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I know a couple who live on Maui but have a tour based business in California. I asked them if they had been affected by this very uncertain economy. They both smiled and told me that in their years in business they have ridden out many economic downturns. There have been some lean times and some fat times but their business model always remains the same, “there’s always room for the best.”

Made me think.

When I started my business 6 years ago in Washington State, I didn’t have a store front. I had a handfull of wholesale clients, a coffee house, a B&B, a couple of wineries but for my retail sales I peddled my wares every Saturday in our town’s open air market. Out of a 10×10 tent I sold chocolates out of plastic bins and a plexiglass display case, carried a quantity of nice boxes and pretty ribbon, set up at 8:00 and was usually sold out at noon or one in the afternoon. But the most important thing I learned was to watch each and every person who bought a piece of chocolate and ate it on the spot. I looked at their face, I watched the smile curl up at the corner of their mouths and then, they usually bought some more to take home with them. I knew I had something. I knew I could succeed at this.

But as time has gone on I see lots of chocolate being made and sold just like mine, or so I thought. Boxes of bonbons are embellished with colored cocoa butter and fancy gold accents, upscale boxes with hinged lids and custom printed logos tout flavors that blend tea, exotic spices, dried fruits and liquors. I’ve traveled and tasted and, yes, gotten more than a little envious. I thought maybe the market was too saturated, I’d missed the boat with making it big.

Then Mary and Charlie’s words came back to mind. There’s always room for the best.

So, if a business of your own is what you desire, I have just a few words of experience to share.

1. If you have a business online, make sure your customer can easily access your product and have more than one place on the site to order and pay. Your site has to be user friendly. Have a trusted friend or relative go over it with a fine tooth comb as if they have no idea who you are, have them order something and report back to you whether or not the experience was simple and pleasant. Accepting honest feedback now from someone you know avoids future lost business from prospective customers.

2. Define who you are and what your business does. If you are too broad based and have too many options to choose from you will confuse the customer and they will exit your site.

3. Alter your content often enough to encourage repeat visitors. If a site looks exactly the same or its last update was Christmas and a buyer is looking for gifts for Valentine’s Day, they will think you‘re out of business. If you‘re not ready to post the new inventory, give them a teaser so they know it’s coming.

4. Offer something for nothing. If you can, post information, recipes, a gift with purchase, something that adds further value to your site, therefore your product.

5. Customer satisfaction. Give your buyer an opportunity for some recourse if their purchase arrives incorrect or damaged.

6. Personal connection. If you are a small business owner, you are not only selling a product you are selling YOU. Allow a personal connection with your customers. Be kind. Appreciate their business. Know that they have many options to purchase but this time they’ve chosen to purchase from you. I can honestly say that personal connection with customers is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience.

There are so many more,I’m just getting started! But I’ll stop in the interest of brevity.

Let’s get a business group started and thriving on this site! I’d like to see all of us with small businesses help one another to be the very best in whatever it is they do.


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