From Black Friday, to Small Business Saturday, to “Cyber Monday,” (hopefully) millions of Americans are making a special and very smart point to include small retailers in their holiday shopping this season.
As a small business owner, I support the nationwide rally around small businesses. True, as a boutique consultancy, Dorsey & Company may not benefit from all of the love poured into small retailers this weekend, but I support the spirit around the effort.
Like accountants, attorneys, architects and other small professional services providers, we understand small firms like would appear to present a challenge to large institutions who would be procuring our services. Simply put: small firms are more work to engage. So, most usually resort to working with the “usual suspect” vendors.
On the other hand, the choice to shop small may not be such a burden for consumers supporting my small retail and brick-and-mortar counterparts. That’s partly because the small retailer can provide personal service big retailers can only dream of delivering
So, this Small Business Saturday and holiday shopping season, I salute you dedicated makers, bakers and shopkeepers otherwise who have undoubtedly sacrificed much time and treasure to start (and keep) your enterprises. Shameless plug: speaking of makers, the handsome fellow in the photograph happens to be my son, Julius C. Dorsey III, artisan and owner of Chicago Fire Furniture, selected Best of Chicago 2019 by Chicago Magazine. Search for him on Instagram @firefurniture.
In honor of him and other small business operators, I offer a few thoughts to consider today and through the holiday shopping season.
You can’t be them; they can’t be you. It may sound self-explanatory, but it’s SO true! Small Business Saturday and the holiday shopping season create the perfect opportunity for small retailers to tell the world what sets them apart from the bigs. In other words, brag about yourself and what makes you and your people so special.
Execution is EVERYTHING! No matter how much your customers love and support you, you still have to initiate conversation, hear your customers’ needs and fulfill your promise. How do you do this? Emphasize what you do REALLY well, do it – and ask your customers to tell their friends how wonderfully you did it.
Digital tools: the great equalizers. Today’s small retailers have great advantages that their predecessors just a couple decades ago didn’t have: a vast array of digital tools to add to the services that only a smaller retailer can provide. Options abound in advertising, point-of-sale, inventory, customer data, customer loyalty, security and other digital methods to improve the customer experience. If you haven’t already done so, seek recommendations for options that work for your business from any number of software vendors.
‘Rep’ your neighborhood. Be proud of your community and where you operate. When appropriate and fitting, cross-promote with a local complementary business – showcasing the unique wares and services offered by you both. We’ve counseled clients on an array of ways to cross promote, and the results have been lasting and impactful. And don’t forget: you offer a location advantage to your neighbors that big retailers can’t – – so don’t overlook prospects who live nearby.
After running Dorsey & Company for 32 years, I know that owning a small business – especially when you’re up against larger, seemingly better resourced competitors – has its challenges. Like many of you, I happen to love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
To all of us making “small” work in big ways, congratulations for sticking in there and best wishes for a prosperous holiday shopping season!