Tuesday, December 29, 2009
So we found a 100pc puzzle (LPF, of course) and had a contest.
Each person started with the puzzle in the box, out of the bag, and with the lid half way up the base. The clock started when the lid came off. Uncle B went first. My daughter was sent to another room so she could not gleam any hints. This uncle is in his 30's and has 2 kids. He has been doing puzzles with his kids recently. When he was finished his time was a rather slow 20 minutes 28 seconds. He got a little side tracked looking for a final edge piece instead of just moving on to the middle. Apparently, he was convinced the key was to do the edge and work his way in.
My daughter went next. She knew the time to beat, so that was a slight advantage. Her strategy involved flipping the pieces right side up and sorting them into groups by color. It took her a little time to get started, but when she finally got the sorting completed, she was off to the races. She posted a blistering time of 12 minutes 8 seconds.
Others in the family gave it a try as well, but no one else came close to the 12 minute mark.
I wonder if any of you have ever had a puzzle race? It was fun and will probably be part of our get togethers in the future.
Send me your best times or other contest suggestions using puzzles. LPF puzzles, of course.
Friday, December 25, 2009
While we enjoy our families and friends, we remember those who are not with us today.
The day is off to a great start. Last night was church and a beautiful dinner. Santa made it overnight and the kids are already trying out their new toys.
I hope everyone who reads this blog has a wonderful day and enjoys all that it brings.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
But LPF has been humming right up all through December and even over the holidays work will not stop. One of the biggest trade shows of the year happens in Hong Kong in January. I will be leaving on Jan 4 for the show. We have redone our catalog, added products, and been busy making appointments for the show. Our showroom will be a the Grand Stanford hotel again. Only this year we have the showroom for 7 days (last year we only had it for 4 days). The extra days reflect the fact we have more appointments this year.
The good news is that most of our work was completed yesterday. Now it is just a matter of making sure it all arrives at the showroom and gets set up. It will take us a whole day just to set up.
So if you are planning on being in Hong Kong the first two weeks of January, drop me a note and lets set up a time for me to show you our lines. We have something for everyone.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
We have done all our christmas shopping. Maybe a few little things, but the kids main gifts are bought and will be ready for them come Friday.
My family will be arriving in town on Tuesday evening and then the holidays will really start.
The good and bad news is that I am having a hard time finding LPF puzzles in town. The stock levels are down and it is obvious that people have responded positvely to our puzzles. I just wish we had more on the shelves so everyone who wants one could find one. Don't worry, we are shipping more to help refill shelves after the holidays.
Also, I want to thank all those folks who have written me in the last few weeks with kind words about our puzzles. I really do enjoy hearing from folks. Especially when they tell me a little bit about themselves and why they bought a particular puzzle. I do listen and it helps us as we continue to add to our lines.
Quick explanation - I recently discovered that YouTube is a great source for music. Seems like every song and artist is on there. ITunes is fine if you want to buy a song, but they only let you hear a 30 sec clip of the song. On YouTube you can find the whole song.
Which leads me to this video. I have loved the song currently playing in the background of Cadillacs new commercial. It has a great beat and sound. I found it on YouTube. I is a great song to get your blood pumping. Enjoy.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The day was particularly good. The kids wished me happy birthday before they left for school. I did some work in the morning. After lunch, I met up with my wife and we did some Christmas shopping and other errands together. For dinner we had Skyline chili on noodles. My favorite! I have been trying to watch what I eat, so it was particularly nice to throw caution to the wind and pig out a bit.
After dinner I went and heard Matt Painter, the coach of the Purdue Mens basketball team speak. He is a very entertaining speaker. His passion for the game of basketball is obvious. He not only can speak about Purdue and the Big Ten, but he is tuned into to all of Div 1 basketball. The man is a basketball junkie. Gene Keady was there too, which made it extra special. The two of them should develop a stand up act and tour the country.
So I wake up this morning feeling a little bit older. But I am also feeling motivated. The future looks bright. I would not change a thing about the previous 42 years. And the next 42 will be even better.
Friday, December 11, 2009
1) Not enough time. Every minute is important and we do not want to miss any opportunity. This is why I fly to HK for 3 days, fly home and drive 6 hours round trip the next day for a sale meeting, then fly to Canada for 2 days the next day. Yes, its exhausting, but it also allows me to understand the goals of our customers. I learn about what makes their customers unique. And then we can make product that will maximize the retailers goals for its consusmers.
2) Focusing on different time horizons. This last week, I made decisions within each of these time horizons.
- Immediate: Daily or weekely - watching and analyzing our daily and weekly POS data from products selling at stores right now. Shipping products daily.
- Intermediate: This week thru the next few months - taking and producing orders that ship from now into the next 6 monhts.
