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The Profit Motive

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading Mystery Shop Forum, you’ll no doubt have noticed various references to mystery shopping as “your business”. For most of us involved in mystery shopping, it is a business. And, since it is a business, you should have a business plan. Is your business plan set in stone or do you review it each year to see what changes need to be made?

When I initially started in mystery shopping, I would do “anything for a buck.” Like any business, you have to pay your dues. There’s the learning curve; the need to get your chops as it were.

I quickly graduated to the point of trying not to do any shops for less than 75 cents per mile, and $1.00 per mile on overnight routes. My car averages 35mpg on the highway and I live in a state with fairly low gas taxes. Your mileage will vary. Those numbers worked for me.

In the last half of 2014 however, I began to notice a change. There were new shoppers in town. Some of my “old reliable shops” were vanishing as soon as they showed up on the boards. It was time to rethink my business plan, and that means you need to know your business. One of my favorite professors from my Alma Mater, The University of South Carolina, gave a perfect example of an entire industry that did not know what business they were in—buggy whip manufacturers. Buggy whip manufacturers thought they were in the buggy whip business. They weren’t. They were in the vehicle acceleration business. By not knowing their business, they did not survive the transition from horse and buggy to the internal combustion engine.

I was not about to let my mystery shopping business go the way of the buggy whip manufacturers. It meant I had to rethink my business plan. In my case, my shopping business is now a part-time endeavor. I’m making deliveries between three and five days per week. I now look at what qualifies as a “good” shop in a different light. Instead of looking at making X amount per mile, I’m looking at shops as “Can I make $X on my day off after paying for the gas to do the job(s)?” If the answer is yes, then I accept the shop(s). As a result, I’m shifting more towards video shops where there is a higher degree of flexibility [and higher pay], as well as shopping for those MSCs where, as long as the shop is completed by the deadline, it really doesn’t matter what day I do them.

It also helps that I have a great boss. He’s more than willing to work with me, and I’ll bend over backwards to help him. In the off season, if I want to take a week off to do a route of video shops, I know it’s no problem with him.

Remember, your business plan isn’t something that is set in stone. It should be reviewed and be subject to change, as your circumstances change.

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