Last Updated on March 9, 2023
How’re we doing?
You may or may not know, but I (Carl Scott, the business owner) am far more transparent than most about how I run the business and possibly a little unorthodox about it too. This blog is a little update for anyone who is interested.
So. The purpose of this blog I guess is firstly to allow me a little emptying of my brain as there’s often just too much going on in there. I need the process of off-loading sometimes, just so I can free up some space. It isn’t a very big brain!
More importantly though this is to provide you, the reader and possible future guest or current Woodfarm gang member, aka, anyone who has ever stayed and loved what we do, with some comfort in how we are doing in these still strange times. Sorry that was a long sentence but I think you get the gist.
It is here in black and white for my competitors too. I will bashfully admit that I can’t help a certain sense of schadenfreude still, when I know some of them follow what we do, yet still doing some things fundamentally badly. And keep doing those things repeatedly. That’s the definition of insanity isn’t it?
I’m not being arrogant saying that, I’m just being open and honest. I’ve said it a million times, this is not rocket science. You probably don’t know this but I own the domain name itaintrocketscience.co.uk just in case I want to use it one day. There’s nothing there right now, so don’t go and look at it.
It gets a little bit political too. I didn’t know it was going to, it just did. I came back and wrote this at the end. But that’s important to the overall picture, so please bear with me and I’ll explain it. If you don’t want to read it, or believe that I shouldn’t share such thoughts, then please don’t read it, you don’t have to, and I’m not making you. But the current situation is crucial to people’s lives as it has a huge impact, and that’s why I touch on it.
The bottom line is that as I write this (end of October 2022), there are huge global issues with the senseless war in Ukraine, energy costs, and the utterly embarrassing and totally avoidable sit-com (not a funny one) that is British politics. Or should I say, the Tory party. I’m not actually being political or partisan (yet), this is merely fact. Matter of public record. I will go into some more detail about this a little further but as I write, Rishi Sunak has just been made PM (yesterday) and I truly hope that this will now provide the first glimmer of hope since the mop-headed clown somehow fooled millions of people a few years ago into thinking he was fit to run a bath, let alone our country. Let’s see.
The COVID years
Clearly the biggest thing to hit us ‘recently’ was the arrival of COVID-19, the Coronavirus. I’ve written so much about this so I won’t go into a ton of detail, but in summary I had to close my business. For a total of 227 days during three lockdowns. I lost a fortune. I didn’t think we would survive as a business, but we did. We came back stronger than ever. Because of the way I was able to approach it, my determination, my stubbornness, my brilliant team, and my incredible customer base, aka the Woodfarm guests.
It does concern me that so many people say “when we were in COVID”. We. Are. Still. In. COVID. It is not going away and never will. It has undoubtedly become far less deadly, but it is still very much lurking among us and ain’t going nowhere. As I type I had my booster a week ago, and I felt like hell again for a couple of days. Fever, convulsions, aching, headaches, all of it. Just like when I had COVID in August 2020 and spent two weeks slightly concerned that I wouldn’t make it. Newsflash: I made it.
So we’ve had all that and we got through. We (the UK and the world) lost the most frightening amount of people, who will never be forgotten by those they left behind. And it has far-reaching, long-lasting effects on so many lives, mine included. But hopefully we are rebuilding.
The starting point of this blog was mostly to assure you with how we are doing as a business, so I’ll do that now. As I’ve said, this is a little unorthodox as most people keep all this stuff very close to their chest. But I’m not most people. Never have been. Never will be. And ya know what? A lot of people appreciate my being so open.
Clearly I’m not going to share our financials in detail, but I will give you an overview.
To give you some perspective, each week we use our booking system to analyse the ‘Year to date’ figures. It is clearly not helpful to compare 2022 to either 2021 or 2020 due to the effects of the lockdowns. Both years saw a few months of being closed, and then high demand as soon as people could get out of the house, so those years are completely skewed. They simply wouldn’t provide any useful or reliable data. I will say though that we never ramped our prices up then, even though we could have. A lot of people did, but I felt it wrong to benefit from people’s desperate desire to get away. That didn’t sit with me. I do this to make a living and I like to make a good living. But I have never set out to fleece people. I want to provide the best accommodation and holiday experience that I can, and charge well for it, without ripping people off. If we did that we wouldn’t have a 25% repeat business stat. Fact.
So this year we have been comparing the year to date against 2019, as that was the last ‘normal year’. It seems so long ago doesn’t it?!?!
