Article By: Barbara Lee
Let’s start at the beginning. Before you became the owner of a pool hall, the majority of you either a) had good stick yourselves, or b) had a passion for the game, or a combination of both. Most of you probably hung out in halls for hours and hours, playing, and observing all the action that goes on in a hall.
Then you might have said to yourself “Hey! I could open a pool hall, do something I not only know a lot about and am passionate about, AND make a living probably better than these guys are doing it!” Sound familiar?
In many aspects, this method of acquiring ownership of a business parallels many other industries. The independent auto repair shop is a great example of this. A guy starts as a mechanic for a shop, then at some point decides he should open his own shop because he would do it different or better somehow AND all the rewards and money would be his!
Now let’s leap forward a few years. Those that have survived have at least “done something right”, or have done more right than wrong because they are still in business. The school of hard knocks has probably taken its toll a few times, but the really determined will learn and move forward despite many obstacles. You as the owner have developed a “way of doing business” that has managed to keep the doors open. And congratulations! You are among the few who start a business in “any” industry that lasts more than 3 years.
Welcome now to present day times and in particular, industries like yours. Wow! Not many businesses of any type have gone unscathed in today’s economic climate. Lean times, cut backs, and a LOT of folks running scared and not spending any money, or worse, those who have lost jobs, houses and the like with nothing left to spend. The result? A decrease in customers in the door, less money spent, and lean times for the business owner.
Now what you do and how you respond to all this is key. Those who just do “business as I’ve always done it” but sit around and complain about it being “slow” are eventually going to find themselves OUT of business unless they have some cash backer to see them through times like this. I doubt many of you owners have a cash fairy fluttering around!
So “biz as usual” will most definitely NOT forward the progress of your endeavors. One must now think “outside the box”, come up with some clever new approach and implement it to swing things around. The good news is this: It is usually FAR cheaper for people to come in to a pool hall for some fun, drink and social activity, than to take their significant other to a movie! Activities like pool, bowling etc. actually can do quite well in this kind of economy. But it needs to be promoted!
And here lies the key: PROMOTION! If you do NOT promote to your local and close by surrounding areas, then chances of getting new people in the door are nil. Most of your current longtime customers aren’t going to go out and solicit business for you. It’s just not on their radar to do so. But you COULD put it there! A simple “bring in a friend, or recommend a new person and get 1 hour of free pool” is an example of using your current customer base as a promotional machine. What can happen is that “new” person comes in, spend some cash, has a good time, then goes and tells his friends about your place and now MORE people start thinking about coming in for a good time that doesn’t cost too much. AND they get a little reward for doing so! Everyone wins!
There are many other ways your industry can be promoted of course. Simple flyers done up promoting the fact that a night out at the hall is a fun and inexpensive treat, or you have a “special” going on like “lunch here comes with a free hour of pool”. Or make sure you stay in touch with league operators and make them welcome to come in and use your location for their league activities.
Remember that the more people who come in, the more your hall’s name gets attention. By putting your name out into numerous arenas and KEEPING it there frequently, the more you put the idea of a night out at the pool hall on the “list of fun things to do” for everyone.
Of course there is even more that can be done too! If you do host tournaments at your location (and you should), then hire a “streamer” to come in and stream the tournament “LIVE” over the internet and promote that! The players love it and it gives those at home who can’t be there, a way to stay in touch with someone or something they love!
The bottom line is this: IF YOU DON’T DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT OR CHANGE HOW YOU NORMALLY OPERATE, THEN EVENTUALLY THE PROBLEM OF BEING “SLOW” WILL TAKE YOU OUT OF “THE GAME”. And no one wants that! Not you, not us, not the players.
So get those creative thinking caps on, throw a small amount of money in the direction of promoting your business, and see what works best to increase your customer count AND your bottom line! The more you wait, the more costly. But hey, it’s only money, YOURS!