Secrets to Success for Small Businesses

You can find many management books in bookstores, but most of them are for CEO types, managers for big companies. They are not very helpful for people who run small businesses. Practical management principles for small businesses can be given only by people who have been successful in that field. Let me introduce two such people.

One is a newly appointed Shepherd. He runs a shoe repair shop. It had been open for four months when I interviewed him to be appointed as a shepherd. He said that in the first month the business was in the red, but the very next month he broke even and since then sales have continued to increase. To me, that is a successful business. When I asked him for the secret to his success, he sheepishly replied, “My lack of proficiency in English.” He knew that it would be next to impossible to defend himself against someone who complained about the quality of his work because he did not have mastery over English. The solution he came up with was to keep customers from complaining in the first place. So he made it his goal to give his customers 100% satisfaction.

I learned another successful business principle from him. This is the second shoe repair shop he has managed. Several years ago, he had another shoe repair shop which he ran successfully for 6 years. The business was successful enough for him to be able to buy a house and send his children to college. Eventually he sold the house and the shop and moved back to Korea. However, he had hard time readjusting to the Korean lifestyle and he moved back to the States. He waited patiently for 2 years before he found this business opportunity. During that time he considered buying a laundry and worked for 6 months without pay just to build first hand experience. Here I found another success secret of his. He was patient in finding a right business and willing to work for experience even without pay.

The second success story is about a woman who has been successfully running several deli shops. When I asked her business success principles, she shared the following:

“I don’t consider myself to be a particularly successful businesswoman, but if I am, I owe my success to 3 things. First, when I look for a business, I research the area thoroughly to determine its growth potential. I only choose a location where this potential is high. Second, I always keep my shop clean. I mop the floor and wipe off tables frequently. Customers, especially American customers, like the place clean. Third, I try to be friendly with customers. I try to remember them and call them by their first names. I also try to remember their favorite foods. They get very happy when I’m able to ask them “Would you like the usual?”

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