Article originally written for and featured in Square’s Seller Community: https://www.sellercommunity.com/t5/General-Discussion/How-I-Revamped-My-Business-Thanks-to-Square-Data/m-p/108828#M21771
I’ve been running Pesso’s Ices & Ice Cream, my small ice cream shop in suburban New York, with my father since 2004. For the first 8 years, we were using a standard CASIO cash register, and we were basically running blind. It was incredibly hard to program and make changes, and even harder to track any actual sales data.
While we could see how much money we made, we couldn’t see or track any sales trends. We couldn’t tell what our best sellers were, which sizes we were selling the most and least of, if we were making a profit on Milkshakes, or any other figures we could use to make educated business decisions.
We were also cash only for those years, since we always thought that taking credit cards was too complicated, too expensive, and too far out of reach for us. In 2012, more and more customers were asking to use credit cards, and we knew we had to do something. So we took a leap and set up an iPad with the Square POS app. It was incredibly easy to set up and program, taking less than 30 minutes to input our entire Item library. And as soon as we were live, we immediately started to get data we could use to track our cash and credit sales.
I then started tracking all of the sales data that we finally started collecting thanks to Square, and organized it into my own spreadsheets to find trends. This was the beginning of sweeping changes for us to become the efficient and modern shop we are today.
Making the Menu
The most important step of setting up our Square Point of Sale System was really putting together our Item Library. It had to be organized in a way that not only got us great usable data, but also allowed our servers to ring up customers quickly and efficiently.
We quickly realized that our ever changing lineup of 100+ Flavors was way too much to track on the Register, being too complex and taking too much time to update and ring up. Even though it would be an incredible trove of data, we resigned to the fact that we’re better off having an efficient system and not gather that bit of data that we could still track by the number of tubs we use.
So we decided to have our Menu Categories align with our Product Categories (Ice Cream, Gelato, Italian Ice, Shakes, Sundaes, etc.), with each separate Item being based on each size. This sped up our line since our servers only had to tap a single button for each item rung up, rather than tapping through Modifiers or Variants to get to the correct size. It also allowed us to more easily track Size Sales by the item, rather than by Variants or Modifiers.
We also made Cones and Toppings separate Items, and saved the Modifiers for tracking add-ons for less frequently sold items. We do use Item Modifiers for changes that don’t affect price (just in case an employee skips through the popup) but that are still nice to track, like which one of our Signature Sundaes was sold, or whether the Milkshake was made with Ice Cream or Gelato.
A Small by Any Other Name
At our peak, we had 5 sizes for each of our Categories: Kid’s, Small, Medium, Large, Pint, and Quart. We noticed customer transactions were taking a long time because of this. Customers were confused by the sizes, and ended up asking our Servers every time just how big each of the sizes were. We had to explain to almost every customer that the Kid’s was 1 Scoop, Small was 2 Scoops, and so on.
After seeing the Data from our original naming system, I tested re-naming our sizes to a simple “By the Scoop” system: 1 Scoop, 2 Scoop, 3 Scoop, 4 Scoop. This simple rebranding had two huge impacts on our sales: First, it sped up all of our customer interactions, and therefor our transactions. Customers instantly knew how our sizes worked, and knew what to get. Second, customers started getting our smaller and more profitable sizes.
This simple name change ended up doubling the sales of our smallest size, and by the second year of this sizing model the 1 Scoop became our top selling item. As a result, sales of two of our largest and least profitable sizes dropped tremendously, so it only made sense to drop them from our menu. The same thing happened with our Milkshakes and Sundaes, so we also dropped them down to just a single size.
All of this, again, improved our customer experience by making our sizes clearer and easier to navigate, which sped up ordering and increased our profit along the way.
Another big trend we found was that our Frozen Yogurt sales were dropping dramatically year over year. This dropped both in quantity and in percentage of sales, while every other item and category increased tremendously. Meanwhile, the expenses for froyo were only increasing with all of the extra labor involved with machine maintenance, as well as rising costs of utilities like electric and water since we used water-cooled machines. When our machines started breaking down, the reduced demand along with the extremely high cost of repairing or replacing the machines made the decision easy for us. As each of our 3 machines broke down over the course of 2 years, we dropped Frozen Yogurt from our offerings.
While sales dropped somewhat as a result, our profit margin rose tremendously. The Pareto Principle of optimization was completely at play here: a huge chunk of our problems and expenses came from Frozen Yogurt which made up less than 10% of our Sales.
