Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Making it on Main Street

It’s a new year and like many Main Street, USA locations, there are changes on ours. What allows a business to “make it” over time? Surely there are some lessons to be learned from various businesses that have flourished over the years.
I took some time to talk to business owners who have been in town for years and those who have taken over long term businesses. Others, who are relatively new had other things to add to the mix.
Just in the last few years, I have seen dozens of businesses go out or change locations: Gee’z, Minx, the Alley, Cinnamon Productions, Grandma’s Cookies, Gallery 212, Barbara’s Beauty, Old Town Travel, White Sage, and the list goes on and on.
Still others have changed hands and flourished, like Bay Hardware. Diana Brunjes, the new owner said, “There is a camaraderie here in town that I haven't ever experienced before, we all [businesses] want to see one another succeed. Main Street is very lucky to have such a large variety of unique and eclectic shops. Sure, the beach helps, but I think it's the shops and restaurants that keep people coming back.” So diversity as a whole and the fact that we look out for each other, as a community is key.

Tarit Tanjisari, owner of Crema Café also felt that focusing on the basics: food quality and customer service have been keys to success. “By trying to delight the customer every time they eat with us, we get them back. We provide not just great food, but an experience they want to share and repeat. Plus, who doesn’t love fresh baked pastries?” In just four years, Tarit and his team has made the Crema Café a destination regionally for epicureans. Just look at his Yelp page! This in turn spills over to other businesses as customers not only dine, but shop and stroll our entire Main Street corridor.
Joe Kalmick, has been a shop owner on Main Street for over 30 years. Recently moving his shop from one side of Main to the other in the 200 block, he looks back and realizes what others haven’t, “businesses have failed because they didn’t match their dreams with the reality of the overhead. What does it cost to open your doors each day?” He also makes a conscious effort to connect with customers so they feel appreciated. “You have to make every effort to have each customer come back. In a town this size, we love the local business and we need to attract shoppers from outside of our own community. Give them a reason to come back.”

Another key seems to be referrals. Joe makes a point of highlighting belinda’s Art on Glass. He will refer business out to her and vice versa as the customers needs might change. belinda also has produced the Arts & Crafts Fair for years, and this level of community engagement has helped maintain her business as one of the art resources for miles around.

Who hasn’t noticed the incredible success of Gabe and Lena Gordon and Beachwood BBQ? They have created a niche and filled to capacity, every night they are open. Actively engaged in bringing their unique approach to basic commodities – beer and barbeque, they have the “Hop Cam” and Twitter feed showcasing what they have on tap. There is a fresh, vibrant energy in their restaurant which invites you back to try new things, like their Alligator & Tasso Stew or such an epicurean brew as Midnight Sun Monks Mistress (sounds tantalizing even as I read it from the cam). Keeping things new and fresh also seems to help a business stay alive in our Main Street.

With fresh and new, there must also be tried and true. Clancy’s, the Irisher, Hennesey’s & O’Malley’s, the “Four Horsemen of St. Patrick’s Day,” all have survived and flourished for decades. They are the good, old stomping grounds for many locals and those who come back to Seal Beach during college breaks or when visiting family in town. Often an impromptu meeting of classmates or reunions can be found at these spots.

Other fresh new expansions like Jacqueline’s Boutique and her second store, just a block away, Ensemble, both are bringing in destination shoppers from all around. French and European flair draw customers in. Recently, she shared with the community a fashion show with both professional and amateur models in her outfits. Again, it is the effort of creating excitement which helps propel her businesses to new heights.

Erik Dreyer-Goldman, of Ask Erik Computer Services has been in two locations – both the 100 and 300 blocks of Main Street. While he enjoyed, the 100 block, as a service provider, the 300 block seems to suit him better. “Most of the 300 block are destination businesses, while the 200 block and down to the pier could be considered more ‘walk in.’ Regardless, the longer you’re in business on Main Street, the more likely it is that you’ll get repeat business if you’re good at what you provide.”
Finally, it is clear that both locals and visitors need to use all of our businesses for them to stay viable. Keep true to your dream, keep your feet on the ground and your ear to your customers and you, like the success stories above, will make it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Blessings of Sunny Weather

I mentioned about a year ago the impact weather has on business and this weekend is another example. Today in Seal Beach is breathtaking - 76F, clear blue skys and dry (but not Santa Anas). The air feels fresh and clean and the day is one of shorts and t-shirts. Nights are cool and crisp. Got to love So Cal!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Consultant or Trainer?

Being a business consultant is a lot like being a personal trainer. There are two traits in highly successful clients: #1 - They show up on time and ready to do the work. #2 - They are compliant and do what you tell them to do. Successful trainers have it pretty easy, they know how to train the whole client.

