Archive for the ‘Season 1’ Category

5 lessons from our first season

Author: Robin Browne

I’m writing this because I just read a great post on the Open Heroines blog called I Pledge to Write – that reminded me how important it is to write (and how much I love doing it).

We recently wrapped up our first season as Puresteam Auto Spa owners and it went very well, according to many measures.

Here are 5 key things we learned from our first season.

1) The best marketing is solving a customer’s problem. We turned clients with whom we had issues into Puresteam evangelists by solving their problems quickly and with no hassle.

2) Students are great, except when they’re students again. If you hire students, and you operate in September, you have to hire a lot of them part-time in September to ensure you’re covered.

3) Hire a Big Data person (even for little data) or become one. We hired a guy to do our payroll and I handled everything else like tracking revenue and expenses. The payroll guy was well worth the $50/month.

We didn’t hire anyone to set up a business intelligence system with the result being we have lots of data – but little intelligence.

We have the data partly thanks to having chosen to have only one bank account. That made it easy to download all the transactions which I then imported into MoneyDance financial software on my ancient MacBook. MoneyDance let’s me tag transactions with categories so I can figure out how much we made, and how much we spent on different things. However, we don’t have our own system to track things like what times of day or week were most popular, who our clients are, where they’re from, how they found us or whether they were happy with the service.

4) Make sure you have a system that easily captures customer email addresses. Communicating with your clients is key to success, whether it’s to thank them for their business or ask them how can you improve yours. As a franchise, we have to use certain tools supplied by the parent company. Much to our dismay, the booking software the company uses, Setster, doesn’t have an email export function that allows us to easily build a customer email list: we have to copy and paste each one from Setster to whatever database program we choose.

5) Don’t only define success by how much money you make. We came out almost exactly even for our first season. Our revenue matched our expenses including payments on our debt from buying the business. This is good considering most businesses lose money in their first year and take 2-5 years to become profitable. But there were many other benefits beyond the numbers.

We learned a ton about how to buy and run a business. We showed our sons an alternative to looking for a job: creating them. And we created a company that has become a community partner for causes about which we care deeply.

We also employed five young people, 1 Nigerian Canadian guy, 1 Vietnamese Canadian guy, and 3 Muslim women, two who wear Hijabs. Considering the vast majority of our clients are men, having the 3 ladies on staff was breaking down stereotypes everyday.

Not bad for our first kick at the can.