- 2 to 6 months from now - introducing, selling and quoting our new lines that would start appearing in stores next Summer and Fall,
- Future - looking at new licenses and artists that we would develop into new puzzle and other toy lines. These issues will not start appearing in stores until 2011
In thinking about this post, I thought of this song from a long time ago.Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin' into the future. - Steve Miller Band
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Today that building is being turned into condos. It is really remarkable to think that people will be living in a building that only a few years ago was a noisy and dusty factory that employed almost 150 people. The building is brick and has huge wood beams inside. The floors are wood on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The buiding is well built and has a lot of history.
I am sure the units are really neat inside. As I understand it, each unit is 3 stories and highlight the architectural details of the building. Walls and beams are exposed. It has to be the most interesting interiors for a condo in Lafayette. I believe the first folks have already moved in.
I think having worked in the building, I could never live there. It would be too strange to know that where your kitchen is located used to be a die cutter or a lamination machine. Obviously, anyone moving in now only sees the high ceilings, wood floors, and exposed brick wall. But I would see the ghosts of over 100 years of manufacturing.
Just last week I had a nice conversation with a woman from the midwest. Puzzles and shoes are her hobby (I think she actually said shoes first and then puzzles). Puzzles are her way to relax. Living on a fixed income she recognized what a good entertainment value a puzzle provided. With the price of movies and books rising every time you look around, it is hard to find an entertaining activity that is affordable. But puzzles provide the entertainment.
As a person who has been doing puzzles for many years, I have never understood the appeal of very, very difficult or impossible puzzles. I do not see how it can be enjoyable (or a good value) to be stumped by a puzzle. In my opinion, for a puzzle to be enjoyable and relaxing it must be solvable. It might take some time and concentration (and a good lamp for light as I get older), but I want to finish the puzzle. It can't be too easy. But it has be realistic.
Those of your that do super hard puzzles (Buffalo Games has a line of Impossible Puzzles - they are sort of known for that line) tell me the appeal. And what makes a puzzle really difficult. Is it the die lines, the image (or lack of image), the colors (or lack of colors). Help me understand.
Monday, November 30, 2009
When we arrived, we found the parking lot was crowded. But we got lucky and found parking without much hassle. We had a quick lunch and headed into the mall at about 12:30pm. The mall was definitely crowded, but not terrible. It was more like a very crowded Sunday than what you would expect on the busiest shopping day of the year. The good news was that most people were carrying bags. People were not just walking and window shopping. They looked like they were buying.
At one store, they had a really good selection of Lafayette Puzzle Factory puzzles. They even had some on an end cap. Even better was that the inventory looked to be running a bit low. But with a little reshelving by myself and my mother (who is a puzzle expert), we had the shelves looking first rate.
What was really fun was watching people select puzzles. Especially when they would select LPF puzzles without my prompting. I also could not help myself and make a few recommendations.
There was one young girl who I watched select a puzzle. She spent a lot of time checking out each and every puzzle. She ultimately selected a great panoramic puzzle by Robin Koni. It is a very colorful underwater scene. It was quite pleasing to watch this transaction unfold. Especially since I remember our team picking this image for our puzzles over a year ago. We probably looked at hundreds and hundreds of underwater art scenes before we picked Robin's.
A year later, watching someone select that image over the 200 other puzzles in this store was really quite satisfying.
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Flat Stanley came to visit us from my niece in Cincinnati.
I'll let Wikipedia to explain Flat Stanley: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Stanley
Thursday, October 29, 2009
My youngest has it worse than his brother. He is miserable. I wish I could report he has been doing puzzles while at home, but he hasn't. He sleeps and coughs. One funny thing he has been doing is with some chalk. One of the puzzles we make is our Chalkboard Floor Puzzle. It is a puzzle that comes with chalk and kids can write on. The pieces are big and chunky. My son has been using one of the pieces and a piece of chalk to communicate. He says his throat hurts and when he talks it makes him cough. So he has been writing on a piece of the puzzle different words. Things like "juice" or "ok" or "yes". Its been pretty funny. And a use for the puzzle I never thought about until now.
Maybe I can have the first puzzle ever sold in the cough medicine aisle at the drugstore.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
But now, our products are in stores across the country. And one of the neatest things I do is watch POS data. POS stands for Point of Sale. Depending on the retailer, either everyday or every week, they report how many puzzles we have sold in their stores. Since getting our products on to shelves this fall, I have been obsessed with POS data. It is the ultimate scoreboard. I celebrate the days that show big jumps in our sales. And scour the weather reports to see why the numbers did not jump other days (too warm outside, too stormy, sold out?). But it is all great fun. And helps us figure out where to take our lines next.
I sometimes wonder if I am the only person who obesses about POS data for their product. I know it is important for manufacturers to see how their products are selling. But, LPF is so small, the data feels more intimate. We all remember who picked certain images or found a particular artist. We remember the passionate discussions to put a particular image in a certain piece count. The POS data acts as the ultimate judge that the persons passion was right. And so far, the data seems to show we all did a good job of picking images and formats.
