ASK JOHN…GLOBAL WOMAN MAGAZINE,OCTOBER 2017
“Same-Same But Different…”
How do I move my business to the next level and manage growth?
I have a health and consciousness retreat business that has got through many challenges in the first three years, and I have learned many things along the way. It is now on a six-figure income but how do I go about taking it to the next level with expansion? New retreats in new locations globally? What do I need to know and do about hiring and managing people, and getting the right systems and processes in place? How do I manage the growth and what would you say are realistic expectations to have over the next three years?
In Thailand, there is a well-known expression “Same-same but different…”. This phrase, so applicable to many situations, is the first thing that springs to mind when considering your business question. But before we get into the detail, “Congratulations!” for making it to year four in your start-up. Starting any business is an arduous task that requires sacrifice, commitment, faith and absolute patience. The first question to ask yourself is if you want to be like every other retreat or how you want to stand out with distinctive and relevant USPs – “Same, same but different…”.
Your new business venture is timely, as many of us reconsider how we work, what and how we eat, as well as attitudes towards ethical and sustainable living. To the best of my knowledge, networking has progressed on from the golf course into the spa. Many business deals are now done at high-profile health retreats, where top CEOs, agents, networkers and industry leaders take time out to do some ‘blue sky thinking’, deal-making and healing. So you have a fantastic opportunity!
As you consider growth within your business, you need to think about your WHY and WHERE. Why are you doing this business? Do you want to build and sell? Do you want to create a Social Enterprise and give back? Do you want to organically build the business into a Holistic Educational Programme or do you want to become a zeitgeist centre for forward-thinking?Where are the territories where you have a key opportunity? There is a kibbutz in Israel, that has since created a hotel and beach resort, situated right on the shores of The Dead Sea, that is renowned for being an international expert on irrigation – growing mangoes and grapefruit in a seeming barren space. They often receive telephone calls from all over Africa and other lands where water reserves are sparse.They have become industry experts, unbeknown to them.
You also need to think about the HOW, i.e. if you are considering expansion within other locations, do you want to use a Franchise model? Have you done your due diligence and research into other areas and local feasibility studies? There is the well-shared documented of a responsible high-street food chain selling sandwiches who launched in Tokyo some years ago. They launched without doing their homework and with no PR campaign to educate the Japanese public to the joys of the humble sandwich. The store closed very quickly, within just 18 months, because the Japanese, at the time, didn’t eat sandwiches. They entered the market, forgetting the fundamentals.
The above example clearly demonstrates where ‘glocalised’ business does not work. Regardless of how companies operate online, through faceless banking or email transactions, there are always the human and cultural implications of business growth to consider. How you open a spa in the UAE will certainly not replicate a spa in Arizona. The socio-cultural aspects of Emirates’ living will dictate certain requirements e.g. separate spa areas and times for men and women, dedicated areas for prayer as well as menu options.
The WHO focuses on staffing and people. Some international hotel chains try and replicate a ‘same-same’hotel experiences, regardless of whether you are in Addis Ababa or Budapest. The ethos is that they want to become your preferred and trusted choice of hotel wherever you travel for leisure or work, the world over. And much of that experience, over and above aesthetic pleasure and culinary consistency, is based on staffing and how you are treated. I know someone who recently went to a mid-range resort in Marrakech and stayed in a hotel where the staff were exceptional. When she then went to the supposed ‘best’ hotel in Marrakech, she found the experience disappointing. If you look after your people, they will look after your business. Words that Sir Richard Branson often cites about his Virgin brand.
Find local fixers, who speak the language, who can help you source good people, either through agencies or training schools, who want to work and grow with you as a business. Incentivise people to stay, look after them and they will look after you. It isn’t rocket science but one too many businesses falls by the wayside thinking that staff are just there to do a job. You don’t want every person to be good at the same thing: you need leaders; you need systemisers and fantastic automated processes (with emergency procedure back-up); you want to have people-people, admin people, social media whizzes, as well as great marketeers and a team that is engaged, that you like.
Innocent drinks used to have personalised breakfast bowls for all staff. This encouraged people to come into work just that bit earlier. It gave teams time to engage and interact on a less formal basis. In short, teams wanted to come to work rather that felt obliged to come to work, just to pay bills. A minute detail but as I always say: “The devil is in the detail…”.
In terms of business growth, I would advise you against taking too much risk in the first five years, and enter in to new territories one by one, rather than all at the same time. Don’t spread yourself too thin, let alone allow cash flow, a key factor in business growth, to dry up. If you are working in different countries, make sure you are getting the best transfer deals on FOREX and that you and your team have sought expert advice in each territory to ensure you are complying with local fiscal, HR, legal, Border Control and business compliance procedures. As an example, all too many Brits fall into the trap of thinking that a new life in the Spanish sun is going to be full of Sangria and sunbathing. Unfortunately, many people are buying businesses in Spain (and elsewhere) without understanding the language and falling foul to mis-information, too much trust vs knowledge and business failure.
In terms of realistic expectations for your new business, I refer back to my initial point about your ‘WHY’. If you are clear on why you are building this business and consider that each new site will take 18 months to grow, conservatively, aim for one new site to be launched every 18 months. Unless you find an investor or business angel with considerable expertise who wants to help grow your business in a more dynamic rather than organic way, choose caution and manage your own expectations. Regardless of whether you opt for a ‘same-same’ experience the world over or unique retreat stays in each territory, NOW is your time. The world is ripe for holistic experiences and change. Be the same or be different. But always be true to yourself.