Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Introducing Nature Clean

If you've noticed it's quiet around here, it's because we're working full steam ahead on our new 2010 catalogue! No need to wait for that to come out, though, as we've been adding some of our our new 2010 products to the web.

New to CostlessExpress.com is Nature Clean, a line of natural, hypoallergenic, non-toxic and eco-friendly cleaning products. We have everything from hand soap to laundry and dishwashing supplies to kitchen and bathroom cleansers.

Nature Clean is also a Canadian owned and operated company, like Costless Express! All their products are made and packaged right here in Canada. Just log in to CostlessExpress.com and search for 'Nature Clean' to see all of our new Nature Clean products!"

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our New Recycling Bin!

Hey, today our new cardboard recycling bin arrived!

We have been really focused on waste management in the warehouse, and although we thought we were doing a good job, we knew we could be doing better. We set a goal of a further reduction in the size of our general garbage bin out back of our warehouse and in turn increased our cardboard bin.

We also added a larger shrink wrap recycling container to capture every scrap of material and ensuring none made its way into general refuse.

Finally, we reduced the amount of times the bins are emptied and this saves 50% of the carbon emissions and traffic congestion from the garbage trucks visiting our location. Did you know the garbage companies charge for each "tip" of the garbage cans? So less tips equals a savings. We estimate a annualized savings from this reduction of about $500 per year and the garbage company gave us a larger cardboard bin at no extra cost.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Keurig on Oprah

Keurig On Oprah

Did you know... Oprah's production company saves $41,000 per year by not using disposable coffee cups! Watch the video below to see how they did it.

That's the Keurig B3000 single cup brewer in the offices at Harpo Productions. Qualified customers can get one FREE from Costless Express for their own offices. Just call us at 604-444-4467!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Carbon Economy

For the second time in recent months XPLANE has partnered with The Economist to create a compelling video on a topic of global importance. After working together on "Did You Know? 4.0", The Economist enlisted XPLANE's visual communication expertise to develop "The Carbon Economy" about the growing importance of climate change and green technologies and solutions.

"The Carbon Economy" will be shown at The Economist's upcoming Carbon Economy Summit on November 17 and 18, 2009 in Washington, D.C. The video is three minutes in length and includes simple visuals and a moving soundtrack to clearly convey the troubled state of global climate change and what steps must be taken to reach a positive outcome. The production was created using Apple's Keynote software.


Friday, October 30, 2009

100% Renewable Energy by 2030?

A new study out of Stanford and UC says that we can power all the world's energy needs through wind, water and solar power - and that it could be done by 2030, for less than it would cost to use fossil fuel and nuclear energy sources.

How? Fossil fuel energy sources are typically inefficient - for example, in a fossil fuel burning car, up to 80% of the energy is lost as heat. The energy savings from converting to those greener energy sources, by itself, could cut the world's energy demands to two-thirds what they are today. This could eliminate the need for 13,000 coal plants worldwide, and save enough money to justify the switchover.

Of course, this plan would still require massive changes to the world's energy infrastructure: 3.8 million large wind turbines, 89,000 300-megawatt solar plants, 490,000 tidal turbines, 1.7 billion rooftop photovoltaic systems, and 900 hydroelectric plants, plus the countless new transmission lines needed to distribute so much more electricity. Only about 2% of this renewable energy infrastructure exists today.

But the researchers conclude that the biggest obstacle to these changes is actually the competing non-renewable energy industry, which currently dominates political lobbying.

[Stanford University via FastCompany]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just How Green is Wal-mart?

Wal-Mart now sees energy and fuel efficiency as significant bottom-line drivers: so carbon emissions equal potentially wasted profits. Wal-Mart has realized that it's far easier to cut wasteful operating expenses than to grow top line sales.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So just how big is Walmart?

For the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2009, Walmart's worldwide sales topped $401 billion.

That's close to $46 million each and every hour of every day.

That's more than the gross domestic product of Taiwan, Greece and Denmark, and double that of Romania.

Walmart discloses its operating margin at 5.8 per cent, which totals a profit of $44,250 every minute.

Walmart's U.S. sales tops Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Sears, Costco and K-Mart combined.

If Walmart continues to grow at its current rate, revenues will be $3 trillion by 2020, as much as economies of France and Britain combined, and it will employ 8.2 million people.

Walmart is already the biggest private employer in the U.S.

Walmart develops more real estate, consumes more energy than any other American company.

How's this for diversity? Walmart sells more dog food, disposable diapers, guns, toothpaste, CDs and diamonds than any other retailer.

It's estimated that one-third of American shoppers visit Walmart once a week.

In a little over a decade, the retailer went from selling no groceries to being America's No. 1 grocer.

Industry estimates suggest that 70 per cent of merchandise has left the store before Walmart has paid its suppliers for it.

I am fascinated with the website www.howstuffworks.com - here is some more info on Walmart: http://money.howstuffworks.com/wal-mart.htm

Amazing how a company can shape technology, like the introduction of bar codes or the lowering of the cost on a 4 pack of light bulbs nationally. It has been an astounding story with Wal-Mart over the past few decades, as huge manufacturers like GE bow to a retailer. Its a case now where the tail wags the dog. Is Wal-Mart getting TOO BIG?

