Recently, we were invited to go to Penticton with friends. The appeal was not only to be with our friends but to simply get away from perhaps our comfort zone and enjoy an escape from routine.
The challenge was the smoke from the BC wildfires – would it be better than the coast or worse! The Fraser Valley got continually worse as we approached Hope and was uncomfortable. The Hope-Princeton was bad in some valleys, and good in others. Fortunately, it wasn’t bad when we arrived in Penticton.
Unlike Kelowna, Penticton is more reliant on tourism and the wildfires result in tourists seeking other places where they do not have to contend with the smoke. This is unfortunate as the city is geared for those seeking sun and the atmosphere of relaxation. There are brew pubs, markets, wineries, beaches and restaurants all catering to the visitors.
It points out how fickle the customers and clients are and how a focus on one main target group can be a challenge when circumstances are beyond your control. This is a lesson for all businesses, not just ones based on tourism. Unless a seasonal business is extremely successful, it may not provide the profit level to support throughout the year.
Businesses must prepare for the unknown. You need more than one supplier, more than one customer base, and in some cases more than one product or service. You must also be agile, ready to change direction if needed. The advantage of small business is that they can usually have immediate flexibility, something that big business does not usually have.
Two major events were happening while we were there. The annual Dragon Boat races were taking place on Skaha Lake and the Jazz festival was taking place in several venues in the city. This combined with good weather and the amazing Saturday market resulted in No Vacancy signs at all of the accommodations on Lakeshore Drive.
This points out that businesses do not become successful in isolation. It takes good economic development, tourism, Chamber of Commerce, strong customer base, and the support of mentors and professionals.
Oh yes, and passion for what you do!
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