Making Dough in this Economy

Contributed by Gordon Fletcher
Owner, Humdinger's Pizza

Small business doesn't normally start in a high rise, corporate board room. Small businesses for the most part trace their humble beginnings to meetings in living rooms, garages and local coffee shops. Board minutes are scribbled on napkins where free flowing thoughts spark imagination and ideas are bred in hopes of seeing wild eyed dreams come to fruition. Despite humble beginnings the small business owner is a kaleidoscope of talent, adaptation and ingenuity. The ever changing face of the markets in which they operate ensure this.

Businessmen and women risk everything. Risk is beyond mere financial dedication. These kindred spirits wager their reputations, their time with family, their health and sometimes even their marriages on the slim chance that the energy and dedication invested in their product, store front or service will yield a reward greater than that which they sacrifice. So remember, be gracious when you patronize small business.

Business owners are also chameleons; adapting and changing with trends, competition and market demand. Owners, entrepreneurs and partners have to be on their A game when recruiting, hiring and managing a growing business. The demands of scheduling, insurance, payroll and overhead loom greatly in the minds of business owners. Sleepless nights are the least of their worries.

As a business owner, I’ve had an intense education in the real world. I’ve been forced to learn quickly and adapt even quicker. Staying ahead of the trends is a lesson not easily retained. There is no exact formula. I do have some tricks which have helped me navigate these tumultuous waters.

Reading has been invaluable. I have always said, “if you aren't reading you aren't succeeding.” For us, food is everything. I read and absorb everything food. Reading, learning, implementing technique, marketing and expansion have been a standard order of operation.

Staying ahead of trends is paramount for any business. I have found Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Buzzfeed reposts to be great allies. This is how we keep a finger on the pulse of what the general public is after. Periodicals in our particular industry has proven time and again, by the grace of God, that we are often ahead of the curve.

Expand or die has become our mantra. Be excellent at one thing and once sustainable, bring something else into the scope of services or products already offered through the business. This idea does three things. It drives revenue, helps grow jobs and increases the business’s exposure in a community.

These lessons have been adopted into our business model through a sort of osmosis. The worst winter in our three and a half years of business has caused us to think outside of the box; the four walls of our restaurant. We’ve got plenty of excuses to fail but no real reason to allow it.

Facebook changed business page reach in September of last year and actually began working against organic marketing. Businesses are forced to expand their reach on Facebook by purchasing ads. Family budgets always take a hit in the winter due to Thanksgiving, Christmas, increased electric and natural gas bills. If it affects the family bottom line it will affect the local businesses bottom line. Of course new competitive businesses in the direct market will always affect revenue. Getting ahead of the lean times becomes an art.

Here is where I am absolutely frank. Whining and crying about lean times accomplishes nothing. Blaming circumstances will never increase revenue or bring job security for staff. Complaining certainly doesn’t pay the bills. Adapt and overcome. We began looking for and implementing strategies to pursue new revenue sources. We tried to be creative with marketing and community networking. It took about three months but we are now seeing the benefit it has had on our business.

We now cater once a month for the Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce. Occasionally on Mondays or late Sunday nights I open our restaurant to special groups. IDEA homeschool recently brought a group of 60 plus individuals to our shop for a field trip. Children learned everything from rolling their own dough to watching it bake in our wood fired oven. Biggest news of late; Three Bears Palmer has allowed us to sell our par baked pizza crusts, with gluten free products on the horizon. While these are trying times they are also exciting times if we don’t allow limits to be placed on our own ingenuity.

If you are in small business, do not be frustrated. Teresa Roy of Cover Ups in downtown Palmer gave the best piece of business advice I’ve ever heard. She said, ”get off the emotional roller coaster.”  I pass those words of wisdom onto you; the frustrated, confused and stressed out. Disengage your emotion, engage your mind and will. Your reward awaits.