This week, Small Business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners about dealing with the lead up to Christmas.
Thomas Rodda is the director of Rotorua-based transport and tour operator Thermal Land Shuttle.
What are some of the pressures you're facing in your business at this time of year?
Rotorua booms with visitors from all over New Zealand and the world during summer, which is awesome for us. Things have already started to get hectic, with more pickups from locations around town. We run seven days a week, eight hours a day, doing two trips a day - morning and afternoon - but at this time of the year, when things ramp up, we put on extra buses.
One of the main pressures I'm facing at the moment is having enough capable staff to deal with the influx of people wanting to use our shuttle service. To keep up with the surge in demand, we often have to have more than one vehicle on the road and it's really important to our business that we have drivers who can give the customers a good experience and that their commentary is up to date with the latest information on the attractions and what's happening in Rotorua in general. Trying to find good people who represent our brand well and impress our customers with their knowledge and personality isn't easy.
It's also really important that the vehicles are serviced up to a good standard to make sure they can cope with the pace of the busy season and not break down or need any sort of mechanical work at a crucial point of the year.
With an increase in bookings and staffing, communication is also a huge issue at this time of the year. We have to make sure we're communicating well with the customers, the hotels and suppliers and the team.
So what preparations do you make in the business to deal with those pressures?
This year I've hired more staff so I can work on the business rather than in it. That means I can keep a good overall view on what's happening, and I'm able to stay across the things that make a difference in the business - like putting an effort into sales and marketing, and working on improving our offerings to the customers. We always get feedback from our customers after a trip and I'll work at putting good suggestions into practice - like a recent one to extend time spent at the attractions. As far as making sure our buses are up to the busy season, I've found a good mechanic who regularly checks them and replaces anything that could potentially let us down.
I also invested in a new website this year with a new booking system, to streamline things and help me - and those businesses who recommend me, like local hotels - keep up with bookings, which are often made just the night before. Hopefully this will take some of the pressure off.
Despite these measures, what pressures still remain on you as a business owner during this time of year?
It's pretty relentless at this time of the year and there's not much downtime, but I have to say I love that; having a flood of new customers is actually really exciting and energising. Most people are in good moods, excited about their journey and keen for a bit of fun and entertainment, so it rubs off on us. Ultimately we have to make hay while the sun shines. There's plenty of time for me to rest and recover in the winter months.
The Waimangu part of the tour in particular blew me away. Wasn't expecting the valley trail to be so beautiful. Thomas, my tour guide for the day, was kind, gracious, and very knowledgeable - would definitely recommend his service and Thermal Land's tour package to everyone.
We had an amazing day touring Wai-O-Tapu and Waimangu. Our shuttle was on time and well organized. Our guide, Akika, was incredible. As we were visiting during the off-season and were the only family on his shuttle he took us to a few extra spots along the way, some of which were the highlight...
I thought we were just paying for a drive to a thermal destination so I was bowled over when our driver started his super informative and entertaining description of the landscape we passed and even pulled over for special photo ops. Akira you are fabulous!! Thank you for a wonderful day out!