We love to hear stories about small businesses that take off like a rocket, enjoying thousand-percent growth. That’s all well and good, but it’s not the norm.
I appreciate wild-catters who bring in jumbo contracts and go from rags to riches in four months or less. However, I have to confess that I’m not one of them. I’m a slogger, who measures ongoing business success in small increments, a few dollars at a time. In the long run, it’s the only true road to long-term, sustainable success.
For example, when I had my Jimmy Buffett retail store in the Caribbean several years ago, I devoted hours each day to finding ways to cut my expenses by a percent or two here, a few pennies there. The success was in the details:
- I realized that if I displayed island shirts outside the door for passersby to see, that would catch the attention of more people and in turn boost sales by one or two percent.
- I would post my affable Golden Retriever, Toni, by the front door, because I realized that people on vacation tended to miss their dogs. They would stop, scratch Toni’s ears, and sometimes strike up a conversation with me … all of which doubled or tripled their “linger time” … all of which helped increase the likelihood that they would look at some product and make a purchase. It wasn’t always a ton of money. However, it added up. If I could add one percent to a $500 day, that would only be $5. Yawn? No way. That meant $35 more per week, or more than $1,800 a year.
- I also learned that I could increase the number of sales by, say, another one percent by knowing when to approach a customer who was studying an item, but seemed uncertain. “That’s one of our most popular shirts,” I might point out, thereby adding another sale or two that might not have happened, just because I helped them with their buying decision.
- I learned that having the right music in the doorway was a plus, as was knowing when to shut up, stand back and not crowd a customer, or when to ask, “Hey, where are you from?” to get some conversation going.
- This would couple nicely with what I refer to as the “McDonalds Fries” approach, pointing out something like, “That shirt looks great on you. It goes perfectly with those flip flops, which are on sale today.”
I try to do the same with my consulting/sales business today. One of the things I do is be active in volunteer and service groups. I’m president of the Algoma Lions Club; a member of the marketing committee for the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corporation; the Communications Chair for a national insurance group, the North America Field Development Association; and an active member of my church. I also do free seminars on money management, sales and faith topics.
I do these things because I enjoy them. The bonus is that people get to know me. Though I never do business on volunteer time, I do know that I can approach these men and women for referrals and information and ideas. No, there is no direct money tie, but it allows me, as a friend once explained to me, to “Do well by doing good.”
Recommendations: How can you boost your business by one percent here, two percent there? Start by looking for opportunities to improve your products, your service, your administration and your marketing by a little bit here, a little bit there. That one percent will compound and keep on compounding.
Devote just half an hour each day to brainstorming, also known as “sitting for ideas,” as Norman Vincent Peale used to say. I guarantee that you will discover more ways to make money and save money than you will ever be able to implement.
So, work hard. Make money. Have fun.
204 Lakeview Drive
Algoma, WI 54201
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