by Norman Froscher

As small business owners and entrepreneurs, we know that we all wear different hats and work long hours to make our stores and operations succeed. Things are continually changing in our industry and the market pressures are only increasing.

Often, we’re paddling faster and faster in order to keep our heads above the rising waters. Can we work longer hours? Can we work smarter? Can we be the duck whose webbed feet are moving at a BitTorrent pace under the water to move forward? Potentially, yes, to all three questions. However, for us to be at our best, sometimes we must take a different tack so that we can succeed.

Here are a few suggestions on little things you can do as a store owner in order to change your mindset and give you a chance to refresh yourself when you’re in the store, swapping all those different hats, putting out all those fires, and paddling faster and faster in order to succeed.

First, take a minute to unplug. Most of us are constantly on our cellphones, receiving email updates, posting on social media for our stores, and doing the vast things that wonderful smartphones now allow us to do. There is growing research that shows that using cellphones during leisure time interferes with our ability to disconnect from work and recover from the stress and demands we face daily.

Maybe it’s only an hour. But, the longer we can unplug, turn the cellphone off, and decompress, the more likely we’ll be able to perform better when we’re plugged in. Read a book, exercise, or take a walk—whatever you do, just put the cellphone down and unplug, avoiding its temptation and distraction.

Next, learn to automate and delegate. We hopefully all use shipping software to automate our shipping processes. Both PostalMate® and ShipRite™ offer excellent solutions that help us automate packing and shipping. But, look at your other responsibilities and tasks. Which of these can be automated? If you can, save yourself time and effort in reducing redundant tasks. It’s often a cost saving practice for store owners to do everything themselves, but there’s a built-in cost in doing that. Free up your time in order to focus on other things and growing your business.

Likewise, we may be the most qualified person in our store to do every single task. But is it cost-effective for us to be making a twenty-cent copy or packing every single job that comes in the store? We must be able to delegate to our employees and trust that they will follow the excellent training that we have provided them. Yes, they may make a mistake. However, that can be a teaching tool and another opportunity for us to get out from behind the counter and grow our business in a meaningful way. This was the hardest lesson for me as a store owner to learn. As a perfectionist, I want everything to be done exactly the right way. I now know that trusting employees and empowering them makes them more engaged in being a part of the team.

Make going on a vacation a deliberate thing. I know it’s difficult for us to let our “babies” go for any length of time. However, just as you need to delegate to tasks to your staff, you also need to be able to trust them not to burn down your store. Go on a cruise, take a weekend away, and let it go for as long or as short a time as you can. It will pay dividends beyond the cost. You’ll be recharged, refreshed, and able to tackle those always-waiting, never-ending tasks much more efficiently.

Maybe you’re a one- or two-person shop and it feels impossible to step away. If that’s the case, it’s probably a more critical situation for you do exactly that. Find another store owner near you and share time away. There are a few retired store owners who offer to “babysit” as a service. It’s a cost that would be well worth it. Or, make the investment in finding someone who can run your store in your absence. You already invest in equipment, supplies, and merchandise. Investing in people is a method for you not only step away, but also to give you the chance to grow your business to justify the additional cost of staff.

Going at it night and day can take the motivation out of you. Finding a way to stop and smell the coffee (sorry, couldn’t resist) can revitalize you and, in turn, energize your store. We must change the mindset operating our stores to working smarter and harder, being innovative, and keeping our stores fresh and relevant, while also keeping ourselves fresh and having the energy to tackle the ever-changing industry we’re in.

Norman Froscher and his wife Lisa co-own Espresso Mail in West Palm Beach, Florida and Norman serves on the AMBC Board of Directors as Director of Engagement and Board Vice Chair. When he’s not packing, shipping, or printing, he’s looking for a good cup of coffee or espresso, which makes it really convenient that he has a coffee bar in his store. #NormanKnows

This is a sneak peak of an article slated to be published in MBC Today Volume 22, Issue 2 (March / April 2020).