For many years I’ve supported a lot of small businesses. I’ve bought bags, shirts, caps, tote bags, jewelry, candles, pastries, and even visited their facilities. Interestingly, only a few of these businesses still operating.
I want to share some of my experiences with these small businesses and why in some cases I stopped sponsoring them. If you are a small business owner, I hope you can make the most of my experiences. I really understand the pressure of this type of investment and I’ve been very supportive when people have reached out to me.
As a professional focused on process improvement, I wanted to share some of my experiences or point of views and give you the opportunity to amend these behaviors. For this piece, I want you to focus on small businesses only. In case you were wondering I’ve also stopped from shopping at big retailers when not satisfied with something.
Check out the recommendations below and share your opinions. These are some behaviors that I think could be stopping you from growing. These were businesses of one person with the exception of the last example.
Behavior #1: Saying that you are a business of one too often. What I hear is, “I can’t handle the amount of work”. Recently, I was considering some custom products and I saw this expression a lot. I decided not to order. Because on top of that, they were saying, “if I haven’t responded, please email me again”. Really? I kept monitoring the business social media and even some followers suggested that they should get additional employees.
Recommendation: I probably now that you are business of one. Life happens around your business, plan appropriately. Unexpected, things happen too; tried reacting and notifying as soon as possible. Learn from those mistakes; keep track of past situations. If you are working from home and taking care of your family, be realistic of the amount of work you can do. You can set your working hours. Be specific about your “office hours”, be clear about the time zone difference, and even have a document with a “script” for repetitive questions.
Behavior #2: Not following up after engaging with a customer. I contacted a business for custom items. I’ve bought from them in the past, like a lot! We exchanged a couple of text messages for my new order. Their final reply was, “let me check my schedule”. Then, they never responded.
Recommendation: Solopreneur life is very challenging and demanding. Besides doing the research for your product, read about tips and recommendations on how to run a business. Even though some business will be “unconventional”, the basics of managing a business are mostly the same. Also, consider organization apps (calendar or task manager).
Behavior #3: Making the pick-up difficult for your client. I bought from this particular business for around four years. They sold desserts. I use to buy desserts around every 2 months. I even recommended people to them. They gained seven new customers because of me. Usually, we agreed on a pick-up location and we met there. In a couple of occasions, they kept changing the location or time. It was getting uncomfortable for me but I liked their products a lot. In a particular pick-up, I sent my sister and I let them know. My sister was supposed to meet with their daughter. While my sister waited, they called me to change the location. Then, they changed the location one more time. This time, they made it a nightmare to pick-up.
Recommendation: Establish centralized pick-up locations and timelines. Like, 2 deliveries a week between 10am to 4pm. If you are sending someone else, notify your customer to expect this other person. After setting rules and expectations try not to break them unless there are some outstanding circumstances.
Behavior #4: Relying on social media features to run your business. I’ve seen multiple times Facebook and Instagram stories with instructions for ordering. I wonder if there is an unspoken rule to go to the stories to get the instructions? They talked like you know that “everything” is in the stories.
Recommendation: Make it easy for you and for the customer. Consider a free website or a recurrent posting with scheduling tools to have the business information available. Add FAQ, ordering or read first sections. We want the customer to have a pleasant experience and you want it easy for you as well. Instead of posting repetitive instructions you can use that moment to introduce a new product or even to educate yourself.
Behavior #5: Ignoring your customer due to “other pressing matters”. I recently visited a gelato place. I entered an empty place and yet the employee (who saw me) kept organizing napkins and straws. I waited for about 5 minutes, she didn’t even acknowledged my presence or said hi.
Recommendation: Establish priorities. When running a restaurant, pay attention to the rush hour to establish the best strategy to run the business. Again, track the previous mistakes to correct them. Make sure your employees are clear about the expectations of the business and their role.
“A big business starts small.”
Every business comes with its fair share of challenges. Being a small business ower maximizes it. When jumping into entrepreneurship, make sure you do your research for the administration part.
According to the Small Business Administration, about 1 in 12 business closes every year. During my time in college, we discussed how many bakeries opened and closed within a 10 year period in a small city. You don’t want all that investment and time from your part to go to waste.
Social media is “free” and is a great resource to advertise and run your business. But remember that there are additional options to support your business structure; like websites, podcast, video, etc. Also, there are free resources to learn more about business administration. You can educate yourself with free or low-cost webinars or courses. Not everything in the business is about selling or producing. You should include time for education, marketing, administration (taxes, permits, documents) and future plans.
By no means, I’m saying not to support a small business. I’ve always supported them and even made a tradition for Christmas and Mother’s Day to share gifts from small owners. I loved that their products were unique and that every year I could count on something different. For the desserts business, my family always expected the desserts from that place.
My expectation is that you can take this information and improve your business. In the US only there are 28 million small businesses. You can do better, remember that there are plenty of resources that you can take advantage of.
Wishing you success;
-Quick search for free resources
Update 5/6/19: Stay tuned for Part 2. I appreciatte the positive reception of this blog post.