events so they wouldn't have to do it all. They can only do so much and are mainly interested in just producing their 3 plays a year. So good luck. I'll donate some money and help via email if I can but no door-to-door fundraising for me.
Lately I see people as an obstacle in the way of achieving potential and that is unhealthy, even though it's true beyond belief. So I need to refocus on my own empire and just quietly build it as large as possible. One day I'll cash out, take extended time off to recharge and recreate and then start something new in totally new fields. Something that doesn't rely heavily on working through others. Been there, done it, don't need to belabor the point.
We cut new radio commercials for the trolley this morning. I'm using the same commercials as last year for the summer campaign and we are cutting two new ones to promote our upcoming free tours for local residents. The mayor is also coming to the station to cut a new welcome message for the trolley tour. It's one of ten clips we play during the tour.
I received my Frank Butler costume in the mail yesterday but haven't yet tried it on. A derby hat is on backorder and will hopefully arrive before May 28.
The Recommend Cody tour for the high school kids was canceled yesterday. Something about their leaders not being in school. I hear it is supposed to be rescheduled but don't have a date yet. The Recommend Cody tours for citizens are starting to fill. One of the four tours is filled and the other three are over half full. They occur on May 19 & 20.
The newspaper keeps messing up my trailer park classified ads. They just ran one I canceled last week. Prior to that they got the website address wrong and three prospects told me about it. Nevertheless, I'm down to two vacancies at the park, both 2-bedroom trailers. I hope I sell them both, but I'll rent them if that opportunity arrives first.
We get the rest of the bundles on Monday since the load was so large. It felt like our old newspaper days when we'd eagerly await the latest issue from the printer. The difference here is that the Cody Keepsake is a glossy book and we actually make money with this business.
I only found one small mistake so far and it is a minor error in one ad that was proofed by the advertiser. There is always something in a project of this size, you just hope you can avoid it. I was delighted there were no BIG mistakes. The color came out well, the cover looked great and the photos were pretty crisp. All in all, we're proud to pass the thing out the next two years.
We had two trolley charters yesterday so we got to do just that. People seemed delighted to get the book.
Still two vacancies at the trailer park but we're still getting lots of calls so I feel like we're getting closer. We had lots of rain and snow this week and discovered leaks on three roofs so we have some repairs to do. You never learn you have a roof leak until you get rainy weather. So we're going to check every trailer roof and reseal as needed this summer. Luckily it's a pretty simple and economical process.
Margie is off to Colorado picking up our daughter from college. Jessica will work our trolley business with us until early August. This next week we really get busy with final prep work. We also have four "Recommend Cody" tours and have had to add a fifth due to demand. Then the next week we offer two days of free trolley tours to local residents. The week after that we start our 7-day-a-week season that runs 120 straight days.
I'm still looking for a trolley driver for our Sunday tours so I can get a day off. The job requires a list of skills and qualifications that are difficult to find in one person.
We received copies of our radio ads for our free trolley tours a couple days ago. Here they are:
Free Tours Radio Ad #1.
Free Tours Radio Ad #2.
We also ran an ad in the Cody Chamber of Commerce Newsletter.
We run the free tours so locals understand what we offer and can enthusiastically recommend us all summer. We also hope to attract a large number of frontline staff who encounter lots of visitors throughout the summer. So we advertise in the chamber newsletter to communicate with businesses and in the Cody Enterprise and radio to speak to local residents.
We met with the dam board on Thursday and they were receptive to our three ideas to increase audio tour rentals. They especially liked the low powered AM radio transmitter concept. There is also a chance they may install roped stanchions to direct all visitors into the visitor center before they walk onto the dam. If that won't fly with the Bureau of Land Management that oversees the dam, they seem open to placing a kiosk and person in the traffic flow outside with audio tours to rent. Anything will help so we're happy they want to pursue the ideas.
So much has happened since my last entry on the 10th that I've forgotten. I fear I will be making fewer blog entries once trolley season cranks up. It's a great business but it takes up most of our time June through September.
After we shipped it off to the printer I read that Buffalo Bill distributed a 64-page program book at his Wild West show. Our first edition was 64 pages. Coincidence? I think not. These ideas have to come from somewhere. Our latest edition has 64 pages of content wrapped in a four page glossy cover.
I'm still re-reading my Buffalo Bill biography, "The Lives & Legends of Buffalo Bill" by Donald Russell. I learned Buffalo Bill experimented with his program several ways. In one scenario he sold the book for $1.00 and threw in a free 50 cent show ticket. The thing cost him 14 cents each to print so he earned 36 cents per book and increased attendance to his Wild West. In one season, the profits from these book sales generated $80,000. In another scenario, he sold the books for 10 cents at his shows. Quick math makes it appear he'd be taking a loss of 4 cents per book. However, Buffalo Bill's team sold advertising in the books, so that additional revenue would have made the books profitable.
The ad revenue we collect for our book pays for the printing and generates a profit for our work, allowing us to give the book away to our trolley tour customers. They are so eager to get it, we could sell the thing too if we ever decided too. But we like to provide extra value to our customers so the current scenario will continue.
I love getting out in the pre-dawn mornings. It reminds me of my paper route days as a kid. The weather is crisp and cool and the morning smells are fresh and alive. I like the darkness too. And no traffic, no people, you have the world to yourself.
We watched a Buffalo Bill movie starring Paul Newman last night. The movie was made in 1976 and we just heard of it and made the mistake of buying it. It is so horrible I refuse to link it here or recommend it. In fact, I tell you to NOT watch it. There is no adherance to any historical facts and they go out of their way to tear down Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler while building up Ned Buntline who never deserved it. The only thing they did well was sets and costumes. The script was a disaster and the acting wasn't too impressive either. I'm amazed that Paul Newman and Burt Lancaster agreed to perform in the thing. Which makes me think less of both of them.
On the other hand, I watched Dances With Wolves twice this weekend and I highly recommend it.
On Saturday night I received a phone call from Nancy, a gal I grew up with in Minnesota. I've known her since I was five years old, longer than any other person other than immediate family. She was actually my first crush and the cause of my first broken heart. She was calling to see if I was going to my 30th class reunion in July. I hadn't received an invitation because I spent my senior year in Florida after my Dad moved us there in 1974. But I still consider that St. Louis Park, Minnesota high school my REAL high school.
I'm not going to go. It's in the middle of trolley season and there aren't enough people I care about back then to make the effort. The truth is that other than Nancy, the people I know from back then are lousy communicators and rarely respond to any of my letters or emails, so I've given up on maintaining contact. They get the annual newsletter (when we send one) and that's it. I still like them but I'm not traveling 1,000 miles in the middle of trolley season for them.
I attended my ten year reunion and had a good time. I traveled to Minnesota for my 20th but got sick the day of the reunion and missed it.
Margie is talking about going to Yellowstone on the 31st for my birthday. She needs to get away before we're crushed with trolley season. She's been handling a million trolley-related people-contacts while maintaining her involvement with all her civic obligations and she's worn thin. I guess I am too so a trip is likely.
Our daughter Jessica is home from college. Margie made the 7 hour one-way drive Friday night to Colorado and returned with her Saturday night. Nice to have her home and nice to have another person to help us prep for season. Jessica has worked for the trolley biz three of the last four summers so knows what to do and is a great help. She can take care of the dogs during our Yellowstone trip too.
