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Starting a new business and what I’ve learned so far

Having worked for a tech company for the past 17 years, I have now launched myself into the tourist industry with absolutely no prior background in that field.
You’d be right to question how sensible a decision that was!

A few days after my 62nd birthday I retired early from the day job. But for those of you who’ve done something similar, you’ll know that sitting around doing nothing isn’t really an option. Something had to fill the new void. 

I knew this and invested some of the generous final pay from my last employer by setting up the website for Cotswoldetours

My passion for riding cross-country routes started in my mid-twenties, when mountain biking ‘became a thing’. Was nearly forty years experience of off-road cycling in the UK and abroad enough to make a success of a business?

Starting from the perspective that I would be responsible for other people, could they rely on me to know the tracks and trails, and any potential hazards we might come across? They would expect me to have a plan if things went wrong. My knowledge of the area had been built up over twenty years living in the area, so risk assessing the routes would be straight forward. After all, it’s just riding a bike, isn’t it?

It took months of riding what I thought were good routes only to discover hazards that could easily unseat a client with minimal experience of riding off-road. Rocky downhill sections and wet tree roots are best avoided when your clients are novices. What about exit routes in the case of an accident where I couldn’t manage them on my own? Would the blue light services be able to find us easily, (thank heavens for  It hasn’t happened yet, but you’d expect me to be prepared, wouldn’t you? Finally, I was happy with my routes and knew that I could shorten, lengthen, and make safe adjustments to the ride if the situation required.

But even before all of that, I needed to find my clients. Who were they? Who was I aiming to attract? How would I get them interested in going for a ride? It was, and still is, a mystery: attracting people to buy into the service and in the numbers that will support the business for a six-month summer season. This is my second year and I’m still trying new angles, which I expect to continue exploring for a while.

Most of my clients have come through the social media channels I use. Some have picked up leaflets I’ve left at local cafés and other popular places in the area. We have some very fine hotels and beautiful Airbnb accommodation in the area, all of which I have approached to offer my service to their clients.

I’ve taken part in several business networking groups. But I’ve come to learn that this isn’t necessarily the best way to promote this business. Why should they help if I no longer have a network of useful contacts? Afterall, most of my clients are now visitors from abroad, here to have fun.

The best networking group I’ve found was set up at the end of last year, exclusively for those of us providing services to the tourist industry. When you take a deeper dive into my website you’ll now see links to other businesses. This is a reciprocal arrangement providing backlinks to my website. Cooperating with and promoting other service providers has probably been the most useful way to get on the radar of prospective clients, after social media.

There have been some difficult challenges, not least the very real possibility that I would lose the lot earlier this year. So, I’m not yet ready to believe everything will be straight forward in the future. Whilst I’m a fairly positive person, I’m realistic about how things outside of my control will influence the success of this mini enterprise.

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