Guest blog – Andy Georgiou
2020... a brand-new decade.
Great time to reflect back and look ahead to a new year and decade. The kid’s activity sector is strong and showing signs of resilience in the face of economic uncertainty—combining entertainment, education and entrepreneurship seems to be working quite well for lots of providers.
This said, it’s pretty crowded right now - some may even say saturated. Competitive and economic pressures will continue to lean on the sector more so than ever before. As the industry matures, customers are better informed, innovation is harder, and copycats are abundant. You’re arguably having to work harder for your buck now than in previous years.
Consumer demands are changing. Technology and social platforms have both enabled activity providers whilst giving headaches in equal measure, seemingly reinventing itself just as swiftly as we get used to using it. Meanwhile, a generational transition is coming (as more millennial and post-millennial parent customers enter the market, and Gen X slowly depart over the decade). Some brands will stagnate; others will win big.
Conservative estimates suggest there are 30,000-plus active activity providers across the UK made up of independents and franchise networks, with more entering each year. While quality in the sector continues to improve due to best practice and ideas spreading, consumers in most regions have an array of choice and marketing communications require improvement. There is a significant amount of noise provided by the economy, environment and social factors and even brands with the strongest competitive advantage must rise above this to attract growth.
Now... some bits of advice for having a successful year and building early momentum for the 2020s:
- Start the year with a clear situational view and create a strategic plan
Understand what your unique goals are as a business and as an individual. Some of you will be planning to open more classes, fill current ones and become more profitable. Others will have more lofty ambitions such as franchising your business or expanding your existing franchise network. Either way, understanding where you are now and where you want to be in one year, three year and five years’ time is important to hit your goals and to get you from A to B. Without a plan, you’re just winging it, and if you wing it for too long, you’ll probably not reach your full potential.
- Always try to think long term with any decisions made
Short-termism or business planning myopia is rife in small businesses. People have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed so it’s really easy to fall into the trap of going all out to get the low hanging fruit and quick wins over a more patient approach to building a brand. What I would say is; successful brands and activity programmes aren’t built overnight. You do hear of people who grow quickly and it’s possible to scale fast if you’ve got the right components and good advice, but it takes time to build something truly rewarding and impactful, which is the unpopular answer for some. If you look at the very top brands in our industry and across other sectors, they all took time to mature and grow so try and practice patience.
- Aim to see your business as a business not just self-employment
This is linked to the above and what I mean here is, as activity providers it’s quite easy to see our businesses as a way of earning money which is better than other part/full-time jobs. This exact mindset is a trap it you're looking to build a business because it fails to fully address key business basics such as; am I solving a problem with my service? What’s my strategic plan for the next three years to build awareness and recognition and influence consumers to pay me now and ongoing? What’s my brand story and how I can ensure I resonate with customers to build a loyal following and profitable relationships? What systems and processes do I need to create or formalise to make things easier and enable growth? If you can start seeing your business as more than just ‘self-employment’ then you have a great chance of developing a strong mindset.
- Think big and small with goals
I totally understand when I talk to people and they have a big vision but either haven’t got all the pieces figured or want it to happen tomorrow. Having a long-term vision that is underpinned by your brand story and smart short-term objectives will create an environment for success. If you lack any of those things it can be very difficult to achieve as well as you probably could with your business.
- Pay attention to the small details
Providers are constantly striving to improve their programmes, as they should. However, my observation is it’s frequently not the differentials in your programme that act as a key driver for business growth. Strong branding and clear marketing strategy followed by superior customer service and above average teaching (often doesn’t have to be outstanding for customers to stay) is what really separates the more successful providers. Need to modernise your brand? Need to create a story for people to buy into? Need to tweak a system or process? Need to give slightly more value? Make small details a priority.
- ‘Attention management’ is the new time management
As business owners, we start to become obsessed with time (I know I do) and specifically having enough of it each week to squeeze in personal and professional demands. However, a lot of new research and experts suggest the key to productivity and great work is through focusing attention where it's needed without distraction; time can't be managed as such, only your attention can be managed. So, finding a method and strategy to really focus your energy on your business is essential to good work being done.
Author: Andy Georgiou
Bio: Andy Georgiou is a former kids activity professional who now runs his own Franchise Consultancy, helping aspiring and established franchisors grow their businesses. He’s been Operations Director and International Director of Coaching for a powerhouse children’s franchise brand, as well as Head of Franchising for a leading educational activity provider. He’s learned the ins and outs and highs and lows of starting a business, dominating a market and building something rewarding and highly profitable.