Small Business Center
By Angel Cicerone, Tenant Mentorship
As business owners, we can get so caught up in the day to day we forget the original vision and goals we had for our businesses and ourselves. Dealing with employees, inventory, customer service, scheduling, finances, marketing — it’s a lot. And these daily details are not just an inspiration-suck, they can easily lead us into a maze of confusion!
That’s why it’s always a good idea, no matter where you are in your business life cycle, to take a minute and revisit these four important questions — questions which, by the way, have nothing to do with money. They are about understanding the essence of your business and your relationship with it. While I won’t call them magic questions, their answers will certainly bring clarity to your business and life, and that’s an amazing gift!
Do you have an unusual or proprietary product? Perhaps you’ve put your own twist on something like the mini cupcakes that make people line up at baked by Melissa. Maybe it’s your store design or pricing or the way you wrap things in ecofriendly knapsacks or your signature product is apple cake baked using a five-generation-old family recipe or your staff is so knowledgeable people wouldn’t consider going anywhere else.
You get where I’m going.
But if you can’t come up with a differentiator, a meaningful one, I’m going to suggest you stop right here. Take a breath and put some serious thought into answering this question. If, after careful thought, you find your business is too general and unfocused, you’d be best served by doing some serious brainstorming to fine-tune your concept.
Who you sell to — and their reasons for buying — are the pulse of any retail or restaurant business. “Everyone” isn’t a demographic, and casting a wide net is dangerous in this day of market segmentation and personalized communication. A boutique for women ages 25 to 49 probably won’t be met with much enthusiasm. A boutique for women 25 to 49 that specializes in conservative clothes for work and offers a personal stylist will probably do a whole lot better.
Get in touch with that target niche. Find your people. Then do everything you can to get to know them and show them your love.
Success in business isn’t just about making money, although profitability certainly makes life a whole lot better! What do you want your life to look like? Do you want to work less or expand to one, five or 100 locations? Is your end goal to sell or leave it to your kids?
Each one of these options requires a slightly different route, and it would be a shame to work so hard and end up having detoured from your original goal. Defining your life goals helps to define your business path.
I’m not exactly sure why but so many independent retail and restaurant owners fail to hop on the lifelong-learning express. It might be fear, lack of time or even shame that they don’t know it all. Frankly, I don’t really care about the reason. I just care about the results.
In another day and time, learning the things you needed to know to succeed in business was important. Today, thanks to the lightning-fast pace of change in our world, it’s critical. So what do you need? A crash course in accounting? Inspiration for marketing? A solid social media primer? A better understanding of omnichannel sales? Training in sales, customer service, negotiating a lease?
Whatever it is, go out and get it. Thanks to our friend the internet, there is so much available at little or no cost, 24/7 so you can squeeze it in whenever you have the time.
Now, take your answers to these four questions and jot them on a sticky note. Place that note somewhere you can see if every day. And as you make decisions about your business, you can make them within the framework of your answers to these questions. If it doesn’t help your business become more special, appeal to your target customer, get you closer to leading the life you want or give you a better understanding of how to achieve success, there’s no need to move forward or waste time. Clarity is one of the keys to achieving goals, and these four simple questions will help you stay on track!