Alan reveals his top 10 tips for staying the course in the tough months ahead

Being an independent retailer is tough, and with the economic fog showing little sign of clearing, the months ahead will continue to be testing for small store owners and their wholesalers. So here are my 10 golden rules to help you maximise profitability, in order of priority. I hope they shed some light on the gloom.

1. Wholesaler loyalty - ditch any longings to be a deal-junkie, dashing from one cash and carry to the next. Give your loyalty to one wholesaler, work at the relationship and it will be repaid not only in service but in help to make your business an overall success. It takes two to tango.

2. Cleanliness - in today's ultra-competitive market, a clean store and well turned-out staff are essential.

3. Technology - embrace it, as it comes with the territory.

4. Community - never forget your core business is community based. It is your most valuable unique selling point so guard it jealously.

5. Cost control - unbridled overheads will quickly erode the margins you have so carefully achieved. This market is unforgiving for those who believe controlling costs is a back-of-the-envelope exercise.

6. Conversation - listen to your customers and try to encourage conversation, not just with your elderly or more lonely customers. Most people enjoy conversation of some form, so encourage it.

7. Team spirit - your staff are your most important asset. Tell them so and develop your management skills to ensure they know that you know just how valuable they are.

8. Point of difference - offer products or services that consumers will associate with you as a differential in an increasingly cloned sector.

9. Learning - your business will never punch its weight if staff feel under-valued, so link into in-store coaching and learnings focused on you, your people, and all your futures.

10. Read Convenience Store.