Be Proactive About Your Business

Do you offer any fun sideline services in the salon? Mine is body art. Since I offer the service, I also read the newsletter from Amerikan Body Art, which is the company I use. This month’s newsletter struck a chord in me as I’m sure it will with you so with Erika’s permission I would like to share part of what she wrote in hopes it will inspire you:
Although I've never officially claimed the title or had it printed on a business card, I like to consider myself a business consultant. I teach seminars on how to start a face and body art business, I advise many of my friends and family in their businesses, and I spend hours each day, e-mailing business owners who have asked for help. When I took the family to vacation in a log cabin just outside of Chattanooga last month, I couldn't help but prepare a mental list of changes that I felt the cabin owners should make to their vacation rental property. It was all I could do to not write down the list and leave it for the owners. I find that people don't always appreciate unsolicited business advice. I can't count how many times someone has given me advice that I ignored, and later wished I had taken more seriously. 
I know that many of you are wondering what you can do to make your business more successful, and that there are probably just as many of you who haven't even considered the need to improve your business because, “If it ain't broken....why fix it?" A lot of us (and I am absolutely guilty of this) get comfortable with how things are going, and then are surprised when something happens, like a new competitor shows up on the scene, one of your artists has to move, one of your suppliers goes out of business, or the economy takes a nose-dive and your regular customers can't afford to hire you. During the time that it takes you to recover from one of these scenarios, you may have permanently lost several customers. I used to purchase some of our manufacturing supplies from one supplier for many years, and then their website was down for several days in a row, which forced me to look for a new supplier. Imagine my surprise when I found some of these items at almost 30% cheaper from a different supplier. Had my regular supplier's website not been down, I would not have looked for another supplier, and now they've lost a customer. We experienced a similar problem a couple years ago when we spent a whole year with a dodgy website that only worked half the time. To this day, I still wonder how much traction we lost in our business during that year.
Have you looked at your business and assessed your vulnerabilities lately? Have you looked for areas where you can improve, and actually taken steps to make those improvements? Better yet, have you ever asked your customers or a friend to tell you what they really think about your business and what you could do to improve it? Just as we get comfortable with how things are running, many of our customers stay with us out of loyalty, but secretly wish that we would change some things.
Of course you can't make everyone happy and there are some things, like lowering your rates, that just aren't feasible...but there are small things that could make a significant difference in your customers' experience. When I was in our vacation cabin, there were four minor changes that would have made my stay perfect. I felt that there should have been shampoo and conditioner in the bathrooms. You can buy full-size shampoo at the Dollar Store, so even if every guest stole the shampoo out of the bathroom (which is highly unlikely) it still would have only cost a dollar or two...which is pretty insignificant when you're charging $250 per night. The cabin was pretty dusty — which could easily have been fixed for free by the cabin owners. There was no toaster, which you could probably get for $10 or less these days. And I felt like the beds were less than "resort-like." A simple change to white linens would have made the place feel much more upscale. Perhaps the owners have reasons for not doing these things, but maybe they have no problem booking the cabin so they haven't considered the need to make improvements. But those minor things are enough to make me consider looking at other properties the next time we stay in that area.
So instead of Re-acting to business emergencies, how about spending a day being Pro-active and taking a good hard look at your business? Do you have a plan B if your regular supplier is on vacation and you don't have the supplies that you need for a gig? Or is your plan B to give the job to another company and hope that the customer isn't lost forever? Are you the only person on your team who can do certain gigs, or is everyone cross-trained to be able to do what is needed? Have you checked out what your competitors are doing and if there are small changes that you could make to your business for greater impact, or are you relying on your winning personality keep you in business? Are you continuing to operate the same way you have always operated and hoping that the economy picks up soon, or are you looking at a new approach to doing business?
Consider sending out a survey to your current customers to see what they suggest. Promise your friends that you won't get upset if they give you an honest opinion about your business. And hang up that old excuse, "I don't have time," and find the time to rescue your business BEFORE it needs to be rescued.
I just want to add one more note about this economy thing. I was recently watching a DIY show about a company who specializes in re-facing kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them. People still want to upgrade and renovate their kitchens, even if they can't afford new cabinets. So instead of waiting for the economy to improve and for people to be able to afford new cabinets, this cabinet company converted their business from building new cabinets to refurbishing old cabinets. I thought the idea was genius, and exactly what I've been trying to get across to my friends who feel that they've been suffering the effects of a poor economy.
Every year, Amerikan Body Art shows increased sales of about 20%, which is somewhat surprising in light of the age of the company and the state of the economy. But when you think about it, our company provides goods and services to people who are looking for additional income — and there's a lot of that going around these days. What does your business do to add value to someone's life, other than offering them a rolling good time? The federal government is going to make huge budget cuts this year, which means greatly reduced funding for charitable organizations. Think about ways that your company can help these organizations with their fund-raising efforts. You might end up with more business than you can handle with this new group of clients.
Have a wonderfully prosperous month! — Erika
— Holly

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