As I took my seat on American Airlines getting ready to go back to England for the holidays, a couple took the two adjacent seats and from their initial pleasantries I figured they were probably from a place very near to where I grew up, a town called Beverley. I asked them where they were going and indeed they were going to Driffield which is about 14 miles away. We got chatting and in fact they had run the village shop at Leven for 12 years which is even closer, maybe 8 miles.
Peter and Barbara Markham were their names and they had worked at making something of the local village shop for a large part of their careers. They had bought it in poor shape and felt that they had the backing of the local community to make the village shop into what it should, a place for the local community. By Peter’s account they had done very well at building up the business, eventually selling it to another shopkeeper in the area who recognised the success.
Through the conversation I took note of all of his insights and I thought they would make for good sharing on this blog:
1) BE NICE: Always take an interest in your customers. He told me if someone’s cat had been ill, he made a point of remembering this and asking them about it next time they were in.
2) INSIGHTS: Listen to what your customers are really asking for and find a way to give it to them. He started off delivering food to customers but after listening to them discovered they also needed a good catering option and started offering catering to support the community
3) BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: He focused on building the business outside of the store with catering, deliveries etc and his wife concentrated on running the store. Have clear lines of responsibility and someone always thinking about what could be
4) INNOVATION: They started selling wine on sale or return and it worked well so they created their own label of wine which the locals LOVED.
5) BE FIRST: He said they were the first store in the area to offer Lottery Tickets when the National Lottery started in the UK in 1994
6) BE ORGANISED: Every Wednesday, they took everything off the shelves, organised them and cleaned them. They worked very hard to keep on top of things.
7) LEVERAGE YOUR PEERS: He made connections with other village shopkeepers and they would call each other with any trouble from criminals. The shop was once ram raided with a car and all the stock stolen.
8) KNOW YOUR COMPETITION: His customer would tell him about what they didn’t like about other shops in the area and he would make sure they didn’t fall into similar traps.
It was a really interesting conversation about a quintessentially British entrepreneurial role.
Well done Peter and Barabara.