Increasingly, the leisure and tourism sector is becoming a key part of Wales' economy.
Mountain bike adventure firm, OnePlanet Adventure has identified this and, led by its passionate founders Jim Gaffney and Ian Owen, it is finding growth and establishing itself as a go-to destination for the sport's enthusiasts in Wales.
In the latest in our blog series, Jim Gaffney gives insight into OnePlanet Adventure's story, its plans for the future and advice for others who are taking a similar journey into the world of business.
Tell us about OnePlanet Adventure.
We set up the business when we saw an opportunity to operate a mountain bike centre on land owned by a private company. We'd been asked to help set up the centre – and a few years later, led a management buyout of it and the land at Coed Llandegla in Llandegla near Wrexham. The site now includes bike trails, a visitor centre, bike shop, bike repair unit, car park and café.
We attract around 170,00 visitors a year – from both the UK and overseas.
Ian and I approached several support agencies and the local authority for help. Business Wales AGP has been an essential support for the company.
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
It has to be the successful conclusion of the purchase of the visitor centre in December 2018. It was a long negotiation process, and there was a time – several months in fact – when we thought we wouldn't get the deal over the line. To get it done was a fantastic feeling. Before we'd bought the building, we were leasing it – which meant we had much less control over the direction of the business. Now we are masters of our own destiny.
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
When I look back over the last 14 years of running OnePlanet Adventure, there are so many things that, in hindsight, I would have done differently. But when I look at where we came from, to where we are today, I wouldn't change anything. We have certainly made a few poor decisions along the way, but they are often the decisions you learn the most from, and without those tough lessons, we wouldn't be the business we are today.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
We had significant support from Business Wales AGP, especially from coaches Ray Howard and Bill Pearson who helped us with business planning, operations and financial planning.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
● Don't be afraid to seek out external assistance. You cannot be an expert in all aspects of your business. Recognise where your weaknesses lie and seek out experts to assist in those areas.
● Make sure you know and remain focused on your end goal. It is easy to get distracted and veer off-course without realising. If you are clear on where you want to get to, it makes difficult decisions much easier.
● Make sure you dedicate enough time working on the business, not just in the business. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day running of the business, but you need to be looking at the bigger picture and planning for the future. Easier said than done, but it is a must.
● Take time to look at where you have come from – it is too easy to focus on the hurdles that lie ahead. Sometimes, just taking a moment to see what you have already accomplished is all it takes to help realise that the problems that lie ahead of you are in no way insurmountable.