Monday, October 25, 2010

What “First Impression” Does Your Business Make?

imageThis article was written by Barry McKinley, SCORE Management Counselor

There is now a top rated TV show on hoarding! Hoarders are people who live in houses they can hardly move through. Most of us don’t fall in that category but many of our businesses do!

I recently visited a friend’s business and he greeted me in the parking lot wearing a nice tailored and pressed suit. I then entered his business. What a mess! There were stacks of papers everywhere, dust on shelves, merchandise in no order piled on the floor, desks and tables. All I could think about is how quickly I could get out of this mess! Not surprisingly he told me business was terrible! Gee wonder why?

Keep in mind when you meet a new person they form an opinion of you within the first 15-30 seconds based on your dress and attitude. Your business is no different!

Look at your business from a customer’s standpoint. Does it look organized everywhere and dust free? Is everything clean including the restrooms? Gas stations learned years ago that a sign “Clean Restrooms” brought in travelers who gassed up and bought food and drinks. Are all the inventory items clearly marked with pricing with attractive displays that are appealing and help to sell merchandise?

My printer (former Printer now) did a great job BUT was always late by a day or two. I learned to lie on the due day for the job to accommodate their lateness. Every time I went into their office they had printing jobs piled everywhere, there didn’t seem to be an organization to their shop. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and switched printers. It was tough to do because I really like them personally but I could not count on them. I certainly wasn’t a big customer probably 2K a month but you have 5-10 customers like that and you lose enough of them it hurts. Unfortunately, after 15 years in business they closed, not because of the economy but because they lost so much business to their competitors. Sometimes Business Owners forget without customers you don’t have a business.

How much dead inventory do you have sitting on your shelves or in your warehouse or showroom? Many business owners can’t bring themselves to sell inventory at or below their cost so they elect to sit on it…forever. I remember a client’s store that had a large piece of inventory that was unused but at least 10 years old and very outdated. I asked the owner why he kept it and he told me someday a customer would come in and want it! I think he stood a better chance of having pigs fly through his showroom. Don’t fall in love with dead inventory. If you can’t sell something discount it until you do. Convert dead inventory into cash which you can then convert into saleable inventory that will make you money. Every business owner sometimes finds himself with old inventory that doesn’t sell. Don’t compound that mistake by keeping it or “holding out for your price”. Remember, dead inventory takes up room but even more important sends the message to your customers your business is not current with the times. Perhaps some of this dead inventory can be sold easily by giving your employees product training and paying extra incentives or commissions. Clean up the merchandise, make an attractive display, perhaps offer it at 50% off when another product in your store is purchased. Customers love bargains!

While you are doing this “Fall Cleaning” now is the time to throw a fresh coat of paint on the walls, clean up your signage, straighten up the counters, organize your files, and get rid of old obsolete displays etc. It is amazing what you can do with $300 in making your store clean and appealing. Remember if you don’t you competitors will!