Learning from small businesses

Working with small businesses is always interesting.

Small businesspeople are generally enthusiastic, passionate about their work, and often have no idea how communications can help. It takes a lot of work to get to figuring out what they need. I can have a logo designed for them, but I don’t design logos. I can help them plan events, write press releases, design strategies to reach their clients — but I can’t advise them on legal matters.

It’s not very profitable because you spend a lot of unbillable time on work that isn’t yours. I generally prefer businesses or organizations that are a little more established, that know how I can help and what they need.

Today I met with a friend from J.N. Burnett secondary. He’s the proud owner of BPG Autosound — a local Richmond company who is really the place to go to get your stereo, back up camera, GPS, and other cool car things installed.

I love his story. When he was a teen, he paid one of the big box stores to install a stereo and they didn’t do a great job. So he learned how to do it. He started doing it in his spare time, and now he owns a business that does that and more. He employs eight technicians. It’s a Richmond success story.

We were friends in high school and thanks to Facebook, we’re still in touch. In November, he helped me out of a bind and I’ve wanted to help him since.

We sat down on a glorious day and I asked him some questions. I’ve been watching his social media site and had an idea of what he might need. I was blown away by his deep knowledge of not only his business, but also his understanding of market and clients.

In communications, there’s often a checklist of easy things you can suggest that drive engagement with your audience — how you run events, how you get customer names, how you keep in touch with people.

He not only understood what needed to be done, he could check off all the things he had done (and frankly, I’m stealing some of his ideas for other clients of mine!).

This is why it’s fun to work with small businesses, they are full of passionate people who know their stuff, and have lots of great ideas — and helping is a lot of fun. And if you need a new radio, GPS, security system or parking assist, I know a guy!