Episode 60 – 7 Lessons Learned from My 1st Local Small Business
Lessons for Anyone Looking to Own a Local Small Business
In today’s episode: We discuss 7 of the lessons I have learned from owning my 1st local small business. Some of them I expected by some of them I wish I would have prepared more for before I jumped in to my new small business.
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Episode 60: 7 Lessons Learned from My 1st Local Small Business
Welcome back to the Local Small Business Coach Podcast. I am your coach, Tammy Adams.
Today I thought I would share with you 7 lessons I learned from my 1st local small business. As many of you already know, I spent 25+ years in the home improvement industry. During that time, I held various leadership roles that included running departments, stores and districts. So, when I purchased my first local small business, I felt I had the experience needed to run a successful local small business.
While I did have a vast array of tools in my tool belt, I soon learned that there were new lessons I would learn. I thought I would share some of those lessons today.
Lesson #1 – There are a lot of similarities between running a local small business & a big box retailer
It might seem odd to think that a big box retailer and a small mom and pop have much in common. But the truth is, they have quite bit in common. The biggest difference is just the volume and the headaches.
Think about it. Both need to have excellent customer service. Afterall, customer service is the key to any strong business. If a small business or a big business offers poor service and doesn’t take care of their customers, they will not be in business long. The difference is that a big box retailer has deeper pockets to cover it longer but ultimately it will catch up to them.
Another thing they have in common is how critical it is that they take care of their employees and train them well. No matter what size a businesses, well training employees is a major advantage over competitors. The list goes on and on. Big box retailers depend on good merchandizing, processes, operations, etc. So does your local small business. It really goes to show that studying what big box retailers do will only help you and your local small business.
Lesson #2 – It is Important that You Open the Right Business
This one might seem like a no brainer. But too often we open a business we want to do vs doing our homework to ensure that the community needs it. Plus that there is enough business available to keep the business going. I’ll give an example from my local community. A few doors down from my brick n mortar was a coffee shop that opened one day. It is important to know that in our community we have 3 Starbucks and another Coffer shop. So this coffee shop opens and it just can’t get any traffic. So they close their doors. A few months later, another person takes over the coffee shop thinking they will have the magic bullet to make it work this time. Well, you guess it, this one also closes. But since the 3rd time is the charm, someone else takes over the space and adds a small odd twist to it. But soon, that one also closes.
So even though a coffee shop seems like a no brainer since people like coffee, the problem is, when you toss in the other coffee places and two McDonalds, they would need to have something really special to stand out in the sea of coffee noise.
Another spin on this one is my own situation. As you might recall from episode 24 where I discussed my failed business, sometimes we purchase a business that we just swear is a great idea and by all accounts it should, but even a great deal on a business can still set you up for failure if you don’t think through all the possibilities and speed bumps that you will encounter.
Lesson #3 – Tracking Sales and Trends Pays Off
This is one of those lessons I brought with me from my big box retail days. And boy did it help me in my local small business. When weather hits a small business, it can create big swings. Local events can also create dips and increases in your business. By tracking the items that cause your business to have swings either way, it helps prepare you for the coming year.
In a local business, you live and die off the business you get. You are living job to job and if you aren’t prepared for season swings, it could mean the difference between paying the mortgage and not having the funds. By tracking these trends, you can plan ahead much better than in the past. You can maximize some trends as well due to knowing they are coming.
Lesson #4 – Social Media Locally Can Help Your Business
Social media is not going away any time soon. If anything, it is growing more and more. With even more options coming each year. Social media can make or break a local small business. Your community is on these sites sharing what they think of your business both good and bad.
People are on these sites asking for recommendations. You want to make sure that you are monitoring what your community is saying about your business. If you have a service based business, it is even more critical for you to be on there and watching the Facebook community pages for example. When folks are looking for your services, hop on and introduce yourself.
If you have a remodeling business think about the great before and after pictures you can do on Instagram. Pet groomers are really taking advantage of this particular social media site.
You can have a lot of fun using social media. Have folks check in, do selfie contests, just make it engaging and interact with your community.
Lesson #5 – People Might Love Your Business But the Proof is in Their Money Spent
When I closed my businesses doors, I can’t tell you how many people asked me why I closed them and how much the just LOVED my ice cream place. Even 4 years later, I still hear it. It takes all I have not to sarcastically say, that is great that you love it but why didn’t you come more often? I laugh about it but let’s face it, it is true.
