Main Street Vacancies on the Rise reads the headline in my hometown paper. One business closing, one business shutting down for the winter, empty buildings on Main Street. It’s a common tale these days. That darned economy is taking all the fun out of small business ownership.
The florist shop closes, citing competition from the new supermarket and people having to choose between gas money or flower money. The lobster restaurant shuts down for the winter claiming that the townspeople aren’t supporting them. They can only rely on the summer people.
The news isn’t all bad though, there on my favorite American Main Street. An existing supermarket is holding its own against the newcomer. A new art gallery has opened. A gift shop is expanding. The new movie theater and pub is holding its own. A beauty shop is adding booths. The Maine-owned discount store doubled its space and increased its offerings.
As an entrepreneur, the question that comes to my mind is always the same. Why? Why is one business closing while another expands? Why is one business able to compete while another is not? Why is one business supported by the locals and another is not?
In fact, asking why may be a business owner’s most important job function. Keep asking the question and you’re bound to get answers and more questions. What could the florist shop have done differently? Why is the gift shop able to expand? What are the owners of the new art gallery doing to draw in business? What can I do in my business to win over the locals, the summer people, other business owners? What other markets can I tap into to sell my product or service?
It’s easy to blame all small business woes on the economy but the truth of the matter is that many small businesses were struggling during the boom times. The economic doldrums may offer the final coup de grace, but the fatal problems were already there.
This is not a time for business-as-usual, particularly if business-as-usual wasn’t working to begin with. Weak businesses will fail in a bad economy. Strong businesses will seize opportunities, look for unfilled niches, and employ good marketing tactics to survive the tough economy.
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