I received the three radio transmitters I'd ordered and took a look at them over the weekend. Pretty cool. The instruction manuals haven't yet arrived so installation will wait until they get here. I'll start with one at the trailer park to learn how they operate and test their range. I ordered two extended antennaes last week because I know I want more range for the ones I'll place at the trolley booth and at the dam.
I worked on COLT (the public bus system we manage for the city) stuff yesterday too. I need to hire one more bus driver and have calls out to applicants from last year. I also gathered all the hiring paperwork, interview questions and requirement checklists from last year. The new bus should arrive this week and Margie will have to design the graphics that go on the side of it. She's also working on the bus schedule design to be printed. The city is buying racks that will be affixed to each bus stop pole to hold bus schedules for the public to grab. I ordered more drug test kits for the local hospital, which administers the required pre-employment drug tests for us.
No word on the Lovell insurance damage claim yet, I need to just get it repaired myself. Then if the insurance comes through, I'll keep the settlement. Those SOB's. Their service has been abysmal and I'll post their name here if I get a rejection of our latest appeal.
Margie & I went on a bike ride yesterday and discovered an interesting plot of land that if not city-owned, with a little creativity and a lot of fill, could actually become a lakefront lot. Cody has no lakefront lots so this would be a great homesite for us, and could become very valuable. We'll start researching as soon as possible.
On Monday I took New Trolley to the mechanic and had the front air conditioning unit recharged. It's either going to hold or leak out again. If it leaks, it's back to the mechanic. New Trolley also has an appointment with Fremont Motors because it's built on a Ford chassis. I want Ford to perform any preventative maintenance that is due with 20,000 miles.
I take Old Trolley to my mechanic today for its annual inspection and for an insurance company-required inspection. After that, the shuttle van needs to go in for its annual inspection. As you can see, there are lots of requirements when you have a transportation-related business.
I saw the new COLT bus for the first time yesterday. Nice new 12-passenger vehicle. Margie is designing the exterior graphics and provided some mock-ups for the mayor. She arranged for him to meet us at the bus and handed them over. This was timely because there was a city council meeting last night and they hopefully agreed on what they want so we can get the graphics made, applied and photographed for the bus schedules we are printing.
I also received an application for a COLT driver yesterday and lined up a drug test for another one. I still have employment ads hitting this week too so I hope to have several candidates to choose from. Perhaps one will have the skills to drive the trolley on Sundays.
Two people have asked for free copies of my service book in the past three days. Hopefully an order will develop. That's a project my Apprentice could really push. I could pay a commission for every order they secure. The domain names are another big income opportunity that could instantly make me and the Apprentice rich with the right sale.
Buffalo Bill and his wife Louisa are fighting in the biography I'm reading. They filed for divorce a couple times and the documents are over at the museum research library. I need to get a copy of them because I know they reveal lots of interesting stories. A couple of gems to tease you -- Buffalo Bill sent money home from the road while performing his plays. Louisa was to invest the money in property for them. Well she did, but she put everything into her name only. Buffalo Bill couldn't believe it and they almost divorced when he learned. Louisa thought Buffalo Bill would squandor their money so she kept it out of his reach. They remained estranged for years over that.
Then when Buffalo Bill wanted to start his Wild West in 1883, Louisa told him it would never work and refused to give him any money to get it started. She was sure wrong about that.
In 1905 Buffalo Bill filed for divorce and the case was very public and very messy. This is the divorce case I want to get the documents from. It's amazing they remained married all the way to the end -- 50 years of marriage.
I'm scheduled for another haircut by my daughter this morning. This will be the last one for awhile because she moves back to California next month.
This afternoon we attend another Visitor Center meeting. I'm calculating the numbers of travelers who drive through Cody without stopping and converting them into a dollar figure. The numbers are huge. We absolutely need to invest in a facility that will make travelers go "WOW" and stop.
We gave Recommend Cody Tours to about 80 frontline staff yesterday. They enjoyed them. Like any group there were some who were totally impressed and others who took them more in stride. All got free goody bags with free passes to all of Cody's major attractions. We have another 80 people scheduled today (two tours) and another 40 on Tuesday (one tour).
We are truly a big player in the local tourist economy here now. We provide the trolley tour, the Buffalo Bill Dam Audio Tour, the Downtown Historic Walking Tour, the public transportation bus system, the Recommend Cody tours, the customer service training book "101 Ways to Provide Exceptional Customer Service Today," the "45 Things To Do in Cody" flyer and we are leading the charge to get a new visitor's center built in Cody. Now we are about to start broadcasting visitor information on low-powered AM radio in the center of town and at the dam. As one lady on a tour yesterday said, "Wow, do you guys ever rest your brains?"
I worked up numbers for our visitor center meeting on Wednesday. My best estimate is that $77,000 worth of potential spending drives right through Cody without stopping every day June through September. This does not include May or October, AND, it only includes traffic heading TO Yellowstone from Cody, NOT traffic heading toward Cody FROM Yellowstone. So it is safe to say there is easily over $100,000 in potentail income to capture EVERY DAY during the summer. This adds up to over $12.2 million per summer or over $19,000 per chamber member, per summer.
If we can get a percentage of these people to stop in Cody, rather than drive right through on the way to or from Yellowstone, clearly it would make a huge financial impact to the entire town. Hence the passion to get a new visitor center that will WOW travelers enough to make them stop.
The other larger number concerns the people who have already stopped to spend the night in local lodging. These people spend about $100 per person, per day and about 3,000 visitors stay in Cody lodging each night during the summer. This means they spend $300,000 per day all summer long. This equates to over $35 million! If we can get these people to stay just one more day it generates another $300,000 for our town PER DAY! Hence our idea to provide Recommend Cody tours and our passion to distribute the "45 Things to Do in Cody" flyer we designed for the chamber to distribute to local businesses. If all the frontline staff educates visitors on all there is to see and do in Cody, visitors with flexible schedules WILL stay another day and we all benefit. But the effort must be made consistently, every single day.
We had a good meeting yesterday with an entrepreneurial-minded woman who may want to work with us on several projects. We need the help so we hope something develops. She can only handle part-time so she's not the true "Apprentice" situation we envisioned but she could sure grow into that role if things work as they could.
Speaking of The Apprentice, Kendra won the job with Donald Trump last night. They made it look like a tough decision to keep the suspense up for the TV audience but she was the clear-cut winner. Her competitor Tana has too many blindspots about her own performance and has a very loose relationship with the truth. Kendra will oversee the remodeling of one of Trump's oceanfront mansions in Palm Beach, FL.
Our new brochure is printed and we are to receive a portion of the order today. We did a major redesign due to feedback from Randall Travel Marketing, the tourism consultants who visited Cody this past winter. I hope it makes a positive difference in trolley ridership. Next, Margie will be designing and printing tickets. Then it's trolley tour window signs for local shops to display for us. Then it's unique signage for the chamber of commerce who will sell our tickets for the first time this year. Then I'll be getting the radio transmitters up and running. Then there is the new trolley website that is supposed to be finished any day now. I say finished, but I'll still have to add all the content which is a giant job with little time left before season.
Lots to do, but lots of new marketing.
I sign up two COLT bus drivers this afternoon. I need one more and have a good candidate.
The trolley ticket booth gets assembled on the porch of the Irma Hotel this weekend. I always enjoy getting that set up because it gives us a home to operate from. It also tells the world the trolley season is about to start.
