When you’re in the outdoor industry, “business as usual” is anything but. Ski shop owners, bike repair shops, outdoor equipment retailers, guides and outfitters… every day is different in the great outdoors. The outdoor industry is risky - but for most, the rewards far outweigh the risks.
Here are three things that can help your outdoor business thrive in today’s modern world, whether you’ve got your sights set on the peak of the tallest mountain, deep in the darkest woods, or sailing out along the roughest seas.
An Out-of-the-Woods Presence
Your business model may be one that’s back-to-nature, but you still need a strong digital footprint to survive (and thrive). That means a modern, mobile-friendly website, social media accounts, some form of email marketing, and a strategy for paid digital ads.
Once there was a time where you could build a business based on word of mouth referrals. But today, the only way to survive is to ensure that your customers can find you online. You need to come out-of-the-woods and create an out-of-this-world online experience if you want to be profitable.
If you’re just starting out, you may want to take care of your digital marketing and online activities yourself to save a few bucks. But if you really want your business to grow, consider investing in a professional website and getting a pro to handle your marketing. Whether that’s enlisting the help of an agency or hiring someone in-house, put the right people in charge of bringing in more customers, sales, bookings, and classes. It’s an investment that will pay off.
And it frees you up to focus on the operational side of your business, or for more time spent taking clients up the hill, out on the water, or into the woods.
A Strong Line of Defense
Protecting yourself from risk is important in the outdoors.
Consider all of the times when safety is a top concern: you make sure your customers are wearing safety gear before a skills class or lesson begins, you check your equipment to ensure it’s safe before taking it out, and you lock up shop every night to prevent theft.
Insurance may not sound like an exciting part of operating an outdoor business. Certainly, it’s not as thrilling as getting an order of next season’s newest inventory in the shop, finding an undiscovered fishing spot, or the sound of the cash register opening in the middle of peak season.
But the right insurance protection can help you protect everything you’ve worked hard to create in your adventure sports business.
Not every commercial insurance policy is the best to protect your shop, so choose your coverage carefully. You don’t face the same risks as the coffee shop next door and you shouldn’t have the same insurance coverage, either.
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To truly protect your business, look for insurance designed for the risks faced in the outdoor industry.
Just like a snowboard helmet is designed to protect riders from the specific risks of flying down a mountain covered in ice and snow, adventure sports insurance is designed to protect shop owners and outdoor business entrepreneurs from the risks of doing business in the great outdoors.
Adventure sports insurance ensures you won’t face a financial devastation in the event a customer is injured during a lesson, or if your best repair-person has a bad day and damages customer-owned equipment.
If one of your employees is hurt on the job, your inventory is damaged on its way to a trade show, your business falls victim to a cyber attack, or your building is damaged during the snowstorm of the century….the right insurance is a safety net to protect your financial investment.
A Clearly Defined Culture
Whether you’re starting an e-commerce business focused on water sports equipment, clothing, and gear, or opening up a brick and mortar bike repair shop at the base of the mountain, your company culture matters.
Your company culture is important to your employees. “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business,” says Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Happy employees are “engaged” employees who outperform their disengaged counterparts in key areas such as productivity, absenteeism, turnover, safety, customer service, and profitability.
Patagonia is a company who takes culture seriously. Patagonia seeks out people who love to spend as much time as possible in the mountains or wild, giving preference to passion over technical skill. Patagonia’s website declares: “Finding a dyed-in-the-wool businessperson to take up climbing or river running is a lot more difficult than teaching a person with a ready passion for the outdoors how to do a job.”
Patagonia’s "employee-first" culture is evident; workers have ready access to free yoga, organic cafes, free scooters and skateboards, and access to hiking trails out the back door. The company pays for two-month environmental internships, and offers flex time for most positions so employees can surf, bike, climb, and even interact with their children at work with on-site, integrated childcare.
The emphasis on finding the right people and treating them right has paid off for the family-owned company, whose sales have reached $750 million.
Keep your company’s culture top of mind when growing your business - it could be the difference between sinking or soaring.
Creating a strong virtual presence, getting the right insurance coverage, and keeping your employees happy are the keys to a successful year for your outdoor sports business in 2018.