Meet a Beer Store That Diversified to Sustain Small Business Growth

You can’t always predict new competitors, changes in customer preferences, and obstacles that make your brick-and-mortar location harder to reach. One thing is for certain, though: at some point, you’ll face challenges that disrupt business operations. A resilient business responds to these small business growth challenges by embracing change.

 

Nick Wendowski, the owner of Stone’s Beer & Beverage Market in Philadelphia, knows this firsthand. In an episode of The Power Up podcast, Wendowski talks about how he responded when construction pushed his company out of its original location. 

 

Wendowski’s way forward was to pivot to wholesaling, and it saved his small business — in fact, it proved quite profitable. His story shows other small business owners the importance of adaptability.

What Growth Stages Do Small Business Owners Go Through?

There are five stages of small business growth on the road to success. 

 

  • Existence. During this stage, you’ll establish your business’s presence, develop your products or services, and find your first customers.
  • Survival. Your business enters this stage as your small business gains traction and brings in revenue. You’ll focus on keeping your customer base loyal and earning a steady income through consistent quality and work. 
  • Success. You reach this small business growth stage once your revenue streams become more stable, your brand recognition improves, and you hire more employees. Your customer base might expand or you might keep the same customers for a while, depending on your marketing strategy.
  • Take-off. During this stage, you’ll rapidly expand and scale by developing new products, establishing partnerships, scaling operations, or opening a second location
  • Maturity. The resource maturity phase of stability and optimization is last, and it means your small business has made itself a market leader. You’ll maximize profitability and diversify your revenue streams while still looking out for growth opportunities.

Why Some Small Businesses Struggle With Growth

very entrepreneur has big plans for their small business, but you’ll likely face hurdles along the way. A common challenge that keeps some companies stuck in survival mode is limited resources, especially access to capital. Without enough funding, your small business struggles to invest in marketing, technology upgrades, or new talent.

 

Another major obstacle for small businesses is scaling effectively. It might seem promising to expand, but this requires careful planning and, sometimes, restructuring your whole business model. The work it takes to scale your small business is an overwhelming prospect for some.

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Often enough, the event that really puts your business in a place where growth strategies become super important is something out of your control. This could include:

 

    • Construction on your street or building. Street construction makes it harder for customers to reach your brick-and-mortar location. Work on your actual building could force you to entirely relocate.
    • Power outages. It’s one thing for the power in your area to go out for a few hours. It’s another thing entirely if your power is out for a day or several days. The gap in business could lead to enough revenue loss that a big-time pivot is necessary.
    • Natural and other disasters. When early-pandemic lockdowns hit, restaurants were immediately in trouble. These small businesses had to think fast to survive, and some restaurants started selling groceries to stay afloat. This example shows how disasters can force businesses to rapidly diversify — and that it’s totally possible to survive.
    • Building owner selling the property. When the person who owns your commercial space sells it, the new owner won’t always let you stay. As you transition between locations, in-person sales may fall behind.
    • Trends becoming irrelevant. When people lose interest in the trend you built your business on, how do you survive? You’ll need to look at what offerings related to your product or service your customer base is interested in now. It’s then time to put together a plan to give these customers what they want.

When challenges out of your control come up, how you respond determines your company’s future. Often, though, small business owners fail to be adaptable and adjust to change. This leads to stagnancy and, ultimately, the business heading toward decline. On the other hand, a business that uses its unique strengths to keep itself resilient is headed for growth.

 

For example, Wendowski said Stone’s experienced a drop in foot traffic after he was forced to relocate his store. After noticing this difference, Wendowski completely revamped his business model. His adaptability pushed the business through its most difficult period and grew the company into a booming operation.

Why Small Business Growth Means Embracing Change

As much as you plan, situations come up that are out of your control. Successful business growth means adapting quickly to changing circumstances. Small business growth strategies make it easier to get through these challenges and go about your business’s future in new and exciting ways. 

 

Growth strategies allow you to make room for new products or services that set your business apart from the competition. You’ll also wind up bringing in new customers, sometimes in entirely new sectors or audiences.

 

Stone’s is a great example. When Wendowski learned his business’s storefront building was scheduled for demolition, selling wholesale became his new focus. It’s a business model that doesn’t depend nearly as much on location as direct-to-consumer sales.

 

Wendowski’s new business model led to thorough sales tracking and improved inventory management. Stone’s also reworked its whole marketing strategy to expand its customer base and change its trajectory for the better.

6 Small Business Growth Strategies To Reinforce Your Business

1. Diversify sales

As your business expands, you might initially focus your small business’s sales on just one additional channel. However, this approach can be problematic if the market fluctuates or issues arise with your supply chain. 

 

One solution is to create a diversification strategy early on. This means going beyond traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores for sales and expanding to e-commerce, wholesale distribution, and social media platforms, among other examples.

 

Multi-channel selling connects your small business with a wider audience while decreasing the risks of relying on one method for generating revenue. This way, if shoppers in other regions learn about your small business, you can sell to them. And if stormy weather keeps local customers indoors, they can still buy from you via other sales avenues like your website or Google Shopping.

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2. Put customer loyalty first

Repeat customers make all the difference between merely being open and being successful. Existing customers regularly buy from you, which reliably increases your revenue. They also serve as brand advocates who attract new customers through word-of-mouth, leading to even more sales.

 

When building customer loyalty, lean on personalized marketing campaigns, loyalty and membership programs, and excellent customer service. Think about your favorite local coffee shop where the barista knows your name and order. This attention to detail and personalized experience gets you excited to come back time and again. Elevating the customer experience like this sets your company apart and forms a foundation for long-term growth.

3. Expand your staff’s skill set

To grow your business, you need a skilled team of employees. Investing in employee development helps you close skill gaps and make sure your team is ready to grow your business. 

