As customers, we often hear how businesses align themselves with charities and community groups, engaging their staff to be part of a team to raise funds for much-needed projects on a national scale, as well as for local fund raisers. It’s a great way to connect with the community and to help a needy cause, however, I would like to raise another connection with the community that local businesses should focus on, and that is providing services and facilities when needed, writes Michelle Pascoe.
You’re closing at what time?
Recently, I attended an after school event along with another 500 parents and 1,000 school students. The students stayed at school, and like any young people after 3.15pm they became ravenous. With two hours to fill they took off down to the main street of a Sydney inner west suburb, and with the arrival of parents from 5pm there was a sea of humanity searching for food. To set the scene, this suburb has one main street only 200 metres from the school, with five coffee shops, four restaurants and two takeaways.
The students, teachers and parents are regular customers in these establishments and I was therefore shocked when trying to enter a café at 4pm to be told I would have to have my coffee in a takeaway cup as they closed at 4.15pm. I mentioned how the school was having one of its annual events, and the young girl behind the register nodded her head and said: “Yes it’s going to be a big night – there are a lot of people down the street looking for food”. At this point I felt like saying: “If you knew about it, then why didn’t you plan to stay open a little longer?”
Unfortunately this was not the only business that was not extending its hours to accommodate customers. What an opportunity missed!
Hot chips and pizzas were drawing a great crowd, however, eating pizza and juggling drinks in your car – trying not to spill anything on your clothes – was not the experience I’m sure people were looking for. Not one business thought about connecting with the community and offering a service.
Know your community
So let me ask you, are you in a business that could provide a service or facility that would increase your bottom line by opening a little earlier or staying open a little longer sometimes? For instance, if your business is based near a school, community hall or church, do you connect with them (hopefully some of their staff will be customers of yours) when events are happening? Now, I can hear some of you saying: “We can only open certain times or the staff won’t stay back!” But these are just excuses.
Another example of woeful community connection, have you ever been to a wedding when you have to fill in two hours between the service and the reception in a town where all the coffee shops shut at 3pm on a Saturday or Sunday? Believe me there are plenty of them.
Be the go-to place
I have operated my own business since 1994 and have coached and mentored other SMEs. One of the reasons for many to start their own business was so that they could have a better lifestyle and operate at the times that suited them. That’s all fine, but if you can make money and become known as the place to go next time there is a school event because you offered great service and a place to sit, then do it.
Become known as the go-to place for great service and community connection. Get out of your business and check in with the community – how can you support it, as much as they can support you.
About the author
Michelle Pascoe is a speaker, author and career advisor.