My husband and I have a business with no local competition in a high traffic area but building it up has been discouragingly slow and are considering selling the business. This is my husband's dream and I am excited to be supporting it and contributing so we really do not want to sell but we just don't have the financial backing to keep going as we are. Small business loans are not an option and we feel stuck.
Has anybody else been in this position? If so, what did you do you and do you regret it?
Well I wonder me being a psychic medium if I could help with no name and no picture to go by-- just your words. Hmmm, I'll give it a try.
Hold on, don't give up so fast! Just around the corner is the help you will need.
You must remain strong, have a backbone. Is what I am getting from it.
Everything will workout just fine. Don't give up so easily.
You will get what you need. Time speaks truth.
In the world of business you can't afford to be stubborn about following your traditional business model when your market changes everytime you stop your feet. I don't know your situation except what you described it sounds like you certainly have plenty of opportunities. You need to change the way you reach out to your clients. If you are creative, I wouldn't expect you to need the financing you seem to be looking for. Have you tried using social media or free local business listings?
On the other hand, if you are simply going to stop adapting to the market, you are likely to fail regardless. Even the gas station in my home town had to learn this lesson.
No I haven't been in that position, but everything points towards the need for you to take your product/service to the local people. Get out there and drum up some trade, dish out some discount vouchers on the streets. You are in a recession, 'slow growth' is better than most could expect at the moment, which is 'negative growth'. Consider taking a stall to fetes or business events, dish out some leaflets or business cards. Customers dont come to you in this climate, you have to go and find them, and it doesn't matter whether you are a sandwich shop or a stockbrocker - you have to go and find the people with cash burning a hole in their pocket.
We have been trying to get our name out there. We have given away tshirts, keyrings, magnate business cards and our standard cards are circulating. We have given gift certificates for just about every ride that comes through, especially charity rides. We have participated in what few events that are close enough for us to go to and I'm currently planning a ride/event for October to benefit domestic abuse victims. At this moment I'm trying to figure out how to look like a serious business at an event this weekend where we are going to be next to a serious competitor when I've got nothing more to put out. Here's to creativity! Word of mouth is our best advertiser, radio did nothing and the paper is only so/so. We've just about got to the end of our rope, unfortunately.
Did you actually try Internet? Keywords like "falls church VA shoe repair" or "lowdown county express catering"? Those could be a goldmine...
We have a website and a page on Facebook but nothing more than that really.
LOL. OK, post or send me what you sell and you city, county, suburb, state, village - whatever applies, the more the merrier. I'll see if I can come up with some keywords for your website. It will take a few days though.
www.chaosandspeed.com Pretty much any and all information you should need would be there or on our FB page as Chaos and Speed. And thank you for offering to help, I really appreciate it!
Sorry Chica, I could not come up with anything. Looks like nobody searches for any bike related terms connected to your area. Either there are no bikers there, or they don't use Internet. First baptist and high school don't cut it...
LOL! I think you may have just gotten an idea about where we are! Oh, I can't stop laughing! There are a LOT of churches in the area and not a whole lot more.
There are actually quite a large number of bikers in this area, street bikes, cruisers, sport bikes, and everything in between. The reason no body searches for bike related items for this area is that we are it and we're so new the word hasn't reached everybody yet. That and the fact that most people around here can only get a slow dial up connection and what we have is people resorting to going where the bigger places are. The places that can afford to advertise on multiple radio stations and have television slots and full color glossy ads in multiple papers. That's not us.
Thank you for looking for me, though. I really appreciate the time you put into trying to help me.
It is a motorcycle, dirt bike, ATV parts, service, and accesories store. Because my husband has kept his day job and he is the chief mechanic, he is only here two days a week and our service department is backed up. I'm taking courses and can wrench but I'm not qualified to make the final decisions regarding troubleshooting. My focus is on the retail end which has been slacking off lately. There is nobody in a forty-five mile radius to us that does what we do and we're right of the main highway. The problem is that we just are not getting enough paying traffic to support us. If my husband were to leave his day job and get the work done faster, we are not certain if the money will come in as fast.
How much work do you actually get in the repair part of the business? You say it is backing up and your husband can only work 2 days per week on the business, but if he did work at it 5 days a week would there be enough work to keep him busy?
What are the overheads? Are you renting the premises? What can you afford to charge clients as an hourly rate? etc.. You need to do your sums and see if this business is worth the effort (I hope you did your sums before you started)
Work out what you would earn if your husband worked 2 days / 3 days / etc and see what you need to achieve to make the money to replace his wage.
