I had the pleasure this week of combining two of my favourite things; pontificating with a software supplier on the challenges facing small
business and eating a fancy lunch at a West End icon. The icon was Caravanserai Turkish Restaurant and it’s one of my favourites. The
name means “a roadside inn where travellers can rest and recover from the day's journey”. And they take that description very seriously. The
food is always delicious, the service is fast and friendly and the décor encourages you to relax and enjoy your meal. Caravanserai has been a
West End staple for more than 20 years, which is an impressive milestone for any small business but especially for a hospitality venue. And
it got me thinking about what can a small business do to put it on the path to longevity?
We’ve all walked down those streets with two similar restaurants next to one another; one is packed with customers and the other has
tumbleweeds. One will last, one will close. Why? Here are couple of suggestions.
1. Nurture the brand - It’s stating the obvious, but to succeed in business, you have to have a great product, but you also have to sell it;
both the product and the brand. One of the qualities of a long-lasting business is they nurture their brand. They seek input from their
happy, loyal customers, they respond to reviews and they appreciate customer loyalty (and remember their faces!). Customers return because
they love what they do and they feel appreciated.
2. Don’t charge less, offer more - Competing on price never bodes well for the longevity of a business. It’s a race to the bottom. Someone
can always offer cheaper. But can they offer more? Look for ways to differentiate yourself from the pack. May it be better follow-up
service, product knowledge or just being old-fashioned helpful and easy to deal with. It all adds to your value proposition.
3. Reduce financial liability – For your business to have a long life, it will need the ability to ride the economic rollercoaster with
aplomb. When times are good, try to reduce your financial liability by paying down debt. It will improve your cash flow for when times
aren’t so great (think the next global pandemic). When times are tough, keep communicating with suppliers and landlords. Their success
depends on your success so they are often open to working together to hold out until the economy to improves.
4. And finally, lean on your accountant/bookkeeper for advice. We have been in the trenches for the past 18 months helping businesses
navigate this quagmire of change. Whether it’s an impartial ear on the likelihood of the success of a new business idea or cash flow
forecasting and planning for the next 5 years, we’ve got you covered. We are here to help.
And how will I be doing my bit to support the longevity of local small businesses in West End? I‘ll be shopping locally, eating more lunches
and giving my favourite places a shout out on social media.