When’s The Right Time To Vacation When You Run a Small Business

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Small Biz Matters

As we sit here preparing to head off to our honeymoon next week, we realize that closing the store for a full week could be a financial burden for us.  We’ve been thinking about it for the last few months knowing this was coming.  How will this effect our store and our bottom line.  When do you have to just say to yourself, do it and not worry?  When is the right time to take a vacation when you own a small business?  These are all very good questions any small business has when deciding to close for a time period.

One thing I will say is that we all need to take a vacation, and yes it may hurt your bottom line, but we need a break too. Yes it’s much harder as an independent small business owner to take time off then if you just worked for someone.  Many small business owners don’t have staff to cover them when they decide to go on vacation, so what do you do.  Well most of us pay attention to when our busiest season is and plan our vacations around that.  For many of us summer is a slower time so you will see small mom and pop shops closed down for a week or two during the summer months. Normally for us I would say that summer would have been a better time for us, but not this year.  We’ve had a pretty busy summer and fall seems to be heading in the same direction.  So, as this is a special occasion for us we are just going to take the risk and shut down for the week.

How do you cushion the financial hit from going on vacation?  One way to cushion the financial hit is to offer a special sale prior to leaving on vacation.  That’s what we did and it did help.  Are we at exactly the same numbers we would want to be for the month, not exactly but close enough.  Also remember that when you return you’ll more than likely get a surge of business, which can also help avoid a huge financial hit.  Either way there is always a risk, but it can be minimized if you get creative.

I will say that outside of a special occasion we would be more likely to take a vacation earlier in the year to prevent any major loss in income.  One thing we did do is inform our customers early…a month early so they had time to stock up on their needs before we closed.  Honestly that is the only thing you really can do, let your customers know and for the most part they will be understanding.  Heck we all deserve a vacation sometime.

So as we’ll be leaving Monday morning, I won’t be writing any blogs next week.  We’ll catch you all when we get back. Have a great week.

Small Business Matters

Happy Mabon

 

Facebook Insights: Are you using this tool?

You are using Facebook to engage new fans correct? Are you using the tools available to see how your business page is doing? Facebook Insights is a really great tool to help gauge your audience.  If you haven’t looked at this you really should be paying attention.  It provides valuable information about the fans that are following you.  Insights give you a glimpse of where your audience is coming from, the age range, the location and so much more.  It also allows you to see how campaigns you are running are working or not working.

Let’s start with the overview seen below.

facebook insights

 

This section allows you to see the number of page likes, post reach and engagement you are getting on your business page. As you will see at the very top of the screen these stats are from the most current week. This gives you an overall feel of how your page is doing.  You also see in the header bar that you can click over to Likes, Reach, Visits, Posts and People. You’ll want to click on each one of these sections to gain further information.

Under the Reach section (pictured below) you’ll see more stats on how many likes, comments and shares you had on the page in that week.

 

facebook insights

 

Now if you scroll down a little further you will see which posts you made have received the most feedback in the last week.

facebook insights

As you can see from the screen shot above you can get some really good detail about these posts.  The type of post you made, text or photo.  The reach it had and how many people engaged on that post. This information can help you choose better posts that will help increase your reach and engagement with your audience.

You’ll want to check every tab to get more detailed stats, but the one I use and pay attention to is the People tab (see below).  It breaks down my demographic for my page.  The age and sex of our fans that engage most on our page.  It also goes as far as breaking down from what area they are, town, state and country.  This information is very useful when running campaigns and advertising, as you can target the proper audience.

facebook insights

So as you can see the insights tool on your business Facebook page is very useful and can really help you figure out who your followers are.  Knowing this information helps you target your audience better with advertising and choosing the right posts to make.  A simple but very useful tool for your business.  So if you haven’t checked it out yet, head over to your page and do so right away.  You might be shocked at the results.

Small Business Matters

 

Moving Up In The World

clover posWell the POS System has arrived.  Let me tell you it’s been a bit of a challenge to start out, but anything new really is. Some growing pains for sure, but what a difference when ringing out a customer.  Everything is right there and easy to find. Having the ability to have the customer sign right on the screen and giving them the choice to email their receipt and save paper is another great option.  The customers are already loving the change.

What We Won’t Miss

1. For over 4 years we’ve been doing things the “old fashion way”, with receipt books.  This day and age a receipt book is consider the “old fashion way”.  I think of it as the traditional way, but let me tell you I won’t miss stacks of receipt books pilled up.

