Author: Robyn Fitzpatrick – General Manager of Chichester Restaurants at Oakdene Vineyards
As I sit here contemplating the biggest challenge these days for small business, I’m struck by how much time disappears throughout the day. Despite my intention of writing this blog this morning, it is now mid-afternoon and I’ve only just started. Constant interruptions, phone calls, emails to answer, and problems to solve. Surely this is typical of a day in the life of anyone who works in a small business and isn’t just me. Every day I come to work with a mental plan of what needs to be done that day, and every day (pretty much without fail), the day turns upside down & round about and I would be lucky to do two or three things on my list. Where does the time go to?
Thanks to this technological age we currently live and work in, social media and instant and constant communication channels, we have become a society that does not stop. How often do you check your emails? Before you get out of bed? Before you go to bed? Both? With that comes customers, increasingly demanding customers who want everything done immediately because THEY are so important. Of course, this is true – they are the most important part of any business – without customers, we wouldn’t even have a business – would we?
Plus, we now have to be a Jack-of all-trades. The smaller the business, the wider the job description & responsibilities – and the more pressure placed upon us. The only thing that helps me get things done & relieve the work load somewhat is to try to be more organised and efficient and this means that every business, large or small, needs to ensure that there are good systems in place. Computer software systems can become your best friend if you use them properly. A computer system that saves time and money can be a god send.
Case in point – we used to use a hand written diary to take accommodation bookings for our small accommodation venue – 3 b&b rooms. Deposits were taken & stapled to the diary, notes were scrawled, scribbled out & scrawled again as people cancelled, wanted refunds, discounts, a bottle of wine on arrival paid for by someone else, etc. etc. etc. We were too busy concentrating on other areas of the business, to actually sit down and reassess what we were doing.
Fast forward to today – we installed an electronic diary system designed for small accommodation venues and our accommodation bookings doubled within six months. This electronic booking system was easy to install, easy to set up, links to whichever 3rd party booking systems we choose (including Expedia, wotif etc), allows us to take bookings on our website and can also take full payment for the booking upfront. All automatically! It has an app so we can check bookings at home (yes, sometimes I check it in bed), and can be set up with late booking discounts, early booking discounts, close outs etc. It does everything we need – it does all the hard work, for just a small monthly fee, that is actually based on the number of bookings we have. Perfect – Time saved and Money Made.
Why on earth didn’t we do it sooner? Why did it take 6 months for me to find the time to look into a few computer systems? In the end I called my local tourism association, told them what I was after and they recommended a couple of systems to me. As businesses operating in the 21st Century we need to embrace technology, not be afraid of it. Computer systems can help your business – you just have to bite the bullet and let them help.