It Was the Best of Times . . .

Originally published on January 30, 2019 by the Montrose Daily Press.

Montrose has a very strong economy. In present tense, numbers are trending in the right direction. Values are up, sales are up, unemployment is down, building permits are up and tourism is up. We have the second-fastest growing airport in the state. That being the general sentiment, admitting you’re facing struggles as a small business owner may sting a bit. Growth itself can create all kinds of challenges.

We all want to end up on the right side of things during and after the economic boom. Yet, conversations with local business owners have revealed several challenges facing them in 2019. There is no “one size fits all” solution to growth challenges, but here are a few tidbits to consider:

• Legislative changes: Arguably the largest small business category affected by legislation in 2019 is liquor retail. With Colorado now allowing the sale of “full-strength” beer in grocery stores, local liquor store owners must make up for the deficit they will inevitably face.

As a business owner, it might feel natural to take on a victim mentality surrounding these types of changes. When in this mindset, many people will sit idle as they watch the consequences play out in front of them. I can assure you that is not the right approach.

Whether it is minimum wage increases, new liquor laws, or tighter enforcement on regulations, businesses have to happen to their circumstances rather than being victim to them.

How will you make up the lost revenue? How will you cover increased costs? Business owners have been doing it for centuries; there is a lot of data on the subject. Do your homework, forecast the implications of the changes and then work with your team to overcome it.

• Competition: Montrose is not a sleepy little town anymore. We are getting noticed. Colorado in general is a “hot” brand. Large businesses are putting Montrose on their radar and some have even made the jump to expand here. This creates more competition for local business and forces everyone to bring their “A-game.”

Competition is a good thing. If you are a small business feeling hopeless against “the big guy,” don’t. Small business is alive and well in America for many reasons. Successful small business owners create community with their customers. They are the foremost expert on all their offerings. They are well known within their communities. Successful small business find ways to compete that big business can’t touch.

• Finding good help: We are all screaming for good employees. Fortunately a lot of us have more work than we know what to do with, but most of us do not have the staff to support that work. The job crunch is an issue not easily solved. As a recap from previous columns here are a few things that can help:

-Retain the (good) employees you have: Invest in them, cultivate teams and make work a fun place to be (see previous columns on teams).

-If you cannot compete on wages, figure out every other way you can compete and do that (see previous two columns on workplace rootedness). Competition is not just for sales or revenue these days. Being an employer of choice should be a huge priority for our businesses.

-Use your resources. Partner with the Western Colorado Workforce Center. Consider using Indeed to attract talent from outside of the community. Partner with other local businesses and hit up a job fair in Denver. The Visitor Center has great resources you can take with you to aid in recruiting efforts.

• Scaling growth: As a business, growth is what we want, right? The answer is … it depends. Unless we have a solid plan on growing the entire organization at the same time, there will be some serious growing pains.

For example, maybe you own Cathy’s Cafe. Let’s say your dining area is full every night so you add four more tables to accommodate demand. In your focus on making a nice new dining section, you fail to think about the impact four more tables will have on the kitchen and bar service. Maybe you even fail to order enough food or add enough staff to cover seating, serving, and bussing the new tables.

This is a simple example, but one that is common in small business. Saying “no” to new sales opportunities is counterintuitive so we say “yes” and take on more than our team can handle. The result? A poor customer experience resulting in a customer lost and potentially poor word of mouth to follow.

“Fail to plan, or plan to fail.” – attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Today’s economy is an opportunity for all of us. It affords us the increased sales and if nothing else, the increased exposure that will help us sustain ourselves when things might not be so good in the future. Successful people and businesses are the ones who seize opportunities when presented with them. Montrose is full of opportunity. The future is what you make of it.

Chelsea Rosty is the director of business innovation for The City of Montrose. She can be reached at crosty@ci.montrose.co.us.