The sales tax laws were written before the advent and popularity of the internet (remember the internet bubble burst in 1999, just 13 years ago). Before that, there were a few catalog and direct mail companies here and there taking advantage of the sales tax loophole which allowed out-of-state retailer to avoid sales tax collection in a state where they do not have certain “minimum contacts” with the state. The world has changed drastically and the sheer amount of sales that have shifted to the internet is now substantial. An internet company that doesn’t collect tax in Florida has an absolute advantage. For example, a Florida resident who orders a $1,000 laptop from out of state saves as much as $70 on his purchase. With today’s smartphones, it’s scary to be a brick and mortar retailer. A few years ago I remember shopping for school supplies with my daughter; we went to the school’s bookstore and needed to purchase something. The bookstore had it for $220 plus $15 in sales tax. With an app on my phone, I was able to scan the bar code on the item right there in the store, compare the price to an internet retailer who had it for $160 with no sales tax and free 2 day shipping. I was able to order it right there
from the store…literally standing inside the store–I ordered the item from out of state.
Today, I’m way more sensitive to supporting the local community and I’d think twice about using the store like that again. But – The business proposition is simple; Internet retailers have significantly lower cost of running the business. No store, no sales assistance, no lights, air conditioning and a significantly lower advertising cost—plus NO SALES TAX. So the Internet retailer already has a price advantage, giving them a sales tax advantage is simply unfair to the retailer and the state. Let’s revisit that $1,000 laptop for a second. A savvy customer will shop that laptop at local retailers to see, feel and touch the actual model they want. Given equal pricing, the customer saves $70 on sales tax if he orders from out of state. More often, the big internet retailer also has a lower price so the difference could be even more than just sales tax, it’s usually sales tax plus a lower price. If the customer goes home, or worse, orders the item on his smartphone right there from the store, then it’s only a matter of time before our retailers are gone.
Phone: (786) 423-3752
Announcing the Incubate Miami Summer & Fall 2012 Program
Miami, FL – April 16th, 2012 – Incubate Miami is today announcing its fall technology startup accelerator program.
Incubate Miami’s fall class will consist of 10 companies starting in September.
Applications are now open from which South Florida’s top startups will be selected to participate in the proven program that accelerates business growth and culminates in the exciting “Demo Day” showcase.
Incubate Miami’s program follows the completion of the 2011 graduating class. So far, the Incubate Miami program has been successful in helping 13 graduating companies raise close to $2.7 million dollars in total investment. “The energy of this place is viral – after having mentored the last program, I look forward to contributing more of my time and investment capital to the next batch of superstars” said mentor and future Incubate Miami angel investor, Gilbert Fiorentino.
Incubate Miami is now offering seed funding of $20,000 to each company accepted into the program. In addition to the funding, the participating startups are provided with three months of unparalleled mentorship, office space, great perks, and the opportunity to pitch their business to angel investors and venture capitalists on demo day. Chad Volkert, co-founder of Incubate Miami said: “we believe strongly in helping develop Miami’s burgeoning startup community and hope to establish the area as a premier destination for technology throughout the Americas”.
“The program is especially interested to see applications in sectors evolving from new technologies. Example areas of expertise include social ecommerce, near field communications, crowd funding, augmented reality and predictive data analytics” said Nestor Villalobos, Managing Director of Incubate Miami.
“Our goal with Incubate Miami is simple – we want to support great talent and ideas with strong mentorship and startup capital in order to drive innovation and technology in our local community. Leveraging our affiliation with the Global Accelerator Network, our prodigious track record and industry contacts, we believe firmly that we can make this happen” said Marc Billings, founder of Incubate Miami.
Entrepreneurs ready to participate one of the fastest growing technology startup programs in South Florida are encouraged to apply through the Incubate Miami website: www.incubatemiami.com. Industry veterans and investors eager to mentor and/or invest in the hottest startups in south Florida should contact the Incubate Miami staff for further details.
About Incubate Miami
Incubate Miami supports emerging science and technology companies in Miami. Founded by Marc Billings, CEO of Digiport, in 2009, Incubate Miami provides multiple layers of support for entrepreneurs. The mission is to accelerate the growth of startups and innovation and to develop a vibrant technology-based community that creates high-skill, high wage jobs in industries that drive the global economy. The program is partly funded by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (www.miamidda.com). Incubate Miami is also affiliated with the Enterprise Development Corporation, the leading organization in South Florida providing assistance for science and technology companies (www.edc-tech.org). Incubate Miami is located at 200 Southeast 1st Street, Suite 600, Miami, FL 33131. For more information email us at email@example.com.
