Many say surfing’s far more than a sport, it’s a way of life. Well, here’s something aimed at helping you develop a new surf business and moving toward “living the dream.” From developing the perfect idea to mapping out your official business plan, and finally onto actually launching it all, there are a number of points to consider.
So how about the final step? The part where you’re actually tasked with operating a successful business:
You’ve launched your business and the sales are coming in. You’re on track and it’s all looking good, but it’s not over yet. Forbes has stated that eight out of ten small businesses fail in the first 18 months of operations. That’s a whopping 80% of small businesses crashing and burning before celebrating the two year mark. The reason is generally that businesses become stagnant. They don’t act creatively and will often begin to assume it’s safe to keep doing the same thing to survive.
The same applies to surfing. Once you’ve made the pop and have your feet in a decent position on the board, you can’t expect to just stand still and balance if you want to ride the wave. You need to adapt, move with the energy of the wave, and adjust your position continuously. So here are ___ things to remember for ensuring that once you’ve launched that business you never stop moving with the waves of the surf industry.
The Reality of Personality
These days gaining customer trust is very important. In a digital world, if people don’t trust you they sure won’t feel safe transferring money to you, regardless of what you offer in return. Trust is built through reputation and reviews, or by associating a personality with the business. Reputation and reviews come with time. You need to ensure that you do everything in your power to deliver great customer value and encourage positive reviews.
Before you can build the reviews you’ll need to get some customers though, which of course requires a baseline of trust. This is where giving your business personality is important. The easiest way to give your surf business a personality in the early stages is to put yourself out there personally and become the face of the brand. Don’t hide behind an email address or company logo, but put your own name and personal reputation on the line. People find it easier to relate to a person rather than an organization, especially one that shares similar values and interests. So don’t forget those damn core values. If they’re genuine and are really the backbone of your business, then this will shine through and customers will gain confidence in what you represent.
If you’re running a surf camp, hostel or shop this will be done by being there in person at all times and being the one that greets your customers. Be in the doorway and welcome people into your shop. Give them the lowdown on why you started the business and why you think they should be interested in what you’ve got to offer, this will build a rapport and develop trust.
My surf safari business initially interacts with customers through the website. My way to put my face to the brand and giving it personality, without making it look like a MySpace page was to include informative videos for each section, in which I’m featured as the presenter. The videos aren’t overly edited and are simple, enabling the viewer to see judge who I am and what they think my values are.
Life is a game, don’t forget to play
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to manage your focus and stress levels, especially if you’re setting up on your own. It’s really easy to focus too much on the small things, experience stress and cloud your vision.
A great tip I was given to help manage composure and increase performance in business is to imagine that it’s a study project. Forget that the money is real, and treat it as a project. Imagine that you’re being watched by a panel of judges, and getting scored on performance. To impress the judges, you don’t freak out and you don’t go crazy about the small stuff. Instead you keep cool and operate to the textbook strategy and execute best practice techniques. Decisions should be calculated and spending rationalized, as well as workload being prioritized.
If you enter a surf competition, although your coach will drill you and put pressure on in the weeks building up to a big comp, once your there and ready to compete, he’s likely to suggest that you keep calm and imagine that you’re just surfing with mates, keen to outdo them on the next wave. It’s really just the same method applied to the business world.
Don’t rely too heavily on instincts alone
Instinct can be a very handy resource for decision-making, but you shouldn’t rely on it for everything. Instinct doesn’t utilize rational thought, but instead capitalizes on our ability to analyze emotively. When your emotions are completely stable, instinct can be worth considering. However, I’d suggest that it’s not worth taking risks based on instinct alone when the outcome is crucial, especially when you’re stress levels are high.
