It’s personal for successful small businesses

Connections count for small business owners. The personal bonds that these businesses form with their customers can help lead to a successful launch, sales growth and, in one example, even help resurrect a business after a disaster.

In Entrepreneur magazine, Clate Mask explored some of the reasons why small businesses have an edge over big companies in “Why Small Business Is Personal — Not Local: “As a small business owner, you have many advantages over large corporations in your ability to be agile, make quick decisions and pivot. You’re not constrained by the bureaucracy that plagues larger corporations. You can review the data, make inferences on the trends and shift directions when you choose to do so.”

Equally important, small businesses have the the ability to build close relationships with customers, Mask explains. “Your customers are people that you care about and often know by name. They know they’re not a number to you because you work diligently to provide the high level of quality and customer service that they’ve come to expect from you.”

This personal relationship with customers can build trust and loyalty for small businesses. Consumers are three times as likely to express confidence in small business as they are in big business, according to a recent Gallup poll. The percentage of U.S. adults who report having “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in small business reached 70 percent in 2017, the highest rate in a decade, according to Gallup.

While the binds between small business owners and their customers are strong, some of the most successful small businesses take it to another level by going out of their way to connect with their neighborhood, other area small businesses and nonprofits. These efforts have paid off in more than just sales.

Beekman 1802 is just one example of how successful small businesses are making a personal connection with their customers and community. Photo from Forbes article, 11/15/17.

A recent Forbes article, “How To Be Successful This Small Business Saturday: Make Retail Personal Like Beekman 1802,” chronicles the rise of a New York farm-based company that made its business about people.

Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, founders of Beekman 1802, who described themselves as “accidental entrepreneurs,” lost their high-powered jobs in New York City so turned their focus to cultivating a 60-acre goat farm in the small town of Sharon Springs in upstate New York. A local soap maker taught them how to make soap, and they began selling natural goat’s milk soap as their inaugural product.

“So much of the community helped us starting out,” Ridge said. “We didn’t know how to run a farm. We didn’t know how to make soap. We had to rely on people in our community to help us and that is why community is such an important part of our brand.”

Today, according to Danziger, “people come to Beekman 1802 Mercantile to buy more than a bar of soap, they come to become part of the total experience and join the community. People crave to be more than just a customer. They want more than just a transaction. They want that sense of community that only community-based retailers can give them.”

The personal connection and support of customers is equally pronounced at Journeys of Life, a Pittsburgh-based bookstore and gift shop centered on spiritual learning and self discovery.

According to a report by Katie Morell for Small Business Saturday, owner Jean Haller worked to build a community around her, donating time and resources to nonprofits in her area including a school for at-risk youth and an animal rescue. In 2011, after a fire destroyed her shop, “Haller’s community gathered around her and helped her open an interim location in a matter of days. That Small Business Saturday was one for the books.”

Haller is referencing Small Business Saturday® held each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The promotion was founded by American Express in 2010 as an opportunity to shift the focus from the big box store promotions on Black Friday to local small businesses. Since it started, it has grown to $15.4 billion in spending by 112 million shoppers.

While Small Business Saturday® has been a successful day for small businesses across the country, the even better news is that customers are shopping small businesses year round. Studies show, an estimated 90 percent of American consumers shop at a small business at least once a week, and 42 percent of those shoppers frequent small businesses at least three times per week.

It’s this personal relationship between the local business owners and customers that is at the heart of a successful small business. As we say here at Sinu, “People matter… objects don’t.”