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By Home Furnishings Business in on July 2007 DO NOT MAIL REGISTRIES

As mentioned in our March 2008 issue, some states are looking to curb direct mail by creating Do Not Mail registries similar to the Do Not Call registries for telemarketing. Visit the Web site of the Direct Marketing Association for more information.


As we said, La-Z-Boy€™s creative, new television commercials are getting a lot of attention these days. In case you haven€™t seen them, we found them posted online for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy. See La-Z-Boy€™s Commercials

We€™re quite sure you read it, but just in case, here€™s Amy€™s column from our Oct. 22 issue.

A Totally Unexpected Happening

I€™ve openly admitted several times in this column that I€™m just not a person who goes out and shops for furniture. It€™s just not my thing. I am totally curious and in love with the business of running a retail store that happens to sell furniture and all the special circumstances that go along with that. I call the people in this business my best friends, but my dollars don€™t hold this place together. I€™ve still got furniture in my house that I hauled out of my parent€™s basement 20 years ago.

I€™ve always thought that made me a beautifully useful member of this community: the demographic and psycho-graphically ideal consumer everyone is striving to reach, but can€™t. If we can figure out how to €œcrack€ me and my other non-purchasing sisters, then times will be good for all.

Ladies and gentlemen, we€™ve had a small breakthrough. Let me tell the tale.

It€™s Saturday night, 6:23 p.m. on my 11th and last day of working the High Point Market. I€™m walking to my car with my colleague Tracy Johnson. We are headed over to her house to drink some Bloody Marys by the pool and decompress.

My mood was a mixture of exhausted, happy and sad. I always have mixed feelings after Market. I totally love the scene. I could live in Market world for much longer than I do. If only we could establish some breaks for sleep and dry cleaning and then reconvene, I€™d be fine with that. There€™s something deliciously peaceful, however, about finally walking away from the grueling pace of it all. I was sad it was over, but ready to go. (You know the feeling I€™m sure.)

On my three-block walk to my car, I walked by a place that had its garage-style doors wide open. I glanced in, and my eye caught an antique silver cash register. I stopped. With the doors open, I didn€™t have to make a commitment to the program€”it was very, very easy to just walk a few steps and I was in. I looked at the cash register and then looked about a bit more. I became entranced. I saw a desk I loved, and farther back in the store there was an amazing chest made of leather and steel. Everything was clearly tagged with prices. It was like a clean, hip, cool flea market where reproductions were mixed with genuine antiques. Good tunes were playing on the stereo. The tone was perfect.

No one appeared to be in the store with us. We were free to play and explore and discover. Everything seemed to be an interesting mix of old and new. We sat in chairs, opened drawers and called each other over to look at different pieces. I fell in love with about three different things and was doing the mental math that tells me that I€™m serious about a purchase. I also knew that if I explored more, I€™d want more. What an amazing feeling.

Eventually someone came in, greeted us nicely and left us alone. I guess they could tell we were having fun and didn€™t need to say a single word. The environment and product were selling themselves. There was an upper level to the store that we didn€™t venture into, but we both admitted later we€™d wanted to, we just thought the other person would kill us for the suggestion.

We approached the owner and asked about the hours and made a plan to come back. He was totally laid back about it and didn€™t push a bit. I totally intend to be a €œbe back€ who fulfills her promise.

There I was on the last day of Market, after seeing furniture for 11 days straight, shopping for furniture with glee when I was supposed to be drinking a Bloody Mary by the pool.

Above, you have the total description of how the whole process happened. How someone who doesn€™t even like shopping for furniture went shopping for furniture on the last day you€™d expect. I remain stunned by it. It was magical, really. I tell the tale to spread the good word that when the ingredients are right, even a crusty old broad like me can be seduced into being interested in furniture, even ... when I€™m sick of furniture.

Cool, huh?


Note from Amy: Here, to prove that I really was trying. There is no attempt at grammar, punctuation or even complete, rational thoughts here.

A few months ago I purchased a new blazer. It was made from cream-colored linen and was heavily embroidered with flowers and butterflies and the sort. Very colorful. I thought it looked like a groovy psychedelic poster from the €˜60s.

One day, I was getting to meet someone somewhere for cocktails sporting my new cool blazer for the very first time. I was in my bathroom applying my make-up when my daughter walked in. She took one look at me, and in a voice and attitude that can only be articulated from a 17-year-old girl said ... €You€™re wearing that?€

Me: Yes, don€™t you like it.

