I think I have to finally admit that I have been sick. Halloween wrecked me, there’s something wrong with my back, and yesterday somebody on Facebook said my tour was lame.
Ordinarily, I can deal with some of the worst kinds of Internet criticism. I’ve been called a fat cunt, I’ve been told to go die. Whatever. It’s all part of being a woman online. But I’m physically wrecked over here, and mostly because of the tour. I had a good plan for the tour, I carried it out, and it’s been a good decision.
But we don’t talk enough about what it feels like to be 90% through a plan.
Almost one year ago, I decided that I was going to try and successfully run the failing tour I had been working for. I took everything about their business plan and I threw it in the trash. I created a new plan that was meant to deal exclusively with the fact that they were perceived as being unreliable and destructive to their stakeholders, by which I mean the community they operated in. This wasn’t about money, and to that end, I eventually made the further decision that any money the tour made from ticket sales would go directly back into the tour. The only money I keep is my tips.
So, six times a week, in freezing cold and sleeting rain, in 60% humidity and over 100 degree sun I stood at the tour start, ostensibly for walk-ups, but really to show the neighborhood that we weren’t the same old tour, and it wasn’t just business as usual. I joined the board of the business association, I was endlessly polite and helpful, and I have a rule that whenever I eat at the restaurant I stand in front of, I tip at least 50% because the waitstaff are really the people who have to deal with me standing there.
I took one day off when my grandpa died, and one day off when I was too sick to get out of bed. In September, the tour started making enough money to pay another tour guide. She is, so far, the only person who has ever made money off the tour.
I’m not saying this to generate sympathy, I did this to myself. I had a plan and I stuck to it, and even though I am so exhausted and sick and I hurt, and even though the tour isn’t making a tenth of the money I thought we’d be making by now, it wasn’t about the money. It was about the plan. It was a good plan. It was harder to stick to than I thought it would be.
It’s easy to stand on week one of a 52 week plan and feel like a winner. It’s much more difficult when you’re crawling along through week 50, with all of the set-backs and unforeseen consequences of the last 50 weeks behind you. But because I did this, everything I prioritized in the plan came through. People in the neighborhood know me, from the travelers to the business owners. People tend to like me and be happy to see me. We have excellent ratings everywhere, and aside from that one jerk from yesterday, no one has had anything bad to say for an entire year. This is a complete turn-around from November 2014. But prioritizing relationships over money meant some other things too. Ticket sales were not great, but they were high enough to pay our bills and pay for the other guide, who came along right when I was starting to fall apart. Everything left over I put into advertising.
Year two is going to be about making more money. In two weeks, I’ll be starting on a new plan, and I’m going to factor in all the things I learned in year one.
It’s hard enough to start something, and harder than that to finish it. At a certain point, a boss has to make her move regardless of the things she doesn’t know or can’t predict. If I had known 50 weeks ago what I know now, I would have scheduled less tours, but then I wouldn’t have become as familiar with the neighbors as fast as I did, so I would have missed out on that. I’ve always been more of a sprinter than a marathoner. Six tours a week for 52 weeks is a sprint in business terms.
At this point, I’ve invested everything I personally had to give to the tour, and now is the chance for it to sink or swim on it’s own merits. I can only hope I raised it well.