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Sharper Image Story

I got this really interesting story this morning from the purveyors at Hustle, it is long, interesting, cool and worth sharing. Enjoy. 

Timothy Ross

 

 

How one man built The Sharper Image into the world's wackiest gadget store

It took a marketing genius to build the kingdom of flashy gadgets — and a $229 air purifier to take it all down.

BY ZACHARY CROCKETT

The Sharper Image was a kingdom.

It was a kingdom where you could, in an afternoon trip to the mall, purchase an electric nose trimmer ($39), a motorized surfboard ($2,450), and a bulletproof raincoat ($400), then take a ride in a $1,500 massage chair while being serenaded by a bird-calling robot.

It was a kingdom once described as the “breast implant” of retail, a place where man and child alike could bask in the artificial glow of flagrant consumerism.

This is the story of the man who founded this great kingdom — and how one flashy gadget ultimately led to its downfall.

King Richard I

Richard Thalheimer had all the trappings of a world-class salesman.

Born in 1948 in Little Rock, Arkansas, he spent his youth working odd-jobs in the toy section of his father’s department store. He went on to study psychology and sociology at Yale University, where — during his freshman year — he sold enough encyclopædias to buy a brand new Porsche.

In his early 20s, Thalheimer ventured to San Francisco and started a wholesale business that catered to the then-burgeoning photocopier industry.

“I named it The Sharper Image,” he says, “because I thought that my paper and toner would help people make good copies.”

Left: A young Richard Thalheimer poses for a yearbook photo; Right: In the early days of The Sharper Image (via SF Examiner)

While running The Sharper Image, Thalheimer enrolled at Hastings Law School — but making physical deliveries to businesses in the Financial District every afternoon between classes began to take its toll.

“I was completely taxed,” he says. “So I thought, ‘Why don’t I try mail-order?”

The million-dollar running watch

The mail-order catalogue — a publication that lists products and allows customers to order them remotely via mail or telephone — had been around for a century. As early as the 1880s, Tiffany’s and Sears were hawking their wares in 300-page booklets. 

But in the 1970s, the mail-order industry was having a renaissance moment: Roger Horchow had just launched the first luxury color catalogue without a physical retail location, and Joe Sugarman was running the first-ever mail-order magazine ads — beautiful, full-page photos with poetic product descriptions.

Thalheimer wanted to try his hand at it. But first, he needed a product.

At the time, Seiko had just rolled out a first-of-its-kind fully digital watch — but at $300, most runners couldn’t afford it. Coincidentally, Thalheimer came across a small booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where a man was selling a “very similar” product for $35 wholesale.

He struck a deal with the vendor and bought out a full-page ad in Runner’s World Magazine, offering the watch for $69. For the copy, he chose to feature his friend, Walt Stack — a “legendary, fully-tattooed 70-year-old” who was known around San Francisco for his crazy daily routine, which included a 17-mile run across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Left: Walt Stack on his daily 17-mile-run in the ‘80s (Eric Risberg/AP); Right: Thalheimer’s first Sharper Image ad, for the Realtime watch, starring Stack (Courtesy of Richard Thalheimer)

At a cost of $1k, the ad netted Thalheimer $10k in sales (about $5k of which was profit). He repeated this process — each time, with better results — and by the age of 27, he’d made his first million dollars. 

By 1979, Thalheimer’s system of advertising was so successful that he decided to launch his own catalogue high-tech gadgets nobody knew they needed.

The Sharper Image catalogue

Thalheimer embarked on a quest to find the most unique products on the market — things that “other people didn’t sell.”

“At the Consumer Electronics Show, everyone would gravitate toward the big guys, Sony, Panasonic,” he says. “I’d go straight for the little booths, the people selling things nobody had ever heard of.”

The first catalogue contained 25 items, including the first cordless phone, answering machine, and car radar detector. He avoided superfluous adjectives in his copy, and focused on the features that made the products exceptional.

Very quickly, his experiment began minting money: The first year, sales topped $500k; the second year, they reached $3m; by 1980, $12m. Soon, the catalogue was being sent to 3m people around the world, at a cost of $1.4m per mailing.

He catered specifically to the 20% of Americans who had credit cards, and offered them a 1-800 number to place orders over the phone. In a small San Francisco office, with a staff of 5 or 6 people, a dozen orders were processed every 60 seconds.

The Sharper Image catalogue featured products like the Snore-No-More ($59) — a device that shocked snorers with an electric pulse (via Flickr user Mike Mozart)

The Sharper Image struck at the right time.

In the 1980s stock boom, flashy gadgets and conspicuous consumption were in. “He who dies with the most toys wins” was the ethos of the decade.

Thalheimer expanded into physical retail, opening stores in well-to-do enclaves across America. In New York, bankers dipped in to peruse $1500 massage chairs; in Hawaii, tourists fawned over electric nose hair trimmers and talking scales. By 1985, The Sharper Image was grossing $100m in sales — with no outside capital or debt.

At the company’s helm, Thalheimer was what the New Yorker described as the “very model of a major entrepreneur:” Tanned and muscular, deliberate and tenacious, and infallibly gifted at curating ridiculously niche gadgets, like a mini electric fan on a necklace (priced at $49, it sold 10k units a month).

“I can see the future,” he toldan LA Times reporter in 1984, “I know when a trend is coming and when it’s leaving.” In an AP interview, he hailed himself as a “marketing genius.” Nobody could disagree.

