Top Six Ways My Business Survived in a Town Where No One Could

If you don’t already know me I own several businesses but for the last 13 years, the most challenging has been a small 40 seat restaurant in our little town of 1900 people. In the last 13 years, we have lost our only drug store, our only grocery store and every other small business on Main Street but mine. Stafford’s is the only place on Main Street where you can walk in the door and buy something and walk out. In retail, we are the lone survivor. We are the little store that could.

The crazy part is we are now in a more financially stable place at Stafford’s than at any time during our 13 years here in Drew, MS. I have thought a lot about why that is. In fact, the most money I ever lost is when we were a 60 seat restaurant and bringing in much more money than now. I have started to ask myself why we have been able to make it work when others haven’t. I am not sure this list is accurate but it is my assessment of how we have made it so far in an industry famous for its first-year failure rate.

Know your goals. I knew the day we opened at Stafford’s that the future of Drew was most likely troubled. I knew we would never make a million in sales in a year. What I did know was that Drew needed a restaurant and I was willing to sacrifice to make it work. It was a labor of love for my town and for my love of entrepreneurship. My goal was never to make enough money to buy a nice Rolex or fancy car, but just to survive. I knew what the realities were and I was ok with that. I planned from day one for the worst case scenario. I wanted this not for the money but for the legacy. I have never personally been in any business for the money. Your goals should and will be different. The point is you will just wander around if you don’t know where you are headed.

The debtor is slave to the lender. We bought the location for Stafford’s on a budget. Being in a small town, buildings on Main street were incredibly cheap. I bought two buildings with money I had earned guiding duck hunts in late 2002. It took me two years of renovations at my own hand to make one of them ready to house a restaurant. I would have never made it in a small town with a big debt payment or rental payment. This has been a huge part of my success and is especially crititcal in a small town. I have had other businesses that stumbled and even failed due to a high debt load.

Cash is king. I got the chance to meet billionaire Keith Cunningham once and he gave me some great advice. The profit you see on a P&L statement means nothing to anyone but Uncle Sam. It’s only real purpose is to tell you how much taxes you owe. You cannot spend profit. You can only spend cash. You have to spend every day in your business figuring out how to get your hands on cash. I can’t tell you how often I have come up at the end of the farming year and owed more taxes than I had cash in the bank. This seems like common sense to me now but when I opened my first business at 22 I didn’t understand it.

If cash is king, marketing is queen. You cannot open a business and not have some strategy as to how you will get people in the door. I am not talking about advertising here. Most ad people are selling a very overpriced product and trying to get you to buy way too much of it. I am not downing ad people. Advertising is a very real piece of the marketing pie just don’t stop there. Everything is marketing from your choice of location, to what color the storefront is, to what order your menu or store selection is laid out. When you go to the high school basketball game and ask a friend to come to your store, that is marketing. In a sense, this may be the best time ever to be in business. I can literally stock a product and market it worldwide through the internet. Never before in the history of man has this been possible. We use social media very well in our marketing for free but we execute with a style all our own. There is nothing worse than poorly executed social media.

Put in the work. I see you out there on Instagram. Hanging at Coachella while I am washing dishes. Sunning at the beach while I am on the farm. Going to the club while I am at the bank. None of this works without hard work. Especially if you are young. If you are in your 20s and have no kids I have a great plan for your new business. Go home from your 9 to 5, hug the dog, and bust your ass from 5:30 until 1 AM. Delete fortnight from your phone and put in the F*&%ing work.

Do what you say you are going to do. In fact, it is our goal at Stafford’s to over deliver. We want to give you more than you expected. A man’s, or woman’s, word is their bond. If you consistently miss the image that you have so skillfully marketed people will stop coming and nothing you ever do will bring them back.

Stafford is a small business expert in Drew, MS. He owns Shurden Farms and Main Street Deli LLC. You can email Stafford at for speaking events. 




Focus or Fail

You may hear me say this all the time, “where focus goes, energy flows.” I actually stole that quote from Tony Robbins but I am pretty sure he learned it from somewhere else as well. Most great Ideas are built off of someone else’s great ideas. There are very few original ones left. I have often opined that I can only see so far because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.

The great thing about buying into this concept is that you do not have to invent success. Success leaves clues and you can emulate the people you admire. There are many ways to do this. You can read a book by or about the person you want to emulate. You can go to an event, maybe a business seminar or a Church Revival. You could just befriend someone you admire right in your own community and ask them to mentor you. You could hire a life/executive coach. The choices are endless.

The key is to focus on what you want and measure it daily. The how is not important. If the what is compelling enough the how will come to you. You can learn it. You are not stupid.

The reason most people fail is their focus wains because the goals they have set for themselves are not compelling enough to narrow their focus.

Take the guy that wants to lose 30 pounds. He wants to get rid of that beer belly and he hates how it looks.  He wants to lose the weight but he can’t seem to stay away from that hamburger at lunch and that big juicy ribeye on Friday night. One day at a regular check up his doctor says he will die if he doesn’t lose the 30 pounds. Do you think his focus has shifted? Is death more compelling for him than looking good?