Here is a great movie (a few years old but still fascinating) if you can find a download copy or it is on TV every now and then.

Here is a great PBS documentary also; watch it online.

Oh, and for us capitalists: Here's the stock performance since Wal-Mart went public in 1970, issuing a paltry 300,000 shares.

In 1971 if you invested just $5,000 dollars in Wal-Mart stock, you would have over $10,000,000 (yeah, ten million) in your jeans today. I guess not everyone hates Wal-Mart!


Monday, October 5, 2009

Costless Express Acquires Frogfile

COSTLESS EXPRESS Announces the Acquisition of FROGFILE Office Essentials; Creating Canada’s Most Environmentally Friendly Office Supply Company.

Dear Costless Express Customers,

Now more than ever "It's Easy Being GREEN!"™

I am pleased to announce some very exciting news - As of October 5th, 2009 Costless Express has acquired FROGFILE Office Essentials, creating Canada's most environmentally friendly office supply company.

This business combination allows us to increase our market position, add new environmental and sustainable products and leverage our existing infrastructure. We have high praise for the Frogfile management team and are pleased that they have agreed to join us during the transition period.

“Frogfile and Costless Express share the same philosophy when it comes to the environment and providing customers with innovative and sustainable solutions that add value to their business goals,” said Gil Yaron, Founder and CEO of Frogfile Office Essentials. “Costless Express has the breath and depth of warehousing and distribution, as well as the promotional programs, purchasing power, and financial clout necessary to empower our sales people to better meet customer requirements in a positive growing capacity.

This acquisition accelerates Costless Express’s growth, enhances our competitive position and extends our industry leading line of products and services. In particular Frogfile’s strength in environmentally friendly office products and knowledge will continue to broaden Costless Express’s presence in this important growth category and key vertical markets.

What does this mean for Costless Express customers?

“We’re More Than Just Office Supplies”™

It allows our customers to outsource their total office procurement needs. Customers can look forward to an expanded environmentally friendly selection of products at even lower prices. Costless Express will expand the total item selection to offer over 30,000 business products and associated services to help our customers run their operations more smoothly, focus on their core business and drive down hard and soft procurement costs. In addition, Costless Express will now be able to offer guidance to customers who wish more information on creating an environmentally sustainable company and how to take the steps to get there themselves.

We are excited at Costless Express to add over one thousand new Frogfile customers. As an existing Costless Express customer I can assure you our service levels will be at the best ever due to the addition of several new outside sales staff (a first for Costless Express). I hope you get a chance to meet one of our Senior Account Managers soon as they'll have many exciting new programs and products to offer.

Over the past three years Costless Express has focused on being the most environmentally friendly office supply company in Canada. During that time we’ve had many successes such as becoming Canada’s First Carbon Neutral Office Supply Company, eliminating cardboard boxes for plastic delivery totes, paperless invoicing, "Save-a-stamp" payment, fleet optimization investments and many more. On October 5th I feel we have something very special to be proud of at Costless Express - the addition of Frogfile to our corporate family.

About Frogfile Office Essentials

“It’s Easy Being Green” ™

Frogfile Office Essentials was born of a simple idea in 2004: Anyone can make a difference through his or her work. Frogfile believes that the ordinary "nuts and bolts" of the nine to five world -- paper, pencils, and pens -- are, in fact, part of the solution. Teaching environmental stewardship to office workers and offering environmentally friendly products will have lasting effects for the planet and customers.

Frogfile sources and distributes thousands of pro-planet office alternatives for a wide range of companies. Whether a customer is a growing non-profit or an established Fortune 100 firm, Frogfile takes the guesswork out of responsible procurement. Frogfile saves customers time and money by pre-selecting only the most sustainable solutions available and educating customers on practicing environmental sustainability inside and outside the office.

Gil Yaron, Frogfile's founder and CEO, brings to Costless Express over four years of triple digit sales growth, more than a decade of experience in product sourcing, environmental standards, and best practices. With every order, Yaron has proven that smarter office selections needn't come with premiums of cost, quality, or convenience.

Frogfile.com’s website, phone and fax will remain operational during a 60-day transition period in which all Frogfile customer account information will be transferred to Costless Express.

Calvin Johnson

Monday, September 28, 2009

Misleading Buzz Words

Here is a great BLOG entry from our new cardboard binder supplier (as I wrote about on September 25th)

Misleading Buzz Words = Customer Confusion

by brad on July 21, 2009

This type of stuff really floors me. As I walk down the aisles of big box office supply stores, it never ceases to amaze me that the “eco product choices” someone at corporate has made aren’t really better than the non eco counterpart. I’m wondering if they really want to make a difference or do they do it just to confuse customers? This particular 3 ring binder really jumped out at me while I was swimming through the sea of vinyl… A fine example of misleading buzz words of product attributes that are unregulated and unwarranted.

  • 100% Recyclable - Not without a lot of work. You need an Exacto knife to get through the plastic cover and a welding torch get the ring metals removed.
  • 100% Biodegradable - Nope. - Our landfills entomb our garbage. Without heat, moisture or microorganisms, even organic matter won’t biodegrade.
  • 70% Post Consumer Waste - Maybe the inside board covered in plastic?
  • No V.O.C.’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) - True, but if you eliminated the polypropylene plastic that covers the binder, this would be a moot point.