I sent Chris and a tenant to the Lovell property to give me a quote on repairing the water damage there. It cost me $100 to send them there in their time and gas and they told me the job was too large for them. Welcome to being a landlord, where you pay people to tell you they can't do the work.
I've emailed my insurance agent to give me the info I need to get personally involved with this insurance appeal that has now been going on for five months. Somebody's going to lose my business.
Our Buffalo Bill Dam Audio Tour is getting nominated for a state historical award. I provided the CD and accompanying photo book to the local state rep for submission yesterday.
Monday's newspaper had a big article about our Recommend Cody tours so that was good publicity. It included a color photo of Margie on the trolley talking to a group.
The phone is ringing day and night now. We have ads in the paper for trailer vacancies, COLT bus drivers and free trolley tours on May 28 & 29. The free trolley tour ad is also on the radio. It's a busy life and we need an assistant badly. But their payroll expense would severely eat into the profits that we have worked so hard to make, so we need another income stream to cover a new expense. Hence our desire to hire an Apprentice who could generate that income stream.
We've been so busy I haven't even picked up the mail at the PO boxes the past couple days.
Margie just got a call from her sister in North Carolina. Her mom isn't doing well and is in intensive care with her organs failing. Looks like Margie will be making an unplanned trip to North Carolina so I'm off to research plane tickets.
Margie is flying out tomorrow morning. The plane ticket cost $1,020 with no advance purchase. I'm glad we had the money but I wish we had the time. This situation is a wake up call that we are living our life so busy that there is no time buffer for unexpected events like this. We HAVE to find a way to get more free time into our daily and weekly schedules.
Sadly, that's just not possible now until October. It makes me want to consider selling the trolley business and invest the proceeds into more passive income streams. We love the business, and we're very good at it, and it's very profitable. But it takes so much of our most valuable commodity -- time.
Another wake up call occurred yesterday. One of our good friends fell off her bike and fractured her skull. It appears she'll come through all right once healed, but once again, it reminds us that one accident and we'd be unable to perform our tours, or worse, move onto the next plane without having had the retirement we've worked so hard to create.
I suppose we could hire teams to perform the tours and just manage the operation and still make money. If I went that route though, I think I'd want to just cash out and harvest our equity for the next project. And we'd never sell the business to just anyone. It would be like a Willy Wonka chocolate factory situation where we sold it to someone who would pour love into it as much as we do. But I have all summer to give that more thought. In the meantime, I need to get through this next week without Margie.
We went to the dedication of the new Colters Hell Trail in front of Old Trail Town today. The governor was there as was Al Simpson and the mayor. It was fun to see another piece of local history preserved and personally fulfilling knowing we've done our part to share Cody history with the masses.
We set up the trolley ticket booth tomorrow morning, which is a big job that I am always happy to get behind us. I also pay bills tomorrow which is a tedious, time consuming job I pretty much hate.
Margie is canceling lots of activities this week she'd committed to. She has a great excuse and it's amazing how easily people let her off once they hear her reason. People generally understand what's really important.
I'll be billing the trailer park alone this week so she's going to try to design the newsletter tonight before she leaves. I'm off to write it right now.
We got the trolley ticket booth installed on the Irma porch yesterday. Jessica and I and a couple of friends had it finished in about 3 hours. Today Jessica goes down and gets the inside set up for season. We can't find the cash register so I have to think a bit to remember where we stored it last fall.
Chris, our trailer park manager resigned yesterday. Her attitude had been sour the past month so it was actually a relief. But of course the timing is rotten with trolley season almost upon us. She got it in her head that we were taking advantage of her and that thought had been simmering in her head for quite awhile with her never addressing it with us. She flew off the handle over some small thing yesterday and exploded in a tirade of anger and venom. It was a total self-destruction. She said she also quit her part-time job at the convenience store yesterday too.
I accepted her resignation immediately and took back the park keys. I let her select the day she'd move out of our park-provided cabin and she chose June 15. I'll pay off her May salary. If she fully cooperates with our transisition to new management, I'll pay her for 66 hours she never documented that she said she worked without my authorization. She had the habit of working on whatever non-critical projects that struck her at the moment and then going over our budgeted number of hours without prior approval. She'd then try to guilt me into paying her extra for those hours. I succumbed to this ploy several times but the last time she tried it I asked for a list of what she had done and she couldn't provide the list she'd told me she'd been keeping. So she blamed me for "taking advantage of her," and "not trusting her," just for asking her to list the specific jobs I was paying for.
We've seen her quit at least 4 other part-time jobs in similar flame-outs during the two years she's run our park, so we figured she'd do the same to us one day. It's sad to watch a person follow the same self-destructive pattern over and over and then still blame the world for her woes. God bless her, she's made life hard for herself.
The really sad thing about her situation is that she worked for the two people who could have helped her break her self-destructive habit. We could have taught her how to control her thoughts and how to improve her financial situation. We tried but Chris was too stubborn to learn, or read, or take any new actions that were the least bit different than what she was used to. She was 12 inches away from the people who knew how to improve her life but she couldn't recognize it. It's truly sad and a great lesson. You can't teach a person who thinks they already know.
Now at age 64 she's out on the street looking for another job and another place to live, blaming others for her own inability to control her thoughts, destined to repeat her past mistakes. Self-destructive patterns are hard to watch.
Fortunately, I have two good candidates to replace Chris and I may advertise for more. You never know when someone stellar might come along and qualify to be that Apprentice we've been looking for.
I'm also running an ad for a male trolley driver. Our script calls for a male driver and a female guide and I already have Cindy, a great guide. She works on Sundays to get Margie & I a day off. Now I need that male driver.
I'm also going to run a handyman ad so I can get a repairman I can count on. The handymen we use are never available when we need them. I'm tempted to start my own handyman business because I sense the town has a tremendous need for this service and I want to find a way to have a repairman at my beck and call.
New Trolley goes into the shop today for its annual inspection and 20,000 mile service.
Then I need to read the meters and bill the trailer park. I also need to attend Cody Club (the chamber luncheon) because it's National Parks Day where leaders of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks come to Cody and speak. I'm on the parks committee and am still deciding if I'll attend the meeting after lunch.
Suzzette is my new park manager and she already lives in the park. She has experience running a 260-unit apartment complex and had excellent references. You never realize what talents and experiences lie within the people around you.
The two vacancies filled when I met the prospects at the trailers. Being the owner, I could make instant approval decisions. This puts us at 100% occupancy for the first time in several months. We have two openings coming up on June 15 and June 30 so we'll start advertising them to stay full.
The new trolley got its annual inspection Monday so it is fully legal for the next year. Old Trolley is still at the mechanics getting its annual, but I expect no problems. Then we send the shuttle van in for its annual and the entire fleet will be ready for another year of action.
Margie returns from North Carolina tomorrow night. I really miss her. Her mother is doing lots better and her situation is no longer life-threatening. It was a close call but kidney dialysis made a huge improvement.
That's how Buffalo Bill Cody died -- kidney failure. If they'd have had dialysis back then, he'd have made it through and been with us a while longer.
I billed the trailer park on Monday and had a nice chat with a tenant there who wants to become our on-site maintenance and repairman. He's made me an offer I am considering. I see the value of having a jack of all trades there to service our needs. If we can agree on compensation, he'll get the position.
I never attended the Parks Day festivities on Monday. No time.
