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Focusing on Customers Relationships with Mark Avery

As salons and barbershops across Pennsylvania try to keep up with changing safety guidelines, we sat down with a local shop owner to chat through his experience. A Kennett Square native, Mark Avery, aka Juice the Barber, opened his own shop in November 2019. Mark’s shop is the KSQ Barber Lounge and offers everything from haircuts to hot lather shaves. In our conversation, Mark shared great insight around the value of building relationships with customers.

Links

Notes

What was it like opening a few months before the pandemic?

  • When he launched his own barbershop, Mark was excited when both existing customers (from his previous job) and new customers began to fill his book of business.
  • The shop was doing well, with 5–10 new customers coming in every week.
  • Mark was serving 40-60 customers per week before the COVID-19 shutdown hit.
  • The KSQ Barber Lounge offers a new experience with the one-on-one barbershop.

What happened during the COVID-19 lockdowns?

  • When COVID-19 lockdowns hit, Mark couldn’t do anything. He had to close.
  • Yet, the first year of a business is so vital to its success, to have it all to a complete halt was tough. Mark needed to turn to family for help.
  • Getting economic relief from the government was tough because he opened in November 2019. He only had five weeks of a tax return to use as evidence of earning.
  • Eventually, Mark was able to secure a grant for his business.

How do you manage having folks in the barbershop?

  • The safety measures require additional tasks to keep the barber lounge clean, and both himself and customers safe.
  • Mark has stretched all of his appointments to 45 minutes, even if the service provided takes less time.
  • Between each appointment, Mark cleans the shop and his tools, and the extra time between appointments gives him the time to be thorough.
  • For his business, it’s not as bad since he already focuses 1-on-1. Stretched his time slots a bit to give him a chance to wipe down everything – any surface that gets touched by the client gets wiped down. 

How’s business since brick-n-mortar shops were allowed to reopen?

  • As of late August, it’s hit or miss.
  • It’s a mix; a lot of people have seen a drop-off because customers don’t feel comfortable; especially at bigger shops.
  • Mark limits the amount of people in the shop – i.e., who can be in the shop in addition to the customer in the barber chair – so customers feel comfortable. 

How are you communicating to your base? 

  • Mark admitted that he has slacked on reaching a wider audience.
  • For current customers, Mark regularly sends email and texts – especially after he reopened.
  • Mark made it clear that he needs to do more on social media.
    • He wants to create a video documenting his cleaning procedures and practices.
    • But he needs to take more pictures and post more regularly. 
  • Mark tells everyone who owns a business that social media is free marketing. He knows he needs to up his work there.
  • For booking appointments and full business details, the barber lounge uses a site called Vagaro: https://www.vagaro.com/ksqbarberlounge
  • Mark uses social media to build relationships with customers.

What are you hearing in the “barbershop talk”?

  • When it comes to talking about the economy, Mark is hearing every end of the spectrum.
  • Clients and friends are worried about jobs and businesses.
  • Restaurant owners might not be able to open safely, especially outside the summer season.
  • There are also people who are taking the opportunity to try something new or open a new business.
  • Mark closed out the show with an eloquent monologue on how if we focus more on the relationships, the money will come. He explained that everyone comes from different experiences and we can learn from all of those experiences.
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Creating Great Customer Experiences with Jim Adams

With restaurants, bars, and taprooms reopening across the State of Pennsylvania, we caught up with Jim Adams to chat about what he and his team at Levante Brewing Company are doing to navigate the COVID-19 economy. Jim Adams is a co-founder and co-owner of Levante Brewing Company. Within the company, Jim focuses on the customer experience for the West Chester based brewing company.

Links

Notes

What is Mercury at Levante Brewing Company?

  • Mercury is Levante Brewing Company’s system for shipping beer and products anywhere in the State of PA; the company is licensed to ship beer anywhere in the state.
  • By and large, Mercury relies on UPS to deliver any product within 3 days.
  • For local order (within 10-12 miles of the brewery), Levante Brewing Company delivers those itself.
  • Mercury was launched in 2019 – well ahead of COVID-19.
  • When COVID-19 lockdown orders happened, Mercury became a hugely popular and commercially successful system.
  • Levante Brewing Company pays a lot of attention to the presentation of its beer delivers:
    • Every beer delivery contains a letter from the staffer who packed the beer into the box.
    • Levante Brewing Company sends stickers and other bits of swag.
    • The company gets positive feedback over social media from the attention it gives to presentation.

What was your collaboration with Weathered Souls Brewery?

