Family Owned and Operated: Prepare for Continued Success
80 to 90 percent of all businesses are family-owned, -run, or –managed, and 63.1% of all c-stores in the U.S. are owned and operated by just one person[i]. We understand how hard it is to run your own convenience store. After working 60+ hours per week, long term success and transferring your business may not always be the first thing on your mind. Although owning and operating your own store can be overwhelming at times, you can ensure that you are continuously building your business and setting it up for long term success by taking the following steps.
Having a Plan
One way to grow your business is by having a plan that spans well into the future. When you plan for growth, change, and success your business does not have to remain stagnant and you remain prepared for the evolution of the industry. Your plans should include the steps that should be taken in case you are unable to run the store[ii]. Always ensure that all your store documents are up-to-date, and you have specific people named to take over and help should you need it. The person you name as a successor should have access to your plans that list of the things that you do, what you wish to do, and any other important information regarding finances or other regular operations. We know that your family members or employees may not be paying much attention to the overall success of the store right now, but thorough plans and documentation will make it easier to one day leave the store in the hands of someone else.
If you have family working in your store, it is especially important to give ongoing feedback about their performance. Employees naturally work better when they feel encouraged, which you can do by focusing on their needs and listening to them. This practice also helps to prevent high turnover rates of non-family employees. Consider reinforcing positive behavior by rewarding them when they are working hard to keep sales are high. This will keep them interested in the overall success of the store, and give you a clear vision of the future[iii].
Watching for New Opportunities
Family businesses have always outperformed non-family businesses[iv]. One of the best ways to do this is by keeping your eyes open for different opportunities. Watching for upcoming community events that you can participate in is a great way to bring attention to your store and raise sales. You can also market your store by joining different community groups. This will help you to create connections that can provide new opportunities for the store and your family. You should also see if you could get some of your products from local vendors. Beer, eggs, dairy, fruit, and desserts are all products you should carry and can get locally. Don’t ignore the c-store trends that are making waves. Many single store owners and small family owned business owners believe the newest and most exciting products or technologies are too expensive or unnecessary. However, taking advantage of some of these opportunities could bring in some great additional traffic and revenue.
Hiring Employees that are not Family
One of the hardest parts of owning a convenience store is the long hours that you are open. You are most likely understaffed, and while labor adds some amount of operation cost, hiring additional employees can give you more time for you and your family[v]. New employees can be hard to find, but it is worth the effort when they can help provide new perspectives and lighten the work load. If they are properly trained they can help keep the store clean, work the register, and assist with loss prevention, allowing you to have the best store possible. You can also train them to take over different aspects of the store, such as stocking and ordering inventory, updating store signs, and how to better engage customers.
Deciding What Employees Will Do in the Store
Some advantages to hiring family members is that they are committed and trustworthy. They are often willing to play multiple roles such as cashier, financial manager, maintenance, customer service, and supervisor. If you have an employee who is very detail oriented and consistently keeps the merchandise stocked and the bathrooms spotless, you should teach them how to interact with customers and work the register. If someone else on your team is outgoing and personable put them behind the counter to engage with customers, and teach them different financial aspects such as budgeting and purchasing. If you have a younger employee who organizes shelves, sweeps, and wipes down counters, you can should help them grow in other areas such as stocking or ordering inventory. Every employee should be able to balance multiple tasks. As the owner, you should be constantly learning and re-evaluating different roles to help your store function well.
One of the best ways to succeed as a family business is by having open communications. Having weekly or monthly meetings as a group or one-on-one can help you understand each other's needs. When they feel appreciated they will work harder, and your professional relationship will improve avoiding future conflict. It is important to not be too hard on family or non-family employees, and making sure you are being the best boss possible. You can do this by making sure your expectations are reasonable, and different for each person. Don't expect as much from your own child than a paid employee[vi].
Empowering the Next Generation
Overall, these steps will prepare your family-owned c-store for the future and help it grow into the most successful business that it can be. Empowering your children and other family members by telling them about opportunities within the store and giving them the option of a flexible schedule, will set you up for a positive experience in the future. Allow them to work elsewhere to gain experience, but always give them the chance to work for you and help be a part of your growing business.