Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.
I run an Art Gallery in the local market. Although we bring high quality art from the region, people with purchase power lost interest in attending since a couple of years ago and as a result our sales have dropped dramatically. I don’t want to showcase affordable art because there’s not much profit in it. Can an art gallery survive in a small market?
LA: Art Galleries can succeed in small markets. The first step is to know who your audience today is. The days of keeping a few art patrons close to your gallery to sell them pieces from every exhibition might not be the safest route to take thanks to the economy. Financial crisis aside, generating income using one product line and from one type of target audience is a dangerous business model. Galleries in large markets might get away with such a risky strategy but you can’t. So, the magic words here are income diversification, social engagement and smart marketing. Attracting new customers and cross selling to existing customers can cost you very little if not be completely free. If you don’t know how, find an art-lover with marketing knowledge to volunteer. Yes, it’s an “art” gallery, but it’s also a business after all.
The Art World has so much to offer to the public. Examine Art Museums; they need to stay in business too. Museums hold workshops, book-signing events, and charge entrance fees for art that’s not for sale. For example, ask your current VIP list to loan you some valuable pieces of art they collected to put on an exhibition of works that are not usually accessible to the public, and charge for entrance. When people know that buying pressure is off they could be more comfortable to visit. You may consider renting the space for corporate events or host student art shows so you can encourage their parents (new visitors) to discover your gallery. Finally, check with your audience about the artists you invite. If you’re exhibiting works of the same group of artists that could be a turnoff…and that’s just my two cents.
Our problem is that we have too many customers (more than our current staff can handle) in our fashion store on the weekends and barely any visitors during the weekdays. If we hire more staff, the increase in cost will affect our profit a great deal. Should we increase prices since customers love the brands we offer?
LA: You definitely can increase the prices but ask yourself this: will customers still think of your products as a good value then? Another approach is to consider hiring local students on the weekend, which is acceptable by commercial law. Announce on Facebook and at some schools that you’re looking for students with a passion for fashion and who want to earn some extra cash on weekends. This way, you’re paying only for the days you need the extra help in and not seven days a week. To make it more engaging, turn the opportunity from a “part-time hire” to a “Weekend Fashion Star Competition!” Test the candidates for their knowledge and passion of the fashion industry. Play it like a reality show with short listing and semi-finals. You’ll have your extra hire, more buzz and increase in sales…and that’s just my two cents.
I quit my job as a journalist two years ago to pursue a career in the food business, which is where my heart is. Running my own business is hard. I’m barely breaking even and I spend many nights wondering if I made the right decision. Is this normal for an entrepreneur with a startup or am I going in the wrong direction?
LA: Starting a new business takes time. You can’t microwave your success. What you need to examine is whether or not you have the right ingredients. Is your business model sound? Is your marketing strategy in action? Is your structure sustainable? If any of these areas is missing or incomplete your recipe won’t work quite so well. So, let’s break it down. Your business model is a healthy and fresh one if it shows you how to generate income from selected target audiences. Your marketing strategy smells lovely when you have layers of information about your main target audience and know how to surround them with the right aromas to stay close and so you can up-sell, cross-sell to these segments and get them to fall in love with your business. Yes, I wrote “love”; without customers loving your business there’s no loyalty.
Sustainability covers mainly three different areas. In one pot you have “Sourcing”, in the oven you’ve got “Environment”, and on the cooling rack “Society”. Find ways in your purchasing where you can source your ingredients fairly and ethically with a focus on quality and the local suppliers. Look into how your purchase decisions and the type of suppliers you’re working with are affecting the environment and work around reducing your environmental footprint. The next step is to see how you’re interacting with customers, employees and the community. Promoting your business realistically and caring for the welfare of everyone who comes across your business from all directions will show that you’re part of society, because you are. Follow all of the above and then let your customers and prospects know your progress. They’ll appreciate it and stick around. Meanwhile, some sleepless nights are part of startups; take a deep breath, tomorrow is another day…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected]. Please note that only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management consultant and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.