Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.
Email her to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How firstname.lastname@example.org.
I run a small pharmacy in Brooklyn that has been in business for over 50 years. With the recent developments in Brooklyn, I’ve seen an influx of much larger institutions and fear that my business may not be able to survive the next ten years with so much competition. We’ve never been in this position before, and I wonder if there is any advice you can give me about how I can secure my position in the market place.
This sounds like a classic David and Goliath scenario, and I’m sure other small businesses can relate. As small business owners, we are quick to look at chains and larger corporations as the enemy and blame them for our own decline. And yes, while there are advantages to being a larger institution, it’s not okay to assign blame and not take responsibility for your own success.
When we start a business, we typically have a strong vision of what our business will be. And, often times, we find success with that original vision and our business coasts for many years. But, because we have existed for so long, we fail to recognize that the world around us is changing, and we may start to experience a slow decline that if ignored, eventually gains momentum and totally wipes out our entire business.
The most successful businesses are always a marriage between what our vision is and what the customer demands. Even though we may feel very passionate about our vision, we cannot ignore the need we are trying to fill.
It sounds to me like you may need to take some time to re-evaluate your changing customer demographic. It’s possible that with so much development in your area, the residents are changing as well. Make sure you are now meeting their needs and not holding onto a model that doesn’t serve the new members of your community. Make an effort to understand who they are and how you can serve them.
Once you understand this new customer base, you may need to look at what type of products you are selling and re-evaluate your buying process. You may find that you are not stocking your pharmacy with products they need that are available at the larger chain.
I would look at your marketing strategy. The foundation of marketing is education. Are you reaching the new members of the community and educating them on what it is you offer? Take time to develop your message and be proactive about getting your message out into the community.
Finally, make sure that you are offering the best possible customer service. Consumers aren’t always looking for a lower price; they’re often looking for a better experience. Be sure you are building relationships with people who are coming into your pharmacy and embrace the changing demographic.
Congratulations with all of the success you’ve had in the past 50 years and may you have another 50+ years ahead of you. Take time now to plan and evolve with the world around you. Stay relevant and embrace change and you’ll be much more likely to succeed.