Article by Aly Schmidt, Seattle Marketplace Manager
Before I made it to the front desk at Budget Blinds in West Seattle. I was greeted with a handshake and a warm “How can we help you today?” from co-owner Kendra Hammer.
Owning a thriving small business in a market like Seattle is quite a feat. The Washington State Employment Security Department reports that King County accommodates nearly 1.28 million jobs in its very diverse labor market. However, Parrish and Kendra Hammer, the owners of Budget Blinds of West Seattle, have endured quite a bit more than Seattle’s demanding market. When they moved their young family of four to Seattle to start their business they did not know about the economic downturn or the family hardships outside of work they would soon face. Even so, they were able to succeed.
Kendra Hammer offers the following tips for leading a successful small local business:
Learn to Delegate
“It’s hard to hand things off to others when you know you are good at what you do,” Kendra said.
The couple knew all the functions within their business but when they needed extra hands it was often difficult to pass the workload on. To ensure a smooth transition Kendra began hands-on training with her employees. That freed the couple to begin focusing on other business priorities outside of the office. They have been able to add more jobs to the area and create more opportunities for better customer service. Delegation really came into play when their family was faced with unexpected hardship which led Kendra to tell me about another priority of hers.
Always Find the Silver Lining
“Six and a half years ago my daughter had a brain aneurysm rupture and she suffered a stroke,” Kendra said. “Six months after that, the repair they made ruptured and she had to have emergency open brain surgery.”
It was through this trying time the Hammer’s really focused on delegating to their staff, but it’s also where they learned times of hardship can create great growth. Believe it or not, this hard time helped the Hammer’s develop a new sales structure. Parrish and Kendra had to alternate their schedules so one of them could work while the other could care for their daughter. Their hours spent in sales dropped tremendously but their sales numbers seemed unaffected.
“To this day, we don’t go out on sales calls two days in a row,” Kendra said.
Unintentionally they found a more efficient way of operating. The mother of two always tries to find a silver lining in every hardship and encourages all others to do the same.
Go the Extra Mile
“A lot of our customers are moving into a new place and have nothing for their windows … we will automatically provide temporary window treatments for any bathrooms and any bedrooms that are being slept in until their order arrives,” Kendra said.
The extra effort put forth by Budget Blinds of West Seattle is meant to help customers while they get settled in. It’s also not something the Budget Blinds brand requires.
“It just makes our customers feel taken care of,” Kendra said, “That’s really important to us.”
The Hammer’s exemplify going above and beyond in more ways than one. They also follow up with each customer a few weeks after installation to ensure everything is working well, they have been a BBB Accredited Business for almost 10 years, and they have a showroom to display all the products they offer. The Budget Blinds business model is traditionally a shop-at-home-service with all their products available in vans. However, Parrish and Kendra decided a store front would give them the presence in the community they wanted and they have seen their extra investment pay off.
Get Involved in Your Community
“Sponsoring local events or becoming involved in community groups pays off in more than one way,” Kendra said.
She believes a business can grow their presence in the community while having fun. This leads to more public relations and increased clientele. Kendra feels strongly about community involvement so Budget Blinds of West Seattle has a diversified array of events and groups they support. Each year they are approached by almost a dozen schools in the area to support auctions and fundraisers. They sponsor the West Seattle Blog, Westside Baby and they even purchased ad space in programs for the local theatre and arts.
“I don’t have to search for events to help anymore, people come to us because they know we like to be involved,” Kendra said. “It’s wonderful.”
Like the Hammers, most business owners deal with growth, personal setbacks, customer service and the community in their service area. Whether you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, changing a few things in your existing business operations, or you are a consumer looking for types of businesses to trust, I hope this list of tips inspires you to step out and do something new or set new expectations for who you choose to do business with.