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Stark advice

Matt Morgan • Apr 4, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Every business goes through ups and downs, even if it isn't at the fault of its own actions. Those circumstances call for things to tighten up with scarcity or invest at times of bounty. Taking some "Stark advice," we're going to explore how you can become stronger in either case. After all, stark (stärke) does mean "strength" in German.

"Winter is coming." - Eddard Stark, Game of Thrones

We here in the Firelands are very well aware of this dire warning. Not just Sandusky thrives during the summertime and we have to use the bountiful warmer days to get things done and stock up. Unfortunately for many, winter is a period of scarcity of peoples' time, money, or energy. If you own a small business in the area that pinch can leave a bruise. So, being fortunate that we don't have a decade-long winter to survive like Eddard, how can we thrive in times of scarce resources?

For one, don't be dour! Pessimism and panic spread quickly and if your customer base sees you stressed it may affect their desire to come in. The Starks in Game of Thrones survive through pragmatism and a code of honor. Their stronghold, Winterfell, isn't the fanciest castle on the moor yet it has stood for hundreds of years. A measured outlook is necessary to weather the winter. Stay strong and make due. Those around you, your employees and customers alike, will admire your determination and cleverness. It will inspire them and open up resources of purse and mind.

Some inexpensive ways to invigorate your business in times of scarcity are to do simple things. Rearrange the shelves and product. Put up some decorations. Play some music through a radio. Even if nothing else changes the show of effort can leave an impression. Have you switched out your incandescent flood lights to compact fluorescent or LEDs? Have you winterized your windows and glass doors? Buy the stock that sells and limit your exposure to high risk purchases. Also you may want to focus on breadth of product and not depth if you do want something new. Try to show off a range of products, even one or two deep, as a way to appear fuller and offer more options even in tough times.

Lastly, relax! Help yourself stay positive and motivated by hosting events in your business. It doesn't have to cost much if anything. Invite some customers for an after-hours lesson in what you do. A potluck works well, too. You may sell hundred-dollar bracelets or thousand-dollar tattoos, but your customers come to you for a reason. Share your wisdom, engage in conversation with them, and teach them what you do and why you do it.

"They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once ... I present to you the newest in Stark Industries' Freedom line ... the Jehrico!" - Tony Stark, Iron Man

Living a life of luxury and bounty, this particular Stark has a different outlook on life and business. In the above quote, the already-successful Stark Industries just launched (no pun intended) a new line of products which ultimately led to further success with the development of his Iron Man suit. That then became so successful that it took acts of internal espionage, the U.S. government, and a private competitor to attempt to take over the business! Talk about keeping the ball rolling, right?! How can we find ways to grow our own small businesses here in the area in times of bounty to catapult into magnificent heights (make sure you solve the icing problem)?

Firstly, don't expand just to expand. It needs to be measured and support something you already do. If you sell pears, expand into apples and not Apples. Keep at what you are good at describing, selling, and doing. That is your strength. A schism was formed when Tony suggested selling something other than military tech to his vice president Obadiah Stane, getting the response of "Like what? Make baby bottles?!" Additionally don't just look at putting more or different product on your shelf, explore the support networks that it takes to market your product or get your materials into your shop. Perhaps investing in a company van or even hire someone to revamp your website will then fold back into more and more bounty for you!

Stay focused and be willing to support the "boring" options or even things that may not seem to make a difference. A new coat of paint in your office has a huge effect on all the people who come in to ask your advice on financial matters or purchase a widget. While it may look the same to you every day, how many hundreds walk through your door who will all see it and the other modifications for the first time?

Use the bounty to your benefit. Enhance what you are already good at doing. But, set some aside too, lest you forget that winter is always coming ...

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