This afternoon I have a meeting with our potential Apprentice. She's an entrepreneur who we want on our team and as luck would have it, she wants to join our team, but on a part-time basis that might grow to full-time. We now need to sort out duties and compensation. I'm excited to get such a quality person involved in our little empire. I'm looking forward to having someone on board who can dream up stuff and develop a plan to make it happen.
I hired Gary, the tenant who wants to be maintenance man at our trailer park. He'll be our on-site repairman, painter, roof-fixer, lawn mower and all-around handyman.
I spent some time with Suzzette last night and gave her the keys and forms and overview of how we run the park. I think she'll do wonderfully. I arranged a phone, fax and Internet connection for her cabin so we can communicate via email. She'll also have her own computer to print out park forms and is open to learning how to read meters and calculate billing. It's just great to have someone with management skills who is eager to learn new things.
Tricia, our part-time Apprentice, is off and running with our flea market idea. She's doing the research and making a plan to see if it's feasible. I'm thinking it will be because we already own the facility where it will be held. It's a low-cost, low-risk endeavor that can generate some good returns. If that works, we'll get another business started. I love having another person with entrepreneurial skills working in our empire. I'm really motivated to help her generate a success so she gets some good compensation that allows her to grow into a full-time position with us.
One of my COLT bus drivers got a year-round job offer and resigned yesterday. The challenge is her first shift is scheduled for Wednesday, June 1. This gives me five days to find a driver -- over a holiday weekend. She'll work her two weekend shifts until I find someone but that leaves me two weekday shifts to fill with short notice. I'm happy for her but hate the timing. This is one more reason why most people aren't entrepreneurs.
Our free trolley tours are nearly all full. I think we have about 15 spots left out of 240 seats. We perform the tours tomorrow and Sunday.
I caught up with Cindy, our Sunday trolley tour guide and gave her the 2005 script. That script took me a couple hours to update. I was surprised at all the improvements we've made over the past year. Margie & I adapt and evolve the script during the season but don't take the time to put our changes in writing until we have to. Well, I had to and now Cindy has the update. She's another person with a million skills who is under-utilized in our organization. I'm now surrounded by great people. I just need to generate more immediate income to be able to pay them enough to enlarge their roles. That's one more pressure an owner faces.
We also have Joe this year and he's another guy with a million skills. He's semi-retired and will help in the ticket booth just to be involved in something vibrant. He's another person who could help us grow the empire if we can develop the income and opportunities.
So this has been a week of building my team. Hectic week but well worth it for long-term success.
I finished that Buffalo Bill bio last night. Finally! It was like 550 pages. My second time through but I picked up lots of new material. In summary, the author researched Buffalo Bill's military records and he really did do all the heroic things he said he did. In fact, the author discovered many cases where Buffalo Bill never even mentioned significant heroics he'd performed. Generals loved him as a scout and he received dozens of complimentary mentions in General's reports, in addition to earning the Congressional Medal of Honor for Valor during an Indian fight. This medal is on display at our Buffalo Bill Historical Center here in Cody, Wyoming. It's good to freshen my Buffalo Bill knowledge before trolley season. I'd completed a reread of an Annie Oakley biography earlier this spring so I'm confident discussing her too.
I have two Trump-related business books ordered, so they will likely be the next ones I read. I ordered the ones written by Trump's assistants, George and Carolyn. I absolutely love to read. Everything you want to know is already in a book somewhere. I feel sorry for the people who do not take the time to read.
I picked up Old Trolley from the mechanics and as I thought, no problems. A few adjustments but it's now legal for another year. The trolley van is now at the mechanics getting the same annual inspection. It takes a lot just to stay safe and legal in this business.
Here is a link to our 2005 Cody Summer Guide ad for the trolley business.
We also cleaned out the trolley barn warehouse last night and placed most of the new ads inside and outside the trolleys. We ran out of velcro so it's off to Wal-Mart this morning so we can finish the task before our free tours to local residents start this morning.
We filled all six tours as expected and had to add a seventh to handle the demand. That's about 275 people. Nice to have a product that people want. Of course, being free helps a bit too. Over the past five seasons we will have given away about 1,750 seats to locals, for a value of $26,250. It's the best advertising we do because these locals then talk us up all summer.
We picked up the COLT bus yesterday. It was the typical Margie operation. We arrived just after everyone quit and locked up at the city shop for the holiday weekend. So she called a department head, who called his assistant, who worked with a maintenance man to get into the locked bay and find the keys to the bus. Margie is always involving the entire world to get the simplest thing done just the way she wants it done. But the bus is adorable and now we have it in our warehouse so we can make sure it's ready inside before we start the daily service on June 1.
I cleaned my desk of a million administrative duties that had been piling up. The phone rings here over 50 times a day, mainly due to taking reservations for these free tours. I still have a few phone messages to return. I'm getting to really dislike the phone. I look forward to trolley season starting on June 3 so we have people in our booth to handle all the calls.
Margie is ill with something. Sore throat and stuffy nose. I hope she gets through our tours today and tomorrow. I hope I don't catch it.
Looks like we'll be working straight through my birthday on the 31st. Margie being away 5 days sank that. Too much to do, not enough time. We pretty much did the same with her birthday in April when we were creating that Cody Keepsake book.
The price of creating your own financial security is extremely steep. No wonder so few people make the effort. I can honestly say I don't know one other person who works as hard as Margie or me. It's compulsive I'm afraid, and way out of balance. Yet we are cramming five years into one, so we are accomplishing lots and increasing that net worth. I want to remember all these sacrifices when we're sitting on that dream house front porch one day relaxing.
Good news from the recent county property value assessment. Residential and commercial properties increased by 8 percent the past year. For us, that signifies about an $88,000 increase in our net worth. Now do you see why I love real estate?
Of course we can't spend that money until we sell, so we don't feel richer. But we know it's an asset that is all ours just because we own a bunch of properties. Time becomes your automatic wealth multiplier with real estate.
I'd told the owner of a local land-based attraction to talk to me if he ever wanted to sell and retire and he gave me the call. He checked to see if I was serious and will be calling me back to set an appointment. It's a great property that needs to come up with some great, unique marketing ideas. Just the sort of challenge I love.
Our new "Cody Keepsake Best of Cody" book is hugely popular. People love it. Of course they love that it's free but they love the content too. The new pass around relics are a hit too. This year we added a buffalo horn, an 1873 US Calvary replica pistol and a piece of Buffalo Bill's house from LeClaire, Iowa.
More excitement at the trailer park. The old manager is not cooperating with the new manager or Margie & I. She's still on total self-destruct mode. Just acting on total anger in everything she does. She hates her life and everyone in it and is totally miserable. It's sad to see but there is nothing we can do because she listens to nothing. We visited with her to tie up loose ends and she ended up screaming and swearing at us again. I had to leave a note behind because she doesn't even let me finish a sentence without erupting. She's very unstable and we are doing what we can to encourage her to move out before June 15. Another outburst and we'll have to evict her. I have a feeling she'll be gone by June 1 and that would be a good thing.
On the plus side, the new manager is eager to please and has some good ideas to run the place better.
I received the new books from Donald Trump's assistants, George & Carolyn. I bought the Carolyn book used and it arrived autographed by the author which was neat. I've started with George's book that shares advice and lessons from Trump's deals that can be applied to small real estate investors like me.
I have to say I'm delighted that I've taken the steps to acquire properties and finally make my money go to work for me. This is a huge change and a concept I'm still fully coming to grips with. With my properties appreciating that $88,000 last year, this means that I earned $241 per DAY just by owning those properties. That doesn't include the equity I earned by paying down the loans or the income the properties generated that I reinvested in improvements.
