I’m often asked “why are you starting a company in the middle of a recession?” It’s a strange way of saying hello, but I understand the question. I think the best way to answer the question is with a story.
I met Larry and his wife Patricia a few years ago when I had just moved across the country and settled into my new town. I needed a haircut and figured I’d look around where I lived to see if I could find a barber. Their shop was dated and things ran a little slow inside (kind of a New Orleans “big easy” pace). Larry is an older guy (a few years north of 70) and has been cutting hair almost longer than I had been alive. I walked out of there with one of the best haircuts in my life.
Fast-forward a few months and I’m getting to know Larry pretty well. I’ve been in the shop enough to know that business wasn’t exactly “booming” and so I start researching their barber shop online. No website, no local results (their shop was 41st on the list for their city), no online presence. They were invisible.
I started doing some mental math based on what I was paying for a haircut and the volume of customers I was seeing in the store. The numbers didn’t look pretty. So I asked Larry if he would be interested in setting up a website and optimizing his local search results to start getting more customers. It was the first time he really discussed it and had a lot of questions, but was willing to give it a try.
Nothing too different about this story so far. It’s our next meeting that changed my perspective forever.
At our first meeting to review the design process, Larry and Patricia took me into the back of the store. They shut the doors and then I noticed Patricia was crying. She said “Tom, I’m nearly 70 years old and I’m still working. We aren’t making enough money here to ever think of retiring. Things are very tight. Larry should enjoying his final years. We both wanted to tell you how much we love you and thank you so much for trying to help our business.”
I had a few tears in my eyes as well as I listen to both of them pour our their hearts. Two wonderful, hard-working people facing the challenges of running a business. That day I walked out of the tiny barber shop knowing that what I loved doing was helping people succeed with their businesses.
They have a great website now, they are in the top 7 local results for barber and beauty shop searches. They are now averaging about 4 new customers a month from online searches. The best part is seeing them smile and the “free” haircuts I get.
So why am I starting a company now? I couldn’t think of a better time when online marketing can have such a big impact on a local business.