While I take the time to research these claims, most consumers do not have the time and make buying decisions based on trust of what has been printed. If manufacturers would make better products instead of sugar coating the same old trash, the world would be a much better place.

Great story Brad!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Sustainable and Green Office Products

Our purchasing department is always on the lookout for new and exciting items to bring to our clients.

One such item and company we have been in discussions with for almost a year is a fantastic supplier of cardboard office supplies. In particular they have a line of cardboard binders that we have wanted to carry. Recently we became a distributor of the product line and are now able to offer our customers prices similar to or lower than a regular plastic binder.

Looks for a full line of cardboard office supplies and more info coming soon. Here is a sneak peek!

3 Ring Binders

The ReBinder is the world's only FSC Certified Binder. By choosing a ReBinder over the 3 ring vinyl binder, you lower your carbon footprint, save money and deliver an awesome message about your commitment

ReBinder provides an ecological solution for office products that no other can claim. Our corrugated cardboard binders are 70% Recycled (at least 40% Post Consumer Recycled) and are the best alternative to toxic vinyl binders.

ReBinder recycled binders are very durable and more resistant to spine-tearing than the traditional vinyl binders. ReBinder is truly recyclable and reusable because it is a corrugated cardboard binder. Vinyl binders are neither recyclable nor reusable.

Unlike other binders that use rivets to attach their ring metals, ReBinder's ring metals are affixed using two screws and t-nuts that can be easily unassembled and "reused" without any waste. We believe it's unlikely you'll ever need to replace your ReBinder cover, but if you do, it can be recycled back into the system and kept out of the landfill. Replacement covers are available for purchase for less than purchasing a new binder. Available in 1", 2" and 3" sizes.

Why ReBinder?

  • It's The Original - A Brand You Can TRUST!
  • Because those OTHER Binders end up in a landfill
  • Made from rigid, recycled corrugated cardboard
  • Easy to Recycle your old cover
  • Easy to Replace it with a new cover
  • Save Money, Save Time & Save Mother Earth


Monday, September 14, 2009

What we do for the H1N1 Flu

You could say that the H1N1 flu epidemic has a direct effect on our average work day at Costless Express. Everyone in our sales team and even our marketing department has been busy trying to help our customers prepare. We understand that everyone wants to protect their employees and their families from any sort of germs going around.

It is interesting to see reports of the epidemic on the news and the way people are preparing. I can't say that I feel the urge to to wear a face mask in public, but I have been reaching for the hand sanitizer a bit more often that usual. I dont know a lot of details about who is actually getting H1N1. It seems like a healthy diet and a healthy body is just as important as using hand sanitizer and washing our hands properly. It is much easier to catch all that junk if we don't have healthy immune systems to begin with.

Those opinions aside, in the healthcare and government sectors, keeping your hands germ free is crucial. At work, we all have these little Purell Pals on our desk: (You can get your own Pals here.)

Here are some other great products from Purell that are great ways to keep your hands clean and avoid germs.

Purell NXT Space Saver Hand Sanitizer Dispenser and Refill
Promotes hand hygiene by killing most common germs without need for soap and water. The perfect duo. Ask us about FREE wall dispensers for your office!

Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer with Aloe
Kills 99.99% of common germs that may cause illness, without soap or water. Plus, aloe always feels really nice, and light green is such a soothing color.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Red Totes

Stacks of red totesHave you ever had a great idea in a meeting, and it actually got off the ground and turned into something great?

For our management team - there was a meeting about 3 years back when we came up with the idea to introduce totes instead of cardboard boxes for every delivery. Costless Express was committed to becoming carbon neutral, and many of our meetings revolved around reduction of waste materials in our logistics and distribution system. We went ahead and researched and tested the concept, then implemented tens of thousands of dollars worth of plastic reusable totes into our system.

Today we use our very handy RED TOTES for all deliveries on our trucks. We are in negotiations currently with our suppliers to encourage them to accept our red totes from us, so they too can ship product into our building with minimal or no extra packaging. This would truly be an exciting step by involving our supply partners in our reduction and environmental plan.

Costless will save 200,000 cardboard boxes from the landfill. Although we are actually ELIMINATING the use of cardboard in our distribution - here are some interesting facts about recycling cardboard.

Here's a few reasons why recycled cardboard and paper products can make a real difference for the environment:

  • Paper and cardboard account for 41% of all municipal solid waste.
  • Recycling 1 Ton of Cardboard saves 682 Gallons of oil
  • Recycling 1 Ton of Cardboard saves 7,000 Gallons of water
  • Recycling 1 Ton of Cardboard saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space
  • Recycling 1 Ton of Cardboard save about 17 trees
  • Recycled cardboard requires 645% less energy than make cardboard from virgin wood pulp, the equivalent of 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Save 8% at G&T — "Just don't log in"

I had a similar circumstance to the Office Depot story I wrote about on September 1st, but with Grand & Toy. We were quoting on supplies for a large company who used G&T. The purchaser was too busy to give us his data so instead he just supplied us his user name and password to the G&T website.

We logged in and did an in-depth analysis and found some perplexing yet exciting discoveries.

