How I Did It: How networking pushed my business into overdrive
Amber Smith didn’t know much about cars. But she knows how to network. Here’s how she made her family automotive business a household name in her community and helped kick Drive True Automotive Services into gear.
Amber Smith’s husband showed up at the door one day with keys to a new auto shop in hand. They’d talked before about the idea of owning their own auto mechanic shop and now he’d found the perfect space. They signed the lease and jumped at the opportunity.
But Smith wondered what she could add to the business, given that she knew nothing about cars. At first she helped with bookkeeping and administration. But with her outgoing personality, it wasn’t long before Smith was out in the community making sure everyone in the small town of Bradford, Ont., knew the Drive True name. Her networking, philanthropy and community involvement has paid dividends.
“I do believe the biggest thing is putting yourself out there,” says Smith. “I didn’t even realize that this was a valuable part of the business necessarily. It was just something I was good at.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, that name recognition has meant that their business has survived and thrived. Jeff Halpern, Business Success Planner, TD Wealth, and Eric Partee, Account Manager, Small Business, TD, offer their own considerations towards growing a successful and resilient business.
1) Create breathing room
Having cash on hand, or access to working capital, may help increase the resiliency of any business. This can be achieved by setting money aside (e.g., a business savings account), or depending on a person’s financial situation, having a line of credit linked to your business account. “By considering this option ahead of time, you can ensure additional funds will be available if or when you need to rely on them,” says Partee. Also try to avoid having a surplus of inventory on hand: Only order what you need.
2) Develop a long-term business plan
“Take the time to map out a few strategies to grow the business,” says Halpern. “Consider how you will acquire more customers, whether that means hiring more staff, expanding locations or adding new products.” To increase the value of your business, Halpern suggests building a strong middle management team. Having a proficient team in place can actually positively affect the dollar value of a business, and can make it more saleable when the time comes for a business transition.
3) Build strong relationships with your suppliers
Developing a good working relationship with your suppliers can reap rewards during periods of both boom and bust. “During tough times, businesses may be able to renegotiate favourable terms with their suppliers based on the good relationships they have previously developed,” says Partee. Extended payment terms have helped businesses avoid running into a cash crunch by having to pay their suppliers before they receive payment. On the other hand, during good times, strong relationships may prove beneficial as well for special requests, like rushing a shipment.
| Denise O’Connell
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