I also wonder if I am the only person who goes into stores and poses for pictures with his products behind him. I doubt the CEO of Goodyear tires does that. Although he might want to. Its a great conversation starter. More on that another day.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Sorry for the lack of posts lately. It has been really crazy since Dallas. I got home late Friday night and spent the next two days watching or coaching my kids during 10 soccer games. Overall, they did great. My daughters HS team won the County Cup tournament. And my oldest son won his tournament in Indianapolis. My youngest son was in a tournament as well, but they are in a younger age bracket and did not have an official champion (unofficially, they won!)
Then last week was spent following up on our meetings in Dallas. The retailers see a lot of great toys in a short period of time. We work really hard to make sure our products stay front and center in their minds.
Here is a picture of our booth in Dallas. A lot of folks worked really hard to make the booth look as good as it did. To be honest, it makes the selling of our products that much easier when our visual presentation is so good.
We had a great spot on a busy intersection. I was across from Fundex and my friend Tracey, who is now the queen of puzzles for them. A couple of furtive glances suggested that she did a great job on their booth as well.
Next door to us was a really neat guy who sells fun and fast moving sports themed dice games. http://www.gozonegames.com/ He gave me one of his GoLo games (easier than packing it up and taking it home) and I played it last week. It was easy to learn and kept moving. I played with my sons 10 and 12. Both caught on quickly and enjoyed keeping score on the score pads. It is basically golf with dice. A "round" takes about 2 minutes. So the three of us could knock out a game in 6 or 8 minutes. Check out his web site and look for his games. They are really clever.
Our distribution continues to grow. I love getting notes from around the country from people who are enjoying our puzzles. I respond to every e-mail personally so keep sending in notes and e-mails.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
It does feel like the number of exhibitors and attendees is less than last year. The elevators are not as crowded and the Starbucks never had a line of more than 5 people.
The first day of a show is usually has the most activity. And the last day is usually the quietest. If today was the busy day, I am am really curious to see how quiet Friday will be.
As for my booth, it was a good day. Not very many walk in visitors, but our set schedule went off as planned and included many household retailer names. My sales team did a great job setting up appointments and showing our new items.
I was also very pleased with the write ups we had in several trade publications. We are introducing a line of Crayola brand floor puzzles at the show. The trade publications did a nice job of explaining the items and how they will appeal to moms and kids both. We also had a great response today to our new 3D puzzle line. The line is a big improvement over the current lenticular puzzles in the market. Lenticualar puzzles look neat when complete, but trying to put one together is really difficult. We have solved this problem.
More reports from the show and more sneak peaks at new products as the week goes on.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Almost everyday for the last 12 weeks there have been meetings, e-mails, phone calls, and other forms of communication to work out all the details of the products. Not only were we under the gun to get everything done and samples made for the show, but my creative director got married last weekend. She was really great these last weeks (she is always great, but especially these last few weeks). She planned a big time wedding and put the finishing touches on our line. I am not sure how she did it. I do not think she slept much the last few weeks.
So now all the samples are on their way to Dallas. Next Monday is set up day.
Our appointments are made (we still have slots open, so go ahead and make an appointment!). Samples are in route. And it is suddenly very quiet.
I can not wait for next week and see the reaction to all this hard work.
Monday, September 21, 2009
This week he wrote an entry about a novel that uses puzzles in the narrative.
I have not read the book, but with a bunch of travel coming up in October, I will grab a copy and read it on the airplane. I liked what Richard wrote about the ability of puzzles to bring people together. Everyone is looking for ways to connect today. A good puzzle, a cup of coffee (or Diet Coke), and a bag of popcorn is sure to facilitate hours of conversation and comradery.
Once you get to Richards blog, be sure to spend some time looking through his archives. He has a lot of insight about what is going in the toy industry and the toy aisle.
And if you know of any other blogs about toys and puzzles, let me know.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
In particular I heard from a person in Florida who is really enjoying our line of 100pc puzzles. I am glad. I can remember picking the images for this line last year and thinking we had picked a particularly good set of really cute and interesting images. I am glad you agreed! And do not worry about buying out all the puzzles on the shelf. We will make more!
Monday, September 7, 2009
Overall, I thought the series of articles captured the mood in Lafayette quite well. Despite setbacks, most people are optimistic things will get better. They just are not sure when. But everyone hopes soon.
Lafayette does have a great economic foundation with Purdue University, the medical community and being the county seat. Add to that the heavy industry companies (CAT, Subaru, Wabash National) and their sub-contractors, and while things are tough, the economy is pretty diverse. We are not reliant on just one major employer like a lot of towns.
I am confident things will turn around soon here and across the country.
PS: I should clarify one aspect of the article. I never took a buy out from Warren Industries. I resigned on my own after considering a relocation to another division in New Jersey. The job with the sporting goods company was with Tippmann Sports in Ft. Wayne, IN. Tippmann makes paintball guns. They are a great company and make a great product right in Ft. Wayne. I enjoyed working there and still keep in touch with many of my former co-workers. Anyone looking to buy a paintball gun should look for a Tippmann. I have an A5 with an e-grip. It is great fun to use and very easy to maintain.
