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orion_joel
08-18-2008, 01:00 AM
Hi All.

I know that many people here seem to have a specific business they work on. Or maybe 2 or 3 core project's/businesses.

What i am interested to know is do you spend time thinking about other business ideas that you could add to your business, or set-up and operate along side your core business?

This is something i maybe spend to much time thinking about. The primary reason that i spend time thinking about this for myself is so that in the future when i am operating my business i will not run into the problem's i have this time that when one client or one part of the business dies down the whole thing is pretty much gone, and i had to go looking for a job.

Look forward to your replies.

Steve B
08-18-2008, 06:37 AM
I have two businesses already, but I'm always trying to add some new service that will help during the slower times and give opportunity for growth.

With my dog fence business I want to take advantage of my database of happy customers. Since I can't get any repeat business since the fence lasts a lifetime and the hardware has a lifetime warrenty I'm hoping to add new services they can buy from me. Currently, I'm running a test add to see if I can make any money installing doggie septic systems. I'm also considering in-home petsitting etc.

KristineS
08-18-2008, 09:01 AM
I'd guess that most business owners think about this. It's the old "don't put all your eggs in one basket" syndrome. If you have a diversified array of products or services, one can pick up the slack when another is having a down cycle.

Aaron Hats
08-18-2008, 11:15 AM
I'm always thinking about what I can add to our store. The problem is that we're such a niche that whatever we add would have to compliment what we already sell. Since UV protective hats are in such demand we're thinking of maybe adding some UV protective shirts next summer.

Spider
08-18-2008, 01:51 PM
...Since UV protective hats are in such demand we're thinking of maybe adding some UV protective shirts next summer.You could go the other way, too. There is such a thing as tan-through beachwear (get an all-over tan without lying out naked!)

UV-protection shirts as well as tan-through shirts.

(Can't imagine anyone would want tan-through hats, though!)

Aaron Hats
08-18-2008, 02:58 PM
You could go the other way, too. There is such a thing as tan-through beachwear (get an all-over tan without lying out naked!)

UV-protection shirts as well as tan-through shirts.

(Can't imagine anyone would want tan-through hats, though!)

That would be a conflicting message though. We'd be saying we don't want them to get skin cancer on their face and head but the rest of their body is ok for cancer. Nope, no can do.

orion_joel
08-19-2008, 02:39 AM
It really is that eternal question of how to diversify, while focusing.

Ideally, what i want to be able to do with my business is have roughly 3 or 4 different strains that will give revenue, that may help compensate for others if one is not performing. The biggest problem that i have is that the other things that i have been thinking about doing are all seeming to be fairly high investment things, so maybe not necessarily businesses, as much as revenue generating investments.

Spider
08-19-2008, 09:32 AM
Frankly, I don't see the problem with diversifying. If diversifying was so bad, we wouldn't have Sears, Wal-Mart, General Electric, and a gazillion others. Where would America be without the General Store in every little township as European settlers spread west.

That doesn't mean one *should* diversify - there is a lot to be said for specializing, too, but I believe if you are in business, it is your job to satsify your customers and if you have customers who like to go sunbathing with a hat, then by all means sell them the clothing they want. I don't think it is up to the shopkeeper to tell people what they should wear and what they shouldn't wear. If you are in the apparel business, sell apparel! If you are in the food business, sell all kinds of food, including the unhealthy stuff. (Unless you are in the health food business, of course!)

Mixed message? Certainly! Unless all your customers are exactly the same with exactly the same wants and needs. But if there is some variety in your customers, you need to carry a variety of products.

I think being in the shirt business and not selling a certain kind of shirt because you dispprove of it, is sending a mixed message.

In fact, this brings up a tremendous subject for discussion - that most business owners don't realize what business they are in. It's too easy to say, "I'm in the people business." But are you, Aaron, in the clothing business or the hat business? Or are you in the Healthy Living business? Or are you in the style business? Or the wedding business? (I think more women today wear hats to weddings than to any other occasion.)

How about everyone else - what business are you really in? With all the land grants that went along with the growth of the railroads, if they had realised they were in the real estate business rather than the transport business, railroads might be more profitable today than they are.

What about you?

