If you’ve been following my journey, you already know I got my start in business working with my dad at the family store. Free candy was the immediate reward, but that was peanuts in comparison to the lessons about life and business. Many of the fundamentals I learned from dad, I use today. Although he passed many years ago, he has been very much a silent business partner in Rudy’s Girl Media. When I make a move, I can hear him advising from the great beyond. Most often, I have a flashback to something I heard him say or saw him do at the store.
One of the big lessons I learned was to be adaptable – to understand the marketplace and make sure my business is nimble enough to survive the changes that will inevitably come. Many call this “swimming with the tide.” This is our opportunity to allow the natural flow of life to move us instead of exerting additional energy to swim against the current.
Dad was as fluid as the inflatable tube men that flap around in the air outside of businesses. He spent his days thinking of ways to keep the doors of that little country store open and with the growing number of shopping options in the area, competition was steep. He prided himself on offering what others couldn’t. I’m certain there wasn’t another retail space in the area where you could buy a soda, a bootleg cassette tape, and shoot a game of pool while dad shined up the tires on your used car purchase. The whole thing was an amazing spectacle. Dad swam with the tide and found ways to respond to the ever-evolving needs of his customers.
When I was able to drive, my father would sometimes send me out on a mission to pick up a few items for our family convenience store from some big box retailers. I was puzzled at first and inquired why we’d be getting merchandise from the competition. There was always a method to dad’s madness, and I was eager for him to lay out his strategy. He told me quite simply that he shopped the deals and when certain items were on sale, he could acquire them for at or below what he was paying wholesalers. Dad indicated that he couldn’t compete with them on price, but what he could do was provide the people in the neighborhood with their goods when they couldn’t get out to shop the deals at the larger retailers.
Dad also never purchased bags again. He reused bags from the stores where he bought his merchandise. Once I said, “when people take a bag home with another store’s name on it, it’s an advertisement for that store.” He shrugged and smiled, “let them waste their money on bags – I’m not.”
This is the life of a savvy small business owner. Every small business owner we’ve filmed so far for “Hometown Hustle” shares the same spirit. In order to survive the pandemic and the challenges of business in general, entrepreneurs have become nimble and extremely creative in their execution. It’s been such an incredible experience so far and I can’t wait to share more insights from the small business owners who have become adept at swimming with the tide.
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