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On The Money

Our year-long look at an herbal pharmacy's start-up

We know what you people really want. Although you appreciated hearing about Scott Fiore's mental state, and found his opinions on dealing with daily issues like inventory and the phone company helpful, it's really the numbers that matter, right? Well, here you go: In this installment of "Let's see what the new entrepreneur does next," the 32-year-old owner of Littleton, Colorado's The Herbal Remedy talks money--everything from accounting to whether or not his sales match his expectations.

Just to warn you, Fiore aims pretty high. "We could be doing better," he says. "But you can always say that. Until I'm grossing $2,000 a day, I'm not going to say we can't do better, because I think this store can handle that easily."

Ah, if only everyone were as tuned in to reality as Scott. He's never too proud to admit starting up requires him to exercise caution financially, even though his store is doing as well as can be expected for such a young business. "You definitely have to think about stuff like that," he says. "Like `Do I really need to spend money on that?' And you don't."

In an average day, The Herbal Remedy grosses about $600, but on up-days, that number can soar to $1,000 (deposits increase each month). Regardless of what the numbers are, they need to be recorded just so at the end of the day so tax time isn't the darkest moment of the year. "Accounting . . . what a crazy mess of numbers," sighs Fiore. Crediting a checking account when you're subtracting from it; column upon column of digits--definitely not for the impatient. "I took one college course that had to do with accounting, and some economics," he says, "but that [didn't] prepare [me]."

With the help of his father, a certified hotel accountant, and sheer determination, Fiore chooses to trudge through the books himself rather than contract an accountant on a monthly basis. Intuit's QuickBooks software (a gift from his dad who used it for his own start-up a few years back) helps Fiore deal with the process. "It's not the easiest to handle," he says, "but it's pretty thorough." He contends the product is pretty standard for small-business accounting. (You can check it out yourself at http://www.quickbooks.com for pricing, products and services.)

As for Fiore, if he really doesn't get something, he has no ego-based problem consulting Mr. Fiore, Senior. "When I screw something up, my dad seems to put it back together," he says. "I'm good at remembering things, so all the mistakes I make are new mistakes."

He can't prevent some fiascoes, like when his bank incorrectly linked his savings and checking accounts, resulting in 12 returned checks. But Fiore is able to avert most disasters by not taking on what he already knows he can't handle.

Payroll, for instance. "That's where I punted," he says. "I don't want to spend eight hours trying to make sure the right people get paid and the right tax forms are filed--it's too heavy for me." Enter the payroll company, which has made Fiore's life (and can probably make yours) a lot less hectic.

The product-pricing game is another course in entrepreneurship Fiore's learned along the way. But games, he does not play. Although he encounters the occasional comparison shopper waving sale ads for a large grocery chain, he doesn't attempt to compete. "We decided we are not going to be a discount operation," says Fiore. "We're right at suggested retail [price] for everything. For some things that bites us, but for most everything it's fine."

Right now, Fiore has to be leery of lots of things: spending too much, marking items down. "We don't have thousands of people coming through our doors every day," he says. "It's in the 20s and 30s." But with the addition of juice sales--and with flu season on the way--you can bet he'll be punching a few more numbers every night.

Contact Source

The Herbal Remedy, (303) 795-8600, http://www.theherbalremedy.com

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