We vote with our money. I bet if you think of your favorites places you have some that you frequent on a regular basis, giving them tons of your dollars and then there are others that you also love, yet you rarely visit. There is nothing they have done wrong, you just don’t use them as frequently.
Your goal needs to be, how do you get these “lovers” of your business to return more often? How do you get them to vote with their dollars each week?
It is great they love you, but you need their financial backing.
Lesson #6 – Take Advantage of Local Pride
Some communities have more pride than others. If you are in a larger city, you might not think there is a lot of pride but you would be surprised to know that within each big city, there are small groups. It could be a neighborhood or a section of town. Those of us in a small community aren’t the only ones with local pride.
Your goal needs to be, how do you tap into this local pride. Think about it, most towns have local pizza place or donut shop that has a huge local following. People are proud to tell their family and friends about them. How do you become one of these businesses?
I think people really do want to shop local. They might not always do it, but they are wired to want to do it. Your challenge is, what can you do, to tap into it?
When I had my ice cream shop, I had that big franchise name. However, I knew I had to tweak my business in small ways to go from national brand to local ice cream shop. You do this by being part of the community. You can do fund raisers for the local schools or sporting events for example. We use to do these all the time.
Another way I worked on that local pride was to be an official drop off for our town’s food bank. We even ran fundraisers to help come up with donations for them. I even had one of my kids that worked for me, that volunteered on a regular basis.
How can you take advantage of your communities pride?
Lesson #7 – Even Well Ran Businesses Fail
I mentioned this earlier. I go into it more in episode 24 where I discuss how I survived a failed business. I hate bragging but I am proud of the business I ran. We had great service, low turnover, great employees, a clean p&l and a host of other great things going on. Were we perfect? No. But we were a well ran business.
But you know what? It wasn’t enough. You can still fail if your business just doesn’t have enough to not only pay the bills of the business but it must provide you enough profit to support your family.
This was probably the toughest lesson of all. I look back a few years later and see all the warning signs that were there before I even started and I see all the points I should have closed up shop sooner than I did. I should have taken these lessons and dived into my next business with the knowledge I gained.
Running a small business can be a blast. But it is also a roller coaster ride full of twists and turns. Full of times that you need to tweak here and there.
The number one lesson I can tell you that you want to learn from your small business is to adapt and to change. Learn from these lessons you will go through.
Enjoy the ride but never shut your eyes. Watch what is coming. Learn and grow. But most importantly enjoy and have fun!
And as we wrap up this episode I want you to know, that I realize being a local small business owner can be a lonely gig at times. But you don’t have to do it alone. Just know, I’m always here for you.
By the way, If you like what we are taking about, then make sure to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode, if you love the podcast and what we are talking about, then please leave a 5 star review so other local small business owners know this is a podcast that they can’t miss.
And don’t forget to visit the website at LocalSmallBusinessCoach.com to leave your question for me to possibly answer on the podcast in the future. You can leave it via the Speakpipe button or just shoot me an email.
Meanwhile, I wish you the best in your business and remember: Great Customer Service, coupled with Great business practices will set you on the path to Great Profits!
Bye for now…..
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My Recommended Bookkeeping Program for Local Small Business Owners: Freshbooks Link
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**Freshbooks is an affiliate link. This costs you nothing. I only recommend due to how much folks have loved it. I am paid a small commission but trust me. Even I use it. Try it for free for 30 days and see if you don’t love it too!
Today's episode, as well as all of our episodes, is brought to you by trainingforlocalsmallbusinessowners.com. Where we provide free tips, tools and resources for your local small business. So whether you are just starting out or you've been in business for a while and want to learn more ways to increase your profit, boost your sales, improve your processes and develop stronger teams then head on over once again to trainingforlocalsmallbusinessowners.com..
And if you are Thinking of Starting a Local Small business, over at StartALocalSmallBusiness.com we have lots of free tools and resources to help you get your local small business started. Plus, we now have a more in-depth course to Help Get you going. It has 12 modules, 50 mini videos and 13 downloadable tools a person can use to start their local small business. You can find the link once again at StartALocalSmallBusiness.com. I also have set up a special discount code for listeners of the podcast. At checkout, just add the code PODCAST to save 25%.
See you on the next episode!
Two Great Books to Help You With Your Small Business:
Highly Recommend all Local Small Business Owners Read the eMyth by Micheal Gerber. You will learn some critical things about running your business.
The second book is one I wrote based off a popular example I always use when folks are trying to understand their role as a leader with their people. Check it out.
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