To achieve the same $241 per day results from the world of employment, I'd have to work 8 hours a day for $30 an hour for 365 days straight.
Now what if I controlled ten times more property? That would be $2,410 per day or $880,000 per year. Now you see why the rich keep getting richer. They make their money work for THEM rather than the other way around.
I have the same lament that all real estate investors repeat once they start earning this kind of passive income -- "I wish I had started sooner."
When I think of all the millions I lost by not starting sooner, it's mind boggling. You simply HAVE to buy a property and start putting this magic to work for you as soon as you can. Start now. It is the single best way to break free from the slavery of having to trade your time for money. You just can't physically work enough hours to get ahead financially without getting money to go to work for you.
Today is Memorial Day which means it's a somber day for many and a holiday to the rest of the world. For us, it's a chance to get more work done with fewer phone call interruptions. I won't miss all those calls reserving seats on the free trolley tours.
Today I need to prep for my COLT bus employee orientation tomorrow. I also need to pay bills again. Margie saw how her sister uses Quicken to pay bills when she was in Asheville and says it will save me hours a week if I use the same system. I'm interested, just have no time to set up the system. However, our new part-time Apprentice is an accountant and a QuickBooks/Quicken expert so I can see assigning a project here.
Jessica locked herself out of the house and had to wake us up to get in, so here I am wide awake in the middle of the night.
We've completed boatloads of tasks the past couple days. Our ticket sellers have their tickets and reservation sheets. Our brochures are distributed throughout town. Our A-frame signs are up. Our radio ads are playing. The COLT bus got started on time on June 1. Summer is upon us.
I always say that by the time the tours start, I'm greatly relieved. The tours are the easy part -- it's all the prep work that kills us. We already have reservations for tours coming in for today. Let the fun and cashflow begin.
Tricia is marching ahead with the flea market project. We're calling it the "2AB Flea Market." Simple, descriptive and tells people where it is. I reserved that domain name and will create a website. We've set a budget of $1,000 for start up costs. Most of this will be advertising. A final budget will be coming to me soon.
We lose a tenant from our apartment at the flea market property so we're hoping the flea market will generate enough revenue to overcome that and pay Tricia a good salary. The property almost pays for itself with current renters but not all the way yet. The flea market should close the gap and pay Tricia enough to help us in other areas of the empire.
I lost an office renter in Lovell due to situations out of my control. I still don't have a resolution to the insurance claim out there but will fix the water damage myself in June anyway. We'll get new renters. It's only time.
I got the shuttle van back from the mechanic and the speedometer doesn't work. They left something disconnected so I have to run out there this morning when I already have no time. One more reason why people don't work for themselves. A thousand problems to solve every day. But the hard work is behind us, now we just need to find the stamina to perform 400 tours.
I still don't have a trolley driver for Sundays so am running another ad until I get one. My day off depends on it. It will be nice to have a dependable team so we can take Sundays off regularly and other days or tours off as needed. Maybe one day we can back out completely and let others do all the tours, but we're not mentally there yet. One thing is for sure though, we're taking a price increase next year.
I'm reading George Ross's book about real estate tips he's learned working for Donald Trump. I love it.
Suzzette is doing well at the trailer park. Getting her arms around things and taking control. The old manager is still on the property and looks to stay until June 15.
I ordered another online business kit. A program from Corey Rudl who is the Internet income master. The timing is bad because of trolley season, but I'll do what I can with it in the pre dawn hours.
The radio transmitters are still in the box and I'll get them going this weekend.
The chairs have to be brought down to the Irma Hotel this morning for rental use tonight. That program generates over $100 per night all summer (Sundays off, no shoot-out that night). Half the profits go to charity, the rest to us for providing the chairs and running the program.
We'll start getting our management fee for operating the COLT bus too. And the first dam audio tour rental check should arrive for May rentals soon. Multiple streams of income is the mantra people, multiple streams of income.
This upcoming winter we're pushing for the laser light show again. That could be huge while providing a tremendous new summer attraction. See why we need an Apprentice?
The number of entries in this blog may drop due to my summer time demands. Or maybe each entry will just be shorter. I'm not sure, this is the first summer I've had this blog. Feel free to email any questions and I'll do my best to respond.
Still haven't gotten the new trolley website turned over to us yet. That's a ton of work rolling in my direction once the designer hands it over to me. I have tons of content to add. Also, the Cody Stage fundraising group has me creating a basic informational website for them. That's rolling in my direction any day too.
OK, back to bed until 4 am. Such is the life of a trolley driver.
I'm running an ad for a male trolley driver right now so I can get Sunday's off. We already have a great female tour guide so that will complete our team. Our script calls for a male and a female, that's why I'm being gender-specific.
I had to hire another COLT driver to fill in the two open shifts I have today and tomorrow morning. Thanks to the local school district transportation manager, Paul, who referred me to the last two drivers who have bailed me out.
Jessica is going on a four day trip so we're hiring our part-time apprentice Tricia to help in the ticket booth. She's already doing a great job putting our flea market together for us. That starts June 25.
I have a guy interested in the upcoming apartment opening at our Pioneer Complex where we'll hold the flea market and where we park the trolleys. He looked at it last night and seemed interested. Hopefully he'll apply.
We have a meeting Wednesday to speak to Realtors about a hotel for sale in town. I've been watching the property for over a year and I may be ready to make an offer. Be careful reading books about Donald Trump, it puts you into buyers/developers mode.
I just finished the book by George Ross, Trump's assist. Something like "Advice from a Billionaire Real Estate Investor." It was great. I'm starting the book by Carolyn Kepcher, another Trump assisstant.
Today we have two charters before our first regular tour so we have to leave the house by 6:30 am. This is a day to just survive. I really enjoy doing the tours but there is no time to do much else. That worked the first four years but it longer works for me now. I have so many other businesses to keep an eye on. Everything comes and goes so I'll get through it, but something will have to change. If not this summer, by the next for sure.
Our oldest daughter Jen will be moving back to California tomorrow after nearly a year in Cody. Her husband made it back from nearly a year deployed on two ships in the Navy.
I ordered another Internet business training course last Friday from Corey Rudl, the Internet sales guru. Today I learned he was killed at age 34 in a race car accident. He died the same day I placed my order. Another reminder that you have to keep pushing yourself to create the life you want because it could end at any time.
Over the weekend I started websites for the Cody Stage fundraising effort and our 2AB Flea Market. Both are very basic but are functional.
It rained all day yesterday and we only rented 23 chairs at the gunfight because of it. I love the cool temperatures but am tiring of the moisture. I started to cut the back yard yesterday afternoon between tours but it started raining and drove me inside. Now I have a half-cut lawn and no time to finish it.
Click "I'm No Mechanic" and Mowing in the Moonlight" to read columns about my lawn mowing antics.
I had to quickly hire a guy to cover two COLT bus shifts and he was doing OK. Then on his second and last day, he backed my trolley into the side of the door frame at the warehouse. Nasty ten foot scrape along the top edge of the roof and broke a marker light. Then he didn't report it. When I discovered the damage it felt like someone had run over my dog. I can't repair it until after the season because I don't want to pull it out of service for days. The backup trolley needs a better PA system, runs slower, holds fewer people, is less comfortable and has no climate control. So I have to fire the guy for not reporting the accident. He was going to be my emergency backup driver. One MORE reason why most people don't own their own business. The best way I heard it said was by Robert Allen. He had an organization with 250 employees and one of them sued him for something. He suddenly realized he didn't have 250 employees, he had 250 TIMEBOMBS. It pushed him into running his own Internet businesses and selling off the operations that required lots of employees.
