Roadwork is a fact of life in the developed world. But while it’s an inconvenience for you as a driver, it can be devastating for a small business if your driveway or signage is blocked by street closures, scaffolds, and other construction — not to mention the flying debris and noise.
Don’t let road construction drive your business into the ground. Consider these eight tips for surviving a road-construction project.
1. Pay attention to new developments. Ponderously long municipal meetings probably rank low on your list of how to spend an enjoyable evening. Still, many urban street projects have their genesis in these venues. Spend a few minutes each week visiting your city’s or county’s website, and note any roadwork plans in the offing. Also check out this Road Construction Survival Guide [PDF] from the city of Madison, Wis., which has excellent tips for small businesses.
2. Organize a citizens group. Politics is a numbers game: the more voices, the better. Even when a project appears to be set in stone, it may not be. Applying political pressure may garner concessions, such as doing more work on the graveyard shift. Some associations form specifically for the purpose of navigating one specific road project.
3. Lobby for concessions. Road projects typically go through many iterations, as engineers, politicians, and state and local agencies devise the most cost-effective strategy for taxpayers. The sooner businesses get involved in a project, the better their chances of successfully lobbying for softening the potential impact on local commerce.
4. Hoard cash. As soon as it appears the project is a go, start lining up financial resources that you can tap later, should drive-by or walk-in traffic take a nosedive. Retailers should reduce inventory and operate as leanly as possible.
5. Put up temporary signage. Encourage customers to circumvent the mess by erecting corrugated plastic signs or vinyl banners with large lettering. Make it clear that, despite the inconvenience, you’re still open for business.
6. Stay in touch with clients. Use social media, your website, and email to keep clients up-to-date on the construction. Clearly post store hours. Upload maps that show the latest detours or alternate routes. Thank your clients for their patience. Offer rewards to customers who are persistent enough to use detours to visit your store.
7. Ask other businesses for help. Request some (free) promotional help from other businesses in your community. This could be as simple as having them hand out your business cards, post your flyers, or share your Facebook page. Tell them you’re willing to return the favor when the jackhammers show up on their block.
8. Exploit the situation. If you own your commercial property, this is an opportune time to consider installing upgrades to underground utilities or parking lots.