From: Venice, Italy
To: Advantage Co Staff
Hello from Venice, Italy
I am taking a break today from looking at a tired old bankrupt ruin of a city [that only Airbnb seems to be growing in] to work on my agenda for this summer in Williamsville, NY. Nevertheless, and in spite of its decay, Venice has been enjoyable, and I’m certain that if I had been here between 800 AD and 1800 AD, I would have marveled at what was undoubtedly the most vibrant global trading center in the world.
Everywhere you turn there are two poignant reminders: First, Venice was unquestionably the very best at international trade for a remarkably long period of time, and, second, nothing is forever. Maybe they can make Venice into a hologram or great virtual experience before it sinks? That surely would save a lot of time, travel, aggravation, and money while thankfully eliminating exposure to all of the various colds, coughing, and criminals. Witnessing the remnants of past glories definitely puts the Stereo Advantage’s brief 20-year run [1978-1998] as the top retail spot in WNY into proper perspective. Antiquity tends to do that to you [and that’s why China and the Mideast both scoff at Europe’s brief ascendancy for a mere 600 years and America’s current 70-year reign]. It’s all but a mere blip on the screen [and so are we]. So it goes.
But, on to tomorrow. The good news is that tomorrow belongs to us and certainly not Venice – as it inexorably sinks into the Adriatic as a musty old museum. Of course, our only right to tomorrow comes from what we build today – as tomorrow is promised to no one. That said, below is what I would like to work on building over the summer during my three months at the Walker Center.
Before I begin, let me briefly recap who we are. Gnothi Seauton [Know Thyself] is inscribed in gold letters over the portico of the temple at Delphi. Its authorship has been ascribed to both Pythagoras and Socrates. It is prudently at the beginning of every journey.
We are, at our core, business developers. Today, the Advantage is an eclectic mix of successful business ventures that range from fashion retail to premium brand development to enterprise archiving solutions to restaurateur to product service to staffing to accounting to zero-fee fundraising to e-commerce to just about anything you can imagine building.
My personal mission is to provide the vision, resources, and confidence necessary to enable the ongoing development of the Advantage Co as a rewarding business experience for those willing to take the full measure of the challenge. By joining the Advantage Co as an employee or partner, I recognize that you are looking to maximize your capabilities in the most productive and beneficial environment possible. Therefore, I am hopeful that this is the right environment for you, as well as a challenge you will embrace and enjoy.
In order to bring our ideas and concepts to life and to continue their ever-changing and dynamic growth, it is my job to help build and support a flexible matrix for each business that enables, encourages, and ensures evolving paradigm shifts through the simple restructuring of elements providing maximum speed to benefit and cross-platform recognition.
At the Advantage, we learn from the past, live in the present, and build for the future. The past provides us with wonderful memories, experiences, resources, and data – but, most importantly, the past is a building block for the future. The present is here to both challenge us and provide enjoyment [and neither meeting the challenge nor enjoying the moment should ever be delayed until tomorrow], while the future provides us with the promise of what can be. Fortunately, the future of the Advantage provides us more promise than ever before. We can not, however, fulfill the promise of the future without your help. It is our shared responsibility as leaders to create an environment where people are motivated to give a thoughtful, enthusiastic, and effective effort toward our desired results [while making certain that our desired results are recognizable, achievable, and beneficial to all participants].
Be big, be a builder.
My Summer Vacation List of Things to Do
I will be back around Memorial Day [weather permitting] and I will be around until Labor Day. I am looking forward to a great summer. Here’s a short list of what I will be working on and what I would like to accomplish while I am in Williamsville:
- Walker Center Renovation
The nicest compliment I received last summer was when someone asked me if the Walker Center was brand new. Even though we opened the doors 24 years ago, we still keep on renovating – and it will be forever new if we relentlessly improve it every day.
- New TW&Co Warehouse [and Offices?]
The TW&Co Men’s department will be reorganized and TW&Co Women’s Fashion Footwear will go down into the main TW&Co Women’s department. This will make room for an expanded warehouse and possibly the TW&Co administration, buying, and design offices.
- New AGR Office
Frankly, there are a couple of options. By moving TW&Co and design downstairs into part of the new space in the TW&Co Men’s shop [that is currently being earmarked for warehousing], we can move all of Advantage Global Resources into their vacated space. Or, we can move Advantage Global Resources into the TW&Co upstairs warehouse at the top of the south stairs. This was the original AP office, and it is a great spot with an opening into the front staircase.
- Expand the Capax Discovery Office
Once Advantage Global Resources moves into their new offices, Capax Discovery can take over the entire front office space.
- Renovate 5109 Main St. [The Sugar Shack]
Although this property has been disregarded since we purchased it, it is, nonetheless, a valuable location. We will either turn it into two guest suites, two apartments, or two offices. I will decide once I look it over in person this June.
Never have we had such a well-accepted and laudable program. It is time to give this the love and effort it deserves. With Children’s Hospital and several major brands like Roberto Coin on board, 2019 should be a year of breakout success internationally.
