I love small businesses

Not just because they are great to work with (even though their passion and enthusiasm for their product is infectious), and not just because they are great to shop with (even though their offering is often unique and special), but because they are human.

In a year where interaction has been, and continues to be, limited, there is nothing more important than the personal touch.

What’s not to love?

Being able to speak to a real human, who isn’t confined to a script, and is genuinely interested in helping you with your enquiry, is surely one of life’s simple pleasures. No being passed from pillar to post, no feeling like an inconvenience because you’ve asked a question that no-one has thought to ask before – just good, old-fashioned, customer service.

We’ve all experienced the opposite – the frustration and futility of being funnelled through automated options that don’t fit with the question we want to ask, or being restricted by a drop-down box of irrelevant topics that don’t correspond with the issues we are experiencing.

All too often, this limited approach (adopted by many larger companies as a time-saving measure) simply doesn’t work – sometimes with laughable consequences. Has an automated voice ever told you that the solution to your internet connectivity problem is to visit the provider’s website, or been directed to ‘raise a ticket’ to report a problem, only to find that the problem type is not an option on the form? We’re constantly being categorised and confined to an ever-decreasing set of options, which in many cases don’t reflect customer reality at all.

What a relief, then, that small businesses exist to come to our rescue.

Celebrating the unique and unusual

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to small business – and that’s something to be celebrated.

Just like human beings, every small business is an individual, a one-off, a reflection of the unique passions, experiences and skills of those at the helm. And that is exactly why they are able to offer such a tailored and personal service to their customers.

No matter what their offering, I believe that small businesses are fundamentally about people – the people who own them, the people who run them, and the people who shop with them or support them. Every customer and team member is an individual, and is recognised as such. It is this respect, value and understanding – along with the fact that customers and business owners are often on first-name terms – that builds lasting relationships and creates amazing customer experiences. It is also what makes me loyal to my local small businesses.

Of course, larger businesses can deliver great customer service too, and some do this really well. But, when you stop and think about – how do they do this? They call you by your name, they remember what you have purchased or considered, they make an effort to tailor their service to suit your needs, they try and get to know you. In short, they behave like small businesses.

A few of the brilliant small businesses that I wouldn’t be without

5 reasons to love small businesses

1. People

Actual human beings that you can have a real conversation with, and who don’t hide behind a script or series of ‘no reply’ email addresses.

2. Product

Why would you buy something mass-produced and standardised when you could purchase a perfectly personalised gift or tailored item that has been created to suit your particular needs?

3. Service

A smile is worth a lot, and a friendly face that remembers your usual order and takes the time to understand you as a person means even more.

4. Craftsmanship

Small businesses are often the product of passion and skills, and are an outlet for the homemade and the handcrafted. We might not be in the age of having a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker on every high street, but our small businesses are a celebration of quality and talent.

5. Location

There are incredible businesses right on our doorsteps if we take the time to seek them out. Save yourself a long drive and extortionate parking charges, and look to your local towns and villages.

The shop small challenge

I am incredibly lucky to be able to work closely with a number of brilliant small businesses every day. As a partner and a customer, I see how they pull out all the stops to adapt their business to the ever-changing environment around them, taking their product to their customers when their customers cannot get to them. It’s inspiring stuff.

I also know how tough things are for small businesses, whether on or off our high streets. So, as we approach the shopping mayhem of Black Friday and the festive season, I challenge you to buy one product or service from a small, local business that you would usually buy from a large corporation or retailer. Just try it and see what you think.

I’m convinced that before too long, you’ll be writing your own love letter to small businesses, too.