I am not sure about the states, but in the UK there are government run agencies that you can go to for free advice and help. I assume you also have a business account, ask your bank as many also offer free advice.
I run a similar business, used cars. We have one mechanic full time but we still have more work then we can handle and often refer customers to other local shops, they return the favor when someone brings them a car that is not worth fixing.
Do you sell used as well as new?
Craigslist works great for me on my used cars, not exactly sure how effective it would be for new. Best thing is craigslist is free.
We do not have a very large advertising budget so we buy line ads in the classifieds, around $400.00 per month.
Sponsor customers that are involved in competition, give them a discount to add your company's name to their bike.
Offer birddogs (money) to anyone who brings you a buying customer.
I hope some of this can be helpful.
This is helpful, actually. I have been toying with the idea of craigslist for a while now but wasn't sure. We are not yet large enough to sell new, only used.
We have been considering hitting the nearest track to see who we'd like to sponsor. We have a regular customer who has been with us since our garage beginings at the flea market and races frequently and has asked us to sponsor him. We've given him stickers and such and he gets discounts with us but he really isn't the personality type that we want representing us. Additionally, we have discovered that when others have asked him who has done the impressive job on tweaking his bike-he won't tell them! I'm all for customer loyalty but we can't have one customer think he's going to hog us and redirect potential business away.
As for birdogs, we do that! We don't advertise that we do that but we have given discounts to customers after being told they recommended us. Without our customers, we have no business and we believe customer service is our number one priority.
Try diversifying what you can service also - how about lawnmowers, mobility scooters, etc...
Do you have extra space in your workshop, rent out the space like renting out a seat in a barber shop..
Okay, first off, we have had to turn away repairs for lack of having either the mechanic on site or the product on the shelf. Because people are looking to save money, they are repairing what they have instead of buying new. Additionally, because there is nobody closer, a lot of people are dragging that dust-covered bike out of the garage where it's been for 2+ years.
The overhead is relatively high. What we are bringing in right now is just enough to cover overhead and very little more. We are leasing-to-own. When we ran the numbers, we based it off a steady increase based on what we had done the first six months of moving into town. That has not happened. We still get new customers every week but more often than not it is somebody walking through to see what we have and walking back out, usually with a business card and a smile and a promise to come back. Eventually.
I am actually making an appointment to see our local small business center shortly to see if there are other options available to us.
As far as diversifying, we considered that briefly then discarded it just as fast. There are loads of small engine repair shops around that specialize in the lawn mowers and such and we don't need to take away their business. We have taken on the occasional scooter or golf-cart but most of the time we stay away if only for lack of ability to get the parts at cost.
As far as workspace, there could be enough room for an additional lift but finding a qualified mechanic to fill that space would be tough. We have found that trust is a hard thing to come by in these parts and integrity of work ethic even harder. We do not want to put ourselves and the business in a position to be stolen from or damaged in any way (even by reputation) as the result of somebody else's carelessness. It simply is not a risk we are willing to take.
Another thought. When you turn away any business (repairs, parts etc..), refer the customer to someone else local (as possible). Tell them once they get there to say Chaotic Chica said to take care of you. Name dropping helps mon & pop businesses thrive, and you might eventually see people being referred to you as well. Even people who just walk in and look at something. If it's around lunch you might say, "If you folks are hungry (insert local restaurant name here) has great barbecue for a good price. If you decide to go, just tell them Chaotic from CC said to take care of you."
We think alike! We have a good working relationship with a couple of shops that are, unfortunately, out of town a ways. There are two shops closer but we haven't had to say anything about them as we've had more than one customer come FROM them, unhappy with their service. The upside to one particular contact we have is that he is also small and has a very strong dislike for metrics so he sends them all our way. We don't mind Harley's and work with them as much as possible but if we've got a customer who is very specific about having a place that caters just to HD's, we send them on up with a smile and a good word.
We were sending people up to a new barbeque joint just down the road a bit and even dropped their name in our radio ad refferencing location but stopped when it became clear this was a one way street. Our community is small and rural and thrives off of word-of-mouth so we recommend the locals as much as possible. It has been working to a certain degree. The only problem is that, around here, most people don't know me by my name or my nickname, they know me as my husband's wife! LOL Everybody, just about, knows him!
