The ocean does a lot of false advertising. “Come and visit me,” it beckons. “I will relax you. You will be rested.” If that message was not false, then at very least, it was targeted for some other demographic than me. While I was at the beach this past Labor Day weekend with my adult children and my grandkids, I was alternately providing horsey back rides in chest-high waves while getting mouthfuls of salty ocean water, and getting buried in the sand by preschoolers. “Uh, kids, time to dig Papa out. Wait, you can get a snow cone later.”
The ocean’s followers on social media also rave about the almost mystical effect of sitting on your butt on the beach. Thousands post beautiful photos of sunsets and talk about staring into the horizon getting new insights and a new perspective on life. I’m not sure if that happens, although one time I was running along the beach and came across an elderly man sitting in the sun and facing the ocean. I stopped near him to catch my breath. “You come out here every day?” I asked. “Yep,” he said slowly. “Some days I come out here to sit and think. Some days I come here just to sit.” That’s the best beach quote I’ve ever heard.
The ocean is supposedly calming, but popular beach areas light up the minds of entrepreneurs. They see an opportunity to attract consumers. They build resorts, and if the crowds come in large numbers, more businesses sprout up.
This past Labor Day weekend I was in a little resort town called Bethany Beach, Delaware enjoying the last few days of summer and trying to hold off the fall season. I saw business owners and managers getting ready to shut down operations for the winter and it got me thinking. I spoke with quite a few. I came away with some impressions that are good lessons for us all.
- There is always someone who has it tougher than you. Imagine having to make 95 percent of your annual sales and profit in five months. At first it sounds like seven months of vacation, except that it also means sevens months of no income while you still pay rent, utilities and insurance — and in some cases salaries. Imagine being weather-dependent. When I was on the coast, Hurricane Hermine hit Florida, causing storms all the way up the coast and shutting this resort down for a full day.
- The right corner is worth the rent. In a resort town there are many of the same types of business vying for the same consumer dollars. Advertising is extremely competitive, although even the best advertising will not beat the highest-traffic position on the beach or boardwalk.
- Social Media is done wrong more often than right. Like most small businesses, resort businesses fall back on signs that say “Follow us and like us on Facebook and Twitter.” If they want results, they advertise on social media or boost their posts — and so should you.
- Technology can almost always improve things. Parking is much easier on crowded days than you’d expect. All parking is paid public parking. You use a credit card or quarters at nearby machines and leave the receipt on your dashboard — or you use a parking app.
Yep, the “salt life” may seem ideal — but just like it is in your market, running a business in a resort town is no day at the beach.