Prepare To Depart for the Unknown
Here we are at the beginning of another year, an appropriate time to
wonder what the business climate may be in the months ahead. We hear mixed
signals as usual. But overall, the prognosis is favorable.
Interest rates are down. The Consumer Confidence Index is up. The stock
market is, well, who knows? A couple of things we do know: (1) there are
a lot of unknowns and (2) whatever the economy has in store, we'll have
to live with it. But take comfort in the fact you can do a great deal now
to prepare for success in the months ahead.
Here, in capsule form, are a few "to do" items you might consider
to get your business in shape before you have to deal with the unknowns.
- Give your business a reality check, starting with your business plan.
Chances are it needs to be updated to reflect changes in your trading area,
customer base, competition. Enter your 1999 goals and review long-range
objectives. Once you've brought the plan up to date, distribute copies
for discussion with your employees. The more they know of your objectives,
the more they'll be dedicated to your (and their) success.
- Take a dispassionate look at your inventory. Is it turning at a profitable
rate? Are there "dogs" that need to be closed out? Does your
merchandise mix satisfy your market? Should you add new styles to attract
a broader clientele? Do you offer enough price points to attract a broad
base of customers and give them an opportunity to trade up?
- Take a close look at your image. What about your furnishings, fixtures,
window displays, promotions, advertising? Do they convey quality?
- Take a new look at your staff members. Are their appearance and demeanor
in context with your company image? Do they have the product knowledge
your customers expect? Are they properly rewarded for their ability? Do
they work well together? Do customers view them with confidence and trust?
Are they passionate about what they sell?
- Take a look at your management style. Do you lead by example in appearance,
knowledge, dedication, and character? Do you encourage input from customers,
vendors and employees? Do you communicate consistently and share information
with all employees? Do you give credit quickly and openly to deserving
staff members? Do you build on your knowledge and skills by reading publications
and by attending conferences, seminars, etc.?
Once you've updated your business plan and evaluated these points, you
should be ready to make some critical decisions. You may even decide it's
time to reinvent your business, expand your horizons or take some new risks
that will stir up your competitors and impress your customers. Do today
whatever it takes to put you in good shape for tomorrow.
Above all, enjoy what you do. As one savvy retailer once said to me:
"running a business shouldn't be something you do to live, but something
you live to do."
Happy New Year!
by Charles Bond
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.