As we start the new year, it is a good time to do some thinking about your business and how you can improve it this year.
Do You Have A Purpose?
Why are you open? What is your store supposed to do? If you don't have a purpose, there is no way that your store can really grow well.
- Create a mission statement.
- Make sure it is written down so you can refer to it whenever you forget why you keep coming to work every day.
- Make sure that all of your employees know what it is and, most importantly, that they understand it and agree with it.
- Once you have a mission statement, make sure you follow it. If you don't follow it, it's either time to close up shop or reassess why you are open.
Organize Your Store
When a new customer walks in the store is it possible for him to find things? When you need to find a product in your store, can you? Imagine trying to use a phone book that wasn't alphabetical or navigate through a city without any street signs. I'll bet that you wouldn't even try. Your store is the same way. If customers can't find your products, they aren't going to buy and might not come back.
- Label your store sections with attractive signs that can be read from any part of the store.
- Organize your product sections: Divide up your books by topic. Put your saint jewelry in one place.
- Find your important business papers (licenses, tax forms, employee records, etc.) and keep them in an organized, fire proof place.
Clean Your Store
Your customers are used to shopping at Barnes and Noble and department stores that are regularly cleaned. You should provide them with the same experience. A dusty store tells people that there isn't much care taken by the owner and that the owner doesn't really care about the customers.
- Vacuum your store every week.
- Dust your shelves regularly.
- Clean your storefront windows.
- Make sure the bathrooms are kept clean and stocked.
Light Up Your Store
Unless your store is an art gallery or a romantic restaurant, customers expect a brightly lit establishment where they can see the merchandise. Psychologically, spotlights on a product make the product look more valuable. Jewelry needs better lighting so people can see detail.
- Make sure all of your fluorescent lights are working properly.
- If you can afford to, put in some small track lights over your jewelry cases and if possible, along the walls where you hang art. It makes the store look a little more like an upscale establishment.
Check Your Pricing
If you aren't keeping up with your vendors' price changes, large amounts of money could be sucked out of your business by short margins. This is especially the case with your jewelry and church goods vendors. That $800 chalice you just ordered for a priest? It now retails for $1100 and you just lost $300 in profit because you haven't updated your prices in two years.
- Every time you get a new catalog or price list, set aside the time to review your prices. The time you take will be well worth it.
- Make sure that the prices you are setting are high enough to give you a profit but not so high that you are gouging the customers. This is a fine line to walk but remember that the first order of business when running a business is to stay in business.
Keep Your Store Fresh
Every time you walk by a department store, the displays and signs have changed. This lets you know that the store is alive and that new things are being offered. What does your store say? When was the last time you thought about taking that sun-faded poster out of your front window? Has that statue of the Divine Mercy been in the front window for Divine Mercy Sunday for two years?
- Take a look at your front window. If the posters there are more than a month old and aren't still drawing people in, change them.
- Make sure that when you get new catalogs you look for new products that you can put in the front of your store.
- If a customer comes in looking for a new item, have a plan in place for finding out about new items on the spot. Get Internet access at your store and learn how to search for books on Amazon. You can get all the information you need about almost any book right there.
- Rotate your displays for not only big events like First Communions and Christmas but also for things like Divine Mercy Sunday and various saint feasts.
Promote Your Store
If no one knows your store is there, it won't last. Of course you advertise in the phone book and on parish bulletins, but what else are you doing?
- Hold book fairs at parishes.
- Meet with your bishop.
- Meet with your Catholic school principals.
- Advertise on local Catholic radio. It is usually very cheap.
- Take displays to local conferences.
Make Sure That Your Business Has An Evangelizing Outlook With Business Sense
I assume that all of you are in business to spread the Faith. I also assume that all of you would like your businesses to last. What are you doing to further those two goals?
- Make sure your business is known beyond your front doors.
- Send press releases to your local paper.
- Put your store information on your vehicle.
- Do book fairs at parishes.
- Write articles for and letters to your local diocesan paper.
- Think like a business man. Eventually you are going to want to retire. Would someone else want to step up to the plate to take over your business? If the answer is no, you need to start fixing things now.
- Write procedure manuals. If you end up out sick or worse, in the hospital, someone else has to run the store and it sure would be nice for them to know how.
- Buy a file cabinet and use it.
- Either get an accountant or start using accounting software.
- If your inventory and point of sale system aren't computerized, it's time. The efficiency you gain and information that most computer systems can give you about bestselling books and tracking customers is worth the time and fear involved in getting set up.
Get A Mentor
Unless you are an accountant, marketing expert, salesman, buyer, fulfillment expert, tax preparer, spiritual advisor, handyman, etc., you are going to need help. To be successful you don't have to be brilliant, you just have to be smart enough to realize when you aren't the expert and then find people who can bring you success. If you want your business to be truly successful I recommend hiring a business coach.
Find someone who knows about business who doesn't work for you and who isn't afraid to be brutally honest about your business. It can hurt your pride but if you are willing to listen, the gains are incredible.
As the owner, you need to find time to work ON your business instead of IN your business. You can't always be answering the phone and handling the day-to-day operations if you want the business to grow. You need time to get your head above the daily roar of the business to look ahead and plan for the future.
I hope that these ten things will help you move your business forward in the new year. If you have any questions about any of these things or about your web storefront, please send me an email (webmaster AT aquinasandmore dotcom) I try to respond within a couple of days.
Ian Rutherford, president, Aquinas and More Catholic Goods
Rebuilding Catholic culture, one soul at a time.
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