When we met again with the prospective customer, I said "I can save you 8% on your whole G&T budget in three words - DON'T LOG IN"

What we found was, if the customer DID NOT use the User Name and Password when he went to the G&T website, the prices were actually cheaper over all. Have you had any experiences like this dealing with a big box company like G&T or CORPORATE EXPRESS? I would love to know.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ahhh, Good Old Office Depot. Busted Again.

If you Google about them, you'll find many stories recently about different US state agencies and corporations suing or investigating them for incorrect pricing. Even Ahhnold in California is investigating them.

What's happened is that with new web crawling technology (like our Price Spider) and powerful computer analytics, the big box office supply companies are getting caught with their proverbial pricing hand in the cookie jar. In the past, customers and small competitors never had the technology to data mine the confusing contracts and look for compliance, or review if they were getting a better price than the regular public.

Former account manager in Office Depot's Business Solutions Division, David Sherwin, a protected whistle-blower in Florida where the company is headquartered, has been credited with the launching of the investigations.

Have a look at this news story from Television Station CBS Atlanta.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Here is another incredible and thought provoking video from my friend Parker Lee at XPLANE.

I have blogged about a few these videos, and after seeing them, I just sit in awe and think - WOW, where will the world be in 5-10-50 years. Watch it for yourself.

Did You Know? originally started out as a PowerPoint presentation for a faculty meeting in August 2006 at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado, United States. The presentation "went viral" on the Web in February 2007 and, as of June 2007, had been seen by at least 30 million online viewers. Today the old and new versions of the online presentation have been seen by at least 50 million people, not including the countless others who have seen it at conferences, workshops, training institutes, and other venues. http://shifthappens.wikispaces.com/versions



Monday, August 17, 2009

How to motivate and inspire your staff in 2 minutes!

The Dow has dropped 3,000 points and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost. We Canadians are now a ragtag bunch of scruffy underdogs, down by three touchdowns at halftime, with a whole horde of orcs waiting for us right outside those locker room doors. Inspiration has become something we need. Ya, that's right, pick up that chin, we got a lot of fight still in us! C'mon - who's with me!!!

What I'm trying to say is, if you show this montage at your next staff meeting you may just single-handedly save your company (and possibly get that raise):

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Goats on the Roof

Back again on Vancouver Island. Starting to feel like my home away from home as we ramp up our expansion. One of the favourite places for our family is Parksville, and we rent a beach house every year for at least a week or more. We have been coming to the Island for many years and although this year was going to be a mix of work and family for me, it was a great home base for me to take care of business in Nanaimo and Victoria.
One great spot we visit on a regular basis while here is a tiny town called Coombs. Here's a link to a great story in the Victoria Times. In particular there is The Old Country Market, famous for Goats on their Roof!
Yup, goats. It's a Scandinavian tradition to to let them "mow" the grass on your roof. Yup, grass… anyway, you get the idea that this is a special place.

I really drink up the way they have marketed in such eclectic and unique ways. I always take away a few good ideas and a ton of inspiration on how I can apply the marketing to Costless Express. It's a real lesson in how to successfully brand a business and give customers a shopping "experience."
One trick they have up their sleeve is that there is no zoning regulations on their property, so they have been able to create what I can only describe as a mini main street (a la Disney) where each storefront seems to be a different business, yet they are actually all run as a group, with family running different stores. There is the main market with exotic foods, the very popular ice cream stand (one scoop is HUGE!!), a deli, cafeteria, fruit and veg stand, a garden center with lots of statues and bamboo items, a massive building filled with replica Far East inspired furniture (Sandy's favourite!) and a very cool surf shop Wabi Sabi (my favourite). All this and more on one property, and the crowds just keep coming back time and again. No matter what day of the week, the place is packed. (Tip: park way at the back of the property, not on the road or in the first few crowded lots.)
If you have kids, then you must stop to pick up some of the coolest toys found anywhere. The prices are cheap and granted the products can be kind of cheap too, but the kids don't seem to mind (most toys are destroyed before the trip is over, at least my kids', when they are on holidays with up to 6-7 cousins - all under 7yrs). This year I felt like a bad parent, since we bought our two boys wooden swords and shields at the market. It was not something I thought we would ever buy, but when the other cousins' parents (thanks Grace and Richard) bought swords and shields, I had to arm my kids out of defense. Any parent would have done the same, don't you think? Anyway, all the swords spent most of the time confiscated and hidden on the top shelf of the coat closet, but when all the kids "played nice," it was a treat to watch them role play, and we took some great pictures.
Check out Coombs if you haven't been already.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Price Spider

If you scroll down to my July 1st post, you'll read about my new software toy we called SMART SCRAPER.

Well, it's been over a month since we started using it, and it was time to think up a bit better name. Smart Scraper and the putty knife graphic seemed OK at the time, but as we continued to say the name, it just sounded more and more like something from a late night infomercial. So after much deliberation, voting and heated debate, we officially changed the name to PRICE SPIDER!

We have now done an analysis on over 15,300 office supply items we sell using the software. We entered several factors such as - Strength of the Canadian dollar, lower negotiated office supply pricing from our suppliers, items we purchase in bulk, how much space and cash flow the items take in our warehouse and — most importantly — what Staples, Office Depot, Grand & Toy and others are selling the items for.

