They are one of the greatest contributors to the U.S. economy, accounting for as much as 35% of Fortune 500 companies. They are family businesses. And while they have had their share of success in the United States, these businesses do face unique challenges. Not the least of which is ensuring longevity in an ever-changing competitive landscape. To provide some guidance on how to manage this challenge, we spoke with Kelley Marston, Store Manager, Uhlman’s Ice Cream who shares five important factors that have led to Uhlman’s success. Located at 232 E. Main Street in Westborough, Uhlman’s is a third-generation business that’s been a Westborough institution for 52 years.
- Be flexible. “We have always tried to treat our customers as if they were guests who were coming into our home,” said Marston. Key to catering guests is understanding their needs and preferences and adapting their offerings. As such, Marston recognized that Westborough had a growing population of people from India. To help make them feel at home, she adapted her menu. “We learned that there is cold dessert delicacy in India known has falooda. We started making this cold dessert, which includes pistachio ice cream, rose syrup, and basil seeds. Our customers love it and tell us that it reminds them of home,” said Marston.
- Keep it simple. According to Marston, though, adapting to the needs of customers is quite different than following the latest fad or trend. “You can spend a lot of money on the latest thing. In our business, for example, there was a big trend in ice cream bubbles and yogurts. We try to stay true to what we do best and what has led to our long-term success.”
- Don’t let technology replace human interaction. While Uhlman’s uses technology to manage their workforce of 65 people, the company understands that when it comes to the customer experience, personal service is best. “People want to talk to people. That’s why when you call us, you won’t get voice mail; you’ll get an actual person.”
- Be socially responsible. Every business has to be conscious of the bottom line, however, Marston believes there is more than just one bottom line. “We believe you have to be both fiscally and socially responsible,” said Marston. One of the ways the company accomplishes that is by partnering with local businesses to get products and supplies.
- Fill your bucket. Anyone who is part of a family business knows that there are long hours involved. Marston who works 7 days a week during the business season is no exception. She does, however, understand the importance of finding a work/life balance when possible. “You have to fill your bucket back up during the offseason. For example, I always plan a vacation with my family after we close for the season.” Marston also advises those with seasonal businesses to budget for the rainy days and prepare for the off season, not every day is a sun-shining ice cream day.
Uhlman’s truly defines while it’s like to be a local, flourishing business in our community. We are excited to not only have them as a customer at Avidia, but to also share their experience in running a business with our readers.
For more information on Uhlman’s, visit ulmansicecream.com, or stop by 232 E. Main Street in Westborough for a treat.
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