 

Teaching your staff about managing inventory, operating your POS system, and leading great marketing campaigns helps your team thrive. Offer formal training sessions or create a buddy program that pairs employees who normally don’t work together so that they’ll naturally exchange advice and expertise. 

 

As you do this, get your whole team personally and professionally invested in growing your business. After all, everyone plays a role in keeping your operations efficient and staying up to pace with your business’s changing needs.

4. Meet with a consultant

If you’re a new or first-time business owner, expanding your small business might feel like entirely uncharted territory. Speaking with experts in navigating small business growing pains gives you more confidence about the trajectory ahead.

 

When Wendowski mulled over plans for Stone’s, he turned to experienced professionals for advice and guidance. He recommends that small business owners consult with experts in various fields instead of trying to figure things out on their own. Lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors are all there to offer insights, small business growth strategies, and solutions tailored to your exact needs.

5. Conduct a competitive analysis

As competitors enter your industry, the risk of your business being overshadowed increases unless you have a strong plan to stand out from the pack. A thorough competitive analysis is a big part of this plan. It shows you where your business stands against others while uncovering areas for improvement and innovation. 

 

In this analysis, you’ll assess your business’s strengths and weaknesses along with your biggest competitors’ strategies. You’ll also look at key trends, consumer preferences, and new products in the market.

Power Up

Learn how to complete a competitive analysis step-by-step to better reinforce your brand. 

When Wendowski first decided to start wholesaling, he used information he gathered from competitor research to inform his new business strategy. Instead of adding Stone’s to an already saturated market of traditional beer wholesalers, he identified his business’s unique aspects and marketed them to potential customers. He wound up finding a need among retail businesses that Stone’s was uniquely positioned to fill.

6. Develop a strategic marketing plan

Subpar marketing efforts get in the way of drawing new customers in and giving existing ones reasons to keep coming back. Instead, set clear company objectives based on where you want your business to go. 

 

This starts with knowing your new target audience like the back of your hand and spelling out why customers need what you’re selling. From there, you’ll identify the sales channels best for your continued growth. All of this makes up your marketing plan, which is a living, breathing document that you’ll adjust as your company grows or external factors shift. 

 

Maybe social selling is your biggest revenue-earner, but algorithm changes are reducing reach and engagement. Optimize your website so it ranks higher in search engine results, and encourage customers to leave positive reviews on your Google Business Profile. Whatever approach you take, stay flexible to get your business ahead of trends, market fluctuations, and unexpected curveballs.

How Stone’s Beer Grew Its Wholesale Business During Construction

Enjoying a beer after work was never a second thought for Nick Wendowski. Owning a beer company was a different story. His decision to purchase Stone’s Beer and Beverage Market came when he wanted to leave the corporate world and invest in a business and community he loved. 

 

Wendowski visited Stone’s every day for about a year and a half. He and his wife Jen bought Stone’s in 2019, and it now serves both the area’s passersby and the places they stop at for dinner.

Building up from the setbacks

The time Wendowski spent at Stone’s before buying it gave him a solid understanding of the company’s customers. Connecting with these customers came easily to him. Then, he found out about the Stone’s building demolition. The space’s landlord wanted to rebuild, leaving the decision entirely out of Wendowski’s control. 

 

Wendowski wound up relocating the business to a temporary location with much less foot traffic/ This, though, was far from ideal. It was clear that the usual in-person customer visits wouldn’t allow Stone’s to keep hitting its financial targets moving forward.

 

“We knew that we had to pivot and have some other revenue source,” he said.

Wendowski decided to sell beer to local restaurants rather than just consumers to fuel ongoing business growth. However, larger wholesale businesses were already contracted with many restaurants in the area. Wendowski thus dedicated his growth strategy to connecting with small businesses that couldn’t afford to work with big-name suppliers.

 

“We really just focused, from the wholesale side, on, ‘[What] are the businesses that are just like us in the market? [What] are the bars and restaurants that are small [and] scrappy?’” Wendowski said. “We decided that’s our segment.”

Executing the plan

Once Wendowski identified Stone’s new business niche, it was time to put the pivot into action. Wendowski and his staff started by optimizing their internal processes. They separated the Stone’s inventory needed for wholesaling from inventory for in-store sales.

 

The team also created new sales processes for carefully tracking how products moved through the business. These changes made such a huge difference in operational efficiency that Stone’s began marketing three-hour product delivery. The rest of the growth came from Wendowski’s sales partner going door to door at Philly restaurants to talk about the company’s products and offerings.

 

“[There were] lots of nos, lots of ‘Who are you’s?’ Plenty of…‘We only buy from the big guys,’” Wendowski said — but the persistence soon paid off.

 

Since the start of Stone’s expansion into wholesale, it has grown from working with five clients to maintaining approximately 150 active accounts. At the same time, the small-business mindset that brought everyday people to Stone’s at the start is still strong. Wendowski believes that knowing what his customers are looking for is the cornerstone of his business’s continued success.

 

“Ultimately, they want selection,” he said.

 

With about 1,000 products available in-store at all times, Stone’s offers a huge variety of beers. Wendowski says the goal is to have everyone’s favorites on the shelves while giving them the opportunity to try something different. Alongside the company’s wholesale success, the business’s home delivery service has grown to become its fastest-growing sales channel.

Growing In Sales And Flexibility

Taking steps to grow your business might not come easy, but small business growth strategies move you past obstacles into opportunities you’d never considered. The key is being adaptable and staying ahead of the curve, whether there’s a new competitor on the block or construction on your doorstep. To learn more tips and strategies for navigating changes with your business, listen to The Power Up’s episode with Wendowski, “Turning Challenges Into Triumphs.”

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