Her: It€™s kind of bright.

Me: I know, I thought I could carry it.

Her: No, it just doesn€™t look like you.

As soon as those words came out of her mouth, the jacket was sunk.

Story #2

Over Labor Day weekend I actually took two days off. I didn€™t e-mail, I didn€™t read a business magazine, I didn€™t do paperwork, I didn€™t dream up new strategies for the magazine and I focused on my bedroom. I moved fairly soon after the launch of this magazine (18 months ago!) and there were boxes I still had not unpacked. (That€™s a sign I probably should have thrown the crap straight away, but ANYWAY.) I reorganized a bit. Hung some pictures, I had bought new bedding (top of bed) a couple of months ago and had never bothered to switch everything over yet. Dust ruffles can be more work than I€™m interested in most days. Anyway, I got everything set.

Same daughter, walks in room.

Says, €œthis doesn€™t look like you. It€™s too cheerful.€

Once again, she was right. My new room actually scared me a bit. My heart was actually pounding that I was going to be living in a room that didn€™t €œfit€. I felt very uncomfortable in my own bedroom.

I added more black including taking a brand new halfway expensive canvas painting I had purchased for my out of character room, took it on the back porch, pulled out black spray paint, and graffittied a big old peace sign over the top of my brand new artwork and hung it back on the wall. Frankly, it made it perfect. It edged up the room and the rawness of it took the room back down to more my style.

This time, both me and the kid loved it.

What does any of this mean? I think it means I have a brand. At least one both my daughter and I recognize.

Do you know yours?


I grew up in High Point back in the days before Target and Wal-Mart.

I hated Kmart. I had an unnatural hatred for the place. Kmart€™s image didn€™t match what I wanted to be. Goodness knows where I was assimilating my information from, but nevertheless€”when mom and dad made me go to Kmart I was mortified.

The family tried to reason with me.

€œAmy, if anyone sees you there, guess what they are there too. No harm no foul.€

€œAmy, where you buy your stuff doesn€™t matter€”as a matter of fact if you buy your stuff smart instead of overpaying, you won€™t be poor.€

€œAmy, we€™re not asking you to buy your prom dress there, a Mead composition book at Kmart is the very same composition book you€™d buy at another store, it just costs less there.€

I couldn€™t get out of going to Kmart; the €˜rents wouldn€™t let me sit in the car, so I developed a plan to €œsave face€. Upon entering the store I would report directly to the lawn care section. I was clear that if anyone was spotted in the store that we knew, the family was sworn to say we were there to buy fertilizer. I had decided that fertilizer was the only possible acceptable reason to be in a Kmart.

Fast forward 20 years.

I have a daughter that feels exactly the same way about Wal-Mart and has since she was a young.

I eventually grew up, realized money didn€™t grow on trees, and realized that Kmart was a perfectly fine place to shop€”it just bothered me that they€™d have one checkout line open for 20 people. But image€”really does matter.


You really should try playing Switzerland and crafting something that sideswipes all the political BS in this industry while still being controversial enough to be impactful and sounding brilliant and funny and charming with just the right note of sarcastic to not sound crass to a highly fragmented industry, and it€™s a barn burner of a task.


In the age of the Google it is becoming more and more important to pay attention to your personal brand. Can someone find out about you if they are trying? Which is worse€”if they can or if they can€™t? And when they pull up your life history as reflected on the Internet, what will they find out? And keep in mind that you€™re managing two brands out there€”your company€™s and your own personal brand€”how do you make sure they are in sync? It makes work a brutal slog instead of a big game that is tons of fun to play.

Tom Peters€”a brand called you.


Just like a creepy pedophile can become a 15-year-old kid on the Internet€”you can create your own persona as well. Are you being smart about it?


When I became a publisher, quite a few people began to tell me what a €œpublisher€ should be like. That kind of cracks me up because a lot of people don€™t even know what it is a €œpublisher€ does. Hilarious that they think they know what I should be like. I suppose it€™s mostly being based on Joe Carroll. After all as the longstanding publisher of Furniture/Today, he€™s the image for many people in this industry for the title of publisher.