Monday, August 31, 2009
The full press release details some of our newest products. I'll post it here in the near future.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
A career .240 hitter, but now part of the history books. You never know when you will get your opportunity to shine. Eric sure didn't until the ball came right at him at the right time. It might look like luck, but the reality is he has spent a life time practicing and preparing. It is great to see it pay off in such a high profile way.
Kicking myself I did not make one more bid on his autographed baseball at a local fundraiser a few weeks ago. Hope I get another chance.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
This year we signed up the first day possible. Our booth is in a much better location. We are on the 12th floor of the Dallas Market Center in booth 12906. It may not be the biggest booth, but real estate is all about location. And our location is terrific. We are on the main floor, on a main aisle.
The whole team is working incredibly hard to get ready for the show. We have a great group of new artists, licensed products, new puzzle formats and some new product catagories in addition to puzzles. It will take a ton of effort to be ready, but it will be worth it.
I can not wait for this show.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
John Hughes's movies captured a key time of my life. I still enjoy watching them today. Earlier this summer I watched Sixteen Candles with my daughter who is entering high school in the fall. I am not sure she saw it as I saw it. To her it was more like watching a history movie...What High School Was Like For My Dad.
Although he had not made a movie in years, I suppose I always figured he might make one more about my generation. Maybe a DVD release with unused footage or a directors commentary. As far as I can tell, he never did a directors commentary for his classic teen movies. That is too bad, especially now. Maybe he wanted to do it but kept telling himself, next year.
John Hughes will be missed, but because of his amazing movies, not forgotten. In some way they are the homemovies of a generation.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
It was definitely a different kind of football game. You have to give credit to the founders of the league. They found a way to take a traditional game, update it, and market it perfectly.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
But the beauty of a good jigsaw puzzle is that it does not have to cost $100's of dollars. All you need is the right picture and a good table (card table or kitchen table are my favorites).
Enjoy the article:
Monday, July 27, 2009
Wednesday July 15, 2009 - PM
After a couple of long days in HK I had a chance to get back to my hotel before the pool closed. I brought a swimsuit and decided to jump in the hot tub for a few minutes. The pool is outside and the hot tub is at the head of the pool, slightly raised. It looks very inviting. The jets were working and I jumped in. Then jumped out. The water was ice cold. What a let down. Lets hope that is the last unexpected thing that happens. And they fix the heater quickly!
Friday July 17, 2009
Typhoon heading this way. Category 3 for now, but could reach level 8 overnight. My first Typhoon. Should be here by 5pm on Saturday.
Saturday July 18 / Sunday July 19
2:30pm Saturday – I was sitting my the pool eating a light lunch (no hot tub today. Heater still not fixed). It’s a little windy. The pool attendant just shut the pool due to the impeding storm.
5pm Saturday – nothing. Light rain.
7pm Saturday – went to the mall for dinner and watched a gymnastics exhibition. I think one of the gymnasts was on the Olympic team last August.
10pm Saturday – No rain. No typhoon. Lady in the lobby said it is suppose to hit by midnight. Tired. Do not want to go to sleep and miss the storm.
11pm Saturday – Rain against the hotel window. I think this is it. No weather channel in HK. Dearly miss Jim Cantore.
1am Sunday – Going to bed. Moderate rain and wind at this point. Still cars on the street.
3am Sunday – Beating rain on the window wakes me up. Wow, it is raining hard. Very windy. No one on the street. (update: Apparently the number 9 Flag was hoisted around this time. Only one away from 10!)
8am Sunday – No rain. The whole things seems over. Or maybe this is the eye? Cantore, where are you?
10:00am Sunday – Passing showers, light rain. Typhoon has moved inland. Here is how another westerner spent the storm.
Monday July 20.
The earth gods are in full swing here in Hong Kong – Eclipse.
Eclipse in HK this morning. About ¾ of the sun was covered. I missed it. Somehow I forgot I was in Asia and might be able to view the eclipse. Looked out the window and wondered why it was getting dark. Thought maybe it was going to rain. Feel really dumb. Too much product development. Hope that making final decisions on images during an eclipse is good luck.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
My kids are completely comfortable with all the different social networking sites out there. There are on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and others. As parents we know their passwords and do what we can to monitor their usage. But it is hard to be watching all the time.
Last fall, I started using a service call YouDiligence.com. For a monthly fee, they will monitor you childrens MySpace and Facebook accounts. Basically, they are monitoring the kids sites for the use of certain words and phrases. If the word appears on their profile, an e-mail is sent to me to review. So far, the word party seems to come up the most, but each time in an innocent context (ice cream party, birthday party, etc.). You can also customize the word search with your own words. I have not done this personally, but suppose that one could add names or nicknames and know who they are posting with back and forth.
I liked the service so much I wanted to find a way to tell more people about it. I had numerous discussions with one of the founders on how to best promote their service. We finally decided to set up a special web page. You can either type into your browser, www.youdiligence.com/puzzle or go to our homepage (http://www.lpfpuzzle.com/) and click on the link to Youdiligence. We are also promoting the service and websites on our packaging as a service to parents. The company would offer our customers their first month free and then a discounted monthly rate going forward.
