Inseparable: Growing Your Business and Impacting Your Community
National trends consist of an aggregate of local trends. You can narrow your focus or broaden it, and you will see how your community corresponds to each level, from city to state to region and so on.
The difficulty comes in adapting in a timely fashion and in the right ways to make an impact on your bottom line. The more people that hear and understand your message, the more people you can help, and the faster your business will grow.
The way I see it, there are two camps that business owners fall into: reactive or proactive. The former allows you to react to the demands of your local market. A customer approaches you with a need, and if you can provide the necessary goods or services, then you've helped to maintain your business by providing for them. In some senses, you've anticipated this need by providing the structure to operate successfully. For example, let's say you had the item in stock, and so you've increased your value by speeding up your fulfillment compared to a competitor who may not stock said item. I do this at Archer by stocking shower pans of various sizes to eliminate long lead times for custom showers. But this is our niche, and I'll show you how it differs from being proactive.
The latter is a game of anticipation. Ask yourself this: what solution are you capable of providing that is valuable to your customer that no one else in your market is doing? For myself, that is two-fold: I provide labor-saving solutions through recommendations based on my technical knowledge of tile and shower installation products, and I get materials ordered faster than my competitors because I'm the sole point of contact for purchasing and delivery. I can also perform all of my quoting, invoicing, and purchasing right from my mobile device that communicates with my accounting software through the integrations I've set up. This allows me more time to focus on my customer's needs.
So how does this fit into larger trends? Our service economy is trending toward automation, expediency, ease of ordering, fast communication, and higher standards of customer service.
Business owners who don't radically question their current operating procedures in order to favor these consumer values won't grow their market share.
How can you know how to change your business model? By listening. This implies connecting with people, and the larger your pool of data, the more accurate you're going to be when deciding what changes to implement.
This takes intentionality and accountability toward that end. I've found that joining local organizations and partnering with like-minded individuals is the best way to achieve this. For example, I joined the North Central West Virginia Home Builders Association in 2018. Since then, every year I've participated in their Home Show. This has allowed me to speak to thousands of people with who I would have never come into contact. In addition, I am able to speak with other business owners in the trades and learn about their businesses and their customers. Another major benefit I've found is that our association regularly hears from local and state politicians, legislators, and city and county planners. This is invaluable exposure to information that directly impacts current and future trends in our subsector of the economy. It's also a means to actively participate, which may help to influence trends.
The NAHB advocates for the industry at the local, state, and federal levels. Members of NCWVHBA partner together for community outreach, like the annual Toy Fund. Commitment to such an organization fosters an environment of community, where hearing from people and learning their struggles and needs is inevitable. What better way to tap into the needs of your business than by learning the needs of people and business owners in your community?