What’s this Christmas rubbish you are all speaking of? We have only just passed the financial new year and we’re already a few short days away from Christmas and new year. They say time flies when you’re having fun and many small business owners I speak to often carry on about the pressure and stresses they are experiencing whilst running their businesses. We understand and experience these stresses too but if the time has flown I can only conclude that you are having fun. If its not fun then we need to seriously evaluate why were doing what we do.
Fortunately, it is fun for us and we love what we do, and we do love the festive season and all the joy, family fun and fine food that goes with it. However December is a time we need to use to look back at the year and evaluate. Look at the progress we made, correct errors we have made and above all celebrate at the success and growth we have seen. This process is normally done privately but this year we thought we would share it with you. So what did we achieve and fail at in 2014?
2014 was huge in the life of our business. Late 2013 saw us move into the bigger workshop and go from being a sole trader to a company. With that in mind we started the new year almost broke. Many of my dark coloured hairs are now a permanent shade of Gandalf grey and I owe that to the stress that came in January. The move to the bigger shop emptied the savings account we had and left the business with just $300 in its account. The expenses were huge with the move, we had to purchase most of the workshop equipment (previously we were loaned an existing shop), three months bond, hoist installation, electrician to wire in three phase power and lawyers fees relating to the lease. There was a two week period with the move and set up that meant we could not book work in and as a result there was no money coming in for some time.
It was sink or swim time for GDL, we were either going to bounce back very rapidly or within a few short days or we would be bankrupt. I have distinct memories of sitting on the cold concrete floor with a friend who had helped with the move, admiring the dream workshop set up and swallowing the lump in my throat that was the realisation that if the phone did not start ringing soon we were in very real trouble. The day we declared ourselves ready for operation a regular client of ours called with a blown clutch and from that point on we never looked back.Early this year was hard for most small business owners with economy and government in the throws of change, the population was reluctant to spend. We were no different and I reached out to local politicians for advice and help, with at the very least some guidance. For the best part, my letters fell of deaf ears but our local Mayor responded and put us in contact with a group hosting a free small business guidance day. At this event I met the team from Basic Bananas and its a bit of a long story but Basic Bananas is basically a marketing school for small business owners. An eight thousand dollar commitment to them and we were locked in for twelve months of training.
That eight grand was easily the best eight grand ever spent. The Basic Bananas team turned our business around and in twelve short months we have more then doubled our regular client base. The lessons learnt in these classes were almost immediately implemented and the result was the local community began to love us.At some point in the first half of the year we put a lot of effort into getting ourselves nominated for the small business awards. A formal dinner at the awards night was a bit of fun and to my joy the sting of not winning this was not as strong as I had anticipated.
In June we employed our first staff member and at that point it was our first paid employee as I was not paying myself a wage whilst we established the business (four years without income) This was a huge celebration but another praying hard moment that the work would remain consistent to pay him.Later in the year, the third member of the team came on board and we began paying myself a wage as well as the two existing employees we had. In a twelve month period we had gone from paying no wages to over three grand a week in salaries. Daunting? Yes a little but a true sign of growth.
As part of our marketing we made a decision at some point through the year to focus our facebook campaign on the performance car market and we began implementing it. The campaign itself was very successful and bought in many new clients and a lot of fun cars, however in hindsight the campaign may have been a mistake or at least a little misguided. An end of year evaluation of this market is having us question if it is the best market for us or not.As part of that high performance campaign we hosted two BBQ fundraisers. The first went very well with high turn out and many new leads established from it. The second at the time of writing this is yet to be hosted. We shall see how that goes. I suspect that will be the next blog post if the rain holds off for us.
It wasn’t all peaches and sunshine through the year though. Some hard lessons were learnt. The biggest was the saga surrounding our decision to have loan cars. Back in 2013 we decided that an additional level of convenience could be added to our clients by having loan cars available. We set about getting four of them. By November of this year, we had a blown gearbox, a blown engine, a lost set of keys and endless fines and toll notices. It was expected that some problems were likely but in a few cases outright abuse of the cars was somewhat disappointing. The expensive lesson was learnt and we sold the cars. Funds were definitely lost on that endeavour but I like to think that if you have never made an error, you have never taken a risk and risk taking is the joy that comes from running your own business.
Mid way through the year we were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of one of our clients. Our community often sees some of our senior members pass away and as painful as that is we found it doubly difficult to swallow the passing of a client in his twenties.
In response to this we have got involved in building a tribute car to remember this young man by, and there are many previous blog posts surrounding that.With the rapid success and growth of our business we have inadvertently created a small committee of haters which this year has become a real hurdle for me. People who will remain nameless who for one reason or another feel better about themselves to bad mouth our good name. We have our theories about these people and why they feel the way they do. Most have a delusion on what is just and fair and at one point or another feel the exchange of funds for a service is immoral. These people we can deal with as whilst we feel we did not wrong them, I see that their opinions come off the back of actual interactions with our business. Yet there are many who hate just because of our success, I can’t fathom this and can only conclude its jealousy. We have been advised by some business greats that “you have not made it in business until you have a haters club”
It feels like we are wrapping up on a negative note but all in all looking back at the year just passed, we have seen great things happen and we’re still kicking hard. We learnt the lessons we had to learn and are set and excited for what the next year has in store for us. In the new year we will have set our goals for 2015 and will be aiming for the next big thing. Our dreams are real for us, we just have to make them happen.

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