Of the 15,300 items we ran through Price Spider, there were almost 5000 matches apples-to-apples against the competition. These items we guarantee are lower than the competition. On the remaining 9500 items, we decided to lower our prices! (800 items we kept the same price.) What this means to you the customer is that most items in our 2009 Big Book catalogue are now lower than the published price you see on the pages!

Our customers couldn't believe it today as our sales people started telling them that thousands of items have just DROPPED IN PRICE! Ask your other suppliers that you buy office supplies from if they are lowering their prices. The strong dollar and aggressive pricing from the wholesalers have reduced costs, and they should pass on the savings I think.

On the flip side though, when oil prices go up, the dollar goes down or the economy starts ramping up (or all three) - inflation will kick in, and prices will start going up and so will the need for us to raise prices.



Monday, July 27, 2009

Announcing JumpCart!

Jumpcart scanner

I am proud to announce the introduction of some exciting and exclusive technology from Costless Express.

JumpCart will revolutionize the way you order your business supplies. With just the click of a button, you can now scan any product bar codes we sell and have your order automatically upload to our website shopping cart.

The next time your toner is running low, just scan the bar code sticker we placed on your machine — done! No more hunting for item numbers or what supplier you ordered from last time. It works great in the lunch room too. Open a cupboard and scan shelf labels of all your favorite supplies like coffee, sugar, napkins and cream. You can even scan the actual bar code on the box if you like.

The scanner is the size of a car alarm remote, and after you have scanned your order while walking around your office, you just plug in the scanner for three seconds and your order is automatically dropped into our web shopping cart under your exclusive user name and password. Once the order is loaded on the web, you can add, delete or change the order, and even put the order on hold for future submission.

Read more about JumpCartYour sales rep can also create a custom mini catalogue of just the items you regularly order. The catalogue is sorted in groups for easy reference, and best of all each catalogue item has a bar code. Imagine flipping through your own hand-picked item catalogue and scanning the items you need to order. Coffee (Beep)… paper (Beep, Beep)… toner for the mailroom printer (Beep). It's that easy. Your ordering time will be cut significantly. Best of all, it is absolutely FREE to use for all Costless Express customers.

Costless Express is the only company in Canada offering this time saving ordering technology.

Click here it see a brochure on our exclusive JumpCart Technology. For an in-person DEMO by yours truly, please ask your sales rep.


Friday, July 24, 2009

The Tool Man!

The Tool Man!Last night I was order picking, and today you can call me Calvin the TOOL MAN Johnson.
Still short staffed, I went today to install 30 paper towel dispensers at a customer's location.
I had planned on attending the customer's location during the installation regardless, but I was expecting to have an assistant with me to do the actual drilling and installations. Since the warehouse was still short staffed, and one full trailer of Coke and another of Pepsi was arriving this morrning (our big pop sale this week cleaned us out) it was going to be just me.
Our customer RCABC in Langley has a gorgeous new facility and we sell them just about everything under the sun for their entire business, including now, all their washroom supplies like paper towels, toilet paper and soap. All with FREE DISPENSERS courtesy of Costless Express. The new dispensers are from our TORK line and will save the customer 25% or more on consumption, and the paper is EcoLogo Certified 100% Recycled.
I did pretty well I thought, installing about half the dispensers today. Their building is kind of a maze underground, and finding all the washrooms had me back-tracking a bit. One instructor would just smile every time I did "laps" past his office. The remainder will need to be installed next week, but the good news is the customer is also interested in Purell wall dispensers (also free) after I offered to demo this vital part of their health and wellness program.
If you need to upgrade your washroom dispensers, or need Purell for office, please give us a ring.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Imagine Leadership

Here is another awesome, thought provoking video from Parker Lee at one of my favorite companies, XPLANE.

Hope your summer is off to a great start and that business is going well as we head into the second half of the year. I am very excited to share with you XPLANE's latest video XPLANATiON, "Imagine Leadership." The inspiring and thought-provoking piece on global leadership was created in collaboration with Nitin Nohria, Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration, and Co-Chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School.


"The Show Must Go On!"

On the forklift

How is your summer? How about your holidays? How about when your co-workers take holidays? How does your company deal with short staff? Especially in this economy, there usually is not much overlap in staffing. Ok, so what happens when people are on holidays and someone gets sick… and someone gets injured… AND someone has a family emergency, all on the same day? (We usually have 5 order pickers on shift, and 3 could not come.) You call in everyone to help!

So here I am today, picking orders from 4pm till 9pm, twenty feet up in the warehouse on one of our order picker machines. Oh, did I say it's 33 degrees in the warehouse? Thanks to Sandy for also basically saving the day by coordinating labor and motivating other staff to jump in. Everyone in our company really pitched in to get the job done. We even had a young fella help out that was walking door to door looking for work and dropping off his resume. Can you imagine - "Hey, I'm in the neighborhood looking for work, do you have any?" YEAH, START RIGHT NOW! His name is Paul, and he did such a great job, we will keep him for a few more days and see if we can hire him on.

Also, sorry to my day warehouse manager for dropping a case of Coke Zero cans from 20 feet up. It was an accident. I know that 24 cans of exploded pop makes a real sticky mess :-)


Monday, July 20, 2009

Helijet's New Website!

Check out Helijet's new website. Thanks Jay from Helijet for the plug!

HelijetSingle Source Suppliers

Whenever possible Helijet aims to work with like-minded Carbon Neutral Companies.

