Why Character Matters in Small Business
I love going through my daughter's mail. Oh, I wouldn't go through it without her! But her mail still comes to my house (that's another story - she has had her own place for ages), and it's frequently filled with tiny boxes and envelopes from all over the world. Like so many people her age, she uses the internet as her shopping mall, and she finds interesting and eclectic items from wherever on the globe they are sold. Her options are endless and exciting.
It's not new news that this is a troubling development for traditional retailers. Consumers have never had so many, nor such interesting, options. Furthermore, consumers want something from their purchasing experience - something that historically played a smaller role in consumer demand. The new consumer expects the purchasing experience to also deliver meaning, experience, and relationships - or some combination of those three.
Many things must be done to attract and keep the new consumer - from merchandising strategy to experience to branding and marketing. But at the heart of all the changes (fun changes by the way) is your brand. At the heart of your brand is your character.
The dictionary defines character as "the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual." Likewise, a business must have distinct mental and moral qualities, qualities that make it matter to certain customers. Your qualities won't matter to all the customers, and they don't have to. You don't need all the customers to be successful, you just need the right customers.
If you know precisely who you are, why your business matters to you, and why that should matter to your customers, you have the beginnings of a brand. If you take that beginning further and stay true to your core purpose, expressing your values as part of your unique and meaningful offering, your brand will begin to grow. When you ask and answer every question through the lens of your values - from how you work with your vendors to what merchandise to offer to the messages in your marketing materials to how you treat your customers - your brand will be come powerful. And that, in a nutshell, is character.
The most powerful thing a small business owner can do is be an effective leader, and ensure his entire organization conveys a strong message of character and integrity to his business community. This core strength will benefit your business in every possible way.