Lisbiz Strategies: Young business owners share ideas at Surfaces

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January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By Lisbeth Calandrino

When I agreed to moderate a retailer forum, ‘Work, Life Balance,’ my thought was the attendees would be older business owners asking lots of questions. Much to my surprise, the audience of about 50, mostly men, was filled with a majority of owners ages 30-45. It was a lively group that was ready to chat at 8 a.m. Not only were they participating but at least 10 stayed after and wanted to talk with the panel.

My panel consisted of three principals: Fred Scharm, Scharm Floor Covering; Barbara Clements, Al’s Carpet Floor Covering and Design Services; and Catherine Buchanan, Independent Carpet One Floor and Home. All have served on various advisory boards within the industry and are noted for their forward-thinking management styles. We covered several topics: hiring, the installation crisis, millennials and social media. The topic that had the most conversation was by far social media and how to use it to grow your business. Most of the questions came from the millennials; it is obvious they are knowledgeable and very engaged in the topic.

Buchanan asked several questions of the audience. She does a great job with her social media and polled the audience numerous times. Again, the younger owners took the lead talking about more than just Facebook. We’ve all read that Facebook is for old people; this group is using new tools such as Instagram and Snapseed to convert consumers into customers. Like the audience, I took plenty of notes. One of the tools was called Buffer, a social media scheduling tool.

“I left with quite a bit of information for my store,” Buchanan said. “The audience and the other speakers were filled with information. I have so many things to implement.”

Clements was amazed at how well educated the younger business owners were. “Their ideas are quite forward thinking,” she said. “One of the young owners focused on a minimalist design for his brick and mortar store. It really is a departure from what most of our stores look like. It not only focuses on the clean lines and unusual sample racks but on functionality and the user experience. Things are changing in retail.”

Before the seminar, I spoke with Scharm about his experience with millennials. He said he had done research about the group when he started hiring. “I am amazed at how talented my new employee is in a different way. He’s quick and gets things done. This group of young business owners has given me some fresh ideas. I’m happy to be able to share my experiences with them.”

Much of the audience’s conversation was dominated by the millennials. They shared information about their experiences working in the industry; what works vs. what doesn’t work so well.

What I was most impressed with was the group’s willingness to share ideas and express their concerns.

Ginger Belilove from Creative Edge Master Shop was one of the participants. “It was great listening to new ideas that can be used in any business, not just retail,” she said.

These conversations are important and I think Buchanan summed it up the best when she said, “We need forums like this for networking and feedback. As retailers, we learn from each other and knowing we are all experiencing similar situations with media, marketing, selling and hiring helps us share and learn from each other.”

Thank you to my great panel for their commitment to share their ideas.

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