You should offer shopping online, but it will be a challenge because you started off as a brick and mortar. If you already have e-bay and amazon codes some of the work is already done.
Actually we do have the ability, I think, through our website. It has been done before as our distributors offer us the ability to drop ship for no additional charge. Now that you mention it, though, I am not sure that we have made that ability clear and I need to rectify that asap! We have PayPal for the business and have a credit card merchant account for that purpose as well. Thank you for reminding me of this feature-I do believe I need to get to work on making this method more effective, easier to access, and more well known!
okay-I just took a hop over to our site and one can browse through the catalogs we offer but there seems to be a problem in locating us a dealer and there seems to be no way to actually order without calling us. Not that we have a problem with taking an order over the phone but that is not the idea. It is not easy for the customer and certainly something I need to figure out how to fix. Thank you so much, ediggity, for opening my eyes to this!
Additionally, I would try to make it easier than catalog shopping. Remember, the customer may or may not know what they what. What do you care? You just want them to buy something. Take a look at some reputable auto/cycle/part dealer websites, and model your site after theirs. They pay big bucks for someone to design an efficient low maintenance website. Don't try to revolutionize the online shopping experience, just go with what works, and price to sell.
I have one thought for you. Have you tried calling SBA Score? They offer free consulting help. I tried them and it is hit and miss, depending on the person you get on the other end. Usually it is a retired business owner. I needed a lot of help when I first bought my business (I also had an unusual situation because of issues with the seller, violation of non competes, etc).
CC, if your overhead is high then you need to increase the work being done, either your husband has to work there full time or you take on a part time mechanic to help out, some contribution is better than none..
You need to do the sums and see what you need to do..
Glad to see that you're getting involved in meets and such, as community involvement is crucial for a small business to get the word out. It may seem counter-intuitive, but don't limit your exposure to the "motorcycle" set. I bet that most of them already know how to handle a wrench. You might want to consider getting involved in any Varnville/Hampton events that you can, even if it's only to do some volunteer work at them in exchange for a banner. You need to reach the mechanically-challenged motorcycle owners. You know who I mean--the family man with 2.5 children, the wife and the dog who "gets away from it all" on the weekend by taking out his Harley.
Love that you're thinking of opening an online store. Just remember that people are spending their dollars in this economy--they're just looking to get more for them than they ever were before.
Yes, I know who you mean! We have already become a Team for our local Relay for Life chapter and we are going to be jumping on the Watermelon Festival committee this year. We do want to prove our dedication to the community! As I write this, I am also working on organizing my first 'event/ride' to benefit victims of domestic violence in our county. This county does not have a shelter or crisis center and I want to get one started. We have no problems using our business name and services to benefit a good local cause. I am always up for new ideas and yours is just up my alley! I'm trying to pull from my time as a public affairs assistant here (we're going back a few years). This is great advice and I will be following it!
Your business is your baby, if you hold on to it long enough it might grow up one day. Just hold on to it.
Thank you. After some considerable thought and lots and lots of talk, I believe that we are going to do our best to suffer through this pessimistic rough patch and try to see it through. We realize that we have a LOT of changes to make to get there, though.
Hi Chaotic, I just took a quick glance at your website. Have you thought about a testimonials page? Post some letters that satisfied customers have sent you so that people who visit your sight have an idea of what the business is like and what your customers like about it. I like reading testimonials because it gives me an idea of what kind of people run the business and whether I want to bring my business to them.
Just a thought.
I am a business owner and I know how hard it is to remain in business these days. I know a lot of people here are offering good advice. I do believe that your type of business is one that will need to gain good faith. People who frequent your shop are going to be the majority of the business that you have.
Here is what I would do. First is there a similar shop in another town? If there is go there arn talk to the proprieter. See what he or she is doing right or wrong.
How long have you been in business? This question may seem like it does not matter. I have been in business for over 10 years. I have seen many businesses come and go. Many have had great ideas and would have been very successful businesses but the people did not give enough time to develop their business. Now, I have no idea how long your business has been established but quite often businesses will take 5 to 7 years before they starts to gel. This is real tough for many people because they expect instant success. It does not happen. First it takes a long time to learn to be a business person and second it takes time to build up good faith.
I don't know how long you have been in business but I wanted to offer the time line because many people think that in a year or 2 they can get a business going well. I would say stick with it and keep pushing and try to find other successful businesses that are similar to yours and find out what makes them successful.
