Small business owners may feel that the odds are stacked against them. With thin ranks and stretched budgets, they often find themselves competing with larger businesses with deeper pockets.
Robert Spector, author of "The Mom & Pop Store: How the Unsung Heroes of the American Economy Are Surviving and Thriving" (Walker & Company, 2009), says small business owners shouldn’t automatically admit defeat. Spector interviewed more than 40 “mom and pop” businesses for the book, which is due out in paperback in August.
He tells BusinessNewsDaily how some of the most savvy proprietors he met found ways to do more with less.
1. Connect with communities. Whether it’s sponsoring a softball team or donating to charity, Spector says getting involved – and staying involved – with communities helps small business owners build a bulwark against slumping sales by reminding customers that theyâre still around.
2. Become a specialist. Spector points to an Italian grocer he interviewed: For years his business was losing customers, so he became a specialist in regional soda, shuttered his grocery and opened a soda pop shop. “He essentially created a category,” says Spector, who adds that the store is now more successful than the grocery ever was.
3. Remember customers’ names. It sounds trite but the simple act of greeting regulars by their names can prove gainful for business owners. Spector recalls how the owner of a coffee shop in Seattle maintained strong sales in an area where coffee is cheap and abundant by providing superior customer service. Baristas helped each other memorize their customers’ names. Customers – appreciative of the extra effort — remained loyal to the cafe.
4. Bring an entrepreneurial vision. Sometimes using creativity to solve problems is most effective. Spector says success doesn’t necessarily mean doing something nobody else has done. Sometimes it means bringing a unique perspective to a product or service idea that’s been done a million times already. Here again Spector points to the coffee shop example, saying a new twist on an old model can tip the scale of whether or not a business will thrive.
5. Adapt to change. Here’s where small business owners excel. With fewer resources to manage, disruptions are easier to survive. And small businesses often confront change -- business cycles and neighborhood turnover to name a couple. Spector says the businesses that stay afloat for the long-term are ones that respond to change and remain relevant to their customers – old and new.
6. Be your own landlord. This may be tough during a slow economy, but Spector says owning your own property saves substantial money from rent throughout the years — money that can be put toward expanding or propping up your business.
7. Bring your A-game. No matter what the issue, Spector says small business owners must be willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to succeed. He says passion and persistence can go a long way without adding a cent to your expenses.