When The Sharper Image IPO’d at $10 per share in 1987, the chain, and its outspoken CEO, seemed incapable of failure. That is, until the ‘80s ended.

Do I really need that gadget?

In the early ‘90s, the economy weakened and sparked a recession: Suddenly, conspicuous consumption was out and frugal environmentalism was in. 

The Sharper Image tried to switch gears by selling more “socially responsible” products (like Birkenstocks, vitamin energizers, and benches made of recycled plastic), but the strategy had a limited effect.

Between 1989 and 1991, sales fell by 28%. Staff was was cut by 20%. Stock tumbled to $2. And for the first time in company history, The Sharper Image posted a loss.

The Sharper Image saw a dramatic decline in the early ‘90s (The Hustle)

“The Sharper Image has become a cliche for the worst excesses of the last decade — the Donald Trump of specialty retailing,” wrote the SF Examiner. “Nobody needs what they sell.”

For a CEO of a publicly-traded company, Thalheimer was unusually involved in minute decisions: His penchant for controlling what color clothes employees could wear, how they decorated their desks, and what type of coffee mugs they used earned him a citation in California Magazine’s 1988 Worst Bosses in America list.

So, he decided to step back from day-to-day operations and go back to his roots: Finding wacky, one-of-a-kind products. It didn’t take long.

At a “hippie street fair” in San Francisco, Thalheimer stumbled across a blue gel shoe insert — the first of its kind. “I stood up in front of all my deflated employees, pulled this thing out of my suit pocket, and said, ‘This is going to turn us around,’” he recalls. “Everyone thought I was nuts.”

At $19.99 a pair, the inserts went on to become the company’s best-selling product, selling hundreds of units a day and adding 50% to their sales figures.

Several years later, in 2000, Thalheimer came across another game-changing product at a toy fair in Hong Kong: The Razor scooter. He negotiated an exclusive 24-month deal and sold a million of them in the first year. It was, he says, “a second lease on life” for the company.

Razor scooters revitalized The Sharper Image, but raised new concerns (via the AP)

Bolstered by the rise of the internet and online sales, the Razor led The Sharper Image to the best performance in its 23-year history. It was no longer just a place for “tech-loving snobs” to buy elitist gadgets.

But this success came with a looming concern: The Sharper Image was turning into what analysts described as “a one-product company.”

The air purifier that killed the company

Thalheimer had long operated by finding intriguing products elsewhere, signing exclusive distribution deals, and selling them under The Sharper Image brand name. But he knew that if it designed and patented his own products, margins could be higher.

In a secret location north of San Francisco, Thalheimer assembled a team of engineers and designers and formed Sharper Image Design to make gadgets in-house. 

“[It was a place] where where the inner child could come out in every man, with gizmos blinking and whirling,” later recalled an employee. “The only thing missing were white coats and propeller hats.”

The team churned out some 300 patents and 100 products, ranging from fogless mirrors to anti-snoring wristbands that jolted the offender with an electric shock.

But the crown jewel of the operation was a noiseless air purifier called the Ionic Breeze.

Ads for the the Ionic Breeze (via The Hartford Courant, 1999)

The Sharper Image put all of its resources behind the machine, taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of magazine, newspaper and TV ads. Despite its $229 price tag, it became a smash hit.

By the turn of the millenium, the Ionic Breeze was so popular that it made up 45% of all of the chain’s sales. And as it turned out, this was a huge problem.

In 2002, Consumer Reports(a nonprofit product review publication) ranked the Ionic Breeze dead last in a feature on air purifiers, deeming it “ineffective.” Thalheimer was furious, and filed a lawsuit against the magazine, claiming it had “negligently disparag[ed] the product.” It was tossed out, and cost Thalheimer $525k in legal fees.

“We did a very stupid thing by making a big stink out of it,” cedes Thalheimer. “It was like suing Jesus Christ...it infuriated them, and just led to more trouble.”

Three years later, Consumer Reports struck again — this time alleging that the Ionic Breeze didn’t just suck at purifying air, but actually emitted harmful amounts of ozone. Once again, Thalheimer took them to court and lost.

The blowback cost The Sharper Image millions of dollars in store credits and refunds — and soon, stockholders began to question Thalheimer’s magic touch.

Held at Knightspoint

In the Spring of 2006, a group of outside shareholders by the name of Knightspoint Partners snapped up 13% of the company.

Led by famed corporate raider Jerry Levin, the group demanded a shakeup of the board. At first, it seemed they genuinely wanted to help Thalheimer guide The Sharper Image back on track, but it soon became clear that they were gunning to oust him and remodel the company in their own image.

The Sharper Image’s “new image” included some poor decisions, like featuring Trump Steaks on the cover of a catalogue; meat packages started at $1k (The Hustle)

In September, Thalheimer was fired and forced to sell all of his remaining shares for a sum of $26m — a fraction of what his holdings were once worth. When he came into work the next day to gather his belongings, the door was locked. His desk, still covered with the wacky emblems of his career, his now occupied by Jerry Levin.

Knightspoint set to work recrafting The Sharper Image into a general electronic retailer, like Circuit City or Best Buy. Or, in Thalheimer’s estimation, “stripping away the imagination.”

By 2008, stock had plummeted to 28 cents per share. Within a year, The Sharper Declared bankruptcy, closed down all 183 stores, and laid of 4k employees.