In our year to date figures this week (1st Jan 2022 to 26th October 2022, compared to the same dates in 2019), we have;
An 18% increase in the number of Barn & Barge bookings placed
A 27% increase in the monetary value of Barn & Barge bookings placed
A 26% increase in the monetary value of Barn & Barge bookings actually taken, ie holidays had
Those figures are comprised of increases in both the Barn and the Barge business, so one is not carrying the other.
As far as occupancy is concerned, this is up too. Occupancy for the Barns is up by almost 10%. Barge occupancy is a little skewed as Onderneming was out of the water for 6 weeks in the Spring for hull work up in Lowestoft. Allowing for this, occupancy is around the same year on year (to date) with 2022 being marginally ahead.
In summary then, we are not seeing a downshift. Why?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because we work our socks off as a team. Andrew, Clare, Oliver and I work every week on the marketing and digital marketing sides of the business. And at the coalface, Doreen, Tim, Helen, Nicki, Pete, James, Alex, Sammy, Sam, Hannah and Celine work hard to ensure that the Barns and the Barges are the best they can be for our guests. It’s very easy to say “we work really hard for you”, as proven by HM Government, but we really do. I shan’t go into the minutiae of it all, but if we have the kind of figures I’ve shared with you above, including a repeat business level of 25%, we must be doing something right. Mustn’t we?
So despite all the bad stuff going on in the world, and despite our own energy costs going through the roof, one thing we did was to lower our prices. What?! Yes, we lowered our prices. We didn’t do a big fanfare thing and shout “SUMMER SALE” like many in our industry, we just lowered them. Because we knew we needed to in order to keep busy when people were having a tough time. I would rather be busy for less money. I would rather have £100 in my pocket, than not have £120. It ain’t rocket science.
And our guests reacted very favourably to this. They continued, and still continue, to book. I have said it before, but all I have ever tried to do is to provide the best holiday accommodation that I can, give guests the best experience, give them as much info and guidance on what to do, and where to go during their stay, making them leave with the desire to come back, and tell their family and friends to do so too. That’s it. I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, focussed on “How much money can we make?”. I was always told to do that in the corporate world and I didn’t like it. I knew if I did the above and did it well, that we would make money. And we do.
We will therefore carry on doing what we do, whilst the world keeps doing the bad things. I’ll warn you now, there is a political rant about to happen, along with an explanation of why I do this publicly. And believe it or not, I think it’s one minor contributory factor in why we are successful.
My view on all this is that most of the world’s problems are man-made. Even COVID could well have been a man-made error though we may never know for sure. I have a simple outlook (due to the small brain) and that is if these problems are man-made, why can’t man simply un-make them? Why not? Unfortunately many men (and it’s usually men) suffer from the one or more of the three things that I believe cause all the major issues on our wee planet; Greed, Ego & Power. I’ve written extensively about this, so I’m not going to go into detail here.
I have no influence over the people that make things happen in this world, but again my view is very simple in as much as I absolutely 100% can do something about the things going on in MY world. So that’s what I focus on. What can I do to make sure my business is as good as I can possibly make it for my guests, my team, and me?
Trust, and Brand Loyalty
I think that when times are harder for people, choices become harder. And I think that one of the reasons we are still doing ok is that we have spent years building trust, and brand loyalty. I also think that my unorthodox approach and willingness to be open about how we work helps that too. In tougher times, people need to know where they can be ‘safe’. When everything is rosy, people are less ‘careful’ with what they do or how they spend their well-earned cash. But when it’s not so easy, we as human beings become far more choosy.
In the next few paragraphs I get political (I came back and wrote this bit). Not because I want to per se, but because the current landscape has affected ordinary people in extraordinary ways. And there’s nothing much we can do about it right now, except to watch. I’m really not intentionally stirring up a hornets nest, but one or two people will take exception to my openness. But for each of those, a couple of hundred agree with me. That’s trust and brand loyalty…
The Great British political landscape
I did say above that I would go into a bit of detail and I will. If you don’t want to read this bit, don’t. You don’t have to. I think I made my position very clear above, but I will clarify. Johnson was, is, and always will be, a self-serving, narcissistic, inept, and completely unaware human being who thinks that he has a god-given right to a different set of rules to us. He should never have been put in office. I said it before, during, and after. And this is factually correct. If you believe otherwise then you are reading the wrong person’s writings. Please don’t go to the bother of telling me though, as I care not for that outlook. I care not as he ruined a lot of people’s lives. Not mine. He didn’t really affect me to a point of ruin. But he affected a lot of people in a very real and very negative way.