2. Copying the receipts for each of our vendors in the store in order to keep track of their sales.  Yep, no need to do that anymore either.  Just print out a end of day report and it breaks down the sales by vendor.

3. Running to the store when we notice that there are only 3 receipts left in the book and we forgot to grab one the last time we where near a Staples.

4. Large merchant fees.  Yeah won’t miss those either.  With the new system it’s just a simple as only a percentage per swipe and no month fees.  That’s saving us $50 a month in fees alone.

Our rep Melinda has been wonderful and helping us along the way with getting setup through the few bumps in the road we came across.  I think any small business like ours looking for a POS system that is functional and easy to use I would highly recommend going with Clover.  They’ve got our vote.

This was our 2014 goal, to upgrade to POS.  We even did it before the end of the year.  I think it was the best decision we made and know it will help our business tremendously.

We look forward to the rest of the year and the coming years of working with this new system and how it will simplify so many things in our business.

Small Business Matters

 

 

Mixing Business with Pleasure

Peddlin' for Putnam

Peddlin’ for Putnam

Everyone always says it’s not good to mix business with pleasure, but I have to disagree. Sometimes it just what you need to get those creative juices flowing. We took the Labor Day holiday yesterday and headed to the Woodstock Fair.  First time for us, and it really was a lot of fun.  With that fun came also the chance to meet a lot of vendors that were setup at the fair as well.  Giving us a chance to see a variety of different products.  We looked at this as an opportunity to see what artists where out there in that area and meet with a few of them.  We made some good connections that would be a great fit with our store. I plan to follow up with them all this week.  So even though we got to enjoy some great fair food, listen to live music, watch wood carving demo’s and Ceremonial Indian Dance we also got to make so connections with potential vendors for our store.

After our visit to Woodstock we headed over to Putnam.  It has been several years since we visited last, but know that Putnam has continuously evolved over the last several years.  We figured this was an opportunity to see how another small town does it.  When we visit other small towns we look at everything, from the store displays, the building facades, the general atmosphere and the amount of people shopping.

Wow, has Putnam come a long way for sure.  Filled with a variety of little shops, cafe’s and restaurants.  A great vibe through the whole downtown area. Business owners seemed happy and busy. Putnam has become a destination town, with people traveling from all over to visit.  The perseverance of the business owners and town have made Putnam that perfect little town.  The one we all want to be.  So this really does help a business owner like ourselves to pay attention to what and how they are making it work.

What really caught our eye was this art intuitive that seemed to be through the downtown area. The colored bikes with planters in front of each store, along with the painted coffee cans on each sign posted really gave some vibrancy to the area. The bikes are part of a community program called Peddlin’ for Putnam, created towards the goal of beautifying the downtown area. Such a simple, but amazing way to add some color and attractiveness to the area.  These are the types of ideas that help build, strengthen and grow a community.

So while we did enjoyed our day out, it really gave us some great ideas we could use in our community.  It got the creative juices flowing.  So the next time you are out enjoying a fun day away from your business, take some time to pay attention to your surroundings and see if there is anything that will spur some ideas for your own business.

Small Business Matters

 

 

Seasons Are Changing: Are You Ready?

Smallbizmatter.orgThis coming Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer as we all know it.  No summer really doesn’t end for another three weeks, but this is what we have come to accept.  Labor Day comes, the children are back to school and the summer is complete.  The weather may tell us otherwise, but we know the shift in seasons is coming and we need to be ready for it.  As a business we know that change in season means a shift in our business.  For many us the summer season is a slow time in sales as people are on vacation.  After Labor Day everything seems to go back to normal.  So are you ready?

The change is season means we are heading into holiday season.  Yes none of us want to think about Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas this early, but if you are in business you need to.  You need to start preparing for the upcoming holiday season now.  Be prepared for the increase in traffic and sales.  So if you own a retail shop you should consider getting in orders to stock up your store early in preparation for this.

Have you stepped into a large retail store lately?  Guess what they all have the fall lines out and Halloween decorations.  I agree it seems to early and always have thought why do they start this earlier and earlier each year.  Why you ask?  Because the general public starts shopping that much earlier each year.  With everyone’s budgets tightened over the last several years, people are more apt to start their holiday shopping earlier.  Many buy a little something each week and put it aside. This train of thought is what we have to keep in mind with our own stores.

So when you are placing your next order for product for your store, or getting stocked up from your local vendors, consider padding each order.  Add two extra of each item for the next 4-5 orders.  This will give you a little padding for the upcoming holiday seasons.  I know ourselves that’s what we will be doing to help prepare ourselves for the upcoming shopping holidays.

