Thursday, April 30

Small Business is Hard

For some, small business is hard - and despite the enthusiasm and encouragement my friends, family and even the accountant - they are doomed to fail and bring more trauma to the lives of those who set out with fear and trepidation, mixed with enthusiasm and positivity some time earlier.

I cite the cases of two business that went belly up in my region in recent history.

One was a newsagent - purchased my a single mother who for some reason was led to believe that she had a potentially successful business.  Perhaps she did, but the previous owner was struggling, and she probably purchased it at a good price.  I am not aware if she had an accountant's support of her plan, but it went terribly wrong from day one.

She clearly had little capital behind her - and paying bills presented a major challenge very early.  Perhaps it was stress that made her appear moody - as she put her customers "off side" early in the story.  I found her quite a lovely lady - but I saw her do things or say things, that I as a business owner would not have said to my customers.

The amount of merchandise in the shop diminished - if she could not pay her bills, the suppliers made life difficult.  Her computer system was not good - and perhaps her skills in that department were limited.

In any case, the future became hopeless and the landlord eventually locked her out.  Business over.  Closed.  I know that in the last weeks she was beside herself with worry, but could find no solution.  It was sad, for no one wants to see someone destroyed like this.

With my limited information about the whole deal, I'd say she did not have the skills to run such a business and that her "customer service skills" were well below par.

Less than a kilometer away, a new cafe opened in a tiny shop near the beach.  Since we did not have a cafe in town, it was initially greeted with enthusiasm.  But they lost custom from day one.  It was a business run my two adults who were in the health care industry, and their daughter was to run the cafe.  None who worked in the cafe had the customer service skills to make their customers welcome.  Their dress and verbal interaction with each other and their customers did not rate highly!  In the end the business never seemed to open at the times advertised, so many folk went there to find the cafe closed.  Epic Fail.  It closed after a very short time.

Strangely another family, took it on and within weeks the business is hugely successful.  Amazingly so.  The ladies behind the counter are fun, happy and most welcoming.  The service and food are excellent.  Same shop, much the same set up as the previous cafe, but with a lot of atmosphere with a lot of fun attached.  We have high hopes for the success of this business.

In summary, owning a small business is not easy - it can be very challenging and stressful, but it appears that some new to the small business scene invest a lot of money and I guess think that it will be easy.  Good Customer Service skills are essential, and if one is stressed by just running the business, focusing on the skills that will bring repeat business, are neglected. 

I am not an expert on small business, though have worked in the field for years.  I am often very critical of the way customers are treated - and know that those who are made to feel angry, or unwelcome will not return.  All business needs good customer service.  Without it - EPIC FAIL.


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