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PPFA Bookstore

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Jack Cee mentioned in his advice to a Newbie that they should get some of the books on Business from the PPFA Bookstore.

My question is this: How many have purchased these Business Books and what was the best advice you received?

My reason for asking was, without casting dispersions, I thought most of the B-Books were a "little light". I haven't read them all, so I could be missing something.

So, perhaps if there are some nuggets out there, would anyone care to share?

I think the B advice in PFM by Goltz and Bluestone, and by Parker in Decor are far superior. Markoff also gives a very good introductory class, also.

I'm not looking for anyone to defend to PPFA Books, just want to know if any of them are really good? I just haven't found any, yet.

And I'm always looking
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SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
When I first decided I was going to see if this was a business I really wanted to try, I took a week-long basic framing class at Larson-Juhl, NY (NJ) and stayed for their 1 or 2 day framing business class. Both were worth every penny. I also went to a local SBA class. I joined PPFA for the first two years, until I decided that all they did was take my money. I did, however, buy all of their recommended reading to pass the CPF examine (which I never took). These, too, were worth every penny. I don’t believe there were any small business books on that list at the time. Are there today?

I tried working part-time for a couple of framers before I struck out on my own. I decided with my previous creative and technical experience, and what I had learned from the classes and PPFA recommended books, I had more knowledge than the old dogs that I was working for. I was not going to learn what I needed to know working for them. I needed real hands-on experience. I needed the full experience of the day-to-day operation, and I did not want to work from home. I had always keep an eye out for an affordable part-time space, so when I found the right opportunity (it happened fast), I took it.

So, yes, these books are well worthwhile for Newbies and for those who think they already have all the answers. And, judging from what comes on my shop, many framers (and me too) need to read a lot more.

I started slowly, part-time (nights & weekends) in a retail location (while working full-time for 3 years) to get my feet wet, learn the business and technical side of framing, establish clients, and most importantly, figure out whether my interest in the framing business would last. I think I started with about $4000 I took from my savings, and my full-time position easily paid the rent, but as it turned out, the business was always able to pay for itself. Although, I have not quite replaced my salary yet (almost) I have never lost money, and the business has paid for all of the improvements I have made. I will soon be moving to a new, 1600sq ft location in the village center, armed with what I have learned to date, and look forward to learning a lot more. It never ends Bob, does it?

I looked around for the books that I have:

The Framer’ Answer Book - Paul Frederick
More Answers for the Framer - Paul Frederick
Conservation Framing for the Professional Picture Framer - Ann Ferguson, Ph.D.
Matting and Hinging of Works of Art on Paper – The Consultant Press
Easy to Build Object Framing – Don Bowen
Needlework Framing – Vivian Kistler (a must read for framers)
Mat Cutting & Decorating – Vivian Kistler
PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Canvas
PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Paper
Frames and Framing – Gerald Laird & Louise Meiere Dunn
The Larson-Juhl Training Manual & Smart Start (frame shop designs)

What most of these classes don’t stress enough, is for us to learn as much as we can about running a business before we start. I don’t remember getting any recommended reading for this equally important aspect. These books and additional business classes definitely would have quickened the learning curve. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford to learn the hard way. Can you?

Bob: Thanks for your help here and for your recommended reading tips, I will dig in.

Framing Goddess

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I know that you are asking specifically about books from the PPFA library, Bob, but other than from your posts here, I got the most useful information from other books that had been recommended by Grumblers:

Why We Buy by Paco Underhill

Up Against The WalMarts

The Guerrilla Marketing Series

I would love some practical information about retailing, though. The most useful information I ever got was from Jay Goltz's classes- they literally affected my "bottom line." Up until that point I had actually listened to rep's suggestions on mark-ups. Duh-uh, wonder whose bottom line they were really interested in?
I have yet to read any of his books yet- looks like I just added them to my list.

The PPFA library was good for specific framing how-to's and since I am a framing employee as well as an employer, it was very helpful to read those. And without reading them, I would have never gotten my CPF.

When are you going to teach a class, Bob? (and not on fishing, either.)

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Edie-I have been asked (after some arm twisting) to give a class at WCAF on Business Plans. I'm going to do it interactive as the class will develop a Business Plan for AnyShop in Anywhere,USA. I might throw a couple of fish stories in, also, since none of my fishing partners will be there to call me on them.

But, the point I was trying to make is that there aren't many "good" books in the PPFA Library that I have seen. I think everything was well-intentioned, but there are just somethings that can't be learned from a single book (or a single class). I'll bet if you asked Hugh Phibbs for one book (or two) that would answer all your questions about conservation and restoration he would suggest it takes a body of work and experience.