Being prepared and ordering early will help you with the upcoming shopping season.  Don’t forget to enjoy that last three weeks or so of summer though.  Take a little mini vacation for you too.  Recharge, Refresh and get Ready.

Small Business Matters

 

 

Continuing to Grow & Learn With Your Business

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Small Biz Matters

As we all know it’s important to continue to educate yourself daily when you own a business.  The old saying “learn something new everyday” is really true.  We as business owners learn something new everyday.  Whether it’s a better system to run our business, creative ways to display products, new tips on marketing and so much more.

I personally have found some great ways to continue to educate and grow myself so I can continue to grow our business.  There are many forums that are directly related to small business owners and entrepreneurs that can help with growing your business. Whether it’s free online classes, a forum for business owners to share tips and tricks or meetings.

These are just a few of the places I regularly check out and provide a variety of valuable information, classes and tips on ways to improve and grow your business.  I thought I’d share these with everyone as it may be helpful for you as well.

CreativeLive offers a variety of online classes that are usually free.  Anything from photography classes, to money management, public speaking and so much more.  Go check out there current classes and see if there is one that might be of help to you.

I also follow Facebook For Business always a lot of great tips, tricks and info on ways to improve your marketing through Facebook.

Entrepreneur Magazine is another great resource to follow.  Tons of great articles that might give you some great ideas and tips on ways to grow and improve your business. Learning from how others have done things is always a help.

Mashable is another one I follow regularly.  Always great business tips, social media tips and tech information.  Check them out, you’ll find a lot of great information here as well.

These are just a few that I follow all the time.  Hopefully one of these resources will be helpful to you as well.  You never know what you’ll come across that could help you with continued improvement of yourself and business.  Keeping yourself educated and up to date with all the changes is the only way you can keep your business growing.

Small Business Matters

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting Small Business

support local businessToday I decided to share some love with some small businesses that we support in our area.   These small businesses have had an impact on our lives.  As a small business it is important to us to share the love and support other small businesses.

One of our favorite small businesses right here in town is Middle Ground Cafe.  It’s our little local coffee shop owned by Katherine Aspelin. It’s the perfect place to grab a coffee and a muffin in the morning along with lunch come afternoon.  The shop has been in town for 3 years now and is the cornerstone to Main St.  It a great place to meet friends as well as business meetings.  I have had many business meetings here and tell everyone that comes into our store to be sure and check them out.  Their freshly made cookies, muffins, scones, donuts, pies and so much more are worth checking out for yourself.

Another great business in town that we support is Pastries 4 Pets.  This small dog bakery provides homemade dog treats along with custom dog cakes.  Our dog Bentley truly looks forward to getting treats from this shop. Donna Hart Shovlin is the owner of Pastries 4 Pets which opened in 2012. Donna and her dog Butters is always there to greet the customers and help them pick out the best treats for their pets.  We are so pleased to have this business right in our own town.

For local produce and fresh breads we head over to Veggies n Stuff.  They have a great little store on their farm here in town where they grown everything.  We enjoy the fact that we can get locally grown food from our farms.  I feel better about what I’m eating knowing where it came from and how it was grown.

Now Sabor 44 recently opened here on Main Street in May.  What a treat it is to have this store in our town.  For those who enjoy cooking this is the place to go.  You can get a great variety of olive oils, vinegar’s, spices and more. I can’t help myself in this shop. I love the oils and vinegar’s they have along with the pastas. The owner Luis is fantastic and really has a passion for his business. We are so pleased to have Luis and his business as our newest addition to Main Street. If you are in the area be sure to stop in and check it out for yourself.

Lastly is Festi’s Power Equipment & Oil.  This business has been around a long time in Stafford and provides all your lawn equipment and heating oil needs.  We use them regularly, whether for oil for the lawnmower, belts for the snow blower or any other thing we might need for our lawn equipment.  The service is exceptional and the owner Tillie has carried on a proud tradition her father started years ago.

These are just a few of the small business in town that we support regularly. There are so many other great little business in town as well, but I can’t mention them all.  What’s most important is that we do our best to support as many local small businesses as possible.  The saying Shop Local, Support Local…well it’s part of who we are and we hope many others will start thinking that way as well.  We hope if you are in the area sometime you’ll come check out all these great places for yourself.  And when you’re done, be sure to head on over to our store as well and say hi at Artisans’ Corner.

