|Guess we should have checked before coming!|
Small businesses are the back bone to our nation’s economy. But old-school business models are no longer cutting it when small businesses face unexpected changes. These changes could be large scale, affecting their industry or even the nation. They can also be local and specific to their individual business.
Savvy business owners are often aware of the changes that can affect their business directly and plan for events such as vendor loss, product shortages and staff leaving. But changes in regulations, economic conditions and even industry innovations can cause major headaches to small business owners.
Here are the five things agile business owners should keep their eyes on:
1. Demographics: Many businesses depend on particular demographics of their customers. A fashion shop catering to young women may see major changes in business with the opening or closing of a nearby school. Identifying future shifts may suggest a test of new products more appealing to emerging market. An ethnic restaurant located in a populated area may see a turnover of local home owners. Changing the menu around may give insight as to whether the new patrons have different preferences. Alternatively, the business owner may need to consider relocating. Try to be aware of changes and how they may affect your business.
2. Traffic patterns: Traffic comes to businesses in many forms. Walk-in, drive-by, and referrals are a few examples. Some locations have a high degree of walk-in traffic resulting from nearby activities. Closure of one or more nearby businesses may alter your walk-in business or businesses replacing outgoing shops alter local demographics. Many years ago, small towns lost their shops as they moved to larger malls causing difficulty for those that remained in towns. There has been a shift to revitalize certain areas by bringing back business that attracts customers. These shifting trends must be considered by any owner. By the way, a simple change in the roads can shift drive-by customers visiting because they see signage and come to the shop.
3. Economy & Safety: People tend to buy more retail goods and dine out more when they feel their economics and safety are solid. Few predicted the financial down turns in 1987, 2001, and 2007. These economic events these caused great damage to many business owners. Loans were hard to get, customers spent less, and forfeitures of homes hurt many people. Likewise, terror, disease, and other such activities that cause fear tend to keep people away. 9/11 hurt many New York businesses and the recent scare of Ebola is creating concerns that impact businesses. If possible, it is a good idea to keep reserve cash for a rainy day so you can survive!
4. Competition: Business owners are aware of local competition and they search for a way to create their own unique niche. However, competition can occur at any time from innovative changes in products. One great example change is seen by following the history of electronics like computers, mobile phones, and TVs. Larger business opening nearby may cause difficulty if they carry products related to a smaller business. Trying to keep informed about innovative changes in products, large store openings, and other forms of competition may help you know when to make adjustments in your business.
5. Government Regulations: Government regulations on certain beverages like sodas or alcohol may alter business and customer flow. Regulation or deregulation of certain substances may lead to changes in local demographics or in how a business must copes. There was a time when tobacco was sold to anyone and smoking was allowed most anywhere and businesses were required to change to accommodate the new regulations. Eminent domain may seem like a minor point, but for those affected by it is traumatic. When government takes property, a business owner must relocate and the area usually experiences changes in demographics and traffic. Relocation of the business can result in its demise if the area of relocation is not a great fit.
Taffy Williams is the author of: Think Agile: How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed and the Startup Blog. He writes for the Examiner Charlotte, NC- small business and is found on LinkedIn, Twitter @twilli2861, ColonialTDC , photo website, Google+, Facebook, and Startup Group.