We're seriously considering canceling the 6:30 pm tour and closing on Sundays next season. That way we can give all the tours ourselves and still have a life. We'd just do tours at 9, 11, 1 and 3 and be done for the day. Sales would drop a bit but we can live with that.
The 6:30 tour is a paradox because 300-500 people surround the ticket booth to watch the gunfight and then immediately disappear. Our relationship with the gunfighters is not close yet, so Margie hasn't been able to talk to the crowd. Also, the head gunfighter keeps forgetting to mention us as a sponsor. Also they have not offered to help with the chair program and seem totally un-appreciative that the program will give them $5,000 - $6,000 this summer. Plus, you can't count on the group's tenure because so many gunfighters quit every year. So we are on our own for the promotion of the 6:30 pm tour and numbers have been far lower than the daytime tours. I have to hook up that radio transmitter pronto.
We spoke to Realtors about a hotel for sale and are inclined to work up an offer. The land-based tourist attraction I mentioned a couple weeks ago isn't going to pan out. The owner told me the price and I can't make it pencil out. I'm not saying it isn't worth it, I just can't make it work because I need to finance it.
The hotel we're looking at just breaks even now but we have ideas that could immediately turn it into an income generator. We just need to find the time or key person to run it for us. It would also be the most expensive property we've purchased so it will take lots of fact finding and a good presentation for the bank.
108 days to go.
I have meetings scheduled with two Cody businesses during the next week to talk about possible purchases. No offers yet, that will be determined by the meetings.
No trolley driver hired yet so I'm working every day until I find one. Which is fine with me so far. I'm very picky.
The COLT bus is attracting more passengers who are taking more on and off trips. I think it's a combination of the new bus and the bus schedules/route maps that have been installed on all bus stop signs. The $1 "ride all day" price is attractive too. Yesterday we had 25 passengers who took over 80 trips.
The trailer park is 100% full and Chris, the old manager, has moved out. This makes things far easy for Suzzette, the new manager. I also signed up a new renter at the Pioneer Complex apartment to replace the tenant who just moved. So my only hurting rental property is the Lovell office. But even so, I still have enough tenants to more than pay the mortgage and expenses there. The water damage repairs are still pending. I'm trying to get the contractor to complete them this month. The insurance company appeal is still hanging out there.
The flea market grand opening is on June 25. I'm letting Tricia do everything and trusting she'll come through.
I'm managing the trailer park by email these days. Thankfully Suzzette and Gary seem to be doing well out there. The public hearing for our annexation request is this Tuesday. One neighbor has told me he will speak against it because he's afraid they'll go after him next to become park of the city and he fears higher taxes. I told him the difference is very small but he distrusts the city. Oh well, I think we have a good case and good support.
We continue to consider the hotel purchase. We met with the owners and had good chemistry. I have to crunch numbers and make some decisions about quality of life vs. quality of financial portfolio.
Today is Fathers Day, which means less to me since I am working. I only have two trolley tours on Sundays. I work with Cindy on Sundays so Margie gets the day off to catch up the rest of our life.
The Frisbee Dog contest is next weekend. We've been organizing that for 7 years now. Once again I haven't had time to practice with Millie. She's 8 years old and I may retire her from the contest this year. She'll always play with me, but competing is iffy this year.
I sent a letter to the leaders of the dam visitor center regarding results of our audio tour rentals. Results have been very poor due to lack of sales efforts there. I've offered some suggestions on how to get things back on track. Since they get half the revenues, it helps them as much as it helps us. Plus the visitors get a much better experience. So I hope they take the letter in the spirit it is intended.
Jess and Margie just left to bring the trolley down to the Irma Hotel for me so I'd have a few extra minutes "off" this morning as a happy Fathers Day gift.
The heat is still the toughest part of the summer. With all those bodies and all those windows the trolley A/C doesn't keep up once we hit 80-85 degrees and yesterday we passed 90 degrees. More very hot days expected for the next few days at least. The 11 am and the 6:30 tours aren't too bad for heat but the 1 and 3 pm are tough. If you ever buy a trolley, make sure you get at least 100,000 BTU A/C units. The formulas they used to determine the size of units we needed in Cody didn't come close to what we need on hot days. This was even after I complained and they sent me larger units, which we installed last summer. So I blame the manufacturer. Molly makes a great trolley but their after-the-sale support is lacking (they make you fight for everything and they act reluctant to help) so you need to go in with a list of specific, knowledgeable requirements before you buy or you'll have a bad experience. I'd buy again, but I'd know what shortcomings to demand they cover next time.
This is the first blog entry in about 18 days which shows how busy I am. Here's a quick catch-up of what's happened since.
Flea market. Tricia got it up and running and it's off to a slow start. Not enough vendors but a steady stream of shoppers. On the plus-side, she rented the office building there to a vendor for the summer and has prospects who want to sell food and perform an on-site auction. So it could still grow but we have miles to go before it would justify building and operating a permanent flea market facility.
Hotel. We would like to purchase a local hotel we've been looking at but have no time for such a big project during the middle of trolley season, even if we retained the existing management. I'll have to get myself off that trolley to grow my empire much larger. We'll look at the hotel with a clear head again in the fall/winter.
Trailer park. Suzzette is doing well so far but she's challenged with 5 or 6 unexpected vacancies. Two tenants fell in love and decided to move in together at a location outside the park so they both broke their leases and moved out. Two vacancies there. We evicted another tenant within a week of moving in for drug use. I had to fire my maintenance man over something stupid he did and he then moved from the park creating another vacancy. Then another tenant decided to purchase a new trailer out of town and is selling me his trailer, which works out well for us. More on that to follow after we close that deal. Rumors say another tenant might move too. So we're running ads and I'm about to hook up that "Talking House" radio transmitter in the park.
City annexation of trailer park. The city council passed the initial ordinance to annex on a 3-2 vote. The first draft of the ordinance is written in a way that obligates me to pay for a $250,000 sewer and electrical system within three years. It says nothing about working together with the city for infrastructure grants like I've been discussing with department heads for over a year. Nor does it appear the city council is too eager to expand north. So we need to amend the wording to un-obligate us from HAVING to connect to city sewer if the grants don't work out and then gain council approval for the amendments. I can see why people hesitate to deal with governments because it's a long, time-consuming process to get things done. If that doesn't happen, we'll have to withdraw our application before the third reading and will instead purchase a less expense private system and stay in the county.
Dam audio tour. I sent a secret shopper to the dam and learned they were not plus-selling our audio tour as they are required to do in our agreement. I sent the top board officials a letter requesting they start and also implement three other ideas I had. Since they get half the revenues, any improvement helps them as much as it helps us. I hear they had a meeting about my letter but have not given me a response in over two weeks. I'd asked them to contact me immediately to get our help implementing the ideas. This is disappointing because I work with the leader of the dam on other projects. I may have to just ask them to buy us out because it seems obvious they can't perform to the agreement and they seem unwilling to give the program the energy it deserves. Here's a tip for you entrepreneurs looking to partner with others: Non-profits rarely perform as well as the private sector.
