Business owners strive for longevity of enterprises

Taylor Tompkins By Taylor Tompkins

Nov. 15, 2015 at 12:03 a.m.

Encore Resale Shoppe employee Alexandria Hamilton arranges merchandise at the store.

Encore Resale Shoppe employee Alexandria Hamilton arranges merchandise at the store.   Jaime R. Carrero for The Victoria Advocate

Jennifer Henry is celebrating her 36th year in business with promotions and sales in her consignment shop.

Henry, who owns Encore Resale Shoppe, said it's taken a lot of evolving to keep her store open for more than three decades.

The store has been expanded about five times to accommodate growing levels of merchandise. She said she makes sure ideas between her and her employees are moving, and they keep things fresh with their displays and outfits.

Sustaining a business for decades is something familiar to Crossroads business owners.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent data, almost 600 of Victoria metropolitan area's businesses in 2013 had been open for more than 20 years. Those businesses account for about 45 percent of the establishments in the metropolitan area.

However, less than 20 percent of businesses make it through the first five years, said Joe Humphreys, director of the University of Houston Small Business Development Center.

A majority of that percentage don't make it past the first year, Humphreys said.

"Business owners don't know what they don't know," Humphreys said. "They know their product, they know their service and most of the time they know their customers."

Joseph Shiraz is founder and president of Idea Labs Consulting, an Austin-based firm which works with owners on issues like marketing and finance.

Owners need to focus on creating a product or service that fills a need for people or other businesses in the best, fastest and cheapest way, Shiraz said via email.

Once they have their product though, there is much more to learn, Humphreys said. Many business owners know the marketing aspect of business because it directly deals with their product, Humphreys said. However, some business owners over look the accounting, financing and management pieces of running a company, he said.

Management is something Puppet Popp, owner of Primal Instinct Tattoo, picked up along the way with his business.

"All of the mistakes I've made within the first 10 years granted me a little enlightenment," Popp said. "The fact that I listen to my employees and their suggestions (helps), which I never did before. I always lived by the rule that he who has the gold makes the rules. Now it's a lot easier when I get their input and what they value and roll forward with that."

Popp's shop opened 20 years ago. He's planning a second shop in California and has an expansion plan for his Victoria location.

It's not only determination that keeps businesses up and running for decades, but also the employees you work with.

He said he considers those in his shop family.

"We have no problems coming here, opening the door, sitting down, having coffee or Red Bulls, whatever, and just kind of BS-ing, catching up on how everybody's family is doing," Popp said. "There's no rush to get out the door at night. Even when it's solitude and there are no clients visible, it's still that fun-loving feeling to keep going."

People can make or break a business, said Matt Sparks, a partner at Idea Labs, via email.

"Only work with people of the highest integrity," Sparks said via email. "Eventually, even the smallest lapses of integrity will (come) out and result in lost customers, lawsuits, destruction of the brand, and worse."

Partners, vendors, customers, investors, and any other stakeholders need to have this integrity, Sparks said, not just employees.

Once a business gets past the precarious initial five-year period, they may have a model that works for them. But they can't allow it to get stagnant, Shiraz said.

"Embrace and foster innovation," Shiraz said. "New ideas will help you stay competitive."

This concept rings true for Henry, the Encore Resale Shoppe owner.

"It's important to keep things moving and fresh and to bring creativity into the mix," Henry said. "I always tell the girls, I've got an idea and the first thing they say is 'oh now what.' But I present it to them, we bounce it around and I encourage them to do the same thing."

Creativity can apply to experimentation with business processes such as marketing channels, operational processes, promotions and software tools, Shiraz said.

Ernest Guajardo Sr. is retiring from being a real estate broker after 40 years owning a 21st Century franchise. He said the biggest contributing factors to his success have been hard work and being loyal to his clients.

"I've learned that I get a lot of satisfaction from finding a home for you and your family. After the years you can see people and they come up to you and say 'Mr. Guajardo, you sold me my first house.'" Guajardo said. You might not know who you're talking to, but they remember you forever and that's very satisfying."


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