By Bruce Freeman The Small Business Professor.
Q: As an independent pharmacy owner, I realize my business will benefit if I get more involved in my local community, but I spend most days and many evenings behind my store's counter. Any suggestions on what I can do to become more locally active, given the time constraints operating my business puts on my schedule?
A: Many independent pharmacy owners face this challenge when they spend so many hours each day running their business. Even with time at a premium, there are ways to be more involved and ensure you and your business are familiar to potential customers in your area.
Martin Miller, the director of operations for Garden State Pharmacy Owners Inc., an organization of independent pharmacies in New Jersey, has some excellent suggestions:
-Community involvement can bolster your business. Along with taking care of their customers, independent pharmacy owners are focused on inventory, finances, and all other tangible assets involved in running a business. However, it's vital to understand that professional and personal networks should also be at the top of your list of essential assets, since contacts you can call on have value that's difficult to overestimate.
-Try to set aside some time each week within your schedule, perhaps during one weekday evening, and on the weekend as well, to focus on becoming better known locally. Most entrepreneurs are extremely busy, but the ones who succeed are often those who most efficiently utilize their time.
-Once you've set a few hours aside, consider joining local organizations that attract community leaders. Your chamber of commerce certainly makes sense, as do various service organizations, including Rotary, the Lions and others. Be sure to attend meetings regularly (most are monthly) and participate in outreach initiatives. You'll be amazed at how many people you meet, and how quickly people get to know you.
-Finally, in terms of the groups you join and the initiatives you participate in, try and pick ones that align with the interests of your customers and your business. For instance, as an independent pharmacist, you might benefit from involvement in a local effort involving an element of health care, from collecting expired medications to raising funds to provide canes or reading glasses to the elderly.
All in all, establishing connections and becoming more familiar to people who reside in your local area is a potent strategy for helping your small business grow.
For further information, please visit www.gspo.org. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Bruce Freeman, an adjunct professor and co-author of "Birthing the Elephant" (Random House), is president of ProLine Communications.