I read an article recently that gave 3 reasons for businesses closing when the owner wants to retire:
- internet competition,
- lack of loyalty among younger customers,
- and owners not being able to find a buyer.
All of these reasons come back to one uncomfortable truth:
The average business owner has been watching the internet come roaring down the track for years and has made little to no effort to figure out how they could use the web to:
- improve their business operations and efficiency,
- increase customer loyalty,
- improve communications with customers,
- reach target markets they could have never dreamed of before,
- and adapt their business to survive.
It's especially rich when a Boomer business owner complains about young people not being loyal. What about the downtown stores that died with the advent of shopping centers and malls? We boomers were the young ones then and loyalty certainly didn't make us shop at our local mom & pops rather than going to a mall.
My father owned a small music and appliance store that had been open since the 40's. Vinyl records used to be low hanging fruit until albums became available at stores like Kmart for $3.50 rather than $4.98 at stores like his. Of course people bought the cheaper ones, and they also had access to a lot larger selection! Now mp3's are bought online.
The world ch-ch-changes and you change with it or you don't survive.
Younger people ARE loyal if you give them a reason to be loyal, though. Pay more just because you need to charge more? Sorry, but no.
Pay more because you're offering something they can't get elsewhere (unique product or buying experience, emotional connection, knowledge and insight)? Then they'll pay more. Just ask Starbucks. That's why positioning and branding is so important.
When not buying online, many younger people actually prefer to patronize small, local businesses.
They crave the nostalgia of what they didn't get to grow up with: intimacy and emotion when buying, because we Boomer parents were too busy taking them to the drive-thru's and all the big boxes. Why do you think large companies try so desperately to project a "small" vibe now?
Boomers spent our younger years rejecting most of what our parents held dear, but now we expect "our way" to be sacred. Well, tough break. We have to adapt.
You have to give customers a reason to need or want you, and prospective owners a reason to want to BE you.
If you want to have any chance at all of selling your business some day, start working now on ways to make the business more attractive to both customers and potential owners.
Or, if you're lucky enough to own the building your business is in, you can always keep your head stuck in the ground and just shut down and sell the building when you retire. Then maybe some millenial will figure out a way to open a cool new business in it.