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How To Make More Money

aka Why Are Some Things So Expensive?

Have you ever wondered why some things are so expensive and other things are so cheap?  This is something I look at all the time.  Deciding what price to charge is a very difficult task for any business owner.  What is the competition? What do they charge?  Why should we charge more or less?  All of this comes into play.

Working with a bakery offers a great example of how something that looks the same can have a hugely different price.  Do you think a $12 cupcake is expensive?  How about a four pack of cupcakes for $3.99?  A six pack for $1.99?  

At then end of the day they are all just sweet bread with frosting aren’t they?  They can all be made better with ice cream, so why should I spend $12 a cupcake at one store when I can get six for $1.99 at the local warehouse center?

What Goes Into The Product Matters

What goes into the cupcakes makes a difference, and the shopping experience does too.  A big theme park near our offices, famous for a mouse really has $12 cupcakes and yes, I buy one on occasion.  There is also my clients bakery with a $6.00 cupcake which I buy a lot more often.  Sometimes I break down and get the $3.99 four pack but that is my bottom line.

Why?  I read the ingredients at each location except the place with the mouse family.  There I know I am paying for the experience and just suck it up.  My clients six dollar cupcakes have just five or six ingredients.  The gluten free version has eight.  More importantly I can pronounce and buy all eight of the ingredients without a chemistry degree.

I once read the list of twenty plus ingredients on the cupcakes at the local supermarket.  I have no idea what is in them after wheat and sugar.

Convenience Matters

In Europe Bakeries dot every little village.  The village buys just about all of the bread from the local baker.  We don’t do that any more in the United States.  I don’t know why, but we seem to think we can save a buck at the local grocery store so we go there.

In Huntington Beach California we still have a small dairy, a real meat only butcher shop and a couple of small bakeries that make bread fresh daily.  My wife doesn’t like to stop at four shops because it isn’t “convenient”.  I’ll do it to support the local small businesses.  Whole Foods won’t even know I wasn’t there.

We also have four cupcake shops within four miles of our house.  If we forget dessert for a party, we’ll run to the closest one, pay $4-6 per cupcake and load up simply because it is convenient and rarely do we have to wait.

Selection Matters

For many businesses, the cost of a wide selection of products becomes prohibitive.  When I ran the Home Theater Stores and Home Technology Centers, I almost bankrupted the place trying to carry everything.  The inventory, staff training, service support and sales goals eventually became completely unmanageable.

Eventually I partnered with a competitor and we tested out some “packages”.  We narrowed it down to three items per category.  Basically a good, better, best.  Yes we would lose a few people who demanded a certain brand of the week they saw on TV or in a magazine.  Once I realized those were not my clients, I could breath and actually find the people that were my clients.

The things you choose to sell or services you choose to offer will narrow or widen your market.  Going to wide without very deep pockets normally isn’t possible.  With a bakery, gluten free in California is almost a given, but how much?  Most stores have two or three flavors and they rotate them to add variety.  The supermarket has one flavor occasionally.  Convenience also matters in selection.

Cake Tahoe Cupcakes

The Experience Matters

The last component sets the price in stone and that is the experience.  The least experiential way to buy a cupcake is in a box of 24 at the local super warehouse.  The most experience heavy way to buy is either a very unique bakery with coffee and bistro tables or of course that theme park hosted by the famous mouse. 

You might be thinking that you don’t have a way to make everyday objects more expensive, but you do.  Look at Candlesticks at the local discount home store like Home Goods, Tuesday Mornings or even Big Lots.  Then go look at the candlesticks at Tiffany, Waterford and Baccarat.

Baccarat has long been a favorite in our house, and most people can’t tell the difference.  Recently the high end crystal candlesticks on our dining room table went back in the box.  The top of my dining room table now has a piece of wire with 8 glass cups and votive candles.  It is hand made by a local artist, and fits the room perfectly.  She took a piece of wire, and $8 worth of glass candle holders and turned it into a candleholder that out priced Tiffany and pushed into Baccarat territory.

Every business has a way to create a better customer experience and charge more for it.  The next time you wonder why things are so expensive, remember this list and ask yourself, “How can I charge more?”

New Kühl Toys Video Up

Today we had some technical issues and the new segment of Kühl Toys is up a little late.  If you are considering the Amazon Echo, which we call “Alexa”, take a quick peek at the video at KühlToys.com to see what we found.

We also had a headlight start to fail from the first segment, and the manufacturer is saying since we didn’t buy it directly from them it isn’t under warranty.

Back to the drawing board on that one!

Kühl Toys – Can One Help You Sleep Better?

This week on Kühltoys.com, I compared two models of the Jawbone Up, a fitbit model and a smart watch.  Why?

Well, like many of you I am sure, I woke up one morning during the new year and finally got the courage to step onto a scale.  The damage?  Twelve pounds.  The weather has been bad so I haven’t been running or surfing as much, and I have been spending a lot more time in traffic and in studios.  Not a good formula for keeping the weight off.

