When you own a business and road construction comes to your street it can fill you with a tremendous amount of dread and worry. The good news is, in the long term hopefully improved roadways will lead to better traffic and customer flow for you. In the short term you'll need some tips to buffer yourself against the potential drop in customer flow while the construction is underway.
1.) Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Don't waste your hard earned money on attempts to stop construction through suing your city or the construction contractors involved in the project. Even if the short term is messy and detrimental, the parties involved with the construction are trying to improve roadways near your business - their goal isn't to run you out of town. In some cases they can also be a resource to help buffer your business during the construction --- (excuse the pun), but constructively ask questions and see what options might be available to you and your business.
2.) Stay informed ahead of construction schedule(s)
Your local government should inform you of construction well in advance of the project beginning. Your Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations can also be good resources. To be proactive, add a couple of minutes to your schedule every couple of weeks to check your city, county and/or our state's Dept of Public Works and DOT websites. Or if you have a little tech savvy, search for "Google Alerts" and setup a few Google Alerts that will email alert notices to you if Google sees keywords that pop up on the web such as "MyBusinessStreet Construction Madison".
3.) Rainy Day Fund for Construction
If there's construction, there's a significant chance that your foot traffic is going to drop. On a regular basis, set funds aside in a rainy day fund. This extra insurance will not only be there for you to help keep up with your business expenses, but you can also dip into it for running extra advertising, pay for additional "we're still open" signage, or even have an extra special sale to give people reason to make their way to you through the construction.
4.) Form "Constructive" Alliances
If there is really a need to confront your city on the construction project, band together with other businesses that are affected by the construction. Together you can be more constructive in your ideas and approach to help find solutions to issues. The goal should always be to keep customers coming in your door. Also don't forget to always have an alliance with your customers. Leverage social media, your customer loyalty program (if you don't have one, set one up right away), and don't be afraid to offer specials.
5.) Extend Your Local Alliance
Your combined voices in your alliance can be very powerful. Work together on social media, websites and traditional advertising to help remind your and the other businesses' customers that you are still open, have great products and are continuing to provide excellent service during the construction. A simple social media blitz by a handful of small businesses can quick reach 10,000's of people in your area.
6.) Ask About Construction Mitigation Programs
Your local government may have a construction mitigation program. Few, but some, of these programs can offer direct cash or loans. There are also other facets of these programs that can dramatically help you during construction such as relaxed zoning laws during constructions that would allow you to place extra and/or extra large signage. Some areas have even offered subsidized sale discounts. The city of Green Bay even went as far as entering all shoppers to construction affected businesses into a raffle for a big screen TV.
7.) Be Friends With The Contractors and Construction Crew
Granted you don't have to be friends with their noisy tools, but remember they are just trying to do their jobs like you. These folks can also be potential customers or sneezers for your business. You can imagine how much flack these people normally take from businesses and people for having their roadways torn up. Being kind to them can result in new customers - themselves and as they share (sneeze) the good word about your business to others.
8.) Be Careful With The Media
One story we've heard featured a business owner who was getting fed up with the construction project in front of his business being over its deadline. The owner contacted his local TV news station in an effort to have them run a story telling viewers that they were still open for business. What ended up happening was the news station did run a story, but it was skewed toward how bad the construction was. Customer traffic dropped off even more and shortly thereafter the business owner and a couple others had to shut their doors. Our best advice when dealing with the media is to, again, band together with the other businesses affected, elect a very articulate spokesperson from your group, don't complain about the situation, look for positive solutions / impacts you can make, and have your spokesperson deal with the media with extremely specific information.
9.) Use Construction To Your Locally-Owned Advantage
If it makes good business sense for your particular situation, when big box stores are affected by their own road construction, see this as an opportunity to advertise that you're a great locally owned alternative to the big box store and that you are construction free (at least for the time being!).
Till Next Time,