It's that time of year again where we look back on what we accomplished the previous year and set some goals or resolutions for the 365 days that lie ahead. As Agritourism owners, our goal should be to improve upon our product and services every year. In this post, we will talk about some tips on how to do that more effectively.
Step 1: Begin with the end in mind Long before your peak season arrives (whatever season that might be for you), you should have given lots of thought and planning around what you want your upcoming season to look like. Not just vague generalities that you want it to be “a better year” but get specific. Some examples of the questions you may want to answer are:
What is your attendance or revenue target for this year?
What were the top two or three pain points from the previous season that you need to seek to resolve?
Where should you personally be spending your time and resources prior to and during that peak season?
How can you make your guest experience even better?
Get specific. If you don’t set specific goals, you will never know if you have reached them. Stay away from goals like “a better experience for our customers”. That is the end result but you need to be specific on how you are going to get to that goal, such as more restrooms, additional cashiers, better trained staff, or whatever areas your customer experience can be improved. Be aggressive in your goal setting and set the bar high. You may not hit all your goals, but you will be surprised by how many you will hit.
Step 2: Prioritize the Important It is very easy to spend your time and energy on those things that you have a passion for or are gifted in and before you know it, the season has arrived and those other things you don’t like to do, have not gotten done again this year. Here is where it is important to layout your plan of attack ahead of time.
Once you have your list of specific and aggressive tasks established through the exercise in Step 1, you now want to prioritize and schedule. I typically like to group them in 3 categories.
Priority #1 - Those things that I feel MUST get done before the next season in order to hit the goals I have set in Step 1. This could be a new POS system for guest processing, re-designing the website, or building a new hay wagon.
Priority #2 - Those things that are very important and need to get done, but only after I have ensured that all my #1 priorities have been addressed. This may include things that help hit the goals in Step 1 but may also include some of those things that just need to get done before your peak season.
Priority #3 - All the other tasks you want to get completed before your peak season. This list will be long and if they don’t get done in time, it won’t prevent you from opening or impact your guests’ safety.
If you are anything like me, there WILL be Priority #3 things that will not get done before peak season as there is always more that can be done to improve your facility.
Building this list is very important in order to get your goals and priorities laid out in a clear manner, but setting a schedule is also very important. Break your priority #1 tasks into milestones and set dates to have them completed by. Let’s take the new POS system in the Priority #1 example. Breaking this task down to a schedule could look something like this:
Research POS systems. Get feedback from other sites by 2/15/17
Get a live demo of the product from the top 3 vendors by 3/1/17
Download and test trial products by 3/15/17
Make decision and purchase by 4/1/17
Setup new system and hardware and test by 5/1/17
Train key employees by 8/1/17
Some of these big tasks are best broken down into milestones to be sure we stay on track and on our timeline. I find it very helpful to get all priority #1 and priority #2 tasks scheduled in this manner.
Step 3: Listen to the Right Voices It is so easy to get distracted from these goals. If you are doing this alone, be sure to share these goals with a friend, family member, or key staff member and ask them to help you stay on track. It is amazing what a little accountability will do for accomplishing your goals.
If you have a team in place, don’t make these decisions and evaluations on your own. Spend the time to have a brainstorming session with your team. Get their input on what they see to be priorities #1 - #3. For those with larger operations, this is a huge resource of vested people who want the best for the business and bring fresh perspectives on things that you might not see. Be sure to tap into that resource during this crucial planning and scheduling phase.
Listen to your customers. If you have a mailing list, send out a brief survey that gives them a free admission to your upcoming season if they fill it out. Find out what they think are areas that need to be improved.
Use the Agritourism community as an encouragement and resource. I have found the community to be very open to sharing ideas and advice. Attend a conference. Reach out to those that specialize in the area in which you are looking to improve.
Now it is time to take action. Spend some time early this month to get these goals set and scheduled and make this season your best ever!
If you want to hear these same points (plus 1 more) and how they could apply to setting personal resolutions, check out this video called “Best. Year. Ever.” It aired on three of our local TV stations on New Year’s Day, and actually features my brother, Mark Stuenzi, who is a pastor at a local church in the area.