Small Business Matters

Oct 2022Business, Hospitality, Stories

Written by Fred Porter.

By far the vast majority of visitors to Kalbarri these school holidays are here to enjoy their time in our beautiful town and support small businesses. But there is always “that” customer who thinks they’re doing you a favor just by being there.

The reality is that running a small business in a seasonal tourist destination like Kalbarri is really hard work. Most people don’t see or understand how much goes on behind the scenes, and how much businesses cost to run, staff to pay, buildings to lease, supplies to order and so on. And if a minority of customers come to town with expectations over and above what local services can provide, it can be confronting to have to deal with them when you’re busy trying to help everyone else.

To be an entrepreneur is to be an innovator, a source of new ideas, goods, services or procedures. An entrepreneur usually sees an opportunity, creates a new business, takes on all the financial risk with the hope being that business will make profit eventually, be able to support staff and the entrepreneur is then free to start another project.

Entrepreneurship is bloody hard! You need to hold your head high, smile and say everything’s fine, even when things aren’t. People depend on you for that. It’s the business owner that needs to hold it all together even when times are tough and hard decisions need to be made. People don’t understand what this pressure feels like, how many businesses and great ideas fail, how much money is lost before you make any… they just see what they think is a wealthy person with a successful business and assume life must be pretty good at the top. Many so-called successful businesses are barely breaking even due to rising costs, staff shortages, inflation and a whole lot of new pressures compounded by global health emergencies and extreme weather events. And it’s even harder in a remote place like Kalbarri, where it seams to go from zero to hero and back to zero within a month. To every small business left in town, still sticking it out, hang in there if you can – hopefully the darkest days are behind us and the only way is up from here.

I like to think of myself as a social entrepreneur. I’ve been involved in many business ventures throughout my life, some successful, by far more failed or never got off the ground than succeeded, but failure is what drives success so it’s ok if things don’t work out, sometimes you need to just drop a project and move onto something else. And sometimes the project you had in mind evolves into something else, or a project you were sure would never work turns out to be the best thing ever. Being a social entrepreneur means you can make money and do good things for people and the community at the same time.

Here are my 5 tips for small businesses in a place like Kalbarri. These are simple actions you can take (or not) and are general in nature so just remember you are the decision maker in your business and you have to do what’s right for you.

  1. Always be polite. This should be expected behavior from management, staff and customers at all times. Be attentive and engaged when interacting with a customer, even a rude one. Don’t be on your phone in sight of customers, it might be something really important, but the customer doesn’t know that. Also if you wanna vent about a difficult customer, do it out of earshot of anyone else, or have a laugh with you coworkers about it out the back. When you are working, you are on show, so let your inner performer shine.
  2. Listen to customer feedback, but don’t get defensive. You may want to say something like, “we don’t always get it right, but our intentions are good just sometimes things don’t go as planned”. Often the issue will go away just because you listened and acknowledged their concern. People like to be heard.
  3. Communication is key. Keep your online listings, social media, website etc updated with your opening hours. It’s fine to change your hours based on seasonal demand. You don’t need to explain why you may not be open, just make it easy for people to find out if you are trading or not. It’s also fine to say no, ask people to book in advance, make a deposit to secure their booking, or inform them you are booked out or can’t help them. You have no obligation to refer them elsewhere, just wish them good luck and send them on their way.
  4. Plan ahead. Get out an annual calendar for 2023 and start by marking out all your busy times, school holidays, long weekends etc. Identify the times of year you can take your own holidays or a break. Reach out to your reliable workers and secure their help for your busiest times. Talk to other businesses in town who compliment your own, and work out how you can support each other during the year, the busy times and by referring good customers to and fro.
  5. Have a backup plan. What will you do if something unexpected happens. What’s your plan B? If you lose staff at a critical time, who can you call on for a favor or how much can you reasonably do yourself without burning out. Remember you have a business to run as well, and it’s better to work on your business than in it.

Fred Porter is the new Chairman of Kalbarri Town Talk Inc. He is also a social entrepreneur, farmer, philanthropist, President of the Northampton Show and is a Consultant at Agent Digital Marketing – providing businesses with certified WordPress, Shopify, Facebook and Google solutions.

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