I've just opened a store in a "new" town -- the town's not new, but I am new to the town. I'm trying to get to know the other merchants, so I took a walk around the main street the other day, talking to some of the business owners. It was an interesting experience. Right away a picture started to emerge: there were those that were serious entrepreneurs and then there were those that were ... no so much shall we say.
One store I visited started out the conversation by telling me how much they hated the downtown and that they had security cameras everywhere due to a "dangerous element". Another store informed me that I had no right to park on the city street -- that was for HER customers. Okay. Where do my customers park I asked. She simply shrugged. Many of the stores are only open part-time: by appointment only, and catch me when you can.
Then, I found several other businesses who "get it". They are open 7 days a week, from early in the morning until well past 5 pm. They give other merchants discounts to keep them coming back to the downtown area instead of going out on the highway to the big box stores. They get to know you, calling you by name when you walk by. They are active in the merchant's association and plan events and activities throughout the year. The Chamber works with these businesses and helps promote their events, their sales, whatever is needed. It's a good group. I hope I can be part of that group.
All too often I see business people that don't really seem to want new, or repeat, business. Seems they just like to have someplace to go or something to do when they get up in the morning. I story about customer service -- bad customer service -- that I often tell happened to me several years ago when I was still in big city world (versus small town country). I went into a sign shop to order vinyl banners for my storefront. I ordered black banners with yellow lettering. I placed the order 3 weeks before my grand opening and was told that they would be ready a week before I needed them. On the assigned day, I went to pick up my order; I was really excited because this was my first storefront. I had been homebased prior to this. When I got there, the banners were yellow, with black lettering. I was devastated. I must have let out an involuntary groan of "oh no!" -- and immediately realized I had to duck as a pair of vinyl cutting shears (with very long, and very sharp blades) went flying past me, the owner of the company screaming that I had no right to question her choices. I had already paid a great deal of money for these (and there was NO return coming my way), so I wound up taking the signs and going. Do you think I went back there again? NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
More recently I have been consulting and training small business people on marketing, customer service, creating value in their businesses and growth for their companies. Most people have told me that what they learn has helped them and they are grateful for the services. However, I also have come across a few who say things like, I've been doing this for over 20 years. I don't need anyone to tell me what I should do -- I've done it all already. But when I ask them what they are looking for for their businesses, they reply "More customers." OR "more money". My response then is, but you're doing everything the right way? Guess nobody wants what you have to offer. I"m sure if they've been doing this for 20 years, and making money at it, someone has wanted what they offered. But perhaps they need to look at new ways and new technologies to "grow with the flow". You think maybe?
Entrepreneur Magazine a few months ago had a discussion about the difference between an entrepreneur and a small business. It was interesting to read what they had to say: a true entrepreneur has passion for what they are doing and the willingness to see it through (http://www.entrepreneur.com/startingabusiness/startupbasics/article190986.html). A small business person, however, is someone that perhaps is not a risktaker, or someone who is more prone to consider themselves a worker (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/83764).
I think that for someone to truly succeed, they need to have the characteristics discussed above and be willing to "be in it for the long-haul." I plan on being there -- what about you?