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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bad Energy

I am taking a side trip around social media today to talk about competition.  Competition is healthy, and sucks at the same time.  Your business needs to have competition to be viable.  Competition helps you see that you need to change and grow, laurels cannot be sat on.  Being the only game in town can be harmful.  Your business gets traffic because you are "it" - competition makes you grow and change - which you should be doing anyway but can forget because you get so caught up in the day to day - but now it's a necessity because of competition.

My business has been open for 2 years.  In the beginning, I thought I could do it all. I could manage the room, cook, serve and clean it up so we could start a new day tomorrow.  It took 2 weeks and not being able to walk on a bad knee to know I couldn't do that. I hired people, I changed the plan.  Then the wine bar down the street decided to have music every night, and people decided to say we hated each other.  Rumors spread.  My phone rang weekly saying we were going out of business.  I changed my music days so our musicians didn't have to compete in the same genres on the same dates.  I went a couple times to their place on my day off with friends.  The negativity died down. I changed the plan.

Just recently more wine bars have sprouted up.  To be honest, I got a little worried about the dilution of my traffic.  And it did happen. So, I concentrated on what we had, that the other bars didn't have and I focused my efforts, hiring and marketing on it.  It worked because I changed the plan. We got less people in, but the people we got in, spent more money. 

There are a lot of tactics you can take.  I have had competitors say we were going out of business, lie to people about sides and even start the thought of a "Wine Bar War".  I am a pitbull.  My first response to all of this is negative - I want justice and I want it now.  Then I hear my dad in my head (he is there all the time) telling me "Life isn't fair, Kari".  And it isn't.  So I focus on how to make my business better- I change the plan.   If I have vendors not sell to me because they have been told not to by my competitors, I buy other wine.  If people talk trash about my competitors, I don't feed into it - it's a non-issue.

Competition is a GOOD thing.  Buy a fantastic house in a bad neighborhood with no houses comparable and your house will be hard to sell.  You want your business worth something.  If there have never been a business like yours open before, and no one else builds one like it, then getting a loan, selling the business, and even getting customers is hard.  We have had customers actually come into our business from a competitor recommendation - that's the way to go!

A friend of mine knew someone who wanted to open up a wine bar about 30-40 miles away from me.  The woman came in, had a glass of wine and asked me a ton of "How" and "Why" questions on how to open a wine bar.  She then opened her bar a few months later.  You know what - we are friends now.  We talk about our worries, our goals and we even talk about collaborating.  I think that is what this is all about.  Good Energy.  She runs her business differently than I do.  I run mine in ways she would never want to run hers.  It's a synergistic relationship that brings us to a place where as small business owners, we get to chat and meet like when we were in offices.  It's a good thing. We learn how to change the plan from each other.

As two owners of similar businesses, we had some ideas how to make the things that we both shared easy to do and even automated (we both have a geeky software background) and thought we could share that with others. Why?  So we could concentrate on what makes us different.  So we could talk to others and learn from their successes and mistakes. It's lonely owning a business.  It's nice to know you aren't alone in your experiences.

My thoughts about the people that don't want to run their businesses positively?  It's hard to maintain, no one wants to be around a negative person all the time, and it will work itself out.  You have a business to run, you need to learn from your competitors and decide what you need to change, communicate and do with your business because of the competition, and whatever you do, even if nothing - has to be with the goal of growing your business. Looking for the positive is not my strong suit - but I try daily to do it.

Good energy - send it to the negative people around you - work positively on your business no matter what is said or done to you - use the tools and materials you have been given - it will all work out fine if you learn how to change the plan.

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