The company, now run by an investor group, continues to exist online — but it’s a shadow of its former self. The weird gadgets have been usurped by USB drives and motion-activated light bulbs — and Thalheimer’s oddball charm is nowhere to be seen.

Richard Solo

Looking back, Thalheimer doesn’t harbor much ill-will. He runs his own gadget site, aptly named RichardSolo.com, and has taken up investing.

“My days are a lot more enjoyable,” he says. “It’s not as egocentric as being the head of my own company. But at this point, I’d rather be alone.”

He tells The Hustle that his net worth is “3-4x higher” than when he got pushed out, and that his studies of the stock market have earned him beefy returns of between 50% and 100% per year.

Thalheimer poses with a favorite from The Sharper Image catalogue (via Richard Thalheimer)

But Thalheimer hasn’t completely abandoned the kingdom.

At his Marin County mansion stands a lavishly-adorned suit of armor — a $2,450 relic from The Sharper Image catalogue. An old cordless telephone dangles from its ear.

It is a sight that can only be described as perfectly Thalheimerian: A blend of the old and the new, the eclectic and the cutting-edge, the blunt and the sharp.

 
 
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Weekend Recap

Miss an email this week? Here’s a rundown of our top headlines from the past 7 days:

1. WORDPLAY OF THE WEEK: You smoke, bud?

Canadians once again prove they’re chill after the country officially made weed legal for all uses on Wednesday, but some industry experts believe the share prices have gotten too highhhhhhhhhhhhhh, man. What a buzzkill.

2. OUR FAVORITE: The Palm Pilot is back -- but more useless than ever

All was a buzz as the Palm Pilot brand announced its new “ultra-mobile” Palm phone that is smaller than a regular cell phone and aims to eliminate digital distractions -- only problem is it has pretty much all of the same features as normal cell phones.

3. ‘TODAY I LEARNED’: That if a concert sells out, it usually means ticket prices were too cheap

As ticket scalpers and resell sites continue to run rampant on the industry-wide ticket inflation problem, Taylor Swift and her team concocted a strategy to help combat the issue… and so far, it’s working.

4. OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS: The ‘Real World’ returns... on Facebook?

The world’s first hit reality show announced it is coming back to a cell phone screen near you. The old format will come with some new interactive surprises, and air on Facebook’s new premium content platform, Facebook Watch.

5. TECH TROUBLES: Lime tried to sue San Francisco for getting snubbed on scooter permits

After being denied the highly anticipated San Francisco scooter permit, Lime filed for a temporary restraining against the city, in hopes that it would delay scooter releases for the 2 companies that did receive permits.

 
Now Playing Now Playing:
The Masterplan, Oasis. Everybody’s got one.
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Now, back to the corn field

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Marriage thoughts at Rotary Joke time

Got a copy of these tonight in my meeting notes from last weeks meeting. During our Rotary meeting, we have a joke master and Don DeGroot provided these for our enjoyment. 

The love of my life made me puff ball bread sticks tonight and a smoothie, that’s pretty good for a 9 pm snack on a Sunday night!

 

Answers to questions about Love and Marriage from six to ten year olds 

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO TO MARRY?   
 
"You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming."
- Alan, age 10 ....... {Smart Guy}
 
"No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with."
- Kirsten, age 10
 
WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO GET MARRIED?

"Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then."
- Camille, age 10
 
"No age is good to get married at.  You got to be a fool to get married."
 Freddie, age 6 ......... {Even Smarter Guy}
 
HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED?

"Married people usually look happy to talk to other people."
- Eddie, age 6
 
"You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids."
- Derrick, age 8
 
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR MOM AND DAD HAVE IN COMMON?

"Both don't want no more kids."
- Lori, age 8
 
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?

"Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other.  Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough."
- Lynnette, age 8
 
"On the first date, they just tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date."
- Martin, age 10
  
WHEN IS IT OK TO KISS SOMEONE?

"When they're rich."
- Pam, age 7 ............ {Girls Sure Start Early}
 
"The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with  that."
- Curt, age 7
  
 IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED? 

"It's better for girls to be single, but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them."
- Anita, age 9 .................. { A Lot Of Truth Here}
 
"Single is better, for the simple reason that I wouldn't want to change no diapers.  Of course, if I did get married, I'd just phone my mother and have her come over for some coffee and diaper-changing."
- Kirsten, age 10
 
HOW WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT IF PEOPLE DIDN'T GET MARRIED?

"There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there?"
 - Kelvin, age 8
  
HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK? 

"Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a dump truck."
- Ricky, age 10 ............... {Huh?}
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Harvest for Food Banks

Yesterday was a full day. I was in the field shortly after 8 getting setup. Robert Dentz and Bill lifted some more rows, they had done a number the afternoon before. People started driving in after 9. We were out of the field by 5. I headed to Prescott Food For All Food Bank with Megan with our final load, came back, cleared the field of pails and hauled the second trailer back for unloading of the pails tomorrow wrapped up just after 7, will get them back into storage and be ready for the next adventure tomorrow. We gathered over 18,000 pounds of potatoes and squash for local food banks and feeding organizations in our community of Brockville and Prescott. There had to be over 50 volunters assist throughout the day, maybe more.

Greg Houldcroft , Executive Director of Cross Town Impact stepped up another year to help get the word out and inspire youth and families to journey to the fields. This event started over 9 years ago when I coordinated with Highway Pentecostal Church to help glean the fields, that would put it around 2010.

