In this day and age of being reminded constantly of how we need to take better care of ourselves, it seems unfair that customer expectations of small businesses are not in tune with this sentiment.
As any holiday period approaches I am reminded of how tough this is for small family businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors, particularly those located in rural towns.
We used to keep our retail shop in central Victoria open seven days a week all year round but the increased penalty rates put an end to that about five years ago. While the university students we employed on weekends were keen to continue, our profit & loss spreadsheet said differently. Clearly our core customers were locals during the week, not the tyre kickers that love to browse the shop enjoying a leisurely weekend in the country. Every business is different but this was the case for ours.
Up until that point we were happy to provide much needed employment and keep the shop open as a courtesy to other tourism related businesses around us, but now the figures were against us. We had a choice. We could work seven days a week all year round ourselves, or take time off to enjoy with our families and keep ourselves healthy for the six days we are required to work extremely hard. Getting away for at least one or two weeks a year of uninterrupted leisure was another dream we had. Even better if we could do it together as a family rather than taking turns to mind the shop.
To us it was a no brainer but to the wider public it is not always so clear. Slowly we have all crept into the expectation that we can shop and do business on any day of our choosing. Community leaders lament the fact that so much business is being lost as tourists drive through their rural towns on weekends and public holidays. I’m constantly asked ‘What can we do about it?’ as if it is the fault of small business owners.
Well my suggestion is for community leaders and small business owners to communicate better. Proactive business communities may be able to negotiate for business closures to be staggered throughout the year. Most of all, everyone needs to communicate why closures are necessary.
Be loud and proud that small business is the backbone of our economy. Explain that small business owners are spending time with their families and look forward to giving great service on re-opening day. All it takes is a sign on shop windows, a notice on websites, and courtesy reminders to core customers.
Don’t be sorry. Just communicate better.
KERRY ANDERSON: A businesswoman, author, and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry is passionate about rural and regional Australia. She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE
Kerry recently published her first book with 20 inspiring case studies for rural communities and business people READ MORE