Small business is a primary employer in America. Mom and Pops may be run by Mom and Pop, but most employ one or two employees – or more – depending on their needs. Small business is critical to the economy.
Small business supports local activities, pays taxes that help fund municipal services, and provides jobs. According to a 2012 Small Business Administration report small businesses account for 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs, 49.2 percent of private-sector employment, 42.9 percent of private-sector payroll, 46 percent of private-sector output and 43 percent of high-tech employment.
So, yes, small businesses are important.
What does it take to survive in the hostile environment of big box stores, online shopping, taxes and government regulation? Below are 10 tips for fighting the good fight, and winning.
Be creative. Front windows and store layout are vital elements for getting customers in the door. Overall appearance sets the standard for how you are perceived.
Be inviting. Swept sidewalks, clean windows and tended flower boxes (if you have them) tell a story without you ever saying a word.
Stay current with business trends. It may be charming to have inventory that goes back decades but customers are more savvy than ever. Keep merchandise trendy, appealingly displayed and dust free.
Be online. Whether it is a website, blog, Facebook or other media, be available to your customers online. Savvy small businesses find ways to build their clientele through e-mails and other electronic media. Strike up a conversation by posting content that will gain insight about your customers through feedback and gain their confidence in your ability to deliver.
Be responsive. When a customer has a comment, complaint or suggestion, follow up. Make it a rung on the ladder of your further success.
Pay attention to the bottom line. Renovate or extend your sales space or expand inventory only when you are financially prepared to do so.
Promote your business. The rule of thumb for how much to spend on advertising and marketing for an established business is up to 10 percent of your annual budget. Startups should plan to spend 20 to 30 percent. These are recommendations. First you must have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with your advertising and which methods will work for you. Just because someone says their circulation (or reach) is 50 thousand doesn’t mean 50,000 people will read or hear your message. The trick to successful advertising is to have a plan and a budget.
Have a team spirit among employees. Multiple surveys have shown that workers are more engaged and productive when they feel their contributions are valued. Happy workers appreciate and rely on salary and benefits. What keeps them on the job is feeling like they are contributing to the success of the business.
Trained staff. It goes beyond customer service. When new or inexperienced workers encounter unexpected problems, or are asked questions they can’t answer, the worst thing they can say is, “I don’t know.” What the customer hears is, “I don’t care enough about you to find out.” Training is work but worth the effort. And by the way, the best thing an employee can say when he or she doesn’t have an answer is, “Give me the details and I will get back to you as soon as I can.”
Refer. If you don’t have what the customer is looking for, and know of another business that carries the product, refer them and provide directions. The customer will remember your community spirit of promoting others, and your sister store owner will appreciate you sending her business.
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