  • In light of growing demands for social justice, the Weathered Souls brewery publicly shared a base recipe for an imperial stout called Black is Beautiful. Weathered Souls invited other craft brewers to brew their own versions and to donate 100% of proceeds from the sales of the Black is Beautiful imperial stout to organizations that to support Black Lives Matter, under privileged or underrepresented people of color.
  • In PA, 25 or 26 craft breweries supported the campaign, all using the same base recipe, packaging, and artwork.
  • Levante Brewing Company supported the campaign because it was the right thing to do.
  • The brewery donated the proceeds from the sale of Black is Beautiful to the Juvenile Law Center.
  • Levante Brewing Company produced its version of Black is Beautiful about 3 to 4 weeks after making the decision to support the campaign.
  • A base recipe is exactly that – a listing of ingredients and the process of making the beer. Breweries were invited to do something different or add something special to the base recipe to make it unique to that brewery.

How has Levante Brewing Company approached re-opening its taprooms?

  • After the initial shock of lockdown orders – which immediately closed the taprooms – Levante Brewing Company was able to bring people back quickly by pivoting to a curbside format at the West Chester brewery.
  • With Mercury becoming very popular, the brewing company’s delivery service took off, which enabled the company to bringing back more staff. This service is still very popular.
  • Levante Brewing Company has not yet opened either of its taprooms; they only operate curbside sales. Levante Brewing Company chooses this route to keep its staff safe.
  • The popularity of its curbside service and Mercury has allowed the company not to re-open its taprooms as it is still profitable.
  • The company shifted its focus away from wholesale and kegs. It now packages 100% of its beer in cans. This supports both wholesalers and bars and restaurants.
  • The West Chester tap room (called “Carter”) has been converted into a fulfillment center. There is no room for customers.
  • With the Stables in Eagle, Levante Brewing Company did not open because of concerns over the optics of having 200 people gathering in a single place.
  • The company takes colder weather into its planning. Levante Brewing Company does not offer food, so it is reluctant to bring staff on for summer months only.
  • The key factor of Levante Brewing Company’s approach is safety over profits.
  • The brewery will soon open a third location for curbside pickup!
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Support of Businesses by the State of PA with Katie Muth

With businesses re-opened, and as schools across Pennsylvania consider how best to re-open, many business owners and leaders are looking for answers and support from the government at many levels. We spoke with Senator Katie Muth, the PA Senator for the 44th District in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We discussed how the State of PA is working to support businesses in Chester County and the greater Philadelphia area.

Links

Notes

Where does Sen. Muth get health information about COVID-19?

Challenges of Reopening in Pennsylvania

What is PA doing to ensure employee and customer safety in efforts to reopen the economy?

  • In our conversation with the Victory Brewing Company, we learned about how Victory’s customers were concerned about how other customers would respond to health guidelines.
  • Most steps from the State of PA have happened through Executive Order
  • Enforcement of health guidelines around wearing masks can be very confusing
    • In the State of PA, 20% of non-compliance is 2 million people
    • We can legislate deterrence to behavior
    • Public “shame train” can help, but the State of PA needs to find ways to support good operators
  • Working to address personal protection equipment (PPE) shortages in the state
    • PPE is not widely manufactured in the United States
    • The State is now working to encourage PA manufacturers to produce PPE
    • The State is working to have tests produced locally
    • The State is coordinating with tech companies to produce a contact tracing system
  • 1/3 of countries across Pennsylvania are experiencing an increased positivity rate of COVID-19, including Chester County

How is the State of PA supporting working parents with school age children?

  • That’s a work-in-progress at the state level
  • Over 170 day care centers have closed since COVID-19 started
  • There are real challenges in working from home and teaching
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Pivoting to Online Sales and Marketing with Joe and Liam

As more and more businesses are allowed to open across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Joe Casabona and Liam Dempsey discuss how businesses have pivoted their business operations to online and ecommerce. As web focused professionals, Joe and Liam share ideas and tips to help businesses get online, and offer a few local examples of businesses which have successfully implemented a change.

Notes:

VIA DAILY LOCAL: Chester County on target to transition to ‘green’ later this month

Ecommerce Solutions

Newsletter Tools

Marketing Reading

Chester County examples

Previous Episode Mentions

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Business Strategy Roadmapping with John Tooher

A business owner and strategy consultant, John Tooher has his finger on the pulse of the business community in greater Philadelphia. John is the owner of HeadRoom, a small business accelerator based in Media and Wayne, Pennsylvania. Over 90 businesses use the HeadRoom office facilities to run and grow their business. John spends most of his time helping companies of all sizes to create strategic roadmaps for their business.

