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Small Business

Tips from Main Street: How to achieve small business success

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While it's often multi-store brands that make headlines, 95 percent of retailers are small business owners with one store operation. So in New York next month at Retail's BIG Show, you'll see a lot of, well, big things (25,000 attendees, 450 exhibitors and headliners like Walmart's Bill Simon), there's also a featured program specifically for Main Street retailers who are looking for that competitive edge.

The small business owners featured during NRF's Main Street Retailing Forum are so wonderfully diverse that we decided to pick their brains to know a little bit more about them. Our preview profiles Amanda Kinsella of Logan Services, Inc., a local heating and air conditioning business that leverages its local charm while expanding across Ohio; Greg Bohrer of Precision Door, a purpose-driven garage door marketer; and Jen Groover of Groover Media, an entrepreneur, innovator, author who drove the Butler Bag and other brands to success and who has been called a "One-Woman Brand" by Success Magazine. Read on for their thoughts.

Greg Bohrer

Greg Bohrer, Precision Door

What do you love about the retail business?

Bohrer: Retail is so immediate, so passionate, so cutting edge. It changes constantly yet the basics remain amazingly stable.

Groover: What I truly love about retail is being able to express my own creativity to inspire and empower other people. Retail allows a distribution channel for that inspiration.

Kinsella: I love the diverse blend of people in retail–different age groups, different backgrounds. You can learn something from every person you work with because each person brings something new to the table. That keeps our thoughts fresh and our job fun.

What do you wish you had known when you started your retail career that would have made your path easier?

Greg Bohrer

Jen Groover, Groover Media

Bohrer: I wish I'd realized that no one has all the answers – that there is no one way to do things and to trust my own gut sooner.

Groover: Understanding the manufacturing world, business ethics and language of the business a little better. You often have to learn from hard knocks in order to prevent them in the future, but it's important to always have a mentor who has been successful and has already accomplished what you want to accomplish.

Kinsella: MATH! I've learned that you can't just talk your way through retail. Understanding how to analyze sales and marketing numbers is so important. If you aren't tracking your average sale, your average lead value, your marketing cost of sale, etc. – how do you expect to truly grow your business? You must have solid math skills to succeed.

In terms of competing in the retail marketplace, what are some of the unique advantages of small businesses? 

Amanda Kinsella

Amanda Kinsella, Logan Services

Bohrer: Small business creates the opportunity to wear multiple hats and see the big picture – to be in charge and see a project or concept from idea to execution and evaluation.

Groover: Smaller businesses can show their personalities a lot more. Allowing your authentic personality to shine through allows for true relationship building with customers. Small businesses have the opportunity to truly humanize a business, and that creates more customer loyalty.

Kinsella: In small business there is no glass ceiling! If you are lucky enough to work for a small business you'll see that there is no one that can hold you back or tell you that you can't do something. It will still take a lot time and effort to reach the top, but you control how successful you become by controlling your attitude and your desire. You build your own opportunities in the small business world. That is something that I have always been most grateful for.

In your experience, what's the most important thing a small business needs to master in order to succeed today?

Bohrer: Clarity of purpose. Knowing why you do what you do and working through the strategic decision making process consistently to get there.

Groover: Having the right mindset is the most critical part of business. We have control of one thing only, and that's our perspective. If you can train your brain to have a positive perspective, then you'll become solution-driven versus being complaint-driven, and that will attract more opportunity your way.

Kinsella: Know what your customers really want by listening to them. Listening is the most effective way to communicate. Again, you can't talk your way through retail. Shhh! You need to listen! Want more insights from Main Street? Explore the Main Street Retailing Forum at Retail's BIG Show, Jan. 13 to 16 in New York City.