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.