And, that's why I really suggest to a newbie to follow the Goltz's, the Parker's, the Bluestone's,the Markoff's, the Miller's et al.These folks have the formal education coupled with real world successes and real world failures.

Perhaps we can get Jay to lead a forum online of determining a good mark up. I know how we do it in the "typical" retail environment and his input on the framer's world might be an interesting study of contrasts. However, I suspect that our approach and his are probably pretty similar.

I wonder if the trade is ready for a larger group of people to "do it" the way most other retailers do it. That is with a market-driven approach instead of "static" mark ups. Last time we discussed this, there were still quite a few strongly oppossed to these ideas, suggesting that they really don't work in our trade


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Bob, this is kind of far in advance but... Please keep in mind maybe offering same type of class in Atlanta next year. That's the only show that we usually get to go to. I would really like for "Himself the Elf" to take that class. Right now, his work just won't really let us get away for anything else. Shoot, we haven't even been to visit family in over a year. Since the tragedy in NY last year, he just can't get time off any more. We do well for him to not to have to work weekends. However, this is what we want to do when we grow up, and probably really need this business class. ;)

Sherry Gray

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I would definitely be interested in an online business class. What a great idea! Have taken some business classes at the local community college, but a class specifically for framers would be just the ticket. I'm in if Goltz would offer it.

Framing Goddess

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Bob, that is exactly what I would be interested in... how the rest of the retail universe does the mark-up thing!
It is obvious to me that what a lot of us are doing isn't working! And aren't we all tired of living like paupers? All of our customers think that we are getting wealthy, why not actually have it be the case?
In any case, framers seem to be in their own isolated orbit- I know that there would be much to learn from those who do what we do, but on a much larger scale. The market driven approach seems to be a concept that we know little about but yet could benefit us in huge ways.
Please let's not get discouraged by those who are opposed- believe me if anyone else is like me, we are hungry for this information.
It seems especially important to become well-versed in these principles NOW, in light of all of us who were moaning about lack of business on another thread here (including me)... time to re-assess and re-assess and re-assess...
I'm all ears.

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
It's very difficult to compare mark-up in our industry to others, because very few others include designing (Research & Development), manufacturing, marketing, servicing and retailing, all under one roof, and often done by the same person!

In "business as usual" each of these areas has it's own overhead and markup. It's true that "business is business" and I gain an awful lot from reading (regular) business magazines and books, but I have to do that with an eye on the fact that whatever area I'm reading about (retailing, marketing, manufacturing, etc) that's only ONE segment of my business.

And that doesn't even get into the "office" side of it...



PFG, Picture Framing God
I would welcome an online business class.
It would be wonderful because it would be easier to participate. It isn't possible for all of us to get away to trade shows and even when we do we have to pick between all the classes that we want to take.
I am trying very hard to gain the business knowledge that I so desperately need to be successful.
Bring it on!

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Betty brings up an interesting point about the "big boys" having many people to focus on specific areas. How true-we all keep changing the different "hats" we wear. One hour we are a Purchasing Agent, then we become Designers, then we become Operators and on and on.

But, that doesn't mean we can break each component down and focus on each element. The problem is no one tells you what the elements are, how to research those elements and then how do you "test" those decisions.

In a former life, I did stuff like this and had access to all the supporting folderall. It is how decisions are made.

So how does that relate to us?


Start with the very basic element you sell-let's use glazing.

Pick one type, let's say Con Clear.

Determine your actual landed cost-your per lite cost out of the box. Know your costs.

Then establish a "no lower than" price to ensure your Cost of Goods margin is maintained.

Then look at those "minimum" selling prices in relation to the rest of your glazing products. Does the price (selling) make a logical fit? If the preceived value is at least as high as a Non-glare conventional glass, shouldn't it be as high?

Do some marketing-ask your clients what they perceive the added value of this product is. It's what focus groups are all about. You've already established a comfortable relationship with your client, try it. Most will tell you more than you ask.

Then with this info, Research your market. Don't look for who is cheapest-someone will always be cheaper. Look for those people that charge more than you-compare their prices to their look to their success. If they look as good, and appear to be as successful as you and they charge $2 more, why don't you? Research as many "real" competitors as possible, but also research the Big Box guys, also. You need to know your market.
Michael has stated many times he hires a professional temp service to do this(his own private marketing staff)

These easy steps are the first easy steps in helping you determine correct pricing startegies. It is a little more sophisticated, but let's learn to crawl before we walk-then we'll run.

