Doing business in hard times

As a small business owner in an economic downturn, whether it is a recession or a depression, it is absolutely necessary to offer a great value for a customer’s money and to provide an uplifting customer experience in the bargain. Based on my personal observations, the more outstanding the customer experience, the more likely the business will survive.

A small business offering art or music or any handcrafted products must find ways to change its product offerings from something that is "nice to have" to something that "helps people survive better". This is a challenge that thousands of artisans and artists face here in Southwest Virginia.

We have a formidable problem if the products and services we sell are generally considered "luxuries" or "discretionary items and our usual customers have lost their discretionary income.

This is scary in the extreme, but it is not an insurmountable situation.

This problem has been solved in the past by businesses which have been able to think outside the box and essentially reinvent themselves or their relationship with customers.

Those companies that survived were those which figured out how to produce "necessities" instead of "discretionary items".

Did this mean that their products changed? Not necessarily, but it does require a change in the customer’s buying experience.

When times get hard, there is not enough money to cover all of the necessities and people make hard choices like choosing not to get medical treatment and they may let their insurance lapse, but there is always a need for something to lift their spirits.

If a business can offer a product or service that lifts customer’s spirits, they will probably find a way to pay for that product, even if they have to give something else up that would normally be considered essential.

I am sure you can find examples from your own life, especially if you have ever been unemployed for any length of time.

This is a big topic and deserves a series of posts in which the problem and various solutions can be discussed in more detail, especially concerning businesses involving fine arts and craft work.

I welcome comments from readers who have observed how small businesses survived economic downturns in the past.

Stay tuned for future posts on this topic: Doing business in hard times"

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