I was a retailer for 20 years, and for the last 5 years I’ve been a retail consultant.
It’s great to be a retailer, but it’s also hard. Most retailers are solo entrepreneurs. So it’s difficult to have someone to talk and ask advice for the business.
We could talk to family or friends.
And ask for advice, but are we going to get candid and useful advice?
Probably not. They are our friends, not retail consultants. And besides, sometimes we don’t even feel comfortable talking with friends and family about some business details. We don’t want to worry them with our problems.
We could talk to our employees.
Sometimes they can help. But we can’t tell them everything about the business. And they are not experts in retail. They know less about retail than we do.
I remember when I started (back in the 90’s). I was very young, very passionate about my business, but also very inexperienced.
I needed help. But I couldn’t find anyone to talk to. I even tried to find a consulting company to help. But those were too big companies for my business. I just couldn’t afford to pay their fees.
I read some books, but essentially, I had to learn by doing.
I made lots of mistakes, of course. Learning for ourselves is real hard. At the end, I think I did a good job. But it took 10 years to achieve this level.
If I had a retail consultant helping me, it would be much more easy. But at that time, it was difficult to find a retail consultant for a small or medium retail business like mine (I had 3 stores).
Today it’s still difficult to find consultants specialized in retail. We are a few ones, but hopefully in the future there will be more.
You probably don’t know how a retail consultant works, so here are some examples of how we help retailers.
1 — Knowledge
How to increase prices without loosing customers? How to make customers spend more money? How to create a web store? What is the best way to promote a new product?
These are some of the questions a retail consultant can answer and help you find the solution.
Sure you can find answers in the internet. Just google it. But what is the right advice and the wrong? There is some great advice, but also bad advice. And bad advice can make you loose time and money.
And even if you can find good advice, how can you implement on your specific situation? What are the next steps?
A retail consultant can help you.
2 — The big picture
When you are immersed in a business, it’s very difficult to see the big picture. You look, but you don’t see.
A retail consultant can more easily see where the problems are, how your store compare to the competition, and find hidden opportunities.
This is possible because a retail consultant don’t know your business from inside like you do. He can be a consultant, but also — and this is important — he thinks and feels like a regular customer.
From this point, he can help you develop a plan to fix the problems and chase opportunities you didn’t see.
3 — Business coaching
Consulting and coaching are two different things.
Consulting is helping your business by giving advice and preparing a plan for your business.
Business coaching is helping you to become a great professional. It’s about setting goals, helping you taking better decisions, and be there to listen to you and make the right questions.
Not all consultants are business coaches. But there are a few (me included) that help retailers and the business at the same time.
Is a retail consultant the solution for you?
Probably. But you have to understand two things about working with a retail consultant.
1 — A retail consultant is neither an employee, neither you.
A retail consultant is an expert who will bring his expertise. He, or she, is not an employee who will do the work you think should be done.
Also, he is not you. You still have to do the work of a business person. He will help you plan the work, he’ll give advice. But it’s you who have the final word.
2 — A retail consultant costs money. It’s an investment.
For people who want free advice, they have thousands of sites offering free advice. For cheap advice, they have books or courses — they can help, but they aren’t a specific solution for your situation.