GROWING YOUR BUSINESS — Beating the big guys: As hard as it seems, it can be done

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

So far, we have talked about service businesses where the company goes to the customer’s home to provide their services from landscaping, to plumbing, to home repairs, to cleaning services. However, these are not the only types of small businesses there are. So, for the next few weeks we are going to switch it up a bit and talk about small on-site businesses such as restaurants, independent hardware stores, clothing stores, fashion salons. The kind of businesses where the customers come to your establishment to do business.

Over the past several decades to successfully own and operate one of these businesses has been more then challenging, to some it has been devastating to say the least. How can you can you compete against the big guys? How can you be open the same hours as Walmart? How can you keep the same inventory as Lowe’s and The Home Depot? How can you provide the same prices as Staples or how can you stay open as many hours as Ruby Tuesday’s and seven days a week to boot? The answer is pretty simple, you can’t. You cannot beat these companies at their own game.

That being said what is the alternative? What are you going to do to become so outstanding that you will not only survive in a marketplace dominated by the huge and intimidating nationals? Look, it’s not easy, but it can be done. It will take hard work, perseverance, dedication, super customer service, and most of all creativity, but it can be done.

For the next few weeks we are going to dedicate this column to small businesses, focusing on strategies and tactics that each of them can undertake to be successful. Next week we’ll talk about small restaurants, then retail stores, the week after that hardware stores. Please note dear reader if you have a specific business that is not covered in these columns but would like some advice on how you can not only survive but thrive in this marketplace, please drop me an email and the address below and I’ll be more than happy to accommodate your needs.

To set us up for this series let’s begin by focusing on some of the things that the big guys can’t do. Being big is not always so beautiful. And to exemplify that here are some of the things the big guys cannot do:

  • They cannot get personal.
  • They cannot treat their customers as individuals.
  • They don’t have to help every customer individually.
  • They can’t sell like a small retail business can. Example: buy a suit at Kohl’s versus buying a suit at your local tailor, who will give you the best service and the better fitting suit?
  • They cannot be flexible. All company policies come from headquarters thousands of miles away which handcuffs the local affiliate when he tries to be flexible with the local clientale.
  • They can’t take part in community activities, everything has to be approved at headquarters which is thousands of miles away. Ever try to get a donation for your church’s silent auction from one of the giants? Good luck with that.
  • And one more, they don’t have a heart. They are not flesh and blood, they are a bureaucratic institution.

Gee I’m almost starting to feel bad for these giants. Not! But you get the idea, although it feels like they might have all the advantages, it’s not necessarily true, is it? Think about it, being small can be beautiful.

Check in next time when we talk about growing your restaurant business.


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