Now you know your costs, you know where in the line this item fits, you have a sense of market from your own clients and then the marketplace.

Now you test the validity of your decision. You set your "new" market-driven price and watch for customer response.

Let's say you increased your price by $2 a lite and no one blinks. You have just given yourself a $2 raise and it goes straight to the bottom line. But suppose you have some resistance-maybe 1 out of 10 thinks that this $2 puts you out of the ballpark (Okay, I'm being silly here), but the other 9 don't balk. You are still $18 ahead-you won't win them all. If 9 out 10 falter, don't ignore it. But also don't reduce it until you have proved to yourself that it was really price. Maybe a more effective sales presentation would be the cure. This might be a job for your "Sales Manager". But, you have to test your decisions-seek validity for your decisions.

Everything you sell can be "researched" in the same manner. Just don't let your computer or POS program tell you what you should charge-let the market.

There are plenty of wrinkles to this equation-maybe we can address several as we go. But this basic technique is time-honored and effective. And it works exactly as effectively as you do.

If you feel you have to add a labor component or an overhead component to this pricing, you are missing the Big Picture. All those extraneous factors need to be covered by your Gross Profit Margins. So, let's focus on establishing smart prices and then we'll determine what margins those "smart" prices generate.

And that is how most of the Retail Universe does it.

Let's let that settle in and we can move down the line to getting a "little" more sophisticated on this important issues

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Originally posted by Bob Carter:

Then establish a "no lower than" price to ensure your Cost of Goods margin is maintained.

If you feel you have to add a labor component or an overhead component to this pricing, you are missing the Big Picture. All those extraneous factors need to be covered by your Gross Profit Margins. So, let's focus on establishing smart prices and then we'll determine what margins those "smart" prices generate.

Please clarify. I thought I should set prices based on my overhead + cost of goods + profits.

(Sometimes I understand concepts, but not how it's worded. For instance, it took me a while to understand the computereze that "multi-tasking" just meant "doing a lot of stuff at once!" )


Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Betty-I mean I see some of the most convoluted schemes for setting pricing including the most extreme cases of adding this and that. It just isn't that complex.

Let's assume that your target CoG is 30%. Then start with a multiplier of 3.3 times your material cost. In the case of glass, assume you pay $3 a lite. Then your "no lower than" price should be around $10 a lite. But we all know there is a little labor involved. But since you have figured the cost of the lite the piece comes out of (not sq in or UI)waste is not a factor.

So, if it was just a mathematical formula, you could say (and your POS will say) $10 is the correct price.

But if you shop your market, you'll find that no one (okay, very few) sell for $10. It's probably $15 or more. So, what's the correct price? It's $15 or more, because that's the price that reflects your market. Not your markup

I know, I know we'll have some folks who just have to say labor is an expense and it needs to accounted for. Look at your Statement of Income. Wages, salaries, labor whatever you call it is absolutely an Expense. And all Expenses are listed below Gross Profit Margin. Those Expenses are suppossed to be paid by your GPM.

Now, if you are doing cost accounting and all day long you do nothing but cut and sell glass 8 hours a day, figure it out on that basis. But in our do a lot of things all day long (or for some not enough things in too many hours) you can't ascribe an accurate cost of labor to this component.

This is why our margins are so high to account for the things like labor, etc.

But it doesn't change the basic fact that if everyone else charges $15 or more, you should also. It is one of the big fallacies that home-based operations make all the time.

Adding all these extra add-ons just makes it too tough. I always ask those parties that feel a minute by minute expense based pricing is the only way to tell me if their prices go up in February (only 28 days) or go down in a 31 day month. Rent is by the month, phone bills are by the month, insurance, almost all the uncontrolables are by the month.

Gross Profit Margins pay the bills, period. Use the tools that you can monitor and adjust for two things: Required margin and market conditions.

Everything else is just fine tuning.

I'm not arguing with anyone's scheme. I just don't think they do it like that. For example, using Betty's formula in a retail-driven business like ours, how do you account for that hour or so when no one comes into your store or the time you spend on the Grumble. Don't your expense keep running? Who pays for that expense? In a Nike sweat shop, that type of formula might have a more logical use, where output is predictable. But not in our situation.

Besides, If I ran 100% capacity all day long and my market would yield $15 for that same lite of glass that my "numbers" said should be $10, want to guess where my price will be?


<span style="color: red"><b><i>Charter Member</i><
It seems to me that the on line business class has begun!

Thanks, Bob. That is the clearest and most concise explanation I've ever read, and I have every business book PPFA offered up until 3 years ago.
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