Consultant provides tips to local business owners at seminar

Bill Nachman - Posted on Jun 19, 2013 - 12:46 PM

Local businesses who have taken a hit with the economic downturn of recent years may have to try "Plan B" to get them back to their "A game," consultant Margie Johnson said Tuesday.

Speaking to about two dozen business owners at the Main Street Event Space, Johnson said that many business owners may have lost their "A game" or need to reinvent it. Plan B is not meant to replace your current business plan, she said, but may help get you back to a former level of success. Johnson is president of Shop Talk, which is based in Virginia Beach.

The B Plan includes a lot of things that business owners should strive to be. For example, Johnson said they should be curious, trying to learn why people support or do not support a business.

"Be a business development specialist," Johnson said. "Each day independent businesses must ask the hard questions of their business … Successful small businesses are holding themselves accountable for business development."

Also, Johnson urged the business owners to "be vigilant about efficiency, economy of scale and overall cost savings." She said that business owners should get to know their banker well because you never know when that built-up relationship may benefit your business.

In tough economic times, businesses should not hesitate to negotiate with vendors. Johnson said that businesses should ask for advertising assistance, lower pricing and other concessions.

A key to growing a business is to remain visible. Johnson said that businesses need to have signs that quickly let passersby know what’s inside. For example, a shop named "Margie’s" does not provide information about what’s inside—and many people won’t even stop to find out, she said. But if you tag the sign with a product or service, it will help gain exposure for the business.

Another important part of Plan B, Johnson said, is for the business owners to be social—as in social media. "Business owners must leverage the appropriate opportunities and mediums to communicate better with their clients," she said, and try various social media including You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Another important step to take in growing a business, Johnson said, is to set goals and make sure that everyone on the staff knows them and works to reach them. "Start with small and realistic goals," Johnson said. "This one strategy can make a remarkable difference."

Business owners can try to put more fun in their workplace, Johnson said, and try to be "the happy place to shop." In dealing with customers, she said, remember "we are not in the hostility business, but the hospitality business."