?Big Box? program aims to aid small businesses

Presenters at the ?Thinking Outside the Big Box? program made themselves available for one-on-one conversations with participants. Marci Penner of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, left, and Brian Stucky, right, of Goessel, chat between sessions.  Photo by Don Ratzlaff

Last month, business owners were buzzing to Tabor College, in Hillsboro, for a free program, ?Thinking Outside the Big Box, designed to enhance small businesses in Marion County.

The program was in response to big box retail coming to Marion County in the spring of this year and was put on by Hillsboro Free Press owner Joey Young along with Marion County Economic Development.

Marion City Administrator Roger Holter opened the?Thursday?afternoon session with a presentation on the way ?big-box? stores operate, based on his 40 years? experience in the field prior to his retirement.

Holter said the public perceives big-box stores as having unsurmountable economic advantages, but small businesses can out-perform the big stores by offering personalized service and local promotions.

Marci Penner, Kansas Sampler Foundation director and co-founder, followed with ?Eight must-do?s? for small businesses in small towns.

Penner illustrated several examples of small-store success?and failures?that she has discovered during her many years touring Kansas communities.

Tim Smith of Allenton, Pa., was the featured speaker in the evening session, addressing those in attendance on the ?7-11 Rule.?

?In the first seven seconds of contact, a person, customer, guest or consumer, forms 11 impressions about you and your store,? Smith said.

Those 11 impressions included a person?s knowledge, friendliness, attractiveness, professionalism, empathy, credibility, confidence, cleanliness, helpfulness, court?-
eous?ness and responsiveness.

Smith talked about each of those impressions in detail, along with sprinkling in his personal experiences while visiting businesses in Marion County throughout the week.

Smith is a national consultant who has worked with the Pentagon, Home Depot, hotel chains, and many more.

Videos of each of the three presentations will be available for public view at https://www.hillsborofreepress.com/think-outside-the-big-box.

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