One way to meet this goal has been to partner with Costless Express for our coffee counter and office supplies. Everything from Apples and Ballpoints to Trail Mix and Wastebins. CEO Calvin Johnson and his terrific team help us make sure we are getting the best value for our dollar and the evironment. When possible we also make sure that the products we are buying are local or follow a similar environmental policy, like Ethical Bean Coffee and Ecotainer cups and bowls.

Single source suppliers help by reducing the number of warehouses being shipped to and then the number delivery trucks on the road bringing items to the office. Even better in this case, Costless Express is also a Carbon Neutral company!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Have Some Cake!

Have some cake!
My new Business Development Manager, Kristi, is incredible at getting to the decision maker when she calls prospects. She is working on a list right now of "Fortune 500" companies in Vancouver and promoting our Office Coffee Service.
She is a real pro and doesn't give up 'til she gets me an appointment. Well, recently she came across a company who foiled her attempts at every angle. She just could not get past the gate keeper or phone system. Nobody would give her the contact name of the purchaser for their breakroom supplies. But… in her many attempts calling, she did find out the company was in the midst of reviewing their current supplier, so she knew time was of the essence and this called for something special.
Here is her solution to get the attention of the mystery person in charge of making the decisions: A cake with the inscription "You can have your cake and eat it too! Let Costless Express save you dough!"
I personally took down the cake, and the receptionist was blown away, saying nobody has ever done something like that, and she hopes we win the account because we were just so original and determined.
I can say we did make contact with the Executive Assistant to the President. Seems all the right people had some cake today!
Having fun, one customer at a time!

Monday, July 13, 2009


Calvin's cardDid you know Costless Express does PRINTING? Well, if your answer is no, you may be hearing more about our service soon, since we purchased equipment to print some of our jobs in-house. Today we can offer just about any printing under the sun, but relied on large commercial print shops, like most of our competitors. Now with our new purchase we can cut costs and speed up delivery times on the hot commodity printing items like flyers, cards and envelopes.

I'm most excited about using the equipment for our own marketing material, like post cards, door hangers and booklets. We are working on some new TOP SECRET technology (coming soon!) that requires us to make custom mini catalogues for individual customers so this equipment will be perfect for the job.

If you would like a quote on your printing, please contact us. Darren, our print sales rep, has over 25 years experience and will offer you not only a great price, but ideas on how to save money and make your print job the best it can be.


Friday, July 10, 2009

More on Jen & Jeff's Wedding

The happy couple :)I was anxiously awaiting for the wedding photos and blog update from Jen and Jeff's wedding on the weekend. I knew they were flying out to Victoria after the reception on Helijet. For those of you that follow my blog, you have seen me post about Helijet a few times.

Jeff took some great video and pics and wrote a piece. Click and see his July 8th entry.

Thanks Jay from Helijet for taking care of the happy couple!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Twedding!

At the Twedding!If you Twitter at a wedding, you're at a Twedding!

Today Sandy and I attended a lovely afternoon wedding at the Tea House in Stanley Park for our good friends Jen and Jeff.

Jeff you may know from Virgin Radio, a.k.a. Buzz Bishop. His blog is quite entertaining, so add it to your favorites for some good local perspective on pop and tech culture. Look for his July 5th entry.

If you read the blog entry on his wedding day you'll see where he calls it a "Twedding". You see, Jen was stuck in a Limo that took a wrong turn, and she was 45 minutes behind schedule while guests and groom stood on the grass outside overlooking English Bay. What is a radio personallity groom to do while waiting? Tweet on his Blackberry of course!

Congratulations Jen and Jeff!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Boys And Their Toys!

Smart Scraper!
I'm super excited about my new TOY. Can you guess? Not a boat… Not a motor cycle… Not a camera, video game, laptop or giant BBQ.
No, my new toy is SOFTWARE.
SMART SCRAPER I call it. And what it does is take an Excel file of item numbers from products we sell and tells me what my competitors price is and item number off their web site. Very cool!! I have worked with the company, who developed software & technology for about 10 years on other reporting tools they have custom made for me. When I saw this technology being used by another of their customers, I knew I wanted it for Costless.
Today, I ran a report of the top 4000 Office Supply items we sold last quarter, and loaded it into our new SMART SCRAPER. Then, I pointed the software at Staples.ca website to see who had the best pricing on each item. The results were amazing!
We had the lowest prices on about 82% of the items, some were significantly lower. On the remaining 18%, we were now able to adjust our sell price to beat Staples. The SMART SCRAPER will also monitor when Staples changes a price and give me a list of the changes, with date and new price. Also, the SMART SCRAPER will make more matches over time, as we clean the data on items that did not have a match: items where the pack size was different, or there was no direct item number match. With ongoing data management, we plan to have 8,000 matches to Staples (about the number of items they sell), and then work on Office Depot and Grand and Toy.
Imagine, in your business, if you could push a button and see how your prices compare to your competition?

