advice is available in your own trade area
the area where you work and live, there are undoubtedly a number
of small businesses that are owned and managed very successfully
by someone who also lives nearby. On the initial inspection, you
probably think there is little resemblance between what you and this other person do for a living. After all, how does
a shoe store resemble the hardware store? Surely, other than being
small businesses, there is little you have in common with these
the opposite is true. Each of you is a small business. You compete
with businesses that are much larger as well as businesses that
sell by way of catalogs or the Internet, but the similarity goes
much deeper than that.
example, many hardware stores have a counter at the back of the
shop. Most stores use this counter as a place where a person can
bring something to be repaired, such as a chain saw or lawn mower.
There are several other small businesses that have this type of
layout: pharmacies, bicycle shops, and golf shops. The pharmacists
have known for many years that a person walking in their business
with a prescription to be filled has only one thing on his mind
- getting that prescription back to the counter and handed to the
pharmacist or the technician.
pharmacists also have found is that customers have a tendency to
not look at anything else in the pharmacy until they have handed
in that prescription. But while the prescription is being filled,
the customers are then open to looking at merchandise about the
business. From this situation, the pharmacists have learned they
must merchandise their businesses from front to back, as well as
from back to front. This way their customers are more likely to
purchase something in addition to their prescription. How is it
that they do this?
local grocer operates a business that is receiving merchandise every
day of the week. While other businesses experience merchandise turn
around three to four times per year, the local grocer has a turn
rate that is likely to be in the low twenties. Yet as you visit
a grocery store, you are usually impressed at how neat the store
are as well as how the merchandise is always neatly arranged. The
grocer has an entire staff that understands why the most attractive
part of the package is placed so that the customer sees this facing.
And if you observe closely, you will notice that the grocer also
pays attention to having the merchandise pulled to the front of
the shelf. This facing and fronting is one of the key components
in keeping a grocery store looking neat.
there are things about your business you could share with other
business owners or managers that could help them increase their
profits. What about cash flow? Open to buy? Pricing strategies?
Store design? Staffing? All of these are issues that confront every
small business. Whatever area of expertise you have, there is someone
in your area who needs your help, just as there are areas with which
you need help. The teacher you are looking for, and needing to talk
to, is likely to be waiting somewhere within a business in your
As compared to hiring a consultant, you can experiment with a technique
that can bring ideas such as these to you for the cost of a meal
at your favorite restaurant. Start by visiting another merchant
and sharing this article with him or her. Anticipating that he or
she sees the value in this technique, invite him or her to join
you one morning for an early breakfast (Dutch treat, of course).
creating this new partnership, you may find that having a series
of these "teachers" that you can work with in a one-on-one
scenario works best for you. Other people have found that creating
a small group that meets together monthly allows for more learning.
Of course, with the small group you do not want to have any two
members that compete against each other.
the group meetings, just find a local restaurant that will allow
you to use one of its meeting rooms. Most will provide the room
free of charge as long as the participants are having a meal. In
other situations where the group meets for coffee and donuts, some
restaurants will have a nominal charge for the use of their meeting
have undoubtedly seen situations where a person in the hardware
store takes the time to help a customer use a chain saw, a sander,
or hand tool and has tremendously improved the results the customer
has gotten from using those tools. The lessons you can learn from
these other merchants in your area are similar to that hardware
person sharing some information. This information will definitely
improve your bottom line.