I see this service as a tool for parents to help teach their kids how to be responsible on-line. The kids should know that the parents are subscribing to the service (you need your kids password to make this work). If there are inappropriate things going on with their accounts, this service gives you the notification you need and the opportunity to then discuss with your kids the right was to present oneself on-line.
If you have any questions, drop me a line. Otherwise, try the first month for free and see how you like it. I think you will be like me and keep your subscription going. And want to tell you friends about the service.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
An interesting article in the latest issue of Playthings magazine about puzzles. As a catagory, puzzles are holding up well during these tough economic times. Especially innovative puzzles like those that the Lafayette Puzzle Factory produces.
And as a bonus in the article, my good friend and former co-worker, Tracey Jackson from Fundex is quoted.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The first person to send me a picture of a Lafayette Puzzle Factory puzzle on a shelf in Canada will win an official piece of Lafayette Puzzle Factory marketing give away. Bonus points if you buy the puzzle and include a receipt of purchase with a glowing review.
If you are a canadian retailer who carries puzzles, drop me a note and I will make sure someone calls you about adding Lafayette Puzzles to your puzzle section.
Two weekends ago I traveled to Dewey Beach, Delaware for the wedding of Alex and Elissa. It was a great time. The wedding took place on Dewey Bay. Our hotel was right on the Atlantic Ocean. It was a nice hotel, but the lobby reminded me of the lobby at the Tower of Terror, with better light and less dust. And the elevator behaved as an elevator should.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
We shipped our first orders for Fall 2009 last week. We are ramping up production for the fall and winter 2009 season. And we are starting to look ahead to 2010 and what our line up will be.
Our current offering is strong and covers a lot of what consumers are looking for today. But we want to expand our offering to meet all the needs of our customers. To do this, we are always reviewing new licenses, new concepts, new formats, new artists and even new products unrelated to puzzles.
Its an exciting time with alot going on.
Friday, April 10, 2009
This post is a quick informational post to my friends who travel. I travel a lot. Traveling is not really all that glamorous. The airplanes are dirty. The flights are delayed. The food is bad. And too often there is no food at all (update of the old joke: The food is bad and the portions are too small). But security is a big pain too. Especially taking off shoes, removing laptops and not being able to bring liquids through security.
But I must admit the TSA is getting better. I rarely encounter long lines anymore. The screeners do a good job of keeping the lines moving. They seem to finally have enough tables and trays for passengers to get organized before getting to the metal detector. And there are even benches past security to sit on and get reorganized. The new Indianapolis airport has a particularly efficient security area. I suppose that is due to the fact it was built for a post 9/11 security need.
Today I was turned on to a blog by the TSA that is both informative and fun to read. If more government agencies engaged in this level of conversation with the public, we might all have a higher opinion of government.
Here is the link: www.tsa.gov/blog/
Bob is the main writing on the blog, but it looks like he is adding other voices.
Check it out.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
When we first sat down to set up the Lafayette Puzzle Factory, we were focused on the selling puzzles in the United States. We thought of international sales as being Canada.
The big surprise so far has been the continued positive reaction to our products in other countries. The response from Australia, Mexico, South Africa, England and other European countries has been terrific. We keep hearing that our combination of good quality, innovative images and fair pricing is a winner. We knew this combination would work in North America, but it feels good to see it work elsewhere.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I apologize for the lack of posts. I like using the blog as an outlet. I often type these late at night in hotel rooms or at my house. Its quiet and I can think without interruption. Often, the topics come to me as the day gets quiet.
This week was sad around the house. Our cat of 17 years died. He was a great cat. He and his siter were strays that my wife and her mother rescued when he was a new born kitten. He has moved with my wife and I at least 7 times. He hated the car and would howl the whole way from place to place. But he loved our kids and all the affection they gave him, he gave back plus some.
He will be missed. He was sick the last few months and was so brave. He went blind about 6 weeks ago. He still got around by remembering the lay out of the house and feeling with his whiskers and paws. He still knew when and where to beg for a scrap from dinner. And could always find the sun rays coming through the windows.
It will take awhile to get used to him not being around. He could hear me making a ham sandwich from anywhere in the house. Today, when I made my sandwich, it felt weird to not hear him running looking for a taste.
Thanks Simpson (and Sheba) for being such great family members. You will be missed, but we have happy memories (and great videos) of your time with us.
UPDATE 6/16/2009: Neither cat was named after any person living or dead. They were named by my wife in the summer of 1992.
Friday, March 13, 2009
I often give these people my business card and ask them to call or e-mail additional comments. By now, I have quite a focus group of people who check in fairly regularly.
Their feedback is invaluable, although often they call with complaints about other puzzle companies products. Lately, I have been hearing about boxes that are poorly made (and fall apart so that the puzzles can not be restored in them), do not stand up properly when empty making it difficult to refer to the box lid, and pictures on the lid that do not match the picture on the actual puzzle.
