Late last week when I came to Bangkok I went to see my tailor who I have known him for many years. He told me, with business down,, he was trying new ways to keep people well dressed. “And it’s not just about cutting the cloth for a better fit either”, he laughed in self-amusement. Adding more seriously he said “Staying in the race is the first step, and then we have to be even more creative and innovative to remain there.”
Our conversations began when I asked him to make me three suits. His reaction seemed odd, as he asked me if I was sure. Feeling the pinch it was a risky question that may reduce my order. I explained that looking sharp in business is important to project confidence you will be there for the long term for the customer. He already knew that and listened as he knew there was more. I then added smiling, “I am buying up in case you go out of business and I cannot find another tailor so good”.
He laughed and told me his buying a card scanner was already making a difference. Collecting information on a thouand or so customer business cards, a new database was allowing him to send them information. Many who had forgotten him emailed him back and more business was already coming. Today I got a newsletter from him that explained his new mail order service and the benefits with a catchy close “TO STAY WELL DRESSED, WE CAN NOW COME TO YOU”.
I do believe, more than any other time, small business taking some risks may be vital. In some cases it may even be an only choice for survival. There is so much economic confusion; people need someone to trust and simplify the journey for them. Reinforcing buying habits and renewing old customer contacts to boost confidence can simply showing them you are still there and can service them. And being smart about doing that is not so hard.
I also believe it will be small business and entrepreneurial innovators like him with their act together, who will lead the way for many. The personal touch goes a long way and providing information to your customers like that helps. It is all about how you can meet their needs. It is not only good for selling but also a way of a keeping small business on track. Holding position is also a given, while you also look for the new opportunities.
And remember this can be done while many big guys’ attention is constrained from solving customer problems while their attention is on stitching up balance sheets, to save them from unraveling.
By the way, I only took two suits on his suggestion. He suggested a substitute for the third, a jacket with couple of pairs of tailored slacks was better for me.
One of the two suits was delivered yesterday and the winter weight one, together with the jacket, trousers, and six monogrammed shirts are being shipped direct to home in Melbourne to save me carrying them on to my next leg. That was a very nice touch I appreciated.
My tailor , true to form, with superb selling skill to listen, convinced me tough times may see me less in Bangkok. To help he plans to send me fabric samples for my future orders. His later mailer confirmed my sizes for repeats orders, especially shirts, which he said would remind me in about when it seemed about time for a freshen up.