Small business owners schooled on best practices

Marc Willson

STRASBURG – Local small business owners were treated to a seminar from business consultant Marc Willson on ways to maximize awareness and profits, especially with the holiday season right around the corner.

Rev Up Strasburg, in conjunction with the Lord Fairfax Community College’s Small Business Development Center, organized Willson’s presentation, which was held at Town Hall on Friday morning.

Willson, who has extensive experience in the retail industry, walked Strasburg small business owners through a series of best practices and tips centered around drawing customers to businesses and ensuring that his or her experience is worthy of returning.

One factor that Willson said is crucial and often overlooked is a business’ treatment of its employees. Happy employees make for good experiences and good experiences make for happy customers.

“Happy employees treat customers way better than unhappy ones,” Willson said. “Americans are tired of big boxes. They’re tired of people that don’t care. They’re tired of clock punchers and they’re turning to small business because they know that by shopping with a small business, they’re that much closer to the owner and they know the owner’s going to care if they’re happy or not.”

Also of importance to Willson was the technological side of business. He instructed those in attendance who didn’t already have one to create a website and encouraged all to put a 30-second video on that page. Willson said that videos and pictures are invaluable to holding the attention of potential customers.

Moreover, Willson stressed the fact that trying to compete with Wal-Mart is a fool’s errand. He advocated adaptation as a small business’ only way to coexist with the retail giant.

“You can’t compete with Wal-Mart on the same product,” he said. “They’re running 2 percent (profit margins), and you’ve got to be running, what, 35 or 40? So get rid of what they have and get something else because you’ll never match them on price.”

In addition to tailoring one’s inventory to not duplicate items sold at Wal-Mart, Willson said that, on the contrary, Wal-Mart’s quality of customer service and intimacy do not hold a candle to that of small businesses. Willson emphasized that aspect must be taken advantage of.

“If you’re such a good retailer that you have made the experience in your store so memorable and so special, they might want to shop with you over Wal-Mart just because of the experience they have in your store. … Give them something they can’t get in a big box like personalized service.”

Willson also spoke at length about ways to maximize holiday profits, a time of year when retail businesses make a huge percentage of their yearly revenue. He said that something as pre-wrapping items can make a difference.

“Pre-wrap them,” Willson said. “Put on a display with a pyramid of wrapped ones behind it. Dudes love it. … Wrap them in advance. It works. Wrap what you know is going to sell.”

Janet Heishman, owner of Pot Town Organics in Strasburg, said that she found Willson’s presentation to be very useful.

“I liked the pre-wrapping of the holiday gifts,” she said. “That was one that made a lot of sense. I just went to a seminar on Monday for independent garden centers and they had a speaker there. … Everything that he said reinforced that we’re on the right track. This is great. … He’s delightful, too. Isn’t he fun?”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com