How to Thrive as a Retail Entrepreneur
Every entrepreneur and business has been tested during the world pandemic, especially in the retail industry. While things are moving in a positive direction, the retail world will continue to be ever-changing and volatile thanks to permanent shifts in customers’ habits. The only thing we can bet on is the next crisis, big and small. As a serial retail entrepreneur, I’ve weathered numerous tests and have developed some core values that every entrepreneur should grasp. Below, I’ve created an acronym with tips on how to not only survive but thrive, as a retail entrepreneur.
While the word entrepreneur may be singular, that’s where individuality stops. No entrepreneur or business can thrive without a strong team, and I’ve always focused on investing in great people. At T-ROC, we are hired by the largest companies in the world because of the people who come to work with us. Every entrepreneur should surround themselves with a trusted executive-level team, like-minded people who are passionate about achieving success; and then recruit and hire a diverse group of employees who share their same vision and work ethic. Once there’s a team in place, focus on reverse mentorship. For me, that means asking for employees’ insight and expertise on certain topics, which can not only benefit the company but also adds to their purpose and fulfillment at the company. How you treat your team will also determine your success. It’s mission-critical to over-communicate with employees, whether it’s verbally or through emails, newsletters, and surveys. I also believe in rewarding your team, from celebrating birthdays and milestones to honoring those who have gone the extra mile, especially in hard times like the ones since the onset of the pandemic.
I learned at the beginning of my career the value of honesty and doing the right thing, no matter how painful or costly. Back when I got my first start in the ‘90s, I had to tell a major wireless carrier not to pay commissions that were due to me because I was concerned that I couldn’t re-pay them for the inventory they gave me on credit. It was important for me not to damage that trusted relationship; decades later, that person from the wireless carrier just retired after serving 5 years as my COO. Honesty and integrity are part of T-ROC’s core values, and over the last year, it’s become even more important as retailers have faced one gut-wrenching trial after another. Employees, vendors, and suppliers need to trust that you’ll stay true to your word, whether that means on-time payment or keeping them safe. That same integrity should extend to customers, who also want to know that retailers have their best interests at heart from in-store health and safety protocols to having desirable products in stock to the ease of ordering online and curbside pick-up.
Similar to building the right team, every retail entrepreneur should establish and maintain meaningful relationships with vendors, manufacturers, bankers, and stakeholders – basically, anyone who has a vested interest in your success. At the onset of the pandemic when the world shut down, many of us had to scramble for more staffing, or even change payment schedules. By fostering these valued relationships, it’s easier to work together when a crisis strikes. Building strong relationships also applies to outsourcing. A thriving entrepreneur recognizes they can’t be everything to everyone. Anything that is core to your business, meaning that you do it best, should be done internally. Anything that someone else can do smarter, cheaper, or faster should be outsourced. Lastly, it’s also important to build relationships within your trade and participate in like-minded groups where you can learn, garner advice, and ultimately, stay on the cutting edge of your industry.
Innovation is crucial in fast-changing environments like the retail industry, and to thrive, it’s up to you to be vigilant on the latest technology trends and customers’ needs. Consumer shopping habits drastically changed during the pandemic, and retailers will continually need to adapt by using omnichannel sales strategies in brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce. To stay ahead of the competition, I’m constantly reading, researching, and staying up-to-date on the latest technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), radio frequency identification (RFID), robotics, beacons, smart fixtures, facial & gesture recognition, and other technologies to be more efficient, predictive, and meet the inventory and product needs of customers.
Vision is what drove you to start your own business, and it should continue to push you. If you have passion and a purpose in your heart for what you’re doing, your company’s chances for survival are great. Vision means keeping a constant grip on the pulse of your company and displaying confidence to your team and employees. Part of that is constant communication, so everyone is on the same page and striving for the same vision. Vision also means being laser-focused on your finances and resources, which equates to keeping your company lean; to weather unseen circumstances, and striving for new sales opportunities.
If you’re not evolving and ultimately growing, then you’re not thriving. We saw further proof of the importance of being nimble at the onset of the pandemic when retailers were forced to shutter and then find new ways to open and operate safely. It also exposed the mandatory need for a retailer’s omnichannel presence and adding new options for customers from curbside pickup to one-click shopping on social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Once a quarter at T-ROC, we attend what we call “hurricane sessions,” where we completely rip apart our business, pinpoint what worked and what didn’t, and then develop new ideas to make our business better. There should always be a never-ending theme of embracing change and learning.
Thriving may mean something different to each entrepreneur, but success is something we all recognize.