Many of you already know how much I adore this community of ours. Every day I wake up and feel blessed to be a part of such a wonderful city, region and state. I don’t take the opportunity that I have to be a part of something bigger than myself for granted. Therefore, I consciously work to promote local businesses and when possible purchase services and goods from business owners right here in our area. Believe me, I know how hard it is to run a business and how important it is to have support from the community to grow and succeed. This month I want to encourage all of you during our “Let’s Go” issue of the magazine to support a local business whenever possible. I know that we all are so busy that we sometimes get in a routine and go places before we really think it through. And, I realize that we Americans get caught up in the convenience factor and sometimes forget how critical it is to spend dollars with local businesses. The reality is that our local economy hinges on the investment of small businesses in our city. Business owners spend money here and also employ your neighbors. It’s important to acknowledge that small businesses nationwide are the driving force in building a strong economy — just ask our Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. And, women are starting more small businesses than ever before ― great isn’t it? Now that I’ve encouraged all of you to frequent local businesses, I need to send local business owners a message. Okay, here it is … dearest business owner … please don’t make it difficult for us to patronize your business. Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard from several individuals with stories of difficulty when trying to give their hard-earned money to local businesses. It makes me so sad when I hear these things. And, I’ve also experienced some of these dilemmas myself. So, here are some tips and reminders to my colleagues out there working hard to run a small business. Set your hours of operation so that you make it convenient for those who work to visit your business. (I get so frustrated when I see that something is only open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ― how is everyone supposed to get there during the workday?) After setting your hours, make sure you’re open throughout the entire time. Nothing is more frustrating for a potential customer than to make it over to your business when it is supposed to be open and it’s not. Don’t leave town and give no one the ability to negotiate prices or truly sell high-ticket products. (This just happened to me and after I was told that I could leave my name and someone would get back to me in a week — I left disappointed and concerned for the local business).
- If you serve breakfast, open during breakfast hours. Period.
- If you have a potential customer in your building and it’s almost closing time, don’t ask them to leave before they’re ready. They may be so disappointed with you that they never come back and I know that’s not what you want.
- Train your employees to understand that customers have choices and if they are there, treat them like their jobs depend on it — because it does. I always think about airlines that thank customers because they know they have a lot of choices out there. It’s actually true for all of us.
- Remind customers that you’re owned locally especially if it’s a franchise.
- If you’ve got a super cool differentiator like you receive new products before the “big box” stores, then advertise it! It’s important to tell people what you want them to know. Stop thinking that just because you have a business people will come. You have to ask for it.
Tiffany Dowling is the Founder and President of M3 Group, a full-service branding agency located in downtown Lansing, Mich. She is also owner and publisher of Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine and the Greater Lansing Business Monthly. Dowling has helped businesses and organizations with branding needs for more than a decade. Learn more at www.m3group.biz.