Looking back at some old notes , we often stretched this into the colder months

 From: advisor@timothyross.com
Sent: Monday, December 2, 2013 3:08 PM
To: Leigh Bursey  Cc: Rodger McCabe  Subject: Re: ummmm.
​​
Hi Rodger and Leigh, I did a site inspection this afternoon and met with the Dents, there is not enough left to make it viable to do anymore harvesting, what is left will remain for personal consumption and perhaps some secret weapon chips :) Interesting the Kale that is still left is in good shape considering the recent weather, very impressive cole crop.
Thanks for your help and interest, Together We Did Some Great Good, thanks again . Over 4 Thousand Tons of food. Tim
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
From: advisor@timothyross.com
Sent: Monday, December 2, 2013 4:41 AM
To: Leigh Bursey  Cc: Rodger McCabe Subject: Re: ummmm. 

That year Leigh had a car accident on the Sunday before this email. I missed seeing Leigh this year, however he was out for a bit in the morning and picked a few pails that added to the effort.

We had a beautiful day and were blessed with a great day and effort. The passing of the rain clouds was huge answer to prayer, early that morning it did rain a bit, fortunately not enough to stop the process. It had been wet leading up to the harvest, Thursday morning it ws hopeful that things would turn around as we would not be able to get on the fields on Saturday if it did not. Fortunatly Thursday and Friday the wind picked up and the sun came out to help allow the fields to get dryed out enough so Robert could dig the potatoes and then the volunteers pick and bag them .

There is lots of pictures on facebook, this link should take you there.

https://www.facebook.com/omegastewardship/media_set?set=a.10155511473375563&type=3

Greg has album at

https://www.facebook.com/pg/CrossTownImpact/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1967092233371333&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARDtObyWVXOjfdP30bSAK5IMyZzpo1udXwEkDIFvQHge3gtKUnpTypeK3anCpEq9Q5ratXNl9Zi_-Rmlu5ZlhJhnLNryvXbc-LwiG4XrYCjBBFHsosKv0PnlUTTH5144_EWWCYxFqb-C_jE907X04pukCfsSSrjiJ2zibaE9bIFkMZxdb1k0_3-PEI2bixPMkLgB2xav5Sy1cRWMzQYu3Ze4lf--4r2mXQ&__tn__=-UCH-R

There is also some video 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ8Ci_E95Ns&index=2&list=PLhhVyaUmOQur0rWarodS7R-IZ83neSIGv&t=0s

 

Event Page yr 2018

https://www.facebook.com/events/252158168820736/

Event Page Year 2017

 https://www.facebook.com/events/136567547086454/

Event Year 2016

https://www.facebook.com/events/546632402194822/

https://www.facebook.com/pg/CrossTownImpact/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1169036719843559&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARCazWgQ4SdKeLuU6JG6HLwReyBALnuVOYCwpBx_C6WDGgY58PKrKiOuaMD0nwPqIMvQaeDQPrqK8Ok0lhk4RYun3UFB5O8Wsq1pvKF6PB-yt37OBc5j-BIQxnTczhxHhj6ydidL04yIz3nHse6ylKh6OhJAWK8WwSMmp5DS50NbSfNyP5HqX8PU_Cs0stifUPwrgdz7Ap3OACiQwoDfYUcmDn4scB7qKg&__tn__=-UK-R

https://www.facebook.com/omegastewardship/media_set?set=a.10153781321420563.1073741895.727085562&type=3&pnref=story

Event Year 2015

https://www.facebook.com/greg.houldcroft/media_set?set=a.10154776959060282&type=3

https://www.facebook.com/omegastewardship/media_set?set=a.10153026923140563&type=3&hc_location=ufi

https://www.instagram.com/p/8aF0sTR60w/

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156091696175282&set=a.10151301171315282&type=3&fref=mentions

https://www.facebook.com/greg.houldcroft/media_set?set=a.10154776891170282.1073741933.510830281&type=3

Event Year 2014

https://www.facebook.com/greg.houldcroft/media_set?set=a.10154754538255282&type=3&hc_location=ufi

https://www.facebook.com/greg.houldcroft/media_set?set=a.10154754538255282.1073741928.510830281&type=3

Event Year 2013

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=630250570350187&set=a.609011945807383&type=3&theater

 

 

 

 

We don't always get potatoes, in 2011 there was none. 

reviewed with Iris next weekend, for church harvest , Sat Oct 29
​- need shovel's, pitch forks, knives for processing
​carrot's, beets, cabbage, squash

Hotlist Task Created: Phone Call, no potatoes this yr. but other stuff
With: Dentz, Robert & Iris
Scheduled by: Tim Ross  Assigned to: Tim Ross  October 17, 2011

I believe I started this back in  2009 so we have about 10 years of harvesting under our belt at this point. I say about as over time our memories float around the beginning , going to search my archieves and confirm at some point :) 

In the year 2013 I wrote 

Year2014 - Tentative Date Set , Year 5 , it will be an all day event, come and go as you please. Rodger and I have worked the full day almost every time in the past , so it really needs a full day's effort and depending on the produce availability a few extra visits may be required to get it all gleaned.
There was about 5000 pounds of potatoes that we were unable to glean, plus beets , kale, squash , tons of stuff that we just didn't have the people power to glean. Hopefully next year with a greater outreach of volunteers, and expanded time line, that can all change, many hands make for light work.

