There is good news on the horizon for our community. There is increasing demand for Vail Valley vacations, our event calendar is overflowing with events from Gypsum to Vail, our group and meeting business continues to grow and expand into traditional shoulder seasons and international visitation is at an all time high and doesn't show signs of slowing down anytime soon. In addition to these traditional tourism metrics, other indicators such as real estate sales and retail sales tax collections continue to show signs of growth.
Not to say we don't have our challenges; everyone does. Challenges include global issues such as political uncertainty (fiscal cliff, anyone?) and new expenses on businesses increasing the cost of doing business (from employer provided health care to cost of goods and services). More localized challenges include the construction project on the Twin Tunnels on I-70 most of next summer and the uncertainty of Mother Nature's generosity with snowfall in the winter and enough rain in the summer.
Numerous factors affect our business community, some positive and some not. As we get ready to being a new year, here are some things for businesses to consider as they attempt to take advantage and maximize the good and plan for the uncertain.
Utilize data driven decision-making
The amount of data out there for businesses of any size to utilize to help improve their business operations, increase revenues and manage expenses can be overwhelming. The secret to success related to data and research is knowing what data to utilize, and how to apply it to your business operation. As they say, a common problem is paralysis by analysis; in other words, too much data and not knowing what to do with it can lead to inaction and business as usual.
The main problem with the "business as usual" approach is that the "usual" way your customers have heard about you in years past is rapidly changing and is unlikely to remain the way they find out about you in the future.
Take time to understand the variety of information out there (our Economic Research Center is a good starting place, as is the town of Vail's economic development department with research posted online). Take the time to listen to your customers (via your comment cards/surveys or via social media or travel review sites). And take the time to make data-driven decisions.
'Do more with less'
One constant that I hear from businesses throughout the valley and throughout various business segments is the idea that they are "doing more with less." This causes business to be more creative to ensure they still reach their business goals. This is a term that we've all heard too much in the past few years. I suggest that the key to "doing more with less" is recognizing that your business does not need to offer everything to your customers; instead focus only on those things that you do better than your competition and those things that your customer base really needs.
Collaboration within organizations, within industry trade groups and within neighborhoods can often result in increased efficiency for businesses, allowing you to "do more with less."
Lastly, the idea of "doing more with less" can often be viewed as a negative by employees as the initial reaction is often that you are expecting them to do more and more with limited benefit to the employee. That brings us to the third and final thing to consider in 2013.
Workplace flexibility and wellness
I was in a recent meeting with a variety of people representing different interest groups and businesses. The topic was how to make Eagle County the No. 1 place in Colorado to work, play, live and raise a family. That's a monumental and worthwhile goal as we strive in 2013 and beyond to diversify our economy and improve our community.
A key component (the key component?) to achieving this goal will be working with the business community to create an atmosphere of workplace flexibility and for employers to encourage workplace wellness. As more boomers retire from the workforce and more millennials join the workplace, the need for businesses to adapt and provide flexible work environments will become essential to our continued success. Obviously, every business has different needs, but many can adopt policies that increase the work-life balance. This will shortly become a major benefit to employers as they will be able to retain employees and will be able to attract the best and brightest. There is a veritable ton of research out there showing the benefits to organizations improving their bottom line taking this type of approach.
Funny enough, these things are all tied together. A variety of data and research show that creating a flexible workplace results in employees being happier and more satisfied at work, which results in a better environment for your customers as well as an internal culture where employees are willing to go above and beyond to do more with less. That's a win-win as we look ahead to 2013.
Chris Romer is executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership.