My bank cut my line of credit in 2008. America was in the heart of the Great Recession and I needed the credit line in-between a lull in sales to pay some bills for the art gallery I owned in Portland, Oregon. I pleaded with the bank not to cut the line of credit but repeatedly I was denied. I wouldn’t learn until two years after closing my art gallery that it was a parking ticket that had caused the whole problem. A friend had borrowed my car and had unknowingly received the ticket while parking my car in Oregon City. The ticket had blown off the windshield and they never saw it. From there the avalanche of problems with my credit began and eventually I had to close the doors to my art gallery. From this experience there are many lessons I have learned that help me to guide my clients as a Small Business Advisor. It does not matter the size of your business. From a one-person art studio to a large retail business employing many, the following tips I have learned are useful:
- Do an occasional credit check. Find out what your rating is and if there are any unpaid bills affecting your credit.
- Have money you can fall back upon if you have a financial crisis such as an illness, a sudden change in the market, theft, or damage to your inventory. Calculate three months of overhead and keep the money in reserve. However, avoid as much as humanly possible, to not mortgage your home. There are many organizations that are available to advise you and help you to raise capital.
- Before you purchase inventory, pause. During times of stress, shopping can provide instant gratification. The hunt for the items and the sudden discovery of a spectacular piece is wonderful but if you do not have a client or immediate use for what you have purchased, you are losing money.
- If you have a business where clients come to your studio or retail establishment move your inventory around every few weeks to create a fresh look. Consider hiring an expert to assist you. The money is well spent. Linda Cahan, a Visual Merchandiser located in Portland, Oregon says, “You have two seconds to make an impact when a customer walks into your establishment. Make them count!”
- Have an online presence. I worked with a lawyer whose business was struggling. We worked with a couple of experts and revamped his website. Next he hired someone to update his search engine optimization. He also began blogging and increased his fees. His business tripled in less than a year. The last thing he did was move into a building where other attorneys had offices. For many years he had been working alone and missed the camaraderie he felt with other attorneys. That move energized him!
- Keep in touch with your clients and remember them. Consider rewards programs. Contact them when you have new inventory. Let them know when you are going on a buying trip. Would they have some special requests?
- Network. If you are in the car business, why not network with a business that cleans headlights? If you are in the lash extension business, why not network with makeup artists?
The mistakes I made when I owned my art gallery do not need to happen to you in your business. I chose to take those mistakes, return to school, and learn how to advise others in small business. The tips I have provided for you truly are the secrets to success. If you are ready to launch a small business or take your small business to the next level, please contact me, www.bonniekahn.com