5 tips for when road construction disrupts your retail business

Hardly a day goes by when there aren’t reports of retailer outrage, losses and closures when public works projects set up shop in the street, dismantling business profits as efficiently as they do concrete – but anger, however justified, is a retailers biggest threat.

NexGen Accounting director and co-founder, Niran Iswar, said anger is understandable, but suing the contractors or City Hall will only end in tears.

“While authorities could do more to keep people informed, business owners must accept some blame for failing to plan and prepare for interruption – it’s a business management issue.”

He offers the following advice on how retailers and small business owners can manage business interruption, whether it’s a public works, or disaster related.

  1. Get better at situational awareness

“Keep your ear to the ground. Watch the news and make it your business to monitor your city or state’s public works and transportation web sites, and what the consequences of those plans will be for you. Government’s don’t do things overnight – these things are signalled months and years ahead,” Iswar said.

  1. Consider all alternatives

Iswar says that if, for example, you sell coffees and depend on foot-traffic for your business, then consider how else you might reach your customers.

“Could you create a small website where customers in the area could go to order their coffees. I know there are some employers who resent it when staff frequently dash out to buy their coffees. Let them order online and you deliver the coffee by hand.”

Another alternative was to grab a tablet – installed with point-of-sale software like Vend – and visit all the surrounding offices in the area several times a day to take orders.

“It’s hard work but once the works clear up and the foot traffic returns, you’ll possibly even have double the size of your business.”

  1. Hire a strategic partner

Work with somebody who can analyse the numbers – for example your foot traffic to profit ratio – and who can coach you in best practise for your business. This person should be able to tell you the things you don’t want to hear, but that need to hear, and keep you accountable to your goals.

“Have a person who can coach you or advise you in the business may sound cliché, but they’re going to be integral to keeping you in the right mindset, and almost all of winning at business is what goes on in your head.”

     4. Plan

Understand your end game and the goals you need to get there.

The plan should include a brainstorm about what might go wrong or what issues could arise. Do that and you’ll be able to put measures and steps in place when those things do happen.

  1. Know when to quit

“I had a client recently who was facing exactly this kind of problem. I advised him to go and speak to the landlord – this is one of the first things every business owner facing interruption should do – but the landlord wouldn’t budge.

“Three months later I advised them to wind up the business before they dug themselves a hole there was no escaping from. They followed my advice and they’re happier for it.”

Iswar says it’s rare thing when business is interrupted by something that could never have been anticipated or planned for.

“A good plan, good advice and the right mindset will get you through almost any crisis.”

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.