Six Tips from the Best in the Business

May 2, 2016

Last week, the Business Journals interviewed 11 of the top small business owners and asked them for tips for success in running a successful company.

These business owners were honored as last year’s Small Business Persons of the Year in their respective areas.  While their businesses may differ from an operation like a nonprofit retail store, it is easy to apply much of their advice to all types of operations. Let’s see how we can adapt their ideas to boost your museum and institutional stores.

1) Don’t Manage Your Employees–  One of the prevailing bits of advice was the concept of building a team or family, rather than just hiring employees.  Paula Klein from North Dakota said, “the word ‘managing’ employees- I don’t know if you can do that. I think you can engage, inspire, excite… Especially in a small business, we all need to be just so excited to come to work, then you don’t really have to manage them because they’re looking for the same outcome you’re looking for… If you get that kind of buy-in, there’s not a lot of management you really need to do.”

Another SBA honoree, Jeanette King, said, “…we treat our employees like family.  I can tell you something about all the employees we have.”  She maintains that type of relationship helps build loyalty because the employees feel like they’re really part of a team.

Over and over again, these business people reinforced the need for building relationships with your employees.  Their advice was to hire people who can make a difference and not just fill a position.

2) Have a Mission–  It’s important to do more than just open the doors of your store.  You need to have a mission.  Obviously, in the museum store business part of your mission is to sell stuff.  But in a successful operation, your mission has to be more dialed-in.  You need to define a successful operation as part of your mission statement.  Everything should be considered, including customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, growth, integrity and performance.  Put your mission statement on paper and refer to it often, particularly when you’re hiring employees.  Make sure they understand that they will have a hand in accomplishing that mission a daily basis.

3) Be Flexible-  Patrick Nauman, the owner of Weiser Classic Candy in Idaho says that his single best piece of advice to other business owners is to be flexible.  “We all have plans, goals, and ideas of exactly how our days, weeks, months, and years should go, but usually external forces have other ideas. You have to be flexible with every day and every goal that you set – as long as you reach your end goal, how you get there is really unimportant.”

Flexibility is an important trait in all aspects of your business, whether it’s scheduling employees or managing your inventory. Don’t lose a good employee simply because they need Saturdays off.  Successful owners and managers have learned to anticipate and adapt as business changes.  One advantage, if you have a small operation is you can move quickly within your marketplace.

4) Think Locally-  Every business is about building relationships.  Don’t forget that many of your relationships are outside of your immediate environment. You need to consider strategic partnerships with local businesses and individuals.  How can you work together to create a mutually beneficial relationship?  Consider building relationships with local restaurants, book stores, organizations, your vendors, and even your bank.

5) Bring the Passion–  Maine’s 2015 Small Business Person of the Year, Heidi Neil describes the need for passion.  “You have to love what you do and have a passion for it.  Customers will see the passion and become trusting advocates for your brand.”

Obviously, it’s difficult to motivate your employees if they get the feeling that you’re just going through the motions.  We’ve talked about not trying to manage your employees, but to rather engage, excite, and inspire.  One of the best ways to accomplish that is to let your own passion for your business become infectious for the rest of your team.

6) Become Customer Focused–  The advice from Sophia Parker, the CEO of DS Federal Inc. is to…” Always remember to do was best for your customer, and to value your commitments.” The messages is reiterated by Regina Broudy, the head of Clayton Kendall Inc, “… Do everything you can for the customer.”  Her attitude is that, …”we’ll make it happen… whatever it is.”

It’s easy to see that many businesses use common practices.  Every successful business is built on a solid foundation that incorporates tried-and-true standards for achieving their long-term goals.  Your operation can always benefit when you borrow an idea from the best in business.

Steve White is a successful writer and entrepreneur in Denver.


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