And all of that savings was all thanks to the data from Square. If we weren’t tracking our data and didn’t have access to the data and tracking sales as we did, we would have kept pumping in money and losing it all into the flailing Frozen Yogurt. We saved money, time, effort, and frustration, all because of this data.
A Page Out of the Register
When I first set up our Item Library on Square, we started with 5 full pages of menu items, and some of the sizes in the same category didn’t even fit on the same page. It took a lot of time to flip through all 5 pages, because it was impossible to try and remember which page the right items were. This led to longer customer interactions and checkout, fewer customers served, and longer lines.
Because we cut down on our number of Categories and Sizes thanks to insights from our real sales data, we ended up with fewer buttons on our register. Fewer buttons took up fewer pages, and without as many pages to fumble and tap through, our checkout process took up a whole lot less time. After all of these changes, with our new menu and pricing model, we managed to drop down to just a single 1 full page. Our transaction times dropped, and our customers were happier.
How to Do it Yourself
All of this together makes Square an absolutely indispensable reason for how my business has grown and simplified.
So you decided you want to look like an Instagram model with rippling and glistening muscles. Whether it’s because you just want to look better, or to feel all of the other amazing benefits of having more muscle mass.
Now it’s time to do it.
How the hell do you do it?
How Does Muscle Grow?
First, through science! You need to understand how it muscles work bio-mechanically, to understand how to channel that into practical steps.
Science Alert: Muscle fibers are super unique because they change size based on their activity levels. Bigger muscle fibers have more surface tension, and are capable of exerting larger amounts of force and power. There are two main ways that muscles grow in strength and size.
The first way is through the muscle fibers themselves growing. With activity and exercise, more protein chains can be created, making muscle fibers thicker. While this doesn’t always increase the size of the total muscle, it does work to improve the strength and moving power of the individual fibers, and the muscle as a whole.
The more effective process that boosts total muscle size is through an increase in a protein-containing semifluid substance around the muscle fibers. Type IIb, fast twitch, muscle fibers are the ones that grow the most through this process, as they are already larger than Type I slow twitch fibers. This increases the size of each fiber, but not necessarily the strength. This type of growth leads to higher protein levels throughout the muscle, which makes it grow and heal better. When you exercise, stress is applied to the muscle, which results in micro-trauma and small tears to the muscle fibers. In response, the body works to repair the tears and rebuild the muscle by filling in the proteins from the semifluid.
Alright, now onto the real steps.
How to Exercise to Build Muscle
How you exercise to build muscles depends on your goals. Gains in strength but not necessarily in size can be achieved by exercising with higher repetitions. Using lighter weights in this way can help improve aerobic efficiency which leads to higher endurance and reduced fatigue.
Big growth in size can generally be best achieved by exercising with heavier loads. This activates those Type II muscle fibers, which are larger and have the most impact on increased muscle size and definition. Using heavy weight for fewer repetitions can lead to growth from increased protein containing fluid, which may increase size, but not necessarily gains in strength.
There are a lot of other factors that can also affect your strength and size gains. The amount of time you rest between sets, the speed in which you perform your reps, utilizing eccentric contraction, and how often you exercise the same muscles, can all affect the way your muscles react to stress from exercise. Making sure to get enough rest between working out the same muscle by following a good progression plan can help keep growth stabilized. Experimenting with these elements can help you find and create the right total program for you.
What to Eat to Build Muscle
What you eat also has a massive impact on muscle development. Muscle is mainly made up of proteins, and the protein in the food we eat helps to support this function. It is extremely important to make sure to eat enough protein to support growth and maintenance. The building blocks of muscle all need adequate protein levels in order to support growth and hypertrophy. While there is no magic number of how much protein to consume, the general recommendations are anywhere from 60-200 grams of protein each day. This of course depends on your goals along with your body weight and composition. Talk to a nutritionist or dietician to find out what’s right for you.
Increasing and maintaining the strength and size of your muscles can be a complicated process, but it’s made much easier by knowing the science behind it. While a decent amount of trial and error is involved to find the right way to exercise for your body and your goals, the most important thing to do is to get up and get moving. Any activity can help to strengthen the muscles, which is the basis of improving their function. Have fun, and enjoy the process of hypertrophy and mass gains.
The Benefits of Building Muscle
Muscles, guns, buns of steel, six pack washboard abs, cannons. We idealize and fantasize about having strong and defined muscle, but why? Sure, it makes you look great, but building muscle mass can have drastic positive effects throughout your life.
But I Don’t Want to Get Huge!
A lot of people are afraid to strength train because they are worried about getting too big. This really isn’t something you should worry about. While starting to build muscle only takes a little bit of work, it takes significant amount more effort to build a lot of muscle, and it’s very easy to lose it. As soon as you’ve built enough muscle, you can shift over to just maintaining that muscle.