 

so that is looking like year 2010 start harvest, the planning seed began in 2009 from a conversation I had with the Dents's that fall. 

So, looking like year Year 10 will be 2019, and for fun, lt's set a tenative date  Sturday October 12, 2019 with a rain date oct 19

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleaning

 

 

 

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Starting Right Financial Advice

Basics We All Can Achieve

 

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/ray-dalio-3-financial-recommendations-millennials-153540994.html?soc_src=community&soc_trk=ma

 

Ray Dalio has some great tips on what one should do, the title says Millennials, however this is a message many should aspire to. 

So no matter where you are in life, reset, restart, contact our team and get a review and clarity for your financial plans. Let’s put some action into #ImprovingFutures 

Enjoy

Timothy Ross

Founder, Brock Shores Financial

advisor@timothyross.com

613-345-0016

 

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Doing More Good

Received this email this morning and as normal it gets me thinking, what are we doing at Brock Shores Financial ? How are we #ImprovingFutures  ? How are our actions lining up with our Vision, Mission and Core Values ? 

One thing that we do is research and become aware of the issues and work towards putting sustainable practices in our business and life. A great resource for me has been my membership in  RIA  Responsible Investment Association https://www.riacanada.ca/timothy-ross/

I would love to read what you are doing to make a difference in your life, home, community, please join our online community and share your reflections in the comment section , your Utmost For Your Highest

In the meantime, let's read what Coro Stranberg has to say about the matter. 

Have a blessed day

Timothy Ross, Founder Brock Shores Financial

#Improving Futures

 

Coro Strandberg works with businesses, government and industry associations to envision and innovate a sustainable future. She is an expert on sustainability leadership and transformational business practices and relationships.

"Sustainability is no longer about doing less harm. It's about doing more good."

Jochen Zeitz (Co-founder and co-chair of the B Team and past CEO of PUMA)

I’ve been thinking about the word “good” and how it shows up in our language in countless idioms: For goodness sake. All to the good. Good and ready. Goodwill. For good reason. Good company. And so on. In my work, good – when turned into action – means sustainable businesses that change everything for the better.

Growing global resource constraints – coupled with changing customer, investor, and government expectations – will drive companies to change the way they do business. In this newsletter, I bring you up-to-date on sustainability tools, trends, tips and trailblazers that can help you and your organization become a force for social good. Whether your organization needs a kickstart or it’s leading the way with transformational business practices, you’ll find lots of good news here.

2018 is trending as the watershed year when boards began to actively improve their oversight of the company’s social and environmental performance. Regardless of whether the impetus was scandals, investors, social movements, employees or consumers, more and more boards are taking their fiduciary responsibilities in this area seriously. Fortunately, there is considerable guidance in this new governance practice.

This spring I started teaching the Sustainable Board module for the new Governance Professionals of Canada certification program. The course provides a practical look at board sustainability oversight for governance professionals who advise boards and management on sustainability governance. This will equip corporate directors and executives with greater insight on how to steward the sustainable performance of the firm. Corporate governance leaders also have a sustainable board roadmap in a recently published white paper I authored on the topic for Conference Board of Canada. It's an update on the trends and drivers of sustainability governance that have emerged since the first paper I wrote on the subject in 2008, and provides a sustainability toolkit for boards and those who advise them. Check it out and share these resources with the boards and governance professionals you know.

Business Models for Good

Boards for Good are responsible for ensuring their business has a core social purpose as its engine for growth and goodwill. Businesses are defining and articulating their humanitarian reason for being. The United Way of the Lower Mainland is a leader in this global trend and in so doing, pivoting its corporate donor relationships. This spring I helped the United Way launch its Social Purpose Institute, growing business for good in Greater Vancouver and beyond. Uniquely, the Institute’s vision is to partner with cities, boards of trade and others to raise awareness of this business opportunity and build the regional capacity for social purpose business. In this way, business will bring all its assets, not simply its donations to community good.

Leveraging University Assets for Good

This trend towards leveraging assets for good is taking off in the public sector, too. To advance the widely acclaimed white paper I wrote for McConnell Foundation and SFU on "Maximizing the Capacities of Advanced Education Institutions to Build Social Infrastructure for Canadian Communities" published in 2017, I have been helping the McConnell Foundation and the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO) scale social purpose administration and finance among administrative departments at Canadian universities and colleges, info here. The basic premise is that public institutions can bring all their assets and instruments (in addition to teaching and research) to advance societal well-being by applying a social, environmental, community or stakeholder lens to decision-making, budgets and projects. University administrators are finding new purpose and meaning in their jobs from this shift. According to one front line university staff member: "This [social purpose administration] is a new way of working. As administrators who spend our careers in our institution, we can see a tie to our organization. It is also tied to the place where you live. It is another use of your job. It gives me meaning in my day."

Professionals for Good

Not only are governance professionals and university administrators social-purposing their jobs, so too are other professionals looking to build more social value into everyday roles. Since the launch of the Sustainable Professional Association Initiative with The Natural Step, I have had the pleasure of advising associations representing human resources and governance professionals. Current work involves a project for the Real Estate Foundation of BC to define a professional development pathway to build sustainability expertise among realtors. Watch this space for the research paper in early 2019.

This work has me thinking about the "Purposeful Professional": I believe that purpose-driven companies and organizations are creating room for professionals to hone their personal purpose and bring it to work.

