Stepping back to move forward

Mark and Joanne Skinner from Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat

Case study: Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat

When Mark and Joanne Skinner set out to grow their business, they took a different approach.

Rather than putting more and more hours into the day-to-day operation of their business, they instead took a step back and employed managers.

Mark and Joanne own the Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat at Montville.

The business offers luxury private cabins in a rainforest setting.

For 6 years, Mark and Joanne lived on-site and managed the business.

Last year, in line with their original business plan, they decided to sell the business and put the proceeds towards their retirement nest egg.

But with the market proving slow, the couple realised they needed to grow the business and client base.

To do this, they decided to concentrate more time on marketing and networking.

The couple wanted to broaden and grow their client base, which was largely based on Brisbane. They also wanted to target a wider Australian market, as well as an international market.

They engaged a husband and wife couple to run their business and documented workplace policies and procedures to ensure a consistent level of service.

The couple had been developing ties with industry associations for several years, but stepping back from the day-to-day running of the business gave them the time to focus on building these ties and promoting their unique selling points.

They have thrown themselves into networking, attending Australian and international industry functions to speak firsthand with key industry figures and inbound operators.

'During a recent trip to Melbourne we called in at a Flight Centre office to promote our product – to talk to the operators. It's a difficult thing to do as you really have to step outside your comfort zone.'

Mark and Joanne also advocate entering state and national industry awards.

'Preparing submissions for awards helps us focus on the areas of our business we need to work on. The awards have made us work on our business and improve our business.'

The Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat won the 2012 Queensland Tourism Award in the Hosted Accommodation category, and the 2012 Australian Tourism Award in the Hosted Accommodation category.

Mark and Joanne's management model is also attracting interest, with the couple now being consulted by other Montville businesses.

Mark and Joanne's networking tips

  1. Attend industry-related and non-industry networking events often.
  2. Make sure your business cards have your contact details (phone, email, web address, Facebook name, and Twitter handle) and give them to everyone you talk to, as well as ask for theirs.
  3. Have your 30-second 'elevator' pitch memorised, which demonstrates your passion for what you do.
  4. Engage with as many people as possible, and ensure you are interested in what they do.
  5. Follow up... follow up... follow up!