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You’re almost done.

In Tip #7, we started in on the text portion of your America’s Coolest Stores contest entry. This week, we’ll finish the rest of those sections.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED AS A BUSINESS OWNER?

Stop for a moment before you answer this one. As you might have noticed from previous tips, one of our overriding hopes is that you won’t say exactly the same thing as everyone else. Or at least that you’ll say it differently.

So before you trot out something trite like “Take care of your customers and they’ll take care of you,” pause and see if you can break that down into a more specific — and thus more interesting — lesson. When did you learn it? What were you like before you learned it? What specific experiences or mentor or book helped you figure it out? And how do you put it into practice now?

If you can’t answer those questions, is it really a lesson you’ve learned? Or is it just a piece of conventional wisdom you’re throwing out reflexively?

PROVIDE THREE FUN FACTS ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS.

This one seems to put people on the spot. Here are some questions to jog your brain:

Is there anything odd about your building, your decor, or the vendors you used to design your space? Are you or any of your staff accomplished in any unusual ways (and has it ever helped your business)? Have you ever held any especially awesome events or participated in any neat activities? Do you have any noteworthy customers? Is your city, town, or locale remarkable in any way (and does that tie into your business at all)? Do you have any unique business practices? Do you have any fun, quirky traditions among staff?

TELL US ONE OUT-OF-THE-BOX IDEA YOU’VE IMPLEMENTED THIS YEAR.

This could be a sales event, a promotion or ad campaign, a business policy, a training push, a sweet new product or service you’ve introduced. And remember: We value success, but we also admire courage. Maybe you tried something and it was a bust. That’s OK. If it’s sufficiently out of the ordinary, we’d love to hear about it — and why you think it didn’t work, and what you’d do differently if you try it again.

One final piece of advice: As you’re figuring out these answers, email the questions to your staff and ask for their input. This is the sort of project that is made to be crowdsourced.

That should just about bring your contest entry to a close. As ever, if you’ve got questions, concerns, or suggestions, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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