Is it just the economy or is it the way you operate?

Small flaws can have a large impact on small business

Times are tough, particularly if you are a small business retailer, but rather than struggle, why not see it as a challenge and look at where you can change the way you operate your business.  Sometimes the smallest change can have the most effective outcome.

The appearance and presentation of your business

Look at the outside of your business premises. Is it appealing, is it inviting or does it look tired and uninteresting? Does it say ‘welcome’ or does it say ‘stay away’. If not, work out a cost effective way to change it.

Is the internal space clean, comfortable and interesting? What does it offer?

The lighting might be too bright or too dull, or the temperature too low or too high. I once had to leave a café that had fabulous food and great service because I couldn’t stop shivering.

It may be the décor – light neutral tonings with bright coloured objects is generally conducive to all moods. Sometimes a coat of paint can dramatically change an environment.

You might have a lovely café with several smart-looking tables and one ugly shabby one – the appearance of one bad apple can ruin the appearance of a whole boxful.

Look at your own appearance. Are you in your gardening gear or do you look professional?

What your business offers clients and customers

You may need to provide a comfortable chair, good quality reading material and water or coffee for customers who have to wait.

Is the stock you carry the same as everyone else’s. If so, then question why customers would come to you.

What you offer may be dated and you may need to offer something that is fresh and new.

Someone’s hair hanging in food when it’s presented at a table may be a small thing but it could be enough to send away a table full of regular customers for good.

Wrapping displayed food in cling wrap at the end of the day is letting customers know that your food is not fresh and will be used again the next day.

Are dirty dishes removed from tables quickly or are they still there when the next customer arrives?

Good customer service is essential

Are your customers able to safely browse without buying and still feel welcome? Customers that don’t buy may come back, they may tell a friend to come and buy or they may tell many friends about the value of your business. Your aim should be to get customers into your shop and make them feel welcome.

Tyre kickers are valuable people. Why spend money advertising your business and then not welcome customers when they arrive?

Welcome them into your premises, show them what you have on offer, then allow them to browse at their leisure while letting them know you are there to help them if they need it, and when they leave, be pleased they came, not disappointed they didn’t buy and thank them sincerely for coming in.

Do you sell your customers doom and gloom, personal gripes or valuable products and services?

You’ll be more successful if you talk up your business and be positive about your circumstances and experiences. Customers won’t open their purse when someone is saying, “business is really bad, the government is wrecking the country, I hate the people that live in this town because they shop elsewhere…”

Some business owners say hello to their customers and then nothing thus appearing disinterested while others say hello and then don’t stop talking long enough to allow their customers to take in what they’re offering.

Have you ever questioned why McDonalds is such a successful franchise? Is it the food or the service? It’s convenient, you don’t have to get out of your car let alone look for parking space and you are generally extended the same courtesy as everyone else. It doesn’t matter what you look like, whether you’re rich or poor, or whether you purchase a 50cent ice cream or five value meals, and when you leave, someone will say ‘have a nice day’. Yes, I know they are trained and paid to do that but does it really matter, it feels good and you go back.

I once met a woman who successfully operated a chain of hairdressing salons with limited education and skills.  When asked how she became so successful she said: “It’s simple, I’m a nice person. Nice people have something to offer, and nasty people don’t. Who would you prefer to do business with?”

Do you answer the phone when it rings? I personally know an extremely successful businesswoman who wasn’t sorry when she lost what I believed was a very valuable employee. He was intelligent, skilled, efficient and pleasant to customers. However, she claimed he had one major flaw – he wouldn’t answer the phone when it rang, which she believed was an important task that attributed to the success of her business.

Look at what are you offering. Is it the same thing everyone else is offering, is it priced according to its value? Is there enough varied stock in your shop to keep people interested? Do you care about your customers?

The way you operate your business doesn’t just affect you. When you are successful, it adds value to your community and the local economy.

By Wendy Morriss

Copyright © 2012 Wendy Morriss: Freelance Journalist. All Rights Reserved.