BY MARY FISCHER-TRACY
There is a lot of information out there about starting a business and what you should and shouldn’t do…
In this column, I am hoping to make some sense of not only starting your business, but growing your business too. Being a small business owner isn’t just about you and your store; it’s about the community that you are in and how the community relates and reacts to your business.
How do you want your community to think about your business? Do you want them to think that your business is upstanding and that you and your employees strive to do the right thing? Or do you want to be known as a business that is always after the almighty dollar and that you would do the wrong thing if it meant making an extra buck?
I am not going to pretend that the customer is always right because let’s face it…there are always going to be people who you cannot satisfy. But when you CAN do the thing that will make your customer happy…you should! Everyone is watching and everyone can spread the word about you and your business overnight. Hopefully you will make the right decision because how your community feels about your business is very important.
Community events and sponsorships are also important. As a startup, you may not be able to sponsor a community event but you should GO! Bring your business cards and talk to people. Be visible in your community even when you have nothing to gain or you don’t think anyone will notice….because they will. And, it doesn’t cost much at all!
Maybe you have an online business and don’t feel like you need your local community. You are wrong! Your community can support you in many ways. First of all, they do online shopping too! The fact that you are from their own community will inspire them to support you. There is an entrepreneurial spirit lurking in your community and you need to be a part of those conversations for your own support and to support others. And finally, you may need to hire people some day and it would be great to hire local people to assist you and talk about your business with the people that they know.
There is also a community online. Instagram and Facebook are all communities that you can participate in. Not only can you talk about your business on social media, you can also join other groups that are about your industry. If you are in retail, there are many, many groups that act as retail support with an exchange of ideas or best practices. Many of them have trainings for your industry and are low cost. I also have to mention podcasts and blogs that all have to do with separate industries. Just be sure the one you are involved in has people who are in your industry and know what they are talking about.
Next time I will talk about starting a business and the do’s and don’ts.
Mary Fischer-Tracy is the business consultant at the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. To make an appointment for consulting, call (262) 595-3363.