Customer service booklet. A company bought 100 of my customer service booklets after finding my website on the Internet. Totally unsolicited. This is just more evidence that I need to do more work on the web and that there is a good market for my customer service booklet.
Domain names. I had an inquiry about my domain name EverythingMale.com but it turned out to be an amateur who I ended up educating about domain name values. No sale.
Frisbee dog contest. Margie ran and organized this year's contest and it came off well although we had the smallest number of owner/dog teams in seven years - just seven teams. We didn't give the contest the attention we have in prior years due to being so busy. We retired our dog Millie from the contest too this year. After seven years, we need to hand the contest off to someone else with more time and passion.
COLT bus. Our public transportation sytem is doing well and getting more ridership than last year. Money generated by fares is up a bit and people are taking more trips for their unlimited $1 per day use. We see people on the bus all the time now where that wasn't the case last year. I think the smaller bus with clear "Public Bus" graphics has really helped. Also the bus schedules/route maps available on each bus stop sign has helped with marketing. Managing the driver work schedule has been way trickier this season. I'm happy the city is taking over the program next year.
Trolley website. Our designer has fallen off the face of the earth. Disappointing. I've had a terrible time with vendors doing what they promise this year. Unfortunately, incompetence seems to be the norm. If you make a promise, you should fulfill it without the client having to ride you. The best line I've ever heard about this came from a CareerTrack cassette tape program: "If you do what you say you will, I can build an entire empire around you. If you don't, you're just another problem I have to deal with. I've had many "problems to deal with" this spring.
Lovell building repair. See above. My insurance agent fell off the map and hasn't responded to my emails asking for an update on her appeal to the insurance company. Bad sign. Bad service. So I'm going to pay for the repairs myself in the meantime. My property manager there and her handyman aren't being Speedy Gonzalez about getting the repairs moving either. I'm going to repair Lovell, get the last vacancies rented and then sell it. My property manager there says she has a lead for just such a scenario.
Medical insurance. Our buddy who is fighting cancer gave us advice to lower our $10,000 deductible health insurance because he warned if we ever get a major medical problem we'll never be able to lower it then. We took his advice and changed to a $5,000 total family deductible plan. The old plan was $10,000 per person. The premiums nearly doubled but I can afford it and I'm better protected. I think I spend over $25,000 annually on my various types of personal and business insurance now. That's insane. The downside of having some net worth is you have to dedicate a ton of resources toward protecting it from loss.
I'm re-reading my Donald Trump books during my few spare moments. It helps me maintain the big picture of why I'm working so hard. Bottom line is that our net worth continues to grow quickly. We truly are greatly compressing time by working so many projects at once. If we sold out everything we own now we could "retire." The best part about this is that if we cashed out now, we'd still have our brains and knowledge to create more wealth later. So this winter, I'll once again focus on easing into more passive income streams, which means more Internet, revenue-sharing partnerships and Real Estate. I'm no Donald Trump but I do share his passion for starting and purchasing new projects. That type of work doesn't seem like work. It's stimulating and fun for me. I just have to select projects that maintain my freedom.
Yesterday was a lull day with Cody traffic. Slow day on the trolley but this mornings first tour has already sold more than half the seats so that indicates a sellout, which indicates the lull is over. Throughout the summer we have half a dozen lull periods that last a day or two in between waves of tourists. There is no way to predict them. There is no explaining them. They are just a fact of life in a Cody summer.
Today we purchase a trailer from a difficult tenant. It provides two benefits. It helps move the tenant along and it gives us a good deal on another dwelling. It's a 16 X 80 three bedroom two bath that I know I can rent for $500+ a month. We're short on three bedroom dwellings in our park so it's a nice acquisition. I put down a minimal amount of cash and take over his payments. Once I get it cleaned and painted, the new tenant I rent to will be effectively "making my payments" with his rent and giving me immediate profit. The entire trailer will be paid off in 12 months and then the rents are all mine forever. I think investors would call that an unlimited yield.
Whenever I earn income I think of a tenant we had who was always behind on her rent. I say "had" because we finally pushed our collection efforts enough that she decided to move out. She stiffed us on about $400. Worse yet, she works at a place we frequent, so she's uncomfortable every time she sees us. But it was worth losing the $400 because seeing her life up close during our collection efforts made us so appreciative of the life we've created. Whenever I make money doing something now, I equate the number to how many hours that woman would have to work to earn the same amount. If I make $500 on a one-hour tour I say, "Wow, she would have to work two weeks at her $6.00 an hour job to make that same amount." Gratitude for what you have, I believe, helps keep it coming.
I feel certain I could have gotten an even better price on the trailer but I didn't want to take advantage of the guy. I was his only possible buyer and his wife was set on buying a newer trailer out of town closer to her family. They had a schedule to meet so they HAD to sell to me. Which gave me all the power in the negotiation but I didn't abuse it. We landed at a price that was fair for us both. He got the cash he needed for the down payment on his new home and I got a good price with good terms. As my mobile home mentor Lonnie Scruggs says, "Pigs get fed but hogs get slaughtered." This means, don't get too greedy. Leave something for the other guy to feel good about too. Plus, it's much less stressful doing business without screwing people.
Margie is off to Billings with girlfriends today. I'm on the trolley for our two tours as usual with Cindy. It is getting increasingly difficult to run my empire from the driver's seat of a trolley. Next year we'll have to make changes. The choices seem to be taking a price increase and hiring replacement teams and not doing ANY tours, or only doing tours to cover the replacement teams days off, or doing all the tours ourselves but closing on Sundays and/or dumping the 6:30 pm tour, or selling out and moving on to other projects.
I like the idea of taking a price increase that would effectively pay for the labor of hiring others to do our tours, maintain our current profits and give us the time we so desperately need. We don't have to make that decision now and it is best not to, with the time pressures we're under. It's nice to know we have a valuable asset though that can be massaged in several ways.
We filled a vacancy at the trailer park yesterday. Also received a sad letter from a tenant who broke her lease. She was whining about us trying to charge her for the ten months of rent her signed lease obligated her to paying. Truth is, we would negotiate a settlement with her if she'd just call and speak to us. But she moved out without talking to us at all about her laundry list of life problems and wrote us a letter that called us everything from the devil to wonderful people. Basically she's broke and can't pay anything so we get dumped on because she can't run her life. And we're being jerks by adding to her stress by asking her to fulfill her obligations. I've been in her spot when I was much younger so I could give some good advice but she'll never listen. No one learns anything until life kicks their ass. So let the kicking begin.
We received the June commissions from the dam audio tour. The numbers are still shamefully low. The leadership there just doesn't get it. Based on how hard we've pushed them to improve, it seems unlikely that they ever will. So we can either quietly accept the low numbers, convince them to let us sell the thing with our own people at their location, buy us out or sue them for breach of contract. None of these options is as good as them just enthusiastically plus-selling like they promised to do. We have five more years on the contract but at this pace, revenues will not even cover the real money we spent creating the program, let alone the 300 hours of time we invested.
Worse than the low revenues is the low number of visitors who are getting the best interpretation of the dam that is available. The dam board's mission is educating people about the dam but based on the low number of audio tour rentals, any impartial observer would have to say they are failing quite spectacularly.
The deal also helped move along some tenants who'd given me a few problems, so we improve the park's appearance and make management easier. Financially, the deal makes sense because I was able to take over the final 12 payments, greatly reducing the amount of cash I had to invest. Once a new tenant is secured, the tenant will be making this payment and giving me an immediate positive cash flow. Within 12-15 months the property will have paid for itself and its needed repairs. Within 6 months I'll have earned my cash investment back. From then on, it's pure profit.