Thank you for the honest approach. The business itself was established in 2004 but was relocated (another state) in 2007 where we were in a poor location that was out of sight, out of mind. We only moved into town last November. I guess we got our hopes up because in the first three weeks, we tripled our retail sales and that stayed steady or increased until we moved to a larger location next door. Our other source of hope was based in how well the business did in it's original location. Of course the demographics were completely different and my husband's reputation preceeded him. Here, we've had to start all over, including proving his mechanical reputation.
This mights sound a little heartless, but if you are on the edge then I would definitely pick your charities.
Domestic abuse is most definitely a worthwhile cause from a personal perspective, but are victims of such abuse going to run out and buy a dirt bike in the near future?
Unfortunately I have very little experience with teh kind of situation you are dealing with, my advice would be to tough it out though. When the economy picks up a little hopefully things will get a little better.
I would definitely agree with trying to sell parts on eBay, I know a guy who used to buy cars, just to take them apart and sell off the pieces bit by bit!
I'm glad you brought this up, Oli. It's not necessarily about the people who are benefiting from the charity. It's the folks who are running the charities and donating to them and following them that she needs to reach.
And CC, make sure that you get photos and then get in touch with local newspaper reporters about all that you are doing. The wealthier the citizen (read: disposable income), the more likely they are to be involved in community charities and reading the local paper.
thisisoli, I see and appreciate your point. Yes, this is a cause that is close to my heart so I do take it personally. That being said, I know a great deal of bikers who will not tolerate domestic abuse and will rally for the cause. Additionally, my mother also found herself in that situation (twice) and both times it was a motorycycle that saved her. In the first, it was the vehicle she used to escape (she put me on the back and left it at the bus station on our way out of town) and in the second, it was what she used to get her sense of freedom back. Perhaps my family isn't "normal", but it's what I know and I believe the two world can mesh nicely.
Adding to what Irohner said, it's also a cause that those who can afford to help, do. And I agree with the paper aspect. I'm not one for tooting my own horn, I tend to shy away from the spotlight, but I understand that if I'm going to draw attention to what we are supporting, the light also falls on us. There are a few papers in the area and we have a great relationship with one and I'm working on building relations with the others. In fact, I have been told that the one that we do business with regularly has been slipping us some freebie air time and dropping our name on a local radio station he also works for. It's a pretty cool thing. He hasn't told us he's done this but our customers ratted him out.
I checked your website and a few of the things I noticed, is one you feel like a mail order catalog instead of an actual brick and mortar business. Perhaps a photo of your physical location with you and your husband would work on the home page. My only choices are to click on catalog links. Once I do that there is no link to return me to your home page. So if I pick an item from the catalog, there is no way to order and now I have to hit the back button how many times to get back to your home page just to find your phone number. Or, I get frustrated, go to a search engine, type in the part I'm interested in and someone else gets the business. Also, is the snow mobile catalog worth showing in Varnville, SC?
As for drumming up new business. Considering the type of business you are in, check into your local ABATE chapter.(American Bikers Active Toward Education). Are there any "biker bars" in your area. I DJ on the weekends at a bar and grill where members of the biker community gather to sing karaoke, eat and drink. Join biker/atv social sites. One that comes to mind is BikerorNot.com you can meet motorcycle owners in your area, learn about upcoming events, and advertise your products and services.
Good luck with everything.
Thank you very much for the feedback! I had not realized the problems facing our catalog system until the other day and I see what you mean. I'm calling in a favor from an old friend who does website design work for a living now and seeing how we can try to fix that. In regards to the snowmobile catalog, I questioned that myself but my husband's theory was that this was online and anybody could view it, including numerous people we know in colder climates. Considering we got business from a shop in New York the theory does hold water.
We have finally just gotten in touch with the local ABATE chapter who found us via Facebook so we're happy about that. I will check into the BikeorNot website, I had not known about it before. Thanks for the tip! You have been a big help.
There is a Fried Green Tomato festival at the place I DJ on Saturday. It is in Beech Island, which is only an hour and half from you. Proceeds go to Make a Wish Foundation. They have a bike and car show. Hundresds of people come from all over to this annual event. May be worth it to come network or set up a booth with information about your business. It is last minute, so if nothing else mark it on your calendar for next year. Here is a link for the festival so you can get more information if you are interested. http://www.ironhorsebarandgrill.net/Festival.html
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