If someone asks me what my father does for a living, I tell them he makes cake. Not intending to sound like a brat, but my father really does make dough. He’s a baker.
Being the daughter of a baker, you can imagine the delicacies and delicious treats that are always within my hand’s reach. But eating my fill of chocolate goodies is not the only benefit I have. Watching my father run his establishment has provided first-hand knowledge and insight into what it takes to run a small business.
My grandfather (the founder of our family business) was an entrepreneur before the idea of entrepreneurship was really a thing. Back then it wasn’t about being innovative and entrepreneurial. It was about survival. You came to America chasing a dream of success and looking for a better life.
Times are obviously different, and a lot of us don’t possess nearly as much motivation as our grandparents did by coming to America. That feeling of entitlement and the lingering high from other’s stories of having the right idea at the right time, makes us feel like we can do it too, if not better.
By studying my father’s devotion to his bakery and whole-hearted determination to keep our family business alive, it is evident that running a small company takes patience, practice and perseverance. If you’re lucky enough to be the offspring of a self-started family business, and perhaps the next in line at owning it, you have all the answers ahead of you. Grab a note pad and spend some quality time with your parent, learning the ins and outs, dos and don’ts, rights and wrongs of running a small business. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Customers might not always be right (don’t tell them that), but they definitely always come first. All types of customers can stumble upon your business, from rude to downright crazy. My father taught me to respect any and all types of customers. Money is money and a paying customer deserves professional treatment. Even when the customer is wrong or unsatisfied and just plain mean, my father never loses his cool and does whatever he can to appease them. It must work, because the customers keep coming back.
Reverse Your Role
My father is continuously working to improve the look and feel of the store front. From the first impression as you walk through the door to the shopping experience as you browse the products. He is always telling his employees to view the store as a customer. The way you display your product to the consumer directly affects how they perceive the quality of that product. Take a minute to walk onto the other side of the counter and view the store as a customer, not as an employee or employer.
It’s important to stay relevant in a world that’s constantly changing, but without losing the loyal customer base you’ve built over the years. 9 out of 10 times you’ll lose your loyal customers by changing what they’re accustomed to. But while keeping them happy, you should also listen to what your consumers are asking for. Is it a product you don’t make or sell? Research it and see what it’s all about; it could be the next hot item. Find a happy medium between trendy and traditional.
Pay attention to the trends in your industry for further insight, as well as general business trends. My father recently added a company website and social media platforms to the bakery’s online existence (with the helpful push of his daughter) because the digital era is now and everyone is doing it. Stay current, and you’ll stay ahead.