Next was Truss. Nice enough lady but utterly inept in every way, and unsuitable for the job. She was only in place because of tactical voting by the party. Anyway, that didn’t go well and she didn’t last long, so that’s good. She did a lot of damage though, which I hope will slowly now be undone.
What’s the point?
So, what’s the point of me telling you my opinion on this? Well, firstly it genuinely helps me to unload my brain, so that’s one good thing that works for me. Secondly, every time I comment politically on social media, I get a TON of people completely agreeing with me and supporting what I am saying. I never used to comment politically as I thought it was counter-productive. But COVID changed all that. You see I had nothing else to do but write, as my business was forcibly closed for a total of 227 days. And I wrote. A lot. For the unaware, I wrote a ‘diary’ on Facebook, which ended up at 197,000 words. About three times the amount of a standard novel. Bonkers.
And a lot of what I wrote was my view on UK and world (mostly Trump) politics. And the more I did this, the more momentum it gathered in support. And I mean, a massive snowball of support.
Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes people take umbrage at what I write. One or two tell me that they don’t think a business should share its political views and that they are “off”. It’s never a paying customer, it’s just a Facebook troll who I will never benefit from financially, or personally as a friend. So they think I should care that they are “off” and will no longer be in my life as someone who reads what I write. You see, I do care about the countless people who told me during that first lockdown that they gained strength from what I wrote, from following my daily ramblings, from the humour as well as my perspective on our world. I have had people come up to me at events that we promote Woodfarm at, and thank me. They have introduced themselves to my daughter who works the events with me, and told her how I helped get them through. They have hugged me and shed a tear. So do you ultimately really think I care that Jonny Angry from Billericay will never come and stay because I share my opinion on a divisive, corrupt individual who somehow ended up in charge of a country? That’s UK and USA. I’ve had both of them. And you see, it’s usually about 1 person like this, compared to every 200 who agree with me. I’ll take those results, bearing in mind that Brexit was 48/52. 200:1 is a better outcome than 48:52.
Furthermore, I actually ended up gaining business with my approach. I have had guests come and stay because they felt an affiliation or a connection with me as a human. And they have returned too. So again, I see no downside from just being true to myself. We are all just humans feeling our way through this world and this life and doing the best we can. I’ll carry on doing my best if that’s ok.
I also genuinely think that part of why Woodfarm has worked is that instead of sleeping like normal people, I analyse, scrutinise, and vocalise. Writing all this takes time. Time when you were (probably) asleep. But it massively helps me stay focussed on what I do and how I do it. So because I work this way, I have no feelings of guilt if I am more successful than someone who doesn’t do what I do. I don’t mean that to sound patronising or conceited in any way, I promise. It’s just me (possibly) oversharing with the group.
Life is funny
I’m not going to bang on about it, but anyone who knows me, knows that whilst I have a serious outlook to my business and its success, as well as the happiness of me, my guests and my awesome team, I believe life’s for living and having fun. Most of what you see of me and the wonderful world of Woodfarm is via our social media pages. And I just want to have a laugh and poke fun at everything. Mostly myself. A friend of mine is a stand-up comedian and he says I would make a good stand up. Nope. Scares the living daylights out of me, the thought of standing up in front of a crowd at a microphone and tryin to make them laugh. I’m comfortable doing it with a guitar round my neck and singing, but not that! But I do enjoy making people laugh, and getting the most amazing amount of positive feedback from it. Not afraid to admit I have an ego. I don’t think it’s dangerous though if it isn’t bolted onto greed and power.
Ok, so that went all over the place, but that’s what you get when you read the mumblings of an insomniac with the need to write openly. If you found it interesting, then I’m really pleased. If you didn’t, then I’m sorry I wasted your time, but it was your fault. You could have stopped at any point. If you think I shouldn’t write like this, then please don’t share that with me. I simply have no interest in what you have to say. See the 200:1 ratio of people who are interested. I’m not being rude, I just have no interest. This is my blog on my website and I wrote it in my own time. You had the divine right and absolute ability to not read it. I won’t negatively affect your life, so we needn’t cross each other’s paths. Deal?
I hope you found this interesting, and potentially insightful. I found it helpful to write. It provided me with some commercial clarity, and personal catharsis, so it worked for me. I hope in some it worked for you. If it did, that makes me happy. If it didn’t, then I apologise for taking up your time, but as I say, that was your choice.
Featured image by Amanda Jones