As a consultant or trainer, you have to first listen, then direct your client into new directions and behaviors.

It amazes me how many entrepreneurs and small business owners blame others or external circumstances for their lack of success. The reality is YOU are your own slow step. You are the one who prevents your business from growing. Hire someone to help you and then get out of the way. Do what they tell you! It will work out. Promise.

If you want to lose weight, you have to reduce your caloric intake, manage your diet and workout. You don't get that incredible body just by coincidence - you WORK to attain it. Your business is also a reflection of you. What you put into is what you get out of it. Why would your business be any different.

With that said, the issue of compliance matches the basic action of execution. Many of us know what to do, but can't execute on the plan we have, for our bodies or our business. That is why you hire experts. So hire them, let them do their job and just do what they say. You know it is right anyway.

Oh, and one tip for training and weightlifting - when you feel like whining or quiting, just say to yourself, "SHUT UP body and do what I tell you!"

Saturday, January 8, 2011


People ask about writing - "how do I get better?" Simple, you write. A lot.

Start off by having a goal to simply write to yourself: a journal, blog or even emails to friends and/or business associates. Once you have become accustomed to writing on a regular basis, you should shop your writing around - news outlets, non profits that may need volunteer labor, or even offer to do some work for free for friends and family.

The next step is to consider a longer term project: journal article, research paper, significant publication or even a book.

If you just write it, it will come!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Today was the first day of my work in forming a Mastermind group. This set of like minded individuals get together to create a synergy of energy commitment and excitement about growing their entrepreneurial ventures. The concept was pioneered by Napoleon Hill in his seminal work Think & Grow Rich.

We should see some amazing results!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why not share?

Why must we all own lots of things? Could we own less and share more? That is the simple premise of Gransky's book which I think does represent an important business model of the future. We are beginning to see a rejection of the rampant consumerism which gripped us through the 80's and 90's. People have begun asking - "Do I need that?" Certainly an important question for many people who current sell "stuff."

One of my clients, Main Street Cyclery, will begin accepting bikes on consignment with the vision of "Repair, Refurbish & Resell." Many customers are no longer driven by the need to buy purely new product and as long as the product is of good quality, has a brand backing and a local business to stand behind it, why not buy used? For that matter, do we need all of the items we think we do?

Clothing and food are both items which seem to consume a disproportionate amount of our discretionary income as US citizens. We also spend a good amount on entertainment (TV, cable, movies, etc...). It is interesting to see how many consumers are turning to Netflix and Hulu for content delivery. Again, this is a "sharing" model for business. You don't have to own the DVDs, you get to share a copy with strangers. What do you think?

Monday, January 3, 2011

And now, rest...

I have been reading The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, and I have to say that it reminded me of an important fact of life: rest.

I know, it is not one of his five rules for weight loss, nor one of the secrets of incredible muscular gains, though he does touch on it. We spend a great deal of our lives rushing to various obligations (both real and ephemeral) and we forget that our bodies, minds and souls need to recover through a process called, rest.

As someone who has been a trainer and worked out for nearly all of my adult life, the key to successful muscular gain is sleep and good nutrition. Dealing with stress in your life may be affected by adequate, quality sleep. Many psychological issues may be dealt with via mediation, a particularly helpful form of rest.

Have you made sure you have taken time for rest of your mind and body today? Are you getting enough recovery time during your workouts? Do you have rest within your business so that you may take stock of where you are and simply allow your business to flow?

If you haven't done these things, you may want to consider refocusing a bit on rest and your time. Making rest a priority seems simple, almost silly, yet few of us do it effectively.

ps - The book is pretty neat and Ferriss does a good job explaining how research to implementation goes in the world of health & fitness, and ultimately to the public.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Welcome 2011 - Goals & Objectives

2011 is here and life continues to march onward. Anthony has been home since December 18th and that has certainly helped improve my mood. Business has actually moved into a very active phase, with a great deal of work coming my way over the last several months.

This in turn allowed me to continue to put off my blog. Figures, right? No one pays me to write this and while I find it a creative outlet, it is not always the most "fresh" way to approach issues. What was helpful yesterday rather than setting a "resolution," we made an effort to talk about goals - both daily and over the coming year.

Writing these goals in a tangible way, having them posted and most importantly, having Anthony and I agree about them seems like a reasonable way to actually make them happen. While many might say, "well, you can just manifest those goals, the universe will provide..." I find that a bit too esoteric and disengaged from reality.

Each year when I work with clients, I provide a year in review as a snapshot of their performance and work on setting new goals for the coming period. I would encourage you to reflect not only on your life, but your life with your partner (spousal, professional or both!) and take stock of where you have been and where you are going.

Make sure you buckle your seat belt, stay focused on the goal and begin movement towards it. You can reach it!