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Calgary!Expansion to the Island is not the only region for Costless Express. While Sandy and I are in Nanaimo, we got word of our very first Calgary customer!
Once we decided to expand our service for 2009, we had three areas to focus on and decided to expand in this order.
  • Calgary/Edmonton
  • Vancouver Island
  • BC Interior
The first two are under way, and we plan over the next year to really grow sales and win new customers with our unique product offering, fantastic service and low prices. I must say that our management team is really doing a great job with all the extra research and projects. It's quite an undertaking when you step outside your current operations. We are dealing with multi locations, unique suppliers and inventory challenges, tax codes, shipping rates, freight carriers, warehousing, website and (whew) many other issues. I'm sure many of you have been involved in big projects as you read this and can agree, "Just when you think you solved every possible issue, more pop up."
The best news is we are having fun and evolving the business.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Welcome to Ladysmith!Now that we've landed in Nanaimo via Harbour Air, there's work to be done. Over the next few days, Sandy and I are meeting existing customers and visiting suppliers as we plan out our expansion to the Island. We have shipped to the Island for years, but I now feel there is a much larger opportunity to expand market share, since there is very little competition. I have watched a few competitors on the Island closely, and learned what makes the Island market different from the Mainland. On the mainland the competition is something fierce. Our Vancouver customers tell us they are inundated with sales people, faxes, emails, junk mail and the like constantly, while our Island business "focus groups" tell us they wish there were more choices.
One area we are experts in is Office Coffee Service. Our supplier KEURIG (the coffee machine supplier) was telling me he needed better representation on the Island and the market was wide open with only a water cooler company offering the Keurig system. So with our extensive coffee and office supply inventory, I think Costless can really win over some new Island customers. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Harbor Air

Sandy at Harbour AirToday Sandy and I flew over to Nanaimo on Harbor Air Seaplanes.

Harbor Air has been a customer for many years, but we had yet to fly with them. The weather was a perfect sunny day and it was an amazing flight at only about 800 feet off the water. The scenery of the North Shore, Stanley Park and across to the Island was truly spectacular. We were in the air for only 20 minutes or so, and it felt more like a tourist sightseeing flight than transportation from point A to B.

The plane we flew held about 16 people and was full to capacity. A bit of a tight squeeze, but it's only for a short flight, and if you sit on the left, it's a single window seat with a bit more leg room.

Boarding the planeService at Harbor Air was fantastic with very helpful staff. They booked a rental car for us and it was waiting just steps from the Nanaimo dock for us to pick up. Well done crew!

CALVIN'S CORNER TIP: The sea planes only have a pilot and not a co-pilot, so as you are boarding you can ask to sit next to the pilot.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Orleans!

Writing from New Orleans! A city I always wanted to visit. Darren and I are here for a conference with one of our wholesalers. Last year was San Diego and next year is Miami Beach.
The city still has many signs of destruction from Katrina, but the French Quarter where we are was not flooded. Bourbon Street is everything you would expect. We went out last night for a quick stroll about 11pm after we flew in and the street was packed on a week night. Imagine Robson Street, no cars, packed full of people all jumping from bar to jazz club to resturant. You don't really stay in one spot too long, since you take your drink with you. I have traveled a fair amount, and there is nothing like it I have ever seen. The culture, history and archatecture make for a memorable visit, and the locals are all very excited to see the conventions come back to town.
The paintingI spoke to an owner of an art shop, and he told me that this was the first year the conventions have started to come back, even though Katrina was in 2005. Seems the planners of big conventions book up to 5 years in advance, so for a few years New Orleans was off the booking circuit, so to speak, and it took several years before planners could slot the city back into rotation.
The art shop owner also told me about how his house was 7 houses from one of the levee breaks. The house was one block OVER and the houses directly in front of the break were washed away clear to the foundation. His house was under 15 feet of water at the height of the flood, and when he finally came back home, his red pickup truck was on top of his neighbor's roof. He said he looks at life now as just a gift every day. Here is a cool original painting I bought in his shop.
Keurig B200Our industry trade show was the main reason for the visit, and this year was again full of new and interesting products. The number one most interesting and progressive office supply item as voted by industry insiders and trade magazines was, in fact, not your traditional office supply item. In the number one spot was the KEURIG Coffee System. I'm glad to see the industry is embracing that office supplies go far beyond pens and pencils. At Costless Express, we have always mixed coffee and office supplies in our offering. Hmmmmm, seems we are on to something!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Costless Express Beats Staples Prices by 45%!

I find that customers compare prices before choosing a supplier, this makes sense. But with over 25,000 office supplies, what items do you compare, and what is the item number from each competitor so you can make an "apples to apples" comparison. Oh, and what if one supplier sells in a different pack size? Arrgggh, it can drive a customer crazy comparing prices!
Well, good news from Costless Express. Did you know we do all that work for you? Send us a stack of invoices, and we will match up our items and send you the prices. Best of all, we have a cost comparison of the 100 most commonly used office supply items as compared to STAPLES. We beat Staples' prices by 45%!
The reason we choose Staples is we find them to be the lowest cost of our competitors - with Grand and Toy being the highest. (If you buy from Grand and Toy, the lowest discount we have seen from their catalogue prices is 45%, and the highest 69% - most are at 56%.)
Please ask your sales rep for a copy of our current Staples Cost Comparison or download a copy once you login to our website. It is a great reference tool to find the top 100 common items. You can also see the list's items online in your Favorites drop-down menu, under the GLOBAL LIST area, on the left side tool bar.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How's Business?

