Decisions that affect small business success

While we were visiting Northern California and Portland Oregon, I visited a number of custom framing shops and tried to draw some conclusions as to what made certain shops successful.

It all seemed to come down to how they treated customers.

Some successful shops were automated with computer controlled mat cutters and others hand cut every mat. Some shops had fancy interiors while others, equally successful, had cheerfully cluttered interiors with frames and samples piled in every corner and on every flat surface.

In every case, the successful shops had nearby framing shops of similar appearance that were going out of business. The picture framing industry appears to be going through a shakeout and yet the successful shops I visited were scrambling to keep up with demand.

My small sample can hardly be considered applicable to all frame shops, but there was one characteristic that the successful shops all shared. The owners and staff were helpful and friendly to an amazing degree. In each case, it was immediately evident that they were there to help customers solve problems and they were willing to share information about resources and to discuss framing techniques.

I also watched the way they handled customers. In almost every case, the shop was willing to go the extra distance to handle customer issues or to make sure customers  were provided with a satisfying  experience.

I am sure there are other important factors for long-term success, but these shops had all been in business for more than 20 years and they were highly differentiated, except for the quality of customer service, which was uniformly superior.

I wonder if this applies to other small businesses?

What have you observed?

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