Pushups can be intimidating. Lifting yourself up off the ground takes a lot of strength and coordination throughout the body. Despite the challenge, a pushup is one of the most practical exercises you can do. And not to mention the incredible feeling of accomplishment when you finally master it. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it and comes in super handy. It’s an exercise you can do just about anywhere, even while you’re cooking, and can let you see some fantastic progress. This is just about everything you need in order to learn how to do a pushup.
How Do You Do A Pushup?
At its core (I love puns!), a push-up is a plank. The Plank forms the foundation for a lot of exercises and movements by training you to keep your core and hips stable and engaged. And the pushup is no exception. By taking the base of a plank and modifying it, you end up with this amazing strength building and core workout.
To start, the first step of performing a perfect pushup is nailing down The Perfect Plank. If you can stabilize yourself on your hands up in a plank, without breaking form, you’re a third of the way there! You can then move ahead and advance into the movement part of push-ups and focus on lowering yourself down to the ground. But before you actually start lowering yourself down, you have to prepare yourself.
How Do You Prepare for a Pushup?
Push Up Pads
When you’re first starting out, it can help to have some padding set under your body and head. A yoga mat is best since it is padded but it also stays in place without stretching too much under the tension of your hands. You could also use an exercise mat or a blanket, but make sure keep your hands stable on the floor right under your shoulders. Feel free to set up any extra cushioning under your knees if you need it.
First up, try to rotate your arms so the inside of your elbows are facing forward. When it’s time to start dropping down, pull your elbows in tight into your sides, scraping your ribs. You should feel the softness of your shirt on your elbows. This rotation of the arms and shoulders activates more of the Lats (Latissimus Dorsi) of the back and Pecs (Pectorals) of the chest. This recruits more muscles so you don’t have to rely on just your arms for all of the strength of the exercise.
Maintain the Plank
That plank wasn’t just for the top of the push up. As you move, make sure to keep thinking about each body part and maintain the form of the perfect plank. Keep the tension in the legs, in the glutes (butt) and abs. Try not to arch the back or bend the hips, and keep your hips pushing forward to keep your body in a straight line. When you lower yourself down, your hips and your chest should hit the floor at just about the same time.
They’re called a push-ups, but you’re doing a lot more than just pushing up. The first movement focus is on going down. Like in a lot of movements, going down is just as important as coming up, and the speed you go makes a big difference. Moving slowly has benefits for improving your strength.
This slow lowering is called an eccentric contraction, when you’re going in the direction of gravity but still fighting against it. Go super slow here. Pretend you’re in The Matrix and you’re moving in super slow motion. The last few inches are the hardest. Don’t drop down, but lower yourself gently and keep pushing yourself down to the floor, fighting gravity.
You made it more than half way! Most of the hard work is done, so go ahead and relax for a bit. You can keep practicing this part, and when you’re ready, come back to the floor and get ready for the real part, the Push Up!
Brace yourself. This is going to be hard. You can give up when it starts to get hard, or you can push through and reach the top. I vote for the latter. Think about what you did for that plank, and make sure everything is aligned and you’ve build up that tension while you’re still on the ground.
The key difference between planks and a pushups here is the arms. Place your hands nice and close into the armpits, and spread those fingers wide to get as much surface area and tension throughout your hands. Next up, roll your shoulders back, rather than down and forward, bringing your shoulder blades down and close together. We call this “packing your shoulders.” Keeping your shoulders packed and your chest puffed up helps to recruit the lats and the muscles of the back. It also keeps your back in a straight line, reinforcing that plank foundation. And just like with your plank, make sure to keep squeezing into your stomach and glutes
Get ready, and push with everything you have!
I’m not expecting you to be able to do all of that your first try, especially if you’re just getting started, and neither should you. If you can, awesome, power to you, you’re in the minority! Otherwise, you’re going to need a solid progression plan. You can start doing them against a kitchen counter, or a set of stairs, or on the floor on your knees. Just make sure to keep your hips forward and engage the abs and the glutes, just like you would in a plank or standard pushup.
If you could use a little bit more help, I’ve built out a proven program to get you doing full real push ups. Train with me online or in person, and I’ll be more than happy to help you get there.
Without muscle, we would be pretty useless. The muscles of the body enable us to live life as we know it. They let us lift, carry, push, pull, walk, run, scratch, and hug. They can get stronger, weaker, bigger, smaller, tear, heal, tighten, and stretch. These movements and features are complex, and muscles are incredibly advanced to make it all happen.
