There are some lessons that only come with age and experience.

On October 26th I had the privilege to sit down with small business owner John Popp, owner of Popp Hardware and Popp Laminating & Binding.

Years ago John became BNG Holdings first customer, and that relationship has lasted for a decade.

After he shared his secrets for success, I asked John about some of the greatest challenges his business has had to overcome.

In the summer of 1976 while his father James owned the store, the business caught fire and burned to the ground.

Much like a phoenix, they rose from the ashes and reopened the store by Christmas that year.

Nothing is a crippling to a small business owner as an economic decline. John took over for Popp Hardware in the 1980s, expecting that nothing worse could happen the their business then the fire.

They couldn’t imagine a more crippling challenge was on the horizon

Lidgerwood had been a thriving farming community in the 1940’s when Popp Hardware first opened it’s doors.

In the late 70s and early 80s the vibrant farming community began to slowly decline, and Popp Hardware began losing their long time customers.

“As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 652 people…..The median age in the city was 51.3 years. 19% of residents were under the age of 18; 4.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 16.6% were from 25 to 44; 27.6% were from 45 to 64; and 32.5% were 65 years of age or older” (Wikipedia).

What do you do when you’re losing customers?

“The hardest thing” John said, “about my business is when my customers leave they don’t get replaced. Where they used to come in and spend money every day, now they come in and buy a fishing lure.”

I asked John what they did to keep their business alive, since Lidgerwood wasn’t adding any more people.

1) He invested in marketing and took an active role

Small business overcoming economic troublesJohn realized their store had to put effort into reaching people, and couldn’t rely on the economy to secure his businesses success.

They had to actively seek out customers from the surrounding towns to create business.

“We have to reach out farther and farther. So far so good, we’ve been able to do that.”

Where most companies would drop their marketing during economic letdowns, John did the exact opposite.

John invested money into reaching farmers outside of Lidgerwood ND for business, doing paper marketing and calls.

He also relied on his current customers to recommend him to their friends. Maintaining great relationships with build trust, and make others want to refer your business to family and friends.

2) He found a good suppliers to support his business

IMG_6677One of the other steps they took to stay in business was find a new supplier. They ended up finding a company out of Tennessee to ship them merchandise.

“We’re buying right, and we put a lot of effort into merchandise the product, displaying them, slowly getting into the e-commerce thing…We’re still faced with the declining customers. That’s something we’re going to be faced with until the day we quit doing this.”

They also slowly began accepting credit cards, since more and more customers began to pay with them throughout the years.

Before BNG Holdings, John has the old card imprinters to take credit cards. Customers would often forget their cards, and it was an inefficient system.

John talked with our CEO Brady Nash during a home visit. Brady heard John was frustrated with how inconvenient it was take credit cards, and offered to help be set up with a credit card processor.

Investing with a new supplier and credit card processing method was risky, but John saw the benefits in changing systems.

Roll with the punches

The economy will always go up and down depending on a variety of situations.

It’s impossible to plan for all the outcomes. So remember John’s struggles and remember your business can pull through, no matter the situation.

Want to find a new processor?

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If you’d like to learn more about how your small business can have payments processing success, like John and Popp Hardware, contact us here.