I know that when I first started Wagon Surf Adventures, the fact that all my life savings and hard work were invested in the business made me feel the weight of being an entrepreneur, and a slight level of paranoia kicked in at times. You can find yourself in a position where instinct is telling you not to trust people because there’s too much to lose. If you stick with these feelings you’ll soon find yourself sat on a metaphorical island, pushing everyone else away. This will create a negative energy, which your clients will subconsciously pick up on, causing them to have a negative vibe towards your business.
If you find yourself in this situation you need to refer to your core values again and remember that you opted to start a business in the surf industry to create an enjoyable lifestyle. You should embody the surf culture, open your arms to others and trust them. Some say that “trust must be earned,” but I’d disagree and advise on giving trust for people to lose. Have some faith in your fellow surfers and be the body of change in our global society. Stephen Covey says it best:
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundation principle that holds all relationships.”
I’m not advocating leaving your cash register open, or leaving boards outside all night. But I am suggesting that you should combat your stress instinct of pushing people away, and instead consciously open your arms and generate positivity.
Don’t stop learning
As mentioned, you need to keep driving your business forward and adapting to the ever-changing economic environment. This is even more relevant in the surf industry, since we have so many external influential factors in the surf world, all of which will effect our businesses. From environmental implications and product developments, to fashion and culture impacts. To survive in the surf industry you need to be ready to adapt and overcome what changes arise.
If you’re anything like me you burned all your books after school and were elated at the thought of never opening a textbook again. I’m afraid to say it’s time to get back into those books and top up your knowledge bank. Even if you’ve studied business for years as I have, you may have the knowledge, but casting your eye over some informative books will jog your memory, help structure your thoughts and provide the catalyst for generating inspirational new ideas.
If you have a secret local break that you’re keen to keep quiet and reserved for the locals to enjoy, with uncrowded peaks and a kookless lineup, you’ll do your best to keep it to yourselves. Of course, as surfing becomes more popular and more tourists come to your local breaks you know that eventually the crowds will find there way to your little gem. There’s no point trying to fight it, this will only result it bad vibes and local problems. The best thing to do is anticipate this change and seek out an alternative spot that you can move on once those crowds arrive.
This is the same principle in business. The crowds will come once they realize how you managed to operate your company successfully. It may take them time and you’ll whitness people fail as they try to mimic your business model, just as the local surfers will see tourists drive through the back roads eagerly hunting for the secret spots, but eventually they’ll figure it out and you’ll have direct competition. From an early stage you need to prepare for this and anticipate the day when somebody starts taking some of your customers. In order to overcome this hurdle you need a development plan. Ideally you’ll have a number of possible expansion options already considered and analyzed in your business plan. Just make sure you’re not a one trick pony and ensure sure you stay one step ahead of the competition.
This is of course the case with my surf business. Eventually people will suss out the right ingredients to make it work for them too, but fortunately I have development plans lines up waiting for this occasion.
Don’t get money hungry
“Money is like an orgasm… If you think about it too much, it goes away.” – Tim Minchin
Don’t focus all your energy on making money. The money should be a side effect and added bonus.
My intention with Wagon Surf Adventures is to provide dream surf trips at prices that are affordable to regular surfers. I’ve made it my mission to give guests the best possible value and ensure they smile from the moment we meet at the airport until the moment we drop them back off. Im always thinking of creating unique moments they will share with friends after they are back. I made this point very clear in my business plan too. I was completely transparent with my potential investors and let them know that my aim would be to make great holiday and put smiles on faces. I believed the money would come as a result, but it wouldn’t be the focus since this is a lifestyle based business and not intended to be a money hunting cartel.
So this is my attempt at providing a little bit of wisdom. I hope some of the words I’ve given provide useful guidance and help you in your quest towards enjoying our incredible sport and turning it into an enjoyable and stable career path.
If you like what you’ve read and want to get some more tips from me, you’ll just have to take a surf trip with me and buy me a beer. I’m warning you though, once I get talking I won’t stop.
See you on the waves,
Editor’s Note: To learn about the author of this article and his own surf business, check out Wagon Surf Adventures here.