I love these types of calls and e-mail. I forward them on or summarize them to the rest of the team. I want us to remember that the experience the puzzler has with our product is critical to our success. Too often I have seen companies spend too much time looking internally, and not paying attention to how consumers interact with their products. Being new and small makes it easier for us to respond to consumers likes and dislikes.
So keep the comments and thoughts coming. We really do listen.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Obviously, some items in our catalog have generated more interest than others. But, I am pleasantly surprised at how broad the appeal of our lines has been. Last summer when we were putting the finishing touches on the line, we obviously liked every item that made it into our catalog. But to see the response has been incredibly exciting.
We have already started production on several lines and others will go into production in the next few weeks. In another month or so we will making sure everyone knows exactly where to buy our puzzles.
Now, if Spring weather would only come to Lafayette, all would be perfect. I want to start opening the windows in the office.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
This week I found out. I stayed at a Radisson for one night in Ohio. It was a nice hotel and in response to the Heavenly Bed craze, they have Select Comfort beds (they might be knock offs, I did not see the Select Comfort name, but I also did not look to close... I was busy trying different settings). NOTE: I just checked the Select Comfort web site and they are the official bed for Radisson. My results are official.
First off, there are two different settings. There is a setting for each side of the bed. Seems like a good idea. But I had trouble figuring out if I was laying on the left or right side. I could not decide if left or right referred to looking at the bed from the foot or laying on the bed looking at the ceiling. It turns out left or right refers to looking at the bed from the foot of the bed. Of course this is confusing since you set your number by laying on the bed looking at the ceiling. So when you are laying there it feels like you should be using the opposite sides button settings. After several tries I figured out I was on the right side of the bed (left looking at the ceiling).
The bed is pre-set to 65 when you lay down. That was too hard. I adjusted the bed (you have to be laying down while adjusting and you can "feel" the firmness change.
Next I tried 15 (the control is digital and moves in 5 digit increments). Way to soft (I felt like Goldielocks).
After several more tries I settled on 35. Not to firm, not to soft...just right.
I now feel part of the club. I can not wait for the next time I am with a group of people and we start talking about mattresses (puzzles and mattresses, no wonder I never get invited anywhere). I will be able to say with confidence, " I am a 35."
Sunday, February 15, 2009
If you have never been to a Toy Fair, this is the one to go to. Next year go on the web site and sign up. You will walk a lot, but also be amazed at the amount of toys there are that you never see in a store. Some of the neatest toys (in my opinion), I never see at retail. I have no idea why.
Toy Fair has evolved in the last few years. It used to be the toy industry had a building in New York and everyone leased space in the building. There was a show at the Javitz Center at the same time, but it was mainly for smaller toy and game manufacturers. All the big companies were in the "Toy Building". The showrooms were all closed and meetings were by appointment.
A few years ago the Toy Building was sold and turned into condos (why didn't the TIA buy the building years ago???). All the toy companies lost their leases. So now, all the toy companies, big and small have booths in the Javitz Center.
This makes walking the show much more enjoyable. Companies work very hard to make their booths attractive. Some of them are so clever. I do not know if the show gives out any awards for booth execution, but it should. The competition would be fierce.
I think you can tell a lot about a company from their booth. Some are completely closed with walls on all 4 sides and a receptionist at the door. Others are totally open and even seem to encourage everyone to come see what they have. And the rest fall in between. Every company fears being copied by the competition. And I believe that drives alot of the booth design. It is too bad the industry has to be this concerned (see Bratz vs Hasbro for how much money is involved with a good idea/design). I guess I am just naive enough to wish that all the booths were more open and on the last day they allowed real kids to come in and try the products. I attended a candy show in Chicago a few years ago that opened the door to the public on the last day. What a great way to quickly know if a new product or company has a winner or not.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The answers have been facinating. Most talk of sorting the pieces and completing the edges first. Then working their way in. Some go into great detail and spend time sort pieces. They use the box lid, base, and even cake pans. They sort by color or shape. One old friend of mine admitted recently that as a child he enjoyed putting puzzles together upside down! Using the image was too easy!
I have to admit that when I do a puzzle, I like to do the easy parts. Give me a fence or a horizon to work on. Anything with lines or strangely shaped pieces is where I excel. The area I am working on might be anywhere on the puzzle. Or it may not attach to anything right away. I figure I can always attach it later to an edge or to other areas people are working on. My wife is much more methodical. She likes to get the edge finished first and then work her way to the middle. Our methods actually work well together. Although, I did pick up one bad habit from my father. As we are working the puzzle, I like to take one of the pieces and put it in my pocket. As the puzzle comes to an end, it becomes apparent that a piece is missing. The whole family is put on high alert to find the piece. Couch cushions are turned over, sofas are searched, accusations are made. And then I reveal the last piece was behind someones ear the whole time (or maybe I "cough it up" if I am feeling particularly clever). I love putting in the last piece.
Although, the last puzzle we did had two missing pieces at the end. I revealed my piece and started to lament the quality of puzzle production today (the puzzle was not an LPF puzzle) when my youngest son revealed the last piece he had hidden in his shoe. Like father, like son. I was so proud!