Small Business Matters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get To Know The Companies You Do Business With

cropped-your-small-business-blog-1.pngAs a retail shop we work with wholesale companies as many shops do.  Many of us use them to get the product we need for our store, but do we really know them outside of a basic order or two you place a month?  Well we had the opportunity to meet one of our wholesalers yesterday. We took a ride out to Western MA where the wholesale facility is located.

The scenic drive was well worth the one and half hours it took to get there.  What we saw when we arrived was amazing.  This massive building sitting atop a hill with rolling fields around it. It almost looked like it didn’t belong there.  When we arrived we were greeted at the door by one of the employees.  He proceeded to give us a tour and educate us about this amazing building.  Why is this warehouse any different than the next?  This building was built with the intent to use the natural resources that surrounded them.  Making use of the sun to heat the building, a small watering hole that is used as a pumping station for them and the town along with a variety of gardens inside and out of the building that the owners and employees have planted and use.  This building truly fit the meaning of green. This business was built from the ground up. A family business.  Starting small in a basement of a home to this amazing warehouse that employs many people in the community.

What amazed us even more was how the owners use the building to help their community as well.  They have a community room that is open for use by local organizations, for day care, providing meals for the community and so much more.  The owners are truly amazing people and give back so much to their community.  We continued our tour of the building and made our way to where all the product was held for distribution.  A very simple, basic setup, but very well organized. It wasn’t full of fancy machines for packing and shipping. Just the basic to do the job required.  The employees seemed happy to be there working.  There was a sense of calm in the warehouse among everyone. We were kindly greeted by many of the employees who offered their assistance if needed while we were there.

We then were offered the opportunity to shop for the products we needed while visiting.  Allowing us to see the product in person and pick out what we wanted to purchase.  A very important aspect to our store has always been having product that is made in the U.S. The one main reason we have chosen this company is because they offer so many varied products that are U.S.made. Our tour guide helped us with finding products that we needed, that were U.S. made for our store.  He understood our needs and made the whole experience exceptional.

What we learned yesterday was the importance of really knowing who you work with on a daily basis in your business.  Not just knowing your customers, but the wholesalers, artists or others you depend on to make your store what it is.  Our experience yesterday gave us a chance to know the people behind the company we’ve been working with.  Getting to know who they really are and their true commitment to providing quality product to stores like ours.

So the next time you go to place an order for your store, stop and think about that business.  Do you know them really?  Give them a call and see if they would be willing to give you a tour as we did.  Get to know them, building that relationship with them will only help you and your business in the future.

Small Business Matters

 

Pricing Your Products

pricing your productPricing is probably one of the hardest tasks business owners have to do.  How do you know what is the proper price for your product?  Do you know how much the market can bear, before you’ve priced yourself out of the market?  What are your competitors charging?  These are all questions business owners must ask themselves when pricing their products.

There are two methods that are commonly used when pricing based on whether you make your product or purchase your products wholesale.

Handmade products:

This is the most difficult to price in our experience.  The rule of thumb when pricing a handmade product is to total the cost of your materials + your labor x 3 = retail price.  Now you know as well as we do, that doing so will many times make that price unreachable to most who want to purchase your product.  So you have to get a little creative when it comes to pricing handmade products.  For us we’ve taken the cost of the materials x 3.  Yes that means we don’t get paid for our labor, but we are still making back the cost of making the product plus a little.  Yes our handmade product is worth more, but in this economy you can’t price yourself out of the market.  It’s easy to ask too much because you feel it’s worth it, but others don’t understand that.  In their mind they are willing to pay a certain price and no more.  So keep this in mind the next time you price that beautiful piece of jewelry you just made. Keep it affordable, but not cheap….there is a fine line.  Charge to little and people think why is it so cheap, it must not be made well.  That’s the last thing you want your customers to think.

Wholesale Products:

Now if you are a shop that purchases your products from a wholesale distributor than you have an easier time pricing in our opinion.  You already know what you’ve paid for the product.  On average the mark-up is 30-40 percent.  Of course this varies depending on the type of industry you are in. Also you’ll want to check your competitors in the area that have similar product.  You don’t want to overcharge.  Sometimes it helps to be a little less expensive than your competitor to draw in customers.  Remember price is important to customers, but even more so is the customer service.  So even if you are priced exactly the same as your competitor, your customer service needs to be exceptional so you stand out.  The initial shopping experience will determine whether they will be returning customers.

We hope these tips will help you with pricing your products in the future.  It’s not an easy task and takes some trial and error to see what works best for your business, but you will figure out what works for you.

Small Business Matters

Small Business Marketing

 

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