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“I want to go into business.”
I hear that all the time, and I get excited when someone wants to invest in the community. So here’s my best advice on starting a business.
Location, Location, Location
First you need to consider location. I remember reading that the three most important things in opening a business are location, location and location.
Make sure you do your homework and pick the best spot. Years ago, I was a part owner in a men’s store on Main Street, and it was a perfect location, plenty of foot traffic, high visibility, in the center of it all.
Know Your Business (Plan)
Next is a business plan. This is very important to being successful. With all the information available on the internet you should be able to get all the data that you need to put together a plan, or you can contact the Small Business Development Center at your local college or university. Most are happy to assist you in putting together a business plan.
If your community has a small business or economic development organization, visit their website and check out their resources. Some offer classes as well.
Next, and I think this is the most important, is hiring the right people and teaching them great customer service.
I talk a lot about taking care of your customers. There was a video store on Main Street that only hired people who smiled. That’s the right approach – pick people with a positive attitude, and they will make you successful.
A Story of Outstanding Customer Service
I love to tell stories because they’re memorable. This is one of my favorites. A business woman went into a restaurant in New York City, and a young male waiter waited on her. When he asked what she would like drink, she said, “I know you don’t have RC Cola, so I will just have a Pepsi or Coke.” She also ordered her meal at the same time. The young man went back to the kitchen and gave the order to the cook, and said he had to run out to the grocery store next to the restaurant and he would be right back. He proudly had the RC Cola on the tray with a glass of ice, and the customer was very surprised. She asked him where he had gotten it, and he told her the story. Every time she came back to the city, she went to that restaurant and asked for the young man to wait on her. A few months later, she was in New York again but her favorite waiter was gone – he had gotten his own restaurant! And you can be sure she became a patron of that one too.
Good customer service makes you stand out. People want to do business with you and you can parlay that customer loyalty into a million different opportunities.
Isn’t that a great story? Those are the kind of things you should be doing for your customers.
Ron Orris is the Executive Director of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, where he has led the chamber in its adoption of social media and is a strong proponent for blogging as a way to reach your audience. Under his leadership membership has increased 40% over the past two years. He has also served as the city controller for the City of Bradford and as a store manager for Walmart, a position he values as teaching him a lot about customer service.