About Global Accelerator Network
The Global Accelerator Network (http://globalacceleratornetwork.com/) consists of almost 40 high quality independently owned and operated organizations from around the world that utilize a mentorship-based startup accelerator model. It provides networking opportunities, training, special perks, and ongoing support for members of the network. TechStars led the effort to form the Global Accelerator Network in 2010 as part of the White House’s Startup America Initiative. In the spirit of supporting more entrepreneurs around the world, the Network’s mission is to ensure that 5,000 successful and experienced entrepreneurs and investors will mentor and support 6,000 promising young entrepreneurs. The goal is to increase their success rate tenfold and create 25,000 new jobs by 2015 as well as a sustained engine for growing these figures over time.
Here’s a neat mantra:
Today Means Today….Do what needs to get done today before you go home. There is no tomorrow—get everything done today!
I started preaching this Cycle Time concept a few years ago.
Cycle time is a phrase that describes how long it takes to complete a given task. You can use it to measure any sort of process from things like closing deals in a business, how long it takes to receive a product ordered online, or even how long a waitress takes to bring you your check at the dinner table.
Whatever it is, as a business operator you need to find ways to reduce cycle time. Businesses these days operate 24×7 and you need to act like one, today and every day. It is necessary for survival.
Now; are you ready for some really deep thinking?
Cycle Time is often the antithesis of precision. For example, if your goal is perfection and you work for a company like NASA or a Hospital then in that case, Cycle Time is not important. Precision is ALL that matters.
Take your business, on the other hand. A fast business must be willing to give up perfection in favor of Cycle Time. In many cases, the difference between completing a project in 3 or 6 months could cost the company dearly because the market changes so fast these days.
So what do you look for, precision or Cycle Time? Do you take months to map out a plan, then take months to see through the plan and make sure everything is perfect in the planning and execution? Or in the alternative, do you determine that a certain amount of chaos is worth the savings that come with a first-to-market implementation, or better customer experience?
It sometimes takes thick skin, but my advice is to take the Cycle Time path every time, and don’t worry as much about precision. There are always bumps in the road and your ability to respond and react quickly is what will make you great!
Author: Gilbert Fiorentino
There have been times in my past where I’ve seen business grow exponentially over previous years. These kind of astounding results are attributed to key factors that were both inside and outside our realm of control. All companies need to have a single overriding directive that is within their realm of control:
They exist to serve their customers.
Consider this: For a company to grow 50% year over year in an industry that grew only 10% means that the additional 40% would need to come from competitors via the acquisition of market share. As such, someone else has to lose business in order for them to gain it.
In order for a company to steal market share, they need to show customers that they want their business more than their competition. Customer service needs to become the reason they come in to work every day. These kinds of companies strive to make customer experience the best it can be—at any cost. In doing this, they attract customers away from their competition which in turn weakens them. As companies suffer from the lack of business, the first thing they typically do is cut costly services which actually broadens the gap and even more forcing customers to leave in droves.
A while back, I stepped on a sharp metal object and got a bad gash on my foot. Realizing that I needed stitches, I immediately went the ER at the biggest private hospital in the city. I walked in to meet Ellen, a rather rude and hurried receptionist who instructed me to sit and wait. I calmly accepted and inquired how long it might take to get a doctor to look at my injury. She then snapped back stating “I don’t know, I’m trying to do something else right now”. To which I evenly responded “Thanks. I’m not trying to be pushy, but your competition at South Miami Hospital has a ‘Fast Track’ service, so I was wondering how long it might take here”. She mentioned that I would be going to the “Urgent Care” department across the hall and the timing would be dependent on patient load.
I subsequently limped over to the Urgent Care department and on the way, I asked a nurse for directions. The nurse ordered me to “go back and wait”. Ignoring her, I continued on and eventually found the “Urgent Care” center and met with another receptionist who stated “I don’t know how long it might take. Go back and wait”. The ER waiting room was dirty, filled with people and there was literally no space to sit.
It became obvious that the hospital I was at didn’t want my business more than their competitors. Considering this, my wife Alina and I left and drove to South Miami Hospital. When we walked into the Hospital we immediately noticed the difference! The receptionist was nice, walked me right in and treated me as a person. Another nurse promptly took my pulse and then walked me over to the ‘Fast Track’, where, after a brief wait, I was taken in, registered and treated. South Miami’s Emergency room was just as busy as the original hospital, but they were organized and well-staffed. Every employee, including the triage and ER nurses and even the doctor that treated me were pleasant, well-mannered and professional. They respected my time and they showed me first hand that they wanted my business more than their competition.