How about you? How do you like to work a puzzle? Do you have any jokers in your family that mess with the pieces? Or would that not be tolerated?
Thursday, February 5, 2009
When I am in the aisle I am looking at the images, box designs, prices, puzzle sizes, who made the puzzle and just anything that looks different. I even take notes and keep track of retail prices at different establishments. It is cheap and effective market research.
Often I encounter people buying puzzles. It only takes me a minute to start talking to them. I learn so much from these chance meetings.
This week I met a couple who have put together 16 puzzles since Thanksgiving. They are not really brand loyal, but only want to do 500 or more piece puzzles. We spent about 30 minutes looking at every puzzle on the shelves. They had done many of them and knew the pros and cons of each. It was so interesting. And I think they got a kick out of talking to someone who makes puzzles. One thing they reminded me was that when you do so many puzzles a year, you worry about the price of the puzzle. They were very price conscious and would not look at a puzzles over a certain price point. This is a little counter intuitive from conventional wisdom.
But it makes sense. Puzzles are sold primarily in the 4th and 1st quarters of the year. When its cold outside, people are looking for indoor activities. But it is people like the couple I met who are buying puzzles the rest of the year (and there are people who are buying puzzles the rest of the year). The retailers would be smart to keep the heavy puzzle user in mind to build and sustain sales year round.
If you see a guy looking at every single puzzle in the puzzle aisle, writing notes and talking to himself, stop me and say hello. Or if you think of something you wish puzzle companies would do better/different/more drop me a note.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Then two things happened.
1) Westfield missed the front end of 3, 1 and 1 free throw attempts in the last 2 minutes.
2) Harrison had possession of the ball with less than 7 seconds to go, dribbled the length of the court and scored a lay up at the buzzer to win by 1 point!
As we walked to the car, I couldn't help but think about how the game encapsulated 2 key lessons in life. Those keys are: Its the little things that make the difference and never give up.
We started the Lafayette Puzzle Factory less than a year ago. In that time, we have had to do a lot of little things. The big things are easy to identify. I have a good friend who does real estate development. The difference between himself and people who think they can do real estate development is his ability to handle the millions of little details involved in developing a piece of land. Anyone can look at an empty corner lot at a busy intersection and know that it would be good location for a real estate development. What separates those who do their profession well is someone like my friend knows how to plow through the million of obstacles to actually making that piece of real estate work.
The same is true with my company. We work on the little stuff far more than the big stuff everyday. Bringing a product to market involves making our free throws more than three pointers and half court shots. And what I am finding is that the more we focus on the little stuff the better the product or initiative we are introducing turns out to be.
And we do not give up. Being he new guy on the block, we have lots of opportunity to just give up. Its hard to get appointments sometimes with licensors or retailers. I have written before how we spend a lot of time introducing ourselves to buyers. Buyers at retailers are constantly inundated with companies wanting to sell them stuff. There are not enough hours in the day to meet with everyone who wants a meeting. We understand this. But they do meet with some new potential vendors. And we are happy that they meet with us. And they meet with us, I think, because we try not to waste their time or be annoying. We just simply keep telling our story in as brief and direct an approach as possible. We are respectful of their time.
The bottom line:whether it is school, business, or sports, you need to work on the small things and not let obstacles get in your way Take care of the small stuff and the big stuff (winning, grades, sales) will follow.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Its New Years in China. The year of the Ox. US industry is so reliant on China that this holiday has an impact on everyone. For the past few months US companies have been asking their China counterparts, "when will you be closing and reopening for New Year's?" Companies need to make sure they avoid supply chain problems by getting their orders in and shipped ahead of the holidays.
Our manufacturing will be closed for a week or so and our office in HK will be closed for a day or two (although, people will be taking individual vacations around this time). In some ways, this time is not much different than the time in the US between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Anyone who works in a big company knows the bosses all take vacations during that time of year. Plus, the overall workload slows down (unless you work in retail) because the people you need are on vacation too. Things get done, but slower and with a bit less urgency.
These same feelings and culture are found in China. All offices close for the official holiday days. But around thoses days workers take extra time to ski (I hear skiing in Japan is incredible. Can anyone comment?) or head to the warmth of Bali. Factories extend their shut down to allow their workers to make the long trip home to see family.
One of these days I will make sure I am in China for the New Years and take part in the various festivities. Any holiday involving fireworks, dragons, and food, sounds like a good time to me.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I have one more day in Hong Kong. It has been a good trip for me and the company. We had a lot of appointments with retailers in the US and around the world. The fact that our products have a chance in other countries is not one that I expected to happen so soon.
In the next few weeks, retailers will be making decisions on what products they will put in the stores next fall. I, along with everyone at the Lafayette Puzzle Factory, will be eagerly awaiting these decisions. We feel very good that our products will make it to shelf, but you never know and I spend a lot of sleepless nights thinking about what I can do to keep spreading the word about our line of puzzles.
