Welcome to another Small Business Update with Debbie Copas from Norfolk Coastal Holidays. We originally met Debbie in March 2013, and had our first update in March 2014, and second one in May 2015. At that point, this was her plan for the upcoming year: “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.” Let’s see how she’s getting on!
Hello again, Debbie, and at the start of the holiday season, it’s lovely to be able to feature you again. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Not quite, but that’s because life throws curved balls and we always react and respond to them.
I’m not sure anyone has really ever answered “yes” to that question! What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I’m still looking after my own two properties and managing one other. The odd opportunity for other properties has come along but for one reason or another they haven’t fallen into place. I haven’t achieved getting a logo, or printed material or my other goals from last year, but they haven’t been so critical to the success of my business, hence they went on the back burner. I will get to them; I may potentially become an empty-nester later this year as all three of my children have plans to fly the nest. If I find myself with a lot more time on my hands, I will have no excuse not to focus more on certain aspects of my business! I have written a few blog posts but it’s sporadic, however I have set up a Mailchimp newsletter that sends links to my blog posts out once a month if I have written something that month.
Changes have included spending a great deal of time on Facebook groups, especially as an admin of one, but it has resulted in achieving a lot of business via that method. Nearly 20% of my bookings came via Facebook in the last year. I also created a group for holiday home owners that has been very successful. It has become my virtual office where we swap useful hints and tips, but also pick each other up when things go wrong. It’s been great for networking and I have met in person several owners that I initially met online. I have also recently started an Instagram account. I’m not sure how good it is for business purposes, but I love browsing the gorgeous photos posted there and of course a holiday business lends itself to pretty pictures!
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
My lesson has been a philosophical one, relating to getting older. Sadly, my brother-in-law died from cancer very quickly, which was a huge shock, so family came above everything at that point. A friend turned 50, and being a young widow herself, we planned, and have just come back from, an amazing trip to USA to visit her son who is at university there. It was a wonderful experience and I’m so pleased I had the chance to do it. It took a fair bit of planning and I had to ensure I was as up to date with my work as possible before going so I could actually have real time off, but it means I’m now in catch-up mode. I’ve learned life is short and we must make the most of every opportunity we can, to embrace and enjoy our relationships with others as much as possible.
Any more hints and tips for people?
I like the philosophy and book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” written by Richard Carlson. It’s easy to get caught up into little details, but it’s often the bigger picture that we should look at. What’s your end goal? Will it make you happy? Does running your business fulfil you? I think I have the answer to all these and generally the answer is a positive one. I do enjoy my business, although it’s a challenge when things get broken as has happened this week. I’m about to visit one of my properties to replace a smashed ceramic hob. However it was an accident and these things happen, so it’s my job to get it sorted.
BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?
I’m a procrastinator. What do you do to motivate yourself and achieve things that you’d otherwise happily let slip down your to do list?
And … what’s your plan for the upcoming year?
I am just embarking on a 100 day challenge; my goal is to get my accounts up to date and then put in place a system to ensure I complete all necessary tasks on a monthly basis. I’m fed up with the annual rush in January to get things up to date! If I achieve that, I plan on rewarding myself with an online course to learn more about creating a travel guide. I hope I will be making more regular visits to Norfolk (assuming my youngest gets to University) and being more proactive in looking for properties to add to my portfolio. Maybe I will have achieved last year’s goals too, with a logo and so on, but I won’t beat myself up if I haven’t. Life’s too short!
A very good attitude and some good learning points there, too. I don’t think we should beat ourselves up if we don’t achieve what we set out to achieve, as long as we’re moving forward and keeping happy. I love that Debbie has had the flexibility to explore new avenues, like the Facebook group and Instagram, with one of those already giving rewards, and she took a holiday! Hooray – that’s always an achievement for the self-employed person!
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.