Welcome to the other half of our two-part series for starting out as a tour and activity company. In part one, we wrote about five of the key steps you need to lay a foundation for your new company.
In this post, we go more in-depth about what you need to know to build the shape of your business from the ground up, and include a helpful cheat sheet to check off during your business preparations.
1. Manage your finances
Now that you have your brand and identity in place, it's important to talk about every business owner's favorite subject -- money.
Have you given thought to your financial plan? Along with your business plan, this is easily the most important document your company will write. First and foremost, you will need to prepare your financial statements and estimate your startup costs.
Will you be funding it with a partner or co-founder? Will support come from investors, a bank loan, personal finances or even family? Regardless which option you choose, have a clear contract written out for all active parties to be involved with, along with a clear exit strategy.
Make your finances a key priority. After all, it’s not only your money and the potential livelihood of your employees in question, it’s also the finances of your customers. All it takes is a wrong move and your credibility could come crashing down in your community.
Furthermore, if you have investors, they will expect honest and organized practices with the capital they’re putting down. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources available to make your financial planning a bit simpler such as the CalcXML website and in-depth guides like this one written by business expert and IncTechnology editor, Elizabeth Wasserman.
2. Make quality a priority
Having a stable foundation for your business is important but that's not where your brainstorming should stop. Especially if you want your tours and activities to be of high quality. Take notes of all the ideas you have about how to make your company memorable.
An expert like yourself will know what works and what doesn't for your business. Starting out, there will be a learning curve. You'll need to invest time into what your customers want, but the more tours you operate and connections you create, the more knowledgeable you'll become.
In the travel industry, personal interactions are key. The connections we build and positive experiences are the most valuable aspect of any booking. A great way to do that is to include those extra details that will turn an activity into an experience worth remembering.
An exceptional experience is what will bring in customers. Find the little extras that will make your tour stand out.
Always look for an extra detail to work into your activity. For example, a city walking tour could end nicely with a picnic in a scenic location. This can easily be accomplished by working in partnership with a local caterer or restaurant that will align with the flavors of your tour.
Another quality experience you can provide is complimentary water for any activity that's outdoors. Whether it's a hiking tour in the summer or kayaking in the spring, your customers will be thankful for a fresh bottle of water.
When it comes down to it, you don't necessarily need to offer champagne and Kobe steak to your customers. Simply providing well-made equipment, insightful guidance, and a warm atmosphere will matter the most.
Keep thinking of ways to improve the experience. It won't be long before your company's quality will meet the industry standards and even exceed customer expectations.
3. Setting up shop
While many tour and activity companies take place outdoors, it does not always exclude the need for an office. Anything involving equipment or rentals will need a steady location to conduct business, so choosing a good location is crucial.
This is also the time to purchase your company's insurance. As with the legal requirements, this will vary depending on your location and the type of business you're operating.
It is always advisable to obtain insurance for your building, equipment, and any additional property. You must also purchase the appropriate insurance policy for yourself and your employees.
While some tour companies may only need the basics (general liability, property, etc.) others might need a bit more coverage. This is something that can vary from country to country as well.
Here are some links to give you more insight into the requirements in your area:
- Australia — Understand Insurance
- Canada — Canada Business Network
- Europe — European Commission
- The United Kingdom — British Insurance Brokers' Association
- United States — Small Business Administration (SBA)
4. Select your technology
You will first need to set up your hardware. This includes things like your telephones, computers, and printers. Depending on your company size, you may only need one of each to begin with. Any additional devices, such as tablets can be determined as needed.
A tour operating business can require personal data in transactions, especially if you will also provide accommodation. You will want to make sure that privacy and security are a priority. It's important to note that you will need to decide on a cloud server to house data.
Another important tool you will need is a payment solution. Many tour and activity companies rely on a point-of-sale (POS) system as a way to process transactions on the spot. When you can promote a tour face-to-face and turn that into an immediate transaction, it helps to turn any location into a place of business.
Finally, one of the most important things you will need is a website. Today, it's simply not enough to have a location and phone number for your business. You need a well-presented tour and activity website. It helps customers find you, shares the most important information and makes it possible for customers to book online.
For further information, set up a demo call with one of our experts. We have a dynamic team that can help walk you through the technical process of setting up your website, payment solutions and booking software.
5. Expect the unexpected
Even if you plan your business down to the last detail, you have to remember one of the fundamental rules of life: few things ever go exactly as planned.
Any experienced tour guide can tell you that there will be challenges. The type that help to define the true experts. They know what’s within their control and show up to make it the best version possible. They learn to adapt to any unexpected industry changes and continue to learn about the lastest trends that will drive business.
So, master the things within your control and prepare yourself for the challenges, exciting adventures, and learning experiences that will go into your brand new business.
Things like your solid business plan, marketing structure, the hours you've put in, and the quality you provide will stay consistent during the stormy times. If you have any tips for those starting out in the industry, feel free to leave us a comment below!
Wondering how to get started in the industry? Let us help you take the first steps as a tour and activity provider. Download this handy cheat sheet.
Written by Sara Napier Burkhard
Sara is a writer from the American West Coast. In recent years, she's written for companies like Hipmunk, iTourMobile and Mylikes. She now resides in Zurich, Switzerland where she finds new adventures and attempts to speak German with minimal success.