Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Resetting expectations

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     Owners of small businesses generally fall into three categories. It is a reflection of human nature.

     Some are thrilled that things are going well, and they sit back to enjoy the ride. Others are so excited that they overestimate their prospects. Then, there are those in the middle--watching, evaluating, trying different things, being careful as they step into an uncertain future.

     Example: Anne always wanted to run a bakery. She opened a small operation and was pleasantly surprised that so many people stopped in. Anne was inspired to bake even more goodies. She thought more cakes and cookies would fly off the shelves. But customers drifted away and they didn't return. Anne was suddenly donating lots of baked goods to local food banks. She was at a loss as to how to proceed.

     Example: Rachel also started a bakery business. People came but Rachel wanted more. She took customers' early interest and rushed to turn it into a springboard to expand. She immediately began many postings on social media, expanded her website to include shipping, and began offering to cater events. The response overwhelmed Rachel. Her equipment could not handle the sudden new volume of orders. She didn't have employees to handle everything. Deadlines were missed, orders and shipments were not met, and testimonials turned sour. Rachel had to back off and pay more attention to growing more slowly.

     Example: Susan's bakery was different. She got the place established and began building the operation over several years. She concentrated adding more products slowly--the interest she saw in the marketplace guided her expansion. She used social media to grow her base of customers. She spotted an interest in the marketplace for brownies--shipped overnight to customers far and near. She restructured her bakery to handle anticipated volume, made arrangements for shipping, and promoted this on her website as well as social media. When growth came, Susan was ready to handle it. 

     Centuries ago, Alexander Pope wrote: "Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside." Seems like good advice in this brave new world of technological change. 

     Operating a small business means continually resetting expectations. Where you take your business is up to you. Know the market, know yourself, and know how to get where you want to go. 

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