Products for Good

Organizations-for-good offer products-for-good. While not easy to go the distance, it can be done as described in this Conference Board of Canada resource I wrote on the topic. Notably, leaders like Marks and Spencer, BASF and LafargeHolcim are setting ambitious targets to reposition their product portfolios in alignment with a sustainable future. This Sustainable Brands article profiles these opportunities. For more detailed guidance, check out the Conference Board paper.

Advocacy for Good

Having a business model, professionals and products for good doesn’t guarantee a sustainable future. We also need government leadership to re-engineer policy, legislation and regulation so that fair, inclusive, low-carbon and circular growth can be enabled. Fortunately, more and more businesses are engaging in the public policy debate, as for-good advocates. This GreenBiz article unpacks this trend and drivers, while this tool offers an "advocacy for good" continuum, from oppositional to transformational practices. Check it out to see where your organization lies. Then engage your government and industry relations teams in how they can bring purpose and meaning to their jobs through a proactive sustainable public policy agenda.

That’s the goods for this newsletter. I always appreciate hearing from my readers. Don't hesitate to contact me for questions, clarifications or additional resources. Thanks for reading. Goodbye for now!

Coro

Good for you

events:

Corporate Sustainability Practitioners: Roles have changed, has your job description?

November 15, 2018 at 11:00 am PT / 2:00 PM EDT
This one-hour, low-cost webinar will discuss how the corporate responsibility practitioner role is becoming more strategic, enterprise-wide, and external. You’ll pick up insights on how the jobs, roles, and departments of CSR and sustainability practitioners are adjusting to meet the new imperatives. More information.

GreenBiz 2019

Phoenix Arizona, Feb. 26 – 28, 2019
I hope to see you at GreenBiz 2019, the Premier Annual Event for Sustainable Business Leaders. I will be moderating a session on "What every sustainability professional should know about board sustainability governance," with investors, corporate directors and sustainability professionals represented on the business panel. You’re guaranteed a thought-provoking and practical session. More information.

 

A picture is worth a thousand words, video's will multiple that , check out her Webinar Library

https://corostrandberg.com/resources/webinar-library/

Read more…

2018 Annual Tax Season Letter

Brock Shores Financial

Formerly Timothy Ross & Associates

 

4502 Airport Road – Tincap

Elizabethtown, ON

K6T 1A2

“Serving clients since 1988”

 

www.BrockShoresFinancial.ca

Voice: 613-345-0016

Fax: 613-345-5231

advisor@timothyross.com

 

 Another year is upon us, “the sap is running” and we are beginning our tax season once again. Our biggest announcement this year is that we have happily made a name change. We hope you like the fresh look of Brock Shores Financial. I feel it better suits our path going forward and positions us into the next 30 years as we develop our growth and succession plans. We have expanded our team, hiring on additional staff to help keep the office balanced and efficient to meet our growing client’s needs. This is now my 30th year in business and it is still my pleasure to serve you and your family as a tax consultant and advisor. Our new staff members include Cody King, Katina King, Neil Norman, and Lisa Quenneville. Heather Kiley remains our Administrative Assistant and Megan Hough is our Client Support Service Coordinator. Peter Young continues to provide out of office accounting support. Bob Harper, has come on board as our Business Development Consultant, helping promote our year round business support services. Many may know Bob for his efforts in bringing great awareness to the area and abroad about the origins of our Canadian Maple Leaf Flag and our local connection to the historic events and loving hands that lead to our countries flag creation.

 

Brock Shores Financial is set upon a good foundation that has been built on the Family Office concept where you can get a variety of services and advice, a one stop place for the majority of your financial services and advice. We will continue to provide what we call Omega Stewardship ® which helps us help you reach your families major goals in life.

 

Things are always changing, just yesterday the Canadian Government announced a number of updates in the budget which we will be monitoring going forward as some of them may impact you and or the people you work for. There was also a number of changes last year and some of these changes will effect various credits which we will adjust this year while doing your taxes.

 

Some of the routine news for the tax season year is as follows:

 

“The hardest thing to understand in the world is the income tax.” ~ Albert Einstein

 

TAX SEASON OFFICE HOURS

We have now expand our front desk office hours for the next few months. Monday through Friday we open at 9:30 am and close at 8pm. This will be our goal during the weeks ahead. That being said, we take appointments beyond our “office hours” all the time throughout the year. Working Saturdays is an option as well especially during tax season if you cannot possibly make it in during the week or evenings.

 

If you do not require an appointment, please feel free to drop off your tax papers at the office. Staff are setup to receive and gather the necessary information. They will have you sign some papers and send some home for signing if required so we can get your returns prepared, reviewed and filed in a timely manner.

 

We also have had more people emailing their documentation to us from across Canada 24/7. This has been a very effective way to extend our reach and provide service across the country or simply down the street. This is not always convenient for everyone, however if you would like to, simply email a pdf of your slips or a clear photo from your smart phone. Please send them to advisor@timothyross.com and we will be able to start your returns that way.

 

CRA CONTACT

We will continue to select the e-filing option that CRA will contact us directly first vs you for any pre-assessment and post assessment requests for information. That has worked fairly well this past year. There has been occasions CRA didn’t cooperate with this policy and we had surprise reassessments, nevertheless we will work through those for you.

