As small business owners, we all know other small business owners. We have an affinity and sense of understanding each other and I think, a desire to help each other. We get the trials and tribulations in a unique way. With close to two million small businesses in the country, there’s a lot of us. So how good are we at helping each other and supporting each other? Imagine if we actually ramped that up in more practical and truly supportive ways.
Right now most businesses are looking for ways to generate more business. Things are going to get even more serious in September with the potential end of jobseeker, or at the very least a major reduction in the programme. We need to get better at helping to support each other and I think there are ways we can do this.
I see a lot of signs up saying “we are open”. That’s great and a good first step, but we can individually do a lot more. As small business owners, we are not good at asking for help, we are programmed to say everything is fine, when clearly it’s not. So I’ve got a few recommendations and thoughts on how we can really help each. As I mentioned earlier, we all know other small business owners. Try some of these ideas on the business owners you know or interact with on a regular basis:
1. The most obvious one – buy from other small businesses first.
I know we all get this, but are we actually doing it? It’s easy to forget for the sake of convenience, or simply the fact that we are busier. I’m making a point of buying from small cafes, food places in general, I’m shopping at my local market to buy from small vendors and I’m being very considered about what I’m buying online.
For example, I’m a big buyer of books, I buy my books from Booktopia as often as I can – hardly a small business I know, but an Australian owned family business, that supports a huge number of other Australian small businesses. I buy online from smaller Australian producers for everything from honey to dog treats. And the quality of the products is incredible.
This is a way we can make a difference daily – imagine the collective difference this could make every day to hundreds of thousands of small business owners around the country.
2. Take the time to find out what a business actually sells.
We’ve all got friends who own small businesses, but do you really know what they sell? We might have an idea, but do we know the specifics? Sure, for some businesses it’s pretty obvious, you own a car wash, you clean cars for people, but do you really know all of the extra services that they offer, their competitive advantages, even their history? Probably not.
The more we know about a business the more we can actually help them. This is a simple conversation. I spoke about shopping at my local market in the previous point, I’m slowly getting to know all of the vendors, their stories and what their most profitable lines are. I’ve got a market full of friends now and I want to support them (buy from the Prahran Markets).
3. Find out who their ideal customers are?
Anyone who has done any kind of business training either formally or with a coach will be asked who their ideal customers actually are at some stage. We need to know this for our own business, but if we want to help other small business owners, it’s great if we know what this looks like for them. And the best way to find out is to ask them.
Now they might not be able to answer that right now, their market may have shifted or their product offering may have shifted, so try to get as close as you can to finding out the type of customer that a business knows is right in the middle of their sweet spot.
4. Ask other business owners what they need right now?
There is a nebulous kind of statement saying support small business owners. But what does that mean? We all want more customers and more business in tough times. But is that enough? Is it clear? Is it specific? Ask your small business owner friends what kind of business they actually want now? What are the best products and services to recommend? What will help them the most?
5. What is the best way to refer them?
We all know about referrals, but how good are you at giving them? Ask your business owner friends what’s the best way to refer new customers to them, by an email introduction, by phone, just tell them to go in, visit the website? What? I do know that the more personal the referral the more likely it is to work.
6. Let them know how you like to refer.
I hate doing bad referrals. What I mean by this is sending a dodgy customer to a good business. If I refer someone to you, they are a potential customer and ideally a good one. My reputation is built on referrals just as much as it is on the work I do. So do your utmost to develop a reputation as someone who does clean, solid, quality referrals.
7. Do shout outs on your social media.
I don’t do enough of this and it’s certainly something I’m going to do more of. Take a pic, post it on social media and say something positive and specific about the business. We all want people to do this for us but do we do it for others? The best way to get referrals is to give referrals.
Acknowledge those small businesses who are good at what they do and do it publicly. Imagine how much more business could be generated just by doing this?
8. Be a proactive referrer not a passive referrer
Try and make at least one good referral to a fellow small business owner every single day. It doesn’t matter what the business is, but consciously set that goal. Ideally set a bigger one, but if we all actively referred at least one small business daily, the impact would be incredible. Make this an item on your daily to do list – “refer one small business today”.
9. Share information with other small business owners.
There is a lot going on out there at the moment in terms of grants and government support. But a lot of businesses won’t take advantage of these because like most things governmentish, they tend to be overly complicated and difficult. But in all fairness, that has gotten much better with the COVID19 assistance around the country. Let your friends in small business now about grants and assistance. Help them to apply if that is a challenge for them. This is real support.
10. Say thank you to every small business owner you can.
A lot of our small business brethren have lost a lot in the past few months. They have dealt with all kinds of tough decisions, hardship and uncertainty, just to feed their families and to get their products and services into the hands of their customers. How do you feel towards your customers? A sense of responsibility and care? A strong desire to help them and be there for them? Don’t think the coffee shop owner is any different.
It’s not just the money. It rarely is in business. Take the time to look a small business owner in the eye and say thank you for being there for me. Thank you for all that you do. The road ahead is uncertain, sometimes a few simple words can give someone a much needed boost to keep going. Appreciate your small businesses – one day they might not be there.
My last pieces of advice is that this overall concept is really about intent. We are all busy, we are all facing some uncertainty now and into the future. But if we stop for a second, look through my list above and make a commitment to help other small businesses, we can actually make a significant difference.
But it’s not a one-off thing. Or something we can do next week. It’s something that we need to do on a daily basis and it will only happen with considered and conscious effort, and a commitment to help and support each other.
Small steps can have a big impact on small business.