Welcome to another Small Business Chat update, today with Debbie Copas from Norfolk Coastal Holidays. We originally met Debbie in March 2013, and had our first update in March 2014, and at that point, this is where Debbie wanted to be in a year’s time: “I will have a new website with all the bells and whistles, including the ability to fill out forms online. Currently I send out a word doc which does bring occasional problems. I will have learnt a lot about WordPress, various Google products and the dark art of SEO! The business has a mascot now, a cuddly dog called Charlie. I hope my guests will have taken him out and about exploring Norfolk and sent me photos. I have lots of ideas in my head to build on my customer loyalty and reward them in some way. I will have a logo (that’s in the pipeline) and new business cards, and hopefully will have built on my brand name even more. It’s all very exciting still!” That was lots of plans – has Debbie achieved them all or, as is the case with so many of my participants, have the goals changed as she’s gone through the year?
Hello again, Debbie! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
In some areas yes and in others no, but that’s the nature of business! You have to adapt to the challenges life throws at you and boy there have been some big challenges this year.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
My new website finally went live in September. It took so much longer than I anticipated, but I’m really pleased with the result. I feel it reflects my business; it’s not super polished and perfect, but I think it reflects me and my small, personal business. I’m not a big corporation so I didn’t want a shiny corporate site. Sadly I didn’t get organised with a logo and getting printed material, as my focus had to be on the online side of my business for reasons I talk about below, but I do hope to crack that one this year.
The other big change apart from my new website is I am now managing my first property for someone else! It’s in the next village and is a beautiful converted barn. The owner just wanted me to boost her bookings as she gains bookings elsewhere, but that’s great for me. It takes the pressure off feeling 100% responsible for the bookings and allows me to grow gently into the management side of my business. There have been a few more possible properties; none that have yet come to fruition, but I’m hopeful it will happen in its own time.
Lastly I’ve got into groups on Facebook a lot more. I find them really useful as a place to promote my business, but also to learn from others. I’m now an admin on a very busy and successful dog friendly holiday group and a group of us have created a small business group; at the moment we only allow in people we personally know. I hope in time that we will build on that more.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I’ve learned that there are some very naïve people out there when it comes to what’s out on the Internet and copyright. I had the very nasty experience of finding a website that had copied large parts of my old website and also a photo of mine was taken from the Internet and used in printed material. It was stressful, too close to my business and that made it really very unpleasant. However my web guy gave me good advice over the copying issue so it’s been dealt with and I’ve moved on. It really did ensure that I got my act together and focused on creating my new website!
Any more hints and tips for people?
Keep evolving. The world moves on so fast; in many businesses, what worked a few years ago won’t necessarily work now. It’s a very competitive marketplace out there, so stay focused but always be looking around the corner for what’s coming next in your particular industry.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I will have had the first year of managing the other property under my belt. I’d like to hope that I may have a second property to manage but I won’t pin any hopes on it. I really hope I will have finally had that logo designed and have some lovely glossy leaflets and business cards to hand. I’m still building on my Google page, so plan to learn more about using this to bring more traffic to my site. I also started a blog alongside my new website; I had great intentions and started well, but getting flu twice over Christmas and the New Year really knocked me back so I’m still playing catch up with so many areas of life! So I must blog at least once a month as a minimum.
Wow – that’s a really scary thing to happen, having web text copied and a photo used without Debbie’s permission. I’ve occasionally found entire articles of mine reproduced on other people’s websites (usually because all of my articles link to other pieces on my blog so I get an alert when a link is posted), but a strongly worded message on their comments or contact page has been enough to stop it. I’d love to hear if anyone else has experience of this situation and what they did about it. Thank goodness Debbie has a good web support person who was able to advise her! We wish her all the best with the coming year – let’s see if that logo is up and on the site next time we talk!
Pop and find Debbie and her lovely properties at www.norfolkcoastalholidays.co.uk
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.