Evaluating your agritourism operation in the off-season

Winter can be a great opportunity to sharpen your agritourism business strategy.

As the holiday season passes and you are gearing up for 2016, you are undoubtedly cherishing a little downtime. This is an ideal time to evaluate your business strategy and make changes for the New Year. Michigan State University Extension highlights the importance of reviewing your strategy by focusing on three basic business functions of operations, finance and marketing.

Here is a list that will get you started on the way to a prosperous 2016.

  • Engage in a financial planning process. Financial planning may seem to be an arduous process, but when overlooked can be detrimental to any organization. Whether you are just starting out or have been in business for a number of years, it is important to have a roadmap to navigate complicated laws and minimize financial liability. The University of Vermont Extension offers a great resource on financial planning specifically for agritourism operations.
  • Set a solid marketing strategy with key result areas. Your market demographic is changing rapidly due to the Internet. The days of roadside signs as a primary source of traffic are over. It’s time to make a diversified plan that focuses on results. Take a look at “Marketing Strategies for Agritourism Operations,” a resource from University of California Extension designed to help you build a marketing strategy. Following your research, make a list of key result areas that you can accomplish in 2016. These should be specific and measurable. For example, “Collect 500 emails from visitors to our stand to send a monthly newsletter highlighting new products by September 2016.” This way you can look back and measure success.
  • Develop a comprehensive operations plan. This is imperative for all businesses that work directly with consumers. You can also consider it a risk management plan. Risks are inherent with any business. You can minimize this risk by taking precautions and being aware of potential areas of concern. Louisiana State University Extension published a great resource for writing a comprehensive operations management plan. Be sure to familiarize your team with this plan by sharing with your colleagues, managers and front-line support. Employee training should include a discussion of risk mitigation, policies and procedures affecting the operation.

Time and energy invested in off-season planning often returns in higher profits, sustained growth and future opportunity. MSU Extension offers a wealth of resources and information on agritourism at their website. For more information about this article, contact me, education director, MSUE Tollgate Farm and Education Center, 28115 Meadowbrook Road, Novi, MI 48377, at 248-347-0269 or jaros@msu.edu.

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