After the sixth business person mentioned their fears of what the road widening on Highway 5 will do to their business, the Bryant Area Chamber of Commerce went on a mission.  I interviewed 5 businesses that had been through a road widening and I went online to see what resources were available.
Thursday, August 6, we had a workshop with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department’s Mark Headley, District 6 Engineer, Tony Evans, District 6 Construction Engineer, and Danny Straessle, Public Information Officer. Fifteen businesses came.
General concensus was that we need to do this again as the conversation was very enlightening about the process we will be experiencing. We are planning to do this meeting again in the evening at Bishop center once the contractor is named.
Meanwhile I am sharing here the information I gleaned.
Tips from other businesses who have experienced it:
1. Get it in writing. Whatever is verbally offered for your property, make sure you follow up with it in writing. (Not everyone will have this. Some will be in right of way).2. Write a plan. Take control by planning. Your sales are going to take a hit. It is up to you to lessen the damage.3. Make a map of your business location and identify alternative routes, parking options and entrances and exits. Just because you know another way in and out does not mean every customer does.4. Work with your neighbors. If you do not have another way in and out, can you create one?Can you relatively cheaply add gravel to connect to another lot that will connect to a side street? If you are in a center with others, can you all chip in together to fund this so it benefits all? Is your neighboring business one that delivers? Can you arrange a deal for them to deliver for you?5. Have a shopping center meeting. You all can help each other. Talk to understand how each of you are planning to handle this situation. You may find other ways to help each other6. Find another way out. Get out and walk your property with fresh eyes on ways in and out.
7. Deliver to the customers yourself. When the in-the-door traffic lessens be ready to go to the customer.8. Befriend the workmen. If you are in communication with them there will be fewer surprises. And they may actually honor a request to move down a bit for a time if something special is going on at your office/store.  If you are a restaurant, offer a special deal for breakfast/lunch for the workmen. Offer to have them inside out of the heat for a break.9. Estimate the potential loss to your business. Talk to your CPA or business advisor and calculate your break even sales volume.10. Meet with your local banker. Set up a line of credit to pay bills if sales drop below breakeven.Your local banker knows you’re a good business and this is a temporary situation.
11. Request a meeting with road supervisors if there are peculiarities about your business they need to understand to work the best situation out for you. Ask for their cooperation and assistance to help minimize your loss of business during the business hours that are most key for you.
12. Finalize your plan and communicate it with everyone – your employees, vendors, customers, family, etc. Make sure everyone know what’s coming. No surprises.
13. Communicate the following:
a. We are open and will be open through construction  (Big Banner. Work with City on                 waiver).
b. How to get to you? Alternate routes? Can they still get to your business despite de                tours?
c. Any parking or exit or entry issues.
d. Offers or specials to get people to come to the business despite inconveniences.
14. Plan for longer than is stated. Construction is notoriously unpredictable due to weather issues. And be understanding. The workmen have no control over the weather.
15. Can you shuttle people over?  Can they come to another parking lot and ride a golf cart over? Be creative!!!
16. Make social media your friend. Communicate. Tell the world what is happening. Reward first time customers who come to you during construction. Put your inventory out on Face Book, Etc. If they aren’t coming in to see your inventory, show them other ways.  Keep your customers informed. Do contests and promote, promote, promote. Have a sense of humor about it. Blog about what is happening to your business.
17. Reduce your overhead.  Despite your best efforts, sales are likely to fall below the previous year.  You can reduce your breakeven sales level by cutting overhead. Ask your employees to take time off. There may even be some who want to take the summer off. You will never know if you do not ask. Alternately, trim hours. Open later, close earlier. Or shift hours to when work will not be active if you can.  Delay rehiring if someone leaves.
18. Consider closing for remodeling.  If you have been putting off fix-ups, especially anything major, now might be the time to bite the bullet and get it done. If your customers are already being inconvenienced, go ahead and get all of that out the way so when road work is done they will really be wooed back.
19. Realize construction is not an appealing look. Dress it up however you can. And ask your customers to “pardon our dust” or some such. They know you are doing your best but acknowledging it is a distraction is good policy. You will make them feel as though their patronage is important to your getting through this hard time. AND IT IS!
20. Call on the Bryant Area Chamber of Commerce to help. We are here to assist you any way we can because your business is important to us!
GOAL: Your business continues to thrive and Bryant has a reputation of being the best town in which the contractor has ever worked a project!!!