Another successful Historic Huntsville tour is in the books.
Three of the new faculty from Mass Com and English joined the Joye Mobile, along with three stalwarts from church. Even though the faculty were from as far away as California, England, and the Midwest, they came to appreciate little old Huntsville and its long and fascinating history. Even one of the long-time and repeat residents of Huntsville admitted she had not known 90% of what we saw!
And then, as my friend #KimMcLarren and the #SmallBusinessDevelopmentCenter are struggling to teach me to do, I did a profit and loss statement. More or less. Profit? You mean I’m supposed to make a profit?
Tall, lanky, Southern-drawl Freddie (no, neither Kruger nor Fender) from my Chamber Leads group insisted that by the time I had reached the advanced age of 60, I certainly should have learned how to run a business. No, I told him, as an academic, the most I ever worried about money was to pick up the phone and call the Dean. “$30,000 for student trips? Sure. When do you need the money?”
Now, however, as the single owner, operator, CEO, CFO, COO, driver, greeter, luggage loader, clerk, secretary, receptionist, bus washer, garbage hauler, bookkeeper and accountant, there is no Dean to call. There is no magic pot of gold on which to draw. One tour at a time. One guest at a time.
So, how to figure costs for a tour? The costs are not at all obvious. Diesel fuel (expensive). AC repairs for the bus (more expensive but at least now it works). Then what? Oh, wait. Insurance (lots of that). Advertising (not much but need lots more). What else? Oh, me? You mean I’m supposed to get paid to do all this? Fat chance.
And then there is the Webmaster.
A word about Web pages. Anyone in business now-a-days knows that Facebook and Web pages are an absolute necessity. How many of us Google a business and expect to find out everything about that business from their webpage. And You tube videos. Me and Tommie are going to learn to do Videos. But we delude ourselves if we think we can hire someone to design and build a web page for us, or tape our Videos and presto, magic, its done. No ho ho.
As the business owners, we are the ones who, like it or not, have to provide the content. All those beautiful pictures? Don’t steal them off the internet. That will cost you for copyright infringement ($550 in case you are interested). But how do I move my own pictures off my phone onto my computer? And why does the stupid computer turn the pictures sideways when I try to put them into the text?
And if—NO–when there are changes, I have to make them. Add lists of tours. Add itineraries. And dates and make sure they don’t conflict with speaking dates. (One frantic call from the Sons of something or other while I was in West Texas wanting to know why I wasn’t in East Texas to make a speech I had promised to make—mortifying). No. Web pages are not at all easy to handle.
So, back to profit and loss. I notice other businesses having “Sales!” “Discounts!” Anything to try to encourage a cynical public to buy the products. So, for the Historic Huntsville tour to encourage my one-time faculty colleagues, I lowered the price to $20 for a half-day tour of Huntsville. Did it work? Seven passengers the first trip. Three the second trip. The loss column looked morbidly red.
But I really enjoy driving the Joye Mobile, I assure myself. And I really enjoy sharing history with my passengers. Sort of like teaching, but without the paper grading. And I don’t like charging my friends. It feels too money-hungry, too Capitalist. This is a party bus, after all. So, can’t I have parties without having to worry about profits and losses? No, it seems not. Not if I am going to stay in business.
So, it’s time to toughen up. Freddy is right. At 70 I am going to learn to run this business. Profitably. Maybe.