Aaron Hats
08-19-2008, 10:36 AM
Just because a customer wants a particular product doesn't mean I'll sell it to them. Otherwise I'd have a dozen "adult" sites on the web. You can say I'm limiting my business by doing that but that's fine by me. It's a matter of principles and morals. I think a business owner needs to run their business like they live their private life. Whether I'm selling a hat, riding my mountain bike or worshiping in church I'm the same person. For the last five years I've been telling my customers about the dangers of the sun. I have seen too many scarred faces with damage from skin cancer to stop giving that message.

Blessed
08-19-2008, 10:50 AM
I'm constantly thinking about how to diversify... and looking for opportunities that make it easier and cost effective to do so.

For example in the past year:
As background - I'm a graphic designer (12+years), with a 1 year old and I started working full-time from home last fall.

My first customers were small businesses and I was an one-stop-shop - I had two customer's that kept me pretty busy and picked up a little work from some other places, not enough to keep me working from home but enough to get me started.

Then someone told the marketing manager of a very large company about me - they get a lot of their marketing materials from "corporate" but have an occasional small project that they can take care of outside of the regular workflow and I started getting that business which of course led to more referrals for this kind of once or twice a year project work (that usually pays really well)

I wasn't making enough money so someone told me about a data entry WAH job and I applied, tested and started doing that - it doesn't pay much but it does pay enough to make up the hole in the budget between my husband's income and our bills. This free's up all of my graphic design income to go toward paying down debt, building savings and doing a few "extra's" Also this is the only completely non-graphic design work that I do.

I replied to an email I received from another small business owner looking for a graphic designer for a couple of small projects - that led into me becoming a "partner" with her on a new shopper magazine for our town - so now, I'm selling ads. But I'm also doing what I've always done - designing those ads and the magazine

This "partnership" has allowed me to pursue an idea I've had for a long time but didn't have the capital to make it happen - because she had a similar idea so now we're working together on that and have set ourselves up as a printing & marketing brokerage for small businesses. We're also set up as a vendor with a large printing company and get our printing orders at wholesale rates.

Then, her other business is a twice yearly consignment sale of children's & maternity clothing, furnishings and gear. I've been thinking about trying to capture some of the custom birth announcements, invitations, and holiday cards business in my town and through my relationship with her I've been given the opportunity to get 1000 postcards about this new service into the hands of Moms & Grandmas - I'm still doing what I've always done - graphic design, but I'm expanding my customer base.

I'm working toward being able to offer blog design and web design. Once I get there the possibilities for growing my business will be explosive and I'm sure that I'll find even more things I should learn and grow into!

It seems to me that if a small business (or any business for that matter) isn't constantly looking at how to provide more for their customer's and how to expand their customer base that they won't be able to continue to grow and will eventually fail.

Blessed
08-19-2008, 10:56 AM
Just because a customer wants a particular product doesn't mean I'll sell it to them. Otherwise I'd have a dozen "adult" sites on the web. You can say I'm limiting my business by doing that but that's fine by me. It's a matter of principles and morals. I think a business owner needs to run their business like they live their private life. Whether I'm selling a hat, riding my mountain bike or worshiping in church I'm the same person. For the last five years I've been telling my customers about the dangers of the sun. I have seen too many scarred faces with damage from skin cancer to stop giving that message.

I also think this is key - it is important in the pursuit of business growth that you stay true to yourself and to what you are comfortable selling.

When I was employed by another business I had to choose between occasionally working on designs for customer's whose message and services I completely disagreed with and was even offended by at times and having a job - now I simply don't do business with or for those people. My portfolio is "family friendly" and I work for myself so I'm able to keep it that way. I still do work for a variety of companies and while I may not buy into the message of a certain customer as long as it isn't offensive I can and do give them good work and do my best to help them promote their message.

orion_joel
08-20-2008, 02:56 AM
I believe that business itself can be something that should be aligned with your own conscious as much as with the needs of your customer.

So Aaron has a conscious that means he wants to provide products that are of a sun protective nature. Now some people may have the ideal that doing this does not maximize the potential of his business, which in some respect is true. However i am of the strong believe that if you are in business you need to be completely comfortable with what you are doing, to be able to enjoy working in your business, and if you are completely comfortable with it then you are achieving your maximum potential (well maybe not always but you are much closer).