I was told to quit wearing cowboy boots, It didn€™t look €œpublisher like€. I was told I should reconsider my fetish with peace signs€”it may be €œtoo political€. I was told I should get a backdrop in my office so that when I vlog on, the background would look pristine and organized. At minimum I could ditch the Mr. Potato Head on my bookcase.

I listened to it all. I considered it all, but here€™s why I do what I do. I hope my thought process will help you consider why you do what you do. Because it matters, it€™s the essence of your brand. Your brand is a compilation of everything you do. It€™s worth examining your actions. Pretend you had to write this column. What would you write?

These include:

If you have to become something you€™re fundamentally not in order to have a seat at the table, you will fail. You must be able to inspire yourself before you can think about inspiring others. Example: Me giving a highly formal, humorless presentation in a black business suit and pearls.

An image based on someone else€™s preconceived notions of what you €œshould€ be, means that spot is probably already taken. The €œtraditional€ niche was more than taken by the time I arrived on the scene. Thank goodness. I€™d have sucked at that one anyway.


It€™s OK for everybody not to like you. I go with the theory of love/hate/indifference. Love me great, Hate me€”sometimes even better. Don€™t care about me at all? That€™s a problem.


Most people are bored to tears. Passionate and hardworking yes, but the €œsea of sameness€ is a problem that exists on many levels in this industry. Under that theory a Mr. Potato Head doesn€™t seem all that crazy now does it?

Is everyone just dying to see one of those motivation posters with eagles soaring? Come on, you can€™t be serious. And if you are, there are plenty of other avenues out there for you to slather with your attention.

(Talking Point: What do people think a furniture store SHOULD be?)

So, there€™s the defense of my personality. Why do you care? Because a personality is an image is a brand. What€™s yours? Do you have one? The answer is yes. Is it helping you or hurting you? Well people vote with their dollars€”how€™s that bottomline doing?

Thoughtful, retail focused and strategic did happen to be available. I like our spot, and at least in my opinion, when you mix up some smart along with some cowboy boots you€™ve got something of interest. If you€™re interested, we€™ve scored.

My personal brand is inextricably connected to this magazine€™s brand, as is each member of our team. I believe we have established a personality, and I don€™t believe there€™s a member of this team that doesn€™t have a strong one. You may choose to like it or not, but you should have a clear feeling for what it is. Our hope is that as we remain true to it, that this industry will find our voice of interest

It€™s scary sometimes; I won€™t lie. The ability to not be afraid of your own personality/image/brand requires nerves of steel sometimes. But it also comes with knowing what you can and cannot do. Look fellas, there€™s just no way I can make a killer presentation in a black business suit and pearls.

A magazine is exceptionally perishable. It is our thought process and interests on paper. It is my fondest wish that every now and then our brand makes you challenge your preconceived notions.

The problem with all that is, that then I€™m not me anymore. It would seriously effect my behavior because of the disconnect between who I am, and the image I was portraying.


My day goes better when my hair looks good. It may sound shallow, but it€™s a statement of fact. I€™m quite sure it has something to with the whole topic of image. I like my image when my hair looks good. When it doesn€™t€”I€™m probably better off to stay home (or at least go get a blowout).


Why don€™t consumers want to buy our stuff. How can the stuff you surround yourself inside your home, which is meant to be a sacred place where you go for comfort be so damned unimportant. How did we begin to go the route of a lightbulb€”if it ain€™t broke don€™t fix it. ?


Am I exceptionally traditional? No, but hey guys, all those slots were taken in the industry by the time we came along. We decided to be who we are, put out a smart, thoughtful magazine, and if every now and then you€™re slightly disarmed by us, I think that€™s a very good thing.

I€™m being what some people THINK a publisher should be. €˜Tis part of the wisdom that comes with age ... that being me is really the only job I can excel at. With a little bit of luck, that €œbeing me€ part is good enough for you folks. Cowboy boots do not mean I€™m not intelligent. They don€™t mean I don€™t have skills to put a great team together that can put out a rocking magazine. And the person no matter their political affiliation that takes a peace sign as offensive? Well, that person and I were never going to get along anyway.

This issue is all about image and branding, which I translate very simply to personality. As a magazine, we€™ve chosen to have one. We think it matters. What€™s yours?

Are you trying to be the furniture store you are? The one you wish you could be? Do you even know or are you running around like a chicken with your head cut off changing strategy and style each day in a constant search for that elusive consumer we love so much.