Links

Notes

How is HeadRoom different from other coworking places?

  • Not a coworking space – but a place for folks who want to have an office with a door.
  • HeadRoom encourages an open door policy, but it’s optional, providing a series of offices and conference rooms.
  • In light of COVID-19, people at HeadRoom can self-isolate themselves in their own offices.

What effect is COVID-19 having on small businesses?

  • Certainly there have been some real challenges for retail businesses.
  • It’s been pleasantly surprising how many companies were able to pivot – mostly by focusing their offerings on services that can be safely delivered online.
  • An overall trend towards online, internet-based working has made it possible for business to keep the ball rolling – perhaps not performing at the same high levels, but surviving as a business.
  • Until recently, businesses were generally able to get along, but for many of those businesses to survive, lock-down regulations need to be relaxed in June, with all systems go July 1.
  • John’s own office space business – HeadRoom – has dropped by 50%.
  • Happily, that drop has coincided with a big upswing in the amount of strategy work he’s been doing with clients.

How can a business roadmap help a business survive a COVID-19 economy?

  • A roadmap is very important, especially in the current business environment, as that roadmap provides a “North Star” for the business.
  • “If you have a plan, it’s easier to get somewhere than without one.”
  • The business with the plan has a lot more potential opportunity.

What does a roadmap process look like for a business?

  • “You’ve got to be totally honest with yourself.”
  • The hardest part of strategic roadmapping is figuring out where the business is today. Look at everything.
  • Don’t try to solve the problems – just write them down!
  • Then, decide where the business should be going.
  • Write down where the business is today, and work to explore what’s having the most impact.
  • A situation analysis should be a full day’s work.
  • Write down everything with an impact and rate them – based on the most likely items, and the most impactful.
  • Then write statements that address on these items, with that list of statement of issues and opportunities becomes the strategic objectives.
  • Then, assign dates for actioning the list, allowing for 12-24 months to complete the work.

As lock-downs are relaxed, what advice do you have for businesses as they prepare to reopen?

  • “Have a plan.” Do think about it – don’t just open your doors and hope.
  • Ask important questions about planning and timing: What am I going to do for the first month? What am I going to do for the first three months?
  • Explain the business plan to customers, staff, vendors, etc. to ensure that everyone understands how the business will work to keep everyone safe.
  • LINK: Lisa Van Ess episode

How has HeadRoom prepared to reopen and how has it shared those preparations with customers?

  • HeadRoom has spent a lot of time and effort ensuring that it has sufficient cleaning supplies for its offices.
  • The company has established social distancing and safety guidelines (for example, around when and where masks need to be worn).
  • The infographic that HeadRoom produced and shared with its community has proven very effective.
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Leadership in Human Resources with Lisa Van Ess

Human resources departments have the difficult job of helping employees navigate through a lot of change right now: working from home, changing processes, potential furloughs, and more. Luckily, Lisa Van Ess, Vice President of People & Culture at Magic Hat Consulting is here to help.

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Main Street Preservation Grants with Marian Moskowitz

The Chester Countys Commissioners set up a $5M fund to establish the Main Street Preservation program. This program allows for grants of up to $25,000 for the county’s small businesses and agriculture enterprises impacted by COVID-19. Here to talk about it with us today is Marian Moskowitz, a recently elected Chester County Commissioner, Chair of the Board of Commissioners, and Chair of the Economic Development Council.

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Social Media Marketing with Marty McDonald

With all of Pennsylvania still under stay at home orders, businesses pivoting to online has been crucial to staying in business. Marty McDonald runs a full service Digital Media Agency in West Chester, and has been helping his clients weather the storm with digital marketing services. In this episode, he offers some great advice to businesses looking to grow their online presence.

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How Insurance Can Protect You in a Pandemic with Austin Morris, Jr.

Austin Morris, Jr. is an insurance broker that really knows his stuff! And in this episode, he’s going to run through all sorts of different insurance policies you have or should have, and how they might be able to protect you from some losses during COVID-19. He makes it clear that policies are pretty clear when it comes to viruses, but that doesn’t means there’s nothing you can do. (And no, Austin is not an attorney and is not offering specific advice or counsel.)

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Handling Tech while Working Remotely with Erik Gudmundson

Erik Gudmundson is the VP of Business Development at Pegasus Technologies, a company that provides an IT department to businesses which don’t have their own. As most of the workforce is now at home, Erik provides some great information on how to do that effectively, what to think about, and how to stay safe.