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A Small Business With Too Many Customers

Each week, we meet with and speak to dozens of entrepreneurs and small business owners who share their frustrations with us about getting new business -- and recount their struggles to pay the bills, the employees, and themselves at the end of each week.

The common tale is that they seem to be doing everything correctly. They just don't know why it's not working the way they expected; they just don't know why it's so difficult to get more customers.

I guess you could call it the story of my life, listening to these all-too-similar stories.

So on Father's Day, we took my father-in-law fishing, and afterwards (after catching nothing) went to a small seafood restaurant in a coastal town on the east coast of Florida. Typical looking place. The kind that has decent food, but mostly struggles to stay afloat. The kind whose owner isn't satisfied with the money he's making.

With few decent choices in town, this place was packed on Father's Day. In fact, they were out of at least half of the menu items, and the restaurant was a wreck. It looked like they had been robbed. None of the tables were bussed, there were chairs lying on their sides, and trash rolling around on the floor after having fallen off of the messy tables. Wow!

So, over comes the waiter, who leans against the wall, out of breath and wipes his brow, half-panting, "Hey guys, sorry we've been realy busy so I'm behind and we're out of this, this, that and that." What a welcome??

As you can imagine, this never improves, we have a spotty dinner with worse service. Toward the end, the owner comes out into the dining room and remarks to our waiter, "Wow, we really have some mess here."

"Yep," replies the waiter.

"Well, you have fun cleaning it up, I'm gettin' out of here," proclaims the owner, then slaps the waiter on the back and walks right out. Congratulations!

So, I marveled to myself. This poor guy probably mopes around 360 days a year, just wondering why he can't get more business. But when he has one chance to really shine, he drops the ball.

I'm willing to bet that if I ever met with him to talk about helping him out, he would assure me that service is one of their strong points. Think again. He'd also most likely blame all of his problems on the economy, the price of gas, price of fish, mercury poisening, or the position of Mars. Again, no way.

The thing to ask ourselves is this, "What's the true reason my business isn't all it could be?" and "Am I maximizing the chances I get to shine?"

The reason I focus on situations like these is because they are everywhere - but everyone wants to jump straight to the marketing without getting their affairs in order first. The best marketing will break down at the point of purchase is allowed. It's your job as entrepreneur or business owner or manager or even sales person not to allow it to happen on your watch.