Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Finding your own advisors

Great advice is available in your own trade area

Within 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 other merchants.

Quite 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.

For 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.

What 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?

The 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.

Likewise, 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 area.

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).

After 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.

For 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 room.

You 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.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179