The life of a small retail shop owner can leave you feeling a little unmoored, especially if you’ve come to it from a life in corporate America. Some tips on not going it alone. [level-members]
First and foremost, recognize that you don’t have to go it alone, and that you probably shouldn’t. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel since may others have gone before you and made mistakes so you don’t have to.
That’s not to say that you still won’t need to define which path is right for you, on everything from marketing to merchandising and staffing to inventory selection. But you can rely on others for guidance and wisdom.
Our favorite ways to do this tend to be at one end or the other of the geography spectrum – either hyper-local or completely virtual.
On the hyper-local front you’ve got neighboring businesses, local chambers of commerce, Rotary, and other clubs that attract local businesses. Depending on the size of your community you may also find more straightforward networking groups.
These groups can be an excellent place to find folks with whom you can talk shop. Chances are very few of them will be your direct competitors, and you can share rants and raves about everything from the most helpful bankers you’ve found to the best sources for finding temporary help.
Virtual networking can be powerful, as well. There are groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, for example, that cater to various industries and specialties and to small business or small retail business more generally. These are a great place to find like-minded folks who can help you and whom you can help.
The best way to find the groups that are right for you is to search them out online and spend some time lurking. By having a better sense of the community’s style before you dive in, you’ll save the embarrassment of being out of step with the norms and expectations online.
Perhaps the most important thing is to not view everything you do as merely a networking opportunity with an eye on sell, sell, selling. That invariably turns people off. If you can connect with your peers with an eye toward helping one another out, you’ll find your investment well worth the time and effort.