Small Business Solutions

2021 Small Business

Sentiment Survey

To stay open, first you must be open

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One day I was having a conversation with our town’s chamber of commerce president about a business that had asked the chamber for some assistance with marketing Main Street.

The chamber president related to me that he had left his office and walked a couple of blocks to visit with the owner at her shop. “I nearly ripped my arm off,” he said.

“What?” I said. “You got into an altercation with her?”

“No,” he said. “I tried to open the door and it was locked. Nearly ripped my arm out of socket.”

The chamber guy explained to me that he was at the person’s shop mid-morning and had expected the shop to be open. The sign on the front door said the business opened at 9 a.m. that day. But the business was not open even though hours posted to the public said it was.

The chamber president seemed a little put off by it and I can understand why. The business with the locked door eventually locked the doors for good. I am not sure why it closed but not following posted hours is a basic thing, and if that wasn’t being done, what else was wrong?

Hours of operation are an important ingredient in a small business’ recipe for success and many businesses experiment to find the right hours. It sounds basic: Be open when customers want to come in and closed when they are somewhere else.

It’s OK to experiment with your hours. Competitors, market changes, and seasons can cause you to change your hours. The key is to communicate it well, be open when you say you are, and try not to change them too often.

And keep your Google listing updated with your current hours. Not doing that is like taking money from your account and burning it.

Of the points above, being open when you say you are is the most important. If you are good at what you do and in demand, people will work around your schedule. I know a very successful business that is open Monday through Friday when most of its competitors are also open on Saturdays. The business hasn’t changed its 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday hours in more than 20 years. The customers are trained.

If you have a robust online presence, you can leverage that to be open 24-7. Again, the key is communication and staying consistent: “You can come into the store these hours and also visit us 24-7 at our website.” Posting that on your front door is informative and helpful for a customer.

If you have multiple stores or locations, make sure you have employees who know they are supposed to open your locations on time. I once owned a business that had multiple locations and one day a customer called our main office and I answered.

The customer said they kept coming by our other office before they went to work and it was closed. “Your door says you open at 8 and I was there at 8:05 and no one was there,” the customer said.

I apologized and resolved the customer’s issue. After that, I started making spot calls to our other offices at 8 a.m. each morning. I could always find something to talk about when our manager answered but I also think they knew why I was calling. Which was good.

Look at it this way: What if you went to Wal-Mart at 10 a.m. on a Saturday and it was closed? You would think it was a big deal. You would be very disappointed and you might post it on social media. You would tell lots of people. The store has things you need and they are supposed to be open. That’s outrageous.

You need to look at your business the same way. Your customers need you. Be open and ready to help them.

They say in auto racing to finish first, first you must finish. In business, to stay open, first you must be open.

Robb Reeves is the vice president of McElvy Partners. He has owned and operated small businesses for more than 25 years, and most of his career has been focused on helping business owners define the most effective ways to reach more customers. You can tap into Robb’s experience by sending us a note on our CONTACT page.