Imagine how confident you would feel knowing that your business is positioned to be successful for years to come. With profits rolling in, you could focus on strategically growing your company. Whatever plans you have for taking your business to the next level, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center can help you come up with a plan, get results and make more money in the process.
Many business owners come to us for coaching before making a big decision. Others ask for advice when they don’t know what to do. Wherever you are on your journey, we can help. Just ask Matt Knott, who transformed his company, River Riders, from a seasonal whitewater rafting outlet into one of Harpers Ferry’s premier vacation destinations.
Mary Hott, a WV SBDC business coach, recently helped Knott secure millions in loans to purchase and renovate a hotel and acquire a charter bus business to accommodate his growing clientele. As a successful WV SBDC client, we asked him if he had any tips for other small business owners who might be looking to expand. Here’s what he had to say.
Tip 1: Surround yourself with the right people.
No one can do it all alone. Successful business owners surround themselves with great people who are positive, supportive, talented and knowledgeable. When Knott purchased River Riders in 1998, he had 10 people working for him and gross annual sales of $200,000. By 2015, he had 175 employees and his business had $3.7 million in sales.
“A lot of our success is due to finding good people and putting in a lot of hard work,” Knott said.
Tip 2: Always evaluate your products and services and determine their value.
If you do not innovate, your business will lose its competitive edge and your customers will give their money to something that brings more value to their life.
When Knott purchased his company, his potential for growth was limited because river-based adventures are seasonal. So, when off-water aerial adventure parks became popular with tourists, he expanded River Riders to include canopy tours, ziplines and other challenge-course attractions. As his clientele grew, Knott opened a campground, built cabins and purchased vacation homes so his customers had a place to stay when they visited.
“River Riders’ growth is attributed to not being stagnant in their product and service offerings, continually asking what the client wanted and watching the direction the industry was headed,” said Hott, who has worked with Knott over the years.
Tip 3: Learn from your mistakes and use them to grow your business.
Mistakes cost money, but failure is a great teacher. Henry Ford started and closed several businesses before he found success with the Ford Motor Company. Thomas Edison changed the world with the invention of the incandescent lightbulb, but it took him thousands of attempts before he got it right. Since then, thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners have discovered that failure is something you must learn from and use to your advantage if you want to grow your business.
“I think the important thing is that you try to minimize your mistakes and learn from them along the way,” Knott said.
Tip 4: Get help when you don’t know how to do something.
Even the most successful business owners need help. Over the years, River Riders has become a multimillion-dollar business, but that didn’t stop Knott from turning to a WV SBDC coach in 2015 when he wanted to purchase a nearby hotel but wasn’t sure how to go about it.
“Because we were reaching out to a new business area, I was not comfortable with all the aspects of the business development planning. Mary was very helpful to me in writing a business plan and making sure that we were financially prepared to enter into the new business,” Knott said.
With the help of the WV SBDC, Knott got approval for financing and purchased the hotel. River Riders is now providing comfortable lodging and accommodations that have resulted in longer stays, allowing the company to serve new customers.
River Riders is just one of the many businesses we’ve helped over the years. Our coaches are experienced in many industries and can help your business through one-on-one coaching and facilitating connections to resources. Business owners who work with a coach typically see their annual sales grow six times faster than businesses who go it alone.
So, if you have dreams of starting your own business, or have a big idea you think will change the world or just want to have peace of mind knowing your business is headed in the right direction, contact a WV SBDC coach today.