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American Express Open (represented by John Principali of CBS Radio New York): Why are small businesses so important to our economy and its recovery?
Shannon Moynihan: This country was built on small businesses, on supply and demand. When the small business in your neighborhood is doing well, it is a sign for all of us that things have turned around.
AE: What was it that inspired you to start your small business?
SM: I am a member of the third generation of Moynihan Lumber, a family-owned and run lumberyard and hardware store now with two locations in Greater Boston and one in Southern New Hampshire. But my family has been in the lumber business since the early 1900s. My Great Uncle delivered lumber via horse-drawn wagon in the early 1920s.
AE: What are the core values of your business?
SM: It has remained the same since 1959 when my Great Uncle coined the phrase "Quality-backed by a desire to please." Basically, we offer high quality products backed up by dedicated customer service.
AE: What was the moment you realized your business was a success?
SM: For me, it was the opening of our Plaistow, NH location in 1995. I was fresh out of college and thrilled by all of the energy and momentum of establishing our brand in a new location where Moynihan Lumber didn't really mean anything yet . Seeing the new location succeed in few short years was exciting. It proved to me that our business formula was a winning one.
AE: Have you had to reinvent any old processes or procedures to cope with these changing times?
SM: We have had to do more with less. I am proud of managers who have had to do their job as well as man the sales counter or shovel snow because we simply don't have the number of employees we did before the recession. There is no "well that's not in my job description." Everyone has had to pitch in.
AE: Are there any secret tips or tricks you've invented to gain an edge?
SM: It may sound pretty basic but I believe sticking with a conservative credit and pricing policy is important. When competitors are almost giving out product for free to get any business, I believe it will backfire. It isn't easy to turn away business, but if it isn't profitable business, in the long run, it doesn't do anyone any good at all.
AE: Can you describe a difficult time for your business and how you learned from it?
SM: This past recession has been the worst time for Moynihan Lumber in its 52 year history. It has taught me to have patience.
AE: What advice or tips do you have for other small business owners as they work to emerge from the recession?
SM: Embrace change. Try to be where your target customers are. I am a big fan of social media currently because our demographic uses it every day. And I think mobile marketing will be next.