After my experience, I have shared this story with over a thousand people and based on how word of mouth works, I’m certain that I have made a positive impact to South Miami Hospital’s business. Maybe not so good for the other guy…
Even a gargantuan hospitals can and will learn that customers today demand more.
In the days of old, companies could get away with paying little heed to customer feedback. However, today, things are different. It is almost inconceivable to think that behemoth companies like Kodak, Blockbuster, Sony, GM and RIM could be staring into the abyss. Studying these companies shows a point in time where they willingly ignored their customer base. Ever since, they have had other companies steal away their market share. The moral of the story is that companies need to realize they exist solely for their customers, employees, community, and, finally, shareholders—in that order.
The New-Age Mantra:
- Treat your employees in an exemplary manner. Expect them to treat your customers in the same manner.
- Employees need to show every customer that they want their business more than any competitor.
- Find new ways to allocate profits in order to better service customers and better pay employees.
- Create a business that is a responsible member of the community.
- Establish a long-term business that will have plenty left over for shareholders.
Gilbert Fiorentino is a serial entrepreneur, turnaround and acquisition artist with more than 23 years’ experience as a high-performing top executive in a variety of markets. He specializes in using the transforming power of technology to convert faltering companies into sustainably profitable enterprises.
A Partner with SOLIDexecutive, Inc., Fiorentino is an e-commerce pioneer who was an early adopter of Internet sales. He previously headed a global, multi-channel marketing corporation that had acquired the catalog company he had started years earlier. Beyond merely cutting costs to improve the bottom line, Fiorentino finds creative ways to solve business problems and grow the top line as well.
Fiorentino excels at reinventing companies across multiple marketing approaches including online sales, bricks-and-mortar retail, B2B and TV shopping networks. He developed an innovative retailing approach that integrates online browsing with in-store shopping. Fiorentino also has streamlined nationwide manufacturing, shipping and distribution operations.
During a market downturn, Fiorentino led the acquisition of several major electronics brands, leveraging existing brand loyalty for continued sales growth. The combined website traffic of the primary U.S. brands has been ranked #2 among computer and electronics retailers, similar to that of big-box chains.
Until May 2011, Fiorentino was CEO of the Technology Products Group of Systemax, a $3.2 billion multinational, multi-channel reseller of computers and electronics. Prior to assuming that post, he served as director of the company and was largely responsible for the group on a worldwide basis.
Fiorentino first joined Systemax – then known as Global Directmail – in 1995 when it acquired TigerDirect, a computer and electronics marketer he had founded and later transformed into an e- commerce industry leader. TigerDirect was a direct mail catalog sales company that Fiorentino reinvented during the Internet boom. In 1999, it was doing $200 million a year in annual sales; in 2000 it doubled in size (with one less employee) by virtue of online growth. He simultaneously built a B2B sales group with up to 600 reps and opened his first retail outlet.
Fiorentino “re-reinvented” the company in 2008 by moving aggressively into storefront retailing, expanding from 11 to 42 stores by 2011. He acquired and revitalized CompUSA, inventing a concept dubbed Retail 2.0 (patent pending). This innovative customer experience brought the Internet into retail stores in a seamless, revolutionary way by linking more than 250 products in each location to the Web. Shoppers can interact with any “connected device” or get product information while walking the aisles.
In 2005, Fiorentino took over management of MISCO Europe, showing significant growth for the 11- country operation in ensuing years.
With two partners and $500 initial capital, Fiorentino began his career in South Florida in 1985 when he opened an advertising and marketing firm in Miami, which morphed into TigerDirect in 1989.
Fiorentino holds two degrees from the University of Miami: a J.D. from the School of Law and a B.S. in Economics. He is an adjunct professor of business law in the School of Business and a member of the Florida State Bar.
Active in the Consumer Electronics Association, Fiorentino was a keynote speaker at the 2010 International CES. He has attended Bill Gates’ exclusive annual CEO Summit as well as other thought- leader events around the country.
In 2010, Business Leader magazine named Fiorentino “South Florida Business Leader of the Year” (retail category), one of 20 recipients chosen from more than 1,800 nominees overall. The South Florida Business Journal named him CEO of the Year in 2007 and TigerDirect Employer of the Year in 2005.