Pretty Smart . . . when I am not running a shoe store

Updated: Apr 14




I own a high end boutique that sells predominantly shoes.  I also have a consulting practice that focuses on governance, strategy, enterprise risk management and strategic communications.  Because my retail business is a baby - 682 days to be exact - it is in the growth stages, where every single penny counts. 

I am pretty new at this, but my counterparts in the retail business tell me that 2017 has been the worst year in memory for retail.  Something has happened, they tell me. The numbers are not what they used to be.  Luckily for me, ignorance is bliss. I do not have the history that they do. So I can't fathom the kinds of numbers they are talking about, but I can count, and I can add. And I know my business plan. And I know that my business has not yet achieved its business plan that was based on the previous owner's numbers.  So I can only surmise one of two things:  that I am not very good at this, or the economy - the public - has changed the way it chooses to shop. 

I work my retail business 90% of the time, actively on floor. There are many guests who, when they come in my door, I greet them with a hug, because I sincerely, appreciate them and love their company.  This is what happens 90% of the time.  Many people who shop in my boutique either have become friends, or are about to become friends.  Working the sales floor is my favourite place to be, because that's where the people are, and the people are the reason that my business exists.  And so I am sincerely and utterly happy to see them and to serve them. 

Sometimes, people come into the store, and they remark about how beautiful it is, and they will often say - "it must be difficult working a place like this. How do you not spend all your paycheque here?" - assuming that I am an employee working. I explain to them that actually I am the owner, and that I love the product that we offer, and the business and it's history, and that yes - I do buy what I love and what I know my customers will love. 

On some ocasions, they ask me how to got here - my background. I tell them that I began my career as a journalist, then moved into corporate communications, strategy, risk management and executive roles.  They raise their eyebrows in disbelief. One guest said - well how it possible you could know about all those things when you are a shoe store owner?"

"Well, I guess I am pretty smart when I am  not running a shoe store."  

The fact is that the entrepreneurs running independent businesses are capable of many things. We have to be everything because we can’t always find people who care as much as we do, and sometimes it isn’t prudent to pay people. But we must be marketers, buyers, book keepers, communicators and be IT savvy. 

The difference between us and our box store counterparts is simply what I call “skin in the game.” 

Retail looks easy because our job is to make it look and feel beautiful and seamless to to the public. We provide an escape from reality. And there are a lot of things the public doesn’t understand about this business. And that means we're doing a good job.


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