That is how simple life is. I talk a lot about having goals but if goals do not compel you to action they weren’t very good goals in the first place. Make your goals so compelling you feel as if you will die if you don’t achieve them and find success stories of people who have achieved what it is you want.

Remember to never set a goal without taking some type of action toward achieving it. This makes a huge mental shift in your sub-conscience, and if you haven’t taken action you haven’t truly decided.

Stafford Shurden is a marketing and business coach and has been in business for himself for 20 years. He also owns 1933 Restaurant, Shurden Farms, and Stafford Shurden Coaching and is an elected Justice Court Judge.  You can email Stafford at 

Circle of Influence

One of the largest difficulties I have had in my professional life as an entrepreneur is not really having a boss. I answer to no one. I know that sounds great but it has brought with it certain challenges that takes a special individual to endure. You must be self motivated and self aware. It is in fact loneliest at the top of the pyramid.

When I was a younger man I had my Dad Bubba Shurden to go to for advice from farming to business to health and family. He was my hero, my adviser, and my best friend. When he died almost 11 years ago this week I lost all of that. I was indeed alone in many ways. Over the next several years I made a series of really short sighted decisions that I am still feeling the burn from financially. I knew something was missing but I did not know what.

One night I was laying in the bed in prayer and I rolled over to my wife and said, “I really believe that God wants me to go to this Tony Robbins event in Chicago.” She agreed and I went. I didn’t drink the Koolaide. I hooked it up IV style, right in the vain. I left with a thirst for knowledge and many new friends that thought like I did. Why did I fail? How do I change? What do I really want from life?

I started exercising and reading more, two books a month in fact, but the biggest change is I hired a coach, Shasheen Shah. I realized that I was not associating with anyone who could help me to create lasting change in my life and Shasheen helped me to see that.

If you’re like me you want all that life has to offer and that makes you not normal. I encourage you to find a mastermind group, find a mentor, find other people like us to hang around. You are the average of the five people you hang around the most. Keep that in mind.

I know you got in business for yourself for many reasons but somehow you woke up one day to a job and not a business. You’re business is running you instead of you running the business. You know it’s time to make a change. Maybe you just need someone you trust who has a new point of view. Maybe you need a coach.

Stafford Shurden has been in business for himself for 20 years. He also owns 1933 Restaurant, Stafford’s Market, and Shurden Farms, and is an elected Justice Court Judge.  You can email Stafford at 

You’re Gonna Die

For as long as human history has been self aware we have searched for everlasting life on earth only to find it has slipped our grasp each and every time. Imagine a world in which you always had tomorrow. There would be absolutely no urgency. If death was not ever creeping closer then why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? What difference would it make?

The fact is we all have a terminal disease called life. We will all die. Some sooner than others. This fact alone should give you absolute motivation to start whatever it is you want to do with your life right now.

Now I am a Christian and I believe in life after death but that does not mean that I don’t have some really important things I want to do in this life on earth. I think it is really helpful for us to want a legacy. In general, I want to leave this world better than I found it. That is my master plan.

The fact that you will die should be enough to start right now on that one thing you always wanted to do and while I generally write on business and social media maybe that one thing is climbing Mount Everest or learning to fly.

Go hang around a nursing home for a while and you will discover that the main term you hear is regret. I use the “rocking chair” test on my life. I imagine a time when I have come into my twilight years and I ask myself what I wished I had done. Then I do it. There will come a day when it is too late to start.

The main reason we don’t achieve is because we never start. The main reason we never start is because we are afraid to fail. We fear how we will look to others, but the main failure will be felt when we are old and gray and cannot do those things anymore.

I may fail and I may look foolish sometimes but I have been right a lot too. It’s time to take a freaking risk. You won’t live forever.

The Personality of Success

“There is more than one way to skin a cat” I used to hear old folks say. While I have never even considered skinning a cat I would assume that the saying is mostly true. The bottom line is there is more than one solution to any problem and I frankly fear anyone who loudly proclaims that his or her way is the only way especially when it comes to the art of success.

In my obsession with success I have read more business books than I can count and yes some themes emerge as clues to success, like reading every day, but what always strikes me as amazing is how “successful” people gained the title in so many different ways.

I was reading a restaurant management book that was basically a collection of interviews from very well known restaurateurs and the difference in all of these people was astounding to me.

In one of the chapters the restaurant owner warned heavily against ever owning more that one restaurant. He told a harrowing tale of how he had almost been bankrupt because he opened a second location but he sold it and was now known across the nation in his one location that had great food and a beer brewery.

The very next chapter was about an owner who had opened literally dozens of restaurants creating a chain that he had sold for millions of dollars only to start over in opening more restaurants. He was adamant that you could not achieve success by opening just one location and that it would never make you happy and fulfilled.

After reading dozens of success stories what is the lesson to be learned from such different paths to success? Could both owners be right in what they said?