 

As noted last year, in the past we had CRA contact clients first after your returns had been processed (post assessments), this gave one a chance to respond on your own and avoid any additional professional charges. We found however over the last few years that people were typically bringing this to our attention anyway and sometimes completely not dealing with the matter. Then one would get reassessed, with a debt owed to CRA because no information was sent, or the wrong information was sent, missing information, etc. This causes too much stress for everyone, additional work and often requiring more expertise to sort out. So we are going to take on the responsibility of receiving these notices first and then responding to CRA on your behalf. This will involve gathering any documentation that is required from you or our records, making sure it is correct, make any necessary adjustments if it is determined it is in your best interest, submitting in a proper format to CRA.

 

We are now able to electronically submit documentation which gives us another level of assurance that they got it, eliminating a lot of questions regarding did they get? How long will it take? Or “they” lost it.   You will always maintain the option to do it yourself, however there is often thousands of dollars on the line and we feel it best to invest in some professional service and protect your tax file for the year in question and by responding in a good manner, this often helps reduce future requests, so it protects you from future audits, not always, however from our experience, it often does. Often it can take longer to respond to even what I consider the simplest of tasks than it does for us to do someone’s tax return.

 

With 30 years’ experience, I use the words “simplest of task” from that perspective. To help you and our office, I have trained my team to help in this process. Everyone has different charge out rates and various experiences, so depending on the request from CRA and what they require, we will have the appropriate person work on your file and review with me to make sure that your tax file is protected.

 

“Thinking is one thing no one has ever been able to tax.” ~ Charles Kettering

 

CLARIFYING OUR “Dang It” POLICY

Every once in a while, we will make an error. No one wants to admit it, however I will. Frankly we are humans, and despite all our experience, and all the steps we take to make sure we input the correct information, it can happen. A number gets transposed, or put in the wrong spot, or gets missed… just being human. Last year it happened a few times, and worked out to be 0.25% of our work load. Property taxes vs rent happened on a couple this year, so if you’re getting too big of a trillium benefit let us know right away and will double check, it’s a very tiny box on our forms.

 

When any error happens CRA will probably pick up on the error and adjust it right away. Sometimes it takes longer, and they ask us or you to clarify, or they will send out a reassessment if they are sure they have the correct information. When this happens, we will do the necessary professional work to correct the problem at no cost to you, sometimes it is what it is. Always let us check whenever you get something from the government. Taxes are a big web and one thing leads to another, and CRA doesn’t usually connect the dots, especially if it is in your favor. We will look at the big picture and pursue it out of principle for you, because we take a lot of pride in what we do.

 

If we made the error, I will give you a credit on your tax returns for any interest you are charged related to the error we made, up to the time it is discovered and corrected. You are responsible for any tax owing, as you would have been if there had been no error in the first place. When the error comes from missing information that we did not receive, you are responsible for interest and taxes payable. Depending on the work required, we often waive the professional fee to clarify the matter, however, there are times when it takes a lot of work and it falls under our CRA contact procedure policies, and while we appreciate your business, unfortunately our staff do not work for free.

 

We feel there is value in knowing when you have had contact from CRA, as it triggers future questions for us next time we file your return (i.e., where is that tax slip from the bank?) You do not want to be missing stuff, because after just a few things missing with CRA, they can classify you as a delinquent filer, not reporting all your income, and when you miss something next time they penalize you in the future for forgetfulness. They call it the “repeated failure to report income penalty” and the numbers can get crazy. The government has implemented some changes for income under $500, but above that it is crazy expensive, (just google it you will see what I mean, various calculations), and it takes about 3 years to get off that list, so we will do everything that we can to keep you off the list in the first place, it’s not good for you or us. You may never see it, but rest assured that we take a lot of care and due diligence, so this never or rarely happens. However, if it does, I just want you to know in advance what we will do so you’re not left hanging and wondering. Our staff have clear direction to answer any questions that come up and implement a timely solution. That being said, we encourage you to check over your return, I think it is important that you understand your finances and how things generally work, and CRA makes it quite clear that in the end you are responsible for your taxes, so, if there is something missing, you have the responsibility to bring that to our attention, and we will adjust it. We will do our best to have it correct the first time, but if we made a human error, we welcome the opportunity to get it right. Jim Rohn said, “Accuracy builds credibility” and we are just keeping it real because we are here to serve you and your family and we look forwarding to having a long term relationship that is beneficial to us all. Our greatest compliment is when you refer others to us, it says a lot and is frankly how I prefer to do business.

 

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”    ….. Thanks for continuing to work with us, your business and friendship over the years is sincerely appreciated.

 

We Like to Be TAX SMART

Things are always changing, yet our goal remains as always, to get you the highest refund possible and minimize your tax burden. Working with us has many other benefits as we are a full-service firm with many options available to service your needs.