The deal took less than 3 hours of my time. How many of you would work three hours once for $350 a month forever? This is the power of Real Estate. Since I already own the park, my existing management system easily ingests the property so after we get it cleaned and repaired for rental, there is no real additional work involved.
Today is 7/11 which of course reminds me of my 7-Eleven management days. I am so thankful that I am no longer an employee. That I don't have to wear a tie. Or commute to a job. Or pursue someone else's business goals, creating long term equity for them in exchange for paychecks that stopped when I stopped. Glad I did it, glad I'm not doing it any longer.
Margie bought me three bookcases to go with two new side-loading file cabinets we purchased a couple weeks ago. My office is not close to what it should be based on the amount of time I spend here and the valuable ideas that roll out of this space. I work in an unfinished basement and deserve better. But I've been deferring improvements to put my money into my other projects that generate income. She's forcing me to upgrade my environment and I'm thankful for it.
I'm up early to copy 10 dam audio tour CD's the dam ordered for re-sale. Nothing has changed there yet that I know about, it's just normal sales that come from a counter display we have up there.
I also have to finish writing out paychecks to COLT and trolley employees. Then I move on to a long list of administrative duties.
The lull period of tourist traffic I mentioned in my last entry lasted exactly one day. Yesterday's two trolley tours both sold out and we had to turn people away. The tours are much more fun when they full, and of course, much more profitable.
I finished re-reading a second Donald Trump book yesterday. He's just giant proof that life is all about what you focus on. What you think about expands. You become what you think about. It's as simple as that. Direct and hold your thoughts on what you want and you start to manifest what you want. So your success (however you define it) comes down to which thoughts you select to dwell upon and which you select to reject. Most people don't realize they have the ability to select. Most people have no idea this is how life works. Most people don't know that their inner thoughts are totally exposed to anyone who has this knowledge. The circumstances in your life show everyone in the know whether your brain has a driver at the wheel.
The equation for life is simple:
Thoughts create feelings which create actions which create the circumstances of our lives.
This is why social programs that provide external assistance never work. They don't teach people how to control their thoughts. THAT is what causes peoples lives to operate far beneath their potential, or worse yet, spin out of control. Until a person learns how to control the TV screen inside his own head, whatever outside assistance you give him will be temporary. Crime, drug addictions and poverty all have their roots in the way a person thinks. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime.
If you truly want to improve humanity, teach people how to select and reject the thoughts they dwell upon.
We designed new 2 foot by 4 foot a-frame signs that go in front of the Irma Hotel and our ticket sellers. Full color with Margie's photo on them to match our brochures. We got the first two installed yesterday and they look great. That will have to help sales. If there are fewer people, we should be getting a greater percentage of them.
I also still have to hook up the radio transmitters.
More trouble at the trailer park. My manager resigned. She couldn't have picked a worse time. But it's not working for her so no hard feelings once I got over my initial anger. I'm advertising the position this time and will take my time picking a strong, Internet-savvy, people-skilled replacement. I'm also looking for a maintenance person so perhaps I'll find someone who can do both. My last two decisions (manager and maintenance person) turned out to be bad ones. So I'll intensify my process. Hopefully those bad decisions were merely calibrating destiny for the great people I'll pick next.
On the plus-side, we've been filling vacancies steadily and are down to two vacant trailers and the trailer I just bought, which isn't on the rental market until I get it cleaned and painted.
I'm so busy now that the good old days when it took just me, the keyboard and my basement office to earn a living seems pretty attractive. Of course that was just "getting-by money," and required me to physically produce everything I was paid for. It wasn't passively creating net worth, so today's results are much better. But they come with the cost of taking all my time. It's a heavy cost. Glad I paid it, glad I've decided to look for ways to slow down. Today is day 44 of 120 so I'm just over one third through the trolley season.
We dropped to three tours a day which dramatically improves our lives. We dropped the 1 pm tour because capacity wasn't being filled on the other three, advertised tours. That gives us a nice break after the 11 am tour. So instead of three back-to-back tours, a break and a tour, we now have a tour, a break, a tour, a break, a tour. BIG difference.
Plus it still gives us a capacity of 120 riders per day which is plenty while we're averaging 93 passengers now.
I have ads out for rental properties, handymen wanted and a new property manager, so the phones are busy. The handyman position may be combined with the property manager position depending on the candidates I encounter. I have an eviction underway out there being handled by my old manager. Once I stabilize the park with a new manager and handyman, my life gets dramatically better.
We asked the city to table our trailer park annexation request and instead, they sent it back to zoning to start over which will likely make the process more difficult. So we'll pick up the pieces of those negotiations after trolley season. In the meantime I'm going to research septic system vendors.
The flea market has a couple more vendors lined up for this weekend so that's a plus.
Margie is looking for a trolley ticket booth person for August and September. Several good looking candidates have come by to pick up applications.
What is missing this year is personnel stability. We're having to massage staff in the trolley company, trailer park and COLT bus all at the same time. We'll do things differently next year because this just isn't acceptable.
I notice my tone lately is a bit short and negative and I can tell it's because I have too much work in front of me and not enough time to get it done the way I'd like. This won't last forever (only until September 30) but it's hard to see that when you're in the middle of it.
The phone is ringing off the hook for trolley reservations so this will be another good day.
Our web designer finally handed over the new trolley website for my content additions. Worst possible timing being in the middle of our season but I'll work on it while I can. In the meantime, the old site will have to suffice for the public. We're ranked #10 on Google under "trolley tours" so I'm happy with that.
Jessica goes back to college tomorrow. She's done working for us and Margie has hired a replacement.
We're still doing four tours a day and they have been needed. We like the numbers being generated but look forward to when we can drop back to three daily tours.
The COLT bus season is now more than half over. Today is day 55 of 120 for trolley season so we're close to halfway there too.
We hired a new manager for the trailer park and it is Tricia, our part-time apprentice who has been operating our flea market. She'll now go full-time. The flea market has not done well but it's not due to her efforts. It was an idea that just didn't work. We tried to pull the plug but a tenant/vendor there talked us into going another month. Customer traffic seems to be OK but we can't secure more than a handful of vendors. If that doesn't improve, it's history at the end of August.
Tricia is Internet-savvy and has the entrepreneur/get-it-done mentality we like. She also has an accounting background so she can handle any administrative duties we toss at her down the road. Anyway, we can now start making progress with improvements at the trailer park again. Let the painting begin.
I have an eviction going on at the park. The tenant is fighting it which hasn't ever happened to us out there before. So the sheriff was to serve them an "official" eviction last night. Two other tenants are on thin ice but can still save themselves if they behave as we've requested. People are wild cards so you never know what they're going to do next.
We're still looking for a handyman at the park. The applications are trickling in. I may go with an independent contractor. It is difficult finding someone who knows what they're doing, has the appearance and communication skills I want and who will be dependable. A person with those skills could easily start a successful business in this town.
Unbelievably, the insurance situation at Lovell is still bogged down. My insurance agent keeps stringing me along. The lastest promise is Monday of next week for a resolution. In addition, the handyman who has given me the bid to make repairs there has been too busy to mess with getting me an updated bid and starting work. Supposedly I have a tenant waiting once the repairs are completed.