Good morning, if you’re reading this “live” and welcome to another Small Business Update with an interviewee we’ve been talking to for a good few years now, Debbie Copas from Norfolk Coastal Holidays. We originally met Debbie in March 2013, and checked in with her in March 2014, May 2015 and June 2016 (about those dates; it’s not usually my interviewees being late with their replies but a scheduling thing on my part, as I tend to do the updates in the order in which they came in. It suddenly struck me that readers might think my interviewees weren’t organised: not the case!). When I asked Debbie last time where she wanted to be in a year’s time, she replied “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!” Let’s see how she’s got on with those plans …
Hello again, Debbie, just when you’re busy but sometimes have last-minute availability on your properties, and thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
This time round, I think I can say I’m much further forward than I thought I’d be but in a completely different direction!
Exciting! What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Where do I start? So many changes that it’s no longer possible to predict where things will be, it really is a case of rolling with the punches. The business is just starting to expand in a way I’d previously hoped for, but that hadn’t quite fallen into place. I have just taken on two new properties to manage the bookings in the last two months, Church Cottage and The Barnhouse. They are both inland rather than right by the coast, but it’s still only a short drive to the many wonderful beaches along the Norfolk coastline. I find that my guests always go about and about exploring so they both combine the best of the Norfolk countryside and the coast. One is a beautiful Grade II listed thatched cottage and the other a 220 year old converted single storey barn. Such beautiful buildings that encompass the wide variety of properties on offer when you choose to stay in Norfolk.
Even more exciting and not publicised at all yet, is that we have just bought another holiday property ourselves. It is in need of a full renovation as it has damp and so the plaster needs stripping off before we start to build it back up. I’m sad that it’s too far away to do the renovation ourselves but am hopeful that the builder, when he eventually starts, will do a great job. More than that I won’t say at this stage. All to be revealed in due course!
Changes at home have been monumental and that also has a huge impact on my business. My husband left the company he was working for in October. He has now started his own company, something he never thought he’d do, in consultancy work. It’s allowed him some time out as he thinks about how he wants the final years of his career to pan out, which may possibly not be another full time job. So he’s at home a lot sharing my workplace and that’s a BIG change to adjust to!
My youngest is just back from university after a year with plenty of ups and downs. My daughter is back from her global travels earlier than planned and the eldest is still thinking about buying his first home. Brexit, elections and more have not helped him with that decision! So I’m definitely not an empty nester and that also impacts on my work life. Your children are never too old to need your time and love, but that’s what being a mum is all about. A lifetime job and let no-one tell you otherwise!
What’s the same? I still don’t have a logo, although I experimented with one and have the concept in place. That’s a procrastinator for you! I didn’t get to do that online course I was thinking about either. The one constant is that we still live in the same house and hopefully will do until it’s time to downsize. It’s nice to be in our forever home to provide the stability a family needs in this constantly changing world.
Wow – busy times! What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I’ve learned not to panic when life throws curveballs, but I think I already knew that! I’m calm by nature when dealing with a crisis and there have been lots of those this last year. Another loss, when a friends husband died after a battle with bowel cancer, so life really is too short.
I got up to date with my accounts as planned, but am steadily falling behind again. I have researched accounting software but have found it a very difficult process. I bought a package on the advice of a salesperson but it was completely wrong for my business and didn’t do most of the things that I needed it to. I took out a trial on another but didn’t have enough time to devote to it so barely scratched the surface before the trial ran out. My email to the salesperson who was so keen to sign me up has gone unanswered. I’m not impressed with the customer service which falls so low below what I’m proud to offer in my business. I’m really surprised how difficult it is to find the right answer. I’m now at the stage where I think I may need to pay someone to find me the right package and give me some advice on how to set it up.
I’m glad I didn’t know that something I was involved with on Facebook would implode in a way I didn’t dream possible. It was a very unpleasant period in my life when you realise how much your work in cyberspace can impact on you as an individual. The upside was that I had more support than I could have hoped for from my cyberfriends. The positive from hanging out in cyberspace was that I enjoyed a short break in Wales in the company of some of the wonderful owners I have met online in the last couple of years, where we exchanged news and generally enjoyed being in each other’s company; people who all understand the business of holiday rental and who don’t think you rude when you have your head down in your phone or computer because you’re busy answering enquiries!
Any more hints and tips for people?
Not to try to do everything yourself as your business expands? I’m not good at keeping up with paperwork and general admin. I employed my daughter between her return from travels and starting a new job and she was such a help. Between us we were able to move forward on a really big project that I had put off for ages, updating my welcome folder or rather creating a new one from scratch. Now it’s in place, I’ve thought of more things to add and will make further changes to the layout. I have always known I’m a procrastinator so anything that helps me focus is a good thing. This year I’ve read The 15 Minute Rule: How to stop procrastinating and take charge of your life. I think I need to reread it regularly to keep me on the right path!
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
This next year will be all about the new property, getting it ready for guests, sourcing furniture etc plus getting the marketing and welcome folder ready. Hopefully the new properties will find their niche as they are both bigger properties than I currently offer, so I need to build up a customer base of larger families and group bookings for those. They’re both great for a cross generational family holiday for example, where mum and dad and the kids take along granny and grandpa! Maybe more owners will approach me to manage theirs, who knows, but it’s exciting not knowing quite where the future will lead!
Goodness me, what a busy year! It’s interesting that I have a lot of interviewees who have small children, but obviously that worry doesn’t stop as they grow up! I have seen quite a few Facebook issues with small businesses (see my last interview with Stevie Maiden in a different field altogether) but indeed, there are those support systems, too. And as for admin, I think we all suffer there, don’t we. I’m up to date with everything for the business, of course, but do need to sit down and update the indexes on this blog … Anyway, good luck to Debbie as she enters maybe a quieter year and well done for slowly expanding and keeping hold of all the reins!
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.