I have great mentors and their advice is fabulous. Don€™t ever quit asking for advice, just about the time you think what other people say doesn€™t matter, you get in big big trouble. The worst thing in the world is if people quit giving you some €“ that means they just don€™t care. As wonderful as advice is, I think you should listen to it, think about it, and then still do what you think is the absolute best option with the information you have at hand.

If you have the guts to be what you really are, then you can be pretty damn good at it. Once you try to fit an image that€™s just no you, it all begins to fall apart. The trick is being who you are, just make sure what you are is something people want.

I think most people are bored to tears.

If you€™re low-cost provider, be proud of it. If you€™re the style leaders, go there. If you€™re bare bones, don€™t be ashamed of it. If you don€™t represent who you are, why would anyone else want to experience it.


Authenticity€”the most valued quality in today€™s environment. It€™s why we almost maybe could have actually elected Jesse Ventura to the seat of president. Weren€™t we all just thrilled to bits that there was someone who was willing to have an opinion€”no matter the opinion€”it was at least an opinion. WHY IS THAT SO HARD?


I buy Crest toothpaste. It costs $3.29 for a 10-ounce tube. The store brand costs $1.99. I buy Dasani water. $5.99 on sale for 12 bottles. (don€™t tell the green people) I could get it free out of my tap.


While I was writing this column my daughter had a flat tire. She had driven over a 3-inch nail. She called me from the tire shop and gave me two options. A no name brand and BF Goodrich. There was a $15 dollar per tire difference in the two prices per tire; $60 total. I told her to go with the BF Goodrich. Don€™t tell me branding doesn€™t matter€”it just cost me $60 just today.


You may have seen my vlogs on These are real life from the dining room musings about things I find interesting. I try very hard to stay true to brand in those vlogs. I could put on a suit, and do it 8 million times until I don€™t say any ummmmms. I could script it out better, I could rearrange my background better. I could take down the Mr. Potato Head in the background. But that wouldn€™t be me.

What does any of this mean? It means, at the ripe old age of 40, I do have a brand. My daughter can sometimes recognize it better than I can. But I do know when it€™s right and when it€™s not. Sometimes, I try and step out of it (see: blazer and bedroom) every now and then, but it represents.

Now, to recognize this is to say that my brand is a bit dark. I€™d agree with that. I€™m fairly sarcastic, blunt, and to the point. Hearts and flowers make me nervous. I think I€™m practical €“ which is not a trait I connect with the color pink. I like my style. It makes me nervous sometimes, but I like it. It€™s my brand.

What are you banking on? What is your personality? Does it have a place in the world? Does your personality fit a need in the community?


Signage on your trucks, billboards, direct mail, and newsletters €“ the opportunities are endless for you to educate your community as to who you are. The question you must ask yourself, is does it represent who my store is and who my store must be in order to be successful in this marketplace?


Forty-five years ago, the advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather launched the Dove soap campaign. They posititioned it for women who are concerned about dry skin, not men who have dirty hands. Big difference, same product.


If you advertise on price, that€™s what people will expect is most important when they shop your store. Is that what you want? If so, go for it, if not, tone it down a bit. If you have a really hip and cool ad, and your store and your employees scream drab, that€™s a problem. If you advertise in a hot new magazine it is foolish to have boring creative. Sure you€™ll stand out, but in a bad way.


How do you create a brand that is viewed as a peer with your consumer? How should your brand interact with consumers?


Should you have a video on YouTube? It totally depends.



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Family Owned Business Institute
The Grand Valley State University€™s Family Owned Business Institute€™s mission is to promote, preserve, influence, and impact family businesses through quality academic research, curriculum, and information services.

University of Cincinnati€”Goering Center for Family & Private Business
Goering Center for Family & Private Business, at The University of Cincinnati, is a leading educational and informational resource center for family and closely held businesses.

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business€”Family Business Center
Helping family business owners, their families and their employees maintain profitable businesses and successfully transfer control of the business.

Startup Journal
Articles from the Wall Street Journal Center for Entrepreneurs.

Family Business Magazine
A magazine written for the owner and managers of family companies.

Family Forum
The purpose of the Family Business Forum of the University of North Carolina at Asheville is to enhance the viability of closely held businesses in Western North Carolina.
Online resource for family business executives and owners.

U.S. Small Business Administration
Links to business start-up, financing, government business resources for small business owners and more.

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