Two years ago when Dr. Goldberg and I made a small wager on who could lose twenty pounds the fastest, I grabbed a Jawbone Up24 and used it to track running distance and calories.

I discovered the Jawbone Up24 had a side talent of being able to help me power nap, and for anyone in todays world a proper power nap can be the key to a successful day.

When my Jawbone Up 24 button died, I picked up the Up3 and my wife chose a fitbit model, thus began the challenge.

You can see the results on KühlToys.com.

Which Microphone Is Best For Home Recording?

Voice Over Artists, Internet Marketers and Podcasters and even actors are always asking, the same question. If you are reading this, you must have the same question too.  Most of this is in the podcast too.

The question they ask is , what is the best microphone to use for home recording. What they really mean is How do I get better sounding recordings at home. So today join me for a moment and step into the world of audio recording and let me show you the secrets I’ve learned in 15 years of designing and working in the world of sound.

Today I am going to quickly cover microphones and some basic acoustics. For demonstration and listening, I will read the same paragraph using three different microphones, and then read it again with a pop filter on two of them. Finally I will read it one more time with a microphone shield. A pop filter reduces the “plosive” words that have a p or a b.  I pop without one and you’ll hear it in the podcast.   The microphone shield just eliminates some echo, not much though.

The three microphones I have chosen are the Apogee MiC, the Audio Technica AT 2020USB and the Microsoft LifeCam with built in microphone. All three are under $200 and available online and around town. All of these are budget minded microphones with USB connectors. No digital converters required.

If you want to take it up a notch, an Apogee One and any directional microphone to get better sound. Everything tested here combined is less expensive than the Apogee One.

The Apogee mic has the distinct advantage of being able to connect digitally to an iPhone or iPad as well as using USB to connect to a PC or Mac. You can set up a complete home recording studio with a Apogee MiC, iPad, and a mic stand with an iPad holder. All of this can be found for under $700.

The AT2020USB comes in two models, the standard and the PLUS.  The AT2020USBPLUS has the ability to plug in headphones right into the mic.  This gets rid of the delay when you plug a USB mic into your computer.  If you like to have headphones on to hear what you sound like when you record, this is the winner.  Having headphones or “cans” on while you work is how most professional studios work, so even though it is a bit more expensive, this option might be worth it.

One quick thing to understand is the difference between microphones sold at the office center for home and office use and pro microphones. Most home microphones are designed for Skype and are omnidirectional.  They hear everyone but they all get that talking through a tube sound.

Microphone Basics:

There are three basic microphone types, Cardioid, Omni and directional.  Omni is short for omnidirectional meaning they pick up sound about equally from all directions. The echoes are all picked up equally and that is what gives you that talking in a tube sound.

Directional mics are sometimes called shotgun mics.  They are great for sound booths, and radio announcers.  Film and TV boom mice are also shotgun mics.  They only pick up what is right in front of them eliminating unwanted noise.  Shotgun mics are harder to use because you can’t move very far without hearing a big change in the sound.  Unless you have a lot of practice, I don’t recommend this for home use.

Cardioid are the most common.  The Apogee and the Audio Technica tested in my podcast are both Cardiod mics.  These are easy to use and still sound better than an Omni in most situations.  Cardoid mics have two different pickup patterns and use electronics to clean it up.  You can move a little while you talk without “fading away”.

The Room Acoustics:

In every room, The echo you hear is the sound bouncing off the walls. The more furniture, carpeting and stuff you have in a room, the less echo or bounce you get. A microphone shield prevents a little bit of that bounce as well. A sound booth used shape and special wall panels to eliminate most of that bounce.  The shield I used in the test is quite small because my wife’s office is pretty quiet.  Bigger shields cost more and do a much better job.

So lets get started and at the end we’ll see if you can tell which mic and setup I used for the intro. The microsoft life cam is an omni mic with very high sensitivity so it picks up everything. See if you can hear the difference.

The room is my office. I do have to pause for airplanes flying over and trucks coming by and even my refrigerator. Even though it is a very quiet refrigerator, it shares a wall with my office and causes a hum through the walls that the mic pics up. This is just home recording reality, my office isn’t anything special, no big acoustic treatments, just an office with two chairs a wood desk and a bookshelf. Something you might be able to create in your own home. I am even recording this sitting down which most voice coaches don’t like. Standing is the best way for you to sound good.

For each test, I am setting the mic up to have a room floor of -50db. This might not mean much to you, so I’ll explain. The room floor is the sound of the room with nothing happening. just the sound bouncing around the room or leaking in from outside. by adjusting each mic to -50db the test is more fair. At this setting, my refrigerator reads a -36db. Even at home you should see about -45db or quieter for home voice recording or auditions. Studios shoot for a -60db or better which is very difficult in most homes.