How are sales? How's business? Are ya feelin' it? Seems the last few months everyone is asking me the same questions.

We serve over 3200 customers, and almost every day I hear stories from our sales staff. Customers we have had for years just close up shop and are out of business. We had a large customer let 800 staff go in one day. Or another had just expanded a year earlier to 3 floors in an office tower, but now only occupy less than one floor. The rent may actually put them under, since there are no sub-lease tenants wanting that much space. If our customers are hurting, they are not buying, and we feel it.

One positive the downturn in an economy brings to business is a chance to really examine your operations and get up close and personal with how it operates. We hired a business consultant in January and she has helped us really streamline operations. I have personally taken a very active role in sales and marketing, and the hands on experience in invaluable. So much so that I hired a Business Development Manager, and together we analyze new opportunities and underdeveloped customer segments. She gets me the appointments, and I close.

Prospects and customers seem to like that the owner is meeting them. I like it also, since I can move very quickly making offers, prices and decisions. Being on the front lines making presentations and visiting customers has been invaluable in directing the company through these turbulent times. As a team, we have opened 82 new accounts and some are Fortune 500 size. Sure, we have lost a few customers due to the recession, but won back just as many new ones.

Am I feelin' it? Yeah I am, and having more fun selling than ever.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Miracle Weekend

(Super-) Manning the phonesThis weekend was the BC Children's Miracle weekend. I have been part of the Retail and Wholesale Commitee for three years now. Our group includes such heavyweights as Costco and Overwaitea, and donations throughout the year came from both grass roots campaigns like BBQs and the recognizable ones like the popular Buy a Balloon you see at Costco.

3.9 Million raised! Last year, we raised $3.2 million, and due to the downturn in the economy we set a stretch target this year of $3.2M. Basically, if we could match last year, we felt it was a win. Tonight at 7:30pm, a group of us from the council met outside the Hospital front entrance to start the Miracle Weekend broadcast on Global TV. Only the chair of our council knew the amount, so when we did the cheque flip and the number was announced, someone next to me said "Hey, why so glum?" I said, "We missed the target, only $2.9 million." They said "No silly, it is $3.9 MILLION!!!!!!" Amazing. Thanks BC for your generosity.

Calvin as ZorroLater, I donned my mask and hat and, dressed as Zorro, I sat on the Miracle Maker Panel in studio to raise money. Our Committee decided to embrace the SUPER HERO theme and dress up for our turn on the panel. The idea is to call all your friends, family and business associates and ask them to pledge money. We actually started several months prior with our own fundraising web pages. Overall, the Miracle Weekend was a huge success, with a record breaking $15,607,607 raised!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Summer Time! It is hot out, but I'm loving it.
Does your office have good air conditioning? We are in warehouse style offices, so the air conditioning (and heat) are quite suspect.
So we started pulling out the fans, and I wanted to possibly order a few more so I went online. We sell fans but I wanted a particular one my friend had told me about. I found it, plus a ton of other unique fans. Have a look - they're all very COOL!!

Frosty Fan Packs

Use these little guys in addition to your normal fan. And if you are absolutely dying of heat or need to walk away from your desk, stick one in your pocket or maybe to the back of your neck.
Yeah, I'm not sure how well these would keep you cool, but maybe if you held it close to your face long enough it would dry the sweat dripping on your forehead during that boring, long meeting. Also important is the portability option and very cheery colors.
What is it about Hello Kitty that makes her an inspiration for every gadget? You really could have an entire Hello Kitty life if you wanted to. Either way, she'll keep you nice and cool and be your friend on your desk.

Now this is a winner. Great design, great colors, and it's BIG! Did I mention it plugs into your USB? or runs on batteries? And you can hang it on a wall?
This is for when you get bored and you decide, "Hey, I actually don't care what my boss thinks of me at all." Remove the top and start cooling down.
blowitMade for musicians rocking out too hard, you can use it too! Stick it on that pipe next to your desk or maybe some other cylindrical object. It may even be powerful enough to blow your hair hard enough and make you feel like a rockstar at your desk.
Okay, so the lights aren't super cool, but for a USB fan it is smart. Cool down + get four extra USB slots! (or get the version with the 7 in 1 card reader) I'm always up for plugging more things into my computer at once.

It cools you down and allows you to spray yourself in the face for 8 bucks. Gizmodo called it a crappy fan and I semi-agree... except for that water feature.
Yeah it's expensive, and I don't know if it works any differently, but a cageless fan? That just sounds cool.
Now this looks nice. Sleek design, cloth blades, it packs a lot of punch for a small fan. Plus it's endorsed by Treehugger..for all you green loving people.
This one wins best design for me. It has some sort of retro feel to it that I love. It's pretty expensive, but if you're in a trendy office it's an easy addition.
It reminds me of something creepy off of Minority Report or War of the Worlds are something. (Anyone know what I'm talking about?) Anyways, it's a double whamo. Get both the gadgets you need on one stand, taking up one USB port. Just don't go to your computer at night and get scared by it's creepy eye.
logimouse_quartetThey are cheap, but a fan that ventilates your hand does sound nice. I'm not sure of the comfort level of the mouse in general but I sure don't enjoy a sweaty mouse.
Yeah, this one is manual, but we all need some exercise. Plus, could life get any nerdier? You need this fan.