Opinions expressed by entrepreneur contributors are their own.
After Review host and Yelp Small Business Expert Emily Washcovick shares a look on this week’s episode of the podcast.
In building a small business, most owners think of expansion as a clear marker of their success. Bigger is better. More customers means more revenue. But rapid expansion can actually hurt your small business if it’s not done right with the right tools and resources.
That’s a lesson Korri Burton-Universe, owner of Uncommon Closet, a custom clothing and tailoring resource, learned the hard way. After a slow 2020, business started to pick up in 2021 as weddings were being rescheduled.
“Then 2021 comes around, and it’s like, oh, we have to take every customer. We can’t turn anyone away. Oh, dear God. Now we’re drowning. It was really hard. I ended up losing part of my key Employees , which was very difficult. I upset a lot of people, and I’ll be honest about that. It was a really difficult year,” Korri said.
Uncommon Closet lost several key staff members to burnout, but an assistant manager gave some good feedback in a resignation letter and Korri took the time to really listen. This led to some changes in the hiring process as well as in the management of their business.
Korri said: “We got it together. I got a business consultant and we were planning, ‘What do we want?’ It really narrowed down who we needed to hire, what kind of people we wanted. I’ve learned so much in the last six, seven months about how to hire the right staff and not just panic hiring. How to better communicate what I need and understand what my staff needs and really streamline the workflow. I’ve gotten a lot better at that.”
As a small business owner, you don’t need to have all the answers to every problem. Korri has learned to reach out when problems arise and let employees use their experiences to help build the business.
“I’ve created a team atmosphere here. I’m very clear, we don’t fight alone. When there’s a tough, boss-type decision, I’ll go to my tailor and be like, ‘Hey, what should I do?’ How do I phrase this properly? How can I do this?””
Yelp reviewer Yvette C. came to Uncommon Closet in need of some alterations to a wedding dress, which is arguably one of the most important dresses a person can wear, and a proper fit is essential for both appearance and comfort on the big day. This pressure can be nerve-wracking, but Yvette felt welcome and relaxed in the shop, thanks to excellent service and an inviting atmosphere.
“Customer service is a big thing for me because I have my own business, so I know what’s going on and I know it shouldn’t be hard to put a smile on your face—even if it’s a fake one— and make that customer. feel like they got a quality experience. But it’s all true at Uncommon Closet,” said Yvette.
And their goal is truly to make anyone and everyone feel welcome as a proud LGBTQIA+ friendly business.
“I like to be very open with who we are. I’d rather be very loud and intentional, to be queer, that’s what a queer space is for. This is a safe space. This is very important to me because it shows my customers that they can be who they want to be when they walk into the store,” said Korri.
“It also tells people right away, if we’re not going to get along, we’re not going to get along. I joke that our rainbow showcase is the vibe detector control. If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably pretty good.”
Like most small business owners, feedback is both a joy and a curse for Korri, but she takes it in stride.
“I’ve learned that you can’t make everyone happy… and sometimes, it really is our fault, and I’ll accept that. But you can’t make everyone happy. You won’t always you get along with everybody. And sometimes things just happen where maybe we just didn’t do something the right way.”
But according to Yvette, you can’t just respond with a standard response to comments, negative or positive.
“When I write good reviews, [the response is] usually just a standard thank you. Korri actually went a little further in expressing gratitude and appreciation, as opposed to: ‘Thank you for your nice comment. We hope you will refer someone to us.’ They took the time to say, thank you for that review. It will really help us. We look forward to seeing you. So it was nice to get a little bit more.”
These strategic business lessons have contributed to Uncommon Closet’s success, and these others may also help your small business:
- Rapid business growth brings challenges. You may need to reduce your workload or hire new employees with specific skills.
- Know where you lack experience and be transparent with employees. They may be able to step in and give advice.
- Be proud of your identity. Creating an inclusive environment will help build a customer base and provide self-affirming customer experiences.
- Make your responses to comments thoughtful. Reviewers notice when you write canned responses to their reviews.
Listen to the episode below to hear live from Korri and Yvette, and subscribe After the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.
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