Back in May I wrote a post asking how sharpeners are dealing with the increase in gas prices.
I received a number of answers, most involved gas surcharges on each invoice. The surcharges varied in price from as low as $1.00 per invoice to as high as $3.00 per invoice. Most of the sharpeners I talked to have explained to their customers that they are doing this as a temporary measure to offset gas prices, and will remove the charge when, or if, gas prices come down. All have said they've had a good response to this method. Other sharpeners are using this as an opportunity to raise their prices. Bonnie Megowan just wrote an article about this in On The Edge.
One suggestion I'd like to share with you came from my good friend, and former student, Louise Radanovich. This is what she wrote:
When I started sharpening gas was right around $2 a gallon. I almost fainted when it hit $3, and predicted that I would go out of business if it ever hit $4. Well, I paid $3.999 today, but am still up & running, in fact, I'm swamped. I'm working 6 days a week and booking into July.
My gradual response to higher fuel prices has 3 aspects:
Nobody has complained, and one regular client said, "What took you so long?"
Shrink Service Area
I no longer go out to far-flung suburbs for my minimum charge of $25, which is now $30. Unless I get a good $100 I don't go.
Do More Public Venues
I set up once a month at a Nursery, once a month at a Hardware store, several times a season at a Farmer's Market, and at lots of Master Gardener groups, neighborhood "sharpening parties" (complete with hostess gifts), Garden Clubs, etc. Schools are a good source of scissors and paper cutters. I even did a freebie not long ago, a benefit for Pug Rescue that got me 7 new paying customers.
I realize most of your readers/clients do beauty & barber, but I'm telling you there's almost no competition for the homeowner market. There's money to be made in everybody's kitchen, garage, and sewing basket.
The point Louise made about shrinking your service area falls right in line with what I would suggest you should do. I've always been a big proponent for Cluster Selling. Zig Ziglar has written and spoken about this for years. In fact, if you drive by one of your local libraries, stop in and see if they have Ziglar's Sell Your Way to the Top audio series. If they do, get it and listen to it while your driving. He discusses this technique and many others in this course.
Cluster Selling basically involves looking for business where you're at. One of the biggest expenses in the mobile sharpening business is getting there. Why not do as much as you can in one area before you move on to the next? I know that many sharpeners don't think there's any money in sharpening fabric or industrial shears, but as Louise points out, there is. When you visit a town, look for places other sharpeners might be passing by. Depending on where you live, these places could include:
Carpet ManufacturersE-mail me at Jim@wolffind.com for a free list of 140 Places to Sharpen Shears. While you may not make $200 in a Taylor shop, with very little time invested, you could make an extra $20 to $30 dollars you can put toward your gas fund. This makes your other sharpening more profitable.
and many more...
I also want to point you back to the post I wrote about MicroSoft Streets and Trips. This program will save you some drive time because it plans your route for you, and shows where the out-of-the-way customers are. It's well worth the investment! One sharpener just called me today and told me he found this program online for just $29 dollars. You can't beat that!
While the price of gas is nothing to sneeze at, I still prefer filling up as opposed to paying rent. I like the flexibility of mobile sharpening, and I think your customers appreciate it too. I'd still like to hear your opinion about this, take a moment and post a comment about how you're coping with gas prices.
PS - Sorry for the lack of posts! I spent the better part of this week camping with my oldest son. Time very well spent!