When a business is in the midst of renovations, it can be an exciting time. You may believe the improvements will improve your business, and if you have loyal customers or clients, they might be excited about the changes you're making, too. But some patrons may not be too jazzed if it's harder to get a product or service from you during business renovations.
If you're renovating and don't want to inconvenience or drive out your customers, it might help to remember a few things.
Be calm and cool.
Tim Dodd is a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of TEV Marketing. Two years ago, Dodd owned an auto detailing shop that had a major interior renovation. He found that if he didn't worry too much, his customers didn't either.
"Most customers would drop off their cars, but about 10 percent sat in our waiting room," Dodd says. "This made it kind of awkward because the manager's desk was temporarily right in the middle of the waiting room, next to the couch. I did my best to make silly jokes about it. It's better to make the situation laughable instead of being overly sorry about the situation. Being friendly and likable covers a multitude of sins."
Be transparent about your business renovations.
While you may not want to stress about the business renovations, pretending it's business as usual may not be the best route, either.
When Jeff Lutton doubled his floor space from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet last year, he knew the expansion was going to be great for his business. (Lutton owns Dogtopia, a national franchise that offers daycare, spa and boarding services for dogs based in Alexandria, Virginia.)
He remained fully operational, and there were days that customers couldn't help but notice what was going on.
—Tim Dodd, CEO, TEV Marketing
"When heavy machinery was brought in to install HVAC units on the rooftop, the cranes created an obstruction of our entrance and parking, so we set up a tent in the parking lot to check in our dogs," Lutton says.
Lutton says he minimized the complaints by staying transparent about the renovations. If anything, Lutton says, he was "over-communicating." He updated his blog with construction news and sent out a weekly email newsletter with renovation updates.
"Even if we were only installing plumbing, which isn't that exciting, we shared every step of the process and included as many photos as possible," he says. "Looking back, the construction newsletters have far and above the highest view rates of all our newsletters."
Ask to have the repairs done at a convenient time.
Asking for business renovations to be done at a time that works best for you may not work with road crews, but it might work with a contractor.
"You're paying to have the work done, and as the customer, you can dictate the hours that it can be completed," says David Ciccarelli, CEO and owner of Voices.com, a job search website for voice talent, headquartered in London, Ontario.
That may not work if you're working with an in-demand contractor, but it can't hurt to ask. Ciccarelli recently had some offices renovated and arranged it so that the contractor would only come in the evenings and on the weekends to do business renovations.
Look for safety slip-ups.
Consider posting a lot of "Pardon My Dust" signs and safety notices to let employees and customers know they should keep their guard up. You may also want to keep an eye out for safety issues that may be overlooked during business renovations.
Lutton says that every day they had hundreds of contractors walking through his business, an area, if you remember, that is full of dogs.
"Our daily inspections caught doors that weren't latched properly and other minor issues that might have led to big problems for us," he says.
Spread the word about your renovations.
Once the inconvenient period is past, it may be a good time to tell your customers and clients about what you've done. You may want to send out a press release about the business renovations to "media in your market, selected media in your part of town or trade pubs," says Mitch Leff, owner of Decatur, Georgia-based Leff & Associates.
Consider also posting news of the business renovations on social media. "Depending on your company and how innovative or attractive your new space is, you might post on Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat," Leff says. "Your company also shouldn't forget to post to specific industry groups on LinkedIn. That's a very focused way to target customers, potential employees or referral sources."
Sharing news about your renovations "conveys the message that the company is thriving and successful," Leff says. Your changes might make part of an interesting article for a newspaper or news website, if the renovations are part of a trend, "such as amenities needed to attract millennials," he continues. But remember: Reporters aren't easily impressed. If you're doing run-of-the mill renovations or general maintenance, Leff says you wouldn't want to send out a press release.
Leff says there's another time when it's usually best to not share the news, even if you're pleased with your business renovations: When your work space becomes smaller.
"It indicates poor or negative growth," he says.
Have a sale.
You may want to consider rewarding your customers for doing business with you during your business renovations. Several years ago, a bridge spanning the Delaware River underwent construction. This created a problem for Bea and Charles Briggs, who own Bridgeton House on the Delaware, a bed and breakfast overlooking that river and bridge.
"The bridge repair was a six-month long project with jackhammers starting as early as 6 a.m. They also tented our beautiful bridge, which distracted from our view," says Diane Marshall, the bed and breakfast's general manager.
The construction crew didn't work on weekends, and so the inn could fill guests during their busiest times, without the jackhammer noise. But the tented bridge was still an eyesore.
"We decided to run a hard hat special for the inconvenience of having to look at the tented bridge and the construction equipment, and took 30 percent off our weekend rates," Marshall says. "We were able to fill most weekends, even in our slow season, and welcomed some new guests during that time who have become regular repeats."
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