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from a lifetime of experience starting, operating and growing businesses of my own.
Running a business is risky. It's you against the world in which you operate.
The market and the economy, regulations and competitors, galloping technology--you're sailing on an ocean full of sharks. The biggest and badest shark, however, is the market.
All things equal, it's the market that will spell success or failure for your business. The market is made up of customers, a restless bunch, always on the move.
Example: Nicole runs a gift shop. When she took over the place from an elderly aunt, the shelves were lined with knickknacks and nondescript glassware, a case of costume jewelry, displays of baskets, lamps, plaques, a wall lined with mugs and kitchenware--and greeting cards. Nicole's idea was to bring the shop in line with a more forward looking market and to transform the place into a destination that would appeal to shoppers who were more upscale. She began contacting local artists and artisans who created original pieces in silver and enamel jewelry, fiber arts, pottery, wooden ware, iron ware, artwork made from recycled materials, and original miniatures. Nicole had recognized that a new and different type of customer was walking the streets. Those who had passed by the old gift shop without a second glance now were attracted by the window displays Nicole created. Not only was she following a market trend, she was helping to create it.
You can research market trends for your industry on the Internet. But a better way is to get in tune with life going on around you. Pay attention to what people are talking about, how they react to situations, what choices they make when they spend their money.
Example: Doris saw a business opportunity long before others did. Years ago, she noticed that people, especially women, were increasingly concerned with the foods people were eating. She investigated the beginnings of a market for healthy foods, and she decided to take the plunge and establish her own small store. She avoided the big food manufacturers and distributors, opting instead to ferret out organic producers of products. Gradually, she added gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free and other specialties. She added foods imported from Europe where they seemed to be ahead of this market curve. Her customer stream was thin in the beginning, but the customers spread the word in their communities. When Doris added non-GMO foods, she held an open house with a nutritionist to explain and answer questions. She promotes her operation continuously. Since establishing that initial store, Doris has opened two additional stores in neighboring communities, and she is considering franchising the operation.
Many business owners are content to serve a fairly stable market. They relax into a routine, while the market keeps moving. This can be dangerous to the future of your business.
Staying on top of ever-changing markets is not easy. Customers follow fads and fashions in everything they do--food, clothing, phones, even the vehicles and houses they buy. You either follow the curve or you are ahead of the curve. What business you're in is up to you.
You're the closest person to your market. What did your last customer/client buy? What's the trend over the last year? When you step back and take a hard look, this can indicate where you are. Now, are you in line with the market?