The one thing that i think everyone needs to be conscious of is that everyone has a different level of what they believe is socially acceptable in their business. For example in my business i started off with a customer that came looking for a product, they told me how much they were paying. The product was a consumable product that they used quite a lot, and i was able to take $25 off what they were paying. However i was still making anything up to 150% profit on these products. Some people would see this and go how could you rip them off with those sort of profit margins, i disagree, they saw it as i was saving them $25 a pop, which for their volume was $1K-$2K per month.

I think that diversifing in business is one of the best ways to build a business that will last a long time. The key is realizing that different businesses require different approaches, and depending on the size of the different diversified area's they may require additional knowledge.

Spider
08-20-2008, 07:57 AM
I agree basically with what you are saying, Joel, and accept fully Aaron's and B's right to sell only what they determine to be in accordance with their morals and principles. But we got to this point through the door of 'mixed messages.'

I think one is bound to send a mixed message if one doesn't know what business one is in. It seems clear to me tha Aaron is not in the hat business, he is in the healthy-living business. If cancer-prevention is as central to his business as appears, he cuts himself off from selling tan-through beachwear and opens himself up to selling sun protection creams and lotions and other healthy skin products, beach umbrellas, and even retro fashion for ladies with a new line of 'Victorian' parasols and white cotton gloves!

What I'm saying is, if one wants to be consistent, one can diversify within a theme, and one can best do this by knowing what business you are really in.

Blessed
08-20-2008, 09:00 AM
What I'm saying is, if one wants to be consistent, one can diversify within a theme, and one can best do this by knowing what business you are really in.

I agree!

You really do need to diversify to generate consistent or increasing income and to do that you have to define your business and your business goals and the questions you ask yourself to arrive at those definitions vary depending on if you are in a retail type business or a service type business.

Paul Elliott
08-20-2008, 04:45 PM
Then, her other business is a twice yearly consignment sale of children's & maternity clothing, furnishings and gear. I've been thinking about trying to capture some of the custom birth announcements, invitations, and holiday cards business in my town and through my relationship with her I've been given the opportunity to get 1000 postcards about this new service into the hands of Moms & Grandmas - I'm still doing what I've always done - graphic design, but I'm expanding my customer base.

Jenn, I offered some thoughts over the the Business Cards section. http://www.small-business-forum.net/small-talk/225-business-cards.html#post2402

Since you're already doing mailings, perhaps another thought is to begin a community coupon mailer to complement your magazine advertising. Or at least offer your mag. advertisers to do specialized direct mail (DM) campaigns. Postcards are especially effective now that email has fallen off in its effectiveness.

But . . . why not do both for the local businesses--DM and email?


It seems to me that if a small business (or any business for that matter) isn't constantly looking at how to provide more for their customer's and how to expand their customer base that they won't be able to continue to grow and will eventually fail.

A business is never truly "stable"--it's either growing or dying. If it appears to be stable, it's probably dying. Customers have too many options nowadays for a business owner/manager to ever become complaisant.

All things come to them who work like crazy! :D

Aaron Hats
08-20-2008, 06:14 PM
A business is never truly "stable"--it's either growing or dying. If it appears to be stable, it's probably dying. Customers have too many options nowadays for a business owner/manager to ever become complaisant.

All things come to them who work like crazy! :D

Great point!

Blessed
08-20-2008, 06:34 PM
Since you're already doing mailings, perhaps another thought is to begin a community coupon mailer to complement your magazine advertising. Or at least offer your mag. advertisers to do specialized direct mail (DM) campaigns. Postcards are especially effective now that email has fallen off in its effectiveness.

But . . . why not do both for the local businesses--DM and email?


Paul it's funny that you should say that... we talked about that about 2 days ago and are in the process of getting some postcards printed to promote that - the slogan is along the lines of "you've got a business to run, let us help with your marketing..."

Great minds must think alike :D

Oh and I totally agree with the success coming to those that work like crazy!

Blessed
08-20-2008, 06:55 PM
Jenn, I offered some thoughts over the the Business Cards section. http://www.small-business-forum.net/small-talk/225-business-cards.html#post2402

Hey Paul, either I'm blind or your thoughts are MIA...

JC
11-28-2014, 03:54 PM
I have a small landscaping business, just two employees last summer, but have become licensed and insured in home remodeling to not only give myself work in the winter but to open myself up to lots of opportunities in the future. It can be construed as spreading myself too thin, but I'm fine with that, I'm slowly making progress.