There are two more big international shows for the toy industry. One is in Germany and the other is in New York City. I am not be attending the one in Germany. The focus of that show is mostly for Europe and we do not have any plans to distribute in Europe (yet). The other is in NYC. I will attend that show, but will not have a booth at the Javitz Center. We instead have set up a few private meetings.
It will be good to get home and recharge my batteries before New York in February.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Walking around a trade show can be daunting. This is especially true of a huge show like the one in Hong Kong. There are thousands of booth, tens of thousands of attendees and very narrow aisles between the booths. Narrow aisles are a good way to squeeze in more paying exhibitors).
This is the 8th year in a row I have attended this show. From attending this show and others I have learned:
A good pair of shoes is critical.
I like to carry my satchel with me to hold brochures and business cards. I try to remember to make sure it is light and empty when I start the day. It is amazing how heavy catalogs and PR material can get on your shoulder.
Shows should ban rolling briefcases and suitcases from the show floor. Attendees who have these take up too much room walking in the aisles. I cannot tell you how many I trip over or that roll over my feet when I am walking a show.
Shows should be required to have aisles that are at least 5 grown men wide. And they should have traffic enforcement officers to move along those who stop in the aisles to talk. Get out of the way!
I only take catalogs when I am really interested in a company or a product. I am not trying to be rude, but it is impossible to bring back all the catalogs people give you on a plane. They are just too heavy.
I do not mind giving out my card and having someone follow up with quote or an inquiry if I need more info.
But I always seem to run out of business cards. I wish the shows would print a bar code on my badge that the booth could scan. It would save paper and cost for the attendees. And the booth could enter notes about you right away.
Pack a lot of business cards. When you think you have enough, pack more.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I attended a safety seminar today at the Hong Kong Exhibition center. The US Congress has enacted new and very strict safety rules for toys. Everyone is trying to make sure they are in compliance with the new rules.
Puzzles are generally a safe product. Being made of paper, there is very little risk for injury from a puzzle. But I still attend the seminars to make sure we meet or exceed any rules. I am a parent and the last thing I want is to see anyone harmed by my products.
2007 was a bad year for toy safety. I hope people realize that as an industry, the toy industry cares deeply about safety. Even though the new rules are very strict and will definitely increase costs to toy companies, no one is complaining about the rules. Everyone I talk to thinks the new rules are the best thing for the industry. The only issue I have heard discussed is the timing of the implementation. Companies that already have product in warehouses or on store shelves may have to destroy those products if they do not meet the new standards being enacted. As a new company, this is one worry we do not have. From the start we have made sure we understand the new rules and are in compliance.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday night around 7pm. The flight from Chicago to Hong Kong is over 15 hours! It is a long time to sit still. Just as the plane doors closed, a passenger fell ill. The paramedics had to come on board to help. It looked to me like the passenger had overindulged on alcohol and had passed out. When the paramedics tried to revive him, he became belligerent and somewhat violent (he was small compared to the fireman). Anyway, the whole scene took more than an hour to resolve. Two good lessons, 1) never drink before a 15 hour flight (no matter how much you think you need a drink to make it through a flight like that) and 2) it is possible to make up a delay of over an hour when the flight is 15 hours. We landed only about 20 minutes late. Not bad. At one time we were traveling over 600mph!
Our showroom is in the Grand Stanford hotel. We have a two room suite. The front room has all our products displayed. I sleep in the other room. Its a nice hotel and a nice room. The director of marketing and a few others from our office did a great job setting up the room. Everything is displayed perfectly. And our new catalog is printed and looks amazing. I am so proud.
There are at least 20 other companies using the hotel for meetings and showrooms. Some of them are companies you know including K’nex, Ohio Art, and Leapfrog. It is fun to see our name among these well known brands.
We have had a busy first two days. Early Monday morning the meetings started and they continued all day. By day, we have presentations and meetings. Then at night, the team and I fill out quote sheets and prepare samples.
I think the buyers are starting to really understand our company. We are providing innovative puzzle ideas and manufacturing them to a new standard. No one is very optimistic about the economy in 2009, so our combination of innovation, high quality and outstanding value helps us stand out.
If I ever figure out how to upload a picture to this blog, I will upload a picture of our showroom.
More as the week goes on.
I did get some feedback on the blog while in Hong Kong (a quick shout out to our friends who follow in Asia!). One asked if I ever bought Yahtzee Free For All and what I paid for it. I am happy to report I did buy the game and we played it on Christmas day in the afternoon. I ended up buying it at Toys R Us for $18.99 the weekend before Christmas. It was sold out everywhere else I looked.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Putting together a puzzle on New Year’s Eve and Day is something my family has done since I was a young child. It is something I have continued with my kids.
Puzzles are a great family activity. And to further my point about the enduring value of puzzles, the puzzle we are doing is from Springbok and was made in 1979. I know we should be doing a Lafayette Puzzle Factory puzzle, but we have been putting LPF puzzles together for the last few months. The kids decided they wanted to pick an old puzzle from our toy closet in the basement.
Are there any traditions you have for New Years? Tell me about them.