Two tours completed, two big lessons learned, and everyone wins!

You can file this blog post under our previous promise to do this in public. The first two “Soft Tours” are in the books, we have learned much from them. The first big lesson we learned, we are trying to jam too much into each tour. Anyone who knows me knows, I, Marty, have an over-optimistic mind. I always think I can do one more thing, and I always expect a positive outcome. This has served me well in the past when we look at the big picture. However, it has also caused some issues in the past as well.

It has served me well as a head football coach who has taken over two different High School football programs that were on the skids and returned them to what I would term respectability, as well as my career as a relationship manager with public school districts during the Act 10 timeframe. It has also caused some problems as I have taken on some projects that were bigger than I first realized and taxed my abilities to the limit and my family’s patience as well. (However, as an aside, those were the times I learned the most.)

Some who know me would say I am as ridiculously optimistic as a hardware store trying to sell swimming pool algaecide, in Wisconsin, this May. That may border on crazy actually. (Actual picture taken this week when the high was 52 degrees.)

With our first two tours we learned we were simply taking participants to too many stops, within the time available, and with the personal energy it takes to take it all in. Both tours went well, we have received some great feedback and will continue to receive more from those participants to continue to make improvements. However, one item is extremely clear, we will need to limit the number of stops to 4 to allow enough quality time at each stop. For instance, I am still getting the “stink-eye” look from tour participants that I pulled from the calf hutches and young kid goat pens as I tried to usher them along in an attempt to stay on schedule. At one farm on the West Coast Tour we clearly could have stayed longer, and even I had a desire to remain to ask a few questions, but we were futilely attempting to stay on the schedule.

Therefore, going forward, we will reduce the number of stops to 4 during each tour in the attempt to stay on schedule and insure the proper time is spent at each spot. We are not considering eliminating any of the farm or business partners, but we will put them on a rotation so as to include all of the current stops as we have found participants are quite fond of every stop.

Also, at Ridge and Valley Tours we are huge fans of the CNBC show “The Profit”. Each week Marcus Lemonis, CEO/Creator of Camping World and now Gander Outdoors, reviews a business to see if they are worthy of his time and money investment to take them to the next level. Sometimes these are business that are in distress, sometimes they are businesses with a great concept but they don’t have either the capital, people, or product to continue as they exist. We find the show extremely entertaining, (I highly encourage you watch the show if you want to understand how a good business and good people can go wrong and sometimes right.) but also we learn something each week about pricing and concept of businesses.

The one question Mr Lemonis asks business owners every show, and surprisingly several of them don’t know the answer, “What is the cost to produce your item?” In “look back” episodes the Executive Producer and Mr Lemonis review past episodes and update how it is going. He has routinely expressed how shocked he is that any business owners do not know what it costs them to produce each product or serve a customer. At Ridge and Valley Tours we took that idea very serious, and some day if a business guru comes along and asks us “What does it cost you to run that shuttle down the road?” We will have that answer immediately so we don’t look like we don’t know what we are doing. (We still may not know what we are doing, but at least it will take more investigation to figure that out?) I am known to say, “I am not trying to get rich, but I am pro-prosperity and if we don’t turn a profit, we won’t be here long.” We have also travelled to many other areas and understood, at a minimum, what a tour should cost.

With this in mind, we originally set our tour price back in March so we could get the tour dates out there, and continue a Social Media presence. Keep in mind, we did not know the actual purchase price of the shuttle, insurance, food, or drink at that point, we could only estimate. And yes, those are most of our costs. We set our tour price back in March based on cost estimates with 5 stops on the tour. Now that we have actual costs we know, good news, we are overpriced, for a typical industry standard profit for each trip.

So, here is the big news, (I suspect you have been wondering where this is leading?) and I think it is great news for all of us! We will be reducing the base cost of each tour effective immediately by $10. Also, for previously purchased tickets those purchasers will see an adjustment for this change in the base price. All discount codes will continue to remain valid and you will begin to see more about those in the coming days.

We look forward to seeing everyone on a tour, we are finding there is a wide interest in our tours and meeting our farm partners. Our farm partners have a compelling story, are excellent at sharing their experience, and our tour participants have walked away with a greater understanding of agriculture, our Driftless Area geography, and how they both rely on each other to work not to mention a full stomach.

-Marty

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