NFIB Member Insight: How to Stand Out From Larger Competitors

Date: February 21, 2017

Bigger isn’t always better. Case in point: Ball Office Products, which has sold office supplies and furniture in Richmond, Virginia, since 2000, despite fierce competition from big-box retailers. “It’s easy for small businesses to get distracted by what’s going on with big-box stores,” says owner Melissa Ball, an NFIB member. “But if you spend all your time worrying about how you can be like them, you’re going to miss the things that set you apart.”

RELATED: 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Compete With Big-Box Stores

Rather than cram inventory into the warehouse, she’s quick to make custom orders with speedy delivery. “Our catalog has 34,000 SKUs, but our offerings are well over a million,” she says.

Ball often helps customers find items that are well outside her traditional offerings. It’s not unusual to see anything from hula-hoops to dressmaking forms being readied for delivery.

“A big-box store has layers and layers of management and forms to fill out to get something accomplished,” Ball says. “We are large enough to meet our customers’ needs and small enough to be nimble and flexible in meeting those needs. We know our customers, and we know how to serve them well.”

RELATED: NFIB Pennsylvania Member Profile: Warren S. Hudak Jr. 

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NFIB member Melissa Ball. Photos by Keith Lanpher.

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