Ep. 65 Stop Believing These Independent Retail Business Myths (Part 1)

Recently, one of my private coaching clients mentioned that she felt like she had to run her social media the way she’d been taught in a course. 

As we talked about this belief, she came to realize that 1) many of her customers don’t even come from social media, so she didn’t need to focus on it so much, and 2) she has the agency to create a marketing strategy that works for her and feels good, without the pressure of “how everyone else is doing it.”

We hear all sorts of stories about how to run an independent retail business. And it’s easy to hear a story, believe it to be true, and then judge our own business against it. But there is no one right way to run a business! You have to find what works for you. 

That’s why I want to dispel some of the common stories, myths, and one-liners that business coaches and gurus toss around. I’ll share six today, and six more on Episode 66 of the Savvy Shopkeeper Retail Podcast.

Myth #1: You Should Expect to Show a Loss for Your First Three Years in Business

I’m starting off with my biggest pet peeve of them all. I feel like this is something I heard even back in the ’90s when I was getting a business degree. I can’t confirm that or where I first heard it, but I have heard this repeated for years. 

I never understood the logic. And I’m so glad I resisted the trend of following this awful advice! 

2020 was a prime example of why we shouldn’t focus on showing a loss. Not only does it disempower us from being smart and savvy business owners, not showing a profit on 2019 Profit and Loss statements kept MANY independent retail store owners from getting the federal assistance or grants they needed.  

Some retailers and other small business owners think it’s because they were a one-person show and it’s because they didn’t have employees. But that isn’t the case! 

Many sole proprietors qualified for the Paycheck Protection Program, and it was because they showed a profit and were paying themselves. Taking a salary is what allowed them to qualify for paycheck protection. Paycheck protection protects our pay, too—not just our employees. 

Myth #2: Retail is a Passion, Not Profitable

In my mind, having a retail business is BOTH. And it’s doable! I’m an example of that, and so are many of the shopkeepers in the Savvy Shopkeeper community.

Now, is profit everything? No, of course not. The joy of running our businesses, the contributions we make to our communities, the passion to make and create—all of those things certainly matter. They matter to me.  

But I want to stress that I have plenty of examples, from Master Shopkeepers members to 1:1 clients who prove that running a retail business not only fulfills a dream and passion but ALSO contributes to their households. In some cases, they are the breadwinners (yes, you read that right!).

Myth #3: Overworking is the Norm

Many small business owners believe they have to work 60-80 hours a week to profit or be “successful.” Our society really embraces hustle culture, but that doesn’t mean you have to! 

Kari Johnston, owner of Rose City Boutique and a Master Shopkeepers member, shared this thought in a recent conversation in our Master Shopkeepers group:

“I think the entire ‘work less, profit more’ tagline debunks the small business hustle that we tend to wear as a badge of honor & opens our minds up to the fact that we can actually run a profitable, EFFICIENT business that we’re proud of instead of aiming to work ourselves to death.”

I couldn’t agree more with Kari’s comment. I created Savvy Shopkeeper as a way to help independent retail business owners do exactly that! And I’m an example of what’s possible for shopkeepers, too. I don’t overwork in my business. No matter what needs to be done, I make sure it gets done in the time I have available for my store. 

I’m also proud of the 40% of respondents in the recent Savvy Shopkeeper survey said they don’t feel like they’re overworking in their businesses. Shoutout to all of you who are working less and profiting more!

Myth #4: Working More is More Productive

So many small business owners believe this and I want to break this myth so badly! That’s why part of my tagline is “work less.” 

Shopkeepers who believe this just haven’t learned how to really be productive in shorter periods of time. I recently had a conversation with a 1:1 client about how addictive our phones are. It’s so easy these days to get sucked into technology and put off the tasks we need to cross off our lists.

So what can you do when you need to be more productive? I recently shared my best tips for decluttering your mind and how to get unaddicted to your phone

Myth #5: Open to Buy is the Only Way to Manage a Buying Budget

I find that most micro-independent retail store owners don’t know what OTB is and/or have a hard time understanding it. Many will hire the management of their buying budget out—and if that works for you and you can afford the expense, great.  

However, I’ve learned that having a strong understanding of my financials along with using Profit First is one way I can manage our buying budget and do it pretty well. I am really confident every month that not only do I have enough inventory coming in, but then I have enough in my accounts to pay for the inventory. 

I don’t have to outsource this and I’m a better business owner because of it. As our business grows, I might hand this off, like I recently did with our bookkeeping. But I’m glad I learned these parts of my business first before someone else manages it for me.

Myth #6: The Customer is Always Right

Sorry, not sorry for not adopting this old-school belief, either. 

Of course, I love our customers, and I’m quick to admit when I am wrong. I’ve been wrong in the past! 

For example, early on in our business, I shipped something to a customer without using priority shipping. I was trying to save money on the shipping cost, but the standard post isn’t insured. And in the end, it burned me in the situation with this customer. I apologized, I made it right—and now we only ship priority for the insurance and speed.

I learned my lesson. But the thought that the customer is always right just isn’t true. 

I do bend the policies in my own store to make customers happy. But I will not always give in to customers who empower themselves to take advantage of small businesses with this old school of thought.

Dani, owner of Cotton Shed Vintage Market and a Master Shopkeepers member, shared this in our group:

“The customer is always right is just a big, fat lie. The customer is human and deserves to be treated with respect but, like all humans, sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong.”

To summarize, here are the six myths independent retail owners need to stop believing:

1. You should expect to show a loss for your first three years in business

2. Retail is a passion, not profitable

3. Overworking is the norm

4. Working more is more productive

5. Open to buy is the only way to manage a buying budget

6. The customer is always right

Stop believing these myths, and you’ll be well on your way to embodying our collective goal to work less, profit more. 

Resources

Timestamps

  • [02:36] Why I’m debunking these myths in independent retail business
  • [03:59] Myth #1: you should expect to show a loss for your first three years in business
  • [06:29] Myth #2: retail is a passion, not profitable
  • [08:41] Myth #3: overworking is the norm
  • [09:58] Myth #4: working more is more productive
  • [11:05] Myth #5: open to buy is the only way to manage a buying budget
  • [12:51] Myth #6: the customer is always right
  • [17:19] Feedback from the Savvy Shopkeeper survey

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