Extra Science Alert: This one is a bit of a sciency post. I’ve done my best to make it as easy to read as I can. Even if you hate science, try to read through anyway. Understanding how the muscles work, just like learning how fat works, is super important. We have to know what something is in order to know how to use it to our advantage. Understand how to grow and maintain those beautiful muscles of yours is key to making your body work for you.
Different Types of Muscles
Not every muscle in the body is the same, and you have muscle in places you might not think of. There are 3 main types of muscles throughout the body: Smooth, Cardiac, and Skeletal. Skeletal muscle is what we usually think of first, the muscles that connect to your bones and drive your movement. These are primary muscles used during exercise, and are attached through connective tissue called tendons.
Smooth muscle is a little deeper, and it actually makes up the lining of many of the internal organs. These help our organs and internal systems function, and generally cannot be contracted voluntarily. Cardiac muscle is last. As it’s name implies, it’s what the heart is made of, and also cannot be directly controlled. Even though we can’t intentionally contract it, but like skeletal muscle, the muscles of the heart can be strengthened through exercise and training.
How Do Muscles Work?
Here’s the relatively simple version: Skeletal muscle is made up of chains of proteins called myofibrils. These overlap, and work to move the muscle. They pull together to contract and shorten the length of the chains, and they can relax to expand and lengthen. All of this needs energy to happen, and that energy comes from the breakdown of ATP molecules.
Those myofibril chains then come together to create full muscle fibers, or myocytes. These fibers also contain glycogen, a carbohydrate which helps provide more energy for exercise, and myoglobin which stores oxygen. Muscle fibers are surrounded and bundled together repeatedly by fascia, forming the complete muscle as we know it.
All of these muscle fibers work and move together across the entire muscle. Muscle action does not use every muscle fiber, since each fiber can be switched on or off independently. Depending on how much strength is needed in a particular situation, more or fewer groups of muscle fibers contract.
Muscles can contract in a few different ways. There’s the standard Concentric Contraction which leads to movement working against the direction of gravity. Next up is Eccentric Contraction which leads to movement working in the same direction of gravity as a sort of braking mechanism. Finally, there is Isometric Contraction, which engages the muscle but keeps it holding in one place without any movement.
Muscle Fiber Types
Even though they all do the same two movements, contract and relax, muscle fibers are not all equal. They come in two main forms, Type I and Type II, also known as slow twitch and fast twitch. Each muscle usually is made up of a combination of both fiber types. The proportions are different depending on the muscle group, and vary from person to person. The composition of Type I and Type II fibers can also change depending on your training and exercise.
Type I muscle fibers are called Slow Twitch because their myofibrils contract more slowly. They are aerobic, which means that they use oxygen for when they transfer energy. This helps them work at lower intensities and for a longer time. Because of this, they are great for bigger things like keeping up posture and stability.
Type II muscle fibers are known as Fast Twitch because of their short bursts of strength and speed. Because they can act quickly, they can’t use this power for long periods of time, and end up fatiguing sooner. They also access ATP faster, utilizing quick bursts of energy. Because of this, Type II fibers are not always activated, unless the muscle is putting out a large level of force. As a result, Type II fibers are responsible for a big chunk of the body’s movement, and play a big part in muscle size and definition.
How Do Muscles Change Size?
Because of all of this, muscles have the awesome ability to adapt and change in size over time. They can grow or shrink depending on the level of muscle activity. Exercise can spark more myofibril protein chains to be created, which increases the size of the muscle fibers. Because muscle fibers are mainly made of protein molecules, they need more protein to grow. If you don’t eat enough protein, your muscles won’t grow, and can even shrink through atrophy. While this can also happen as a result of injury or disease, the most common cause is inactivity. If muscles aren’t put through enough consistent activity and stress through exercise, they can waste away. This is generally not permanent, and rebuilding usually takes less time than it did to build up the first time.
Exercise is a complicated process using the entire body, with muscle as a key player. Knowing about the composition and function of the body’s muscles is key to understanding how to use them to your advantage. Now that all the science is out of the way, you can moving forward to start using those muscles to increase strength and overall fitness.
Figuring out the most effect exercise program for the goal of losing body fat can be challenging. The first step is knowing why the body makes fat, understanding how the body gets rid of fat, and that you can’t target specific areas to lose fat. After that, it’s time to make a plan and get started moving. In terms of the best way to get rid of that fat, there is a ton of conflicting information on which is the best route for fat loss: Cardio or Strength Training. Each style has its own benefits and drawbacks in the quest for getting rid of fat.