I really believe the greatest success begins with understanding who we really are. Both of the owners found what success was for them. They understood what it took to make them successful. There is no right or wrong way to do almost anything.

If you have a 9 to 5 job and you go fishing every weekend and you are happy. Congratulations. You freaking won! If you operate a fortune 500 company and make billions but are unhappy you lost. It really is that simple.

What makes me happy will more than likely make you miserable. People tell me all the time that I work to much or that I will have burnout. I know what they really mean is they would have burnout. All of us are different and we must find our own path. Most of all we should not judge those who measure success in different ways than we do.

Some of us have found the success that someone else told us would make us happy only to be miserable. It is possible that your blueprint for life is skewed to some other persons definition of success. Now is a good time to start finding out what really matters to you. The real key to success is finding your personality.

Try this, get a sheet of paper and write out all of the things in life you want just as fast as you can. Do not think this out, just write. Give yourself about 60 seconds. Write whatever pops in your head. Do this every day this week. At the end of the week look at all your papers and see what keeps popping up. You might be surprised at what really matters.

Stafford Shurden is a marketing and business coach and has been in business for himself for 20 years. He also owns 1933 Restaurant, Shurden Farms, and Stafford Shurden Coaching and is an elected Justice Court Judge.  You can email Stafford at 

Is the Root of Evil Your limit?

I spend most of this blog to talk about using social media to increase your business but I want to branch out a little today to talk about what is really limiting you and me. The one thing that keeps us from greatness. It is our beliefs.

For years I had a bad vision of money. On the one hand I wanted so badly to be obscenely wealthy (see what I just did without even realizing) on the other I saw that as well… obscene. What could I possibly need more than say $xxxxxx a year for?  Guess what was my top earning for many many years?

I used to quote the Bible as any good southerner could.”Money is the root of all evil,” I would say. One day I was doing some reading and came across another quote. “The love of money is the root of many evils.” I stopped right then and got out my Bible to see if I had been quoting it wrong all these years.

Indeed I was wrong. Only a little but this subtle change totally changed the way I saw money. It is indeed an inanimate object that only possesses the heart of it’s owner. For me this belief that money was a bad thing was a limiting belief. It is not my only one. I have had to re-evaluate my own life to find these limiting beliefs like this one.

Life really is 80% physiology and only 20% mechanics. You can be the smartest guy in the room but still be the lowest performer if you have limiting beliefs. They may be something you read, something your parents said with the best of intentions, something a teacher said, or something from a bad experience.

You’re most important job in life is to figure out what empowers you and what limits you. No one but you knows what that is, especially your family. The hardest lesson in life is that often the people you love most will be the ones that hold you back. Not because they don’t love you, on the contrary, it’s because they do and they are afraid of being left behind. Every single time someone tells you you can’t do something they are really saying you can’t because I couldn’t, or even sadder why did I give up.

I am going to give you a little homework. Write down some of your core beliefs. Are they really yours or did someone tell you to believe that? How are these beliefs in conflict with your goals in life? What beliefs can you replace the limiting ones with that can empower you?

I would love to see what some of you guys and girls come up with. Feel free to email me and tell me how this goes.

Stafford Shurden is a marketing and business coach and has been in business for himself for 20 years. He also owns 1933 Restaurant, Shurden Farms, and Stafford Shurden Coaching and is an elected Justice Court Judge.  You can email Stafford at 


Love Me or Hate Me

As I work with businesses all over the Mississippi Delta and some across the country with social media one thing keeps coming up. Fear.

Businesses are afraid of offending or afraid of putting out content that doesn’t “look” good or they are afraid of people talking bad about their product or service on social media.

Fear only leads to being paralyzed. If you are afraid to post you won’t and you will be missing out on the best free advertising you have ever done. The worst thing you can do is to not participate.

Yes, you will make mistakes but you have to run off the cliff every now and then to figure out where the edge is. Some people are going to hate what you do no matter what it is. That is why we don’t just have chocolate and vanilla ice cream, we have literally millions of flavors. Some people won’t like the sweet potato gelato by Sweet Magnolia that I love. Some will in fact hate it.

Some people are just mean. After starting my videos on @staffordeshurden on Facebook I got called Donald Trump so many times I thought about getting a military cut… or a Mohawk, but I kept posting. The most hate I ever got was on my most popular video.

You can’t post too much content. Whether building a personal brand or a business brand the first step is taking the first step and by the way I am here to help with no charge. This is a trial and error endeavor. If you learn to create good content it will never be too much. So what if a few people quit following you. They were never ever going to buy from you anyway.

I say this all the time but what we are really doing on the internet today isn’t selling. It is building a brand. My goal is for 350 million people to know who I am. It is not the sprint it’s the marathon and the haters in this epic race are just as important. Ask Trump. Love him or hate him he is the President.  Love me or hate me, at least you know my name.

Stafford Shurden is a marketing and business coach and has been in business for himself for 20 years. He also owns 1933 Restaurant, Shurden Farms, and Stafford Media. You can email Stafford at