Recently, we held our annual users conference, Revelry, where hundreds of business owners and partners in Revel Systems’ network gathered for two days of education, workshops, and of course a good helping of fun.
We love hosting this conference as it gives us an opportunity to dive deeper into topics that are important to entrepreneurs beyond utilizing a POS platform. This year, we organized a group of Revel customers for a panel called Customer Council: Success Stories From Business Owners Like You to share their experiences and learned lessons. From first jobs to investing in their future, here are some of the best words of advice from our customers on failure, funding, and loyalty in running a competitive business.
Funding a new business is a daunting endeavor. While some are fortunate enough to swoon investors, many small businesses are only able to get started as a result of borrowed money. To truly chase your dreams, you have to get the money somehow. Traditional options like going through a bank or credit agency are typically the most viable.
Sometimes you have to rely on credit when cash flows are short in the beginning because you have to pay your vendors and get the equipment that will increase your productivity. While building a business on credit sounds risky, especially if you don’t have a great interest rate, once you start catching up financially, use a manageable percentage of your profit to pay off the debt.
I got a credit line, which was actually really helpful. Credit cards are good. I know that isn’t what you are supposed to say, but they help float you while you are going through those awkward growing phases. Again, I wouldn’t recommend credit cards, but if you have to, don’t beat yourself up.
Aaron Roberts, owner of Flying Saucer Pizza, outside of Seattle:
Personally, I had to get a bank loan. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to make it work.
| See Also: 3 Success Strategies from Real Small Business Owners |
As much as you may love your product, you’re in business to serve your customers, so listening to their suggestions is important. If your competitors are providing a more appealing setting and service, over time, it will cause you to lose customers. While it might seem like especially particular customers with increasing customer service demands aren’t worth the effort, establishing expectations and practices to manage these customers’ needs can go a long way toward developing customer loyalty.
The best path to loyalty is to build the best product that you can. Your customers will come back to you time and time again. Talk to customers to see what they do and don’t like about your business. That’s what helps you grow.
Jordy Jordan, owner of Big D Barbecue in Texas:
When I first opened up, my main focus was two things: providing the best food and providing the best service. So when our customers come in, all of my employees know if they’ve seen them before to greet them accordingly. We treat our customers like they are in our house. We have about an 80-85% return customers. Our loyal customers are the ones who keep the lights on.
Tim Mueller, Regional Director of Information Technology at Dekra Automotive:
We are in a competitive space, so we try to really provide a consistent experience for our customers: well-lit, clean [space]; friendly, well-dressed staff; and good customer service from our personnel.
If we have a customer who is a bit persnickety, we tell each other about it, so that we are all aware of their preferences. I find that people who like things a certain way like to be remembered, so they don’t have to repeat that again. Quick meetings at the beginning and end of shifts and noting it in our CRM help everyone be on the same page for each customer’s return visit.
| See Also: Lessons in Dreaming Big from Big D Barbecue |
Failure turned out to be a popular topic at our session. All of our panelists had something to say about it. The message that came through repeatedly was that you have to keep going even if your first try doesn’t work out.
Print this section if you need to and tape this section to your laptop or fridge or bathroom mirror so that you stay motivated when the going gets rough (we might do the same!).
A big mentor is failure. If you’ve ever had a business that failed, it’s a humbling experience, but it makes you grow stronger.
Fail early and often. Learn from it and move on. Don’t dwell on it. Move forward and work on your next project.
I’ve failed multiple times, but the trick is not failing and saying ‘oh well’ and giving up; you have to keep looking forward. Just keep grinding. You may not have done anything wrong; you may have just been in the wrong market at the wrong time. It can be an expensive life lesson, but just keep grinding.
You can’t fail unless you try. You have to give yourself some credit for getting out there and trying. Having grit is important. Stay busy and don’t give up ever.
We are thrilled that we had the opportunity to listen to the advice of our customers at Revelry so that we can impart their wisdom. Watch the entire session below.