My most popular column in Draperies & Window Coverings was “Fear—How It Stops Us Cold” (see D&WC, November 2004, page 80). Overcoming fear is the one thing that will help us grow. So, today, let’s study the 10 worst fears and myths that keep your small business from growing large.
WHY DO WE STAY SMALL?
In our industry, being a small business generally is considered
as under $500,000 in sales. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of
the industry is under $200,000 in sales. Window coverings are different
from all other product businesses. Why? Because it takes skill and
experience to sell in the customer’s home. Of some 20,000
businesses, only about 1,500 exceed a half-million dollars in sales.
If you want to grow from $50,000 a year to $200,000 . . . or from
$200,000 to $500,000 . . . and especially from $500,000 to over
$1 million, chances are, fear is your greatest barrier.
Part of why window coverings business owners stay small is a lifestyle
choice—balancing family, quality of life and personal satisfaction.
But, beyond choice, there are thousands of wonderful business owners
who want more than they have today. They want to grow, to be somebody,
to achieve something special. They want to prove something to themselves
and set an example for their children. But listening to industry
“wisdom” and myths creates fear of growth. Let’s
blow apart those fears and unlock your creativity to grow in 2006.
10 FEARS AND MYTHS YOU CAN BEAT
Here are 10 fears and myths to overcome if you want to grow your
1. Fear: You can’t handle growth. If you
are afraid you can’t handle growth and keep your standards,
just try it once. You never know where your limits are until you
go past them. The worst that can happen is you get a little stressed,
and maybe a customer has to wait an extra week or two. You—and
your customer—will live through it. But if you don’t
try, you can never grow. Blow this fear out of the water and see
2. Myth: Your customer thinks the same way you do.
Craftspeople are thrifty and find ways to get by on limited income.
They assume their customers think the same way. But good customers
have more money than you do. They value different things. Successful
business owners give customers what they want and can afford: beauty
in their homes and recognition from their friends. That’s
what makes good customers happy. Give it to them. Stop thinking
3. Myth: Small is better than large. Because 90
percent of the industry is small, if you want to grow you might
be listening to the wrong people. Small business owners who stay
small may not have confidence to strive for more. Don’t let
them persuade you to be less than you can be. You have what it takes
to break out. Do it!
4. Fear: Advertising. Businesses that stay small
convince themselves that word-of-mouth advertising is the only advertising.
Yes, do great work and earn word-of-mouth customers, but don’t
let that be your only marketing plan. It will take six years to
reach $100,000 in sales. Others do twice that much in their first
year by marketing and advertising. How can having more customers
5. Myth: Charge a fee for an appointment. The only
business owner who should charge for an appointment is one who sells
hourly consultations. Others may do it if they have not been educated
to serve customers correctly, but if you buy at wholesale and sell
at retail, never place a barrier between you and a buyer.
When someone tells you to charge for an appointment, they are really
saying, “Stay small like I am. I would be jealous if you built
a large business.” It is a massive industry trick. Do not
listen to uneducated business owners who charge for appointments.
6. Fear: Competition. This is one of the most unfounded
fears in our industry. It holds you back from charging the prices
you deserve. Our company, custEmers.com, has made repeated studies
and found that competition is way overblown. Competition affects
customers we never get a crack at not the ones who call us for an
appointment. If this does not make sense to you, e-mail me for more
7. Fear: Telephoning customers. I have heard all
the excuses from, “I don’t like people calling me,”
to “I don’t want to interrupt someone’s dinner,”
and dozens more. They are all baloney. It is simply fear and lack
of understanding that stops you from calling customers. Try it some
time. Your customers will love hearing from you.
8. Fear: Pricing what you are worth. This is one
of the most insidious fears of all and easily mastered with a little
courage. First, convince yourself that you are worth it, that others
who make much more money are no better than you and, in fact, may
be new dealers with much less expertise. Once you believe in yourself,
just add 10 percent on your next five calls. You must be willing
to lose in order to win! E-mail me what happens. Chances are you
will find you are worth 10 percent more than you thought . . . that
should be worth $10,000 in your pocket next year!
9. Fear: Adding employees. You can grow only so
far doing it all yourself. As you learn more about the business
you will have confidence to add others to help you. Installation
help should be first, paperwork next. Then add a part-time salesperson.
That is a formula to sell up to $600,000 and still work from home
without a store. You can e-mail me for details.
10. Fear: Anything else that is stopping you. In
this paragraph list any fear not listed above. Whatever it is, blow
it away with education and courage. First, take training to overcome
what limits you. Then, take a risk. Start today to control your
fears. Don’t let them control you.
As business owners, we are all hesitant, fearful and uncertain at
times. Being in business means taking risk. Usually it pays off.
Sometimes it does not. But, with every setback we learn more about
how to reach the next plateau. Isn’t that what business—and
life—is all about?
It is still early in 2006. You have time to make this your best
year ever. Set yourself free. Face what you fear and move up to
your full potential. The world is pulling for you. Give your business
your best. Then tell me the result. Win or lose, success or failure,
I want to hear your experience. Please e-mail me soon.
This article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience
with sales and financial information working with hundreds of window
Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to higher sales, or you manage 50
window fashion decorators in a multi-million dollar business, this series will
help you manage sales better and increase your profitability. Bursten is the
retired founder of Decorating Den Interiors and author of a how-to book on new
business start up, “Bootstrap Entrepreneur,” and is a leading expert
in window coverings marketing, sales systems and sales management through his
company, custEmers.com. Questions and comments welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (888) 333-8981.