Friday, December 14, 2007

Traveling Billboard

If you own a business, you know that the cost of advertising can be pretty substantial. When I first purchased the Jake's van, it was for that purpose but in a different way than it turned out. In my first winter at the new site, I worried about my sales, especially since the signage did not seem to be adequate (some people drove back and forth and still did not see it.). So, I came up with the idea of buying a van with large windows, placing the Jake's on both sides and the "We're still open" on the back. I would park it out on the road pointing inward towards the diner as kind of an arrow of sorts.

I searched the different styles and found that the window design on the Dodge/Chrysler suited me the best so I began looking for one (It had to be white). This became harder than I expected especially since I had a budget and a price in mind (no more than $15000). I looked and looked and tried making a deal with the Dodge lot but nothing seemed to fit. Every day, I drove by this one lot and saw the perfect one but the sign said $19,990 and I kept on going. One day, I drove into that lot and inquired on it. I was making a trip to Portland the next day. I had a price in mind and stuck to my guns on it. As the salesman went back and forth, I did not budge. I told him that my trip to Portland would probably find what I wanted. Then an idea came to me. "Would you take trade?", I asked. "What do you have in mind?", he came back. I explained to him that I owned Jake's and he said that he would check with the boss. He came back a few minutes later with a few more questions and before I knew it, I had my van....with a surprise on the side, a new account also. There lot had a sales meeting every month and they had not been happy with their existing restaurant (Slow food and uncaring attitude). I assured them that would not happen with us and talked them into calling in the order an hour ahead and I would have the food on the table when they walked in the door. I had a new van, they had a new meeting place just blocks from there lot, and the best thing was, their meetings would be paying for part of the monthly payment.

I had the signage placed on it and it turned out much better than I ever expected but I sooned realized that parking it out on the street was not going to work. I never realized just how much driving I do in one day. Back and forth to school for my grandson, going out for supplies or repairs, meetings with the accountant or insurance agent, or just getting away. Then I began to notice people were noticing me and I realized the greatest part of the whole thing, I had a traveling billboard. I even had people follow me back to the diner. One group jumped out of their rigs as I parked and shouted gleefully, "We found you! We have been looking all over!".

But there was a downside also. I tend to not have the best focus when I am driving. I am often off in thought of what I need to do or how I can better the business and people will tell me that they wave, honk, and try and get my attention and I just keep on driving. Now, the ones that know me, know that I don't mean to ignore them but I am sure that their are others who might not and I hope that they don't see me as ignoring them. And then their is the problem of when you don't focus well and make a mistake like pulling out in front of someone. That can be very detrimental when you are trying to increase your customers. I imagine them looking at the van that just cut them off and saying to themselves, "I will never eat there!".

I recalled a few years back when my kids were in Cascade Junior High. These were the days before round abouts and as I pulled out on to the road to Bachelor, I looked in my rear view mirror just as the car behind me that I had cut off, slammed on its brakes and narrowly missed hitting me. The car pulled into the Cascade lot behind me and a very large man stepped out and walked up the side of my car. His bulk filled my mirror and my mind raced. I imagined myself being pummeled by this big man right in front of my kids peers. I rolled down my window and with a gulp, said Hi. "I am sorry that I almost hit you.", he explained. "I wasn't keeping an eye on the road well, and you just ended up right in front of me.". I told him that it was me who had cut him off and that I was sorry. "Heck, no problem", the big man said, "I have done it myself before."

Just last week, another big man came across the diner floor and stopped me. "I owe you an apology.", he said. "Why?", I asked. "I cut you off the other day with my car. I really didn't mean to.". And I quickly realized that the driving thing can go both ways. With little deja vue in my head, I shook his hand and said, "Heck, no problem. I have done it myself before."

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