Bud’s Corner: A win-win for local businesses

By Bud Emerson

Many good things are underway to revitalize our downtown. But we worry about the growing business failure trend.

I would like to see us convert our worry about small business survivability into a plan of action. A recent newspaper article on small business survival recommends itself. Dan Biggs, a successful small business owner and president of the South County Economic Development Corporation presented “Seven Steps for Small Business Survival.” These steps ring true for all of the businesses I have worked with:

  • Know your business operating costs. Adjust your costs to the norms by negotiating new lease and equipment terms and adjust employee hours.
  • Understand recent changes with your customers. Know what is selling and who isn’t coming back.
  • Evaluate changes you need to make in your offerings.
  • Adapt products and services to fit your customers’ needs.
  • Expand marketing to protect or enlarge your market share. Never stop networking and advertising.
  • Set specific trigger points for change decisions: “if my sales decline 10 percent in the next month, I will ...”
  • Don’t be too proud to ask for help. There are numerous free services from experienced sources (college business centers, chambers, Service Corps of Retired Executives ...

No magic bullet, but all these steps make practical sense.
Our Community Plan calls for a healthy, resident-serving business center. Many residents want to patronize Del Mar businesses but are skeptical about finding what they want or whether residents are seen as prime customers. Smart business owners can do something about that.

The bottom line is that good businesses carefully define their prime customer base. Who are they? What do they need and want? How do I communicate that my business satisfies those needs?

Some Del Mar businesses are doing it well. Several restaurants have tuned in to the fact that Del Mar residents are relatively affluent and eat out frequently. They offer quality, value and service, keeping those customers eating near home, not elsewhere.

Other businesses seem clueless about who lives here, how much money they spend and where they spend it. The fact is that they spend quite a bit of money and they spend it elsewhere. Were I running a business, I would try to get in front of those spending habits and redirect them to my products and services.

Strengthen that hometown customer base. We all win if that happens.