- Win the Alta Lawsuit
For a company that really hasn’t litigated anything since our Prodigy lawsuit in 2000 [which, as plaintiff, we won decisively], we now find ourselves as plaintiffs again in a necessary lawsuit. It is strange being engaged like this without Frank, but Dave Pfalzgraf and Ben Burge are doing a great job.
Simply put, we are trying to get Alta to pay up on the liabilities they failed to reveal to us when Capax Discovery bought Zovy from them in the Fall of 2016. It’s a couple of million dollars, so it is significant enough to litigate. I expect this to go to trial in Q4, so Dave and Ben will be kept busy. We are in good hands, and I am confident we will prevail.
- Corporate Reorganization
This summer, Rob Cavallari [our new Senior Vice-President of Financial Operations] and I will complete the reorganization of all our corporate entities. Basically, we want all of the companies that we operate to be LLC’s owned by shareholders that are C-corporations. That is the most flexible and tax advantageous setup. Additionally, multiple LLC’s whose shares are owned by the same members [with identical amounts of shares] can be combined into one tax filing – and that would save a ton of work.
This corporate restructuring will benefit from three changes that we are working on:
- Advantage Global Resources
By combining all of our backend resources, especially accounting, tax, and HR, we will able to streamline our administrative protocol and reporting.
- Quickbooks Conversion
By combining all of our accounting in 2019 onto one platform, we will eliminate much of the possible confusion and duplication of effort.
- Advantage Global Resources PEO
By having all of our employees in one organization by 2019, we will be able to better onboard and enable everyone we employee around the world.
- Advantage Global Resources PEO [Professional Employer Organization]
If a company already has employees but wants someone else to take care of the headaches of payroll, the hassles of workers’ comp insurance, the difficulties of large group health plans, the perennial fear of increased unemployment tax rates or even just remove the fear of an employee lawsuit by getting professional HR assistance, they would consider entering into an agreement with a PEO. Frankly, in a disjointed way, this is what Advantage Global Resources already does for all of our partnerships.
A PEO [Professional Employer Organization] is a firm that provides a service under which an employer can outsource employee management tasks, such as employee benefits, payroll and workers’ compensation, recruiting, risk/safety management, and training and development. The PEO does this by hiring a client company’s employees, thus becoming their employer of record for tax purposes and insurance purposes. This practice is known as co-employment. The PEO and the client are considered employers of record, but the duties and responsibilities of each or both are defined in the contract between the client and the PEO, called the Client Service Agreement [or CSA].
And this is what our AGR PEO will be doing for all our Advantage Co businesses and partnerships in 2019.
- Tuesday Morning Breakfast Seminars
Starting on Tuesday, June 5th, we will begin our Tuesday morning seminar and breakfast series. This will become an uninterrupted weekly event [other than this Christmas and New Year’s which both fall on a Tuesday]. It will all be coordinated, prepared, managed, and vlogged by Shauna.
The series will begin each Tuesday morning with an introduction by Shauna at 8:00AM. The presentation will go from 8:05 AM to 8:20 AM, followed by a 15-minute question, answer, and discussion period until 8:35 AM. Presenters will need to be there no later than 7:45AM.
The initial price of admission will be $8 for an Advantage business or partnership employee and $20 for an invited guest. Eventually, we would like to sell series memberships, etc. The series will include a presentation and a complimentary breakfast. The complimentary buffet breakfast will be provided by Giancarlo’s Cafe’, while $3/$7.50 per person will go to Shauna and the remaining $5/$12.50 person will go to the presenter. I am hopeful that, in time, better presentations [and presenters] will draw bigger crowds. I am confident we can start out with at least 40 participants the first few weeks. At the very least, $8 for coffee and breakfast with your friends once a week is a good deal.
We will also have the presentations online for $5 per login for an Advantage business or partnership employee and $20 for invited non-employees. $3/$12 will go to Shauna and the remaining $2/$8 per login will go to the presenter. Once again, I am hopeful that, in time, better presentations [and presenters] will draw bigger crowds online as well.
I am certain some of the details will change once I discuss this at length with Shauna. Live-streaming and webinars will have to be discussed. Also, prices may vary if we have an outside presenter. In some cases, we may actually charge them to present.
- The Magic Gift Card
While there is an almost endless list of things I want to jumpstart this summer, nothing brings our customers back to us like the Magic Gift Card [or Reservations, or Gift Giving Registry, or custom blended coffee, or the Premcloud, or …]. To say the Magic Gift Card Program is misunderstood and underutilized would be quite the understatement. Nevertheless, it invariably gains in value as we continue to grow our services, offerings, and products.
Remember, we want to accomplish two things with our customers at every juncture:
- We want them recommending us enthusiastically.
- We want them to come back repeatedly.
I am certain I will update this posting from time to time over the next few weeks, but, for now, this is how my summer is shaping up. In the meantime, when I get back to Naples [Florida], I will be working on our Unified Global Archiving presentation, our Capax Discovery website, and theAdvantage.com website [which needs to be moved to and hosted by iWorldShoppingCenter.com].