December 9, 2004

In This Issue of The Acid Staining Newsletter

The Lunch n’ Learn

My brother, Lanny Goodman, has been in business for years as a successful management consultant. He adores computers and all the latest software, while I am back in the Dark Ages using scissors and paste. Lanny has had to dragoon me into a series of computer upgrades, all of which I have resisted until the last possible moment. It seems that I’ve just mastered QB 3.0 when along comes 4.0 with a new series of bells and whistles designed to make my life easier, but in reality requiring a whole new learning curve and presenting new glitches which I’ll have to discover and surmount.

Every once in a while my brother comes up with a really good idea, force-feeds it to me, and then I’m as proud and pleased as if I’d thought of it myself. It took him several years, but he finally got me to switch from dial-up web access to DSL, and now I can’t see how I ever lived without it. Another such idea was that I could promote my business with a PowerPoint presentation. True to form, I dragged my feet. I have been giving slide shows (remember the old slide projectors and tripod screens) to art classes for years, so why can’t that be good enough?  Well, it’s not very portable, takes longer to set up, and appears unprofessional, Lanny argued.

He had me give him some of my best photos (see my last newsletter about the importance of hiring a professional photographer). The computer pros in his office scanned them into PowerPoint, printed a few informative bullet-point slides and a title slide with our company logo on it, and supplemented the formal photos with close-ups I had taken with my digital camera and e-mailed (!) to their office. They put everything on a nice black background (as on my website). There is nothing like a dark background to set off the colors in your slides. He then handed me a slender CD with my PowerPoint lecture on it and said “Try this.”  It didn’t hurt that he had a very expensive projector he was willing to loan me as well as a laptop (I dragged my feet for another year on the purchase of a laptop).

Well, now I think that the PowerPoint is the best thing since acid stain.  An architectural firm called me one day to ask questions about how they should write specifications for a good acid-stained floor. We had a long chat and at the end he said, “Do you ever do Lunch n’ Learns?”  I had never heard this term but said, “Uh, yeah, sure!”

It seems that most architectural firms like to hold these sessions at lunch time. You bring your presentation plus a box of sandwiches and soft drinks or juice for everyone. You arrive half and hour early and are shown to the conference room, which may already be equipped with a screen and slide projector. You plug in your laptop, insert the CD and are ready to go. We obtained a list of every architectural firm in Albuquerque , a city of 500,000, which has 83 such firms.

Our presentation covers all the decorative things we can do and the color mixes and dilutions which are possible. We even have a few slides of floors we’ve stained and sealed with bright-colored dyes. We don’t show outdoor jobs or swimming pool borders, because we don’t believe those are suitable for staining in this climate.

We are quite frank in talking about places where we feel integrally-colored concrete would be more suitable than what we do, which inspires confidence in our honesty.

Our presentation usually takes about 20 minutes, but we hope it will take longer as the architects stop us to ask questions and examine certain ideas. At the end we turn on the lights and field questions about the timing of work, durability of sealers, floor maintenance, and spec writing. We bring extra copies of the Tech-data sheets for all the stains and sealers we use, in case they need those. We hand out our business cards and some large color postcards we made of our last commercial job, the Santa Fe Arcade, so they will remember us. The whole procedure takes about two and a half hours, including picking up the lunch and returning the projector to my brother’s office.

We have gotten about one immediate job per lunch n’ learn presentation. Whenever business appears to be slowing down in the upcoming month, we get on the phone and call four or five architectural offices. There is usually someone in the office designated as the luncheon scheduling person. If the firm happens to be puzzling over the use of acid staining on a project, we get a very fast and positive call back. 

The scheduler will often ask us to fax a brief written outline of what our presentation will cover. He or she will circulate the outline around the office getting the initials of those who expect to attend. We usually get from five to ten attendees. There are always a few who want to come but are unable to make it at the last minute, so we have never run short on food. One time a non-participant walked in and out of the meeting just to grab a piece of the pizza we provided and overheard a few words. We later got a job from this guy to work on his own house. You never know when a seed will fall on fertile ground.

One day I got a call from a woman who was the committee coordinator for an extremely large and visible project. She was desperate, since she had postponed finding an acid stainer and had visiting planners and VIPs coming to town that very afternoon who wanted to learn all about decorative concrete floors. She wondered if I could possibly come in on such short notice and give a presentation with a few photos. I said we had a PowerPoint all set up and that I felt it would give them a good overview of the possibilities. My assistant, Brian, and I gave our usual talk and it filled the bill perfectly. The coordinator whispered to me as we left, “You saved the day; I can’t tell you how grateful I am.” I don’t want to count my chickens too soon, but I think that next summer we will be doing this job—the biggest we have ever obtained.