I think traditional small businesses are missing one of the easiest ways to differentiate themselves. It's a really simply, obvious way of adding a powerful USP that'll get them extra sales and new customers.
I've blogged about this before, but I won't stop because this crazily clear way of making their company more valuable to their customers is still being overlooked and dismissed by thousands of otherwise ordinary businesses. Exactly the sort of run-of-the-mill independent retailers who tell me it's harder for them to stand out then innovative web or tech businesses.
So want to know what it is? No problem, here it is: Just open when your customers want you open - yes, even if that's when you don't want to be working. Yes, that's Sundays. Yes, that's evenings. Yes, that's early mornings.
It constantly amazes me that certain businesses aren't get more flexible.
Try getting a haircut after 7pm or on a Sunday and it's harder work than it should be. Butchers have been hit hard by the expansion of supermarkets, yet how many open on Sundays on the very day the majority of people in the UK are most likely to cook a meal?
When I pop out to buy my lunch I have a massively-varied choice of wholesome and healthy food to take back to the office, yet come the evening and what can I get to take-away? Not much beyond fast-food.
Why do I have to leave work early every time I put my car in the garage or work from home when I need the services of a tradesman or something delivered?
I know the arguments for not opening - but I'm sorry, if you're serious about running a successful business, they're excuses not reasons. Of course, I understand as a micro-business with just one or two staff that you can't work 24/7 and that many small retailers don't have anyone but the owner to open, cash-up and lock-up.
But if you're serious about surviving when there are businesses clamouring for a way to stand-out, you're going to have to change. Accept the need to trust and delegate to other people in order to find a way to expand or at least adjust your opening hours. If you do it when others don't, I promise you'll reap the rewards.
A friend of mine is starting a recruitment company - how is she going to differentiate in a massively crowded marketplace? Easy, she's turning her inability to afford an office to her advantage by providing a highly personalised service, visiting candidates at locations and times that suit them, even if that's at their homes in the evening or at cafes near their current workplace during their lunchtimes.
Why? Because nobody else is doing it and already people are telling her they wouldn't have bothered making touch if her hours were the standard 9-to-5.
Accept it, 9-to-5 is dead, people don't work it anymore. If you want people's money you have to be open when they want to spend it: not when you want to take it.