 

We encourage you to be Tax Smart; Some new things to be aware of this year

 

  1. The sale of a residence must be reported on your taxes , since 2016
  2. The Seniors Pension Split is still available and we do not charge extra for that service
  3. We do not charge extra for e-filing, it’s now law that we e-file your return, and saves us time and postage, so we are not going to charge extra for that like some places do.
  4. Our basic fees are up on average 20% over last year, we have held off increases for several years now, unfortunately inflation continues to impact all of our cost of operations and we had to make an increase this year to reflect these realities.
  5. If you owe money, we can now setup a preauthorized payment for you with CRA, since 2016
  6. If you have a business or employment expenses there is great tax benefits, providing you keep track of things properly. One area that we continue to see deficiencies is in logging mileage. Please make this a habit, it is so very important to do this and protect your deductions. If you’re not doing this currently start today. I got an APP on my phone called MileIQ it works pretty good and is worth the deductible investment. There is others as well or the standard write it in a little book works as well, the important thing is to do it so you have the proof, document, and document.
  7. Fitness and Art credits are no longer a deduction
  8. Transportation credits ended June 30th last year, however if your 65 or over there is a seniors public transit tax credit in Ontario.
  9. Tuition credits and transfers from the kids are calculated a little different this year
  10. There is a number of other items that may impact you, please let us know of any questions you may have regarding your situation.
  11. Bonus …If we are not already friends on face book, be sure and send me a friend request, I post a lot, and there are many articles there that can save you money, create wealth, and encourage a more reflective life, but more than that, I just like connecting and even if it is just to wish you a happy birthday, that is worth it all. Many connect with me by private message as well, it’s a good way to communicate. We also have a couple pages setup, one for Timothy Ross & Associates which has a purely business related focus and a new one for Brock Shores Financial. Be sure to like it, and if you want adventure, do check out “Be The Adventure”.

 

 

PAYMENTS & FILES

Payments can made by cheque, cash or e-transfer. Our fees are based on the complexity of your tax return(s) as well as you’re your monetary situation. If you have a file you have dropped off or previous paper work that we have been holding, please be sure to pick it up once your taxes are done. Unfortunately, we do not have the space to hold everyone’s files for consecutive years.

 

Wrap Up

We value you, and we look forward to serving you once again this year. We hope you appreciate our name change and welcome our new staff as we build our service. We aim to bring value to your life, family or business. Please see the attached document introducing you to some NEW hydration that may improve your everyday living! Be sure and journey down to O’Mally Kourt & Fudgery at 55 King Street West Brockville , grab yourself a cold one and #BeTheAdventure

 

A little story about #ImprovingFutures , when we were working on the name change, I had a spot on the business card and it was calling me for some text, so I gave it some serious thought and I asked “What do we ultimately do for people ? After some reflecting we decided that Improving Futures is really what we do at the end of the day, then Megan said, “Put a hash tag on it”, and that is what we did.

 

PS: We are working on a new website, we have a lot of articles there already, we encourage you to simply check it out. The site is being setup as a member driven community site, so we encourage you to become a member while you’re there. www.ImprovingFutures.ca will take you there. It’s value will grow with time and as a member you will certainly hear about stuff first.

Looking forward to hearing from you; Call, Visit, and/or Email 24/7

  

Thank you

Timothy Ross

advisor@timothyross.com

Brock Shores Financial – Formerly Timothy Ross & Associates

www.BrockShoresFinancial.ca #ImprovingFutures

"Where Client Goals Become Our Goals" ®

"Helping Families Achieve ... Life's Major Goals" ®

 

OMEGA STEWARDSHIP ®

* One Stop Process Driven Approach for Retirement & Income Planning

* Personalized Tax Management Solutions for Individuals & Business Owners

* Confidential Wealth Management Solutions

 

Family Office providing Insurance Products in Association with Financial Horizons Group

Family Office providing Mutual Funds in Association with Professional Investments (Kingston) Inc."

Family Office providing Tax and Consulting Services

 

“Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees” - John Willard Marriott

 

“We will receive not what we idly wish for but what we justly earn. Our rewards will always be in exact proportion to our service.” ~ Earl Nightingale

 

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein

 

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

~ Rob Siltanen

 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

 

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

"The beauty of being in business is that your business engages all aspects of your mind, I think that is why you become successful, business challenges you to be more than you are, and that is where the miracle takes place." ~ Timothy Ross, May 2004

Read more…

OMEGA STEWARDSHIP ®

I am often asked what is Omega Stewardship ® ? 

There is a number of trademarks that I have created since starting the business back in 1988. They represent the idea that we can somehow condense what we do in a few words. The goal is that it helps people understand what we do quickly and to the point. It's an incredible idea to think one can do that, considering everything that we do. This process is certainly not unique to our business, and for business owners, employee's, volunteers of charities etc it's a great process to go through. 

I will tackle each of these as I move forward with the site and explain a little about the history and back story behind some of these words that we use to describe what we do and what we want to see , our vision, mission, and core values.

Omega Stewardship ® is one of the trademarks that I created over the years. It is a process that uses industries best practices and is a mind set of continual improvement. In it's simplest form it describes our process of what we want to accomplish, the value that we want to bring and some of the principals that we want to apply and accomplish  in all our activities of service to our clients at Brock Shores Financial. The three lines below covers the main goals that I feel will help towards the mission of #ImprovingFutures

Timothy Ross, CEO & Founder, Brock Shores Financial #ImprovingFutures

Family Office providing OMEGA STEWARDSHIP ®

* One Stop Process Driven Approach for Retirement & Income Planning
* Personalized Tax Management Solutions for Individuals & Business Owners
* Confidential Wealth Management Solutions

"Helping Families Achieve ... Life's Major Goals"®

"Where Client Goals Become Our Goals" ®

Tax and Consulting Services in Association with Timothy Ross & Associates www.TimothyRoss.com
Family Office providing Insurance Products in Association with Financial Horizons Group www.financialhorizons.com/our-story
Family Office providing Mutual Funds in Association with Professional Investments (Kingston) Inc. www.pro-invest.ca

www.BrockShoresFinancial.ca

#ImprovingFutures

Read more…