Robert Warren is what you might call a serial entrepreneur. An Air Canada pilot by profession, he's never content to log air miles (differently than most of us do). He's lived in several Canadian cities before coming to Barrie a few years ago, and has one of those minds that always sees opportunity.

In Halifax he was buying, renovating and reselling houses, and then started the Handyman Connection, coordinating services of self employed contractors with loyal home-owner customers. He built three Handyman franchises and learned an incredible amount about developing computer databases, customer retention, and client care.

He worked as a carpenter with his father in the motion picture industry, building sets.

He has never paused in his love of flying, though the events of 9/11 have changed the nature of commercial flying forever.

Robert Warren is one of these guys who's always looking 'for a better way.' He sees need and then thinks about it alot.

That's where his program, Keep The Receipt, came from.

This is a win-win-win program that involves businesses, customers, and charities. (I know, I know... I wrote about win-win-win last week, and this is a different spin on a similar topic.)

Robert looked at the tremendous needs of local and national charities. He looked at the importance for any business of retaining their customers and giving them added value at the same time. And he looked at how important it is to the local economy to have vibrant business players.

"I'm looking for business owners who understand the importance of giving back, but can't afford to write cheques to different charities all the time. I'm looking for business owners who understand they can give a service to a customer but giving them additional value builds their loyalty."

Keep the Receipt does just that.

Let's take Simcoe North Fixtures & Packaging as an example. Shawn Palmer wants to give his customers the best possible service. And he wants to build loyalty with them as well as excellent referrals. Shawn does this by networking and connecting businesses to each other. But he also does this as a member of Keep The Receipt.

Shawn makes a financial deposit into his Keep The Receipt web account. [This whole thing is web-based] When Shawn sells an item or a service to a customer, he gives them their receipt. Shawn then invites his customer to join Keep The Receipt, directing funds to their charity or sports organization of choice. The customer then logs in to Keep The Receipt website, which is the connection betweens the business, consumer and charity. No loyalty cards! It's all in the receipt.

Once the customer has logged in, they'll record their receipt details and a percentage of their purchase is donated to the 'cause' of their choice.

It allows a customer to make a charitable donation just by doing business with a participating member.

If he likes, Shawn can also add a coupon or promotion or something else of value that the customer can redeem. He can put up a brief survey and get customer response.

So here's the win-win-win.

Shawn and his business benefit because customers can select a business that belongs to this charitable venture. He can direct a portion of his marketing budget to this venture.

The consumer wins because they direct a portion of every purchase to their charity or cause of choice.

The charity, or minor sports team benefits by receiving the funds.

On the surface, Keep The Receipt sounds complicated. Robert's goal is to involve several hundred businesses, a thousand shoppers and a few dozen charities. The program started just 10 months ago and has 25 businesses now signed on. Northern Protocol, Cartridge specialties, Marty's Coffee Shop... a few of the participating businesses. Shopper numbers grow as member businesses invite them to get involved. And charities? Currently, Youth Haven, Gilda's Club, OSPCA, Elizabeth Fry...you get the picture!

Cheque presentations occur to credit the businesses involved.

Congratulations, Robert, on a great concept. We're willing to wager that this grows to include many communities, with Barrie being the concept model!

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