The bigger the negative number, the quieter the room. At some point you get a dead room. When you walk in you hear yourself breath and it can be very uncomfortable for some people. You can cheat and lower the gain or input volume of the microphone, but then you lose some of the sound in your voice as well. The trick is to find a balance.

Recording Software:

The program I am using to record is Audacity because it is free. It is a little harder to set up to save your files in other formats though.  I don’t like garage band because it is too difficult to record “clean”, and it occasionally loses files if you save in the wrong order.  Twisted Wave is another great choice, but the price just went up to $50, so I am not using it here.

The Setup:

When I test the mic, the loud parts of me speaking should not go above 0db In fact I am trying to target a peak of -6db leaving a little headroom. Listed to the podcast and see what you think. There are some other things you can do as well, recording in a walk in closet that is filled with hanging clothes or offices with lots of books and odd shapes. The worst place to record is an empty bedroom with no furniture and flat walls. Echo city.

By now you should have listened to the podcast.  I read just enough of this post to give you a baseline, and then recorded with the three different setups.

So which mic and set up did I use? My personal setup is the AT2020 USB with WindTech popgard pop filter, I had the Apogee MiC and my wife took it for her work. So, which did you like better? Let me know at Scottbourquin.com

 

Thank you for listening and come back soon.  

Making It Look Easy Is Hard Work

One of the great secrets to making things look easy is to practice.  I don’t agree that “practice makes perfect” though.  If you practice doing something wrong, you simply train yourself to do it wrong.  This is why every successful athlete, business leader and political leader has a coach.  They might call the coach different things but behind the curtain is a coach.

A coach is someone who can stand back, and evaluate progress without the bias of pride or pain.  If something hurts to much, we might stop because it doesn’t feel right.  A coach might tell you to keep doing it because it is right, you just need to build the right muscles.  Alternately, you might think something is great and take pride in it, and the coach will break through the pride to show you where it is wrong.

Ego is the biggest obstacle to success.

If you let your Ego get in the way and block what your coach says, you won’t learn or grow.  If you let your Ego tell you that a coach is a waste of time, you’ll spend a lot of time doing things the hard way.

Depending on what you want to do in life, you may need a lot of different coaches.  You can be the worlds greatest running back, and then get a speaking coach so you can get more TV time and endorsements.

As a public speaker, acting and speaking skills are critical to my growth.  The truth is most people watch me to see the story unfold.  It took along time for me to push me ego out of the way and figure this out.  Looking back some of my early public speaking must have been pretty dull.

I have heard several actors say that Casting Director Workshops are a “waste of time”.  Waste of time or not, they are part of the game.  It is up to you to take the information and learn from it or grow with it or not.  If you don’t get anything out of it, then you are right, it is a waste of time.  Never waste time, it is the only thing you really have and you have no idea when it will run out.

This weekend, my wife and I spent nearly nine hours at Igloo Studios with ten other students, an engineer and Ned Lott.  This was a little more than a “Casting Director Workshop”.  Ned called it an “intensive”.  He was right.

In nine hours, ten people were transformed.  Some like me walked in with almost no skill in character speaking or voice.  Honestly I thought I would never need it until recently.  My ego clouded blocked my growth.

A couple of others came in with a skill level closer to the level I left with.  They left even better.  The day was simply eight hours of practice and techniques to get to another level.  As an added bonus, an animated short was being recorded in the next studio.  The director wanted a female to record some “scratch” and instead of waiting for another day or letting one of the men record it, they walked into our class and auditioned the women on the spot.

A woman who is under 30 and has a life history that makes mine look a bit dull nailed it.  We all knew it and sure enough they picked her. Normally auditions are a very private and personal thing, this was in front of class.  Our teacher, as well as the writer and the director for the new show and your competition all sitting right there.

Imagine having to audition in a public forum.  Had we not all be doing the same thing for the previous five hours, the audition might have been a lot more nerve wracking.  A cold reading audition, and not one of the women flinched.  My wife had never done anything like it, yet she stepped up and took a shot.

Just a few hours of intense work and seven women made this on the fly audition look easy, one of them made it fun.  She was the one they picked.

Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect.  And as Rob Dyrdek recently said to me, “perfection is the enemy of greatness”.  I don’t know where he got that but he is right.  Intentional practice with a purpose and a coach will make it easy, and maybe even a little fun.

Isn’t that what you really want anyway?

Kelly Bourquin In the Booth at Igloo
Kelly Bourquin In the Booth at Igloo

Pilot

Scott BourquinWelcome to my website.  This is a brand new project, on the table with many others.  While keeping up with Acting, Flying and Running the Bourquin Group, I occasionally get to this website.  For now, you can easily connect with me and keep up with my crazy life on Facebook and Twitter.

As time permits new tabs for Demo’s and podcasts will be added.  You can also find my latest books on Amazon and coming soon to iBooks.

If you are interested in having me speak at an event please use the contact me tab.  For more up to date information please visit my blog.